Friday 13 May 2016

Fascists and the far right in Britain in 2016 – a short guide

This guide has become necessary because of the weakness of the right rather than their strength. The groups below reflect the splintered nature of the far right and Nazis. They have fallen a long way in the past few years—from heights when the British National Party (BNP) had 58 councillors in 2009. All the thugs who were kept in the background then are now organising their own protests. But even the English Defence League (EDL) that managed regular street demonstrations of thousands of people has been reduced to a rump. The shift is largely down to a broad anti-fascist and anti-racist movement that was prepared to confront and expose them. These groups are in no position to emulate their counterparts in France, Hungary, Poland or Greece.

But anti-racists must remain on guard. Though small, the street orientated far right sects will be looking to regroup in time to come.

Blood and Honour

Blood and Honour was set up in 1987 to spread Nazi ideas through the music scene. It has always had connections to the terrorist Combat 18 organisation. It is no longer the force it was in Britain, but remains influential in parts of Europe. It attracts some Poles to UK events, but in general concerts have not grown and resemble ageing “Nazi Nights”. The group has been fractious in the past and there are rumours of further splits.

Britain First (BF)

The leader of BF, ex-BNP councillor Paul Golding, has convictions for harassing a Muslim woman and wearing a political uniform. The liking for uniforms may come from the organisation’s links to Northern Ireland Loyalists.

Both Golding and deputy leader Jayda Fransen have been banned from entering mosques in Luton after a series of hostile incursions. Attempts to picket the East London mosque flopped after they were countered by anti-fascist protests.

The family of murdered soldier Lee Rigby have repeatedly asked BF not to use his image on their propaganda, but the party has ignored their requests.

BF failed to make the breakthrough it wanted in the May 2016 London elections—but once again it managed to get publicity when Golding turned his back during newly-elected mayor Sadiq Khan’s victory speech. Golding justified their poor result by saying, “Whole swathes of the city now are completely colonised”.

Jim Dowson used to run the BNP’s finances, and went on to finance BF when it was founded in 2011. He left after a spat in 2014, but has since returned. BF remains a marginal body. If numbers continue to decline after its poor showing in the election, Dowson may leave again.

The organisation is certainly worried about finances with increasingly desperate pleas for money on its Facebook page.

BF’s large Facebook presence and media attention mask the small number of supporters it has. It only manages street activity where it can rely on police protecting it from anti-racists.

The British National Party (BNP)

The BNP has seen its fortunes plummet, and is reduced to perhaps 400 members. Like the EDL it is now more of a name than any serious force. The Nick Griffin era, with two MEPs and more than 50 councillors, is long gone. The party’s last London demo, in 2015, was a farce, with just 24 fascists there.

Current leader Adam Walker is a disgraced former teacher who was sacked for extremist activity at work. He was later barred from teaching after chasing three boys aged between 10 and 12 in his car and slashing their bike tyres with a knife while verbally abusing them.

An attempted lash up with the ill-fated Pegida UK, went nowhere. The BNP staggers on, but is in a state of limbo.

Combat 18

This Nazi terrorist organisation was formed in 1992 and took its name from the positions in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials (1 & 8). For several years it was implicated in vicious attacks on left wingers and members of ethnic minorities. The authorities classify it as a terrorist group, but seem reluctant to stop Nazis carrying C18 flags on demos. The group is tiny in the UK but has some support in parts of Eastern Europe, including Poland and Russia. It is linked to Polish Nazis in the UK. It is connected to the Nazi music scene with Blood and Honour, and bands that support it raise money for other Nazis through gigs.

Will Browning, one of Combat 18’s former leaders, appeared on the racist demonstration in Dover in January. Before this he hadn’t been seen in Britain for several years. After violent splits within the group he had stayed abroad working with Blood and Honour internationally. Browning is one of the few who might have enough respect among other Nazis to try and unite some splinters in a serious street force.

English Defence League (EDL)

The EDL remains one of the best-known groups, but it is left as more of a name than a movement. While it could put 3,500 on the street for an Islamophobic march in Luton in 2012, now it has become another fascist splinter.

The EDL’s former leaders Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, put a lot of effort into organising a street movement and claiming they were not fascists. They built local support in a number of areas. Years of constant campaigning and counter demonstrations by anti-fascists in areas like Tower Hamlets and Walthamstow in London, and the West Midlands, have ground them down. Robinson and Carroll have both left.

Current leaders Alan Spence and Ian Crossland are known fascists. Spence was a minder for former BNP leader Nick Griffin. The rump organisation has been riven by internal divisions since Robinson’s exit. Their regional “Divisions” no longer function in practice.

None of its recent protests has managed to gather more than 100 people. The same faces appear wherever the protests are held as they no longer collect local support and EDL activists are demoralised.

Liberty GB

Liberty GB stood three candidates in the 2014 European elections in the South East of England, though its results were derisory. It is not a force on the street, but its leader, Paul Weston, is a key player in the “Counter Jihad” spectrum internationally. This brings together far right groups that claim Islam is a systemic threat. Weston, a former UKIP candidate, was key to the short-lived British Freedom Party, which tried to link former BNP members with the EDL. He has recently linked up again with Tommy Robinson, following the former’s failed efforts to work with Britain First.

London Forum

Under the leadership of former NF member Jeremy “Jez” Bedford Turner, this group tries to keep the intellectual flame burning for Nazis. Last year it organised a rally at London’s upmarket Grosvenor Hotel where Jews were described as “the enemy”. Speakers at the event included US Holocaust denier Mark Weber and Pedro Varela from Spain, a known admirer of Hitler. Others in attendance included former NF leader Martin Webster, Richard Edmonds. It has held meetings with David Irving. It aims to branch out in the North West and Yorkshire.

National Action (NA)

NA thrives on controversy. It builds on violent imagery and has no problem with being associated with Nazism. But when it organised a “White Man March” in Liverpool last August, anti-fascist protests meant that it could not even leave Lime Street station.

Zack Davies, attempted to murder man in Mold, Flintshire, just because he “looked Asian”. He posted a picture of himself in front of National Action’s flag on social media before carrying out the attack with a machete and a claw hammer.

National Front (NF)

The present organisation does not compare to the ambitious force that polled 100,00 votes across London in the 1977 local elections. It often appears on demos with the NWI. Many supporters are members of several different splinters.

Members have tried alongside National Action to revive Combat 18. The attempt has largely failed, though the terrorist group’s flags are often seen on Nazi marches. Former leading members, like Simon Biggs, in Newcastle, fell out violently, with others in the North East. This hit the one area where the NF was growing. It remains linked to another old Nazi group, the British Movement.

The NF is still allowed to hold an annual Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in London. Otherwise it is a virtual spent force, but still capable of rallying a small hardcore, on the promise of racist violence.

National Rebirth of Poland (NOP)

A group of about 60 Polish activists, NOP is mainly youth orientated. It is based in East London, the South East and the North West. The organisation first came to public notice when about 20 of its supporters attacked a multi-cultural music festival in Tottenham, north London, in June 2014. NOP has long been active in Poland and is growing there, being part of a large nationalist/Nazi march last October.

In Britain it has supported various far right splinter groups on pro Golden Dawn and National Action demos. It is linked to Blood and Honour, the Nazi music scene, from which most of its supporters come. It has recently been quiet and smaller in number on demos.

New Dawn Party

The tiny party is led by ex-BNP minder, Bernadette Jaggers, and violent Nazi Eddie Stampton, who has been a veteran of several far-right groups since the 1980s. It keeps up the fascist tradition of anti-Semitism, and has tried to intimidate Jewish people in the Golders Green area of north London. It has also arranged small “rallies” in support of the Greek fascists Golden Dawn outside the Greek Embassy.

North West Infidels (NWI)

The group’s leader, Shane Calvert, has served time for violent political assaults. This sect has close links with the NF and is known for its violence.

Their small group of supporters, based in Blackburn, Manchester and Liverpool, have paraded their customary Seig Heiling, from Preston, via Liverpool, down to Dover. Several face jail sentences for extreme violence in Dover in January.

The group is no more than 100 strong, but has links to other violent organisations that live for racial violence including National Action and the Chelsea Headhunters. With the likely jailing of leading members it looks set for another split soon.

Pegida UK

This group of ex BNP and EDL, hoped to build on the success of the Islamophobic group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) which rapidly emerged in Germany last year holding organising marches of tens of thousands. So far the British group headed up by ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson, along with Paul Weston, formerly of UKIP, has yet to organise a successful march. They wanted to break away from the image of the EDL as thuggish, and attract more middle class support.

But so far its protests have been small and made up of far right street activists. Three demos held in Newcastle, London, and Edinburgh during 2015 were all flops. The organisation could only claim 400 for its launch in Newcastle. The Scottish protest was the biggest humiliation with only four supporters turning up, faced by a large anti-racist protest.

Robinson, has tried to relaunch the ailing organisation in February with a protest in Birmingham—but fewer than 200 attended. Their UK demos have been small and nasty, and full of ex EDL members.

South East Alliance (SEA)

The South East Alliance is big on rhetoric. Thus in Cricklewood, north London, in 2014 leader Paul Pitt organised three protests—but could only mobilise 14 people. Pitt was previously Essex organiser of the EDL.

SEA has tried to form an alliance with the NF, but ongoing tensions remain, not least because the NF dismisses Pitt as “not completely British”. He is originally from Cyprus and the NF isn’t sure that makes him white enough.

The “Alliance” has paraded with various other fascists in Dover, which is seen as a line in the sand over the refugee crisis. But their efforts to mobilise large numbers on the matter have failed. Pitt, driven by reckless ambition keeps trying, but is widely distrusted by other fascists.

Traditional Britain Group

Founded in 2001, the Traditional Britain Group is a successor to the Western Goals Institute. It tries to be broad forum for far right ‘intellectuals’ and the British extreme right. London based, attracts a wide range of far right speakers’, some from other fascist groups, abroad. Its leader is Merlin Hanbury-Tracy, 7th Baron Sudeley, former chair of the right wing Conservative Monday Club. One of his deputies Gregory Lauder-Frost is notorious for Nazi sympathies, demanding repatriation of people not “of European stock” and attacking Doreen Lawrence’s peerage as she is a “nobody”.

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