In my last post, discussing Mike’s announcement that he has just published book, The Livingstone Presumption, refuting the anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour party, I also discussed the openly Nazi character of the real, anti-Semitic, Fascist fringe. Mike had announced his book was coming out in an article at Vox Political, commenting on a piece by Michael Segalov in yesterday’s Independent, which itself refuted the allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, though sadly not against Naz Shan and Livingstone. Mr Segalov had stated that the people, who really put their lives on the line to protect Jews and their religion were the Left, including the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. He made the point that smearing them as anti-Semites devalued it as a weapon against the real Nazis, and left Jews more vulnerable. He made the point that the real anti-Semites were very clear in their Nazi views, and would make the Nazi salute in front of your face.
A few days ago Michelle posted a comment in response to a piece I had written about the continuing decline of the English Defence League, and included a link to a talk to a left-wing meet-up group by Matthew Feldman, an academic specialising in the study of Fascism. Dr Feldman and the group discussed the differing forms of the extreme right, from openly Fascist groups, through to Far Right organisations like the English Defence League, and right-wing Conservatives like the Traditional Britain group. And one of the Nazi groups is National Action. This was formerly the youth wing of the BNP, I believe. And they are openly Nazi and anti-Semitic. Dr Feldman showed a video of one of their demonstrations, spouting the usual Nazi conspiracy trash about Jews using Blacks to destroy the White race, complete with cries of ‘Sieg Heil!’
National Action are a danger, but they’re also more than a little ludicrous as well, especially to anyone who’s watched The Blues Brothers. Watching their Nazi antics brought to mind the scene in that movie, where the two heroes come upon a rally by the National American White People’s Party. Amid boos and insults, the leader of this bunch of Nazis spouts the same nonsense about the Jews using the Blacks to destroy the White race, before then leading his stormtroopers to make a pledge of allegiance to Hitler. Jake and Ellwood then do what most people would want to do, and drive straight through the whole rabble, sending the Nazis running in all directions.
Dr Feldman mentioned in his talk that National Action were trying to target university students for recruitment. This is disturbing, but I think they’re going to have a very hard job. It’s not that I don’t think they are racists at university. There probably are, but probably no more so than in the general population, and possibly much less so. There have been a series of studies, which show that racism is more prevalent amongst the older generation. Today’s young people have been born into a culture where Blacks and Asians are more accepted, there are more Black and Asian role models and celebrities, and racism is generally much less acceptable. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, as the persistence of racist violence and the rise of Islamophobia after 9/11 shows. But it does mean that there is much more opposition to Nazi organisations like National Action than there was over three decades and more ago, when the reaction to mass non-White immigration gave the NF the hope of overtaking the Liberals as the country’s third party.
National Action are also going to have problems, because universities, like every other commercial or public institution in Britain, is bound by laws to respect diversity and protect people from prejudice and discrimination. This includes gays, the disabled, and ethnic minorities. The type of people, Nazis target and despise. I don’t think the NUS is nearly a strong as it was, but when I was at college the National Union of Students had a policy of offering a ‘No’ platform to racists and Fascists. Put plainly, the NUS weren’t going to help, or give any places in the union hierarchy, to Nazis.
And outside the union and the university, there are also a number of groups and societies on campus devoted to supporting and protecting minorities and disadvantaged groups, like Jews, Blacks, Asians, Muslims and other religious groups and women. These are naturally going to oppose any attempt by the Far Right to make inroads into the university and start campaigning for discrimination and intimidation there. Back in the 1980s there was a notorious incident when Patrick Harrington, another long-standing member of the extreme Right, then a student, was thrown off campus after a campaign by the other students, who refused to tolerate his presence. One of the leading members of National Action, according to the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate, has similarly been forced to leave university. And when I was studying at Bristol uni a few years ago when the BNP looked like they just might make a breakthrough into mainstream politics, I came across a group of students on campus, who were trying to raise a petition to have the BNP banned.
And lastly, there’s the nature of universities as seats of learning that also makes it that little bit more difficult for Nazis to recruit. I put up a little piece attacking the conspiracy nonsense National Action sputter in the last blog post. Universities, as places of education, are going to contain people, who have real knowledge of the nature of Fascism. University libraries are also going to have texts by historians and other scholars which refute their claims. All someone has to do to find out for him- or herself what the Nazis were really like, rather than what groups like National Action want to present them as, is simply go to the uni library, and look on the shelves or through the on-line catalogue for books which refute them, point by point, and footnote by footnote.
I’m not complacent about the rise of Fascism. You can’t be – not after the rise in racist abuse and violence after the Brexit vote. But I am confident that the kids at university today will not be at all receptive to the poisonous nonsense spouted by National Action and related groups.
And if you have any doubts about the massive lack of respect the real Nazis have for university, read Matthew Collins’ Hate. This is his account of his own career in the Far Right, and the violence he saw. There’s a passage in there, where he describes the behaviour of one of the stormtrooper groups, when they held some kind of rally or meeting in one of the universities. They more or less barricaded themselves into the library, and pestered and intimidated the students there. It’s a graphic demonstration of the anti-intellectualism of the thugs, who form these movements’ membership. It completely refutes any pretensions their leaders have to intellectual respectability.
I can’t think of many unis, that would want that on campus. Not university management, not staff, not students. National Action can expect to have a very hard time recruiting there.