Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Scargill’

More Hypocrisy from the Tories and the Daily Mail as They Accuse Labour of Bigotry and Intolerance

July 8, 2017

The Conservatives and Daily Heil are back to the old tricks of accusing the Labour party and its supporters, particularly those in Momentum for Jeremy Corbyn, of intolerance, vandalism and intimidation. Sheryll Murray, the Tory MP for South East Cornwall, whined in an article in the Fail about her treatment by Labour supporters. She claimed that

“I’ve had swastikas carved into posters, social media posts like ‘burn the witch’ and ‘stab the C’, people putting Labour Party posters on my home, photographing them and pushing them through my letterbox. Someone even urinated on my office door.”

Dominic Sandbrook, one of the rag’s journos, then went on to opine that “The fact is the overwhelming majority of the abuse, bullying and intimidation comes from the Left.”

Tory MP Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries put up a photograph of one of these vandalised posters with the accusation that it was done by Momentum supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, along with her judgement that Britain was heading back to the 1930s.

As Mike has pointed out on his blog about the article, citing Tom Clarke, the Angry Yorkshireman, neither Murray, Dorries nor Sandbrook has absolutely any evidence that this was done by Labour supporters. It’s just another unfounded accusation to smear the Labour party.

And Murray herself also has form when it comes to intolerance. At one of her rallies, she stated that she’s glad there are food banks in Cornwall. When a section of the crowd, not unreasonably, shows its anger, she first tries to wave it off by saying, ‘Let’s ignore these, shall we?’ As Mike also asks rhetorically, what does she mean when she refers to the protesters as ‘these’? When they continue, she threatens to call the police.

Mike concludes

This Writer reckons the Tories are on the back foot, and this is a desperate attempt to regain credibility with the public.

It must not succeed.

So, if you see a Tory trying to defame the Left in this manner, don’t let it pass; challenge it.

We’ll see how long their feigned indignance lasts when they’re made to produce evidence – or shut up.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/06/tories-accuse-the-left-of-intolerance-and-bigotry-without-evidence-pot-kettle-black/

There are a number of issues underlying the petulant shrieks of intolerance by the Tories, some going back to patrician attitudes to the working classes that predate democratic politics.

Firstly, as Mike and the Angry Yorkshireman point out, there’s absolutely no evidence linking any of this to the Labour party. Indeed, some of it is just as likely to come from the Lib Dems or indeed just from people of no fixed political opinions, who are fed with the Tories. In rural areas like parts of the south west, the main rivals to the Conservatives aren’t Labour but the Liberal Democrats, and I’ve heard from former Conservative local politicians that the real hatred isn’t between Labour and the Conservatives, between the Tories and Lib Dems.

Secondly, the Tories’ attitudes in many ways is simply a display of the old, upper class suspicion of the working class. Way back in the early 19th century the upper classes hated and feared the Labouring poor as prone to rioting, and potentially subversive and disloyal. The only way to keep the unwashed masses in line was through outright repression and stern policing. This attitude vanished, or at least was seriously weakened when the great unwashed turned up at the Great Exhibition. And instead of wanting to burn the place down, showed themselves orderly, responsible and interested. But this latest accusation from the Fail with its petit bourgeois readership shows that the old hatred and fear of the working class as a seething mass of social disorder, yobbishness and violence, still remains.

Thirdly, it shows just out of touch ‘Nads’ Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook are. If people are lashing out at Tory MPs and their propaganda, it’s because they’ve been driven to it by grinding poverty and an administration that ignores everyone except the richest quarter of the population. Many areas of rural Britain, including Cornwall, have high unemployment. There’s also a problem of getting housing, which is often well out of the price range of locals thanks to wealthy people from outside the area buying it as second homes. I’ve a friend from Cornwall, who was particularly angry about this nearly a decade ago. I can remember him getting up to tackle a group of ‘upcountry’ people about it in a pub, when he overheard them talking about how cheap property was down there.

Then there are the national problems of acute poverty, caused by stagnating wages and cuts to basic welfare support. People want and deserve proper unemployment and disability benefits, and very definitely not to be forced to support themselves through charity and food banks.

And then there’s the whole issue of the privatisation of the NHS. A few months ago I wrote another pamphlet about that, in addition to the one, whose contents I put up here a week or so ago. While writing this, and documenting the way a long line of right-wing governments have been aiming to privatise the NHS since Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s, I felt so furious that I really couldn’t face any kind of Tory propaganda. I felt so bitterly angry at the way the health service is being run down, in order to soften it up for privatisation and purchase by largely American private healthcare companies.

Given all this, the British public has an absolutely right to be angry, and while I don’t approve of people urinating in anyone’s letter box, I honestly can’t blame them for vandalising the posters. In Bristol popular anger against the Tories could be seen just before the general election in a piece of graffiti scrawled outside the Eye Hospital near the BRI. It read: Donate Tory Blood – It’s Worth More!

Nads’, Murray’s and Sandbrook’s sneering about ‘left-wing intolerance’ shows the complacency and complete indifference to suffering of the Tory middle and upper classes. They’re very comfortably off, thank you very much, and the Tories are serving them very well. So they have no idea, and indeed react with absolute horror at the very idea that part of the masses hates them with a passion, because they have no understanding, or sympathy, with the real poverty and deprivation many people are struggling with. We’re back indeed in the territory of Matthew Freud’s comments about how the poor should be more flexible than the rich, as they have less to lose.

There’s also an element of the old Tory landlord class, who expect their workers to put up and tug their forelock to the master, no matter how badly they were treated. A few years ago one of the BBC history programmes covered the Highland Clearances, the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries when the Scots aristocracy enclosed and forced their tenant farmers off their land so they could devote it to sheep rearing. The image of the wild, romantic Scots countryside actually post-dates this process. Before then the countryside north of the border was filled with rural communities – townships – and their people. It only became a wilderness when these people were forcibly evicted and their crofts and other homes pulled down.

And to add insult to injury, those workers, who managed to keep their jobs were expected to tug their forelocks and sing the praises of their masters. The programme mentioned how one ‘improving’ landlord, who was actually English, or half-English, got very upset when he decided to have a statue put up of himself. He expected his workers to pay for it, and was furious when many of them were less than enthusiastic.

It’s the same attitude here. The Tories still expect absolute feudal loyalty and subservience. When this is not forthcoming, and anger is shown instead, their own selfish indifference to the plight of the lower orders comes out, and they start screaming about how it’s all so unreasonable, intolerant, and, by implication, disobedient.

And lastly, it’s also massively hypocritical. The Tories have absolutely no business accusing anyone of intolerance, and especially not the Daily Heil. Not when sections of the party is still bitterly racist, with Mail and the Tory party championing even more stringent state censorship and surveillance of what we may read and post online, or say on the phone or other forms of social media. Not when they’ve created the legal infrastructure for secret courts, where you can be tried without trial, with having your lawyer see vital evidence against you, or even know who your accuser is, if the government decides this would all be against ‘national security’. Just like Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy!

And the Tories certainly have no problem with violence and intolerance when it directed against the left. I remember how the Scum put up an approving story during the Miner’s Strike, about how an old lady struck the then head of the NUM, Arthur Scargill, with a tin of tomatoes she’d thrown. This old dear was praised for her pluck and daring at the evil Commie, who was destroying the mining industry and forcing all good, right-thinking Thatcherite miners out of the pits. Yet when the reverse occurs, and someone throws eggs at the Tories, they start frothing and screaming at their intolerance.

And if we’re talking about the Right’s intolerance during the Miner’s Strike, then how about the way Thatcher used military-style policing, including unprovoked charges, against the miners. This was done officially, and covered up by a complicit media, including the Beeb. Violence, and the savage beating of protesters, ain’t intolerance when it’s done by the Tory forces of law and order.

Dorries, Murray and Sandbrook show themselves with this article, to be intolerant hypocrites themselves. They’re all too happy to see people ground into the most extremes of poverty and misery, but panic when some few show their dissent by tearing down their propaganda.

Vox Political: Inquiry Demanded into Smears by Police and Courts of Orgreave Miners

September 12, 2016

Mike has also put a report that tomorrow, a delegation from the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign will meet with the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to demand an inquiry into the wrongful arrest of 95 miners at the colliery during the Miner’s Strike, the construction of a false narrative about them, and the presentation of this false narrative to the media, which then uncritically accepted it. These allegations are based on previously unseen documents which show that there was collusion between the police and the courts in the attack on the miners at the Orgreave during the strike in 1984.

Mike states that there is clear prima facie evidence that there was undue political interference in the police and the courts. In light of the ongoing investigation into the way the police and the government doctored the evidence in the Hillsborough tragedy, Mike states that it seems to him that an inquiry must be launched. He wonders, however, how the Tories will try to slither out of it.

Inquiry demanded after Downing Street ‘used police and courts to smear Orgreave miners’

There is in my mind absolutely no question whatsoever that the miners’ campaign is exactly right. There’s abundant evidence about the way the media deliberately misled the public about Arthur Scargill and the Miners’ Strike, and Mike and numerous commenters on this blog have frequently remarked on the way the BBC edited footage of the violence at the colliery to show the police being attacked by miners, when the reality was the other way around.

I also went to a meeting in Bristol of the Fabian Society, in which the guest speaker was a member of the NUJ. She was discussing the threat posed by the increasing right-wing media bias and the concentration of the press and media in the hands of a very small number of magnates. The bias against the Miner’s Strike was one example of this, and she described the way Conservative politicians and officials moved around the country to coordinate and direct the attacks on the miners.

Seumas Milne, a former advisor of Jeremy Corbyn, has also written a history of the Miners’ Strike attacking the campaign against the NUM. I wonder if this is one of the real reasons Private Eye has also been running stories attacking him as part of their campaign against Corbyn. After all, a Prime Minister, who decided that Arthur Scargill was exactly right and showed how the union was correct about the unnecessary destruction of Britain coal industry, and Thatcher’s determination to break the unions, would just be too much for the Blairites now writing for it. And far too much for a political establishment that has been more or less thoroughly Thatcherite since her election victory in 1979. We can’t have anybody shattering the popular illusion that she made Britain great again, by showing that she did the exact opposite. The 1% would never allow that.

Benn, Livingstone, Tatchell and Scargill, Popular Socialists Not Communist Dictators

June 5, 2016

One of the aspects of press policy that comes across most strongly in Mark Hollingworth’s book on the hounding and vilification of left-wing politicians, the Greenham women and the miners in the 1980sThe Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship, is the repeated tactic of concentrating on a particular politician, and trying to present them as crazed and dictatorial. I’ve described in a previous post yesterday how Tony Benn was compared to Adolf Hitler, complete with a retouched photo to show him with Adolf’s toothbrush moustache. This was very much despite the fact that Tony Benn had served as an RAF pilot during the War. The same tactic of smearing a brave man, who had fought for his country as a traitor was repeated a few years ago by the Daily Heil on Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. They ran an article denouncing Ralph Miliband as ‘the man who hated Britain’. Miliband was indeed a Marxist intellectual, who hated the capitalist system and therefore much of the class-based structure and institutions of British society. But he also fought in the British army against Fascism during the Second World War.

Scargill and the Miners

Arthur Scargill was another working-class political figure the press smeared with comparisons to Hitler, and claimed was a dictatorial monster during the Miner’s Strike.

Maggie Thatcher in one of her rants had described Scargill and the NUM as ‘Red Fascists’, and so the press followed suit. On 19th April 1984 the Daily Express ran a piece by Prof. Hans Eysenck comparing Scargill and the striking miner’s to Hitler and the Nazis, entitled ‘Scargill and the Fascists of the Left – from the Man who Witnessed the Rise of Hitler: A Warning We Must Not Ignore’. The Sunday Express under its editor, John Junor, ran a similar piece.

Mr Arthur Scargill has clearly been flicked in the raw by suggestions that he has been acting like Hitler. But isn’t he? Hitler used his thugs to terrorise into submission people disagreed with him. Isn’t that precisely what is happening now at night in Nottinghamshire mining villages? Hitler had an utter contempt for the ballot box. By refusing the miners a right to vote, hasn’t Mr Scargill against invited comparison? There the serious similarity ends. For although Mr Scargill may be a stupid man, I do not think he is an evil one.
(pp. 275-6).

Peregrine Worsthorne, the editor of the Torygraph, compared Scargill to Oswald Mosley of the British Union of Fascists. The Daily Heil on the 1st April 1984 ran a piece with the headline, ‘Coal Boss Hits Out at Union ‘Nazis”. But it was the Scum that really went overboard with the accusations of Nazism. It ran headlines like, ‘Mods in Fury at “Adolf” Arthur’, showed a photo of Scargill with his right arm raised, greeting other miners, with the headline, ‘Mine Fuhrer’, and then ran another piece comparing Scargill’s determination to fight to the bitter end with Adolf Hitler in his bunker.

But Scargill personally was far from a dictator. Hollingworth points out that Scargill did not start the strike, but was simply following the directions of the union’s members quite democratically. Hollingworth writes

In fact, the dispute began in Yorkshire when mass pithead meetings were held at every colliery to decide whether to support the fight to oppose the closure of Cottonwood. A Yorkshire NUM Area Council meeting was then arranged which took the decision to sanction all-out industrial action. Scargill didn’t attend or speak at any of these meetings. Nor does he have a vote on the miners’ National Executive Committee. (pp. 272-3).

The miners themselves repeatedly told the press that they weren’t blindly following Scargill, and that the situation was in fact the reverse: he was doing what they told him. This was repeated by the Coal Board’s Industrial Relations director general, Ned Smith, stated ‘I don’t think Scargill has kept them out. That is nonsense. A lot of the areas have a great deal of autonomy. It’s simply not true to say it’s Scargill’s strike.’ (p. 273).

Hollingworth also notes that the press had a personal obsession with Red Ken. When he took over the GLC, the Scum declared ‘Red Ken Crowned King of London’. Hollingworth, however, describes how Leninspart was again, very far from a bullying egotist monopolising power. Bob Quaif in a published letter to the Evening Standard stated that he was a Liberal/SDP, supporter, but he was impressed with the pluralist and democratic terms in which Livingstone expressed his opinions. Moreover, the Labour group when it took power removed some of the patronage powers from the leader, and gave them to elected committees. Ken controlled overall policy, but real power was held by the Labour group which met every Monday. Livingstone himself said of his role

I act more like a chief whip, co-ordinator and publicist of the group. I go out and try to sell the message and to hold the group together… people really only come to me when there is a problem. I never know anything that’s going right. I only get involved in all the things that are going wrong. Committees run into problems with the bureaucracy and I come along and stamp on it. (p. 84).

Hollingworth goes to state that if Livingstone had been personally ousted from power in the Autumn of 1981, the council would still have had much the same policies under the leadership of Andy Harris or John McDonnell.

Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell Smeared as Communists

Throughout all this, Livingstone, Arthur Scargill and Peter Tatchell were all smeared as Marxists and Communists. The Sunset Times described the miner’s strike as ‘Marxist inspired’, with Hugo Young declaring ‘Call Scargill a Marxist, and correctly identify members of the NUM executive as Communists, and you seem to have solved the entire analytical problem’. The Daily Express even published a piece entitled ‘Scargill’s Red Army Moves In’, ranting about the miner’s had been infiltrated by militant Marxists, determined to prevent changes to union rules which would make striking more difficult. The piece, written by Michael Brown, stated

The militant Red Guards responsible for most of the pit strike violence will attack against today when Arthur Scargill attempts to rewrite his union’s rules. A rabble of political activists plan to invade the streets of Sheffield to browbeat any opposition to a delegates conference designed to reduce the majority needed for strike action … It will be orchestrated by a ‘5th Column’ of political activists who have taken over the running of the miners’ strike. All are handpicked men, some with university training who have Communist, Marxist or Trotskyist backgrounds. They run the flying pickets and handle funds for paying them. (p. 266). There was absolutely no evidence for this, and the papers didn’t provide any.

The Sunday Express and the Scum also claimed that Livingstone was a Marxist, an accusation that lives on in Private Eye’s nickname for him as ‘Leninspart’. But again, Hollingworth states that there’s no evidence that he is either a Communist or Trotskyite. Roy Shaw, the moderate Labour leader of Camden council, who did not share Ken’s left-wing views and opposed him on many issues, stated of ‘Red’ Ken ‘He embraces Marxism if he thinks it will be of advantage to him. But he is certainly not a Marxist. He plays along with them and uses a lot of their methods, but he certainly is not one of them.’

The press also claimed that Peter Tatchell was a member of Militant Tendency, the Marxist group was that was allegedly trying to take over the Labour party. The Daily Mirror claimed Tatchell was linked to Militant and Tariq Ali. The Torygraph also claimed he was a member, as did the Daily Star, while the BBC on 2nd August 1982 on a late-night news bulletin called him ‘the Militant Tendency candidate for Bermondsey’. To their credit, both the Graun and the Absurder published interviews with members of the local Labour party, who said that Tatchell was most definitely not a member of Militant.

Hollingworth describes Tatchell’s politics views and how they differed, at times very dramatically from Militant, and states that he was merely part of the Bennite Left of the Labour party. Indeed, Militant itself did not like Tatchell, and backed him only reluctantly. Hollingworth writes

But Militant’s stance towards Tatchell’s candidature was based on clear ideological differences. On many issues, the two were diametrically opposed. Broadly speaking, Tatchell belonged to the radical Left of the Labour party which rallied round Tony Benn’s banner during the 1981 deputy leadership campaign. According to Michael Crick’s excellent book on Militant. The ‘Bennite Left’ are often described as ‘petty bourgeois reformists by Militant supporters. For Tatchell one of the major differences was on the structure of a socialist society:

I see socialism as being essentially about the extension and enhancement of democracy, particularly in the economic realm. Militant have a very centralised vision of command socialism. Mine is more decentralised and concerned with empowerment. In other words, giving people the power to do things for themselves. Militant take a Leninist view based on a vanguard centre.

On specific policies the discrepancies between Tatchell and Militant are also stark. For several years the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) was Labour Party and TUC policy and Tatchell supported it fully. Import controls, one of the main proposals of the AES, was seen by Militant as ‘nationalistic’ and ‘exporting unemployment’. Other policies on wealth tax, planning agreements and industrial democracy are rejected by Militant as not going far enough.

When it came to social issues, Tatchell and Militant may as well have been in different parties. Tatchell supports ‘Troops Out’ of Northern Ireland, while Militant is against withdrawal. Positive action for women and ethnic minorities, backed by Tatchell, are seen as ‘bourgeois deviations from the class struggle’ by Militant. The issue of gay rights has only one been raised at the Labour Party Young Socialists conference since Militant took over Labour’s youth section in 1970. According to Michael Crick, Militant supporters are often hostile to gay Party members. (pp.158-9).

So while Scargill, Livingstone and Tatchell were certainly left-wing Labour, they weren’t dictators and definitely not Communists. It was all a smear. But it shows how the press and political establishment were convinced that any serious left-wing Socialist attack on the establishment had to be connected to Moscow. Hence Frederick Forsythe’s wretched little book, which has the British intelligence services battling a Communist plot to infiltrate the Labour party, ready to turn Britain into a Soviet satellite when Labour win the election. It’s says everything about Thatcher that she declared he was her favourite writer.

And Now Corbyn

And this type of abuse hasn’t stopped, either. The most recent victim is Jeremy Corbyn, who is again being smeared as a Communist. Hollingworth writes that it is an old tactic used against the radical Left – to single out a leader, and then go for the jugular. They couldn’t use it against the Greenham women, as they had a very decentralised and non-hierarchical ideology. There were no leaders, and those women, who did speak to the press, made it clear they were only articulating their own views. If they spoke to the press more than a certain number of times, they then refused to speak any more and directed the press to talk to someone else. In extreme cases they even left the camp.

They are, however, determined to use again and again. I found a book on Militant in the politics section of Waterstones recently, and on the back, with the usual approving quotes, was someone stating that the lessons from Militant were relevant once again with the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. This is just a smear, along with all the baseless smears against Livingstone, Scargill and Tatchell before him. It shows how little the tactics of the Tory press change in their campaign to discredit genuinely principled and democratic radicals.

The Miners’ Strike and Times’ Editor Charles Moore’s Hatred of the Working Class

June 4, 2016

Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, argues that the impoverishment and degradation inflicted on the working class by Tony Blair’s New Labour and the Conservatives is due to a bitter hatred of them by the Conservative upper classes. He quotes Balfour as saying ‘Of course there’s a class war going on. We started it.’ Hollingworth’s discussion of the miner’s strike in his The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship adds more evidence to this. He notes that the right-wing press and its editors may also have had a very strong hatred of the miners, a hatred that was displayed in a comment by Charles Moore, a former editor of the Times and one of the Thatcher’s biographers. It was also displayed in a piece written by an academic, who talked about how the miner’s were all tricked into striking because they were the less intelligent pupils from Secondary Moderns and Comprehensive schools.

There is also some evidence, though far from conclusive, that Fleet Street’s hostility was based on simple class hatred towards the miners and their families. Charles Moore is the editor of the Spectator but used to be a Daily Telegraph reporter and writer and still contributes to the paper regularly. Asked about the miners, he replied: ‘I really hate those people, actually. This strike as brought out feelings I didn’t know I had. It seems to me such a lie that these people represent or are the defenders of an oppressed class and so clear that Arthur Scargill is an oppressor, that is has finally brought out all my contempt for the Left. A perhaps more serious example came from the Sunday Times in August 1984. The paper commissioned a feature article by Professor Frank Musgrove of Manchester University. This is what he wrote:

In the past 30 years two social processes have siphoned off men of initiative and ability. Educational selection has left a residue of D and E stream secondary modern and comprehensive school pupils for pit work – there has been a massive haemorrhage of talent from mining communities. And earlier pit closure programmes have set up eddies of selective migration which have drained away the most enterprising men from the more northerly fields.

It is the dilute human residues that remain, especially in Yorkshire and Durham, that have been most effectively manipulated and mobilised by the tactics of the NUM. They have been bounced into a strike without a ballot and have learned to repeat slogans (‘No pit closures on economic grounds’. ‘Cowards hide behind ballots’) whose horrendous implications they do not begin to grasp.

We did not solve the educational problem by raising the school-leaving age to 15, still less to 16. Five years in the E Stream of a comprehensive school is an excellent training in sheer bloody-mindedness if not actual subversion. … This is not education. It is a species of trench warfare. It is anticipatory socialisation for the mass picket line. (The emphasis is added by Hollingworth, pp. 283-4). The Sunday Times was, of course, edited by Andrew Neil, now presenting the Daily Politics for the Beeb.

A Memoir of a Brutal Life in British Fascism

May 29, 2014

Matthew Collins book

Matthew Collins, Hate: My Life in the British Far Right (London: Biteback Publishing 2011). With a foreword by Billy Bragg.

This is a grim book about grim people. Extremely grim and unpleasant people. The kind of people Norman Stanley Fletcher, the balladeer of H.M. Prison Slade, used to describe as ‘charmless nerks’. Collins is a writer and researcher for the anti-Fascist magazine, Searchlight. The blurb on the back describes him as the organisation’s Northern Ireland correspondent, and states that he is noted for his work exposing the English Defence League. Before he joined Searchlight, he was a committed member of the Far Right. This is his account of his passage through the various British Fascist parties and their allies – the NF, the BNP, Combat 18 and the UDA, before disgust at their leadership and extreme brutality led him to contact Searchlight. His part in exposing a still unnamed Sun journalist as an NF member and a World In Action documentary into Combat 18, supplying arms to the UDA, eventually forced him to flee England for Australia. He spent 10 years in Oz, enjoying a life of carefree pleasure, meaningless sex, and marriage, before finally returning to Blighty to continue the struggle.

Unlike other, more academic books, which analyse the NF, BNP and related Fascist organisations from the perspective of their ideologies, electoral performance and demographic composition of their membership, Collins autobiographical account describes what life in the Far Right is actually like for the rank-and-file members. These are the storm troopers, who spend their weekends travelling across Britain to parade on marches, attend speeches and rallies, and get extremely drunk, threaten and beat up ‘Reds’, Blacks, Asians, gays, and just about anyone and everyone they don’t like. Which really could be anyone and everyone. There’s a description in the book of how the NF’s storm troopers trashed a pub during a weekend away in Brighton, simply because one of the barmaids objected to one of the skinhead thugs attempting to grab the phone from her hand and demanding that she call him a taxi. Collins makes it extremely clear that these are extremely violent, brutal men.

The ‘Political Soldier’ NF

Collins joined after the NF had split into two factions. One of these, led by Griffin, was the ‘Political Soldier’ movement, This took its inspiration from Roberto Fiore and other terrorists from the Italian Forza Nuova. They were attempting to stem the drift away from Fascism under Thatcher by developing new ideological strands, some of which were more left-wing. They took over elements from Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya and revolutionary Iran. Some aspects of these new ideologies were more left-wing than the NF’s usual stance. For example, during the Miners’ Strike one faction within the NF offered help to the strikers, which Scargill obviously declined. The rank-and-file members weren’t interested in this. Collins says they had no interest in going to a remote farmhouse to answer detailed questions on their personal political and religious convictions. They are really interested in getting drunk and beating someone to a pulp.

Fascism and Political Violence

And the violence is very, very brutal. Far more brutal than the gang fights kids get into a school. It takes no account of age or gender, and continues even when the victim is on the floor. These are people, who by and large think nothing of maiming and ultimately killing their victims. Collins describes how deeply ashamed he was at taking part in a BNP attack on an anti-Fascist meeting at Welling Library, during which 17 people were hospitalised. Nearly all of these were women. Most of them were Asians, worried about the safety of their children in an area with so much racist violence against them. One of the intended victims was pregnant, and locked herself in the ladies’ loos for safety, while the men outside tried to get in to attack her and her unborn child. On their way in, they punched Geoffrey Dixon, the Labour councillor for Greenwich and the caretaker to the floor, and then stamped on them. Collins states that the caretaker never worked again. Some of the victims were so terrified that they jumped from the windows – the meeting was held on the first floor – to escape. Collins states that he and one of the other storm troopers were the only ones to hit men during the assault, which even sickened the other Fascist. Collins himself was so shocked and disgusted that he left and rejoined the NF for a while. Later on Collins tells how the BNP and its supporting football hooligans attacked the Liberal candidate for Bermondsey, Simon Hughes, in his battle bus.

Fascist Violence and Intimidation at University Meeting

And Fascists behave no better when in an academic environment. Collins describes the atmosphere of threat, intimidation and abuse produced by the BNP when they organised an event at which David Irving, the notorious holocaust denier, spoke. Collins does not give the name of the institution, which hosted the meeting, but states that it was held – incredibly – in the International Students’ House. The BNP stewarding the event effectively take over the library, at one point stopping the terrified students from leaving, then allowing them to come and go as they wish, but under their supervision. Seeing a group from anti-Fascist Action outside the window, the Nazis immediately begin to make ape noises and shout challenges and anti-Semitic abuse. They also generally behave as drunken louts, indecently exposing themselves, tearing books off shelves, and intruding into small, private discussion groups. A few tried to pick up two African girls, while another tried to press his unwelcome attentions on a blonde woman, who shut herself in her office, leaving the offended Nazi banging on the door and loudly declaring his love and sexual intentions outside. Collins describes it as like a prison riot.

This description of the loutish antics of the BNP, even in an academic environment, is important. In the 1980s a number of branches of the Students’ Union passed rules stating that the Union was a ‘no platform for racists and Fascists’. It’s a controversial decision, as some, who are definitely not Fascists or Fascist sympathisers, feel that it’s anti-democratic. There was also obviously enormous controversy when the Oxford Union back in the 1990s invited Irving to speak. Collins description of this episode and the aggressive, threatening and generally disgusting behaviour by the BNP actually shows you how wise the Anti-Fascist groups are to try and keep them off campus, if only to protect the students themselves, regardless of any wider political issues.

Fascists Personally Sad Inadequates

There’s a danger in that describing violence, whether by Fascists or any other group of thugs, can also glamorise it, making it appear attractive, even admirable. Collins avoids this. He makes it very clear how brutal and unpleasant it actually is, how ashamed he is of his part in it, and how sad and pathetic the men involved actually are. Pathetic? Yes, really. He states that by and large, the members of the Far Right are so unattractive to the opposite gender that they have actually little chance of getting girlfriends or having any kind of sex life. Collins does seem to have had a string of extremely short-term relationships, but they mostly never called him back. He mostly solved his own problems in finding female company through amassing a collection of porn and self-abuse. When he did finally succeed in getting what looked like a long-term relationship, the girl left him because she couldn’t take his involvement in Fascism and its dangers any longer. He is particularly scathing about the sexual inadequacies of his fellow Fascists, and their lack of physical endowment. It’s low stuff, but it makes them unattractive at the level such groups aim at. You consider the way violent criminals, like East End White gangsters, and gangsta rappers, are often portrayed surrounded by attractive young women. The message of those images is that if you were similarly a vicious hard man, you too will have girls flinging themselves at you. Collins here shows that in the case of Fascism, this very definitely will not happen. The only people within the Fascist milieu that have any kind of sex life are the skinheads, and he’s not impressed with them. He sees them as quite squalid individuals, fathering children with three or four different women, who in turn have other kids by three or four different fathers. The men just seem to use them purely for sex, and he describes the skinhead girls as going from one meaningless, squalid relationship to another with a mattress tied to their backs.

NF’s Ian Anderson More Basil Fawlty than Hitler

Some of the Fascist leaders are also less than impressive up close. Collins describes Ian Anderson, the leader of the NF faction he joined, as a rather Fawlty-esque figure. Anderson had a vicious temper, flying into abusive rages whenever anything went wrong, to the point where Collins calls him ‘Angry Anderson’. An Oxford drop out, Anderson was physically scruffy and his house a mess. Collins describes him wearing worn, threadbare suits. His living room floor was covered with newspapers and other rubbish. His furniture was similarly worn and threadbare. His settee had no seat, so that if you sat on it, you were effectively sitting on the floor. At one point the house is such a mess that the other leading storm troopers don’t want to go there for meetings.

Anderson was trying to lead his faction of the NF away from anti-Semitism in an attempt to make it more electorally respectable. Collins states that some of his fellow storm troopers shared his views. One of his friends told him that while they hated non-Whites, they really didn’t understand the hatred of the Jews. This policy was not having much success, however, and Anderson’s NF were losing members fast due to competition from the much more aggressive and overtly Nazi BNP, led by Richard Edmonds and Tyndall. Collins and many of the other members were left dispirited and disillusioned by Anderson’s leadership. Turnout at parades and marches were tiny often as low as thirty. Towards the end of that section of the NF, they were reaching as low as perhaps ten or twelve. Anderson himself also seemed to regard the NF as a business, to provide him with a personal income, at one point asking the party’s governing body to give him £8,000. Even here, his management was not very business-like. Orders and correspondence went unread, and cheques weren’t cashed or paid in. Faced with this venality and incompetence, Collins and many others left to join the BNP.

BNP Nazi, Viciously Anti-Semitic

These were overtly, aggressively Nazi. Not only did their literature deny the reality of the Holocaust, but its members also looked forward to a similar policy of racial extermination. Collins states that when he was in there, although in his calmer moments he wanted a bloodless, painful removal of Jews and non-Whites from Britain, he also dreamed of sending them ‘to the East’, as the Nazis deported the Jews and their other victims to the concentration camps. The BNP also had links to surviving Nazis and members of Mosley’s BUF. He describes the chaos and violence at the Kensington Library meeting, which ultimately led to the formation of the extremely violent Combat 18. This was a meeting of the League of St. George, whose doorman was dressed in full Nazi regalia. This was gatecrashed by Searchlight’s Gerry Gable and a squad of about fifty anti-Fascists. Despite Gable’s appeal for calm, the meeting degenerated into violence and the Nazis were given a vicious beating.

Origins of Combat 18

Combat 18’s origins are murky, and there is considerable evidence of state involvement. Charlie Sargent, its founder, whom Collins describes as ‘an overweight, knife-carrying, drug-peddling lout’, was later revealed to be a police informer. Harold Covington, who was also involved in its foundation, may also have been connected to the American intelligence services. I have seen the accusation that Combat 18 was set up the FBI to act as a honey trap for the Far Right. Collins mentions him, but only to say that he was small fry compared to William Pierce, the writer of the notorious Turner Diaries, and the US National Alliance. Covington was also unpalatable to many British Nazis because of his support for the IRA and connections to American Nazi IRA supporters, like Sean Maguire.

BNP Connections to Ulster Protestant Terror Groups

Far more acceptable to British Nazis was the UDA, and Collins describes how he and another BNP member, Eddie Whicker, answered the UDA’s request for British members to provide them with support. The BNP and its members were later revealed by World In Action attempting to supply them with guns. Collins himself appears to have been less than impressed with them. He states that their magazine, Ulster, was full of tradition and history, but had very little in the way of ideology. The UDA seemed actually not to know what it is they stood for, except that they didn’t want to be governed by Ireland or indeed anybody else. They were also poorly armed and equipped compared to the IRA. And while they were desperate for British Fascist support, they were less keen on their racism. One issue of Ulster contained an order for attacks on Chinese restaurateurs in the Six Counties to stop. This, however, seems to have been rejected in recent years, as there has apparently been a rise in racist attacks by Ulster Loyalists, disenchanted with the Good Friday agreement. In addition to attacking Leftists, Blacks, Asians and gays, the NF and BNP also laid into Irish Republicans and the ‘Troops Out’ movement when they organised their marches.

Hooligans and Political Use of violence

Taking part and supporting the Fascists in their violence were an assortment of football hooligans. These include various casuals, as well as hardened hooligan ‘firms’ like the Nutty Turn Out, and, of course, Millwall. The NF and BNP journey up and down the country in their campaigns, including the northern industrial towns where they attempt to intimidate the local Black and Asian populations. Much of the campaigning and violence takes place in the East End of London and Brick Lane, which has a long tradition of racist violence and resistance to racists since Mosley and his squadristi in the 1930s. Zadie Smith describes the racist violence in the area, and a fictional Asian group, the Bengal Tigers, set up to fight back against the Nazis, in her novel, Brick Lane. Collins also goes into the various motives the NF and BNP have for campaigning. He and many other Fascists had absolute contempt for parliament and democracy, and due to their repeated electoral failures many of them saw standing in elections as a waste of time. Their real focus was on expanding Nazi power through control of the streets. Nevertheless, standing in elections acted as a recruiting tool. They also regarded it as an instrument through which they could make race relations worse, and drum up even more hatred. This should be borne in mind the next time the BNP or any other Far Right group puts forward candidates at an election. They have no intention of making things better for society, only in creating further discord and violence. As for the Derek Beackon and the other NF members, who became the first elected BNP local councillors in Tower Hamlets, Collins states that when he met him was always drunk. He is also immensely proud of the way he and Searchlight managed to have all but two of the seven storm troopers lose their seats at the next elections.

Recruitment through Racial Tensions Created by ‘Satanic Verses’ Controversy

Collins also provides insight into the way the BNP and NF exploited racial tension created by Muslim outrage at Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. He states that for the Far Right, it was simply a case of attacking Asians as usual. However, it allowed them to gain support from Whites frightened by the rise in Muslim assertiveness and aggression.

Conservatives and the Fascist Right

Also linked to the NF and the BNP were extreme Right-wing Tories, such as Western Gaols. Collins describes attending the meeting at the Sudeley Room at House of Lords, where the meeting was addressed by the South African Conservative MP, Clive Derby-Lewis. Later on, as his disenchantment with Fascism increases, another Tory, Adrian Davies, invites him to join the Conservatives and acts as his alibi when he is forced to hide out in Spain for a week, following his exposure of the Sun journalist as a Nazi.

Background of Fascist Members and Supporters

Collins book is also important in that it provides an insight into the background and type of men drawn to the NF. Collins’ father was Irish, though Collins himself didn’t realise this for much of his childhood, and it didn’t matter much to him after he found out. Unsuited to married life, his father gradually became more and more distant from his family until the marriage broke down completely and he left. His family were poor working class, and Collins was a poor, underperforming pupil at school. A remark from his father that if he was Roman Catholic, there’d be no Blacks at his school, and thinking about his family poverty and deprivation led him to conclude, as undoubtedly so many angry poor Whites did, that it was caused by Black and Asians.

His family were also Tories, who read the Daily Mail, watched Jim Davidson, and he fully supported Thatcher’s attack on the miners and Norman Tebbit’s demand that the unemployed should get on their bikes. This anger and alienation led him first to argue with the Leftist teachers at his school, and to borrow books on modern Fascism from the school library. He then moved on to actively looking for literature and trying to join the NF. A copy of British Nationalist pushed through the front door allowed him to make contact with the Richard Edmonds, the BNP’s leader. A meeting with five members of the NF in the local pub impressed him with how normal they were, and their stories about Richard Edmonds led him to join the NF. In the event, he and a number of others ended up in both organisations, with Edmonds and Anderson each asking him to spy on the other’s party. Collins joined when he was very young – only 15 – in 1987, and spent six years in the organisation before being forced to flee the country to escape them when he was 21.

Growth of Fascism and New Labour’s Abandonment of Working Class

He states in the book that part of the rise in the Far Right was due to New Labour’s turn away from the working class. There is also jealousy and resentment at the way Black and Asian culture was celebrated and encouraged, while White working class culture was given no such assistance and enjoyed no similar amenities. These are important points. Owen Jones in the chapter ‘Backlash’ in Chavs argues that New Labour’s abandonment of the White working class for the middle class, and its celebration of Black and Asian culture, although entirely right, has also led many working class Whites to feel abandoned and resentful of the supposed privileges of non-Whites.

This is now extremely important, with the victory in the European elections of extreme Right-wing, populist parties like UKIP and the French Front National. UKIP is anti-immigrant, but has a policy of weeding out Fascists, although it does seem to have an incredible amount of them. Its members are, however, mainly older, working class people, who feel that the established parties, particularly New Labour, have abandoned them.

The book does provide a fascinating insight into what life in the Far Right is actually like for the average storm trooper, as well as giving Collins account of how he became so disgusted with them that he ended up not only working for Searchlight and then Special Branch, the latter not entirely willingly. There are problems, however. As a member of Searchlight, Collins is of course biased in their favour. While they have done a great deal of good in exposing the Far Right and its activities, other anti-Fascists have complained that Gable and Searchlight have smeared them and accused of being Fascists when they have pursued their own investigations independently. They have also accused it of appropriating their work, when this has subsequently been proven to be the more correct. See, for example, Matthew Kalman and John Murray’s article about the smears directed at them and Larry O’Hara, ‘Another Searchlight Smear Job’, in Lobster 30: 26-7. O’Hara has similarly attacked the World In Action documentary on the Far Right for its inaccuracies. Nevertheless, it’s still an important, gripping book for its personal account of the British Far Right during the late ’80s and early ’90s, its connections and the personal lives and motivations of its members.