Posts Tagged ‘Skinheads’

Nazis Planned Armed March against Jews in Montana

January 8, 2017

The two videos below, from TYT Nation and the David Pakman Show discuss an armed march that the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has announced will take place in the town of Whitefish, Montana against the Jewish community. The mother of the leader of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer, lives there, and the Nazis are claiming that they will be marching to protest against her business being cheated by Jews. The organiser has stated that the march will be perfectly legal, due to Montana’s liberal laws regarding bearing arms openly, and so they intend to carry high-power rifles. He also predicted that 200 people would attend and that the march would be against ‘Jews, Jewish businesses, and those who support them.’ A local Montana newspaper, the Mazumian, stated that the Nazis had offered to call off the march, provided that certain demands were met.

Discussing the news, the show’s hosts Jeff Waldorf and Ron Placone state that they don’t know what the Nazis’ demands were, but they were probably that the Jews should leave town. Waldorf makes the point that he’s in favour of people’s right to march and demonstrate, but he’s not in favour of the Nazis’ march, for the same reason he’s not in favour of people marching armed against Blacks or Hispanics, or indeed, armed marches. Placone states that such a march would not be protected by the First Amendment anyway. He states that it is not a free speech issue, as the legislation would view it as an incitement to violence. Waldorf notes that the ACLU has defended the Klan’s right to hold peacefully marches on occasion. Waldorf states that he would despise a peaceful march by the Klan, but would accept that they have the right to hold it. However, this is far more menacing. It would be a large number of men attempting to intimidate what is likely to be a very small community in a small town.

Waldorf also states that the situation is made worse by some of the media coverage of the Nazis. He cites one mainstream news programme that referred to the Alt-Right as ‘dapper’, because they looked like ordinary people now, instead of the usual Nazi thugs. The programme seemed to assume that because they looked normal, they should be treated as normal people, despite their abhorrent views. The Alt-Right is simply the same old Nazism, but with a friendlier face.

Waldorf makes the point that this is entirely predictable. Every time hatred towards one group is permitted, such as Hispanics or Blacks, eventually it reaches the Jews. He notes that a number of Jewish journalists have been attacked and threatened, along with non-Jews. He says that he’s been called a Jew by the Alt-Right, which he finds funny as a staunch atheist who has no time for any religion, and that he has an Austrian ancestry going back to the Middle Ages. And even if he were a Jew, he still cannot understand why this would make any difference. He mocks all the stupid anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about how the Jews supposedly run everything, and control banking – which, he notes, is itself an anti-Semitic stereotype. He notes that their anger at this supposed conspiracy means that anti-Semites are nonsensically angry at success. They also can’t be the master race, if the Jews are in charge. He also points out that they miss the fact that there are plenty of White non-Jews running things, including the banks.

Waldorf then makes the distinction between real and fake anti-Semitism. He observes that you will be called an anti-Semite if you protest against the government of Israel, its construction of illegal settlements and that it is an apartheid state. That’s not anti-Semitic, as Jews are separate from the Israeli government. It is, however, genuinely anti-Semitic to claim that Jews are involved in a vast conspiracy against White people.

David Pakman in his segment notes that the march is planned for either this coming week or the week after. The publisher of the Daily Stormer website is Andrew Anglin, and it is his lawyer, who has advised him about the legality of carrying weapons, and that they intend to bus in skinheads from the bay area.

Pakman and his co-host, Pat, state that there’s something actually very funny about the Nazis having to bring in thugs from the Bay area. Pat makes the point that this may have a bright side, in that news of the planned march may result in more countermarches. He gives the example of a planned march by the Klan, which was called off after it was announced shortly after Trump’s election. People responded to the news by organising a massive wave of opposition marches to the racist organisation. Pakman states that the FBI is aware of it, but believes that if carrying arms on the march is legal, there may not actually be much that can be done about it. Pakman makes the point that anti-Jewish sentiment tends to be ignored as it is believed that Jews in America are doing well. However, Jews have been and are the largest group of victims of religious hate crime. In 2014 60 per cent of all crimes were committed against Jews, compared with 14 per cent against Muslims. He is concerned that anti-Semitic hate is becoming increasingly acceptable. He also states that it’s peculiar that the march is being held in Montana, which has very little ethnic diversity. In 2016 there were only 6,000 Jews living in the entire state, 0.77 per cent of the population, compared to the national average of 2.2 per cent.

Pakman doesn’t know what the solution is, as a counterdemonstration, may be equally heavily armed, seems a recipe for disaster. Pat makes the point that they’re probably marching in Montana because of the absence of diversity – there are far more people who look like them, and few Jews, whereas it would be different in somewhere like New York. But Pakman also says that even Andrew Anglin has stated that the march is a joke.

This is a problem, which could only happen in America, where the Second Amendment defends citizen’s rights to own firearms, and where there is a very vocal and aggressive minority defending this right. In Britain the NF have been allowed to march, but the government cracked down very hard in the 1960s when it was revealed that the stormtroopers were organising paramilitary-style training events and were suspected of making bombs to kill Jews. Part of the evidence was a can of weedkiller found in the organisers shed, which had the word ‘weed’ crossed out and replaced with ‘Jew’.

I’ve no doubt that the march, if it goes ahead, will be extremely threatening to Jews and pro- or non-racist gentiles. Racist skinheads in both Britain and America have a reputation for extreme violence. And some of the right-wing gun nuts in America have also shown themselves willing to behave in a threatening manner towards their opponents. A little while ago The Young Turks ran a story about how a group of women demonstrating against pro-gun legislation were harassed by a group of men from the NRA. They surrounded the women carrying high powered assault rifles, and shouted ‘lock and load’. Pat Buchanan, who was a member of Reagan’s team back in the 1980s, and who also had a reputation for anti-Semitism, became notorious for doing the same stunt. Buchanan was so racist and right-wing, that when he won an election in New Hampshire during one of the presidential contests in the 1990s, Joe Queenan opened an edition of Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham with a clip of a speech by Mussolini, which he joked was il Duce congratulating Buchanan on his electoral victory.

If this march is allowed to proceed, it will embolden Nazis in America and beyond, and we’ll see more armed marches by them and similar hate groups, like the Klan, until there is violence and bloodshed.

The Young Turks have said before about the rise in anti-Semitism following Trump’s attacks on Mexicans and Muslims, that as soon as that box is metaphorically opened, sooner or later it comes round to Jews. It’s probably because of this that the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish organisation that campaigns against anti-Semitism, has also defended Muslims against rising hatred. And Waldorf is exactly right when he distinguishes real anti-Semitism – like Spencer and his fellow goose-steppers – from perfectly legitimate criticism of Israel and its government’s murderous persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

But who knows – perhaps the Israel lobby will be delighted with such a march. They seem to have seized on similar attacks in Europe to try to encourage European Jews to leave their homelands and settle in Israel. And during the Third Reich Herzog and the other Zionist pioneers were all too glad to see German and European Jews persecuted and murdered, and hated the patriotic German Jewish organisations that stood up for their members’ rights to live in peace in Germany, their homeland. They cynically viewed the Nazis’ butchery of their people as simply another way of increasing emigration to Israel.

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VICE Report on Nationalist March in Poland

April 3, 2016

I’ve been blogging quite a bit recently about the frightening rise of the far Right in Europe, and especially eastern Europe. I put up a video yesterday about the cult of Stepan Bandera, the great, modern nationalist hero of Ukraine. Bandera fought for his country’s freedom from the Soviet Union during World War II. However, he did so by allying himself and collaborating with the invading Nazis. Poland has also seen the emergence of extreme Right-wing groups, such as the National Rebirth of Poland, which is now actively trying to recruit members from the Polish expatriate community living and working over here.

This piece from VICE is a report about this years Polish Independence Day march. This is held annually, and attracts crowds of extreme nationalists. In previous years it’s been marked by violence between these Fascist groups and the police. Many of the nationalists come from gangs of football hooligans. VICE’s reporter shows the march’s stewards, who are themselves drawn from the far Right, training under a bridge in Warsaw to deal with violence, including being bombarded with smoke bombs or CS gas.

After that, he then goes to the town of Lodz in the company of a member of the Ultras, the violent supporters group for the Widzew lower league team. Lodz appears to be quite a grim town. The reporter says it’s quite picturesque, but the area inhabited by the Ultras seems to be quite run down. It’s got an unemployment rate of 12 per cent, which, the presenter states, compares well with the national average, but there is little to distract its young men away from nationalism and violence. As they’re driving through it’s slightly run-down streets, the Ultra he’s with points out the two supporters of a rival team, and states quite plainly that if the presenter wasn’t there, he’d go after and attack them.

The presenter also states that it’s not a mystery that there is so much nationalist sentiment and antagonism to refugees and Islam in Poland. The country now has a new government, and politicians have been appearing on television talking about the threat from Muslim refugees. The documentary shows television footage of one particular Polish politician stating that refugees don’t respect their host countries’ culture or ways of life, and once they’ve become firmly settled there, they then begin to make their sensitivities clear. The reporter then goes to the muster point for the march. This is at a Roman Catholic church, where the reporter says that they’re to thank God for Poland’s independence, and get Him on their side for the day. During the service the priest thanks the biker gangs that are in attendance for joining them. Standing outside the church are bikers and skinheads with Polish flags and armbands. The reporter states that he thinks the Nazis have ruined armbands, and that after them, no-one can wear them without it looking dodgy.

The march itself this year is strangely quiet and uneventful. There are no battles with the police. This is remarked upon approvingly by a couple of older ladies, who have joined the march. The marchers from Lodz carry their banner, showing their support of Widzew, which they made earlier down in the basement of one of the tower blocks. Along with the Polish flag, which the reporter’s companion from the Ultras has told him is ‘sacred’ to the Poles, are other banners for the National Rebirth of Poland. Several are explicitly anti-Islam. Some simply have the slogan ‘Stop Islam’, while others show a mosque with ‘stop’ traffic sign across it, familiar from Western anti-Islamic groups like the EDL over here and PEGIDA in Germany. The speeches at the march, included in this report, are also overtly anti-Islam. A young voice is heard over the loudspeaker system shouting, ‘Pride, pride, pride. We don’t want rape. We don’t want violence. The Gospel, not the Qu’ran!’ The reporter also briefly interviews a middle-aged Polish man, who makes it clear that the people there fear the influx of Muslim refugees. The man states that they don’t want immigrants to arrive in their country, ‘as we aren’t prepared for them. He also says that they don’t know who they – meaning the immigrants – are, and that they should have to wear armbands identifying them for two or three years. It’s exactly the same kind of rhetoric that’s coming out of Trump and Ted Cruz across the Atlantic in America.

Vice’s reporter ends the documentary by saying that although there hasn’t been any violence between the marchers and the police that day, if felt like a victory parade for the Polish far Right after they had conquered the state. The documentary itself ends with the statement that since it was made, hundreds of thousands have taken part in anti-government protests, and the EU is looking into the state of democracy in Poland.

The rise of the nationalist extreme Right in Poland, and the consequent increase in xenophobia and fear of Islam, and the deep link between Polish national identity and Roman Catholicism can partly be explained by the country’s history. Following the rule of Jan Sobieski, the Polish king who broke the Turkish siege of Vienna, Poland was conquered and divided between Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. They only gained their independence after the First World War, when they finally became a united nation once more under Marshal Pilsudski. They have had to fight for their survival as a people and nation in a way which we Brits, or at least, the English, are fortunate not to have to. In the Russian ruled areas, the official language, including that of the schools, was Russian. If schoolchildren were taught Polish, it was as a foreign language.

Secondly, the redistribution of territory following the First and Second World Wars, including the loss of parts of Ukraine, meant that Poland’s population were almost uniformly Roman Catholic. 98-99% of the Polish population belong to the Church, which became the focus of opposition to the Communist regime following the expansion of Soviet power as the Russians pushed the Germans back across Europe at the end of the War. The result is a powerful sense of national identity, which itself is deeply identified with Roman Catholicism, as well as a terrible sense of insecurity and threat from outsiders.

The specific fear of Muslim immigration can strike Western Europeans as peculiar, given that Poland isn’t the destination of choice for refugees from Africa and the Middle East. These mostly want to settle in the more prosperous west of the continent. This, however, seems to be part of a general rise in Islamophobia in eastern Europe – in Hungary, and the Czech and Slovak Republics. There’s an interesting report linked to by the anti-Fascist, anti-Islamist organisation, Hope Not Hate, on the rise of militant anti-Islamic politics in the Slovak republic. This also comments on the fact that Slovakia is off the main migration route. However, the article traces the rise to the fact that the Slovaks, compared to Britain, Germany, France and Italy, are a small nation. There are only five million of them. They therefore fear that they will be swamped by mass immigration. And their politicians are also partly responsible, even the left-wing Socialist party, as they have attempted to boost their electoral support by playing on the fears of a mass influx of immigrants from outside Europe. The result has been the resurgence of ugly strands of nationalism, last seen in the collaborationist regime of Monsignor Tiso during the Second World War. Tiso was the Roman Catholic cardinal, who governed the country during its alliance with the Nazis, and was partly responsible for sending his country’s Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust. Tiso himself seems also to have been a hero of the Slovakian far Right for a very long time. I can remember reading in one of the Communist/ Trotskyist newspapers a friend of mine bought in the 1980s an article about the rise of the Fascist right in the Soviet bloc then. Along with a discussion of the notorious, and now defunct Russian Nazi group, Pamyat’, the article also mentioned with horror that the Slovaks were also putting a statue up to honour Tiso.

And finally, I think some of the rise of the extreme Right in eastern Europe is due to the social dislocation following the collapse of Communism. The democracy the peoples of Europe waited for did not bring the prosperity they expected. In fact I can remember talking to a girl, whose parents were Polish, who said that actual conditions in Poland seemed to her to have deteriorated after the Fall of
Communism, to the point where she didn’t feel safe travelling through the country. This was in the 1990s. It was about this time that the Russian economy also went into meltdown due to Yeltsin’s mass privatisation of the state industries. Millions were made unemployed, in a country which had no unemployment support system, as under Communism full employment, provided you kow-towed to the party, was guaranteed. It wouldn’t surprise me if something similar had also happened in the former Soviet satellites and break-away states. And with economic insecurity comes the desire to find a scapegoat, a terrible ‘other’, who can be blamed, or made the focus for all the fear and insecurity. And so in some of the former eastern bloc, it’s back to anti-Semitism and a hatred of the Jews, and now a fear of Muslims.

Understanding Trump’s American Fascism

March 21, 2016

Okay, I’ve tried for about a week not writing about Donald Trump. I know some of you feel that I’ve given too much attention to this moron, and that this country has enough on its plate with the thugs who are in power over here. Including the one that left office late Thursday evening, the fall-out of which is still continuing. The problem is, Trump’s too big, too slow moving and the parallels with real Fascism too glaringly overt. You can compile a list of all the elements in Fascism, which are present in Trump’s campaign or the general background of right-wing anxiety and hysteria, which has contributed to it.

And if Trump gains power, he will be a problem over here. Not just personally, in that his decisions on the economy and policies of the world’s only surviving superpower will have direct consequences for Britain and the rest of the world, but also in the malign political influence his election over there will have on domestic politics. Events in America and elsewhere in the world have a legitimising effect on similar developments over here. Blair and the New Labour clique took their queue from Bill Clinton and his New Democrats. These aren’t to be compared to the Canadian New Democrat party, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Labour party. Clinton’s ‘New Democrats’ were a revision of the Democrat party, which took over much of the ideology of Reagan’s Republicans, especially financial deregulation, curbs on welfare spending and workfare. Clinton was almost certainly better than the alternative, but nevertheless he continued Reagan’s squalid political legacy. And over here, Blair copied him, introducing workfare, and pursuing Thatcher’s policies of deregulating the economy, including the financial sector, and cutting down on welfare spending. And then you can go further back, to the 1920s and ’30s, when Fascist parties sprang up all over Europe in imitation of Mussolini’s squadristi and later the Nazis in Germany. The British Union of Fascists was just one of them. They also included such groups and political cults in this country as the British Fascisti – actually extreme Right-wing Tories and Arnold Leese’s The Britons. If, heaven help us, Trump ever gets into power, his occupation of the White House will mean that European politicians will start aping him. Which means more racism, more misogyny, further restrictions on personal freedom, and domestic politics marked and supported by brutality and violence. So, here’s a bit on Trump’s ideological precursors and the similarity of his campaign to Fascist and proto-Fascist movements.

As I said, you can make a list out of the similarities between Trump’s campaign and personal style of politics, and those of real Fascists. Let’s begin with

Violence

Trump’s campaigns have been marked by his supporters striking and beating protestors. Trump himself has stood on his platform fondly looking back on the old days when those who dared to disrupt political campaigns like his would be taken out on stretchers. He’s even offered to pay his supporters’ legal fees if they assault someone. And at the weekend his scheduled rally in Chicago descended into a near riot when Trump cancelled and refused to show up.

One liberal female newsreader commenting on the violence at Trump’s rallies said that when she was growing up in California in the 1980s, you never saw it except on the extreme right-wing fringe, at was barely politics – Skinhead concerts. Marinetti in his Founding and Manifesto of Futurism, an avant-garde artistic movement that became briefly aligned with Fascism, declared

We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure and by riot; we will sing of the multi-coloured polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals.

Georges Sorel, a revolutionary Syndicalist, who later became involved with extreme right-wing French royalist and anti-Semitic movements, proclaimed in his Reflexions sur la Violence that it was only in violent revolution that men were truly free, and were able to make a new man inside themselves. He was published by a French artistic group, the Compagnons de l’Action d’Art, who declared ‘Long live violence against all that makes life ugly’.

Marinetti went on to further declare ‘We today separate the idea of the Fatherland from that of reactionary, clerical Monarchy. We unite the idea of Fatherland with that of daring Progress and of anti-police revolutionary democracy’.

It could almost describe exactly Trump’s ideological background. Much of extreme right-wing politics in America is predicated on a profound opposition to monarchy dating from the Revolution. You can see it in such extremist political movements as Lyndon LaRouche’s ‘Democrats’ back in the late 1980s and 1990s, who believed that the Queen and the Vatican were locked in a deadly covert battle for world domination, with Her Maj running the world’s drug trade from the back of Buck House. Alex Jones’ Infowars internet set has been heavily backing Trump as ‘the only anti-globalist candidate’. He’s also paranoid about the British monarchy. There’s a hilarious segment on his show where he talks about Britain’s secret police picking up anybody who failed to show due respect to Brenda during some royal occasion a few years ago. He roundly declared that ‘they (the British) have no freedom’.

Well, I must have been out when that happened. I don’t doubt that the rozzers did pick up a few troublemakers back then. But that last time I looked, you were still free in this country to say what you liked about the Royal Family. A few years ago the Queen turned up in my home town of Bristol to present the Maundy Money at a ceremony in the city’s cathedral. Apart from those due to receive it, and the crowd of royalists and general rubberneckers, there was a demonstration from MAM – the Movement Against the Monarchy. A lot of the pensioners and other members of the public were annoyed at their demonstration, but I don’t recall there being mass arrests.

Trump also retweeted one of Mussolini’s sayings ‘It is better to live one day as a lion that one hundred years as a sheep.’ Trump said he just liked it because it’s a good quote. And so it is. What makes it suspicious is that it comes from Musso, who advocated a similar cult of violence. When he was still a revolutionary Socialist, the future Duce wrote an essay on Nietzsche, published in the magazine La Voce. He announced

We must envisage a new race of “free spirits”, strengthened in war, in solitude, in great danger … spirits endowed with a kind of sublime perversity, Spirits which liberate us from the love of our neighbour.

Misogyny

Trump has an extremely reactionary attitude towards women. When a female journalist at Fox News dared to ask him a difficult question, he sneering responded that she did so ‘because she was bleeding’. This too, is par for the course for the Fascist Weltanschauung. ‘We advocate scorn for women’, declared the Futurists, who celebrated ‘youth, speed, virility.’ This later became ‘Youth, Speed, Violence’, as women joined the movement. This was coupled to the cult of the charismatic leader. Adolf Hitler said, ‘the masses are like women. They want a strong man to lead them.’ Il Duce in Italy was also opposed to women skiing, riding or cycling, as this was supposed to make them infertile and prevent them from their ‘natural and fundamental mission in life’, of having babies.

On this matter, the general attitude of the Republican party and the American Right is very similar to that of Mussolini’s Italy. Musso was also worried about the declining Italian birth rate. In 1927 he made a speech stating that he aimed to increase the Italian population from 40 million to 60 million over the next 25 years. Contraception and abortion were both banned. In Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany women’s role was defined as very traditional and domestic. Instead of going out to work, they were to stay at home and raise families.

The Republican party and the Right today is similarly worried about the fall in the birth rate of the White race, and there are websites and discussions on Right-wing internet sites devoted to the demographic decline of the West. The American religious Right is also strongly opposed to abortion and there is similar opposition to women taking up positions of economic or political leadership. I can remember way back in the 1990s one Republican pastor hysterically declaring that Hillary Clinton was ‘the type of woman who leaves her husband, turns to lesbianism, practices witchcraft and sacrifices her children.’ There, and I thought that she was just a bog-standard, rather boring corporate type. Who could have guessed she led such an exciting, subversive life?

But this leads on to and is part of another feature of the Fascist Weltanschauung, that is also part and parcel of the GOP worldview:

The Decline of the West

Italian Fascism and Nazism also grew out of the 19th century feeling that Europe was threatened by decadence, and racial and cultural degeneration. It was threatened by democracy, organised labour, feminism, all of which were making Europe enfeebled. Hans Nordung described this supposed decline in his book, Degeneration, as did Oswald Spengler in his The Decline of the West. It’s an attitude that similarly pervades the Right today, alarmed by the challenge posed by militant Islam, the rise of China as a world power, and mass immigration from the Developing World. Various Republican and Right-wing leaders today in America scream about the threat of Socialism, by which they mean any kind of collectivism or state intervention, as well as feminism, which is also held to weaken America. Mussolini declared at one time that he supported women’s demands for the vote in England, as one women became politically enfranchised they would spread pacifism, leading to Britain’s decline as an imperial world power.

Exceptionalism

Right-wing American politics still has the belief that America is different from and superior to all other nations. It’s more moral, and hence America demands the absolute right not to be bound by the international treaties and conventions it imposes on others. Kyle Kulinski over at Secular Talk commented on the outrage that would occur if, say, one of the Muslim countries launched drone attacks on known White supremacists in America. Drone attacks on Muslim terrorists in countries like Yemen, with whom America is not actually at war, is nevertheless perfectly acceptable. And way back under Clinton, the Americans were keen to set up the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, and that the other nations around the world should sign the treaties binding them to it and outlawing such crimes. Except for America. It was felt that America did not need to be so bound, and indeed that this would only be an impediment to the ability of the Land of the Free to export that freedom around the globe.

The Italian nationalist poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose own later excursion to Fiume set up all the political institutions that were taken over into Musso’s Fascist Italy, made the same claim for Italy and her imperialist adventures in Africa. In his ‘Augural Song for the Chosen Nation’ he proclaimed

So you will yet behold the Latin Sea
covered
with massacres in your war … Italy, Italy
sacred to the new dawn
with the plough and the prow.

Racism

Fascism is, for most people, synonymous with racism. In this, Italian Fascism was originally rather different from Nazism. The Italian Fascists, while extremely nationalistic, weren’t originally racists. About 80 per cent of Italy’s Jews managed to survive the War, because many Jews had been extremely patriotic and supported the new Italian state which had been brought into being by Mazzini and the other Italian revolutionaries in the 19th century. A number of them had joined the Fascist movement. One of the leading Italian generals, Ovato, was Jewish, and he was buried with military honours and a headstone ‘For Family, Faith and Fatherland’ at the same time his compatriots elsewhere in Italy were being rounded up and butchered. The Nazis were bitterly anti-Semitic, as is notorious, and took over the scientific racism that originated in the 19th century with Count Gobineau in France, amongst others. Apart from Jews, the Nazis also hated Gypsies and Slavs, as well as non-Whites. Once in power, they organised a campaign to sterilise the mixed-race children of German women and Black American soldiers, who had been part of the army of occupation after the First World War. Mussolini also passed a series of anti-Semitic legislation in imitation of Hitler’s.

Although not initially racist, they also sterilised and butchered the indigenous African peoples in the parts of Africa they conquered. Their nationalism also led them to launch campaigns to force Italian language and culture on the other ethnicities that found themselves within Italy’s borders, like ethnic Germans and Slavs.

Trump’s popular because he has announced that he will build a wall to prevent further immigration from Mexico. At rallies his supporters have also racially abused Black and Muslim protestors. The Young Turks interviewed a group of three young guys protesting against Trump at a rally in West Chester, Ohio. One of them was a substitute teacher. He was worried by White pupils on schools in which he taught coming in, and saying to their Black and Asian classmates that ‘once Trump gets in, you’ll be deported.’ There have also been instances of racist abuse at College sports events. In one instance, the supporters of a basketball team from an all-White area chanted ‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ when playing a mixed-raced team from a much more ethnically diverse part of the same state. Among his supporters Trump has attracted various card-carrying Nazis and White supremacists. He’s even been endorsed by the Klan. There has also been a recent documentary in America by PBS television, which covered the way one southern family had been brought together by Trump. Many of them had not voted for decades, and the family had been divided between Republican and Democrat supporters. But they had all been brought together by Trump. This was fine, until you saw the tattoos on the wife’s arms. These included the type of Celtic cross used by the Neo-Nazi right, and the numbers 88, which in Nazi circles stand for Heil Hitler.

Trump has also announced that he wishes to place a ban on Muslims entering America. Those Muslims permitted to remain will have to carry badges and identity documents. These has naturally alarmed Jewish and civil rights groups, who have noted the obvious parallels with the treatment of Jews in the Third Reich in the years preceding the Holocaust. Mussolini too was an opponent of Islam. In the 1920s he prevented a mosque from opening in Rome.

Militarism

Trump’s actually ambiguous on this. Both the Nazis and the Italian Fascists had at their core radicalised, extremely nationalistic corps of ex-servicemen from the First World War. These former the Brownshirts of the SA in the Nazi party, and the Blackshirts, the squadristi and arditi, the latter elite Italian soldiers in Mussolini’s Fascists. The American Right has also thrown up in past decades various paramilitary movements. The survivalists stockpiling food and guns for the end of the world in the 1980s were succeeded by the Militia movement, who were similarly arming themselves for an invasion. Amongst the loonier theories was the idea that the Russians had left secret tank battalions in Mexico and Canada, ready to roll into the American heartland. A few days ago after one rally, one group appeared on the Net declaring themselves willing to serve as the ‘Trump militia’, working as bodyguards. They called themselves the Lion Militia, and debated online which uniform to wear. One was a lion costume, the other was that of the Brownshirts. I’m fairly certainly these were jokes, but nevertheless, there is something more seriously Fascistic underneath.

On foreign policy, Trump has been vague, issuing blatantly contradictory statements about his intentions in the war in the Middle East. At times he’s said that America should keep out of it, and leave it to Putin to sort out. At other times he’s announced that he intends to go in much harder than the previous presidents, killing not only the terrorists themselves, but also their families. He has also stated that he’s in favour using torture, ‘even if it doesn’t work’.

Mussolini similarly had a contradictory attitude to war. His regime was always strongly militaristic. He demanded that Italians should live in a permanent state of war. He wanted an army of five million men with a forest of bayonets, an air force so vast it would blot out the sun and a navy that other nations would fear as a threat to their security. And yet he also saw himself as a great peacemaker, and was genuinely affronted that he did not win the Nobel Peace Prize for the Locarno Settlement.

Historians of the rise of totalitarian regimes in Europe noted that they generally arose in countries, where the military was accorded a very high respect, and which had been united through military action. This included Germany, which was united through Bismarck’s conquests of the individual German states, and Cavour and Garibaldi, who did the same in Italy. It also applies to America, which was created through violent revolution and expanded westwards through military conquest.

The Activist Style of Politics

Conservative critics of Fascism have suggested that Fascism owes its basis partly to the development of the activist style of politics, which arose with liberalism and democracy. Before the French Revolution, politics had been strictly confined to the governing elites. After the French Revolution, all citizens were required to be politically involved. This expansion of direct political activism also involved the definition of those who were outside the new nations. In the case of the French Revolution, this was the aristocracy. In the case of Fascism, it revised the activist style so that those outside the new national community were the regime’s political opponents and ethnic minorities.

America was one of the world’s first modern democracies. It emerged from a Revolution against British government and perceived tyranny. That liberal tradition of democratic political activism is also revised on the American extreme Right. Trump’s backed by Alex Jones’, the motto of whose Infowars internet programme is ‘1776 Worldwide’. Jones, Trump and the other right-wing demagogues believe that democracy is under threat, and can only be defended through strong and sustained action against powerful internal and external threats.

Conspiracies

The Nazi Right has always been characterised by bizarre conspiracy theories. In the case of the Nazis in Germany and their successors, these were anti-Semitic theories, some derived from the infamous Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazis believed that Germany and the West was under attack from a Jewish conspiracy linking financial capital to the Communists. Germany had not been defeated in the First World War, but had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by the Jews. These stupid and vile theories have continued on the Nazi fringe. In the 1990s various members of the American Nazi fringe and Militia movement, like Timothy McVeigh, believed that their government was secretly ruled by ZOG – the Zionist Occupation Government, dedicated to exterminating the White race through racial mixing. There have also been all manner of bizarre conspiracies about the Bilderberg Group and Trilateral Commission. Jones, Trump’s supporter, is one of those who believes in these, though I think he’s Jewish. Whatever his religious background, he’s very definitely not anti-Semitic. Nevertheless, he is part of the same conspiracy fringe. These have reached bizarre extremes. Jones and his predecessors, for example, believe that the FEMA legislation passed in the 1990s is in preparation for an act of emergency, which will see Christians and other political opponents rounded up by the regime and placed in concentration camps. 20 years ago, back in the 1990s, the coloured dots on road signs in Philadelphia which marked when they were painted so that the highways authorities knew when to give them their next lick of paint were also the subject of a bizarre rumour. Those dots were supposed to show the location of the secret concentration camps which were going to be set up.

Contempt for Parliamentary Democracy

Both Nazism and Fascism were motivated by opposition to liberal, parliamentary documentary. The Nazis overthrew German democracy through a series of emergency decrees following the Reichstag fire. Mussolini led his Fascists on a March on Rome. Trump has similarly said that there will be riots if his opponents in the Republican party conspire to deprive him of the nomination to be the candidate for the presidency in a brokered convention. In the 1990s there was briefly a call for the Militias to march on Washington, though this was turned down as some of their members feared that it was an attempt to provoke them so that they could be banned by the government. More recently there has been a march in Washington held by the militant supporters of gun rights, though they did not attempt to overthrow the government.

Elitism

Both the Nazis and Italian Fascists believed that only elites had the right to rule, taken from writers like Ortega y Gasset and Vilfredo Pareto in the case of the Fascists. For the Nazis, this was based in Social Darwinism. Businessmen, provided they were Aryans, had the right to enjoy their prominent social positions and economic leadership because they had shown their superior talent and genetic worth through competition in the world of business. It’s an attitude that can still be found in the mainstream Right, both in America and Britain. Trump is the most outspoken in his embrace of this attitude. A businessman from an extremely wealthy family, he has made sneering reference to the poor, and how those from poor families should not have the right to rule because their family background shows that they don’t have the necessary biological inheritance to have made their way to the top earlier. And he has absolute contempt for the poor.

Charismatic Leadership

At the heart of Fascism was the cult of the strong, charismatic leader, whose unique qualities made him supremely fitted to govern. They alone possessed the ability to govern according to the popular will, even if the people themselves didn’t know it was. Furthermore, as men of exceptional ability operating in times of crisis, they were not bound by the judicial constraints placed on others. Carl Schmidt, a jurist, who worked briefly for the Nazis before falling out with them, established this principle in his piece, ‘The Fuehrer Protects Justice’, defending Hitler’s action in the mass killing of the SA by the SS in the Night of the Long Knives. Trump has not gone so far as to advocate the mass killing of his political opponents. But he has made it very clear that his supporters will use force if his claim to power is denied, and that he will revise the laws to permit torture. And at the core of his appeal is his claim to be able to provide America with strong leadership. And that’s always been synonymous with authoritarian rule.

Conclusion: Trump’s Political Inheritance of American Fascism

From this it’s clear that Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. He’s the culmination of a growing sense of threat and militaristic political movements that have been growing since the 1980s. Many of these qualities – the xenophobia, anti-Feminism and hatred of organised labour is actually fairly commonplace and characteristic of right-wing politics in America. But with Trump they’ve became particularly extreme. Some of this is a reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency. The presence of a Black man in the White House, whose background is Islamic though he himself isn’t, has created a profound alienation amongst the more hysterical elements in the Republican party. He’s been denounced as a secret Muslim, Nazi and Communist. In the case of the latter, it’s because of Obamacare, which was in origin a Republican idea. But it’s held to be too close to socialised medicine, and thus to Nazism and Communism. Because both are varieties of Socialism. Or at least, they are to right-wing pundits like Jonah Goldberg.

And the result has been the rise of Donald Trump.

Now I don’t think that once in power, Trump will overthrow democracy, force all Americans into uniform and start opening extermination camps. I do think, however, that American will become a much more intolerant place, and that Muslims and illegal immigrants will stand a far greater chance of losing any kind of political rights. And I can certainly see him interning Muslims, or at least some of them, like the Japanese, Germans and Italians were also interned as enemy aliens in the Second World War.

But his presidency will be a nightmare, and it will weaken democracy and genuinely liberal institutions in the Land of the Free. And that will be a disaster in a world where the forces of Right authoritarianism is growing.

Miley Cyrus Puts a Wrecking Ball into Trump

March 3, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that pop chanteuse Miley Cyrus has given her succinct opinion of the New York Nazi, Donald Trump. And it wasn’t approving. She described him as ‘a –ing nightmare’, and in the colourful demotic of contemporary rap, expressed her physical disgust and wish to leave the country.

Quite.

I realise that Cyrus isn’t exactly everyone’s musical cup of tea. She was Hannah Montana, but after growing up she decided to make her act much more raunchy, to the angry dismay of moralists, and the delight of Daily Mail journalists as they rushed to their keyboards to knock off stories about what an evil menace to western civilisation she is, and how twerking should be banned, with full pics so you can share the outrage too. But she’s done something cool here. And she’s right: Donald Trump is indeed a nightmare.

His racial attitudes are horrendous. His bigoted attitude towards Mexicans and Muslims is well known, as is his support for torture, even when it doesn’t work, and the targeting of civilians in the War on Terror, or whatever name they’re giving to the bloodbath in the Middle East. All of this is genuinely frightening enough. His alliance with the far right- he’s actually given press passes to a White supremacist radio show, The National Cesspool – could even pose a threat to pop culture.

Modern pop music, by and large, is pretty liberal. Part of the mainstream American right hates it because of its very frank embrace of sexuality, including homosexuality. The Moral Majority were most definitely not fans of David Bowie, because of the sexual ambivalence of his ‘Ziggy Stardust’ persona. Some of us can remember the 1980s when the Organisation of Senators’ Wives went chasing around demanding that the recording companies put stickers on the records stating that it had offensive lyrics. Just to protect good old American values, you know. The Reagan administration also inaugurate a series of congressional hearing in which various rockers and pop stars were hauled up before the nation’s elected representatives and interrogated about this new moral threat to America’s impressionable children.

They came a cropper when they got to Dee Snyder, the main man from Twisted Sister. They asked him about how he felt about exposing children to inappropriate material. Shouldn’t he be more careful about his band’s music? They actually didn’t know that Snyder was a responsible father himself, and said he was very careful indeed with what his children listened to. I’ve got the impression many rock stars are the same. Behind all the stage makeup and the bizarre performances, many of them in their private lives have exactly the same concerns about raising their children properly as the rest of society. Not all, by any means, but enough to take the wind out of some of those determined that rock is a genuine threat to western society’s moral fabric.

The Far Right also has ambivalent attitude to pop music. Of course, there is a Fascist music culture with the Nazi skinheads and the Eastern European Black Metal bands. On the other hand, there are also parts of the neo-Nazi milieu that bitterly hate pop and rock music because of its roots in Black culture. Modern rock ‘n’ roll started off as a mixture of White country music and Black barrel house jazz. Along the way it also drew on Blues music – it was due to the Chicago Blues style of Howlin’ Wolf that the guitar is the instrument of choice in contemporary pop music. Before then much Jazz was piano-based. Think Thelonious Monk tinkling the ivories, as well as, if I’m right about this, Professor Longhair. Gospel music has its origin in Black churches, while Punk after the initial fury passed was also influenced by Reggae. Let alone the influence of Ska, R’N’B, and so on.

Some of the White bands, who’ve been accused since of stealing the Blues, were originally real supporters and advocates of Black music. When they started out, the Rolling Stones covered songs by various Black American artists. The Stoned didn’t hide their musical debts – they told their audiences who the piece was really by, and the record label that had recorded it so they could hear it for themselves.

And some of the great Black performers were very proud of the fact that their music brought Black and White together. A little while ago Little Richard gave an interview into which he recalled the segregated nature of the dance halls in America. The Blacks tended to dance, while the Whites stood around the hall and watched. Richard, however, said that when he and his band came on, ‘the White spectators’ around the walls stopped spectating, and came and joined the Black folks on the dance floor. ‘And so’, he said, ‘Before Dr Luther King, we had integration’.

The racist right bitterly hates that interracial legacy and the tolerance that has been partly built up by Blacks, Whites and other ethnic groups, like Latinos creating a common musical culture. You can read rants by some of the American Nazi groups denouncing pop as ‘N*gger music’, and sneering at the people who like it, ‘dance like n*ggers’. It’s disgusting stuff, and it goes back a long way. The Nazis also objected to Jazz as ‘Negro’ music. By allying himself with White supremacists, Trump’s also given his support to people, who despise everything mainstream pop music stands for. Hence Miley Cyrus’ condemnation.

Vox Political: Arts Just for the Toffs?

January 24, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a thought-provoking article on anti-working class bias in the arts. It follows James Blunt’s attack this week on Chris Bryant MP, in which Blunt accused the politicians of ‘classism’ and bias towards those from a privileged background. The article begins:

How many of you were on James Blunt’s side in his very public spat with Chris Bryant MP?
And now that Julie Walters has weighed in, saying Mr Bryant was right? What do you think now?

The Labour MP had claimed British culture was dominated by stars like Blunt and Eddie Redmayne, who benefited from a privileged background. Blunt took offence and they had a highly-publicised row about it.

But top actress Julie Walters agrees. Quoted in The Guardian‘s Weekend magazine, she said: “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today. I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now. Kids write to me all the time and I think: I don’t know what to tell you.”

As Mike’s articles says, the actress and comedian is worried that the education and training required to get into drama is now too expensive for people from working class backgrounds.

Also in agreement is the great British comics creator, Pat Mills. Among the many comic strips produced by Mills and the other writers and artists with whom he worked, was ‘Charley’s War’, which ran in the war comic Battle. The hero was working class, British tommy thrown into the chaos and horror of the First World War. Unlike many other war strips, which showed plucky British heroes sticking it to the Hun, and returning home with nary a scratch on them in time for tea, ‘Charley’s War’ was grimly realistic. It was a profoundly anti-war strip, and has rightly been hailed as the best British comic strip. Mills states that the strip, however, is still resented by some because its hero was working-class, its creators came from working class backgrounds, and were strongly anti-establishment. He raises the question of whether such as strip would be possible today.

Barker Book

Mills and the 1970’s Comics Revolution

Mills has been working in comics since the 1970s. The comics he wrote for and helped create include Battle, Action, and 2000 AD. His wife is also comics artist, and he himself wrote for the girl’s comics. Many of Battle’s strips, apart from ‘Charley’s War’, gave unflinching portrayals of war and its horrors, such as that other Battle favourite, Darkie’s Mob. Action was banned following concerns about its violence. While most of the strips were largely based on the film and TV of the day, like Jaws (‘Hookjaw’), Dirty Harry (‘One-Eye Jack’) and so on, it also ran ‘Kids Rule UK’, about a violently dystopian future, in which law and order had broken down and society was dominated by violent teenage gangs. Mills and the other reprobates from the comics rumpus-room had intended it to reflect the youth culture of the times. It was originally going to be called ‘Boots’, after the footwear produced by Dr Martens, beloved of teenage tearaways and skinhead bovver boys. To stress how contemporary it was, the title was to include the year. So you’d have ‘Boots ’77’, which next year would change to ‘Boots ’78’. Action and its violence were too much for the authorities, and the strip effectively banned. Mills and co decided that from now on, all the violence should be in the interests of law and order. And as a response, they created the Fascist cop, Judge Dredd, who has been laying down in the law in Megacity 1 against perps, muties, Sovs, evil dictators and the undead Dark Judges ever since.

He helped spark a comics revolution. Martin Barker in his book, Comics, Ideology, Power and the Critics points to the way comics like Action and Battle transformed British comics. They introduced greater realism and psychological complexity, even ambiguity. Barker’s book is about how working class literature, from the cheap novels produced for ‘the democracy’ in the Victorian period, through the penny dreadfuls to today’s children’s comics, have always been intensely controversial. Amongst the most notorious were the horror comics, which were held to be corrupting Britain’s youth, and girls’ comics. These have been attacked by both feminists and non-feminists. Feminists have accused them of inculcating into girls traditional values, and sacrificing female friendship and solidarity and putting men first. Non-feminists have attacked them for encouraging girls to abandon traditional female occupations, like sewing and knitting. Barker showed that neither side was right. Given the pressure from both sides of the gender issue, I wonder if the creators of the comics ever felt like giving up. It certainly seemed that whatever they did, it would be wrong. I’m not actually surprised that in the end girls’ comics collapsed, and were replaced by the equally controversial girl’s magazines.

Dan Dare and the British Class System

If you want to see how much of a revolution in class terms ‘Charley’s War’ represented, think back to that great British comic strip, Dan Dare. ‘Dare’ is rightly regarded as a classic, not least because of the superb artwork. It was created by the Rev. Marcus Morris as a wholesome antidote to the American horror comics, and Dare is in many ways the quintessential British hero. He can be seen as an RAF air ace, projected into a future world of rockets and alien worlds. And like British society of the time, there is a very definite class bias. Dare himself is upper class, while his sidekick, Digby, is very much a working class character. While I respect Frank Hampson’s strip, there is very much a danger that the class system which permeated it will come back to inform other strips.

Julie Walters, Chumley-Warner and Upper Class Portrayal of the Proles

Julie Walters also makes the point that if the trend continues, it will result in middle and upper middle class people attempting to portray the working class, just like it used to be. My mother has a story of just how patronising and inflexible this was, and how intolerant BBC bosses were when told that their idea of how the lower orders behaved were when it was contradicted.

My mother grew up on one of Bristol’s council estates. One of her neighbours had a relative, who was an actress. She auditioned for a role as a working class lass with the Beeb. At the audition, she was told that as she was working class, she would be drinking tea out of a saucer. She tried to put the producer right, by telling him that working class people didn’t actually do that. No, said the man from the Beeb, working class people really did drink their tea from the saucer. The girl could not convince him otherwise, and didn’t get the job. I’ve also heard from Mum that she didn’t get acting work again after it, though I hope this is untrue. Harry Enfield’s character, Chumley-Warner, on the wireless-with-pictures, is a caricature. But the attitudes Enfield lampoons were very real.

And if we don’t watch out, they’re coming back.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/01/24/class-divide-in-the-arts-is-it-just-for-the-toffs/.

On the subject of James Blunt, Dead Ringers took the mick out of him years ago. This contained the lyric ‘And Morrissey is telling me James Blunt is rhyming slang’. Quite.

Here’s the sketch:

Movie Review: Black Sea and Mark Kermode on Countdown to Zero

December 6, 2014

Yesterday a friend and I went to see the submarine thriller, Black Sea. I won’t say too much, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. It’s been advertised on the TV, and the basic plot is that a group of British and Russian divers and submariners get together to search for a sunken German submarine lying at the bottom of the Black Sea. The sub’s cargo is a consignment of gold from a loan the Germans extorted from Stalin during the brief period of peace during the Nazi-Soviet pact prior to the Nazi invasion of the USSR. Ethnic tensions between the Brits and the Russians, and personal betrayal leads to a series of catastrophes that eventually scupper the mission and lead to a battle for sheer survival. It’s a taut thriller, with much of the tension derived from the situation of desperate, dangerous men working in a highly confined, dangerous environment, while trying to avoid detection by the authorities.

Despite the ethnic friction between Brits and Russians, I also found the film optimistic in its portrayal of relations between the two nations. The two leading characters, who set it up, one British and one Russian, are friends living in London. Even after the outbreak of violence, the hero and his Russian counterpart continue working together and try to prevent its escalation. Even after the end of the mission, the friendship between the few surviving crew, Russian and British, continues. I liked it, because not only does it show the current reality in that since the fall of Communism, people from the former eastern bloc, including Russia, have come over here to live, work and set up businesses, but that friendship co-operation between Brits and Russians is as much the norm, indeed possibly more normal, than chauvinistic distrust.

Glasnost and the Rise of a Shared Pop/Rock culture

In this respect, it’s a slightly better world than when I was growing up. I was at secondary school during the new Cold War between Reagan, Thatcher and the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union. It was an absolutely terrifying time, when many people feared that at any second the world would end in a flash of gamma radiation and fall out. There were some truly horrific films, like Threads and The Day After on American TV, showing what a nuclear war and its consequences would be like, along with documentaries about the possibility of a limited nuclear war in Europe. It was very much a cause for celebration when tensions eased when Reagan and Gorby started to talk to each other around the negotiating table in Iceland, and the USSR began to open up to Westerners and western influences. The first pop video I bought was of UB40’s concert in Moscow, not so much because I liked the great Reggae popsters themselves, but because I was fascinated and delighted by the fact that they were now playing live in Russia in front of their fans from that side of the former Iron Curtain.

And the same process happened in reverse too, as Russian bands and clothing became fashionable over here. The USSR always had a very strong youth culture, and they were not as nearly as backward as was often portrayed in the British press. If you believed the Sun – I know, that’s a very big stretch, but go with it – then the young and cool in the Soviet Union had only just caught up with the Beatles in the 1980s. In fact, the Soviets had a large skinhead culture, who were, I was told at College, referred to by the rest of the Soviet press as ‘British horrors’. A massive Heavy Metal rock culture developed extremely rapidly. The greatest and most visible exponents of Soviet Heavy Metal were the mighty Kruiz, who toured the West and whose albums were available over here. I think one of their songs was ‘Heaviest in Town’, in which the singer searches for the heaviest rock band, only to conclude ‘I’ll fly to Moscow for Kruiz’. There were also a number of other Russian bands, who were virtually unknown over here. Martin Walker, the Guardian’s Russia correspondent, tried to make people on this side of the Baltic aware of some of the best and most interesting in his column. There’s a lot of really good rock and pop in Russia and the former eastern bloc states, quite apart from some of the stuff that appears on the Eurovision Song Contest. They’re on Youtube and worth checking out.

Black Sea reflects this changed situation, and I am profoundly glad that it does and the world has moved on and improved just that little bit since the late 70s and early 80s. Moreover, the film’s sympathetic portrayal of the Russian characters shows it’s aimed partly at the Russian market. Its release during this period of strained international relations between Russian and the West over the situation in the Ukraine shows that the friendship and co-operation between Russia and Britain is now considered the natural, normal reality. My deepest hope is that this situation will continue and that our politicians will have the wisdom to build on it, and not let the conflict in Ukraine drag us back to the fear and hatred of the Cold War, that nearly destroyed our world.

Countdown to Zero and the Persistence of the Nuclear Threat

Mark Kermode is the film critic over at Radio 5 live. He’s a very literate commenter, having a doctorate in Horror film. When he was younger, he was the British correspondent for the Horror film magazine, Fangoria, or as he states it was known to aficionados, ‘Exploding Chests Monthly’. His reviews are always interesting and well argued, even if you disagree with him, such as on the subject of the Star Wars films. He dislikes them, while I really loved the first three films, and enjoyed the prequels. He also genuinely appreciates his listeners writing to him and giving their views, even when they take the opposite view to his.

One of the films he reviewed is Countdown to Zero, a documentary about what happened to all the nuclear weapons that were supposedly packed away at the end of the Cold War. The film shows that the weapons and the hair-trigger response systems are still in place. A nuclear bomb is much easier to make than may be thought, and the danger that these could fall into the hands of terrorists and rogue states is very real. The film reveals how at several points after the supposed end of the Cold War, mistakes made by the superpowers could have resulted in a nuclear holocaust. I haven’t seen the movie, but it does sound like a deeply unsettling, thought-provoking movie, and the opposite of the slightly more optimistic vision behind Black Sea. Hopefully, the optimists and peace-makers will win through, and that the world won’t go back to the ideological, economic and nationalistic fears and hate that nearly led to nuclear Armageddon. Countdown to Zero shows that we shouldn’t be complacent, but it does seem that the world is just that little bit better after the end of the Cold War. And we should be profoundly glad of that.

Kermode’s review of Countdown to Zero is on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfkfn4W_hgM. It’s well worth a listen, especially as it shows we still need to get our politicians working on a truly secure peace.

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.