The history of organised fascism and racism in Britain since 1945
by Daphne Liddle
FASCISM and racism are not exactly the same thing but in Britain they have historically been intertwined and they do have common elements. All fascist movements have proclaimed aggressive nationalism and militarism. They proclaim that inequalities of both nations and individuals are real and beneficial, and the idea that the improvement of humanity depends on the "less fit" failing and dying out.
Since 1945 in Britain most fascist organisations have combined racism with their fascism. Within that racism there have been two deep but connected strands. First there is the traditional British imperialist racism arising from the history of colonialism. This sees the peoples subdued by British imperialism in Africa, India and Far East – mainly people of a different colour skin – not as inherently evil but as intellectually inferior and childlike; needing to be ruled for their own good.
Secondly the anti-Semitic strand sees Jews as highly intelligent but very sinister. This links in with a long tradition of anti-Semitism more prevalent Catholic in Europe than in Britain. The underlying anti-Semitism that predominates in Britain’s fascist and racist organisations indicates that their roots are in European fascism and Nazism.
Publicly the fascists deny racism and anti-Semitism but new recruits are often drawn aside and asked them if they think it is really the blacks who are the root of the problem. "After all," they argue, "the blacks are not intelligent enough to be a serious problem without a powerful secret intelligence behind it all". They told all the conspiracy theories dating back to the publication in the 19th century of the fraudulent Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and how western civilisation is threatened by a world conspiracy of Jews, communists, Freemasons and even mystical extra-terrestrial beings.
They invariably claim that the Holocaust never happened, that it was an invention of Jewish propagandists who used it to inveigle western powers to fight against Nazi Germany.
Just after the war the ideology of fascism and Nazism had taken a battering but there still remained two active strands who kept their heads down at first. They re-emerged when immigration into Britain from the West Indies, Africa and the Indian sub-continent provided opportunities for recruitment on the basis of anti-black racism.
Britain’s National Socialist Movement was led by Colin Jordan and published a paper called National Socialist. Behind Jordan was his mentor, Arnold Spencer Leese, a man who described himself as an "anti-Jewish camel doctor". He was a former army veterinary surgeon who had served in the Middle East. From 1929 to 1939 he led the 200-strong Imperial Fascist League, which was overshadowed by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Leese regarded Mosley as an opportunist Johnny-cum-lately and "a kosher fascist".
The Imperial Fascist League in the 1930s was extremely pro-German, adopting the swastika in preference to the Italian fascist symbol, the fasces. Leese favoured the extermination of the Jews but, suspecting the British public would never support this, he publicly advocated their deportation to Madagascar. After his release from imprisonment in the Second World War, he published a book, The Jewish War of Survival, which claimed that although the Jews and Freemasons had defeated Hitler, a determined policy of anti-Semitism could still succeed. Leese also published a newsletter, Gothic Ripples.
Jordan was an avid student of Leese’s conspiracy theories. In 1954 Jordan joined the League of Empire Loyalists, run by AK Chesterton but was expelled in 1957 after accusing the League of being soft on Jews. In 1958 he founded the White Defence League, which he ran from his headquarters, "Arnold Leese House" in Notting Hill.
In the same year the Notting Hill riots started against immigrants from the West Indies, Africa and the Indian sub-continent; they persisted through the summer of 1958 and lasted sporadically into 1959. Jordan took full advantage, holding street rallies nearly every night, whipping up the violence. He published a newspaper called Black and White News calling for repatriation.
Oswald Mosley was also doing his best to exploit the racial tensions with his Union Movement. He had spent much of the Second World War interned under Defence Regulation 18b.
In 1947 he published a book, The Alternative, a plan to save western civilisation from collapse. It called for a united Europe to be a third force between communism in the east and western capitalism.
There were several tiny, fragmented and unstable fascist groups about then, including the Briton’s Patriotic Society, the British National Party (not the modern one), the New Order Group, the Union of British Freedom, the 18b Detainees’ Fund, the Order of the Sons of St George, and others. In 1949 the Mosley’s Union Movement emerged from the chaos taking a stand against the demands of the Palestinian Jews but his undisguised anti-Semitism won his all round condemnation in the press. He had to flee the country and live in County Cork for three years, where he published a literary journal called The European.
In 1953 he returned to Britain and began electioneering, warning that a massive economic crisis was due and exploiting prejudice against immigrants from the West Indies. A year after the Notting Hill riots he stood as a candidate for North Kensington, campaigning for compulsory repatriation of immigrants but came bottom in the poll.
Disillusioned, he gave up on elections and changed tactics to seek international alliances in Europe. In 1962 he organised a "Conference of Venice" with various small European fascist groups.
Leese had higher status among international fascists because of his official recognition from the only remaining segment of the original German Nazi Party – the NSDAP Ausland or overseas section – which still operates in New Jersey in America.
In 1962 Jordan held a "Free Britain from Jewish Control" rally in Trafalgar Square and three weeks later Mosley held a similar rally there. Six thousand people turned up and most of them were anti-fascists. Jeffrey Hamm’s warm-up speech was drowned in a hail of copper coins, eggs and rotten vegetables. Fights broke out between Mosley’s supporters versus Communists, anti-fascists, anarchists, members of the Committee of 100 and the police. Mosley never got to speak.
Shortly after, the same battle was re-enacted in Manchester. He tried stomping round his old haunts in London’s East End but met with serious physical resistance. After that Mosley’s movement faded from the scene and Mosley went to live in France – though he did return occasionally to visit old fascist colleagues.
The League of Empire Loyalists was also involved in stirring up racism and so was John Bean, leader of a tiny organisation called the National Labour Party. It merged with Jordan’s White Defence League to form another British National Party in 1960 with Norfolk landowner Andrew Fountaine as president.
Fountaine had fought for Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Jordan became the national organiser and Bean was his deputy. This BNP opposed democracy as weak "decisions by head counting" and campaigned for repatriation of immigrants, with all Jews to be deported either to Israel or Madagascar.
Later that year Jordan founded "Spearhead" a paramilitary elite corps inside the BNP, which conducted exercises on Andrew Fountaine’s Norfolk estate while wearing imitation Nazi uniforms. The foundation of Spearhead split the BNP in 1962, with Bean and Fountaine concerned about its seditious and illegal nature. Jordan joined forces with John Tyndall, a former member of Bean’s NLP and the two tried to steer the BNP more firmly towards out-and-out Hitlerism.
Bean and Fountaine tried to unseat Jordan as BNP leader but failed because the organisation lacked internal democratic structures and because the headquarters, Arnold Leese House, was the property of Leese’s widow. She regarded Jordan as her adopted son and would tolerate no move against him.
Bean and Fountaine were forced out but they took most of the membership with them to found a new BNP, publishing a journal called Combat. Jordan and Tyndall hosted an international conference of National Socialists in Gloucestershire and founded the World Union of National Socialists (WUNS).
On 16th August 1962 Jordan and Tyndall, with others, were convicted under the Public Order Act with attempts to set up a paramilitary force. In 1963, on Hitler’s birthday, 20th April, Jordan launched yet another organisation, the National Socialist Movement, with about 20 members. Tyndall became national organiser with Mrs Leese as vice president. Within a year this tiny group had split after a clash between Jordan and Tyndall over the French neo-Nazi Francoise Dior. She had been engaged to Tyndall but while he was in prison she married Jordan. She later eloped from Jordan with her 19-year-old secretary, Terence Robert, "to shock Jordan into being a great leader".
Tyndall and Jordan also had differences in outlook between the "German" and "British" factions of their movement. Tyndall then founded the Greater Britain Movement while Jordan turned the NSM into the British Movement.
In 1967 Chesterton of the League of Empire Loyalists founded the National Front (NF), which merged with the Racial Preservation Society led by Robin Beauclaire. Martin Webster was its national organiser. Its initial policies were purely anti-immigration and opposition to international treaties like Nato and the United Nations. Webster had worked as one the racketeer slum landlord Rackman’s bully boys. He had also worked politically with Tyndall but there was animosity between them. Webster was a competent organiser but overtly homosexual, and Tyndall did not approve.
Around this time Webster openly boasted his wages were coming from the South African Apartheid regime but complained that he was underpaid. Later, in 1979, anti-fascists were able to expose that Webster received money from the Special Branch in exchange for information about the NF. This exposure helped to break up the NF.
For the first few years of the NF Webster and Chesterton maintained a bar on overt national socialists joining to keep Tyndall out. But individual members of Tyndall’s Greater Britain Movement infiltrated the NF, the ban was lifted, Tyndall joined and quickly took over.
The NF grew quite quickly in the 1970s to around 20,000 members in 1974. It stood in elections and came third in a number of parliamentary by-elections. It also developed links with the Ulster Volunteer Force and some members were involved in gunrunning for the UVF.
The fascists targeted young working class football fans, encouraging them towards extreme partisanship for their teams and nationalism. The fascists were a major factor in the upsurge of football hooliganism. They found that young lads who were bored and alienated and ready for a fight were ideal recruitment fodder.
There were frequent clashes with anti-fascists; especially as the Anti-Nazi League and Searchlight continually exposed the NF’s neo-Nazi links. These links led to a split in 1974 when new recruits who were more racist than fascist voted John Kingsley Read into leadership. This did not last long as the intimidation tactics of Tyndall’s "honour guard" restored him to the leadership. Read left to found the short-lived National Party.
There were a number of other related groups around at the time. The League of St George regarded itself as a more intellectual fascist and anti-Semitic organisation, which had links with some very wealthy people, including in the intelligence services.
At this time there was a deep division in Europe between the Catholic and Protestant fascists, which manifested itself in regular running battles in the town of Dixmude in Belgium. The NF, with its UVF links, attacked the IRA as "papists who breed like rabbits" – which upset the Spanish and Italian fascists. Eventually the Belgian authorities banned these rallies. The following year there was a violent, fatal football riot at the Heysel stadium, not far from Dixmude, between Protestant and Catholic football supporters.
Another shady group around in the 1960s and 70s was Column 88. This was an umbrella group of sinister, wealthy fascists and anti-Semites with international links who organised joint military training groups and liaisons. It is now thought that this was the British wing of what was known as Gladio in Europe. After the Second World War the western allies, pre-empting the Cold War, set up clandestine paramilitary groups in most western European countries to fight communism and prevent communist governments ever being elected.
By and large these groups were never activated for their main purpose, though in the 1960s when Italian communist Enrico Berlinguer seemed set to win a general election, he was coerced into backing down for fear of a right-wing coup. The Gladio groups seem to have had American financial backing; their members were mostly racists, fascists, nationalists, anti-Semites and racketeers.
The National Front’s real neo-Nazi agenda was confirmed in 1974 with the publication of a booklet, Did Six Million Really Die, by leading NF member Richard Verrall, under the pseudonym Richard E Harwood. He claimed that the Nazi Holocaust was a fabrication and attacked war crimes trials, including the trial of Adolf Eichmann. He based his arguments on a numbers game, claiming that the number of Jews in Europe under Nazi occupation had never exceeded 2.5 million (this figure is contradicted by all reputable sources, including the Nazis’ own figures; they reckoned 11 million Jews were living in Europe in 1942).
These arguments based on numbers are always spurious because of the different definitions of who is and who is not Jewish. It is likely that many of the people who were murdered as Jews would not have thought of themselves as Jewish. This does not lessen the crime of their murder. Probably there will never be exact numbers for the people who were murdered in the Holocaust. There is a consensus estimate of around six million Jews murdered, plus another five million, including socialists, communists, trade unionists, gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people with physical and mental disabilities and others. Verrall claimed the Holocaust claim was a tool against "the white race" and that the concentration camps were in fact humane work camps.
Another infamous denier of the Holocaust is so-called historian David Irving. Irving started propagating neo-Nazi views when he edited a student magazine at Imperial College in 1959, which he filled with far-right nonsense. He later published a book, The Destruction of Dresden, praising the SS and attacking the RAF as war criminals, which was followed by several more spurious histories of the Second World War. Irving set up the Clarendon Club, which held secretive dinners among leading neo-Nazis. He was a great friend of many neo-Nazis, including their favourite printer, Anthony Hancock of Brighton. He also published a few editions of a journal, Focal Point. Since then his adventures in the libel courts and in the Austrian penal system have been well documented in the press.
In 1979 the National Front splintered after Margaret Thatcher made her infamous "swamping" speech. There were two reasons for this. One was Tyndall’s electoral adventurism; the other was the withdrawal of funds from the shady international body, known as the World Anti-Communist League (WACL).
Former member Geoffrey Stewart-Smith described WACL as "largely a collection of Nazis, fascists, anti-Semites, sellers of forgeries, vicious racists and corrupt self-seekers". It was formed in 1966 in Taipei, Taiwan, under the initiative of Chiang Kai-Shek and a group of exiled Ukrainian former Nazi SS men from the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which initiated the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.
WACL used to stage conferences around the globe and had funding from various very rich South Koreans, the Sultan of Brunei, the Saudi oil sheikhs and the CIA. It was backed by Ronald Reagan and played a role in forming and funding the Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua and was linked to the notorious Colonel Oliver North. It allocated funds to extreme right-wing anti-communists around the globe. In Britain it channelled funds through Lady Jane Birdwood, a rabid anti-Semite and friend of many fascist and racist groups. She directed its funds in Britain to a number of organisations, including the National Front.
But in the late 70s the United States government started to feel embarrassed about funding out-and-out neo-Nazis and cranks. In 1980 former US Army and CIA officer Major General John K Singlaub was appointed to clean up WACL. He withdrew the funding route from Birdwood and instead directed it to slightly more respectable organisations around the extreme right-wing fringes of the Conservative Party such as WISE, the British League of Rights and the Monday Club. This was a major blow to the National Front finances.
The NF split into fragments: there was the Flag group, the New National Front, the Catholic-dominated Third Way group, which had connections with Italian fascist terrorists, and others. Fountaine challenged Tyndall’s leadership after the adventurist election disaster. Although Tyndall saw off the challenge, Fountaine and his followers split from the party to form the NF Constitutional Movement.
After these splits Tyndall was expelled and replaced as leader by Andrew Brons. Tyndall formed his own New National Front, which was forced by court action to change its name. Tyndall renamed it the "British National Party", which has since pushed out the NF as the dominant neo-Nazi party in Britain.
The NF rapidly declined during the 1980s, although it retained some support in the West Midlands and in parts of London (usually centred on the entourage of Terry Blackham). It tried in vain to gain support in the north of Ireland on several occasions.
The NF lost some of its racist skinhead support because of the group’s support for non-white radicals such as Louis Farrakhan and Ayatollah Khomeini. Griffin and Holland tried (unsuccessfully) to enlist the financial aid of Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi, but this was rejected once the Libyans found out about the NF’s reputation as fascist (a third of Libya’s male population was exterminated by Mussolini’s fascist troops during World War II). Members moved either to the British National Party, the rapidly declining British Movement, or to the White Noise umbrella group "Blood and Honour" that is associated with the commercial production of neo-Nazi music.
The party split again during the late 1980s between the "Flag Group" and the "Political Soldier" ideas of young extremists such as Nick Griffin, Patrick Harrington, Phil Edwards and Derek Holland, who were known as the Official National Front or the Third Way. Under the leadership of the Political Soldiers, the NF quit electioneering in favour of a return to clandestine paramilitary training groups.
The NF Flag Group contained the traditionalists loyal to Brons such as Ian Anderson, Martin Wingfield, Tina Wingfield and others. They ran candidates under the NF banner in the 1987 general election. In the 1990s the Flag Group declined as the BNP grew. The NF has continued to decline although it still exists as a small party, and fielded seven candidates at the 1997 general election.
John Tyndall founded the modern British National Party in 1980. In 1987 it set up headquarters in Welling, in south-east London. This was followed by an upsurge of racist attacks in the area including at least three racist murders: Rolan Adams, Rohit Dougal and Stephen Lawrence. There were fierce anti-fascist campaigns against the headquarters, with a series of mass protests. Eventually a Labour council was elected in Bexley, held a public inquiry into the effect of the BNP "bunker" on the local community and then gave the BNP its marching orders.
The BNP developed from within itself a group of thugs and football hooligans who called themselves Combat 18, led by Charlie Sargent. At first they acted as an "honour guard" for Tyndall and his coterie but later their violence brought such disrepute on the BNP they were thrown out. C18 fell apart over money generated by Nazi music bands in the "Blood and Honour" outfit. Sargent was apparently selling information to the Special Branch and mistakenly believed this gave him legal immunity when he murdered a fellow fascist.
The BNP began to divide in the mid-1990s as Tyndall lost popularity. By this time a seriously ambitious Nick Griffin had joined the BNP with aims to "modernise" it and make it electable. In Stratford, east London in 1997, as Tyndall approached a BNP conference at the Swan pub, he was assailed by half a dozen anti-fascists. He received minor injuries but the incident is notable because at the time the pub was full of BNP members who could see what was happening but not one came to the aid of their leader.
Soon after that Griffin ousted Tyndall. Tyndall’s clique cried foul and accusations of financial corruption flew back and forth. Since then Griffin has tried desperately to change the public image of the BNP, but anti-fascists like Searchlight keep exposing the deep neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism that is still there.
The BNP now has just over 50 councillors; this May they failed to make the breakthrough they were hoping for, gaining eight seats and losing eight.