Hate. By Matthew Collins, Biteback Publishing, 2011. £14.99.
Subtitled ‘My Life in the British Far Right’ this is the story of a former member of the National Front in the late 80s and early 90s who then became close to the leadership of the British National Party in the days when it was more openly Nazi than it is now. Collins also later became a fringe participant in the violent Combat 18 group of Nazis and is in a similar mould to other former far-right activists like Ray Hill and Tim Hepple who became ‘moles’ for the anti-fascists associated with Searchlight magazine.
It is an account that is frightening but entertaining in equal measure, giving an insight into the mindset that drives someone from a white, working class background to be involved in fascist politics. It also gives an insight into some of the violent tactics and internal feuding that have characterised the far right in Britain for decades.
The leaders of the so-called ‘master race’are clearly shown up to be the misguided and psychologically unbalanced individuals many of them are. Referring to a particular sortee by Combat 18 thugs in Brick Lane, Collins comments: ‘I looked along our line at the drug dealers, the gangsters, the football hooligans and wife beaters who believed in their tiny minds that they were going to save the white race from drug dealers, wife beaters, gangsters, Jews, blacks and Asians’, and this pretty much sums it up.
The later chapters chronicle Collins’movement away from racist politics over time, his particular function as a ‘mole’for Searchlight and the police interest in his activities, though these don’t perhaps have the depth they might have. The foot soldiers (and ‘political soldiers’) of the BNP, NF, etc have long being considered a potential threat to public order and are therefore closely monitored –and sometimes infiltrated –by the state apparatus, often acting on information gathered by the anti-fascists on the left. This has created much controversy in recent times about the link between the two and Collins doesn’t perhaps address this as clearly as he might.
There are also a few factual errors here and there but nevertheless this is a book worth reading. This is especially so in a political climate where the BNP (despite some recent internal strife) has been garnering significant numbers of working class votes from the politically disaffected since the skinheads, swastikas and jackboots have been less visible to the public eye.