From the October 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard
Earlier this year, a Bengali family in need of re-housing went to look at a council house on the Lincoln Estate in Tower Hamlets. They were greeted by a pair of pig's trotters hanging over the door, inscribed with the initials NF. This type of racially motivated incident. like excrement shoved through the letter box, stone-throwing and verbal abuse, constitutes "low grade" harassment. The more serious incidents involve arson attacks and physical assaults. Over the past few months there has been a wave of arson attacks in Ilford, Leyton and Bow. resulting in the death of a young Asian mother and her three small children. Tower Hamlets in East London is one of the worst affected areas with local police figures showing that the number of "reported" racial incidents has increased from 230 in 1983, to 370 in 1984. What is going on?
One of the most popular explanations for the rising number of racial attacks is that they are being organised by the Ultra Right. David Shannon, writing in the Guardian (30 July 1985) comments:
Racist attacks continue to be the most vicious expression of right wing violence and arson is a favourite weapon.
The Commission for Racial Equality believe that the most sustained and organised racial attacks in recent history are being carried out against Asian families in the East End of London. Similarly, CAPA, the Tower Hamlets police monitoring group, argues that there has been a qualitative change for the worse in these attacks and that they may have been organised by fascist groups. Who are the Ultra Right and what are their tactics?
There are about thirty Ultra Right groups operating in Britain today, ranging from the obscure Hounslow SS. to the more familiar and rapidly declining National Front. Many of the larger groups have their origins in the time when Commonwealth immigration became an important political issue. The NF was formed in 1967 out of a coalition of tiny parties, with the aim of unifying the Ultra Right and presenting a respectable image to the electorate. On the surface, the appeal of the NF was simple as its slogan. "If they are black, send them back". In other words, the NF was the organised expression of anti-black prejudice in Britain. Martin Walker, in his book The National Front (1977) put it:
Today, as when it began, the NF's issue is race. The NF's role has been to act as a particularly effective and unprincipled pressure group in the development of British immigration policies.
This view was criticised for ignoring the way in which the NF grew, both organisationally and ideologically, out of the unambiguously fascist parties of the past. This was put right in the Guardian of 11 October 1983, when Walker wrote:
. . . the NF was designed from the beginning to use racism against the blacks as a kind of Trojan horse that carried neo-Nazi and anti- semitic doctrines secreted in its belly.
The NF was relatively successful in adopting an electoral strategy to obtain support for its ideas, winning the greatest electoral support that any Ultra Right wing party has ever achieved in Britain. The ninety NF candidates who stood in the October 1974 General Election polled 114,000 votes. In the County Sections of 1977, the NF polled 200,000 and membership stood at 20,000. High levels of unemployment, the entry of Ugandan and Malawian Asians and the skillful manipulation of publicity produced a favourable climate for the NF's obnoxious ideas. In the 1979 General Election they confidently entered 303 candidates. What followed was an electoral disaster in which all the NF candidates lost their deposits and the party's vote fell in every constituency where they had stood in 1974.
This failure was partly explained by the success of the Conservative Party in capturing the race issue with a new hard-line policy on immigration. In January 1978, Margaret Thatcher had appeared on World in Action explaining that people were really afraid that Britain "might be rather swamped by people with a different culture". Also, the media coverage of the NF has succeeded in exposing the leadership's Nazi past and identifying the party with thugs and hooliganism. The electoral defeat of 1979 led to splits within the NF and a change of political strategy. There were two main options open to the NF. Firstly, it could try to change its image and become more "respectable" to the electorate. This was the option chosen by the National Front Constitutional Movement and the British Democratic Party. Secondly, it could accept the difficulties of trying to appear respectable in order to win votes, and become more militant and confrontational in its activity. From a NF members' newsletter. Our Plans for the 1980s, we learn:
If it is true that the National Front has no hope of gaining power under conditions that are stable, economically, socially and politically, we should not be preoccupied with making ourselves more "respectable" under present conditions. We must appreciate that the "image" that we have been given by the media and which may well lose us some potential support today, will be a positive asset when the streets are beset by riots, when unemployment soars, and when inflation gets even beyond the present degree of minimal control.
This was the option chosen by both the National Front and the New National Front. The former, led by Martin Webster, wanted to pursue a more populist strategy of mass recruitment which would include skinhead gangs. The latter, led by John Tyndall and now called the British National Party, wanted to be more selective and elitist in its approach to recruitment. Webster has subsequently been expelled from the NF and has recently founded yet another organisation. Our Nation, which is partly financed by the French perfume heiress Françoise Dior, who was imprisoned in 1968 for conspiring to bum down synagogues. Webster has ditched the skinheads and is now trying to recruit university students. Today, the NF is controlled by Ian Anderson, Joe Pearce and Nick Griffin. Membership is young and inexperienced and down to around 3,000. In an effort to make inroads into the white working class the NF is attempting to put the “socialism" back into "National Socialism". The National Front News and the journal Nationalism Today, talk of "wage slaves” and the "propertyless workforce '. "Tories', we are told, "put profit before people". while the NF is determined to make sure that "production is geared to need, as opposed to profit".
A number of other popular issues have also been taken up. including ecology, ritual slaughter, nuclear power, and the "national heritage". Of course the NF is still dedicated to what it calls "British Racial Nationalism" and we call racism. In the recently published Statement of Policy, (April 1985) they state:
The National Front is committed to the ending of all non-White immigration and to the phased and financially assisted repatriation of all non-Whites, together with their dependents and descendants . . .
We propose a truly positive policy of putting Britons first in jobs, housing, education and welfare and of providing separate facilities for Afro-Asians while they await repatriation.
The demise of the NF as an electoral force and its fragmentation into competing groups does not mean that the Ultra Right is a spent political force. In Paul Wilkinson"s book. The New Fascists (1981) he argues:
. . . electoral showing is by no means the only significant indication of contemporary fascist activity. In Britain much of this has been channelled into street corner violence and racial attacks by skinhead gangs often incited by neo-Nazi supporters of the British Movement
The British Movement was one of the groups which temporarily benefited from the collapse of the NF. It was formed in 1968 by Colin Jordan, as a revolutionary Nazi party to replace the National Socialist Movement of 1962. In 1975 Michael McLaughlin took over the leadership and pursued a policy of recruiting young skinheads at football matches and rock concerts. The British Movement saw its role as the vanguard in the coming "White Revolution", one which would involve wholesale repatriation of blacks and the assertion of total White power. The British Movement lived up to its ugly and violent reputation, engaging in organised attacks on Blacks. Asians and Jews. According to the anti-fascist journal Searchlight (November 1984) McLaughlin has decided to fold up the British Movement and concentrate on his business. selling authentic Nazi memorabilia. Colin Jordan told Searchlight:
I deplore the fact that the organisation I started many years ago has been run down to such a state by McLaughlin, that it really isn't worth saving from going under.
Other Ultra Right groups active in Britain today include the National Socialist Action Party, the League of Saint George, the White Defence Force, The Rising, SS Wotan, Column 88, SONAR (the secret organisation for national recovery) and The Exterminators Although the last two groups are new, Searchlight has revealed that many of the above groups are organised and trained in paramilitary activities and have links within the Territorial Army and Army Cadet Force.
The evidence would seem to suggest that the Ultra Right has become disillusioned with the ballot box and turned towards the more traditional methods associated with fascist activity — street violence, intimidation and terrorism. The capitalist system, by generating social problems like unemployment. poverty, bad housing, and inner city decay, produces the fear and the racial hatred that the Ultra Right breeds on. Frightened people in need of someone to blame for the social insanity pick on an identifiable minority group, who become the target of racial hatred and racial attacks. Immigrants. like all other workers, are not the cause of social problems but the victims.