Amid lockdown I developed a rather masochistic tendency in my online viewing habits. With the pubs closed and Ireland seemingly stuck under the permafrost of covidmania in perpetuity, I decided to plumb the depths of what remains of the British radical right.
From one-man-and-his-dog microgroups to the cyber husks of once mighty racialist parties like The National Front or BNP, the inspiration for my foray was reading the then recently released book ‘Failed Fuhrers – An History of Britain’s Extreme Right’ by Graham Macklin.
Charting nigh on a century worth of failures by the British radical right from the positively rancid Arnold Leese of the 1920s, to the downfall of Nick Griffin and his attempts to drag the BNP into the mainstream, the political autopsy given by Macklin provides much food for thought if not bedside reading for political spergs.
As an Irishman not lest an Irish nationalist, these groups genuinely do have a stomach churning effect to read about (if not directly observe online). Stuck in the political doldrums halfway between imperialist nostalgia and national socialism, ‘no more brother wars’ never really extended to the Irish nation.
Not excluding the fact many second-generation Irish filled the memberships of post-war British nationalism, on a pavlovian level the British far right, if only for its parallels with loyalism, genuinely rubs Irish people up the wrong way.
Leaving my Fenian sympathies at the door, it is still worth delving into the reasons why Britain is without a significant radical right presence beyond peripheral political sideshows.
As census figures show, Britain, like most Western European nations, is in precipitous demographic decline. But unlike most of the Continent it is without a viable nationalist option or institutional support for such a cause.
Britain, through Thatcherism and Brexit, has achieved hands down more successes for right-leaning causes in recent decades than an increasingly liberal and europhile Ireland. That being said, largely through political self-sabotage and structural forces, the UK’s radical right has barely ever left the gutter, bar brief periods in the 1970s and 2000s with the National Front and BNP respectively.
As Ireland, previously a tabula rasa for formal rightist politics, bar our historic traditions of separatism and political Catholicism begins to dip its toes in the water in creating a viable nationalist alternative, it is worth looking over the water at the UK and general failure of movements there.
What we do or don’t do will impact the next generation of Irish politics and set the tone on the nationalist right long after our deaths. For that reason, it is worth holding our nose and diving into case study after case study of the long dismal lineage of post-war British nationalism and where they went wrong.
1 – British Nationalism’s Lost Intelligence War
As old as Adam, the reality is that politics (like military matters) largely occurs beneath the surface through a network of secret keeping, intelligence gathering and skullduggery. With an advanced state intelligence network, Britain is an impossible nut to crack as a political outsider.
Combined with a series of left leaning independent Zionist intelligence organisations (Community Security Trust, 43 and 62 Groups, Searchlight and Hope not Hate), the British far right was boxed in before it even began. Put simply, any move, however small, was known about beforehand either by the state or freelance antifascists who were able to manage any threat and place spoilers in the form of half serious, half manufactured terror plots.
Made worse by the movement’s propensity towards crazed violence, woeful embrace of national socialist ideology, at each generation the left and state had the winning advantage simply by mastering the intelligence game. This is in contrast to most European nations who mostly cleared this hurdle when establishing nationalist movements.
Largely driven by experiencing the grungier side of British far right politics, informants and moles from Ray Hill to Matthew Collins did much to enable various nationalist groupings to eat themselves.
As an Irish nationalist, I’m quick to mention the fact that at every junction cross-pollination with loyalism has been a disaster for British nationalists, from the backing of the UDA/UVF during the Troubles to the BNP allying with the unscrupulous Jim Dowson for financing out of East Belfast call centres.
Beyond the red, white and blue jingoism, as an auxiliary force against Irish republicanism, loyalism has always had working relationships with British intelligence since its inception and has been a honeypot for passing on information to authorities and engineering terror plots with dim-witted British patriots.
Entirely avoidable with an ounce of professionalism and decoupling from violent politics, the background intelligence war made any endeavour to hobble the British Right like shooting fish in a barrel from day one.
2 – The Churchill Factor: British Nationalism’s Needless Nazi Streak
Approaching 80 years since VE Day, any faction of the British radical right can be defined by its historic positioning to the 1939 war and mythos surrounding Winston Churchill. Accept the bulldog image of wartime British patriotism or take the contrarian and to most oddballish stance of Nazi apologism has been the fork in the road for most British nationalists, with most firmly choosing the latter.
Instead of going with the flow and accepting the toxicity of revivifying 1930s fascism, at every interval the leading lights of the British far right have tried a rerun of Hitler’s boots and braces road to power.
From 1945 to the mid 1970s, British nationalism embroiled itself in everything from Holocaust revisionism to clumsy attempts at shirted wings at the behest of figures like Colin Jordan and John Tyndall. Fashioning a milestone around the necks of more serious political actors this ideological stench went on to define the British radical right at every iteration as a sloppy Nazi fifth column.
By the time groups like the National Front in the 1970s and BNP in 2000s garnered some electoral success, they were brought back to oblivion by their Nazi past, activist base and ingrained habits.
In the 1990s, when campaigning for prioritising working-class whites in East London on the housing list, the BNP dedicated an obscene amount of time to distributing Holocaust denial material to presumably bemused households so far from political reality they had strayed.
Punctured with various attempts to bring physical force neo-nazi violence to the streets through semi-adjacent militant wings (Combat 18, National Action, Column 88), through this rabbit hole British nationalism found itself being politically noxious to most, existing as more of a public and professional health hazard than anything else.
There is no reason that, despite the first past the post system, Britain couldn’t have a LibDem sized nationalist party inside of Parliament. Alongside a lost intelligence war, a pointless embrace of national socialist philosophy was a driving force by a sequence of cracked leaders killed and discredited British nationalism as force.
3 – First Past the Post, Last in the Door
The blunt unromantic reality of the British electoral process is enough to strangle any radical force to the left of the Green Party and right of UKIP. A voting system where the house always wins bar European elections, representing British nationalism at the ballot box has been an unenviable task.
Coupled with a knuckle dragger image, British nationalism had nowhere near the flexibility or sophistication to cultivate viable majorities where it needed to. Another timeline would have seen perhaps the BNP capitalising on the last demographic gasps of white working-class London or dejected Labour base to get a foot in the parliamentary door, but alas the mountain was too high for a haphazard and immature movement.
The closing of the electoral door in the 2010s further opened the window to a negative feedback loop of anti-democratic Nazi LARP politics and hairbrained terror plots for which the British right became famous for.
4 – Faith and Fatherland
If New Labour famously didn’t ‘do God’, the British far right has had an unusual relationship towards established religion and religiosity in general. With Anglicanism in headlong retreat most of the post-war period, the totality of British nationalism was on a weird theological footing, running the gamut of nominal Christians, neopagans, radical Catholic and Muslim converts and even occultists. Essentially a bazaar of faiths and individuals rather than a coherent ideological block.
While Continental movements negotiated space and alliances between the Church, social conservatives and various factions, eventually profiting off some institutional strength from a nation’s Catholic heritage, this aspect has been entirely absent from the history of the British radical right.
Without a religious grounding the British right was quick to lapse into Nazi revivalism that was both far beyond the pale to normal people and also attractive to the mentally unsound.
A side issue, but the legacy of frankly vile occultist groups within and adjacent the British far right like the Order of Nine Angles is a further complication that cannot be underestimated through figures like David Myatt. Satanism and radical high stakes politics are a bad mix at the best of times and its inclusion within the ranks of the British right has been calamitous in nursing unhinged figures and providing fodder to intelligence services.
There is no political cure to religious disbelief and secularism. The lack of an institutional church or real faith system was beyond the scope of what British nationalists could change, but like everything their indulgence in zany beliefs further alienated them from the body politic and emphasised the lack of seriousness the movement had as a political force.
The Gaelicist academic Daniel Corkery once remarked that Marxism stood no chance in Ireland due to the lack of an industrialised base, nostalgia for pre-modern Ireland and influence of Catholicism as a stabilising national force. Perhaps overconfident in his reactionary outlook, nevertheless he outlined the tilted stage Marxists engaged in on an island far removed from the England or Germany Karl Marx based his writings on.
With an entrenched class system running from the council estate to elite institutions, Britain is a far different animal when it comes to socio-economic class dynamics.
The British far right in its heyday was hampered by an ideologically driven, albeit miniscule, working class activist base with a penchant for violence, presided over by oddball middle class figures like John Tyndall or Nick Griffin or occasional blue blood.
The famous skinhead aesthetic for which the far right in Britain is known for is well-deserved considering the bonehead subcultures that populated the movement since the 1970s. Providing themselves as foot soldiers, this cadre of lumpenprole activists made up the majority of the rank and file of various nationalist parties and served to initially propel and later hobble any semi-serious political vehicle.
Never desisting from a boots and braces strategy of controlling working class areas in competition with the militant left, at every interval nationalist parties accrued (for good reason) rough and ready reputations and suspect personalities.
The situation this created was a limited movement notorious for violence, alcoholism, extremism and totally impossibility of garnering middle class or real electoral respectability. British class dynamics are a chasm but one which through history and foundational mistakes the British Right was never really able to master.
6 – The Monday Club: The Failure of the Tory Right
Beyond the frustration of British nationalism, attempts by quasi-establishment figures like Enoch Powell or Conservative Monday Club present more serious attempts by the British radical right to jockey for power. Championing racialist issues with Oxford educations these figures nevertheless failed to capture the Tory party and nation’s aristocracy.
A gadfly group of Tory MPs and activists, the Conservative Monday Club and successor groups like the Traditional Britain Group, have tried in vain to work within the Tory tent for productive ideological ends. Losing out to Thatcherites and more moderate Scruton-esque brands of High Toryism, the Conservative Party bar the acceptance of the Eurosceptic position has largely remained unaltered in its commitment to demographic decline.
Without the baggage of nazi-seque politics this strategy of Tory entryism did at least show some maturity. Peaking with attempts by Enoch Powell to dethrone Edward Heath it is today but a murmur around the figure of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Doomed perhaps by their yearning for respectability, corrupt institutions or lack of symbiosis with radical outsider groups, attempts by the Tory Right while more grounded also failed.
7 – White Jihad and other nonsense
Failing everything else, there have been various attempts down the decades of disgruntled elements of the British Right tying their own political noose by embarking on physical force paramilitarism.
From the BNP’s rogue security wing in the form of Combat 18 or the eclectic but ultimately macabre National Action doomsday cult of the late 2010s, against a complex security apparatus these organisations normally end up strengthening the state’s hand while sucking up the lives of young, damaged men.
Unlike the 1970s IRA there is no communitarian network for start-up paramilitary organisations to hide in for the British far right or elsewhere. The state doesn’t actually fear right wing terrorism but quietly adores it in its futility and environment it creates.
In particular, the emergence of so called ‘white jihad’ philosophy in the 2010s by aspects of the British extreme right has been catnip for authorities. Creating an unholy mix of jihadism, occultism, neo-Nazism, and even satanism, the real-world effect of this pathology has been to poison the well on the British radical right for a generation under the rubble of extremism.
As Enoch Powell intoned, all political careers end in failure, so has ended the aims and ambitions of the post-war British radical right fading into obscurity on internet forums and pub room meetings addressed by bitter men.
While there exists small groupings on the scene (Britain First, Patriotic Alternative etc) per their lineage, leadership and security environment they are doomed to repeat the mistakes of yesteryear.
Through a poor ideological foundation, which privileged eccentricism over practicality, and institutional and historic disadvantages going back a century, the British far right ran into a political wall time and time again. Time and time again the British population had an opening for real world nationalist politics and at every calling British nationalism fumbled the ball.
It is very easy to evaluate the failings of a foreign country, but more important for us in Ireland to take these lessons to heart. A positive religious, metapolitical and political worldview with rigidness to marginalise malicious and anti-political figures is the cardinal ingredient to cultivating a viable nationalist alternative, lest we all end up as ageing National Front members on Bitchute in our 60s years hence.
The choice is ours and it is entirely at our discretion which direction we all sail in.