The far-right in Britain consists of dozens of political parties, splinter groups, splinters of splinter groups, and easily led hangers on. To document them all would be not only a testament to the broad variety of fascism on the far fringes of British politics, but also a colossal waste of time. Instead, here are the organisations which pose the biggest threat in Liverpool today.
British National Party (BNP)
For a long time, the BNP were the “respectable” face of fascism and the biggest electoral threat posed by the far-right in Britain. As well as offering a thin veneer of “respectability” by swapping boots for suits, the BNP has been able to tap into a rising disillusionment with the three main parties and, with the left utterly absent in many areas, offer itself to the white working class as a “radical alternative” to the status quo.
However, after dramatic losses in the 2010 general election, disillusionment with the party, and with Nick Griffin’s greed, constantly begging for cash and siphoning off members’ money, saw the party riven by splits. This led to two significant purges, the creation of the British Freedom Party as a splinter group, and an overall downward trend in the party’s fortunes.
In Liverpool, the splits hit the party particularly hard. Over half of the local activists were booted out, leaving only a hardcore loyal to Griffin. Even their appearances in public under the party banner became far less frequent, their blog descending into openly racist, lunatic conspiracy theories. Now Mike Whitby is the only well know fascist still in the local party, virtually everyone else having defected to the National Front.
English Defence League (EDL)
The EDL arose in response to a protest against a soldiers’ homecoming parade in Luton by militant Islamists. The movement that they created was from the beginning fraught with contradictions – national demonstrations attracting a wide constituency of BNP members, neo-Nazis, loyalists, football hooligans and louts looking for a fight.
Those contradictions tore the group apart over time. Attendance at national demos has declined as attempts to root out the Nazis and continued attempts to seek mainstream acceptance with pro-multiculturalism rhetoric drove out those wanting to be openly racist and violent – who created the “infidels” movement. Allegiance with the British Freedom Party led to a second exodus, including almost the entirety of the Liverpool Division.
The Liverpool Division of the EDL did not join the NWI in their split, but they did take Snowy’s declaration of war against the left to heart. They have made appearences at the News From Nowhere bookshop on Bold Street, the regional office of Unite the Union, a demonstration of female asylum seekers and the Occupy Liverpool camp to oppose “the reds.”
It is this new direction, as well as disillusionment with the national leadership, which led the division in its entirety to detach from the EDL and become a “rogue division.” Of late, however, those who do not share the openly neo-Nazi outlook of the NWI have drifted back to the EDL brand.
It remains to be seen whether or not the EDL will be able to maintain a significant presence in the future. For now, in Liverpool and Merseyside, it is the NWI and their NF allies who have a greater degree of prominence.
British Freedom Party (BFP)
Essentially the “liberal” end of fascism, the BFP haven’t done anything worthy of note beyond the act of splitting from the BNP. Linking up with the EDL may or may not strengthen their cause, but certainly their members in Liverpool have been non-existent since parting ways with Nick Griffin. Unless trolling members of Liverpool Antifascists on Twitter counts as activism.
North West Infidels (NWI)
The Infidels arose as a result of tensions within the EDL, and in essence represent those who wish to be more openly racist and fascist because “combating militant Islam” isn’t enough. Led by Jon “Snowy” Shaw, the NWI have declared war on the left, stating that “we have decided to put all our efforts into opposing everything you do regardless of the issue at hand, it’s your organisations we oppose. … Every event you hold will be a potential target along with your meetings, fund raisers and social events.”
The NWI have now aligned themselves to the National Front, in an electoral-street alliance mirroring that of the EDL and BFP.
National Front (NF)
Essentially dead for decades, thanks to the efforts of Anti-Fascist Action and the squads of the Anti Nazi League, the NF has revived somewhat. In the main, this stems from an opportunist link up with the NWI, both giving new blood to the dead party and offering an electoral outlet to the new breed of neo-Nazis. There is no pretence of legitimacy here, with jackboots, David Lane’s 14 words and open racism being the order of the day.
In Liverpool, the NF comprises of the former Liverpool BNP almost in its entirety, as well as long-time boneheads like Liam Pinkham. They are not as big and dangerous as they like to think, but they are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
Solidarity – the “union for British workers”
The BNP’s scab union. Though officially recognised as a trade union, Solidarity’s only driving purpose seems to be to defend the right of members to be in the BNP.
The BNP has been at pains to pretend that Solidarity is an “independent” union, not linked to any political party. It even installed former National Front leader, Patrick Harrington, who now runs Third Way, as its President. But let there be no mistake about it, this is a BNP front. The President of Solidarity is Patrick Harrington but the project is coordinated by Clive Potter, a long-time BNP activist from Leicester, who was expelled from Unison for improper conduct. The Solidarity address traces back to Potter’s home. Other BNP activists involved in the project include Jay Lee, who was recently booted out of Aslef, and John Walker, the BNP’s national treasurer, who has had his own troubles with the T&G.
As far as actual workers’ struggles go, it is fond of releasing statements about industrial action taken by workers and wording them so as to obscure the fact that Solidarity has nothing to do with them. Its logo is ripped-off from Lech Walesa’s Polish union of the same name, and it cites the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Spanish CNT as precedents for what it is doing.
Any member of the working class with even an ounce of sense will know not to touch these fascist scabs with a 10-foot bargepole. They are not to be confused with the anarcho-syndicalist Solidarity Federation, whom Liverpool Antifascists consider to be comrades, which actually does have links with the IWW and CNT.
The Christian Council of Britain
Another BNP front group, set up by the fascist “Reverend” Robert West as a rival to the Muslim Council of Britain. Like the MCB, it is a reactionary organisation utterly irrelevant to those who practice the faith it is supposed to represent.
The BNP website reported after its formation that its supporters “joined up with the Christian Council of Britain” to stand alongside a Christian Voice and protest over ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’ being played at De Montfort Hall in Leicester.” West has also used his warped interpretation of Christianity to justify opposition to a multi-racial society and employed the arguments used by Christian Voice and other conservative Christian groups to claim that Muslims get better treatment than Christians in Britain.
No mainstream Christian Church or Denomination is a member of it or gives support to any of its campaigns. The group has since fallen back into obscurity, but appears every now and then on BNP “news” reports as a rent-a-quote body. They are a joke, but nevertheless one that Christians would do well to avoid.
Fringe groups – the British Freedom Fighters / Liverpool Front
The National Front and the British People’s Party are possibly the closest to rivals that the BNP has. However, with the NF now reduced to paranoid conspiracy theories on its website or the reminiscence of redundant old fascists, and the BPP nothing more than a Midlands-based band of fools who were booted out of other fascist groups for being informers or agent provocateurs, the threat that they pose is minimal.
In Liverpool, those fascists not in the BNP tended to travel in their orbit in the same small pack, under the banner first of the British Freedom Fighters and then the Liverpool Front. More recently, they have been seen with the Liverpool Division and members of the BNP – suggesting that with the stated desire to “control the streets” even less heed than normal is being paid to the distinctions between the various sects.
As a rule, these wandering boneheads are more interested in starting a fight or intimidating people than selling their ideology to the public.
The Islamic far-right do not pose the same threat as the white nationalist far-right. Al-Muhajiroun, the Islamist group which has emerged under several names including Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades, are not likely to win a base of support in the most disenfranchised areas of the country and push for political representation to realise their goals. Nor are they likely to be able to hold huge demonstrations which cause huge disruption and give them the opportunity to run the streets.
Where they pose a threat, the same applies as with the BNP, EDL et al - if they speak, challenge them; if they protest, oppose them and drown them out; if they cause violence, physically resist them. Liverpool Antifascists are not aware of any Islamist organisations operating in Liverpool at present, but that does not mean we should be complacent.