Matthew Collins reviews the factiousness of an earlier era of nationalist history, which has important lessons for the enlightened nationalists of today's British National Party. Eerily, some of the very same 'leaders' who played a major role in the destruction of the National Front, during the 1980s, are now playing a very similar role within the BNP.
It has been suggested that those who ignore the lessons of history are destined to repeat them (Thucydides). If this is true then we, as British ethno-nationalists, have a duty to familiarize ourselves with the history of our movement. This fairly recent article, first published in the magazine Searchlight, while naturally slanted with an "anti-fascist" perspective, provides some useful information on the history of the nationalist movement's internal fight to retain a rational ideology.
Mr Collins' article now follows.
Revolutionaries seize control
With the BNP teetering on the brink of collapse, we look back at an earlier far-right [sic] split involving many of the same characters as today.
Whenever the subject of his former leadership of the National Front arises, Nick Griffin is prone to embarrassment and self-effacement. It’s not because of the racism, antisemitism and thuggery for which the NF had become synonymous that Griffin cringes, but because of his part in engineering the meltdown and near total destruction of Britain’s oldest and longest surviving fascist party [sic].
The 1986 split engineered and executed by Griffin and Patrick Harrington, who became a cause célèbre in 1984 when he enrolled as a student at North London Polytechnic, was bizarre, vicious and dangerous. In 1983, three years after the departure of John Tyndall, who had led the NF almost exclusively since 1972, two competing groups of young middle class “radicals” seized power and removed Martin Webster who had run the much shrunken organisation with an iron rod.
Webster had been particularly disturbed by the arrival in Britain of a small cell of Italians on the run. They were led by the charismatic Roberto Fiore, the convicted former [alleged] leader of the terrorist Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, the group involved in the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980, which killed 85 people [including two Britons]. Fiore’s use of inflammatory, youthful and revolutionary language and ideas encouraged many of his supporters to view the NF as outdated, faulty and irrelevant. Webster erred by encouraging Harrington, who had previously infiltrated the Young Communist League for Webster, to infiltrate the Griffin-Fiore circle. Of similar age and background and like the others of reasonably independent means, Harrington was not only easily converted by the group, he became one of its chief exponents and betrayed Webster.
Webster’s removal from the NF leadership was a surprise to him as among those who lined up against him were Andrew Brons, today a BNP MEP, Ian Anderson, a failed Oxford student, and Martin Wingfield, a former book-maker. All three were party loyalists and traditionalists, who had little truck with the politics of Griffin. Brons was NF leader, the other two would succeed him. In 1984 Brons stood down ostensibly to focus on his career as a college lecturer in Harrogate, though many felt it was also because he lacked the stomach for the looming factional fight [no change there, then].
The Anderson camp initially welcomed Derek Holland’s seminal statement of new intent for the NF and the wider “movement” published that year. The Political Soldier was Holland’s blueprint for a new movement driven and reinvigorated with ideas of sacrifice and militant struggle, heavily influenced by Eastern European Roman Catholic mysticism and Northern European imagery, with an approving ideological stamp of approval from the Italians.
An attack on the ideological baggage of the NF, it laid the groundwork for the introduction of new ideological heroes of the European right, including the Italian National Socialist Julius Evola and the Romanian antisemite Corneliu Codreanu, prewar leader of the fascist Iron Guard. Previously unknown to most NF members, Codreanu and Evola were steeped in the mysticism and martyrdom Griffin, Holland and Harrington wanted to instill in the new, younger and dynamic NF. A puritanical purge had begun.
If The Political Soldier was welcomed as a political refresher by Anderson and Wingfield, who now led the party, the growth of Catholicism and a sweeping puritanism among the younger members of the leadership worried them.
Seen as politically weak and too conservative (Wingfield had moved to the NF from the Liberal party), Wingfield became the victim of a whispering campaign by the followers of Griffin, Holland and Harrington, who now referred to themselves as “the radicals” and Anderson and Wingfield as the “reactionaries”, aimed at undermining him and his editorship of the much improved party paper National Front News. In an attempt to strengthen his position in a rapidly changing political environment, Wingfield refused to pay a £1,500 fine imposed in 1985 for offences under the race relations laws and was imprisoned for 90 days.
Grandiose schemes, self-important overseas trips by party delegations, desperately falling membership numbers and mounting debts [sound familiar?] were forcing the NF further underground than it would have liked, despite its increasingly revolutionary pronouncements. Griffin’s “radicals” took the NF’s membership files to the rural property in Suffolk where he lived and opened a new office in Norwich. As the “radicals” propounded the slogan “Long live death” and macabre articles appeared in sporadic publications that the NF could not afford to produce, the party was lurching towards an explosive split and potential death itself.
Despite Griffin labelling Wingfield a “coward and a Tory who belongs in the Conservative Party”, Wingfield was elected chairman on his release from prison in early 1986 and found himself on a party executive made up entirely of Griffin’s “radicals”. Anderson had already flown the coop in exasperation.
The NF formally split in 1986. A series of damaging leaks to the press about its growing internal difficulties and both external and internal concern over the continued presence of the Italian fugitives from justice took their toll. Tired of insults and desperate political lurches of the type normally favoured by the ultra left, Wingfield, Anderson and Brons, accompanied by Steve Brady, an influential figure in Northern Ireland loyalist circles and the elite nazi League of St George, and Tom Acton, the NF’s printer, pre-empted their expulsions from the party by launching their own newspaper, The Flag, resplendent with the Union Jack motif that the radicals had removed from National Front News.
A notorious culture of heavy drinking and bed hopping was certainly rife in both camps. Making the split even more damaging was Wingfield’s [alleged] affair with the younger wife of a factional ally and a close friend, Joe Pearce, who was once more in prison for offences under the Race Relations Act. The Griffin faction were to play on Wingfield’s [alleged] treachery in a battle for the affections of Pearce who, having converted to Catholicism like some others in the Griffin faction, was expected to join them and use his popularity and influence with the NF’s predominantly working class membership to convince them to join Griffin’s long trip up the revolutionary garden path. On his release, however, Pearce briefly sided with Anderson and Wingfield before leaving for the United States.
The resulting fallout was as vicious as it was bizarre. There were allegations of shotguns in Suffolk being pointed between rival leaders and even a mysterious bomb attack on Anderson’s car, a pub fight in Croydon involving over 80 fascists [sic], and Griffin and his supporters trying to stop the NF’s annual Remembrance Sunday parade by shouting “Nazi scum” at the bemused and confused marchers.
In response to the split Griffin wrote the brilliantly sectarian and self-damaging pamphlet Attempted Murder in which he exposed not only his opponents’ “reactionary” leanings, but also his own perverse and quasi revolutionary views. Wingfield in particular was viciously mocked and pilloried.
Griffin and Harrington adopted a myriad of guises to boost their revolutionary credentials and those of their dwindling and confused party. They included a refusal to condemn the IRA, an attempt to court Colonel Gadaffi of Libya for “petro dollars”, the promotion of Islamic extremists and Welsh nationalists, and in the words of Griffin “countless discussions as to how many workers’ collectives you could fit on a pin head”.
In 1989 Griffin, Harrington and their diminished Political Soldiers morphed into [either] the International Third Position, with the support of Fiore, [or Harrington's Third Way], around the time that Anderson and Wingfield accepted a bequest to their version of the NF of over £60,000 to be shared with the extreme nazi British Movement.