The following article, published, in the magazine Searchlight, three years ago, following an earlier crisis within the leadership of the British National Party, which Griffin's corruption and incompetence had triggered, despite emanating from a source antithetical to British ethno-nationalism, makes interesting reading for those interested in Griffin's form as a nationalist party wrecker.
Nick Griffin political extremist and veteran splitter
By Dave Williams
The present crisis in the British National Party started over the unacceptable actions and incompetence of two national officers, Mark Collett and Dave Hannam, but quickly centred on Nick Griffin himself. In the light of accusations and denunciations flying around the far right, Dave Williams asks how much we really know about the extremist past of the BNP’s leader.
Nick Griffin factional leader
When the BNP split last month with the Yorkshire, East Midlands and Scottish regions openly siding with the expelled officers, led by Sadie Graham and Kenny Smith, many felt a certain sense of déjà vu. “We’ve been here before” was the heading on one article on the rebels’ blogsite, which stated somewhat ungrammatically: “It seems to be that the common denominator where trouble in Nationalist circles are concerned, is Nick Griffin”.
More than 20 years ago Griffin had been at the centre of the internal bloodletting that had destroyed the National Front. Was this mere coincidence, many asked.
Born in Barnet in 1959 Griffin was introduced to the NF as a teenager by his Conservative father, Edwin [sic, Edgar]. Griffin’s grandfather also showed him some of the more antisemitic literature of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
After attending St. Felix public school near Southwold, Griffin studied at Cambridge University, where he rose through the ranks of the Young NF before being appointed to the main party’s National Directorate in 1980. The early 1980s was a period of decline for the NF and it became embroiled in ferment as its young ruling clique, who had ousted first the NF’s longstanding leader John Tyndall in 1980 and then its national organiser Martin Webster in 1983, cast around for ways of repackaging their ideology. The fruits of this appeared in Nationalism Today, a journal that Griffin helped found and edited for a period.
In 1986 the NF was torn apart by an extremely bitter feud. The “radicals” grouped around Griffin and Derek Holland proclaimed themselves the “official” NF while the “reactionaries” coalesced around Martin Wingfield and Ian Anderson, who established the NF “Support Group”.
Griffin wrote a particularly vituperative pamphlet entitled Attempted Murder: The State/Reactionary Plot Against the National Front, in which he railed against his opponents accusing them of doing the state’s dirty work.
It also attacked the personal and professional abilities of two colleagues, Martin and Tina Wingfield, both of whom now occupy senior positions in the BNP.
It is a tawdry tale of plots and conspiracies, of disciplinary tribunals and expulsions, of incompetence, financial impropriety, theft and betrayal that sounds very familiar in today’s context. Griffin of course emerges from the story whiter than white, if you can pardon the pun. That is something else today’s BNP rebels might recognise.
If nothing else, reading Attempted Murder is a reminder that, whatever else anyone says about him, Griffin is a master of dissimulation, disruption and destabilisation, a skilled practitioner of using innuendo, smear and outright lie as a political tool. In short Griffin is a champion of the politics of factionalism which he uses to shore up and preserve his own position against those foolhardy enough to challenge his untrammelled authority.
It is ironic that so many of those now bleating about their betrayal, personal and ideological, by Griffin seem so oblivious to the factional role he played during the split and subsequent disintegration of the NF in the 1980s. When Griffin took over the NF had 4,000 to 5,000 members but that dwindled as part of his systematic plan for developing a trained core cadre of activists, which he termed the Political Soldiers.
Having driven the NF into the ground Griffin abandoned it in 1989 for the International Third Position (ITP), a revolutionary “nationalist” sect.
One other point discovered by the BNP dissidents is the lengths to which Griffin will go to win out. Smearing his opponents as “neo-nazis” was pretty hypocritical considering that Griffin perhaps would not even be BNP chairman today were it not for the help of the quite unabashed nazis he today derides. Indeed for all his ideological twists and turns throughout his career Griffin has always remained one thing: a hardline extremist [sic].
Particularly illuminating was the testimony of the Scottish Blood and Honour boss Steve Cartwright who went on record with his memories of Griffin in Wales in the mid-1990s. “Our meeting with Griffin went well,” recalled Cartwright, “he pushed all the right buttons, emphasising militancy as well as paying due respect to the Nationalists and National Socialists of the past. He also spoke of the need to re-package and modernise our beliefs in the hope of reaching the British public.” He went away satisfied that this was the man to succeed the veteran BNP leader, John Tyndall.
Griffin’s trial in 1998 on race hate charges arising from statements denying the Holocaust in The Rune, a magazine that he edited, and his Holocaust denying performance on The Cook Report further impressed this hardline nazi faction within the BNP that “our man had balls”. During the leadership election campaign Griffin used Tony Lecomber, who had served two three-year prison sentences on explosives charges and for assaulting a Jewish teacher, as his hatchet man to circulate the most defamatory personal smears against Tyndall. In September 1999 Griffin was elected chairman.
However Griffin soon let down the hardliners who had backed him and sided with the “modernising” faction led by Lecomber and Eddy Butler, realising that he was more likely to gain political power following their agenda than that of the “neo-nazis”. And for a while all was well.
Under Griffin’s leadership the BNP made an electoral breakthrough to get three members elected to Burnley council in 2002, and went on to win further local elections in the following years. But these gains were largely the result of external factors and Griffin has never managed to deliver the successes he promised his members’ efforts would bring them at each electoral round.
The political baggage he carries with him, not to mention the personal defects which make him resort to violent factionalism at the first sign of a challenge to his authority, limit the extent of progress the BNP can make with him at the helm. Those in the rebel faction have come to understand this, which is why they have moved on from calling for the dismissal of Collett, Hannam and John Walker, the party treasurer, to understanding that the BNP’s real problem is Griffin himself.
Nick Griffin and Holocaust denial
Griffin began flirting with the BNP in 1993, two years after leaving the International Third Position.
John Tyndall, the BNP leader at the time, overcame his initial distaste for Griffin’s activities and began mentioning him favourably in Spearhead.
Griffin finally joined the BNP in 1995 and soon gravitated towards the hardline Croydon branch, which included a number of the party’s most ardent antisemites. Soon afterwards Griffin began to contribute to The Rune, an antisemitic magazine published by Paul Ballard and his comrades. Ballard was a veteran BNP member and sympathiser of the nazi terror group Combat 18.
Griffin became editor of The Rune in 1995. Tyndall had no problem with this and the following year appointed him editor of his own magazine, Spearhead.
The Rune showed Griffin to be a hardliner par excellence. He used the publication to argue forcefully against modernising the BNP, stating that “the electors of Millwall [who voted in the BNP’s first local councillor in 1993] did not back a post modernist rightist party but
what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogan ‘Defend Rights for Whites’ with well-directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes power is the product of force and will, not of rational debate.”
As editor of The Rune Griffin plumbed new depths in antisemitic invective. It became a platform for glorifying the British Union of Fascists and Hitler’s SS and for describing the Holocaust as the “holohoax”.
Comments such as these led to his house being raided by the police in 1997 and he and Ballard being hauled before the courts for inciting racial hatred. Ballard pleaded guilty but Griffin chose to contest the charges, inviting a number of “expert” witnesses to testify for him at his trial in 1998 including the noted French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. The effort was in vain. Griffin was found guilty and handed a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
It was during his defence that Griffin made his notorious statement: “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that 6 million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the Earth was flat … I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter-day witch-hysteria.”
Griffin has also attacked the “revisionist” writer David Irving for admitting that some Jews may have been killed during the “holohoax”, accusing him of “back tracking on the old gas chamber lie”.
In 1997 Griffin wrote the pamphlet, Who Are the Mindbenders? an antisemitic tirade against what he saw as Jewish control of the British media, the means by which, Griffin alleged, Jews were trying to brainwash white people into accepting multiculturalism.
The BNP always rejects accusations that Griffin is antisemitic, claiming it was all in the distant past. This is far from the truth. As recently as April 2007 Griffin told a reporter that he did believe in the Holocaust but only because “European law” required him to do so.
‘We’re all on the same side’ – Nick Griffin and Combat 18
Nick Griffin has always distanced himself from the activities of the wannabe nazi terror machine Combat 18 (C18). Indeed shortly after its formation as a BNP stewards group the BNP proscribed the organisation.
However, as Griffin hastily prepared for his trial on charges of inciting racial hatred in 1997, he decided that one of the planks of his defence would be that C18 had produced far worse and had never been prosecuted for it. Needing some documents he asked Steve Cartwright, head of Blood and Honour, to contact Will Browning, leader of C18, telling Cartwright to reassure Browning that he and C18 were on “the same side”.
Browning later sent Griffin a “bumper pack” of C18 material. Griffin phoned Cartwright asking him to pass on his thanks to Browning. As Cartwright recalled, “Griffin was particularly tickled by the name of the parcel sender – Mr Beast, London”.
Nick Griffin’s ideology, the political soldiers
As leader of the BNP Nick Griffin has put in place a system of voting members who are required to undergo ideological training and has been unconcerned at the departure of officers and members unwilling to follow his every command.
But this is not the first time Griffin has chosen to develop a political elite rather than a mass organisation. In 1986 after a series of purges and splits in the National Front, Griffin gained control of one faction and set about turning it into his “political soldiers”, under the influence of Roberto Fiore, a fugitive from justice in Italy who became Griffin’s mentor, friend and business partner.
The group made contact with all sorts of international political mavericks including Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, the US black separatist leader Louis Farrakhan and both sides of the divide in Ireland.[Emphasis mine].
A series of booklets outlined their creed under the slogan “Long Live Death” and a policy that aped Fiore’s terrorist agenda of destabilisation in Italy that had produced the bombings of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Attempts to stir up Welsh nationalists to bomb English second homes in Wales led to protests with placards stating NF = MI5. [Emphasis mine].
Griffin’s NF was far from an ordinary political party. Even some of his own members were worried when they were given advice on resisting police interrogation that experts said was more apposite for political terrorists.
Many of those who fell out with Griffin in those days are now back at Griffin’s side. One of them is Patrick Harrington, who now runs Solidarity, the BNP’s fake trade union. Harrington and Graham Williamson, also involved in Solidarity, lead Third Way, whose political philosophy appears to differ considerably from that of the BNP.
Its website features an equal opportunities statement and it claims to welcome “guest workers … to fill gaps in the country’s infrastructure”.
It seems that Griffin’s desire to build a political elite along the lines of the political soldiers overrides any ideological differences between the BNP and Third Way. Griffin’s obsession with a coming civil war or race war also shows how little his politics have changed in over 20 years.
It is worth remembering that Harrington in an interview for a television exposé of the NF political soldiers [C4: Disciples of Chaos, 1988] refused to condemn IRA bombings and that Griffin, Harrington and Williamson went to Libya to seek funds from a regime that armed both sides in the Northern Ireland conflict.[Emphasis mine].
Griffin is still prepared to work with whomever he thinks can help him get what he wants, the more shadowy they are the better. One of the bones of contention among the rebels is the power Griffin has vested in Lance Stewart, the South African former police officer who heads the
BNP’s “intelligence department”, Arthur Kemp, the former South African spook who edits the BNP’s new website and runs ideological training for the voting members, and Lambertus “Bep” Nieuwhof, a convicted pro-apartheid terrorist who provides internet services to the party.
© Searchlight Magazine 2008