PAUL SILLETT looks at the origins of the banned National Action and the history of far-right terrorism in Britain
THE NEWS that four British soldiers arrested this week on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism are allegedly members of the proscribed nazi group National Action has focused attention on fascism in this country.
Two of the soldiers arrested, along with a civilian, are all allegedly National Action (NA) members and have been charged with terror offences.
One had a copy of a manifesto written by Norwegian fascist terrorist Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people in Norway in 2011. All were allegedly members of a chat group where racist messages, such as plans for a whites-only Britain and a race war, were exchanged.
Three of the four soldiers are said to serve with the Royal Anglian Regiment and an army fitness instructor was among the arrested. He is based at the Welsh army HQ in Powys and is said to have trained the three soldiers.
This resembles a nazi cell in the army and it’s not solely a British problem — nearly 300 soldiers in Germany are under investigation for nazi sympathies. In his excellent book Irregular Army, Matt Kennard chronicles how the US military recruited neonazis, among others, to fight the “war on terror.”
NA is a pernicious nazi sect formed in 2013 by young ex-British National Party (BNP) members such as Alex Davies. He and others were from university backgrounds and looked down on other fascists. Never more than 100 or so strong, their fearsome image has often been revealed to be more spin than substance — in August 2015 in Liverpool they were humiliated by thousands of anti-fascists.
They never really recovered from their humbling that day — they hid in the left luggage area of Lime Street station — and other fascists mocked NA for their defeat and foolhardiness in thinking they could stroll through the city.
In Scotland this year, anti-fascists were curious about those who they opposed on a demonstration in Alloa. Fascists from NA were revealed to be on the hate assembly, under the name “Scottish Dawn.”
In one sense, NA are a sick product of defeat for the far right in Britain. As the organisation Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and others have noted, it is at its most fractured for decades. Despite the ongoing climate of Islamophobia, it has been unable to emulate the likes of Greece’s Golden Dawn — themselves weakened by anti-fascists — or Jobbik in Hungary. Antifascist opposition on the streets and electorally, in broad and diverse ways, have forced them back.
There is a pattern of fascist sects turning to individual terrorism following the defeat of larger, fascist formations. In the late 1970s, following the collapse of the National Front (NF) sparked by the Anti-Nazi League and others, fascists belonging to the NF and the nazi British Movement attempted a similar terrorist path.
Several from the British Movement were jailed for possession of illegal weapons and attempted arson. The fascists had links to the Ku Klux Klan and “safehoused” overseas nazis. Like today, older nazis tried to recruit among disaffected youth, particularly skinheads, though this was contested by anti-fascist skinheads.
There is also a long history of fascists infiltrating the armed services. In Britain, Colin Jordan’s late-1960s nazi outfit included at least one serving soldier who encouraged others to attack synagogues. The nazi terror group Combat 18 in the 1990s included several soldiers subsequently kicked out of the army. They had been active in trying to disrupt Bloody Sunday commemorations.
NA have posted a series of graphic videos on YouTube, some with sick images of members sieg-heiling at Buchenwald concentration camp. But their acts only served to intensify antifascists’ work against them. They looked to recruit on student campuses, albeit in a clandestine manner, especially in north-west England. Their success was very limited. Night-time, covert activity was the norm, as public appearances faced large-scale, anti-fascist opposition.
NA’s short history is littered with anti-semitic abuse and attempts to intimidate minorities and the left. In 2014, after tweeting a series of antisemitic messages at Luciana Berger MP, one member, Garron Helm, received a prison sentence. NA members were also on the nazi riot in Dover in January 2016, where various fringe groups united that day.
Zack Davies, a NA supporter, was jailed for life after nearly killing an Asian dentist in a Welsh supermarket in 2015. NA tried, unconvincingly, to distance themselves from Davies. After the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a fascist in June 2016, NA endorsed her killing. The group posted a message on social media which read: “Our thoughts go out to Thomas Mair.”
In London and Wales this year, NA members participated in militaristic training camps, run by ex-BNP organiser Larry Nunn, aka Max Musson. Nunn is linked with fascists here and abroad and is believed to be behind the funding of several fascist operations in recent years. He led open nazis to the Greek embassy in support of Golden Dawn in 2014.
Along with Jeremy BedfordTurner, who claims he was kicked out of the army for his BNP membership, Nunn is key to the London Forum meetings. These have brought together various fascists to try to reforge the far right here but they have recently faced anti-fascist opposition. NA members were at some of the forums, where supposed intellectual gruel is fed to potential David Copelands, the BNP nail bomber.
NA have linked up on failed demonstrations — notably in Liverpool again — with hardened Polish nazis from the NOP party. In awe of the Polish fascists, NA members have also co-operated with them, especially in Manchester.
Last December, under pressure from many appalled by NA, the authorities acted. Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the decision to ban the group, which she described as a “racist, anti-semitic and homophobic organisation.” NA were also clearly promoting terrorism.
It is no accident that NA came from the dying sewer of the BNP, which has been reduced to a rump at the hands of anti-fascists. Years of campaigning knocked back the BNP in areas including Stoke, Yorkshire and outer London, and the English Defence League (EDL) were also beaten in a war of attrition by antifascists.
NA was not concerned with adopting a model of eurofascism as has Marine Le Pen in France — they believed in the terrorist ethos of the Turner Diaries, a fictional work written by a notorious US nazi. The book inspired nazi terrorists such as The Order and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. NA’s interest, delusional as it might appear, was in recreating Stormtroopers a la Hitler’s Brownshirts.
Though the arrests may well put NA members on the defensive, members are still active around EDL splinter groups such as the Infidels. Supposed “lone wolves” — such people are often connected with fascist groups — may well emanate from further splintering of NA.
Going by pseudonyms, NA members are thought to be operating from a warehouse in Warrington. Their vile politics mean they have not recruited beyond the fascist fringes and remain marginal. But the arrests of the soldiers show the kind of person attracted to such nazism and the modus operandi of groups such as NA.
As Sabby Dhalu, UAF joint secretary, has said: “There is a clear double standard in the way we treat terrorism in this country. Media headlines and government announcements focus almost exclusively on terrorist activity by those claiming to be Muslims, while around a third of all suspected terrorist activity is coming from the far right.”
And Weyman Bennett, also UAF joint secretary, has commented: “After being defeated at the ballot box and on the street, the far right is increasingly turning to violence and terrorism.
“Outrages such as the murder of Jo Cox, the murder of Mohammed Saleem and attacks on mosques [as] in Finsbury Park show that the threat is real and must be taken seriously.
“National Action are pathetic nazis who use Islamophobia, anti-semitism, homophobia and threats of violence. They are only a tiny part of the growing threat of far-right terrorism which must be prioritised and defeated.”