Graham Macklin, Failed Führers: A History of Britain’s Extreme Right (Routledge, 2020). Review by Spencer Sunshine
Graham Macklin’s Failed Führers is a major new study of the British fascist movement, and will likely be the central reference point for scholars of that movement for the foreseeable future. … Failed Führers is a collective biography of six British fascist leaders of both the pre- and post-war periods. While this seems like an odd, if not downright antiquated, approach, it actually works quite well in helping Macklin cover a large amount of ground. The narrative arc doesn’t get turgid as it is frequently moving from one figure to the other. This structure also helps avoid a degeneration into a sectology illustrating how This Group begat That Group which splintered into Those Groups—although there is still plenty of that for the discerning sectologist!
The first figure featured in Failed Führers is Arnold Leese, who was active starting in the 1920s and became more and more focused on antisemitism as he pivoted his allegiances from Mussolini to Hitler. He continued his fascism career postwar, as did Oswald Mosley, the most famous of the six outside of Britain. The outline of Mosley’s prewar career is generally known, including his wartime detention, but I was fascinated to learn how extensive his work was postwar and how he was somehow rehabilitated into the mainstream, appearing, for example, on William Buckley’s Firing Line. The third figure, A.K. Chesterton (not to be confused with his relation G.K. Chesterton) also straddled the war. But he was best known for founding the League of Empire Loyalists—who, as the British empire crumbled, did what it said on the tin, albeit with a fascist core. The League wound up by fusing with other groups to become the National Front, the best known of the British fascist parties—at least to fans of 1970s punk rock and two-tone ska, as well as to watchers of the National-Anarchists. Fourth is Colin Jordan, who was mentored by Leese. Jordon was an openly neo-Nazi ideologue and organizer who was a cross between his contemporaries George Lincoln Rockwell and William Pierce. Fifth and sixth are John Tyndall and Nick Griffin; both of them overlapped in both the National Front and British National Party (BNP), which each led before being deposed (Tyndall from the BNP by Griffin, no less). Today, Griffin is the only living figure of the bunch.
“In the small Oregon town of Cottage Grove, just south of Eugene, a sign on an empty storefront that used to house a local museum announces a new business: Wolfclan Armory. While most towns would welcome the new blood, instead protests have already begun. The store, which sells knives and survivalist gear, is owned by the Laskey family and wants to move from the smaller Creswell, Oregon so they can grow their business. But there’s a hitch: the Laskey clan which runs the shop includes Jacob “Jake” Laskey, who is said to lead the American Front, a long-standing neonazi skinhead gang. Over several decades, members of the American Front have been involved in assaults, murders, drive-by shootings, and synagogue attacks. Laskey himself served a long federal prison sentence for a synagogue attack and soliciting murder, and is currently in jail awaiting new charges.”
“November 13 marks the 29th anniversary of the murder of Mulugeta Seraw. Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, was killed in 1988 when a gang of Nazi skinheads crushed his head with a baseball bat on a small side street in Portland, Oregon. His death became the best known of dozens of murders that were part of the last popular wave of organized racist groups before the current resurgence of white supremacy driven by the “alt-right.”
A federally funded study says that almost 450 people have been killed by the far right since 1990 — and this is likely a conservative number. White supremacists don’t just desire a racist future in which people of color, Muslims, Jews and other historically oppressed groups are exterminated or expelled: They work actively to make it happen. And even without having the governmental power to do this explicitly, far-right activists have committed a continuous series of murders, bombings and assaults.
Seraw’s death was just one of at least 40 murders by Nazi skinheads between 1988 and 1996 — a number that doesn’t include murders by other racist factions, like the Ku Klux Klan.
However, for those of us who came of age in the punk rock scene or lived in Portland, it was Seraw’s senseless death that we recall the most. The city was shocked by the violence, even though it had come to be one of the centers of the Nazi skinhead scene, which in 1988 had exploded in a wave of popularity.”
I’ll be a doing a speaking tour in Germany leading up to the US elections, as well as a couple dates in London. There are two different talks I will be giving: one is on the U.S. radical right in the age of Trump, and the other is on U.S. Left/Right crossover movements (which in Germany is recognized as an issue for the Left, more than in the U.S.).Read More »
On September 8, 2007 in Sydney, Australia, the antiglobalization movement mobilized once again against neoliberal economic policies, this time to oppose the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit. Just as during the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington, in 1999, the streets were filled with an array of groups, such as environmentalists, socialists, and human rights advocates. And also just like in Seattle, there was a “Black Bloc”—a group of militant activists, usually left-wing anarchists, who wore masks and dressed all in black.
In Sydney, the Black Bloc assembled and hoisted banners proclaiming “Globalization is Genocide.” But when fellow demonstrators looked closely, they realized these Black Bloc marchers were “National-Anarchists”—local fascists dressed as anarchists who were infiltrating the demonstration. The police had to protect the interlopers from being expelled by irate activists.