By Jason Michael

Ignoring far-right British nationalism is not an option. This ideology of hate is on the move and it has powerful supporters. Sooner or later it will have a rope around our necks. Will we ignore that too?

Since at least 2012 the mainstream British media has gone to great lengths to manufacture the myth of the evils of nationalism in order to neutralise the rising threat from the civic and voluntary nationalism of the Scottish independence movement. Now that the frightening and violent reality of English/British ethno-nationalism has hit the streets of London the media is powerless. By drawing attention to the far-right “Free Tommy” riots the British media is in danger of highlighting the differences between these two very different nationalisms.

In Scotland the attitude of the independence movement has largely echoed the sentiments of wider opinion over the rest of the United Kingdom, that we are best ignoring these thugs and depriving them of the oxygen they crave. It is certainly advisable that we refuse to give them a platform. Karl Popper described this paradox of tolerance in 1945, saying: “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

Not tolerating the open and aggressive intolerance of the British far-right is not, however, the same thing as ignoring it. By all means we should always act to stop it spreading hate, to deprive it of oxygen, and to ensure it is not given a platform, but ignoring that it exists – that it has causes and is growing – is a dangerous policy. The last thing we can afford to do is pretend that far-right British ethno-nationalism is not a problem we must tackle.

The presence of the Dutch far-right leader, Geert Wilders, along with representatives from other European far-right organisations, at the London rally makes it clear that the rise of the right is not simply a problem of the British white working class. Neo-Nazi and far and ultra-far-right groups are gaining strength and popular and political momentum right across the northern hemisphere; from central Russia, across Europe, to the rust belt of the United States. These groups and organisations are in communication, learning from and influencing one another. Some time ago the global far-right reached a critical mass and we are now seeing its further radicalisation.

On the street we may only see the stereotypical working class “angry white man,” but these Nazi-saluting pot-bellied louts are only the tip of the iceberg. As James Patrick has shown in his brilliant Whitewash series on the rise of the right, the street politics of the extreme right developed – like Tommy Robinson – out of the milieu of English football hooliganism through the 1980s and 90s. By the first few years of the new millennium this had been shaped into something new and more dangerous by a right-wing brand of middle class politics.

Britain’s far-right is the wider street-political movement of a segment of the British establishment represented at the right of the Conservative Party, by UKIP, and by what remains of the British National Party. Visibly this is a white working class problem, but what is perhaps not as easy to see is the fact that this is fuelled and driven by powerful and wealthy people in the middle and professional classes and by people on every layer of the British establishment. This helps to explains why the extreme right in England is so aggressive and emboldened.

With its foot soldiers now openly willing to take on the police in the British capital, with a media castrated by its own stupidity and sometimes by its sympathy for the right, and with powerful middle class leadership and support it is beyond all doubt that the far-right has us in serious trouble. No longer is the appeal of the right only to die-hard fascists and those on the fringes and on the poverty line. As James Patrick explains:

These groups co-ordinate their appeal not only to fascists, with their policies of a perceived strong central government and control of the media, but to others too. Just as the Nazi Party’s 25 point plan once did. They reach out to socialists, nationalists, supremacists, the common racists.

We can’t ignore this. It’s meaningless to simply say we should deprive it of air when elements within the media are kitting it out with oxygen tanks, when it has a growing – if largely hidden – political base, and when it is taking to the streets and rioting with impunity. We have a problem. This problem is a politically and internationally connected British far-right, and we ignore this at our peril.

We cannot tolerate the intolerant. British nationalism – also trading under the aliases “loyalism” and “unionism” in Scotland and Northern Ireland – has spread to every corner of the United Kingdom and, as is its nature, will increasingly make itself heard over the coming years. It has rallied around the politics of Brexit and Scottish independence and it will continue to use these – as it uses the totem of “Muslim grooming gangs” – to call its soldiers to order. British nationalism, like English imperialism before it, sees Scottish nationalism and independence as a threat; as a backdoor through which England may be reached. That the Scottish government has been vocal on the need for immigration and Scotland’s generally more open attitude to immigrants have made Scotland a threat to the racist and isolationist ideas of British nationalism.

Ignoring the far-right, however well-intentioned, is playing right into its hands. Given an inch these people will take a mile, and they will continue doing this until that point where we have no more road left. When that happens – trust me – this is not a place you want to be. Fascism’s appeal has always been its strong stance on crime, but fascism defines crime as anything and everything that opposes it – and fascism is tough on crime. We have a responsibility to start blocking the road.


Clashes erupt at ‘free Tommy Robinson’ march in London

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5 thoughts on “Facing Down British Nationalism

    1. I wondered if that might be the case. Somewhat the same situation exists in Scotland with at least some of the bigots being focused against the English and some of the rest focused against those who want independence.

      When I make any suggestion of heading towards Canada (or, more likely, New Zealand) I don’t mean to imply that bigotry doesn’t exist there too, simply that for several reasons it isn’t such a strong force as it appears to be in the US, the UK and other countries within Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I follow Tommy Robinson but I am not “far right” in my politics. I believe in free speech and I fear the islamisation of Europe but that does not make me far right.


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