WeeklyWorker

09.12.2021
The police and army far more of a threat

Beware of Nazi obsession

We must oppose the fascist right, writes Eddie Ford. But we should also oppose state bans on organisations and ‘dangerous’ books

Ben Raymond from Wiltshire was sentenced last week to eight years in jail for membership of the fascist group, National Action - plus a two-year extended period under supervision. He will also be subject to the notification provisions of the Terrorism Act 2000 for 15 years and is the 17th person to be convicted of membership of this “unapologetically racist” organisation.

As many readers will recall, NA was proscribed in 2016, but not because Thomas Mair - who assassinated the Labour MP, Jo Cox - was a member of the group or operated under its instructions. Rather, due to the fact that NA glorified the murder, saying “only 649 MPs to go!” and “Don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain”. Additionally, NA altered the strapline on its website to read: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain!” - a slogan Mair had used in court when asked to give his name. As a result of that, it was not just the assassin who was imprisoned, but the organisation itself was outlawed, on the grounds that it was “concerned in terrorism”. As a piece of political irony, Ben Raymond had very recently published a manual for former NA members on how, like him, to avoid being arrested - or maybe not. This can stand alongside his other two works, Attack! and A case for fascism.

From our point of view, it almost goes without saying that we find NA a repugnant political formation. It was set up in 2013 by Ben Raymond and Alan Davies, when they were studying politics at the University of Essex. Davies described the group as “like the British Nationalist Party, but more radical” and NA regards itself as a “revolutionary nationalist” organisation, which grew out of a failed offshoot within the BNP youth wing. Since then, it has made relatively effective, large-scale use of social media and blogging platforms. Raymond told BBC News in 2015 that “the source of all of the conflict in society is all the different racial groups that have been brought here”.1 He coined the term, ‘white jihad’, the basic idea being that the ‘races’ cannot live together. The job of an organisation like NA is to stir things up and give history that little necessary push - as they think the “race war” is coming anyway. We all need to prepare for the white jihad and new world order.

Now, communists are not going to object if someone who attacks other people on the basis of their warped ideology is found guilty of assault, let alone murder, as with Thomas Mair. However, we certainly object to the banning or closing down of a political organisation. Fascism and reactionary ideas in general are best combated in the open, not by being driven underground, where they will inevitably resurface in some shape or form. What happened in the case of NA is that it carried on at a regional level, using different names. We had, for example, Scottish Dawn, which called itself “identitarian” (a common far-right buzz word) and even claimed to have held regular litter-picking days, encouraging its members to participate in “regular hikes in Scotland’s beautiful countryside”. Then there was NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action), System Resistance Network and Triple K Mafia. These groups communicated via social media platforms, encrypted messages, and so on. Clearly none of this will succeed if you have GCHQ and MI5 on your tail.

We are reminded of Leon Trotsky when he was in exile in Mexico, subject to numerous assassination attempts before the final successful one in 1940 - not least those organised by the Communist Party of Mexico. He was prepared to go to the US to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Trotsky was refused a visa, so instead wrote an article outlining what he would have said. His essential message was that he hated the Stalinists, as they were criminal murderers, not only of his followers throughout the world, but of leading members of the Bolshevik Party. Yet he did not support the banning of the CPUSA - or, for that matter, the Nazi Party of the United States of America, which then was quite a sizeable organisation of Hitler admirers. Correctly, Trotsky argued:

… under the conditions of the bourgeois regime, all suppression of political rights and freedom, no matter whom they are directed against in the beginning, in the end inevitably bear down upon the working class, particularly its most advanced elements - that is a law of history.2

Such sentiments would horrify most Trotskyists today.

At Ben Raymond’s trial, the prosecution said he was the “public face” of NA and absurdly likened him to Joseph Goebbels, because the Wiltshire man was “the natural head of propaganda” - giving “media interviews setting out the group’s virulent ethnic cleansing agenda to the media with sometimes transcendental calm”.

This is all part of the silly myth that there are these brilliant speakers who can cast a near supernatural spell over their audience. Bourgeois academia in the 1950s was especially vexed by the question of how come Hitler came to power? It could not possibly have been because of the capitalist class. It must be some inbuilt weakness in the masses and a corresponding special gift bestowed upon speakers and propagandists. Apparently, the charismatic Hitler could hypnotise people with his words, the same going for Goebbels. You cannot allow people like that to appear again, as the masses are stupid and will just follow them.

In their own way, sections of the left have bought into this myth. It is hard to forget the Socialist Workers Party telling us that Hitler’s Mein Kampf should not be available in public libraries due to its corrupting influence - a bad and dangerous book. Therefore only duly accredited students and specialist academics should have access to it. But this book, like many others, needs to be read and understood. For instance, what did it say about Zionism? Unlike a lot of other Nazis, Hitler was completely unsympathetic to it - Zionists are just the same as other Jews, always plotting and scheming.

Ultimately, the SWP and others like them believe if the masses - the sheep - are exposed to a racist speech or a piece of demagoguery, then they will inevitably become captivated by such ideas.

Possession

Ben Raymond was not only prosecuted for membership of a proscribed organisation, but, incredibly, also for possession of two books deemed to be “of use to a terrorist”, contrary to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act. One was essentially bomb-making advice by Ragnar Benson called Homemade detonators: how to make ’em, how to salvage ’em, how to detonate ’em! Benson is the pen name of a prolific survivalist author, who specialises in ‘preparedness’ topics, such as hunting, trapping, false identification, explosives, firearms, improvised weapons, etc. Some readers might be particularly interested in Guerrilla gunsmithing and Live off the land in the city and country.

Interestingly enough, in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh was found to have had two books by Benson - whose work on improvised medicine has been recognised and promoted by the US Special Operations Command. Perhaps amusingly, Homemade detonators is openly available for purchase on Amazon - even if it is currently unavailable (probably sold out, thanks to the publicity generated by the Raymond trial).3 More worryingly, if possession of Homemade detonators is potentially a criminal offence, then what about Che Guevara’s famous 1961 book, Guerrilla warfare? There must be some sort of overlap between the two books, Guevara informing us how to make a tank trap or a Molotov cocktail and other handy tips. Surely Benson’s work is no more or less ‘dangerous’ that Guevara’s book - or should you be prosecuted as well for having it on your bookshelf? The implications for freedom of information are obvious.

Ben Raymond was also done for having a copy of Anders Breivik’s rambling manifesto, detailing all his obsessions: the 1,518-page 2083: A European declaration of independence. This work acted partly as a justification for his July 2011 mass murder, when he detonated a van bomb killing eight people in Oslo, then went to the island of Utøya and slaughtered 69 participants of a summer camp run by the Workers Youth League, which is affiliated to the Norwegian Labour Party. This was the highest number of fatalities ever caused by a single gunman. Naturally, he became an instant hero for fascists (and lunatics) everywhere - quoted by Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the 2019 Christchurch Mosque mass murderer in New Zealand.

Raymond was found not guilty of four counts of possessing other documents - including, inevitably enough, Mein Kampf. Clearly, it is incredible that you could end up in jail merely for possessing such books and documents. But surely it is more than legitimate to want to understand how these people think. Breivik’s deranged manifesto should be studied in the same way as Mein Kampf - in order to understand the ideological motivations of the early Nazi Party. Ignorance is not bliss: it is deadly. You need to get your head around what motivates someone like Ben Raymond to actually want to set up something putrid like National Action. We have to understand why someone picks up a gun and starts murdering kids - not close your mind out of fear that you too might become a fanatical murderer just by reading about it.

At the end of the day, the real explanation for such events is to be found in the social conditions that drive people in that direction - with arguably the prime factor, at the present time, being the weakness of the left.

The fact that possession of such documents can see you in the dock shows which direction society is going in. Yet too many on the left are complicit in this narrative. In many respects, the left’s unhealthy obsession with Nazis and fascists - real or imagined - has developed into the idea that these forces are the supreme danger. And, unless you stop them now, by any means necessary, you are going to end up with Nazism and the gas chambers. Thus the left’s non-opposition to state bans on fascist groups, if not active support for such measures.

But this is a profound misreading of history and forgets that the state and the capitalist class are the real danger, not deluded idiots like Ben Raymond. The police and the army are far more dangerous to us and, predictably, the weapons of ‘no platforming’ and refusal to debate have already been turned against the left.

Virtually all press reports say that the 2016 banning of NA was the first political banning since 1940 (Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists). This is clearly not true, as there is an extremely long list of proscribed groups on the government’s website, mainly Irish republican and Islamist.4 What these journalists mean to say is that NA was the first fascist organisation to be banned since 1940.

When America was establishing its hegemony in western Europe after the end of World War II, Operation Gladio5 set up ‘deep sleepers’ in countries like Belgium, France, Turkey, Italy and Greece, who would carry out state-tolerated terrorist actions if those countries went red, or seemed like they would.

It is not impossible that the Gladio doctrine applied to Britain as well. Hence there was previously no ban on any rightwing organisation since the end of the war - possibly part of the US agreement with its newly acquired client European states. Either way, we oppose the ban on NA and imprisoning people because of alleged membership.

eddie.ford@weeklyworker.co.uk


  1. bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-34119417.↩︎

  2. www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/12/dies2.html.↩︎

  3. www.amazon.co.uk/Ragnars-Homemade-Detonators-Salvage-Detonate/dp/0873647378.↩︎

  4. www.gov.uk/government/publications/proscribed-terror-groups-or-organisations--2.↩︎

  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio.↩︎