Home is over Jordan
Failed Führers ; A History of Britain’s Extreme Right, Graham Macklin, Routledge, London & New York, 2020, reviewed by Leslie Jones
Failed Führers presents portraits in writing of ‘six principal idealogues and leaders’ from an evolving British Fascist tradition, namely, Arnold Leese (1878-1956), Sir Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), AK Chesterton (1899-1973), Colin Jordan (1923-2009), John Tyndall (1934-2005) and Nick Griffin (1959-). Graham Macklin thereby highlights the pivotal role of key individuals who enabled the far right to adapt to changing historical circumstances. For as Professor Macklin contends, there has been ‘continuity and change within the British fascist tradition’. Both pre and post war British fascists posited the preordained role of the white race and a Jewish conspiracy to engender white racial defilement. Mass immigration from the West Indies (100,000 in 1960 alone) only increased the salience of anti-black racism in neo-fascist ideology. Then in response to mass immigration from the Indian sub-continent, the BNP under Nick Griffin grafted anti-Muslim populism onto a pre-existing racial nationalist ideology.
Compared to a more conventional chronological or thematic historical perspective, Macklin’s ‘collective biographical’ approach or ‘prosopography’ has its downside. The careers and lives of his six key figures overlapped, so there is some repetition of material.
There are some notable omissions from Macklin’s list of would-be führers. Although Anthony Ludovici, a great admirer of Nietzsche, was overtly anti-democratic, he considered fascism plebian and contemptible so he is omitted. So, too, is Roger Pearson, founder of the Northern League, a pan-Aryan Nordicist group, because he never led a political movement. Tommy Robinson, aka Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, co-founder then leader of the English Defence League, is another notable absentee. According to the author, Robinson is not a racial nationalist since he (Robinson) considers Islam the problem, not immigration or multiculturalism. (Indeed, Robinson claims that he left the BNP because it excluded coloured people from membership). Ditto Britain First and its anti-Muslim leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen. For Macklin, Fascism has to involve racial nationalism. Some readers, however, may prefer a more capacious definition. Note also that Robinson, Golding and Fransen are definitely downmarket compared to Macklin’s big six. They all went to public schools, with the exception of John Tyndall, who attended Beckenham and Penge Grammar School. All, apart from Nick Griffin, served in the armed forces.
Germany calling – Arnold Leese and his disciple Colin Jordan
Arnold Leese, leader of the numerically small Imperial Fascist League, founded in 1928, exerted a lasting influence on fascist thought. The IFL’s journal The Fascist initially pledged allegiance to Italian Fascism. In 1933, however, Leese replaced the fasces with the swastika on the masthead as he became increasingly receptive to Nazi racial policy but disillusioned with Il Duce. The British Union of Fascists undertook a similar transition from ‘Italophilia’ to ‘Naziphilia’. Note that Mosley’s anti-Semitism notwithstanding, Leese viewed the founder and leader of the BUF as an opportunist and insinuated that he was Jewish. Unlike Leese, Mosley, like Mussolini, was not an ideological anti-Semite but secret Nazi funding of the BUF necessitated compliance with Nazi ideology.
Leese regarded Nazi anthropologist Hans F K Günther’s The Racial Elements of Europe (1927) as an authoritative tome. Its author espoused a form of racial internationalism which put race above nation. ‘The terms ‘nation’ and ‘race’ [he averred] must be kept apart’. Günther advocated pan-Aryan racial brotherhood, including close ties between Britain and Germany. The percentage of Aryan stock in any population was pivotal. Britain and Scandinavia still retained a high Nordic quotient, in his judgement. But the Jews and coloured races posed a threat to the European peoples. Complete segregation of the Jews and laws to prevent miscegenation (racial hygiene) were consequently essential, notions which Leese and his protégé Colin Jordan enthusiastically embraced. Leese’s recurring nightmare was the replacement of the Aryan race by a ‘khaki skinned mob’. He accused Jews of ritual murder and in 1935 advocated their extermination in lethal chambers. Like his mentor Leese, Jordan espoused a pan-Aryan, trans-national version of fascism. Billeted with a German family in Cologne in 1937, aged fourteen, he later recalled ‘…that euphoria that was general in the population over there…’ He once described himself as ‘an Arnold Leese disciple for life’. In a seminal article entitled ‘National Socialism. A Philosophical Appraisal’ (1966) Jordan argued that the nation state was subordinate to ‘a nationalism of the whole race’.
AK Chesterton, mentor of John Tyndall
Macklin emphasises the heterodox nature of British fascist thought. For AK Chesterton, contra Leese and Jordan, nation took precedence over racial internationalism. He was dismissive of Nordicism, Hitler worship and the more egregious forms of holocaust denial. Having fought in two World Wars, Chesterton was reportedly shocked when William Joyce sided with Germany against England. During World War Two, he successfully sued both the Daily Worker and Jewish Chronicle when they questioned his patriotism. Needless to say, Chesterton, for Leese, was insufficiently anti-Semitic.
In October 1954, Chesterton founded the League of Empire Loyalists. He regarded the British Empire as a bastion against both Communism and American Finance Capitalism. De-colonisation, in his estimation, was driven by ‘Jewish supra-national finance…’. Those who supported national liberation struggles were ‘race traitors’ who overlooked the white races’ ‘…unique contribution to the sum of human life on the planet’. Macklin considers ‘conspiratorial anti-Semitism’ Chesterton’s main intellectual legacy. In The New Unhappy Lords (1965), he posited an occult conspiracy, centred on the New York banks, to replace the British Empire with a ‘One World Jewish super-state’. For Chesterton, Oswald Mosley’s post-war conception of ‘Europe-a-Nation’ was anathema. John Tyndall was deeply indebted to Chesterton. Avowedly Anglo-centric, patriotic and an ‘ardent imperialist’, Tyndall sought to make Fascism acceptable in Britain by incorporating references to the nation and empire in fascist iconography. His ‘Six Principles of British nationalism’ (1962) was a ‘Britain First’ variant of Fascism.
Mainstream versus vanguardist (Nazi-Leninist) currents
Tensions between those who favoured legal, non-violent strategies, including participation in local and parliamentary elections and those who espoused violence and illegality is a leitmotiv of Failed Führers. On this issue, Arnold Leese set the benchmark. Fascism was a ‘revolt against democracy’, in his estimation. He lauded the March on Rome and squadristi violence. In Fascism (1925) he envisaged a disciplined party along Italian lines. In 1946, Leese wrote to Jordan, in whom his hopes now reposed, ‘the Jews are our misfortune! Democracy is death! Fascism is the only solution’. Jordan, for one, favoured direct action, including violent intimidation of political opponents. In 1957, he founded the White Defence Force as ‘the nucleus of a para-military force’ or ‘Frei Korps’. Indicatively, he lived for a time in a property in Holland Park once owned by Leese.
In 1960, Jordan helped found the British National Party. Although a former member of the LEL, he now viewed the British Empire as a ‘racial mistake’ that had placed Britain ‘in constant danger of race mixture’. The BNP’s ‘Special Active Service’ Unit, commanded by John Tyndall, formed part of ‘The Spearhead’, an elite cadre. Members wore uniforms and engaged in military training, contrary to the Public Order Act (1936). The National Socialist Movement, founded by Jordan in 1962, likewise, had some of the hallmarks of the NSDAP, notably dictatorial control by its leader. Nazi salutes were mandatory as was violent intimidation of opponents. Both Jordan and Tyndall received prison sentences when bomb making material was found at the NSM headquarters. Jordan’s groupuscule allegedly carried out arson attacks on synagogues.
The electoral dilemma
AK Chesterton, the first chairman of the National Front, founded in 1966, envisaged the NF as a political contender, given growing public concern about mass immigration raised by Enoch Powell in his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech (20 April 1968). But the mindless violence of certain members posed a problem. Chesterton admired Jordan but disdained his proclivity for violence, amply displayed during the Notting Hill race riots of 1958. Jordan, accordingly, was excluded from membership (as for a time was Tyndall, because of a firearms offence).
The NF, chaired twice by Tyndall in the 1970’s, never achieved a breakthrough electorally and it imploded after the 1979 General Election, an unmitigated disaster for the NF. Note also that Tyndall was never fully committed to conventional, electoral politics because enamoured of marches and demonstrations that project power and win control of the streets.
The 1979 election results confirmed Jordan’s opinion that participation in electoral politics merely reinforced the status quo and compromised the ideological purity of British Fascism. For the ‘neo-Nazi godfather’, the way forward, according to his article ‘Which Way Now?’, was what Macklin aptly calls ‘Nazi Leninism’. A revolutionary, paramilitary vanguard or ‘spearhead’, should be organised in a secret cellular structure to undertake armed struggle against the state. ‘Party Time has Ended’, Jordan pithily concluded in 1986. Terrorism and propaganda by the deed were now the order of the day. Jordan’s refusal to compromise and his conception of a revolutionary vanguard were central to his abiding legacy, according to Macklin. His contention of the ultimate futility of pursuing an electoral strategy was subsequently confirmed by the vertiginous rise and fall of the BNP, under Nick Griffin’s leadership.
The BNP under Tyndall then Griffin
In the wake of the 1979 General Election meltdown, John Tyndall reverted to a vanguardist strategy. In 1982, he founded the BNP, which under his watch had little time for participation in elections or for building a mass political organisation. Veneration of Nazi Germany remained de rigueur and a paramilitary leader guard, Combat 18, modelled on the SS, was instituted. Sentenced in 1986 to two years in prison for inciting racial hatred, Tyndall wrote his equivalent of Mein Kampf, entitled The Eleventh Hour; a Call for British Rebirth (1988).
In his bewildering and erratic ideological journey prior to 1999, first within the NF from 1975, then in the BNP from February 1997, Nick Griffin, at various times, endorsed Apartheid, Cornelieu Codreanu’s Iron Guard, Distributism, the Gramscian conception of Cultural Hegemony, Environmentalism, a campaign to dissuade people from voting, White Power rock music, Ethno-Nationalism, Black Separatism, Gaddafi’s Green Book, Holocaust Denial and Ulster Loyalism.
In contra distinction to Tyndall, whom he depicted as a reactionary, Griffin ostensibly offered a Strasserite, anti-capitalist version of Fascism. Indicatively, he supported the 1984 Miner’s Strike and a strong state sector. In 1999, Griffin replaced Tyndall as leader of the BNP, having presented himself in a leadership election as a moderniser. The author believes that Griffin’s newfound support for electoral engagement and for a strategy of grass roots populist politics was opportunistic, that at heart he still favoured a ‘99% genetically white country’. But he now realised that compulsory repatriation was a non-starter. The BNP’s racial nationalist ideology must be obfuscated by the adoption of a semantic strategy – FSID. i.e. repeated reference to the nebulous terms ‘freedom’, ‘security’, ‘identity’ and ‘democracy’. Like the French Front National, the BNP could thereby appeal to the widest possible constituency.
Under Nick Griffin’s leadership the BNP, albeit briefly, became electorally successful. But ‘what goes around comes around’. As his excruciating appearance on BBC’s Question Time made clear, Griffin could not live down his neo-Nazi past. He now apparently believes, like Colin Jordan, that politics is pointless. And that Russia is the ‘national redoubt’, the ‘last bastion of the White race’.
Professor Macklin has worked tirelessly on this subject. We commend him for his labours.
It is historically, ideologically and politically inaccurate to lump Mosley in with his post-war opponents like Jordan, Tyndall, Chesterton and Fountaine, the first two described as “pygmies posturing in the clothes of dead giants” and the last-mentioned as an idiot who “addressed the workers with a swastika on his bowler hat”. Incidentally, Macklin’s book on Mosley is a travesty with its selective (mis)quotation and mistakes.