August 30, 2011

Book Review: Hate by Matthew Collins

Hate is the captivating and witty autobiography of reformed fascist turned Searchlight mole Matthew Collins.

Collins was a full-time activist and administrator for the National Front for several years at the turn of the 1990s and his experience spans the disintegration of the NF and the rise of the British National Party. It is an engrossing chronicle of confrontation between the left and right and examines Collins’ relationship with prominent fascists including Ian Anderson, Richard Edmonds, Eddie Whicker, Tony Lecomber and Combat 18 leader Charlie Sargent.

The book – crude, brutal and savagely funny – charts Collins’ involvement with the National Front in his late teens through to his work as an informant with the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. Collins was the principle source of Andy Bell’s World In Action documentary and was forced into hiding for 10 years in Australia before returning to the UK to work full-time as an anti-fascist campaigner.

Although Collins was never a fascist leader and his flirtation with the far right was relatively brief, he does provide a fascinating insight into the tactics and psychology of British Nazism. The right’s ability to mobilise coalitions of thugs – including violent fascists, barbaric football hooligans and brutish Loyalists – is truly chilling, but Collins also demonstrates the inherent contradictions and weakness of the movement.

The awkward alliance of various groups and factions is saturated with egotism and paranoia whilst deluded ideological warhorses – such as Anderson and Edmonds – rely on the muscle and numbers provided by football hooligans to further their political ends. Hooligan firms might echo the racist bile of the NF and the BNP, but they’re not interested in building a ‘movement’ or selling papers, they just want a ruck with some Reds. Collins’ terrifying description of a number of violent encounters with the left helps illustrate this implicit conflict.

Another highlight is the fascinating story of Mr X – a former Trotskyite turned Sun journalist who becomes increasingly cosy with leading British Nazis and violent Ulster Loyalists – which illustrates the incestuous relationships between the far right of the Conservative Party and the fascist movement. Until the emergence of some embarrassing photographs, Mr X plays an increasingly pivotal role in the National Front as he offers them access to the political establishment and writes for a number of NF publications.

Unlike similar accounts – such as Ray Hill’s The Other Face of Terror – there is no epiphany or eureka moment which converts Collins to fighting fascism. Rather it is a gradual disillusionment with the increasingly well-organised and escalating violence. This gradualism mirrors Collins’ first interaction with the National Front and his hesitant and wary engagement of Searchlight.

Although the primary focus is on the National Front, as a historical document charting the rise of the BNP – detailing its violent, Nazi and anti-parliamentary origins – the book is truly significant. Much of what Collins says is hardly revelatory, but it is an important resource to demonstrate the true colours of the BNP when many of its supporters – and even members – are ignorant of the reality.

Hate does not provide a blueprint for fighting fascism, but it does show how the far right attracts working-class people damaged by the system and encourages them to express their anger at other members of society. It shows how fascists exploit some of the most vulnerable people in society – young working-class men with limited prospects – and gives them a sense of belonging, worth and comradeship. The most important lesson of Collins’ book is that as long as the mainstream political establishment continues to restrict employment opportunities and housing prospects for the inner-city youth, the far right will continue to be a frightening menace. As a first-hand account of this menace – and for anyone concerned about the rise of the far right and the emergence of the EDL – this is a must read.

Click here to buy Hate from Hope Not Hate with all proceeds going to Searchlight or you can buy it from The Guardian Bookshop

Thanks to Eyes on Power

EDIT - I'm sorry that we cannot publish the various guesses that people have sent through regarding the ID of Mr X. Legally it's a bit dodgy, well a lot dodgy really.


Tony said...

Did the EDL plant than bomb in the kebab shop in Leicester? It's a murder enquiry, and if the culprits turn out to be EDL terrorists, let's hope the cops arrest Yaxley Lennon on conspiracy to commit terrorist murder charges.

Anonymous said...

Really liked this book.

(I got it on Amazon for £9.50)

Some quite extraordinary revelations and a great writing style (if not a ittle rude)

Anonymous said...

Alan Lake is still communicating with top EDLers.

Chucked out of the EDL my fuckin' arse.

It's just a ruse!