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HATE: my life in the British far right

OurKingdom publishes an extract from the true story of one man's journey out of British fascism, and the price he had to pay. A kind of real-life "This Is England", portraying right wing violence and intolerance in 1980s Britain.
Matthew Collins
11 August 2011

OurKingdom publishes an extract from the true story of one man's journey out of British fascism, and the price he had to pay. A kind of real-life "This Is England", portraying right wing violence and intolerance in 1980s Britain.

The BNP office was packed. Forty men had been shipped up to Welling in the back of a removal van and a series of cars. They stood in the shop in an orderly fashion while Lecomber arranged for transport to the library for others. In the dark kitchen where he also showered, Edmonds smoothed his bald head and washed up some mugs. There was a lingering sense of anticipation in the air. Testosterone as thick as smoke and hushed, whispering voices made the atmosphere almost unbearable. We nodded greetings to each other as we were all acquainted from other activities, or from the Sunday paper sales and punch-ups down Brick Lane.

Eventually it was decided we would all go in the removal van and Blackham and I joined the others waiting expectantly in the back. Nothing was said in the three minutes it took to get there and it was not until we decamped at the back of the library that I suddenly realised there were no posters, placards or leaflets. Nazis and libraries do not mix. If they’re not burning the contents, they’re throwing the occupants out of windows: it wasn’t going to be protest, it was going to be a hit! My balls tightened with anticipation. There was a great deal of excitement as there was a tube strike on that day which meant that few AFA stewards would have travelled across town to protect the meeting. Blackham licked his lips (not at my balls) and I looked around at the other people in the van. Men, older than me, with crude hatred on their faces and breaths, were waiting patiently to act out as much ordered violence as they could in the time allotted to us.

"Straight in and out," said one to no one in particular and there were quiet grunts of agreement. Lecomber called me out of the van.

We knocked on the library door and waited. Hiding around the side of the library, the rest waited silently. A cleaner came to the door and looked puzzled.

"There’s a meeting on. You can’t come in," he said.

"Yes we can, it’s a public meeting. Anybody can come in," I said back.

With that he opened the door and everybody walked up the stairs behind Lecomber and me. We passed Greenwich Labour councillor Geoff Dixon looking absolutely startled. I shouted "Public meeting" at him and he tried to block our way. Before he could speak, Lecomber punched him and, as he lay across our path, stamped on his body. The cleaner got the same treatment and has never worked again. The room was packed with women, most of them Asian, concerned about having to bring up children in such close proximity to renowned ‘Paki bashers’.

They were sitting in rows in a tiny meeting room, even by Croydon NF standards. I pulled the door open and looked at them, a little bit startled. Suddenly, a voice from behind, unmistakably that of Richard Edmonds, boomed "British National Party", as if it was a police raid, or the clearing of the Warsaw ghettos. The meeting stood up as in piled the BNP team. Blackham and I and Lecomber were the only ones actually to strike men that night. No sooner had Edmonds shouted than a man stood directly in front of me so I hit him square on the jaw. It hardly knocked him over, but before he could respond, Blackham gave him a haymaker and the rest piled in.

Tables were turned over and chairs thrown with very little physical opposition to warrant it. The members of the meeting cowered against the back wall as the BNP marched towards them, picking up chairs and tossing them at the group. A fat little bald man called Daddy waved a motorcycle helmet and hammer at them menacingly, then the BNP laid into them. They could have simply broken up the meeting by intimidation but they wanted to hurt them physically, which they did.

I thought I was having a psychedelic moment because the room was spinning but everything was actually being turned upside down, one man after the other laying into a small group of women, hitting them with chairs and hurling tables at them. There just weren’t enough people at the meeting to attack, so the windows were put through with chairs. It was a bloody massacre. People were lying on the floor helpless, being stamped on, kicked and hit with objects picked off the walls and floor. A pregnant woman was locked in the toilet and the BNP were trying to kick their way in to get at her and her unborn baby. Blackham and I left after minutes, although it felt like hours to us. The sounds of hate-fuelled aggression and shocked, bewildered terror followed us out like a sickening cocktail. We passed a man on the street, in distress and covered in blood, waiting for the police to turn up. Two policemen were with him, but neither was willing to venture into the library. As we left the scene we heard a huge crash of glass, it turned out later that someone had thrown themselves through a window to escape.

It had taken only a few minutes to leave seventeen people needing hospital treatment; mainly women, mostly Asian, most definitely beaten. It was hardly a revenge for Stalingrad but it went into the party paper as ‘Reds Routed’ anyway. At a BNP branch meeting, I was given a special mention as a colleague from the NF who had helped. I was so embarrassed I nearly dived through the windows to escape too.

I decided to throw myself firmly into the NF again. It was far preferable to stand over ‘Troops Out!’ pickets than to face jail for assaulting women and children. At the meeting, I grabbed a copy of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight to read as Edmonds was asking for donations for some of the ‘heroes’ who had been arrested at the library. I was a fucking coward to have done such a thing. I began to realise that this was what race wars were about, the innocent attacked and their dignity destroyed. If my mother had known, she would have disowned me on the spot.

HATE, My Life in the British Far Right,
by Matthew Collins with a foreword by Billy Bragg, is available through Biteback Publishing and Hope Not Hate, price £13.50.

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