No Retreat: Interview with Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey

spikemagazine.com

[This article appears online at http://www.spikemagazine.com/1104noretreat.php%5D

November 2004

Street Fighting Men

Ben Granger talks to Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey, authors of “No Retreat”, a punchy account of their days fighting neo-Nazis in North-West England.

Back in the late 70s Manchester was a stronghold of Britain’s premier far-right party, the National Front. As factories and communities went down they went up, recruiting at pubs and football matches, bolstered by a backdrop of fear, poverty, ignorance and desperation. They strutted through the town’s grey streets by day, cudgelling random blacks and gays in dark alleys at night. Kicking around and insulting lefty paper sellers was another hobby. That was until a few young working-class activists, centred initially round the Socialist Workers Party and the Anti-Nazi League, decided to fight back.
“The Squads” -as they became known- eschewed the standard British lefty tactics. They didn’t depend on banners, slogans and face-painting. Men who could handle themselves, they responded to the NF in kind; with boots and fists. “The fash” weren’t used to people fighting back and before long it was they who were on the defensive.

As the NF dissolved into the more openly Nazi British Movement and other warring factions, Anti-Fascist Action grew from the ashes of the Squads, shunned and denounced by the middle-class leadership of the SWP, they still booted the Nazis out of central Manchester and took the fight further out, to the further reaches of the north-west and the country beyond.

No Retreat is a memoir from two veterans of these struggles. While overlapping strongly, the first half is Squad member Tilzey’s story from the late 70s to mid 80s, detailing the collapse of the NF and the rise and fall of the psychopathic British Movement. AFA founder member Hann takes over from the 80s to the late 90s, recounting the fight against the new British National Party and their partners in thuggery Combat 18. It describes the movement’s very real successes, but also tells of the setbacks and the infighting endemic to groups of the left.

To say it doesn’t shy from the violent side of the struggle is an understatement. Fastpaced accounts of kickings and hammerings dominate the narrative. Dave jokes at one point that AFA considered seeking sponsorship from Lucozade for the use they made of their old style glass bottles “an ideal hand to hand or throwing weapon, and the police can’t arrest you for it as long as its still got som drink left in it.” Liberals and pacifists won’t be perusing this over their chiantis.

There’s a lot of knockabout humour too. At one point during a battle in London, Steve McFadden (Eastenders’ Phil Mitchell) is caught up in the scene; at another Dave and the AFA boys receive notice of a large gathering of Nazi boneheads in Manchester that turns out to be a scene for Robbie Coltrane’s “Cracker”.

It’s a lively, irreverent, thrills but no-frills account which at times reads like one of the numerous soccer-hoolie memoirs proliferating in the “True Crime” section at book-stores (and indeed its publisher Milo purveys many such books themselves). But amidst all the scrapping and joking is the constant and powerful message that fascism thrives when the workingclass is ignored and betrayed. The authors argue this betrayal has come not only from all the major parties, but from the middle-class leadership of far-left groups too, pursuing students with single issue politics rather than working people.

I met up with Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey for drinks on Deansgate in Manchester. The chain pub we meet in is corporate, with cosmetic concessions to local surroundings. By contrast, these two are the real deal. Older and broader now, they’re still imposing enough to intimidate the frailer sections of the master race. Steve is garrulous, warm, humorous and infectiously friendly, a quick-tongued and foul-mouthed Manc through and through. Dave is more soft-spoken and considered and wry, with a cosmopolitan accent reflecting his changes in location despite a longstanding base in Manchester. Both have retired from their street fighting roles, Steve works in local government, Dave is a plasterer. But their deep-seated resolve against the forces of fascism still burns bright.

What made you decide to release this book when you did?

ST: There were lots of people who did a lot of work for anti-fascism back in the previous decades, and their contributions haven’t been properly documented before. There was a fear they would be lost to history. Our book is a way of keeping the story alive.

You both got involved in far-left activist politics as very young working-class men in the 70’s and 80’s. Why is that less common these days, and why are groups like the SWP now largely middle-class?

ST: Basically, people like we were are less easy to control. Students are less bother, they do as they’re told.

DH: Getting out into work-places, where it counts, is a lot harder to do. It’s a lot easier to stick on campuses and bang on about single-issues. It just doesn’t achieve much. The most frequent response to your activities on the left and in the mainstream is that it’s “counterproductive” and that “you’re as bad as them”.

ST: Obviously, we get that all the time. It may seem simplistic to say that these are some seriously evil bastards and we’re the good guys…What I always say to these people is “what would you have done in the second world war”? That was a war against Nazis, and so was this. And it worked.

The book provides ammunition for your critics in detailing how you fought alongside questionable allies on the streets at times. Criminals with Irish backgrounds, Celtic football hooligans, Moss Side hard-men. And weren’t some people up for a fight with whoever?

ST: A lot of people you work with you won’t be in agreement with. I’ve stood next to many people in my time against the fascists. I’ve looked around and thought; these may not be people I’ve got much in common with, but we’ve all got one enemy. Anti-fascism is a broad church, and if people want to fight them it’s not up to us to turn them away because we disagree with them on certain issues.

DH: You’ve got to ask yourself, where do political activists come from? They don’t come fully formed into your ranks. Some people may just join in for an afternoon’s fighting sure, but its then you can try to persuade them. You should engage people like that, not ignore them.

It worked in ways other left-wing groups didn’t. We’ve had ex-NF members who’ve joined. We’ve had lots of football hooligans. Some of them just started out from the standpoint that they didn’t like way the NF and the BNP were bullying people around on the terraces. Then, when they talked to us, some got thinking about things in a more socialist-orientated way.

If someone got on to the coach with us with a copy of the News Of The World we’d welcome him. Other left groups would just be horrified and turn their noses up. We’d welcome him, and tell him why his paper was full of shit later. People are bombarded with right-wing propaganda throughout their lives. If someone’s got baggage, that’s fine, we weren’t gonna turn them away.

How do you feel that because of the violent nature of the book it’s often placed in the “true crime” section of bookshops?

ST: I’ve heard its been placed in the comedy sections at times myself. [laughs] I know people have labelled this book another soccer book. The book talks about violence but it details how it was. It wasn’t pleasant at times, we were scared, of being arrested, of being kicked in. But at the end of the day, when these people are in your town, you’ve got to take action. You’ve got an obligation.

The Squads and AFA weren’t just about generals running round, we were all equal with different qualities, good fighters, good communicators, spotters, good drivers even, they all had a part to play. When people say “its like a football book” I can understand that, but I think it comes over that it wasn’t the same, this wasn’t just a load of blokes saying “what a good row” after a punch up. If me and Dave had wanted to just be football hooligans then we would. It would have been a lot easier. And we didn’t.

DH: At then end of the day, we wanted people to read this book. AFA campaigned, we worked in communities, we did talks in schools, we did mass leafleting. We could have concentrated on all that and no-one would have read it. I challenge anybody to write a book like that and have it widely distributed. Yes there was a lot of violence, and yes the book talks about that. But you can walk down Manchester today with a banner of Lenin and no-one will touch you. That’s a result.

The ultimate vindication of the AFA strategy seems to be that very thing. Even now, with the BNP in a huge resurgence, there are seemingly no go areas for them: most of Manchester (as opposed to Greater Manchester), South Yorkshire, even a lot of East London. Prime, poor areas for BNP recruitment but they don’t seem to try it now. And these were the areas where AFA was most active…

DH: Absolutely. Where we were strongest they are weakest now. Basically, we took out a generation. These are people who thrive on ruling the streets, inspiring youngsters to look up to them. We took the role-models out for kids like that. Even today in Manchester, with the BNP riding high nationally, you don’t see them Manchester, yo don’t see paper sellers, you don’t see stickers. Not even graffiti.

But you certainly can’t be complacent even here. I’ve often likened fighting fascism to nailing jelly to the ceiling.

ST: So speaks a true dodgy plasterer..

DH: Yes, they always take the piss..But the point is you can never stop. And neither will they. There’s a line of argument that says fascism will always be there as long as capitalism is. It’s probably true. But do you wait for capitalism to dissolve when there’s a gang attacking an Asian shop? You have to do something at the time and that’s what we did.

As you detail in the book, there’s your own strongholds you’ve secured, but there’s other places like Burnley where you fought them off but now they’ve taken hold. As you said, you kicked them out, but there’s a vacuum in isolated working-class places like that which no-one filled and they came back. Would a change in the Labour government change things?

ST: No way.

DH: Not one iota. We were saying back in the 70’s Labour had lost it, lost touch with working people. How much worse is it now? They’ve got their heads completely up their arses and there’s no way back. They’re trying to copy the situation of the Republicans and the Democrats in the US.

Except now Labour are closer to the Republicans!

DH: Well, yeah….[laughs]

So do you see anyone as voicing a true working-class alternative?

DH: Well there are a few, there’s anarchist groups emerging which seem to have the right idea…

ST: People say, why would you hang around a bunch of revolutionary groups when it just ain’t gonna fucking happen? To be honest I go along a lot more with that view now. Let’s face it, the state is the biggest gang in town. It’s got the biggest mob. If it wanted to it could wipe out the left just like that like in Chile. I can’t really see the point in things like the SWP any more. You could say that’s me getting old, that’s me in the comfort zone now, with me season ticket for OT (Old Trafford). But you do still need to campaign on individual issues. There’s nothing to be gained from the SWP, there’s gonna be no great change…watch this fucker disagree with me…

DH: I do think society can change more but I agree you’ve got to campaign on people’s lives. If you can go to a housing estate and get the lifts working in a tower block, people remember who you are. Campaign on these issues, get things done, and when the fascists walk down your street they listen. Sometimes we were so busy fighting the fascists we didn’t spend too much time offering alternatives. You’ve got to do both. Take people’s hearts and minds away from them and offer them an alternative.

Over the last twenty to thirty years the left has moved further and further away from the working-class. If this doesn’t change it’s a historic mistake we’re going to live to regret. The book details the more subtle, undercover work that you did in particular Steve, at first for the Squads and later for [anti-fascist magazine] Searchlight. This included spying, secret photography, bugging meetings. You come over as being particularly enthusiastic about this line of work.

ST: Yes well it goes back to when I was young that, I’d always fancied myself as a bit of a James Bond.[laughs].No I’ve always liked codes, things like that.

In particular when I got involved with Searchlight I met people who really new their stuff with surveillance. As well as bugging meetings we did the bins of a lot of leading people on the far-right, John Tyndall, Martin Webster, Lady Birdwood. Some of that stuff made it into the book, some didn’t. I’ve still got a lot of shit on these people that’s not yet been made public.

What did you make of the recent BBC undercover documentary on the BNP?

ST: I thought it was well-done, it was a good mainstream documentary. Of course, it told us nothing we didn’t know about these people ourselves. We’ve bugged BNP meetings where the stuff they were saying puts that right in the shade.

One thing that comes over very strong in the book is that you’re Reds in both senses of the word. By your account Manchester United was always heavily anti-fascist in character, yet Manchester City was far more of a hotbed of NF support. Why is that?

ST: There really is no clear answer to that. Historically there was the old United-Catholic
City-Protestant thing, and I think there’s an element of that.

And yet City actually have more black fans than United too…

ST: I know; it’s weird. I do think a lot of it is just down to coincidence and can’t be explained. Groups of lads coming from certain areas, hanging around together, supporting the same team. Some just supported the same politics too, including far-right politics.

It’s not clear cut at all. I’ve certainly heard a fair amount of racist shite at United over the years, we just always managed to isolate them. We helped do that through fanzines we wrote for a while. It was honest, 90% football and 10% politics but it worked. At the same time, City has had its anti-Nazis who’ve given us support.

One more thing is that City has always been a big England supporting team and United hasn’t, once again because of Irish ancestry.

How do you feel about the whole issue of supporting the national team, and indeed patriotism in general?

ST: I want England to win. I’ve got Irish roots but I don’t do the plastic paddy thing like others. I was born in England, I want them to win, I’ll watch the football and I’ll cheer if they score.

Do you see the current popularity of the flag of St George as a good thing?

ST: Look at [Bolton boxer] Amir Khan. He seems to be really into it as are loads of other normal people at the moment and I think that’s good and positive.

DH: Anything that reclaims it from these morons is a good thing.

Do you think the blanket-rejection of all patriotism by much of the left has led to its lack of popularity amongst the working-class?

ST: Definitely. Just being anti-British is pointless and negative. Because of the BNP and NF fucking around with it I admit to thinking twice whenever I see the Union Flag or the Flag of St George, but I shouldn’t have to. The Irish get together, have a great time, celebrate their team –

DH: Yes but they don’t have a history of oppressing other people so its not quite the same.

ST: I know. It might sound naïve but I still think you can reclaim that. This country has got a lot of real proud history, Its union movement, the Tolpuddle martyrs, the fight for democracy. It ‘s not just about kings, queens and the empire. We shouldn’t let the rightwing hijack it.

It must be sickening to see the BNP’s current electoral success…

ST: It’s extremely scary the gains they’re making. They’re capitalising on Islam and the Iraq war. It’s ringing a lot of fucking bells in your Burnleys, your Blackburns. We’ve got difficult times ahead. The worse it gets in Iraq and the middle-east, they worse it’ll get here. Fair play to the anti-war movement, they need to be out there making the point this isn’t an issue the enemy should be winning on.

DH: The thing is, we kicked them out of certain zones, and we largely scared them off the streets altogether. But now they’re trying to follow Le Pen in going for full-on electoral respectability and doing well. The fact that they don’t have a such a big street presence has put anti-fascism into a state of flux.

ST: Except they still are on the streets. Not at day but at night, they’re going into pubs, stirring up trouble. They’re just not out on marches behind rows of police any more, and it makes it harder to deal with them.

[BNP Leader] Nick Griffin is modelling himself on Le Pen, in having a respectable electoral platform, but also in the sense of having a hardcore of activists still there ready to intimidate the enemy. The core of the BNP hasn’t changed at all. Combat 18 are often portrayed in the media as deadly organised Nazi terrorists, yet in your accounts of fighting them Dave you describe them as the exactly the same gangs of misfits and football hooligans you fought
under the different banners of the NF and BNP. Were they really no more of a threat?

DH: Well for a start the British Movement would have eaten them alive. They had a lot more capability to cause serious damage.

Yes C18 had dangerous psychos but they were also full of wind. They took credit for things they didn’t do.

But did they not send you a letter bomb at one point?

DH: The one really serious move C18 made was getting Scandinavian allies to send bombs to the AFA office, and to Sharon Davies for having a black husband. In general they attacked more right-wingers than left-wingers. C18 was a trap, a state-run set up.

Really?

DH: Charlie Sargent, one of the leaders, was in the pay of the state. He talked up a lot, attracting the most dangerous elements, but then just ended up attacking and killing Nazi rivals.

ST: Charlie’s inside for killing [C18 rival] Chris Castle. Now his brother Steve Sargent and Will Browning’s lot are at each other’s throats. To say C18 didn’t achieve much is an understatement, which makes you think doesn’t it? MI5 were interested in the links between British Nazis and Loyalist terrorists, who muck around a lot together. So C18 was set up by MI5 as a honey-trap for Loyalists that got out of hand. There’s a lot of mistrust and subterfuge amongst both the far-right and
their opposition. Steve, you’ve worked with Searchlight, but AFA members have denounced Searchlight for working with MI5 themselves.

ST: With these sorts of politics, there’s a lot of intrigue. I’ve said how I enjoyed doing the bins more than smacking heads together, but if we’re doing that, don’t think the state isn’t doing it, for fuck’s sake.

There has been a relationship between Searchlight and the secret services yes. At times people’s lives have been saved in foiling bombs, so I think it’s a pay-off that’s sometimes been justified. At times maybe it got too cosy, and I can understand why people see that. Some ex-AFA have asked Dave how he could even work with me on this book, y’know, as I’m “tainted” by the magazine…

DH: If you think Searchlight is a state-run organisation, fair enough, gather your own intelligence. I don’t have any truck with Searchlight myself. I think it’s been involved in underhand things. But I would say grow up and don’t blame it for everything that ever goes wrong. They are what they are, we are what we are, let’s just all do what we do.

What final message would you like this book to have?

DH: What’s been nice to see is as sales have fallen in this country, its started to sell elsewhere, all over the place, in France, the Czech republic, the US, Germany.

ST: We’re not setting ourselves up as the authorities on anti-fascism. We’re far from “the experts”. All we’ve done is been honest and tell it how it is. I was a bit neurotic about
when this came out, but after my kid being born its actually the proudest thing I’ve ever done. You know what… the best thing is there’s the sons of friends; young kids, and they read it and it gives them inspiration. They say it’s got energy to it.

DH: I know a Celtic fan who works on a building site, and he told me this book gave him the confidence to stand up to the racist dick-heads he works with. He said he reads a little
bit each day and that gives him a bit of fight to stand up for himself against them. Other people did this for longer than we did, and did more than we did. I welcome other books about the subject. I’d like everyone to tell their own stories and keep these things alive. There’s even talk of a film being made of it, which may or may not happen.

ST: Yeah there’s rumblings, a Ken Loach style thing. Phil Mitchell would obviously play Dave-

DH: Yeah and the guy who plays Curly Watts can be you Steve!

[For the record there are slight echoes, though Dave is slimmer than Mr MacFadden and Steve’s resemblance to Kevin Kennedy is of the nose only.] Steve, from your recounts of some of your NF opponents in the book you seem to know some of them. And when you were in Strangeways, [Steve and other Squad members received several months’ imprisonment for intimidation of an NF skinhead in what Steve considers was a possible MI5 set up] they put you in a cell with Kev Turner, an north eastern NF organiser. Did these experiences give you a grudging respect for some of them?

ST: When I was banged up with Kev Turner I said to him “I know what you’re in for, you know what I’m in for, and we both know why they’ve put us in together. Are we gonna go down that road?” We co-operated for the duration. He seemed alright for a time, and I thought, “Is he really that bad?” I thought they might be some hope for him. I thought I may get through to him. But basically he was a coward. He was a Geordie in with a bunch of Mancs and just kept his head down. He showed his true colours when he got out before me and sent me a postcard from Auschwitz. “Having a great time Steve!” He was a snake; not a pleasant feller.

As for the others, yeah, I know some of them, we’ve spoken. One of the people I mention in the book has done a complete sea-change now and hands out anti-racist leaflets. But people like Kev won’t change.

DH: A lot of fascists and Nazis are in it just for the row. Nine times out of ten these people will crack. I think you could convince 90% of fascists of the error of their ways, if you had enough time. Some, the hardcore, I don’t think you could ever change them short of killing them. Which by the way is a route we’ve never gone down. We value our liberty as much as anyone. Nick Griffin has described this book as a manual for violent action against nationalists. I think he’s shot himself in the foot saying that – Well he’s already shot himself in the eye! [laughter.] [Griffin has indeed got a glass eye due to a self inflicted gunshot wound during far-right survivalist manoeuvres]

ST: I wonder if he did that to follow Le Pen who’s also got one eye.

DH: And of course Hitler only had one ball!

ST: Singles all round lads…I think what Dave means is if we’ve inspired people we’ve done our job.

***
There are many who would still denounce Steve and Dave as a pair of thugs backing it up with political pretensions. That certainly isn’t the impression I went away with. The liberal argument of “don’t sink to their level” completely ignores the very real and appalling violence meted out by the far-right against completely innocent blacks, Asians and gays. If the police are slow to defend them, as has often been the case, taking direct action is not self-indulgent violence but an urgent necessity. To compare Steve and Dave to the vicious bullies they were up against; sadists, firebombers, desecrators of cemeteries, and murderers, seems the worst kind of prissy-minded pacifism.

Meeting Steve and Dave I was struck by their essential decency and normality; regular lads who took the decision to stand up to a great evil in the ways they knew how. At the same time there was something about their inquisitive nature, their background travelling that quite definitely puts them apart from the mass of the defeated and impressionable they have spent much of their lives trying to convert or confront.

As I left them I was invigorated by their spirit of defiance, yet despondent that a newer generation don’t seem to be taking their place with the same zeal. And even if they did, it wouldn’t be enough to shut down the more sophisticated BNP machine of today, a party that took 800,000 votes at the last European elections, dwarfing past totals. It would take a whole shift in the political discourse of the country into both a more leftward AND more working-class oriented direction for the BNP to go away, which ain’t happening anytime soon.

A sickeningly evil presence founded on the very worst political traditions of the twentieth century is growing in this country. No Retreat is a bold account of people who got off their arses and did something about it. Methods may need to change, but the same attitude is needed, now more than ever.

spikemagazine.com

 

Intelligence Gathering: Bugged BNP Meetings

BNP meetings were bugged in order to gain intelligence for Anti-Fascist Action and Searchlight. The buggings have been discussed in No Retreat.

The recordings are not 100% and I am working on subtitles for them. I suggest you wear headphones.

But they provide an interesting glimpse into the lengths anti-fascists would go into and their ingenuity. To extent the buggings were useful in terms of putting the information in use in physical action is not 100% clear.

If you have anything you’d like to add then please comment or fill out the form below.

BNP Meeting (April, 1990)

BNP Meeting (May, 1990)

BNP Meeting (June, 1990)

BNP Meeting at Mother Macs (June, 1990; Manchester)

BNP Meeting at Mother Macs (Oct, 1990; Manchester)

BNP Meeting (2nd Feb, 1992)

Interview with Mark Jones (May, 1990)

Red Pepper Interview with Michael and Gary – Jan 2012

Red Pepper Interview with Michael and Gary – Jan 2012

On its 75th anniversary, much attention was given to the Battle of Cable Street, where Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts were prevented from marching through the predominantly Jewish working class East End of London. But Cable Street itself was the culmination of a wider tradition of direct physical confrontation with fascists both at the time and throughout most of the 20th century. We are happy to praise those who made a stand in the 1930s. But what of those who literally fought the fascists more recently, in the shape of the British Movement, the National Front or the pre-Griffin British National Party? The publication of Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action (Freedom Press) has re-asserted the importance of this disparaged and neglected tradition. Michael Calderbankspoke with Gary and Andy, longstanding members of Red Action who helped to initiate AFA, about their controversial new book.

Michael: Maybe we could begin by talking about the history of physical confrontation with the fascists in Britain?

Andy: Well, if you’re a Jew living in the 1930s or a working class Communist then it’s in your face, you’re dealing with Blackshirts who are on your street corner. It’s something you’ve got to react to and deal with in the here and now. You’ve also got people looking at the wider strategic picture – what was going in Spain was very real, what was going on in Italy and Germany was very real – and people with foresight understood that if you don’t put something in place to prevent that then you’re going to be in trouble yourselves. After the war, when it was totally clear what fascism could lead to, you had the ’43 group which, although it had CP members in its ranks, was largely an apolitical purely paramilitary body who would go round attacking the fascists. They were tough people, physically aggressive who had often served in the armed forces, many from Jewish backgrounds, who had seen a lot in their few years – these are young people – if you’ve been through that and don’t understand it, you’re never going to understand it. So people who have gone through that, seen it in the cinemas, or even in your own family over in Europe – and then you’re just going out and minding your own business, and you see some geezer on a soapbox talkin’ about the same stuff, it’s gotta be obvious to you, yeah?

Gary: There’s an example when a group of Jewish lads went past Mosley’s secretary [Jeffrey Hamm] after the war speaking up at Jack Straw’s Castle [near Hampstead Heath], and they were incredulous. I’m mean, here was the same old Jew-baiting going on after the war as you had before the war – with everything that had gone on! So they gave ’em a good shoeing and found: ‘these fuckers are everywhere!’ I mean, y’know, it’s ridiculous, we’re not havin’ it. There was a huge strain of anti-Semitism in the British establishment that Mosley hoped to profit from but never did. And so when Jews who had just got back from the war met fascists on the street they weren’t gonna petition the council to get see if they could do something! They were just gonna get on and do it themselves.

Andy: When people’s whole family lines have been wiped out and turned to ashes, what are you gonna do with people like that, try and debate with them in that situation?

Gary: And they wouldn’t wouldn’t debate with you either, that’s the point. If you went up to them and said, ‘excuse me, I’m a member of the Jewish faith and could you…’ [laughs] they’re not gonna argue the point, you’d be hit be a cosh. But, you might not be out looking for any trouble particular, but they’re there. And that situation doesn’t go away, it’s like that later on. You’ve gone to the football or something and you’re standing next to some guy who gets a bottle smashed over his head, a black kid who they’ve chased down, do you stand back and say ‘right we’ll get onto the council to do something!’?

Andy: It’d depend what kind of circles you moved in to. I mean I don’t want to generalise too much, but many of the people involved on the left at the time would have come up through a university background and lived in this sealed kind of world from what I could tell. But I didn’t know, I didn’t come from a political background. Everywhere I went I met these people, they were in your face. And Britain at the time was a violent and anarchic sort of place in some ways. I mean you’d go out round the pubs on a Friday night, have a disagreement, or you’ve gone to the football or a gig or something, and you run in to these geezers with all sorts of badges, handing out leaflets, maybe taking the band off the stage and attacking the band! I’ve seen that happen! It’s not like you’d read in some textbooks about what should or shouldn’t be done, it was an instinctive thing. These people are bullies, they’re not people who can debate with. It’s not alien if you come from that kind of background.

Gary: Yes, and the left has to understand that as soon as they appear, it’s because your own side has been making mistakes. Fascists won’t appear in very small numbers, they’ll wait until it’s right for them. I mean they look at it strategically as well, they’ll take it onto a physical level when they think there’s something for them to gain. So it’s not a matter of waiting until they attack our people – we’ve got an investment in smashing up their meetings, their paper sales and the rest of it. You don’t want to wait until they’re some kind of respectable opposition. If it gets that far, you’ve already lost.

Michael: And at what stage, after the war, had the left started to fail in your view to such an extent that you started to see a fascist threat beginning to make its presence felt on the street?

Gary: Well, most of our people come into it from outside politics, with a completely fresh look, with no political hinterland at all. So there was a lot of cynicism from our side towards the existing organised left from a very early stage. I mean we supportedemotionally and intellectually the basis for the whole left concept, and there was some stuff happening from on the picket lines (which was where I was recruited) and on things like the right-to-work marches, but even in the mid-Seventies it wasn’t clear cut and we certainly weren’t winning. There was a real lack of leadership across the board, not just on the revolutionary left but across the entire labour movement. And at the same time as you had the start of the neoliberal stuff, you’d get the fascists upset at over-reaching in ’79 thinking – let’s not hang about let’s go for it now. The whole Anti Nazi League Mark I was a huge success for the left and beat back the first wave of the National Front electorally. There was incredible resentment about that, and they lose a bit of what discipline they might have had. They could just attack anyone now. So, as Andy was saying, you could retreat into your sealed world. Or you could stay where you were and stand your ground. And they were – the arenas then football, gigs, street sales, their meetings, our meetings and the rest of it…

Andy: They were an extremely violent group of people. So if you’re looking to organise, you’re thinking, what streets can I walk round, what pubs you can go in talk to people, where can I talk about stuff on the football or at a gig? All that’s contested territory. Are these aren’t the kind of people who believe in freedom of speech, and I don’t mean that in a metaphorical way, I mean literally! You’d get a glass smashed in your face. To me it’d become obvious. When their election campaign failed, there was people there who wanted revenge. And so all this territory needed to be fought for.

Michael: Reading the book, as we said in our review, some of the violence described is not exactly for the faint-hearted. And many people reading the book might be thinking, isn’t there a danger of becoming just like them, being brought down to their level? What would you say to those who say, when you end up like two groups of thugs who are as bad as the other, you don’t win the wider public around? Gary: Well, it wasn’t always a pretty business, there’s no denying that, but it’s not a path we’ve just chosen for ourselves. They’re the point of aggression, the tip of the spear. If you approach them you’ve got to be prepared for violence to be done to you. And if you know that in advance, if you’re going to contest the territory you’re duty bound to prepare to do violence to them it’s as simple as that. In terms of complaints, we didn’t get much complaints from the Jewish stallholders when the NF paper sale got scatttered from Chapel Market [Islington], in fact the police couldn’t get a [single] witness to testify. But the pub landlord in King’s Cross, the who was making literally a thousand pound [a week] from opening his pub to bonehead gigs for his mates like Ian Stewart [Donaldson, lead singer of fascist band Skrewdriver] was going to complain when the place – course he was. He wasn’t interested in blacks or homosexuals getting attacked – which they did after the pub closed – he was after making money. He was raking it in! But when AFA marched through Bethnal Green, and into Whitechapel, it was like a siege had been lifted. Little Asian kids running about in the street – that was there
attitude to us!

Michael: Actually, reading the book, it struck me that – judging from the state’s reaction – that’s what they feared most. When it looked like it might have been possible to link up between white working class communities and black or Asian areas…

Gary: …on a political basis, yes. The state was concerned but the left weren’t, what does that tell you? I mean the left wasn’t trying to do what we were doing, not on an organised basis. But the state thought there’s a germ here that might develop. Not good, not from their perspective. So did they say, we’ll just see if we can put someone in and steer it a bit? No! They smashed it straight away, that was their approach. It’s quite a useful little anecdote. ‘You can do that there… up to a point…but you can’t do it here. No way.’

Andy: I think we were conscious that we didn’t want to get trapped in a siege mentality. Us looking after ‘our’ areas, the fash looking after ‘theirs’, the wars, us looking for them, them looking for us, we always wanted to break out of that. When RA [Red Action] helped to form AFA we tried to grow it as wide as possible within reason, and eventually when people tried to take politics back into the community, via the IWCA [Independent Working Class Association], that was our effort, we did what we always wanted to do, to go to working class communities and try to grow a political movement there. I mean we can argue the toss about how successful that was, but that would be a different debate. I’d never say it was entirely successful but I don’t think it was a total failure either. We got some things very right, but you’d have to look at the time and the context, what we’re up against, but that was us trying to put our vision of political organisation in working class communities into effect. And that was always our intention. We never thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could fight an ongoing war with a load of other people’.

Michael: I mean there would be that accusation, that you’d ended up participating in a sub-culture, that you’d have your sales, they’d have theirs, you’d have your bands, they’d have their bands, etc.

Gary: Well, let’s look at the alternative. They have their subculture, you have nothing. They have their sales, you don’t. They have their bands, you’ve got nobody. Then they have the football fans, and you have nobody. And they have the working class estates and you’ve got nobody….

Andy: And the thing is, in Islington with the IWCA, we always knew there’d be people with racist ideas on the estates, of course there are. We’re living in the real world. But the one thing we knew is that we didn’t have to keep looking over our shoulder, we could meet the people from the tenants’ association in the local pub and talk about how to organise against plans to sell off social housing in the borough. So we needed that space to get on with doing what we wanted to do. I’d reject that idea that we got sucked into looking forward to the next confrontation with the fash, that was never our vision. Never. Now, if you’re gonna ask me were there elements drawn to AFA who did get off a bit on the excitement or hanging around on the fringes, possibly. But every movement
gets that. And there weren’t that many if you ask me. Certainly not amongst what I would call the leadership. That was never how we tried to shape the organisation, never how we sold it to people.

Michael: Without going into the various anarchist critiques – and in part for obvious reasons like you need people around you that you totally rely on and won’t leave you in the lurch – it sounds like you had a pretty centralised model going on, with a definite core…

Andy: Actually AFA was very democratic, when compared with say the ANL. On the street if wasn’t – couldn’t be. But as a broader organisation it was very democratic in the way it operated, on political campaign work etc. Similarly with Red Action. We’re a democratic organisation but when it came to the streets it couldn’t be and everyone understood that. We had it opposite to the rest of the left from what we could see. We thought when it came to politics you should be democratic and open, but they couldn’t take that, they had very tight control. But on the streets they’d say [in mocking tone], ‘let’s involve as many people as possible and everyone can come along to an open organising meeting’, and we’d say ‘that’s ludicrous, who do you know is sitting there!’ [laughter]. I’d say they’d got that the wrong way round.

Michael: I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, but the Leninist groups would say ‘you are basically trying to substitute yourselves for the organised working class, setting yourselves up as a small urban guerilla army to be the noble defenders of the class instead of mobilizing those larger sections of society…’

Andy: That’s just projection by them. No-one leafleted more working class council estates in East London than us. We organised all the carnivals [between the end of the ANL Mark I and the relaunched version], it was us that organised an exhibition that we invited schoolkids along to, there was this whole side of organising. Admittedly, that doesn’t perhaps get as much prominence in the book. But there was a large amount of campaigning, and a lot of efforts made to reach out to movers and shakers among the black or Asian youth…

Michael: …at which point the state came in to stop it. Do you think there were intelligence agents operating inside AFA?

Gary: Undoubtedly they’d have tried. The problem was for them the ‘split-screen’ structure. You could say what you want in the organising meeting and try to steer it round. But on the streets it was top-down. They’d latch on but you could shake ’em off.

Michael: So you could spot who they were?

Andy: Sometimes. Who knows? Listen, if they could penetrate the IRA they could penetrate us. But do we think they managed to effectively push us off course? No, no. I
think we done what we wanted when we wanted to do it. We made decisions when we wanted to make them.

Gary: Yes, there’s no evidence of that looking back with hindsight. I mean as you can tell from the book there’s people there with a huge question mark over them. But in terms of the way things got done, no. Being hierarchical like that you couldn’t slot somebody into a middle-manager type of position. But we were also democratic. It was asymmetrical so it worked really well. If it had been asymmetrical the other way around, as Andy said, we wouldn’t have lasted out a weekend.

Andy: We’d have ended up in the same jail together!

Michael: And people did occasionally get jail terms…

Gary: But as the book explains, we’d go out of our way to avoid that at all costs. Out of fidelity to the volunteers if you like. I mean we needed people – we had people who worked full time but they were on the dole, they didn’t get paid. And you’re dealing with a finite number. So you had to maintain morale. And also, even simple convictions could – in time – lead to jail.

Andy: We were mindful, we learnt a lot from Ireland, right, that’s a simple fact. And we learnt that if someone has been left adrift by the leadership having done something and copped time for it, and it seems like no-one gives a [toss] about them, how easy is it for the Old Bill to turn that individual. You’ve got to look after your people, do right by ’em, on the street, in custody…

Gary: There was this one time in Hammersmith with Martin Webster [leading NF activist] and when they fled his arse was still hanging out literally of an open door, and one black kid dragged an NFer out, and he [the NFer] got left behind on his own. Ended up in hospital without even a bunch of grapes! I thought that was terrible PR.

Andy: Never looked after their people. But it’s a dog eat dog world for them.

Gary: They’d stand and fight individually, but they’d never look after each other. For us that was verboten. No-one got put in that position, in as much as you could.

Andy: We even went out of our way to help some people on the left avoid getting caught out by their own stupidity. We were doing surveillance around the time of the ANL relaunch in the East End, and they were gonna go out leafleting, and we knew that there were some well-known faces in the area. And we went down the ANL and said, ‘this is not good right, we’ve seen certain people’, and they said, ‘nah, don’t be stupid’. And people ended up in hospital. We said alright then, nothing we can do here, and got back in the car and [drove] off. And as we’re driving down the road, the ambulances are already passing! And one of the guys who got injured quite badly came over to AFA straight after that.

Gary: The left often only really wanted to get involved when they thought it was in their interests to do so – and often they made a mess of things that had already been achieved.

Andy: Yes, when AFA organised the first major national march against the BNP in the East End – and it was really big, considering we were mainly based in Central London – it came on the radio and this woman came on and said it had been organised by the newly relaunched ANL! Seriously, they’d done all the organising!

Andy: That’s why I never take it really seriously when people moan ‘oh why didn’t AFA work with other people’ and all that. We did, we tried. The amount of time our people went to talk to them and try to get them involved, and say ‘yes, OK, we’ll give you two places on the committee as long as it does’t ease anyone else out’ and make it as broad as possible. And we were relatively successful. At one stage there were anarchists there – the Direct Action Movement – along with dogmatic Trotskyists, people like Workers Power, and they were all co-operating. Things weren’t always smooth. But it went along, and it showed that we were able to show a level of political maturity that’s rare on the left. Were the SWP prepared to come in on the same footing as us? Nah. They couldn’t deal with that. But we had CP people involved, even individuals from the local Labour party.

Gary: Including at the rough end of it! Cos we’d go out in a group of 30 or 40 people and we’d have like 15 stewards there on the ground, while the rest could go up to the flats and do the political work, leafleting and what have you. So not everyone was expected to do the fighting, but there’d be people who wanted to campaign with us and supported what we were doing.

Michael: And were women involved, or was it all blokes? Gary: There were women at every level, every level. But particularly in the intelligence work. They’d go into pubs that fellas hadn’t got the balls to walk into! They’d give you a whole run down of who was in there, what they were up to…

Andy: We tried using a geezer once, and all you got was ‘there’s fuckin’ loads of ’em, but we could have ’em, we could do this and that’. Obviously working class women knew the score, got themselves dolled up – look the part – and engaged them in conversation and found out real stuff you wanted to know: who were the real movers and shakers, what were relations like between the fash and landlord and bar staff; how are the locals treating them, will the hangers on bolt, that sort of thing. Women would get that information, because they’d have far less of an ego. And that’s why in West Germany when the police were fighting the Red Army Faction they said, ‘shoot the women first’. The women were so effective, because they were colder and more logical and systematic in their thinking.

Gary: If they were ever rumbled – when they walked into a pub in jeans and jacket, maybe a little bit of eye-liner – if the fash did think they were after information, they’d
assume they were police. As long as they could hold their nerve they could get themselves out.

Andy: And horny fash can give up loads of information, rendez-vous points and all sorts to our people! (laughter) That’s a fact. Human nature. But you need to be seriously talented people to do that kind of work – to tell us exactly what we need to know. And they were treated at all times as equals. The left would sometimes say ‘any women involved are all like gangster’s molls’, all this insulting, patronising [rubbish]. The women didn’t feel like that. It was just that the roles were different, a lot of the time their skills were better used elsewhere. But not all the time. Sometimes they were involved on the street, and that’s a fact.

Michael: Clearly the nature of the far right threat has changed a lot since those days, with the changes to the BNP under the leadership of Nick Griffin. In the introduction of the book your talking at a point when the the BNP on are a high, after the European elections. Since then after the General Election it appears that – as an organisation – they don’t seem to be in a position to go much further. So what threat do you see them posing today?

Gary: What you said there was important, ‘as an organisation’ – it doesn’t take away from the support they’ve shown they can establish. I think with the BNP it’s partly that they never had the experience of high political office, didn’t have the opportunity. To begin with they didn’t have the middle class types, they were having to fight for the same survival thing which we drew them into, they were all on the streets even Griffin. They were stuck in waiting rooms on stations on Stockport and all that – they never had the chance to step out of the scenario. Next thing, they’re MEPs, they’ve dozens of councillors. Where have they done the planning for that? They’re used to planning Blood and Honour gigs in backrooms of pubs in Deptford. Suddenly they’re elevated. Not equipped – first thing. Second thing – they’ve felt the long arm of the state, no question. Inside, everywhere, every which way – diced and sliced – and at at the same time the key component was to decapitate the organisation, which they’ve failed to do, which was a key [state] objective. The BNP might limp along, but the die has been cast, right, in the sense that the radical alternative will come from the far right within the constituencies we’ve identified. The left has not done anything to address that – at all – in thirty years. They’d no appetite do that, less appetite to do it now, even. There’s nothing on the left that could organise it on a national level. They’ve tried it – Socialist Alliance, Scottish Socialist Party, Respect and all that – they’ve nearly all fallen at the first hurdle, some of ’em didn’t even get to the first hurdle! What does it tell you about Respect – talk about enclaves or sub-groups and insulating yourself! That kind of mindset was partly what we were fighting against, that you could retreat from your core constituency and fight somewhere else on identity grounds. We saw it coming. We said in 2001 that the BNP would prove that – in contrast to the left – they did have traction, could mobilise support in white working class communities. And in 2002, boom!
Where would the far right be if they had a free run at it for the last 30 years? Imagine if they never had to fight a war of attrition and could have brought in all the people with the organisational skills, the media skills and all that in? They’ve had none of that, the BNP leadership. They never got the head-space because AFA weren’t going to give it to ’em. But imagine if they had a clear 30-year run like they got in France and a number other European countries where they’ve basically been unchallenged – with a free run, imagine where we’d be? If all the AFA stuff, all that ingenuity and effort, had been applied behind the BNP instead of against them!

Michael: There’s another account of what cut across the rise of the BNP which I’m sure you won’t like at all, namely that Searchlight and their allies in Barking and Dagenham managed to mobilise the existing community groups, trade unions, faith groups etc along with all the residual support that exists for the Labour party in order to unseat every single one of their councillors.

Andy: They had all those resources and completed a full circle – you had the state, so-called anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, religious groups and what have you – to reinstate the status quo. The status quo is back. Labour rules. Why did people vote BNP in the first place?

Gary: And also the BNP vote went up didn’t it? That’s the future you’re looking at. Not that they’ve been unseated for now because Labour’s woken up. Take the Isle of Dogs. We saw the portents were obvious a long way out. The ANL knocked out [Derek] Beacon…

Andy: …and they were actually popping champagne corks that night, the ANL. His vote went up!

Gary: That was the future – we could see it then; they [the BNP] could see it then. Like Barking and Dagenham it was just a technical knock out.

Andy: I mean Margaret Hodge, what does she stand for?! She’s fine now. Everything’s sorted. She’s back in power, they’ve got all their councillors in – nothing to worry about. Thank you very much. So people have joined ‘respectable’ anti-fascism, the church, the local Labour party, the state, the police, the trade unions, using all the wealth, the resources, the intelligence to take back that seat that was needed. Now, I don’t want the BNP to win in Barking and Dagenham or anywhere else. But don’t let anyone try to kid themselves that that’s any kind of victory for what I would call working class politics. Cos it ain’t.

Gary: If it was the IWCA or the Socialist Party or something like it that had stopped the BNP in Barking and Dagenham that would be a different matter. Really something to celebrate, right? Not to bring it back to where it was originally.

Update 17

I haven’t done an update since October. So here is a round up of what’s changed since!

Three new academic articles have been uploaded

1. Contesting the ‘authentic’ community: Far-right spatial strategy and everyday responses in an era of crisis (Ince, 2011)

This article discusses AFA and the IWCA’s strategy in displacing and replacing the far-right as the radical alternative.

The idea that voting alone will eliminate far-right and fascist politics is fundamentally flawed. Politics takes place in the hearts and minds of people; in their streets, communities and homes. The struggle against the far right is in part a struggle over the spatial articulation of and claims to authenticity in differing understandings of working class values. Authenticity, I argue, is primarily a politico discursive tool to which competing politics lay claim, perching on the ill-defined border between reality and artifice.

2. The Politics and Culture of FC St. Pauli: from leftism, through antiestablishment, to commercialization (Petra Daniel & Christos Kassimeris, 2013)

Transforming football stadia to political arenas is an old phenomenon, particularly, when clubs boasting a glorious past are involved. FC St. Pauli has certainly been instrumental to developments in its immediate environment though not so much for its success on the pitch, as for the socio-political views that its fans have been projecting ever since the mid-1980s. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to contextualize the same fan (and club) ideological background that has attracted worldwide attention in the light of the game’s contemporary transformation.

3. ‘The birthplace of Italian communism’: political identity and action amongst livorno fans (Doidge, 2013)

Since the 1980s, there has been a shift to the right on the curve of Italian stadiums. Livorno stands apart as one of the few Italian clubs to maintain a resolute Communist identity. They draw on a variety of Communist images and this helps define their actions. Through political protest, charity and matchday choreographies, Livorno fans reflect and resist specific aspects of football in a globalized world.

New Posts

Visit the La Zineteca: Punk and Ska Fanzine Library, issues of Leeds United anti-fascist fanzines are now available here, The Big Issue revealed evidence of police infiltration of AFA, read what Class War had to say on Red Action and the IWCA and visit the fantastic anti-fascist resource blog called Lewisham ’77.

I have also posted two Red Action articles: Time to Dump Multi-Culturalism and Red Action on Multiculturalism.

Liverpool based Cairde na hEireann have published a report on anti-Irish racism in 2012. I found a great article on Celtic Fans Against Fascism  read it here and, lastly, I found an interesting article on Red Action and it’s support of the militant Irish Republican movement.

New Book

In the time since the last update an invaluable new resource for those wishing to learn about militant anti-fascism has been published. Largely an oral account, Physical Resistance by Dave Hann is now available. My thoughts on the book are also viewable here.

Your Archivist

Lastly, since October we have received 35,000 more views taking the archives total page views to 85,000; from New Zealand to Mozambique to Chile to Kazakhstan to Ireland and Canada.

The Archive has also received generous donations and with these funds I am looking to move to a much better, custom website in the near future.

Yours,

The Archivist.

Physical Resistance: Thoughts and Reply to Renton

Part 1

Unfortunately I am thousands of miles from my copies of Beating the Fascists, No Retreat and Anti-Fascism in Britain which I think would be extremely useful in a full and detailed review of Physical Resistance. I am having to make do with my computerised notes of Beating the Fascists, sadly I chose only to word process my notes after reading No Retreat and Anti-Fascism in Britain. Following reading Dave Renton’s review of Physical Resistance I decided to write down a few of my thoughts of the book and his review. My focus will be on the latter chapters as this is the period where I have mostly researched. I welcome any response and correction.

Physical Resistance: A Hundred Years of Anti-Fascism has given those interested in the study of in militant anti-fascism a wealth of important and interesting events which have laid undiscovered, exciting long oral accounts of former activists and a number of questions to attempt to answer. These long oral and written accounts are woven with Hann’s narrative. Sadly Dave Hann died before he could finish his work but his long term partner, who also writes the introduction, has stepped in and finished the book well with the circumstance. However, as Renton points out there are points in the book which are under-analysed and leave the reader asking for more detail.

Firstly, Renton’s review; I believe it contained a number of factual errors. One such error is the statement of Hann being in the Red Action leadership, my research and interview with former Red Action members (and subsequent communication) did not give Hann as a national figure in Red Action but he was key to Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action organising in Manchester. Renton, disingenuously, says that Beating the Fascists finishes when it reaches the Battle of Waterloo in 1992. In fact, BtF continues for a further 100 pages which includes, amongst other events: the 1993 Welling demonstration, the conflict with Combat 18, the BNP declaration of “no more meetings, no more marches, no more punch ups”, ‘Operation Zero Tolerance’ and the development of the Independent Working Class Association.  Furthermore, Renton comments that AFA decayed following the Battle of Waterloo, however, issue 3 of Fighting Talk (June 1992), the Journal of AFA, lists 22 branches by issue 12 (November 1995) the number of branches peaked at 38 until it began to fall.

Renton also says that Hann is a “little self-serving” due to almost all interviews being with militant anti-fascists. Perhaps the subtitle “A Hundred of Militant Anti-Fascism” would have been more apt, but, I think Renton does Hann a disservice. As Renton points out Hann gives kudos to the ANL and other non-militant successes and, even, gives the UAF laurels for the BNPs 2010 local election defeat.  I think Renton’s short dismissal of BtF and AFA in this review opens him up to the charge of self-servicing his anti-squaddism.

Turning to the book itself, as I earlier commented I thought the book is under-analytical in places. One such area is the collapse of the National Front following the 1979 general election. A conclusion to whether Hann thought the ANL or Thatcher’s hard talk against immigration was the primary or most important cause for the NF’s demise is not offered. Another section where I was hoping for more evidence, detail and conclusion was the 1988 Red Action split; Renton also says most early Red Action members left. Further information and explanation would have been interesting; perhaps Red Action’s archives will shed some light onto this period. Similarly, the AFA split between Red Action and the anarchist elements is light on details and analysis.

One question I asked during my undergraduate dissertation research was on the divisions between AFA members, particularly women. One of Hann’s interviewees provides a glimpse of a division; that between “hit men” and “foot soldiers”. During my research I was convinced that a division between organisers and fighters didn’t exist, the organisers were also got their hands dirty. The division between the “hit men” and “foot soldiers” also, allegedly, manifested socially as well as tactically. Who were the “hit men”? Red Action members or simply the best fighters.

Regarding women, two of Hann’s female interviewees’ tales tell of a gender role divide of duties in AFA which seems to correlate to my results. That’s not to say the duties of ‘spotting’ or checking out a pub for fascists was looked upon as less brave in fact my results showed my interviewees thought these acts required much more courage than the fighting. Although, more investigation into this by Hann would have proved interesting I think, particularly when AFA and militant anti-fascism is often charged with chauvinism and machismo.

An interviewee also speaks about AFA’s support for the IRA. Although Red Action’s strong support for the IRA is openly known and AFA stewarded republican marches against loyalist and fascist attacks, AFA was supposed to be a single issue campaign. For this interviewee the extent of the IRA support was uncomfortable. To what extent AFA as an organisation supported the IRA is not dealt with in depth and it does raise an interesting point as to what people’s experiences of IRA support were within AFA.

Hann also gives an insight into the continuation of militant anti-fascism post-AFA. He accounts both No Platform and Antifa, and, I think, it gives the impression that Hann supported the continuation of a violent street strategy and a rejection of the IWCA’s approach of following the BNP off the streets and into the electoral arena. But his position doesn’t seem clear. Any comparison between the post-AFA movements and AFA is also lacking.

To more general points: I’m surprised no Red Action literature appears in the bibliography, I think it’s a shame footnotes weren’t used in the book, as they are so useful to students of anti-fascism, also, there are few details on AFA in Scotland which is a shame. Lastly, there are a few errors in the writing such as Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Association is listed as Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Action and the Kindle version is littered with hyphenated words in the middle of the page which I found annoying.

To conclude, the book is a valuable read for all those interested in the Communist Party’s role in anti-fascism, the British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, opposition to the British Union of Fascists and the later history of militant anti-fascism. An excellent and unmissable source for students and those interested in British militant anti-fascism.