The roots of the British National Party (BNP) lie in the splinters of the National Front (NF), the main fascist organisation of the late 1970s.
A mass movement led by the Anti Nazi League (ANL) rose up to confront the NF. By the early 1980s the fascist presence in Britain had been smashed into warring fragments.
John Tyndall, a lifelong Nazi activist who once declared “Mein Kampf [Hitler’s political testament] is my bible”, launched the BNP in 1982 out of the merger of several of these groups.
The party had little success throughout the 1980s, but hit the headlines in September 1993 when Derek Beackon was elected as the BNP’s first councillor in a by-election on the Isle of Dogs in east London.
Throughout this period the BNP was based in headquarters in Welling, south east London. The area soon found itself at the centre of a wave of racist attacks and murders – most notably that of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death by racists in April 1993.
The ANL was relaunched and helped organise protests against the BNP.
A 60,000 strong anti-fascist demonstration converged on the BNP’s Welling headquarters in October 1993, and Beackon himself was defeated at the 1994 council elections.
Throughout this time the BNP was relatively open about being a fascist organisation. In 1990 the European parliament’s committee on racism and xenophobia described the organisation as an “openly Nazi party”.
Tyndall himself declared, “Many who feel that Hitler was right do not believe it is safe yet to state such views openly – but times will change.”
Nick Griffin, who ousted Tyndall as BNP leader in 1999, was convicted of incitement to racial hatred in 1998 for publishing The Rune, an antisemitic magazine.
During his trial Griffin stuck by his claims that the Nazi Holocaust had not taken place. “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades,” he said in court.
“I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie, and latter day witch-hysteria.”
But once Griffin had won leadership of the BNP he was forced to take the party on a different course after Beackon’s defeat.
Seeking to emulate the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National in France, Griffin tried to hide the BNP’s fascist nature in order to appear respectable.
This meant playing down the party’s overt racism and shifting the direction of its bile towards more “fashionable” targets such as Muslims, multiculturalism and migrant workers.
It also meant a shift away from marching in the streets and open racist thuggery towards concentrating on winning elections.
Despite these cosmetic changes, the party remains committed to fascism. In 2002 leading BNP member Mark Collett – one of Griffin’s key lieutenants – was secretly filmed stating his admiration for Hitler.
“I’d never say this on camera, [but] the Jews have been thrown out of every country including England,” he said. “It’s not just persecution – there’s no smoke without fire.”
And Griffin himself has spent his entire life on the fascist right, ever since attending NF meetings as a teenager in the 1970s.
However much he tries to lie or dissemble about the BNP’s true aims, it remains a Nazi organisation dedicated to creating an “all white Britain”.