Angry White People – Coming Face-to-Face with the British Far Right by Hsiao-Hung Pai (Book Review)

Hsiao-Hung Pai: Angry White People
Coming Face-to-Face with the British Far Right
With a Foreword by Benjamin Zephaniah
Zed Books, London 2016
ISBN 978-1-783606-92-4

Angry White People: Coming Face-to-Face with the British Far Right by Hsiao-Hung Pai (Zed Press, 2016) is not quite the overview of contemporary UK fascism that its subtitle suggests. The familiar far-right brands of the British National Party, National Front, and their various offshoots barely figure. Instead, the main focus is on the phenomenon of the English Defence League, which seemed to have exploded out of nowhere in 2009 and over the next few years mobilised anti-Muslim street protests across England. The group still exists today, though it has lost much of its early momentum and some of its founding activists along the way.
Pai’s avowed aim is to try to understand ‘what personal and social circumstances are leading these men and women’ to join a movement ‘based on prejudices and myths’, bringing to the subject the ‘outsider’ perspective of a 1990s migrant from Taiwan who is not distracted by social niceties from asking direct and awkward questions. This includes displays of chutzpah or just plain cheek such as knocking on the door of a house flying an England flag and asking its inhabitant to explain himself and walking into the pub reputed to be the EDL’s favoured drinking hole and requesting to speak to its leader, ‘Tommy Robinson’ – real name Stephen Lennon. As a result she does secure what seem to be some fairly unguarded and revealing conversations with a number of EDL supporters, including a couple with Robinson himself.
The EDL’s carefully curated image of being a non-racist organisation simply opposed to ‘Islamic extremism’ is belied by racist remarks about Muslims in general, informed by an incoherent and paranoid world view that fears some kind of impending Muslim domination of the UK. Robinson tells her: ‘Wherever Islam is, there is a military operation to implement sharia law. This country will be exactly the same. Five per cent of the population is Muslim. When it becomes 20 per cent, that’s when there will be a war’.
Robinson struggles to explain why he feels English and not British, or to reconcile his politics with his part-Irish background. In addition to complaining about Muslims, he complains about immigration more generally and even about Welsh workers getting building work in his home town, while at the same time acknowledging that ‘Everyone in this town is an immigrant’, his family included. Meanwhile, a rank-and-file activist complains about ‘pakis’ while obsessing about his desires for ‘oriental’ women. So far, so stupid, but if the far right could be defeated by exposing their irrationality and logical inconsistency, they would have been vanquished long ago. [Read more →]

Datacide 15 News: Neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground and the State

Neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Underground and the State

NSUtrio

In datacide twelve, we detailed the scandal surrounding the killing spree of the Neo-Nazi terrorist organisation Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground, NSU) and the involvement of the domestic state security agency Verfassungsschutz (VS). This was followed by an update in datacide thirteen. In the meantime, the court case against Beate Zschäpe (the surviving member of the NSU ‘terror trio’) et. al. has continued. Simultaneously, the various parliamentary fact-finding commissions have been at work supposedly to shed light on the backgrounds of the crimes as well as the role the security services may have played in them.

The court case seemingly took a fundamental turn when Zschäpe decided to make a statement after all. Unsurprisingly, her 53-page statement was designed to exculpate herself from the accusations of complicity in the murders and claimed that she hadn’t been a member of the NSU, which conveniently – since they are both dead – only consisted of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos.

This was after she had already had her conditions of detention softened because the NSU supposedly no longer existed. Even though her claims were widely seen as lies, the possibility of a much larger membership of the terrorist organisation is barely being investigated.

In the meantime, parliamentarians in the fact-finding commissions experienced that state attorneys and police were generally not very forthcoming with information, blocking effective investigations of the connections and overlap of the domestic security services and the Neo-Nazi scene. The state agencies remain very economical with the truth. This situation is not helped by the fact that five witnesses have died under suspicious circumstances, the first in 2009, the fifth as recently as February 2016. [Read more →]

NSU Update

In the year since the last issue of datacide came out there has been continued fallout from the scandal surrounding the activities of the National Socialist Underground terror group and the involvement of the state security forces in the extreme right. Well, at least until about May, which is when the court case against Beate Zschäpe finally started after a few weeks delay. One reason for the delay was that the 50 seats for the press had been allocated, and not a single Turkish newspaper was allowed to report from inside the courtroom. Needless to say, there is considerable interest in the case in Turkey, as most of the victims had Turkish roots. Finally, the seats were rearranged and the trial could start.

There are obvously many open questions: Where did the NSU come from, and how was it possible it was not detected for so many years despite the fact that the state security had paid agents very close to the perpetrators of the killing spree?
[Read more →]

Neo-Nazi Terror and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany

Despite the fact that at least 140 people (AIB 89) were killed by Neo-Nazis in Germany since re-unification in 1990, officially there was no such thing as Nazi terrorism in the Federal Republic. Indeed, if one looks at the book “Extremismus in Deutschland” (Extremism in Germany), published by the Ministry of the Interior in 2004, one could conclude that there is no such thing as violence from the extreme right, let alone murder and terrorism.
The yearly report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) for 2010 categorically states that “in Germany no right wing terrorist structures can be detected” (Verfassungsschutzbericht 2010, p.57). The report describes far right violence as “predominantly spontaneous”, and claims it occurs mainly between right and left wing “extremists”.

This view in mainstream politics and media forcibly changed on November 4, 2011, when the dead bodies of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were found in a burning trailer in Eisenach, Thuringia. After a initially successful bank robbery by the suspects, police found their trailer and approached it, and then to avoid arrest, Böhnhardt apparently shot Mundlos, set the trailer on fire and then shot himself in the head. Meanwhile in Zwickau, the third of the terror trio, Beate Zschäpe (who had earlier taken part of the bank heist), was busy burning down their safehouse to destroy evidence. A few days later she gave herself up, and has since refused to make any statements.
The murder weapons used in a series of killings between 2000 and 2007 were found in the burned house along with other weapons.

The three right wing militants formed a cell called National Socialist Underground (NSU), and murdered nine men, who were small business owners (eight of Turkish and one of Greek origin), and one police woman in the course of those years. They were also responsible for a bombing in 2001 that severly wounded one woman, a nailbomb attack that wounded 22 people in Cologne in 2004, and for 14 bank robberies between 1999 and 2011.

The “Döner-killings” as they were called derogatorily in the press were heavily investigated by the police, but they did not follow any leads that suggested that the motives could have been racist and from a far right background. Instead the police assumed that the killers were from the migrant community, which often went along with the racist insinuation that the murdered men were somehow involved with criminal networks. This of course added insult to injury to the families and friends. Similarly in the case of the murdered policewoman, the suspicion was directed onto a “clan” of Roma that had parked near-by. The Bavarian police even opened a döner kebab shop in Nuremberg in the course of their “investigation”, while other police units went to consult two different fortune tellers who “contacted” victims and told the investigators completely bogus stories. So not only were the killings racist, the police operations to solve them were as well! [Read more →]