By David Hoggard
Picture the scene. In an opulent palace, two pasty Englishmen wait nervously in a corridor, waiting for an audience which will determine whether or not their journey will have been worth it. One is fleshy and has a glass eye, the other is a thin and extremely boring young man scarcely out of Leicester Polytechnic.
An hour later, Colonel Gaddafi will have brushed them off with a pallet of copies of his Green Book, and Nick Griffin and Derek Holland will dejectedly put advertisements in their party newsletter for cheap copies in a desperate attempt to, as it were, bring the Official National Front out of the red and into the black. The ads for the Green Book will appear alongside a similar advert for subscriptions to the newsletter of the Nation of Islam, and a headline proclaiming to the faithful fascists that ‘Black is Beautiful’. How on earth did we get to this point?
The story starts in two places: Germany and Italy. After the First World War, Germany was a hotbed of nationalist ferment that sparked half a dozen major coup attempts and the formation of a political party that was to become infamous. I speak, of course, of the Old Social Democratic Party of Germany, a Saxon splinter from the SPD which dropped the class struggle rhetoric in favour of nationalism. The party was taken over by Ernst Niekisch, who coined a name for the party’s ideology – a confused form of chauvinism with a leftist gloss which he called National Bolshevism. This vague ideology was taken up by ex-Socialists, ex-Communists and sections of the Russian opposition, and is now the name of a banned party in Russia led by professional edgelord Eduard Limonov.
The Nazi Party was home to a similar tendency, which came to be known as Strasserism after the two brothers who served as its main figureheads. Unlike the Nazbols, the Strasserites remained inside the NSDAP and spread fascism to the working classes by talking about a new system which would overthrow both Communism and Capitalism – a corporate state where the economic decisions would be made by workers, bosses and state planning agencies in co-operation with one another to defuse the tension of the class war that might otherwise break out at any moment. As Hitler was quite friendly with the factory owners and other conservative elements, it will not surprise readers to discover that he made his disapproval of this tendency known in a series of tolerant debates known as the Night of the Long Knives.
Strasserism didn’t disappear in 1934, though. After the War had discredited Hitlerian Nazism, some fascists returned to the more syncretic ideas of the left-fascists, which might attract people from both right and left to a reborn movement. This tendency grew apace in the 1960s, when some fascists noticed the idealistic anger of the young, New Left student protestors of the time and sought to harness some of that energy for their own ends. In the meantime, the surviving Strasser brother, Otto, had become involved in Oswald Mosley’s National Party of Europe, an alliance of post-fascist parties which believed that the problem that Hitler had encountered was that his autarkic state had covered too small an area – only somewhere as diverse as the whole European continent could successfully implement protectionism to that degree.
Let’s move over to Italy. In Italy, the Fascist Party was originally a much more cross-class body than the German Nazis, and Mussolini of course came from a Socialist tradition. To some extent, then, the Fascism that existed in Italy was more corporatist and more syndicalist than that of Germany, and was home to such ideologues as Edmondo Rossoni, who persuaded Mussolini to keep the 8-hour day and build the Fascist trade union to become the largest in the country. Subsequently, of course, all other unions were banned and in practice the state ran the corporatised industries in conjunction with the capitalist bosses, cutting out the third wheel – the workers. This pales into insignificance compared to just about everything else Mussolini ever did, but it is nevertheless important.
In 1943, Mussolini became a German puppet, useful only in delivering the hearts and minds of some Italians to the Axis. One of the ways this was achieved was by reasserting the quasi-Socialist heritage of the Italian Fascists in the Manifesto of Verona. Mussolini insisted that only the war had prevented him from nationalising every business of over 100 employees, and he now declared himself virulently opposed to the monarchy – the monarch having, of course, put him in prison briefly. The Manifesto was a dead letter put out by a doomed state which never had authority over its own territory, but the shift in what fascism was supposed to mean had an influence over later generations of fascists. A young man named Pino Rauti volunteered for the Italian Army shortly after reading the Verona Manifesto.
Unlike in Germany and elsewhere, denazification barely took place in Italy, leaving ex-Fascists free to organise. Many of them ended up in the Italian Social Movement, a neo-fascist party which consistently won about 5% of the vote. The MSI was formed of three main factions: one anti-Communist and pro-American, one anti-Communist and anti-American, and another, which appealed largely to the youth, radical and anti-American. The latter, of which Pino Rauti was the main standard-bearer, was largely sidelined due to the members’ tendency to partake in leftist-style splits and end up imprisoned on terrorism charges, but there was a short-lived MSI-Communist coalition in Sicily in the late 50s.
Rauti’s group took their inspiration not just from the Verona Manifesto, but also the deeply unpleasant occultist and philosopher Julius Evola and the Romanian Iron Guard leader Corneliu Codreanu. Codreanu contributed a strategy in which far-right activists ought to spend every waking moment thinking about politics in order to become a ‘Political Soldier’; Evola supplied a Romantic view of rural life which, at best, turned into environmentalism when exposed to real-life politics. Rauti believed in a leftist fascism which took the fight to Communism by seeking the votes of the Southern Italian underclass and promoting class collaboration through Corporatism; which held to a monetary policy inspired by Silvio Gesell’s Freiwirtschaft, but known by the Italians for some reason as ‘Ezra Pound’s Monetary Tax’; and which had a foreign policy built around uniting Europe as a third pole between the USA and USSR – which also involved standing up for the countries in the Third World which were victimised by both in their search for world domination.
The victim-country which most exercised the Rautians, by sheer coincidence, happened to be Palestine. But the logical extension of this foreign policy shift was that these Fascists reached out to nationalist parties outside of Europe, especially Muslim ones, who were seen as being vehemently dedicated to their cause and religion in a way that the Europeans could learn from. They came to desire a world of ‘separate but equal’ ethno-states. Other races weren’t the only unlikely bedfellows to come from this faction in the MSI: in 1978, they campaigned alongside the Radical Party (which was a left-libertarian party) and Proletarian Democracy (which was exactly what it sounds like) to limit police powers over demonstrations.
This philosophy became known as the Third Position, or the Third Way. It took over the neo-fascist world like wildfire from the late 60s, from the National Democratic Party in Germany to the Troisième Voie party in France, which campaigned on the slogan “Ni Trusts, ni Soviets” and split after a couple of years when half of them joined the Front National. The remainder, Nouvelle Résistance, turned into ecofascists who copied Trotskyist entryist tactics (oppositional groups tend to adopt the same techniques, after all) to infiltrate an ecological campaigning group.
In France, this tradition could be traced back through various ‘Communitarian’ parties back to the Moseleyite-Strasserite National Party of Europe, and before that even to a couple of collaborationist splinters from the Socialists and Communists who had a short heyday during the Vichy regime. The Parti Communautaire Européen, in particular, is interesting in that it operated in both France and Belgium, and its Belgian successor party is a fine exemplar of the ideology: supporting Palestine and Gaddafi, with a membership comprising fascists and gullible ex-Maoists, and with an environmentalist bent. They also take ideas from the ‘ethnopluralist’ philosopher Alain de Benoist, like more modern alt-righters.
But you want to know about the Third Position in Britain. Well, Tony Blair espoused something called the ‘Third Way’, but that was apparently something different entirely. The real story of Left-Fascism (as in, the left wing of Fascism, not Fascism on the objective Left) arguably begins with Mosley’s post-war Europeanism, but more tangibly comes from the Strasserite tendency in the faction-ridden National Front of the 1970s. During one particular spat, the Strasserites sided with the Powellite populists against the outright neo-Nazis, and both factions were thrust out to form the National Party in 1976. This party won two Council seats in Blackburn in ’76, but one was unseated because he had a suspended sentence for driving without insurance, and the National Party lost the seat in the ensuing by-election.
Most Strasserites stayed in the NF or returned after the NP faltered, and were rewarded for their patience when the Front did badly in the 1979 general election and splintered into half a dozen new parties. As luck would have it, the Strasserite Andrew Brons now had the support of a majority of the remaining members, but this rump would slowly diverge over the next few years. On the traditionalist Right there was the Flag Group, and to the left of the Strasserites were the Third Positionists who took control of the Official (or ‘Gay’) National Front.
The Third Position in the National Front only developed by sheer chance, when an Italian Rautian by the name of Roberto Fiore moved to Britain to avoid being arrested for the Bologna bombings. He befriended Nick Griffin and others, and before long Griffin was launching a ‘Smash the Cities’ campaign to bring a tear to Evola’s eye and Derek Holland was giving long, boring lectures about Codreanu to groups of football hooligans who had only joined up to punch black people. So determined were the Official National Front to turn their members into Political Soldiers that they doubled the membership fee and barred membership to anyone who didn’t meet with the approval of the leadership. It was a cult, but unlike most cults, it wasn’t profitable.
The doubling of the membership fee in 1986 finally brought about the split with the Flag Group, but it had been a long time coming. Not only were the Griffin group alienating the traditionalists and the skinheads with talk of obscure foreign philosophers, they were also filling the party newsletter with articles in favour of Islamic fundamentalists and black separatists like Marcus Garvey and Louis Farrakhan. Even the Welsh and Ulster nationalists didn’t escape from friendly front page stories in the National Front News. To top it all off, the ONF even refused to fight elections, supposedly on the grounds that building up Political Soldiers was much more important – although it’s more likely that they didn’t have enough money for deposits. Hence the trip to Libya to beg Colonel Gaddafi for a subsidy. A lot of the limited funding they had was then spent on a deserted Spanish village in which they attempted to set up a commune.
The ONF didn’t last long on this tack – as evidenced by the fact that Nick Griffin eventually became an actual politician. In 1989, the leading figure of the group was Patrick Harrington, who did the unthinkable – twice. He fought the Vauxhall by-election and did exceptionally badly, and then he started a dialogue with another racial-separatist organisation. This would have been par for the course, except he chose to speak to Rabbi Mayer Schiller about a two-state solution. Griffin denounced Harrington as a Zionist and split off to form the International Third Position with Holland and Roberto Fiore. This group, now known as England First, still exists, but Griffin left in 1990 and ended up in the BNP.
Patrick Harrington, meanwhile, dissolved the Official National Front and set up a think-tank called Third Way, which supported distributism, direct democracy and co-operative ownership. This then transmogrified into the National Liberal Party, which stood in the 2014 European elections with a List mostly consisting of ethnic-minority candidates to bring home the ethnopluralist message. The NLP’s leader is currently a Councillor in Havering, elected as a member of a Residents’ Association. Meanwhile, Harrington abandoned Third Way to head up Solidarity, the BNP’s trade union – for which he was expelled from the RMT. He seemed to think of himself as the Rossoni to Griffin’s Mussolini. Another Harringtonite was Troy Southgate, the inventor of an ideology called ‘National-Anarchism’, which I may get around to eventually.
Could the Third Position have become more successful at any point? The evidence is against it being electorally attractive: Pino Rauti took over the Italian Social Movement in 1990 when the previous leader was polling badly. He resigned a year later in favour of his predecessor after doing even worse in the polls. He’d read so much Evola by this time that he admitted the only reason he hadn’t joined the Greens was because of tribal loyalty to the MSI. However, the BNP and parts of the Italian far-right have been influenced by Third Position ideas, the most notable example being CasaPound – named for Ezra Pound.
This is all very minor stuff, though, compared to the debt owed by the current alt-right to their racial-separatist forbears who used economic tension to manipulate working class people toward Fascism. What is a basement-dwelling keyboard warrior if not a Political Soldier?