Thought anti-fascism was all about bearded sociology lecturers waving ‘Never Again’ banners? Not in London’s East End in the mid-to-late 1970s when the National Front’s London election results put them in position of 4th largest political party, with a street presence – translated into racial attacks – to match the votes.
The now uber-trendy streets of Hoxton were then the stomping ground of a home-grown Ubermensch and every week they’d flow with the blood of violent confrontations between the fascists and their foes.
This is the setting for a book, “Anti-Fascist” by Martin Lux.
Already denounced by the anti-racist establishment as “Making the Antis seem more violent than the Nazis” it reads like a football hooligan novel, albeit without the Stone Island clobber and anything approaching Queensbury Rules
Taking Hitler’s 1933 proclamation that;
“Only one thing could have broken our movement – if our enemies had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed the nucleus of our movement with extreme brutality”, as a call to arms, the ‘anti-fascist struggle’ on London’s streets in the seventies saw more Blood than Honour.
Searching out Martin in one of his Bethnal Green drinking dens I put a few questions to him about these glory days:
So how did you get into fighting the NF? You don’t exactly seem like your average ANL type.
Yeah, you could say that. I grew up in the post war slums, got kicked out of school when I was 14 for stabbing a teacher, drunken paddy dosser for a dad who’d kick my head in if I ever went home. I pretty much grew up on the streets in a world of gangs, violence and thieving. Even at that time I couldn’t see anything ‘Great’ about this Britain the NF were saying would become our ‘Land of Hope & Glory’ if only we kicked out all the blacks and Jews. All the blacks and Jews I grew up with had it even worse than I did! I’d always enjoyed extreme violence but, unlike many of my mates I had no interest in football, so I thought if I’m going to have some fun cracking heads there’d be none more deserving than those Nazi cunts.
In the early 70s Conservative politician, Enoch Powell, was the voice of the working man and ‘nigger-hating’ was the common currency. You had the dockers coming out in strike in support of him after his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech – which was basically a call to race war! If you were poor, white and working class back then the NF exploited your fears that things were heading that way, making out life would be better if Britain turned into some cross between Apartheid South Africa and the Third Reich. And a lot of fuckin’ mugs fell for it.
A lot of the book is based around Hoxton and the East End of London. It sounds like another world back then the way you describe it…?
It fuckin was! The Dark Ages! People now wouldn’t believe that not much over 30 years ago if you were black you were taking a risk walking from one end of Old Street to the other. It was White Man’s land and the locals wanted it keep it that way! You had the NF headquarters – or Hitler’s Bunker as we called it, just round the corner on Great Eastern Street, where some trendy bar is now, and anyone who walked by who they didn’t like the look of would get a kicking. You’d get national Front ‘Black Muggers Out’ marches along Bethnal Green Road that’d end up in a mini-Nuremberg Rally in Hoxton Square! You see footage on the news of UDA rallies in the Shankhill, Belfast? That’s what Hoxton was like sometimes back then – only a Nazi version!
What are the most violent incidents you remember of your battles with the Front in the seventies?
Lewisham was probably the largest and most ferocious battle there has ever been against the Front. We even attacked the police station to try to get at the NF who were hiding in there and that was the first time Riot Shields were ever used to try and fend off the barrage of bricks we were pelting the place with. Other than that one instance that I’ll never forget was when me and a few of my mob were doing the door at a Crass gig at the Conway Hall in 1979. The NF were in the habit of turning up at their shows to kick off and we’d been asked by the organiser to ‘keep an eye on things’. Right enough, a load of Nazis from the Front, plus the BM ‘Leader Guard’ – their biggest, hardest heavies turned up. Although we were probably outnumbered 3 to one, we were all tooled up with bottles, hammers, axes, crow bars and basically we bottled them, stabbed them and smashed their heads to a fuckin pulp. A lot of them were hospitalized and we even stormed the hospital to finish them off but there was too many old bill. There was lots of shit in the papers about it afterwards, even Crass saying they had been sickened by what they’d seen but fuck that – It put a serious fuckin dent not only in the heads of the Nazis but their activities over the next few years. They thought they were the hardest mob on the streets but we showed them they weren’t.
So what would you say is the difference between the Nazis; the NF & BNP now to how it was then? What changed it all?
Basically when the Tories got into power they did so by adopting many of the policies – anti-immigration, unions etc, that had made the NF so popular before so that really took the wind out of their sails a bit. To all intents and purposes the Tories offered the same policies, only without the shaven heads, brown-shirts and street-fights. The NF had always been about the streets, their presence on the streets , spreading their propaganda and fighting with their opponents. Times were much harder then and a lot of the NF were very hard, violent people. You just have to look at the head of the Hoxton NF back then, Derrick Day, a fuckin gorilla with a face covered with razor cuts. He’s the cunt you see climbing out of his window to have a go at the news reporters at the beginning of that ‘Filth & The Fury’ Sex Pistols film. Very different to Nick Griffin and the sort of university educated types the extreme right like to put up as parliamentary candidates now. The BNP have made some progress by ditching the jack-boots and putting on suits but their politics – and the politics of all Nazis – are still the same at the end of the day and that’s a day that would end in gas chambers if they ever got into power.
INTERVIEW BY CHRIS LOW (originally for Vice)
I first met Martin Lux when he lived in Islington with a shaggy dog and a room full of deadly bees shortly after the Earths’ crust cooled. Ian Slaughter (of Pigs For Slaughter magazine) introduced us to each other. Never before or since have I seen so many books on political history (communist, fascist, anarchist and just plain daft) gathered together under the same roof. A brief conversation with him revealed that he had probably read all of them, too – a refreshing discovery. He is that rarity in society: an educated working class man who, even more than that, was prepared to support his scathing verbal critique of capitalism with direct, physical action.
Through him I met Fabian Thompsett and Dave Couch (which led to me being employed, under false pretences, at Little @ Printers – false pretences because I am to printing what country and western music is to gay liberation) and, more importantly, Ian Bone and the whole Class War brigade. I encountered an intelligent commentary on the evil of capitalism rather than the trite slogans doled out by the loony left. Martin was always thoroughly uncompromising in his dealings with others. He was not (ahem) popular with many of the other trendy middle class anarchists in the scene at the time – but they rarely ever bothered to try to argue with him because invariably they lost. If they tried to hit him with a quote from some obscure political text to support some stupid statement they’d made, he’d retaliate with a devastating indictment of the author and then crush them with quotes of his own – but then much of his authority derived from the fact that he tended to do what others only talked about.
To be honest, I don’t believe he ever had much time for me – his belief seemed to be that people in silly punk groups who sing about political revolution should lay down their guitars, go out onto the streets and do something more constructive about it if they genuinely care that much. This is a valid point and it is one I won’t even attempt to refute. When a socialist tells you he fought fascism, what he usually means is that he posted numerous leaflets through the doors of his local council estate (although being a socialist he probably never lived on a council estate himself) and attended a few meetings of the Social Workers Party. Martin and his mates genuinely fought fascism – literally – and frequently dished out some of the medicine the British Movement and National Front thugs had previously inflicted on people like us.
The critics and moaning Myrtles called him a thug and a bully boy (but never to his face). The Crassifist pacifist brigade (those who had ever heard of him) regarded people like him (along with Ian Bone, Class War and ourselves) as offensive – which we should all regard as a high compliment indeed. His book Anti Fascist is a document of his personal combat against the rising tide of neo-nazi politics prevalent in Britain toward the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. If I wanted to criticise I could say that the real enemy (the multinational corporations and the government) deserve more attention than the Bring Back Mosley Brigade – but would I have said that if I was an Asian teenager who lived in Aldgate in 1985 and had my flat fire-bombed by the local fascist thugs?
I recommend this book without qualification. There is no self glorification here, no mock heroics and no puerile preaching – no fuss, no mess, just pure impact.
ANDY MARTIN (THE APOSTLES / UNIT)
(Kill Your Pet Puppy is a great blog that sprouted out of an 80s peace punk zine. One of the few blogs I check religiously!)