HATE – my life in the British Far Right
In the late 80s and early 90s Matthew Collins was a young unreconstructed fascist with a liking for violence. Here he describes what led him to turning against his former friends and, despite the dangers, exposing their activities and becoming an anti-fascist. Collins now works for Hope Not Hate.
1. Why did you write this book?
I had wanted to write it after I ‘ran away’ from England in the 90s. I wanted to explain my actions but I realised I did not know enough about myself, or what I had done. I also think it was necessary given what’s happening in society today and hope it can be used to help direct young people away from joining far right groups.
2. Why do white working class lads join groups like the National Front or BNP?
Because it would appear to many such lads that nobody speaks for or to them. This is the main problem with the lack of class politics in this country. I used to be the exception but now sadly, I don’t think it is such an exceptional thing to do. Obviously there is racism and there is also still an enormous political vacuum in communities where progressive politics just do not have currency at the moment. For me, it filled a gap in my life for a while.
3. Why is much of the book taken up with describing violent incidents?
Because that is what it was like! There was a street war, especially in London, in the late 80s between the left and the extreme right that went largely unnoticed by civil society. But it was bloody and violent. The far right lost that battle, but there is a lot more in the book [I hope!] than just violent confrontations.
4. What made you decide to quit the far right?
To a large extent I grew up, looked around at the miserable and dangerous men around me and thought ‘fuck this.’ Racism and fascism do not address poverty and only create divisions and violence. I felt the fascists had lied to me and that to a large degree they were only actually interested in destroying this country. They really do not care for the people they tried to recruit. I’m a patriot now, but that is not because of my colour or religion. How dare the BNP etc, etc try to deny that right to people because they pray differently or do not have the same colour skin as them?
5. You seem to feel it’s hypocritical of far right groups such as the BNP to stand in elections – why?
Because they do not believe in the political process, know they will never obtain power through it and their ideology means they would prevent any future elections if they became the majority party. I think it is therefore hypocritical of them to try and legitimise themselves by abusing the democratic process.
6. Why did you move to Australia for over ten years?
Knowing I was disillusioned with the far right I was persuaded to work undercover for the magazine Searchlight [better known now as Hope Not Hate] for three years, passing them information. After a World in Action TV expose of the group Combat 18 in 1993 the police warned me that I was suspected of being a ‘mole’ and my life was in danger. I only intended being away for a year but life was good out there and I stayed for over a decade.
7. Why did one former National Front colleague accuse you of ‘ruining it?’
The truth hurts. Telling it ruined everything for them and to some degree that person, at least, was only articulating what most members felt but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, admit.
8. Why are you concerned that the issues of identity and religion appear now to be more important than class?
Because I don’t believe the issues of class and poverty have been resolved. Why do we have to focus on religion – which can point to noticeable differences in communities – and not class? This is ostensibly a secular country of many cultures and languages and it works better when we focus on our commonality. Tony Blair is to blame for the focus on faith and not community. He though he was God himself, in fact.