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How Ukip and their friends are re-writing history

UKIP roundelIf you’ve picked up a newspaper or turned on the radio in the past week, you might have heard about Martyn Heale. He’s Ukip’s branch chairman and election agent in South Thanet – the constituency where one Nigel Farage hopes to be elected an MP next May. He’s also, you’ll probably have heard, a former National Front activist. As nice a little story as this is, it’s not news – it’s been public knowledge for some time. What might concern you more, and what none of the recent reports seem to have noticed, is that as recently as October, he was still defending the violent racist organisation.

This was revealed by James Meek in an epic report on “Farageland” in the London Review of Books. Meek met Heale and asked him about his past in the NF. “In view of Ukip’s insistence that it isn’t a racist party, I thought Heale might be defensive, or embarrassed, about being a member of the NF in 1978,” Meek writes. “To my surprise, he came to its defence.” Heale was clear enough: “There’s been an attempt by many people to associate the National Front with the far right. But that’s not fair, that’s not true. It was a bit of a social club. Initially the National Front was just a group of retired people and soldiers.”

Heale is hardly the first hard-right activist seeking respectability while trying to brush off a shady past. When we journalists bring up the youthful fascism of men who now wear suits or tweed, we’re told to get a life. People can change: lots of people do silly things when they’re young. And perhaps they’re right. Anti-fascist groups such as Hope not Hate have members who were once fascists and saw the light. Usually, however, they make no bones about it: they readily admit they were in nasty organisations and hung out with thugs. But look to the modern far-right and there’s a worrying new trend: to pretend the wrongs of such violent fascists were always exaggerated.

Martyn Heale now says he “regrets what I did” in joining the NF. He said something similar over a year ago shortly before he successfully stood to be a Kent County Councillor – but in between these statements he apparently felt otherwise. My guess is that he hasn’t changed his mind twice – I’d say he simply reacted differently in the context of a disarming interview, as opposed to that of a prepared press strategy. But when I was researching a follow-up article for the Morning Star, I found Heale wasn’t the only Ukip member trying to re-write the history of the National Front. A party spokesman insisted Heale had been misquoted. But he then went on to say that in the 1970s, when racial violence peaked in Britain, Heale considered the NF to be “a left-of-centre community-oriented organisation with a national focus”. Oh come on, I thought to myself. Out loud, I asked whether anyone could seriously think the NF was “left-of-centre”. The buffoonish Ukip press officer replied: “National socialism is, er, national socialism.”

How about the man Heale is trying to get elected? Russell Brand won plaudits for branding Ukip leader Nigel Farage a “pound-shop Enoch Powell” – this was apparently a killer blow. But though Farage was probably mortified by the suggestion you’d find him at the 99p Store on the Seven Sisters Road, he was probably less bothered by the association with Powell. Only in January, the Ukip leader said that the “basic principle” of Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech was right.

Look across the channel, and it’s even worse. When Marine Le Pen found herself facing prosecution a few years ago, her crime was widely reported as “comparing Muslim immigration to the Nazi occupation of France” – as if to suggest Le Pen has reversed her father’s position of Vichy apologism. What she actually said was rather different: “For those who like to talk about World War II, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory,” she said. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same and it weighs on people.”

“For once”? Rather than comparing street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France, Le Pen was actually belittling the importance of the Nazi occupation. She readily derides those who “rather like to speak of the Second World War” – as if they’re pesky trouble makers playing the Nazi card.

Like Heale, Le Pen recognizes that a new generation of voters has little experience of real-life jackboots. History can be easily re-written to allege that the far-right were always the real victims, and that the horrors we may have heard were cooked up by hysterical Marxist teachers. This would have been surprising a few years back – then it was all about re-branding one’s own image. The BNP appropriated Churchill; every other racist was calling everyone else racist. But now they can re-brand real life instead.

Journalists slow on the uptake might think Le Pen would still use the Nazis as a barometer for all things bad. Looking at stories with a critical eye would help – rather than regurgitating the line from other papers and news agencies, more and more the grim reality as newspapers cut staff. Perhaps they would notice that Le Pen’s actual words, and Heale’s for that matter, reveal something far more sinister.


  1. swatantra says:

    Not surprising this **** defending NF, his leader. Nigel Farage knows full well that Britain’s facists have found a home in his UKIP Party.

  2. Barry Ewart says:

    Read a good piece in the latest New Left Review arguing the EC was originally set up to counter the then threat of the Soviet Union, to promote capitalism throughout Europe, and to be fair to the founders also to try to give Europe an independent voice against the global dominance of the US. In fact it is argued De Gaule of France was originally against Britain joining the EC as he felt it would act as a Tojan Horse for the US which subsequently happened. And of course the dollar soon became dominant and hence the desire from some for the Euro. What some people forget is that with 500m citizens the EC now covers a larger population than that of the US which the likes of UKIP would cut us off from. Of course capitalism knows which side its bread is buttered on and will support the EC despite a few millionaire adventures opposing it, after all the EC offers new countries for capitalist accumulation. But as democratic socialists I would argue we should campaign to reform the EC and to amend EC treaties to kick Neo-Liberalism out and build the Social Chapter. The EC has always been a top-down institution and perhaps from our progressive perspective we should try to build a bottom up working people’s EC from below.

  3. James Martin says:

    There is a real laziness in these sort of journalistic/middle class aghast efforts to drag up long-past membership of groups like the NF – and a real problem too. I suspect that Heale was a NF supporter at around the same time as Ricky Tomlinson was. And of course Ricky has always been very open about his former racist/fascist past (and the fact that it was long conversations and arguments in prison with Workers Revolutionary Party member and fellow Shrewsbury picket Des Warren who got him to see the error of his ways).

    But does that mean that the Morning Star will now start running articles attacking Ricky for his past, or that the UAF will picket his public appearances? I doubt it, as we all recognise that it is not relevant to what his politics and activities are now.

    So yes, by all means attack Heale and Co for their current nasty politics, but don’t make the mistake of trying (wrongly) to make out by implication that UKIP is a nest of fascism (as the SWP dominated UAF does), because by such actions we reduce our effectiveness when it comes to combating real and actual fascism as and when it arises.

    1. It sounds to me like you haven’t read the article properly, James. I make this very point (quoted below for ease of reference). The story worth reporting is not that Heale was once a member of the National Front – it is that Heale *still* defends the National Front, or at least when he lets his guard down. Which, as you rightly point out, Ricky Tomlinson does not.

      “When we journalists bring up the youthful fascism of men who now wear suits or tweed, we’re told to get a life. People can change: lots of people do silly things when they’re young. And perhaps they’re right. Anti-fascist groups such as Hope not Hate have members who were once fascists and saw the light. Usually, however, they make no bones about it: they readily admit they were in nasty organisations and hung out with thugs. But look to the modern far-right and there’s a worrying new trend: to pretend the wrongs of such violent fascists were always exaggerated.”

      1. John reid says:

        In all fairness thers lots of people who have completely,different views then, than now and defend them, Peter Hitchen still felt it was right he use to go and throe things and heckle Enoch Powell, or defend Union militantism,

        Look at Melanie philips, Bushell, Liddle, Burchill,littlejohn, janet Daley,all had far left wing when younger

  4. Ric Euteneuer says:

    That’s a fairly pathetic leap of judgment to list a load of hoary old rightwingers and state their ‘far left’ past. There’s no evidence that either Daley, Littlejohn or Phillips were “far left” – the latter two were mainsteam Labour before drifting rightwards. Liddle, like Burchill was an SWP member for the grand total of 12 months, before working for that well known home of revolutionary socialism, the Labour Party, for 4 years. Oh, this was before he started abusing Muslims, knocking his pregnant girlfriend about, and abandoning his wife on their honeymoon to be with his lover, I’ll concede.

    It couldn’t be that a hoary old Labour rightwinger wants to smear the Labour left with the right, could it?

    1. John reid says:

      Five minutes on rne Internet could have Found out Daley was a leftie, Littlejohn, said he was nearly selected as a Labour candidate for the 83′ election, Philips was a well known communist, as for Burchill not being in a far left organisation, I take it you don’t think the Labour Party was far left 81-87,

      I’m only 40,by pointing out that some people have had left wing views and now DONT is smearing people in what way, I could have been talking about, my name sake or David a Blunkett, or Steven Byers translation from Stalinist to Blairite fascist, to quote Tony Benn , regarding Liddles comments on muslims,

      He pointed out that the Labour Party on Rotherham council, turned a blind eye to peadophiles who happened to be muslims,abusing white girls through fear of being accused of being racist, or politically incorrect, and that labour knew, they could try to keep the vote, by turning. Blind eye to it, Yasmin Alibah Browns , bigoted comments on Liddle for poring out the truth show the real abuse.
      Dient Liddle say he wants Blair at The Hague for war crimes, he’s still a Labour Party member you know, his second choice for labour leder was Diane Abbott

  5. Tatel says:

    Its not Obama its Its not Obama its the Helicopter Ben this guy as MORE power than Obama and probably the most pwourfel man in the world. And there is slow down in AUS due to CN not buying, & CN is not sending there rubbish to EU+US. However CN have 1.3 billion people and are hard workers, they dont about and get done.And that is what I like People WORKING not JOBS but WORK production WORK. The day when people stop claiming benefits the day the west will be bankrupted and that day is coming.

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