Indeed, much of Ryan's book details the loose collaborations and cross pollinations that occur on the right. Whether it be Nick Griffin currently of the BNP, formerly of the National Front, meeting up with Col. Ghaddaffi in the years when the Libyan leader was sending supplies to the IRA, or the co-operation between white racists and anti-semitic Islamic groups, it seems to be a fluid and ever changing world: &ldquoWhat my own journeys showed me was not just the divisions, the backbiting and quite literally backstabbing in some cases (such as the murder of a Combat 18 member during my initial journeys in Britain). It's how widely linked such groups are, not just violent groups but also political groups, or Holocaust denier networks, or neo-Confederate groups in America. I actually lived with the BNP's main fundraiser in America, and he in turn introduced me to members of a political campaign, to lobbyists, to Holocaust deniers, to Ku Klux Klan networks and to rabid Christian fundamentalists linked to white power prison gangs. These guys use the Internet (web, email lists, discussion boards), books, conferences, meetings between leaders and so on in order to promote their views. There's even talk of a coalition voting block of anti-immigrant/far-right political parties in the European Parliament”.
If we we were to use immigration as the yardstick, though, it would seem that much of Europe has veered to the far right. From Ireland to Italy, governments across Europe have introduced strict measures to clamp down illegal immigration. It's as if mainstream politics has stolen the far-right's prize issue. &ldquoMainstream parties try to co-opt the policies of extreme right and anti-immigrant movements, for sure. And politically you can understand why – says Ryan – I don't know where it leaves the extremists: I guess the sentiments and tensions are going to continue to rise. Remember, too, that these parties speak particularly to the working class, to the small businessman, to those who feel left out, discarded, excluded, forgotten – issues which are really as much to do with global economics as they are to do with race or religion. New neighbours are just the overt sign for most people, though the real forces at work are much larger and less visible and much less easily explained”.
While anti-immigration, sadly, is far from being solely an extremists position, one ideological element does seem to bind the characters interviewed by Ryan: anti-semitism. &ldquoIt is the ideological glue which binds together the leadership of many of these movements”, agrees Ryan. &ldquoIt leads Nick Griffin of the British National Party to travel to Germany, where he meets former Ku Klu Klan leader and now US politician, David Duke, who in turn is meeting Horst Mahler, a founding member of the Red Army Faction and now a known neo-Nazi lawyer and leader”.
The language used can often be deceptive, Ryan explains, &ldquooften the terms used are couched as veiled references to rulers of the world (and it's a very short step from blaming global corporations to then saying someone else is behind that), to the power of financiers, to the power of the East Coast of America, etc”. Another one of the paradoxes observed by Ryan during his investigations is the, seemingly opportunistic, anti-semitism that connects white power racists with extremists in the Muslim world: &ldquoI've witnessed right-wingers call for closer co-operation with Palestinians over their shared antipathy towards Israel (the Jews) for example. I myself was invited out to Beirut to join a conference of Holocaust deniers, some of them wanted in their own countries. Also invited to the conference were noted Islamic scholars. It's 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' syndrome. Though you won't see this sort of thing trumped about during elections or at the lower echelons of the membership: anti-semitism is reserved as the ideological glue of the committed elite. Most of the everyday supporters hate Muslims, Asians, Turks, &ldquoPakis” etc far more than the much-less visible Jews”.
Female voices are few and far between in Ryan's book, primarily because he didn't meet many, moving in these male dominated circles: &ldquoThere's no point even mentioning what most made of the feminist movement!” laughs Ryan, &ldquoWomen are generally fewer and further between in this network. I'd argue that, to a lesser extent, that could also be true of the Left, perhaps other activist networks too. For younger men in particular, throwing your rage and rebellion into a violent group – a gang – has some sort of reasoning. It provides power and belonging. Perhaps in a more diluted sense the same thing happens in a more politically-oriented group, though if you look at anti-immigrant and far-right parties, they try hard to attract female voters (often with encouragements to stay at home and have more babies). However, a study here in the UK of the BNP's voting base said it was almost entirely male, almost entirely between 18-35 and many first-time or otherwise non-voters (voting is not compulsory here, and turnout is falling)”. Rather than being a simple put-down, an illustration of their social misfit status, the absence of women in these circles gives a clue to possibly the main motivation behind their commitment to racist ideology: &ldquoA very common theme is about how good it all used to be, some sort of harking back to a mythical (non-existent) golden age of their grandparents”.
Ryan's book is a complex portrait of individuals, all seeking a greater collective identity, which, thankfully, has so far remained elusive. Some of the elements of this proposed collective identity verge on the mainstream (anti-immigration policies for example), while others remain unacceptable by society at large (Holocaust denial, racial purity etc). It's a brave and fascinating book that seeks neither to sensationalise or downplay the currents within the far-right. &ldquoIt's like a warning, the canary in the mine, before the bigger problems arise. Everyone, I mean everyone, is capable of evil and in times of fear, too many roll over and give in to their prejudice and suspicion.”
Homeland by Nick Ryan is published in the UK by Mainstream Publishing.
In North America it is published by Routledge as Into A World Of Hate: A Journey Among The Extreme Right