British fascist group ‘Patriotic Alternative (PA)’ has been rocked by a split, says a report from anti-fascist research group Red Flare.
The split “makes us look absolutely stupid”, said PA deputy leader Laura Melia in a recording of the group’s emergency meeting heard by Red Flare.
PA has been led by notorious neo-Nazi Mark Collett, who was youth leader of the UK’s most successful fascist party, the British National Party in 2002.
The current split in PA is between followers of Mark Collett who support his focus on media, online outreach and USA-style culture war issues, and between another group which wants to return to more traditional forms of political party and community organising.
Those who favour this return to fascism’s roots have founded a new group, Homeland, on Hitler’s birthday, the 20th of April.
Red Flare’s report states that an “audibly hoarse” Collett could be heard at the emergency meeting – also on the 20th of April – saying that the prospect of a split “breaks my heart. It gives me sleepless nights. I am very worn down. I am very tired”.
The report says it is important to make it clear that:
“both Homeland and PA are neo-Nazis and fascists: Holocaust denial and Hitler worship is rife among members of both organisations. This split is not ideological in nature – rather, it is the result of differences in strategy and approaches to organising.”
While PA leader Collett and deputy leader Melia have been reaching a large audience and making money from livestreaming, the split that is forming ‘Homeland’ wants to concentrate on more analogue forms of fascism.
In 2022, Kenny Smith, now leader of Homeland, set up his own media company, but, tellingly, as a bookshop and publisher (‘Claymore Books’), rather than the social media favoured by fascists influenced by the ‘alt-right’. Smith is also a veteran of the BNP and has his roots in the fascist music scene.
At the founding meeting for Homeland, Smith is reported as saying his leaving PA is motivated by issues including “the lack of political direction, lack of political focus, the lack of progress on becoming a registered political party, [the lack of] any support for people who want to do community politics”.
The new group aims to have a two-tier structure, like a vanguard party. It will have a small core of activists to form a “high trust community” and lead the new party. This core will have been subjected to extreme security vetting; they will have had to show their identity documents and submit to home visits before being granted access. At the same time Homeland would have a larger more casual and passive membership outside this core.
This kind of security vetting was introduced in PA as well, in 2020 under Smith’s supervision, but was controversial. “Following PA’s recent turn to public protests around ‘migrant hotels’ and drag events, Collett proposed relaxing these measures in favour of what he termed a more ‘common sense’ approach” writes Red Flare.
This two-tier structure of the proposed Homeland political party and community organisation seems to be part of a plan to be more secretive about the group’s Nazism and fascism. “Optics will be a big focus as we effectively have a clean slate”, says Homeland’s statement of aims.
“Homeland will likely take more care to obfuscate their underlying politics and attempt to reject the neo-Nazi label”, says Red Flare, adding that “Smith has suggested that Homeland will continue to use social media and livestreams, and will aim to evade the social media bans that have befallen Homeland by keeping their output ‘professional’”.
This is why the antifascist report concludes that this split may be a sign of a more dangerous time, as the tactics of online recruitment and radicalisation are combined with community organisation and local electoral politics. Red Flare says that “Homeland represents a distillation of PA’s most dangerous elements into something harder, more serious and better organised”, and that “the cost of living crisis and government rhetoric about refugees and the transphobic bile of the culture wars have created a toxic environment where a party like Homeland could thrive.”
As ‘Patriotic Alternative’ was able to mobilise more far-right activists onto the street, there’s a danger that ‘Homeland’ could enable this movement to put down roots in the local town halls.
The next step will be for Homeland to try to get registered as a political party, and a leaked recording of the founding meeting suggests this will be done through stealth, and explained by Kenny Smith:
“We’ll be putting in an application that does not look like it’s connected to anybody else, and it won’t even be under the Homeland name, initially. It is far easier to change a political party’s name after the fact than it is to get it registered, and I think if we went straight in with “Homeland” and well known personalities, we’d probably face exactly the same struggles as Patriotic Alternative […] So, yeah, the tactic is basically to get registered essentially with unknowns”
Image: Kenny Smith, Head of Administration: British National Party, National administration officer: Patriotic Alternative, Leader?: Homeland