A new group appeared on the British far right in 2019, the fascist party Patriotic Alternative (PA). It represented something new in the recent history of the far right. Unlike National Action, which had been prominent earlier that decade and whose delight in shock, edginess, and explicit neo-Nazism precluded a mass membership, PA instead set about building a new cadre of activists.
It predominantly targeted young men who were introduced to neo-Nazism by the YouTube algorithm through privately organised social events for members, such as hikes and litter picks.
This differed significantly from previous far-right tendencies like the English Defence League and presented a problem for anti-fascists. A lack of pre-announced public demonstrations meant counter-protests couldn’t be organised and severely limited opportunities for intelligence gathering. Because of this, key figures within PA remained in the shadows, and anti-fascists were left scrambling to understand and respond to the new threat.
At first glance, not much has changed since 2019. The party is still led by Mark Collett, who formerly held a leadership position in the BNP. There is also a familiar pattern to PA’s calendar of summer camps, conferences and days of action. Due to anti-fascist opposition, however, the party has been forced to significantly ramp up security measures – which has presented a new challenge to researchers who have had to find new ways to monitor the group. It has also undergone a series of splits, the most significant being the new fascist party Homeland, primarily composed of disaffected former regional and national PA organisers.
The present mode of organisation on the British far-right has made it difficult to accurately estimate the number of those involved, although hundreds of fascists are active across PA, Homeland, and associated groups. Splits, state repression, and increasing paranoia have fractured British fascism. Reviewing photos of PA’s annual summer camp has shown a notable decrease in attendees since the Homeland split. Social events and demonstrations have been consolidated across wider regions to boost the number of attendees.
Stories published by Red Flare have caused some prominent figures to take a step back from organising or have otherwise faced negative consequences for their activity. In August, we found out that Homeland organiser Anthony Burrows, previously exposed by RF, had three shotguns confiscated and his gun licence revoked after Special Branch sent RF’s social media posts unmasking Burrows to local authorities.
Security procedures have also been a new source of tension within PA. Measures like ID checks and home visits have put off newer recruits. Supporters in sensitive jobs, such as teachers, police officers, civil servants, or those who run public-facing businesses, were reluctant to have copies of their IDs held by the party – fearing that their comfort could be put at risk if their membership in a fascist political party was ever revealed.
Disputes over security were one of the key factors in the Homeland split. The faction led by PA’s then-national administration officer Kenny Smith disagreed with Collett’s proposal to relax security measures for trusted supporters.
Further pressure has come from the state as the far-right has come under scrutiny from counter-terrorism police and the security services. Prominent figures associated with PA have been handed lengthy prison sentences over the past year. This includes PA’s national fitness officer Kristofer Kearney, who was sentenced to four years and eight months for sharing terrorist manifestos, PA’s conference organiser James Allchurch, who was given two-and-a-half years for distributing material to stir up racial hatred, and most recently, Ashley Podsiad-Sharp was sentenced to eight years for the possession of terrorist material. Sharp had founded an explicitly neo-Nazi podcast which hosted PA leaders before forming a fascist fitness club.
While this version of the far right is still in a nascent form, that doesn’t mean anti-fascists shouldn’t be organising. Internal cadre building only goes so far. PA will need to expand its activities to grow further and appease a membership desperate for activity. This has already begun, particularly with campaigns against migrants being housed in hotels and transphobic campaigns against drag queen reading events.
One of the chief purposes of PA and Homeland is to create a new generation of committed fascist activists who will likely continue to organise past the lifespan of either party. Disrupting the far right now will serve anti-fascists well in the future. The information we can gather will prove invaluable in the struggles to come.
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~ Allan Jones
This article first appeared in the Winter 2023-4 issue of Freedom Anarchist Journal