Fascism and police collusion
It has just been revealed that the Greek police have been advising citizens who are victims of crime to seek help from the Golden Dawn neo-nazi party. This party won 21 parliamentary seats the first time it contested national elections in 2012, and now has 18. Like our own home-grown neo-fascist parties, Golden Dawn recruits its supporters among the poorest sections of the population – those hit hardest by the recession. Those most desperate will always be more susceptible to simplisitic explanations for their situation and will be avid for easy solutions. Whether Jews, foreign immigrants or ‘leftist intellectuals’, there will always be a ready target. Human rights Watch reports that immigrants interviewed in Greece recently said they no longer go out at night for fear of assault and attack by ‘often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence.’
Fascist parties are always lurking in the wings, ready to take advantage of social breakdown. And, history shows us clearly that in times of economic crisis such as we are experienced at present, there is an increased danger from such parties. In stable times they are little more than irritants, even though one should never underestimate their role in promoting incidents of racist violence.
What is most disconcerting is the readiness of police forces in so many countries to give tacit or overt support to such organisations. We’ve even seen it here in Britain. In the thirties police gave protection to Oswald Mosleys blackshirts when they attempted to march through the East End, and in the heyday of the National Front, during the seventies, they did the same. In 1979 a policeman killed Blair Peach in Southall while he was demonstrating against the National Front. I have yet to hear of a fascist being hurt, let alone killed by the police.
In 2008 Merseyside Police investigated whether a serving constable was a member of the British National Party (BNP). The name of PC Steve Bettley, a serving officer with the force, was one of thousands on a leaked BNP membership list, posted online.Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, national co-ordinator of the police’s domestic extremist units, claimed police had to walk a ‘tightrope’ when targeting small groups which they believe are bent on violence. However, he claims that the neo-fascist English Defence League (EDL) is not his problem; it is ‘not a far right group’, he asserted. He clearly sees environmentalists and students as much more of a threat.
Last year it was reported that a suspected member of the EDL had been collecting names and of serving Muslim police officers. An investigation found addresses and surveillance videos of Muslim officers on his computer, along with fireworks and other explosive devices. However no charges were pressed. Concerned Muslim officers were told the man was a ‘lone wolf and not linked to any organisations,’ but a few minutes of Googling soon revealed his links with the EDL and details of his attending EDL rallies and meetings. All this demonstrates how institutionally right-wing our police are.
In 2003, on the tenth anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the then head of the Metropolitan police's anti-racism unit, Commander Cressida Dick said she believed the Met was still ‘institutionally racist’. Although, under concerted political pressure, police forces in the UK have attempted to tackle racism in their ranks, there remains much to be done. Our police forces do have a written policy stating that no serving police officer should be a member of a far-right or fascist party, but this is easily circumvented, and it doesn’t prevent police sympathising with right wing organisations.
The police, as the imposers of law and order in society, are almost by definition willing tools of the ruling classes. Clearly the recruiting and training policies favour those with a rightwing and militaristic mentality. We only need to see with what relish the police mete out gratuitous violence to those on progressive demonstrations in comparison with the kid-glopve handling of those organised by the rightwing.
This pattern can be seen in other countries too. In Germany it has long been known that the Verfassungschutz (BfV) – the equivalent of our MI5 – had infiltrated right wing and neo-nazi organisations, but it became increasingly unclear how far the police were actually promoting and supporting the right wing or whtehr they were investigating it. This year it was disclosed that the Italian security police gave detailed information to its German counterparts of cross-border pan-European neo-nazi collaboration, but the Germans did nothing about it.
In a recent series of neo nazi murders of immigrants, the German security police again came under fire for doing nothing despite having infiltrated the organisation. It also come in for severe criticism after destroying official documentation concerning this case.
As in Hitler’s Germany, fascist parties only gain political traction when capitalism is seriously under threat and the ruling class lends them support to prevent the left gaining ascendancy. Invariably police forces play a key role in how far fascist parties are tolerated or, indeed, are given support. There is no doubt that democratic forces will have to maintain continuous monitoring of police behaviour and pressure on them to root out right-wing mentality, but it will be an uphill struggle.