Extreme Right Aware Training Course, 20 September 2019

EDL march & counter protest, Liverpool 03 June 2017. Image by John Bradley.

The extreme right in Britain has changed and developed in recent times, while its impact can be felt across a wide variety of professions. From policing to teaching, and from healthcare to law, many professionals can find themselves dealing with people with extreme right activists, or whose lives have been affected by the consequences of extreme right activity.

However, while the consequences of the extreme right can be felt widely, it is often difficult for people with limited training in this area to get a firm grasp of this phenomenon. The Prevent Agenda and Safeguarding policies often – in principle – are supposed to deal with issues posed by the extreme right. But often in practice this can raise many questions, especially as this space is complex and fast changing. Where do extreme right ideas come from? Who are the current extreme right activists to be most concerned about? Why do people want to join the extreme right? How does it lead to violent radicalisation?

Cover of Searchlight, Feb 2000. The University of Northampton hosts the Searchlight Archive.

On the 20th September, we are going to run the first in a new set of initiatives, Extreme Right Aware. This one-day training package is aimed squarely at professionals whose work involves dealing with the extreme right. It builds on work we have done previously in this area with pubic sector practitioners. This has included running conferences bringing together academics and professionals, and creating training materials for a range of organisations, including for police forces and local councils.At the University of Northampton, we are trying to use some of our skills in researching, writing and teaching about the extreme right to connect with practitioners in a way that will help them answer such questions. We have a long record of working in this area. We host the Searchlight Archive, with several major collections of source knowledge and material used by researchers and journalists in the past few years. We also teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses on the extreme right in Britain.

British Union of Fascist Leader Oswald Mosley with Mussolini, 1936.

Extreme Right Aware will also explore what analysts some time refer to as the ‘groupuscular dynamics’ of British extreme right groups. The extreme right is not limited to a single organisation, but rather operates across a wide range of micro groups, each able to offer activists a different style or brand of activism – albeit within the same, broader ideological framework.Extreme Right Aware will cover a wide range of themes, and will start by allowing people to understand the roots of contemporary far right extremism in Britain. There is a long history of such activism, from the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s to the National Front in the 1970s. Present day activists often steep themselves in identification with older forms of fascism. Some have been enthralled to Hitler and the Nazi era, and develop new forms of neo-Nazism. Others find older British fascist leaders, such as Oswald Mosley, inspirational. Others are inspired by people like George Lincoln Rockwell, the charismatic leader of the 1960s American Nazi Party, whose name is repeated across many websites today.

National Action, an openly neo-Nazi terror movement targeting young people, deface a statue of Nelson Mandela with a banana and throw Sieg Heil salutes. 19 April 2014.

Among others, the course will explore figures such as Tommy Robinson, national groups such as Britain First, and those with transnational links, such as Generation Identity. It will also consider street marching organisations, such as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, and the remnants of the English Defence League.Some groups want to develop a more ‘respectable’ profile, and so operate as small political parties. Others are fascinated by the occult develop pagan ideas as part of their activism. Some groups offer cultural forms of activism, such as the white power music scene. Others promote direct action as a means to make an impact.Some now operate as charismatic leaders without an organisation behind them, who develop their messages through social media activism and media-grabbing stunts. The many groups and activists operating in Britain also network internationally, and this relationship with kindred groups is also important to understand.

English Defence League member, August 2014. Though diminished, the EDL still continues and has developed transnational links. Photo taken by Wouter Engler.

The extreme right is able to attract people as it offers things that they are looking for, so Extreme Right Aware will also consider the motivations for joining, and what extreme right activism(s) ‘do’ for people. It will explore how some are attracted to a movement that seems to offer powerful answers to why they feel politics and society does not work in their interests. Why others are motivated by utopian visions of radical change. How some are attracted to a group that offers a sense of community and belonging they seem unable to find elsewhere. And why others are motivated by strong messages on single issues, such as anti-Muslim narratives. Knowing why people are attracted to the extreme right is crucial to being able to respond to it in a professional and effective manner.

Finally, on occasion the extreme right poses significant risks of violent radicalisation. In recent times Britain has seen a number of people convicted for carrying out terrorist attacks, or planning to carry them out. Often these are lone figures, operating on the fringes of the extreme right, such as Thomas Mair or Darren Osborne. So the course will finish by exploring why such people feel inspired to commit acts of violence, and what specific vulnerabilities help push them into such violent extremism.

If you are interested in coming along, or want to find out more, then please feel free to get in touch with us. You can find out more about the one-day course here: https://shop.northampton.ac.uk/product-catalogue/education-humanities/workshops/extreme-right-aware-training-event

Finally, we are vey keen to hear other people’s thoughts about what training on the nature of contemporary extreme right activism ought to entail. So if you want to pass on suggestions or ideas for future courses of this nature, then please do get in touch. We would be very keen to work with you and develop training materials useful for your organisation.

Dr. Paul Jackson is a Senior Fellow at CARR, and a Senior Lecturer in History and looks after the renowned Searchlight Archive at the University of Northampton. You can find his profile here.

Mr Daniel Jones is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR, and a Doctoral candidate at Department of History, University of Northampton. His profile can be found here.

© Paul Jackson & Daniel Jones. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors’ and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).