The Thatcher Crisis Years

An era of protest and fury

National Front

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the National Front and British Movement attempted to recruit school age children across the United Kingdom. This complemented their activity on the skinhead scene, football terraces and pubs.

With economic crisis, a rise in unemployment and young people facing diminishing prospects, they spotted a good opportunity to win teenagers to their cause. All they had to do was racialise these problems and blame ethnic minorities for the lack of jobs and housing.

This is a quote from one British neo-fascist group on what they were trying to do in the school playgrounds:

We welcome young people. We make or break them. Many are coming to us with the rise in unemployment. Skinheads are prime material – raw and aggressive. They need an identity. The whole point of getting children is to indoctrinate them. We are building a Nazi society through the youth of today.

Chilling stuff. The British Movement and National Front were particularly active in school settings. To a degree, they were playing catch up with their opponents in the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism, who had mobilised teenagers so successfully from 1976 to 1978 against the National Front and its ilk.

DISCOVER: Anti-Nazi League carnival in 1978

Unfortunately the extreme Right made some headway. I recall one pupil from my school returning from a British Movement conference (from memory in Brussels in 1980) replete with skinhead cut and a perma-snarl. He walked up to me in the school library and informed me that I was a “pinko…leftie…etc”.

John Tyndall, chairman of the National Front in the 70s, said that “until children reach an age at which they are able to determine their own values, some sort of values have to be instilled into them”. According to the 1974 NF manifesto, schools were to be segregated on the basis of race and liberal studies – or “academic Marxism” as they called it – would be banned.

The National Front’s youth wing took over the magazine Bulldog, which became its main recruiting tool in schools. It included a campaign to remove “red teachers” from the classroom.

The National Front sometimes found themselves competing with other far right groups like Viking Youth, led by Paul Jarvis – who was also looking for recruits in the Scout movement!

The British Movement produced a publication called Fact Finder, which included a “Lie Detector”. According to this, the heroes of the Nuremburg Trials were those on trial! Needless to say, holocaust denial featured highly.

Reported incidents in 1980/81 included:

  • May 1980 – black pupils at a Camden school attacked by skinheads from the National Socialist Party of the United Kingdom
  • October 1980 – British Movement recruiting at schools in Dartford, Kent
  • October 1980 – Young National Front campaign against a teacher at a Dover school
  • February 1981 – Manchester school daubed with swastikas and NF symbols
  • March 1981 – 33 pupils, mostly Asian, leave a classroom at a Birmingham school before a fire-bomb explosion – racist attack suspected
National Front

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