Thursday, 16 September 2010

Tony Wakeford on Manoeuvres

Tony Wakeford (Death in June / Sol Invictus) with the National Front in Brick Lane
Tony Wakeford (left) with Ian Anderson (right) and the NF on Brick Lane, London, 29th Aug 1982 
© David Hoffman, Hoffmanphotos
You can read elsewhere about Tony Wakeford (Death in June, Sol Invictus), his membership of the National Front (NF) and his association with Nazi boneheads like Ian Stuart and Nicky Crane. Wakeford likes to boast privately that he was handy with his fists... and his teeth (he's rumored to have once tried to bite off someone's thumb). Along the way he picked up a charge for GBH or ABH, but the details remain obscure because Wakeford, having publicly repudiated his time as an organised Nazi, still refuses to come clean about what he was up to and who he was involved with.

This picture appears to show Wakeford (on the left) at an NF stall in London's Brick Lane in 1982, campaigning for Ian Anderson (right), who went on to lead the party. For many years Brick Lane, in London's East End, has been at the heart of the city's Bangladeshi-Sylheti community, and for a long time in the late 70s and 80s it was a regular haunt of the NF, who pitched up there to intimidate the locals. As a result the area became notorious for racist attacks on local Asians.

In May 1978 a local man, Altab Ali, was murdered in a racially motivated attack - the park at the southern end of the lane is now named after him - and as a result there were demonstrations against the NF and the beginnings of a powerful movement of local opposition and organisation against them. These events also led to the formation of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Nazi League. As an iconic symbol of the Bangladeshi community's resistance to the fascists Brick Lane was later also one of three sites targeted in 1999 by David Copeland, the 'London Nail Bomber', who had been a member of both the British National Party (BNP) and the National Socialist Movement. Copeland's bombs killed three people, including a pregnant woman, and injured 129, four of whom lost limbs

For a long time in the late 70s and the 80s Brick Lane was the site of pitched battles between fascists and a combination of locals and anti-fascists, who made it a priority to drive the Nazis from the area. In that case, Wakeford was almost certainly there on the day this picture was taken in order to confront the local opposition, and as some kind of bodyguard for Anderson. The significance of the picture is that it shows that Wakeford was much more than a fellow traveller of the NF with a vague interest in 'European traditions', as he likes to put it these days - he was an activist and a fascist street fighter. And as Wakeford did not leave Death in June until 1984 it also shows that Doug Pearce spent a good two years working alongside this fascist activist before ditching him.

If anyone has more information about the goons pictured above, the occasion for the stall being there, or about Wakeford's time in the NF generally, let us know at the address above. Note that it's possible that during his time in the NF Wakeford went by an alias - 'Dave Waters' has been mentioned.


The character seated at the desk looks as though it could be Ken Walsh, a long-time East End fascist activist who later stood as a BNP candidate, thus creating a rift with then BNP allies Combat 18, who judged that a party of 'morals' perhaps shouldn't be promoting a candidate who spoke so openly and enthusiastically about his sex-tourism in Thailand. Walsh was one of the organisers of a march celebrating the murder of Stephen Lawrence, killed by racist thugs in South London in April 1993.

Thanks to David Hoffman for the use of the photograph


  1. So do you have any evidence less than 20 years old? Or are we playing the once a fascist always a fascist line?

  2. It's long been known that Wakeford was a paid up Fascist; he's said so himself. And no one I know of is claiming that he remains a paid up Fascist - certainly not me. The point of the publishing the photograph is to establish that he was an active member, and not just paying subs and cheering from the sidelines. Second, if the dating is right it shows that he remained a member of Death in June for anything up to two years while he was directly active in Fascist politics.

    But, whether you think of him as still being a Fascist or not, the interesting issue is the extent to which he continues to promote ideas he learned at that time, when he was in touch with Fascists at the fringes of the NF whose ideas then have much in common with his ideas today, and the themes he has developed in his music. I said a bit about this in an earlier post, but will say more in future - it's not the kind of thing you can prove with a single photograph.

  3. Isn't all the 'let's show up a fascist' game a but overdone by now? Who cares if Tony Wakeford was a right wing-er thirty years ago? Who cares? About ten self righteous middle class students care, and no one else. No has really heard of the man anyway, beyond a handful of Goth folk music fans in Poland, who like reading Spengler books, wearing Austrian army surplus, and dreaming about some 'nationalist ideal.'

    It's all pretty pointless.

    There are far far more dangerous men about than middle aged folk rock musician, Wakeford-- most of them are in your own government or in banks.

  4. If it is the case that elements within certain subcultures are normalising fascist, anti-democratic, traditionalist symbols and concepts, then I think we should care, as that can help create a recruiting ground for fascists, I think it is especially important to provide arguments to fans so that they are fully informed and can decide for themselves what their favourite bands are up to. If it could also be shown that this 'normalisation' is part of a conscious strategy (as part of what the New Right might call a 'Right Gramscian' approach) then that would make these things even more alarming.

    The point of providing evidence of, eg., Wakeford's involvement in organised fascism in the past is not to stigmatise him for once having been a fascist - he admitted that a long time ago. It's perfectly possible for people to break cleanly with fascism and rehabilitate themselves entirely. The problem is that Wakeford has never made a clean break; he is keen to dissociate himself completely from his past, certainly, but that's a very different thing from breaking with it. Wakeford's disavowal of his past could only ever be convincing if he gave a full and frank account of it, which is something he has conspicuously failed to do. On the contrary, he has generally either lied or kept quiet about the details. I think the evidence shows that Wakeford is pursuing a strategy of subversion, or at least is happy to be part of a broader stream pursuing such a strategy, but that is exactly what needs to be proved either way. I don't think that we have proved this, but the evidence makes it look at least possible. If I were Wakeford I would want to dispel such doubts once and for all, yet he remains strangely silent. Why?

    And even if it could somehow proved that Wakeford isn't consciously pursuing such a strategy, the question would remain as to whether he is nonetheless spreading ideas that help encourage the growth of a fascist culture. That would be bad enough and it would certainly deserve a response from anti-fascists.

    I agree that there are bigger threats than people like Wakeford but that doesn't mean we should let him (or anyone else) off the hook. It sounds radical to say that there are bigger problems out there (which of course there are), but it is ultimately an argument not for militancy but passivity, and for ignoring a real problem right under your own nose (if you are in any way involved with the neo-folk scene or 'post-industrial' culture generally). If you can't clean up your own back yard what chance have you got of solving 'bigger problems'? If you can't deal with crypto-facsism in your own milieu, what are your chances, realistically, of being able to do anything about banks and governments? Music is now a significant source of funding for some fascist groups in the world, quite apart from the propaganda value of the music itself. Fans of the music have the right to know what the musicians are up to, where their money is going, and why.

    If Wakedford ever comes forward and accounts in detail for his earlier beliefs, his actions and his past and present connections with people who have been involved in spreading (broadly) fascist propaganda, and if he publicly broke off relations with everyone concerned, then I would have no interest at all in pursuing the issue any further. But there are no signs of that happening. Instead Wakeford gets away with saying that it is all somehow old hat and irrelevant to what is happening today. In the US and across Europe there are real signs of a growth of the radical right, so I would have thought it more important than ever to know whether the groups you follow are somehow contributing to that development.

  5. "If it is the case that elements within certain subcultures are normalising fascist, anti-democratic, traditionalist symbols and concepts, then I think we should care"

    The mainstream governments and bankers and business men are doing that far, far more effectively than Wakeford, who has probably encouraged 'right wing thinking' in about ten people, who then sit around reading Herder and DeGobineau books as their most radical gesture.

    "as that can help create a recruiting ground for fascists,"

    Our mainstream press, business men and TV already do that far,far better.

    "If it could also be shown that this 'normalisation' is part of a conscious strategy (as part of what the New Right might call a 'Right Gramscian' approach) then that would make these things even more alarming."

    These arguments are overdone, in particular, the argument that tells us that the 'new right' are 'subverting' ground usually populated by the 'far left' (EG 'Alternative' music and Anarchism movements) to somehow, deceive people and attract them into the 'fascist fold.'

    There might be a small grain of truth in that, but the results are simply negligible -- a handful of frustrated kids, probably bored, lonely narcissists, follow these bands, and about fifteen people join BANA, ( Bay Area National Anarchists)probably hoping to address feelings of disempowerment by joining a small group. These people aren't a threat to anyone. They are tiny, negligible blips, whose web presence far exceeds their effect in the 'real world.'

    If you want to talk about dangerous fascist movements, surely looking into the very real Stalinist-fascist gangs in Russia might be a start, a place where foreign students are beaten, and even murdered. These thugs don't care about Wakeford or Sol Invicta. Or it's going to be far more relevant to look at conflicts our own government are involved in,or how our media encourage violence. Those soldiers recently apprehended in Afghanistan who roamed the streets and fields looking for victims to murder probably listened to Justin Timberlake and Mariah Carey, not Wakeford records.

    Those soldiers in Iraq recently caught on film strafing innocent men and children did far far more damage than some guys no ones heard of in a 1970's NF photo, guys who in most cases, probably do nothing more radical these days than work as post men or delivery drivers in Romford.

  6. "The character seated at the desk looks as though it could be Ken Walsh, a long-time East End fascist activist who later stood as a BNP candidate, thus creating a rift with then BNP allies Combat 18, who judged that a party of 'morals' perhaps shouldn't be promoting a candidate who spoke so openly and enthusiastically about his sex-tourism in Thailand and his penchant for the local 'lady boys'. Walsh was one of the organisers of a march celebrating the murder of Stephen Lawrence, killed by racist thugs."

    What a smear -- the guy in the photo, in your opinion -- *looks like* Ken Walsh.

    *Looks* like him.

    And then you proceeed to denigrate by association, a man you've never met and know nothing about -- all because he *looks like* Ken Walsh, and in your view, *could* be him.

    That is exactly what the Daily Mail/Daily Telegraph do when they show 'scary pictures' of 'radical Muslims', who they attack by assumed association with 'other radicals' who just happen to 'look the same.'

    You are doing the same thing as those you criticise.

  7. PS It sounds like you want to send Wakeford off to re -education camp somewhere; a man who as far as we know hasn't broken the law,or harmed anyone, apparently because he hung around doing silly fascist salutes in grotty Romford pub basements thirty years ago.

    Who do you want to send off next? Wahhabi and Salafi Muslims from Brick Lane? Who else?

    Wakeford sings neo folk music( whatever that really is )to small audiences,replete with supposedly nostalgic lyrics inspired by Hilaire Beloc and a couple of other thinkers that most people forgot decades ago, peppered with a few 'subversive' references to early 1900's German idealist thinkers.

    It's all about as dangerous a version of fascism as the "Achtung Donner und Blitzen" Germans that were depicted in "War Picture Library" and "Commando" boys own comic books of the 70's.

  8. It is not smear by association but an attempt to elicit recognition and confirmation. Those Daily Mail/Telegraph mugshots of 'radical Muslims' are usually police mugshots of Muslims hauled into police custody or US rendition torture detention locales. In a further irony those mugshots have much in common with the Nazi mugshots of so-called 'sub-human', inferior races, ie. less human than the 'rest of us', an intention not entirely incidental I think.

  9. 'Looks' like him

    All I have to go on is the fact that the photographer, who took many images of the NF in the area at that time, identified him to me as Ken Walsh. And why should we care much either way? If it isn't Walsh then it's some other NF activist. Does that make it somehow better?

    And in what way is highlighting Wakeford's past as a fascist activist (which he doesn't deny) in any way comparable to the Daily Mail's demonisation of completely innocent people based on racist prejudice? I think you'll find that the Daily Mail is closer in spirit to the people in the photo above: it is, after all, the paper that once led with the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!"

  10. a man who as far as we know hasn't broken the law,or harmed anyone

    he was hanging out on an NF stall in the East End in order to collect for charity?

    As for breaking the law, violence, etc., here's the man himself talking: "I was dealing drugs and had got heavily into the whole seamy South London gangster scene... We were selling weights of dope the size of a concrete block and my partner had a gun... I woke up one morning thinking, if this carries on then I'm going to end up dead... It was just one of those moments, you know? If I hadn't got that guitar that day, I'd be in prison now or dead."

    (Tony Wakeford interview, David Keenan, England's Hidden Reverse, SAF Publishing, London 2003, pages 173-4)

  11. So let's get the details straight: you want Wakeford sent off for re education camp for hanging around an NF stall in the late 70's, and for dealing dope?

    I rest my case --

    So, who shall we bundle off next then? Someone who sets up a radical separatist anti Zionist Islam stall in poplar? A rasta who deals weed? A member of the separatist Nation of Islam sect?

    You seem to be as bad as those you criticise.

  12. Given that I have nowhere called for Wakeford or anyone else to be "sent off for re education camp" or anything even remotely like that, your question "who shall we bundle off next then?" is spectacularly redundant. I think most people will notice that.

  13. Well, let's take a look at their whole 'scene' -- That objectionable Johnathan Bowden has a tiny following of people with creepy 'intellectual'aspirations towards right wing elitist thinkers of the early 1900's that most people just don't and can't take seriously. If you watch his horrible speeches for the so called 'new right' on you tube, there are about fifteen people in the audience, most of whom look like disgruntled librarians in a huff.

    Troy Southgate has a very small following. Wakeford has an even smaller following. BANA probably has about ten people in the group.

    The ideas these guys are into can't really be of much harm because they are largely, marginal and ineffectual, and so they actually tend to isolate themselves.

    UK is undergoing huge changes now; whether you are for, or against the changes, these changes are hugely difficult for some sections of society, black, White, Asian, Christian or Muslim, 'right' wing, or 'left' wing, young or old.

    Smearing a handful of guys in blurry black and white pictures doing silly Hitler salutes in a bar, or hanging around a stall, doesn't really seem to address or understand these societal ruptures and fractures on any meaningful level.

    Actually, pretending these people have no grievances and are just 'bad' is a total God send to them -- they feed off it. Groups like the EDL and other connected fringes feed off the fact that those 'on the left' mock them and assume all their grievances are just race hate and unfounded prejudice. Each time ' the left' do that -- The EDL grow.

    You can't simply pretend, and ignore the fact that at least some of these communities have grievances that need to be addressed, and I'd imagine those grievances are partly connected to limited resources, health care, living space and bad schooling and housing rather than only being simply blatant race hate.

    Ignore their grievances,sneer at them, and you'll win creepy characters like Johnathan Bowden and the EDL a few more votes.

  14. If you want to effect genuine change and address genuine grievances and fears that black and white Britons feel on realistic, deeper levels, you are going about it the wrong way.

    ANTIFA and their ilk are another god send to the EDL -- ANTIFA are unwittingly, locking into the whole dialectic that these groups require, and only serve to add significantly to their growth.

  15. A poster above wrote "It is not smear by association but an attempt to elicit recognition and confirmation."

    Yes it is -- there's a picture of some guy you don't know anything about, who simply *looks like* someone who supported and celebrated the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

    If that isn't a smear, I don't know what is.

    I wonder, do you yourself perhaps also *look like* any racist criminals? How would you feel if someone posted a picture of you on the internet, and then speculated about you, and then associated you with murderers, simply by speculation based on what you *look like*?

  16. The EDL have no legitimate grievances, they are racist scum who glorify in intimidating entire communities when they can get away with it. Fortunately they can't always get away with it because there is an anti-fascist movement opposing them, which I strongly suggest you get involved with.

    The EDL exist to direct workers' anger away from it's legitimate target in order to blame Asians and Muslims instead, turning one section of workers against another (and even starting to talk about attacking trade unionists), providing an alibi and convenient scapegoat for those who are really to blame. Anyone who apologises for them or tries to establish their legitimacy is justifying racist violence, because that's all they deal in.

    The EDL are not currently looking for your vote - they just want you to look the other way when they come to beat up your Asian co-workers and neighbors. Anyone who argues for ignoring them is either a racist themselves or simply too stupid to have learned the obvious lessons of history.

    I note, however, how quickly people move from defending the personal honour of Tony Wakeford to defending the EDL. I'd be very surprised to see any actual anti-racists defend Wakeford.

    "speculation based on what you *look like*?"

    Since you clearly aren't, as they say, 'the sharpest knife in the draw' I'll spell it out for you: the identification of Walsh is not speculative, but it not absolutely 100% certain either, and to that extent is perhaps tentative. It is called 'identifying a person'. Someone who knows what Ken Walsh looks like, sees them in a photograph and says, "yes, I'm pretty sure that's him". That's what has happened in this case. Comparison with other images of Ken Walsh online would tend to confirm that judgement, but I suspect that you are the kind of person who would make allegations of 'smearing' before you bothered to check anything like that. Certainly no one is 'smearing' Ken Walsh - the facts about him are easily available to anyone who can use Google. As to whether I am smearing the person in the photograph in the unlikely event that it turns out not to be Walsh, since they were out on an NF stall to intimidate the local Asians and anti-fascists they could hardly claim that they were being smeared by being associated with a fascist activist. Get it? Or do you just think it wrong in principle to speak badly of fascists?