The easiest way to understand Patriotic Alternative (PA) is to first understand the two primary tendencies and strategies of fascist organising in the UK and in a less concentrated way, the USA. Both derive from the playbook of Adolf Hitler in some way or another. A simplification brings it down to ‘Street Fascism’ and what I’ll call ‘Fascism in suits’ but is loosely based around of electoralism and gaining power through legitimate means.
In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote “We must overthrow Marxism, so that for the future National Socialism will be master of the street, just as it will one day become master of the State.” This line and the ideology based around Hitler’s brownshirts of street domination as a means of providing a safe route to power for fascists has been one of the most influential of Hitler’s practices. Arguably the roots of the entire nazi Skinhead movement was and is based around the idea that if young and strong fascists can stop anyone else from organising in the streets in protests and the wider political sphere then their success is guaranteed. This is the basis of groups such as the pre-war British Union of Fascists, the National Front in the 70s and 80s and the BNP post-1997 which is particularly relevant when discussing Patriotic Alternative given founder Mark Collett’s long history in the BNP.
The 70’s and 80’s saw Street Fascism arguably hit it’s peak for many years, with many racist murders committed by fascists affiliated with the National Front and then later the BNP. This strategy and the physical resistance to it can be most obviously seen in incidents like the Battle of Lewisham in 1977 but also on the more day to day violence that took place between BNP’s supporters and UK’s Black and Asian community along with (but considerably less so) Anti-Fascists. Many in the extreme right today look back on the ‘street years’ with a smile but in reality it took a massive toll on the fascists; they often struggled to keep going in the face of physical resistance from Anti-Fascists and having many of their most effective members in jail was seen as an unnecessary failure. After years of attempting to dominate the streets, they still didn’t. The fascists were tired, jailed, generally unpopular (but a lot more popular than many liberals are willing to accept) and in some cases just physically battered. Street Fascism just wasn’t working, so a new strategy was needed.
Fascists in Suits
After a depressing result in the 1997 election (under 36,000 votes nationally across 57 seats), the BNP and the far right generally felt they needed to change their strategy, and along came Nick Griffin to provide that new direction. Without getting bogged down in internal Far Right politics, the quick summary of this new strategy is that the BNP should no longer be a party of exclusively skinheads and overt neo-nazis, but should be a broader reaching party capable of achieving real electoral success that chose to move away from explicitly racial politics and towards the increasingly popular topic of Islamophobia. This is the “Fascism or Suits” otherwise known as “Winebar Nationalism” – the idea that fascists need to present themselves as middle-class and sophisticated to escape the image of nazi skinheads and football hooligans.
This new direction proved succesful for the BNP. In 2002 they gained three councillors in Burnley and by 2009 this had grown to 55 councillors. In 2008 they even managed to win a seat on the London Assembly and of course in 2010 they managed to achieve 563,000 votes in the General election and Nick Griffin himself bagged almost 15% of the vote in his constituency. This all seems like a party ready to grow further but by 2018 they had no political representation at any level and are no longer even a registered political party. Arguably much of their vote base moved towards UKIP who gained just under 3.8 million votes in 2015 and an MP, but the neo-nazis who were instrumental in the earlier decades of the BNP aren’t satisfied with what they view as a moderate and ‘zionist’ party. They also don’t feel at home in the movements spawned from the EDL who also don’t have the same specifically race-based messaging they would like and are often supportive of Israel and not openly anti-semitic. This is why groups like Patriotic Alternative have come into existence.
Patriotic Alternative’s Strategy
Patriotic Alternative’s underlying strategy is based around building a safe environment for fascists to exist and organise above all else. This can be seen in their upcoming home-schooling scheme which gives fascist parents a curriculum to teach their children that is based around white nationalism and not including anything deemed linked to the liberal “indoctrination” of the National curriculum. Similar projects include listing business owners friendly to neo-nazis so that PA’s members can have employment without fear of job losses if they are doxxed. The biggest fear for PA “activists” is to be doxxed, this is why the entire structure and marketing depends on only the faces of Mark Collett and Laura Tyrie being public.
How PA intend to achieve this is based on a strategy of first a Quiet Build and then a Launch. The closest group that has followed this blueprint is the US-based Patriot Front, the largest difference being that Patriot Front holds a revolutionary fascist message whereas PA looks to achieve electoral success.
The Quiet Build phase is what PA are currently operating in now, this doesn’t use what PA view as the “failed tactics of the past” such as street demonstrations or anything that would open them up to attack or doxxing but instead uses spectacle and tactics which are done more for their social media value than anything else. This includes banner drops and closed conferences which are used to reach and recruit their base of young and newly radicalised neo-nazis who, before PA, were only active in the online world. The other group who are targeted are the more traditional neo-nazis with histories across the BNP, NF and other groups, this can be seen in small ways when neo-nazi fighting crews like the Pie n Mash squad regularly sharing PA articles and actions from their telegram channel.
There is also the tactic of “groyping”, which has notably been used by the alt-right for several years now. Groyping in PA’s case largely means posing as hard-right brexiteers or Conservatives to build a base of similarly minded followers on sites like twitter, then moving this base towards fascism and PA. This is one of the base level membership’s primary activities as a group.
PA’s followers are obsessed with pushing the Overton window to the right and they believe the groyping can be used effectively to normalise fascist ideas when subtly worked in to the discourse of susceptible conservatives, and they have successfully pushed the TR movement and very prominent grifters have been radicalised from civic nationalists to ethno nationalists.
The aim of this phase is the build a strong enough base of the new generation of internet nazis who will make up the bulk of the organisation alongside the older hardened nazis who will most likely be put in both senior positions like regional organiser roles as well as security positions when PA properly launches. The basis of this is that if PA called a demonstration now they would most likely fail to achieve decent numbers and potentially get smashed and humiliated by anti-fascists like National Action’s now infamous White Man March in Liverpool which effectively ended the group’s potential in the area of street demonstrations. They want a strong and numerous base before their launch as a political and physical force.
The Launch phase is when PA really launch themselves as both a political party, which means open events to the public as well as a street force which means demonstrations and protests, this is potentially far in the future so we cannot know how these will be called, but my money is on flash demonstrations like the Patriot Front’s ‘National March’ demonstrations which most recently took place in February 2020 and smaller demonstrations in numerous US states and cities. This is where questions start to get raised about PA’s leadership. There is a reason that Mark Collett stopped organising with the BNP, he started falling out with other members of the BNP including senior organisers in 2002 when he gave a bit too much away saying he admired Hitler and said AIDS is a “friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it”. He fell out again with BNP Leadership when at the 2006 BNP conference in Blackpool he allegedly took underage girls up to his hotel room and demanded sex leading several BNP organisers to disavow Collett. ... Finally however, Collett was arrested over plotting to kill BNP leader Nick Griffin.. What this all means, other than Mark Collett isn’t someone you’d want to get drinks with, is that a large amount of the ‘old guard’ of the BNP, NF and C18, the people who have traditionally been the ‘heavies’ for fascist groups will at minimum look at PA with some serious scepticism.
Collett even banned heritage and destiny from attending PA conferences, which is significant given how influential in the ethno nationalist scene they are. It’s clearly not about separate organisations attending as he has stated he would be happy for people from the New British Union (the spiritual successors of the British Union of Fascists) to attend provided they weren’t in their uniforms. This speaks to the fact that Collett sees how crucial it is to maintain the separation between his “old guard” who are all too aware of his past, and his new organisation where he has been able to reinvent himself.
The organisational structure of PA is fairly simple. There are only two people who are truly at the core of PA and that is Mark Collett and Laura Tyrie AKA Laura Towler.
Following this there are regional organisers who’s primary role is to admin telegram chats which hold the base level “membership”, these are the people who will be sent out to hold up banners and the like and contribute to the endless stream of extreme racism on their group chats. The layout can be called an authoritarian cell structure given the leadership is based entirely in Collett and Tyrie, however the base level groups themselves are decentralised enough that they rarely have any contact with one another from region to region outside of the conferences.
Then there are several people who range from ‘academic nazism’ to youtubers who float around this main circle and have the privilege to write articles and speak at events like conferences.Even this lot hold no position in PA. Groups like the Hundred Handers and ‘The Reality Report’ (TRR) run by Danny Dyer wannabe Vinnie Sullivan who, as Resisting Hate reports, also has had run ins with the law over harrassing his former girlfriend. PA have a small army of already established grifters providing them a wealth of free publicity for example the recently converted ethno-nationalist and all around embarrasment James Goddard.
Are Patriotic Alternative Nazis?
The Leader of Patriotic Alternative, Mark Collett is one of the better documented neo-nazis in Britain. He became well known as one of the most prominent names in the more radical and hardline wing of the BNP who pushed for a more explicit white supremacist and overtly neo-nazi line against the “modernisers” who wanted to change the party to a more broadly palatable image. A good summary of Collett’s views and quotes can be found on Hope Not Hate’s report on PA, specifically pages 8 and 9.
The Deputy Leader Laura Tyrie is newer on the scene but has her views are also documented in page 9 of the Hope Not Hate report on PA including her support for Hitlerite fascist Oswald Mosley. Her best known speech for PA was at their conference when she discussed “repatriation” for approximately 20 minutes and alluded to the idea for deportations for anyone deemed a criminal or treasonous. Her main angle in the speech is that repatriation is actually good because the non-white people being deported are paid for it, understanding this is the crux of understanding PA’s strand of fascism.
PA, like many neo nazi groups before it, are concealing their more hardline nazi tendencies for a cleaner public image. Much like the USA’s Patriot Front, the plan tends to be that even as a fascist group it’s possible to appeal to the traditional ‘national values’ of somewhere like the UK that will be espoused by almost anyone in mainstream politics such as community, patriotism and ‘family values’. Once these values grab someone’s attention then PA can bring them closer to fascist ideology and towards PA’s website.
If you spend minutes in their semi-public telegram chats you can see the extreme racism and open neo-nazism of the group’s membership. It feels as if there is and will be a struggle between membership and leadership over how overtly the group should display their nazism and racism, there has traditionally been this split in groups like the EDL and BNP, PA appear to be attempting to take a middle ground position between the ‘counter jihad’ rhetoric of group’s like the EDL and Tommy Robinson and the overtly racist messaging of National Action and the earlier BNP.
As well as the links to former nazi organisations and their leadership’s open support for fascists, the links to nazism are further solidified by their discussion and advocation of the ’14 words’, a nazi slogan created by nazi terrorist David Lane.
There are some worrying threats with PA, namely that it is the first unified (for now) Ethno-Nationalist group in years that has got off the ground. As well as this, it is bringing many younger neo-nazis, often dubbed the “4-chan” generation, off of the internet into real organising spaces with experienced (if creepy) organisers like Mark Collett. This could create a new generation of fascist organisers in the UK and should lead some Anti-Fascists to wonder whether the threat of PA doesn’t lie in the organisation itself, but in the National Action style organisations that may spawn from it when it collapses.
The thing Anti-Fascists need to think about is: when PA or a group like it launches properly and is able to draw real activists out on the streets, how are we going to smash them; if we don’t wait until then, in what ways can antifascists damage PA now? Will traditional antifascist tactics work? Despite their clean-cut image they are a neo-nazi group that is trying very hard to engage with the numerous right wing branches of UK politics and bring them into fascism. They need to be treated as all Nazis should be treated.