A note from the author, Paul Jackson, introducing his new book.
I wanted to write Pride in Prejudice: Understanding Britain’s Extreme Right to summarise the wide range of work I, and many other experts, have been doing to better understand the extreme right in Britain. So often this subject is discussed through easy clichés, in sensationist ways, or though mocking tones, and I feel this fails to do justice to an important and complex topic.
More and more in recent years, people read news reports about extreme right activists being prosecuted under terrorism legislation, of young men joining neo-Nazi networks, and are regularly told this is a growing threat. Newspapers regularly contact me to ask what I make of such developments, but even the best investigative journalism can only go so far. This book explains where the British extreme right has come from, what motivates its activists and considers ways to respond to the challenges this phenomenon poses.
I began researching the history of fascism and the extreme right in Britain around fifteen years ago. I have taught many undergraduate, postgraduate and research students, and I have worked alongside a range of organisations, such as the police and anti-racism charities, that tackle issues posed by extreme right activism. As I developed my position as a researcher at University of Northampton, I was able to work with the antifascist magazine Searchlight. I brought their vast archive of material linked to the extreme right to the university, where we have made it a resource for researchers. I have used this collection to research books, peer reviewed articles as well as a wide range of shorter pieces. I am now a Professor in the History of Radicalism and Extremism, and this book draws on all my career experience as a teacher and researcher, exploring the wide range of research on this topic for a general reader.
I argue that the extreme right space is not new, it has been part of British culture and society since the start of the twentieth century. I also contend it is often not simply a foreign import, rather it develops radicalised variants of British identity. Finally, I stress that we should not get too focused on one or two groups, as the extreme right is a varied culture, set across generations of activists and a wide range of small organisations and prominent leaders.
I have not set out to write a sensationist, demonising account of the extreme right, and urge people to consider those involved in it as real people who feel such extremist politics answers their questions and concerns. While we can empathise with such frustrations, I wanted to be clear as well that we should not be sympathetic. State and society responses need to be able to robustly challenge and tackle the hatred such extremism espouses, and racism needs to be called out not explained away. So lastly, I wanted the book to engage with the ways responding to the extreme right is wrapped up in the politics of defending liberal democratic institutions and promoting multicultural values.
Pride in Prejudice is my effort to make extremist politics explicable, for students, academics and a wide range of professionals. We need to understand the extreme right better, and this way we might be able to find considered ways to help those it targets as well as those who see in its agenda the answers to their problems.