Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators
Rather than write my own description of this book, I thought I’d reproduce the one used by its publisher, Routledge. It reads as follows:
‘Anti-Semitism has been a persistent feature of far-right movements in the UK. In this ground-breaking study, acclaimed author Nick Toczek traces the history of anti-Jewish prejudice from its origins within the Britons society through the fascist groups of the 1930s to its post-war manifestations in the British Movement and other extreme-right organisations. Toczek examines how these British apostles of bigotry succeeded in spreading hatred of Jews and lending it a façade of pseudo-factual, historic, academic and cultural legitimacy. This book is essential reading for students and scholars of British politics, Jewish studies, anti-Semitism and the far-right.’
Reviews of ‘Haters, Baiters and Would-be Dictators’:
‘Toczek provides a detailed and fascinating overview of the development and activities of the extreme right wing in Britain throughout the 20th century and for anyone wishing to know more about these shady and dangerous organisations his book is a mine of information.’
from a longer review by John Green in The Morning Star, 17 May 2016.
‘Toczek’s book, though published as an academic volume, is really the work of a lifelong activist, one whose passion for talking about his subject stands out throughout the text…. The strength of the book is the story he tells, especially regarding the life and impact of the founder of the Britons Publishing Society, Henry Hamilton Beamish, and the nature and impact of this tiny organisation…. The book will be of particular use to future historians, and others too, as it contains, as it contains several well-informed appendices, including biographies of key activists related to the Britons group, and also overviews of the micro organisations linked to the Publishing Society.’
from a longer review by Dr Paul Jackson in Searchlight, Spring 2016.
‘This is a very detailed account of the British anti-Semites of the first half of the twentieth century, the hard-core handful who believed that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion really was a blueprint for Jewish domination of the world and devoted their lives to propounding this belief… Toczek concentrates on Henry Beamish, the founder of this dismal dynasty, but we also learn about the Protocols’ British publisher, The Britons, Arnold Leese – Beamish’s successor – and Colin Jordan, the last in the line. These used to be just names to me, predecessors of the National Front and British Movement, about whom I knew almost nothing. Now, after decades of research by Toczek, we have their lives, their finances, their beliefs, their disputes, their correspondence and their publications lain before us.’
from a longer review by Robin Ramsey in Lobster magazine
‘Haters, Baiters and Would-be Dictators is laid out in a straightforward and useful manner… While Toczek’s study does not challenge the prevailing historical theories about the Britons, it complements them with a wealth of biographical information and primary research… a useful and timely study… Toczek has expanded upon our knowledge of an under-studied organisation and shown that extreme groups can have long-lasting impacts and influences, even when they attract relatively few members.’
from a lengthy review by Paul Blanchard in Reviews in History
Writing About Bigotry
I’m not anti-racist. In one way or another, we’re all bigots. Dare to disagree with me and I’ll hate you for it. I’ll wish you dead. And you’ll hate me for being so extreme. Intolerance, you see, is an inevitable human trait. It’s there in all of us. Whom do you dislike? The rich, the poor, the smug, the red-headed, the fat, the thin, the pious, the violent, the pedantic, the ugly, the beautiful, anyone one with the wrong… whatever. Nobody is so perfect that they dislike nobody else.
One of my favourite jokes begins with Jesus walking through the Holy Land. He comes across a crowd who are stoning a prostitute. Stepping between them and her, he shouts: “Let one who is without sin cast the next stone!” The crowd falls silent. Then an old woman shuffles forward, picks up a brick and lobs it straight into the face of the poor victim. Jesus turns to her and says: “Mother, sometimes you make me sick!”
Aside from The Virgin Mary, we’re all imperfect… and even she lobbed that brick. Prejudice has always been with us. It’ll never go away. If we wish, as indeed I do, to oppose the victimisation and suffering which is a direct consequence of any unfettered form of bigotry, we need, above all, to understand it. We need to become wise to how this bitter seed survives, grows, spreads, thrives and becomes a malignant social force. Blindly opposing it may indeed be naïve, but by constantly anticipating, comprehending and pre-empting its endless struggle for legitimacy, we can contain and constrain it. This isn’t fighting it. This is recognising it, identifying it and dealing with it. This is remedying it by undermining its strengths and thereby rendering it insignificant. In the specific case of racism, we can see this working in the drastic decline of once-influential American groups like the Klan, Aryan Nations and the National Alliance or of UK bodies like the National Front, the British Nation Party and Combat 18.
This whole process of countering the ignorance that bolsters bigotry begins with wisdom. It begins with understanding the roots, reasoning and culture of prejudice. Far from denying or defying it, we need simply to know and outwit it. This is precisely why I research and write about racial and religious hatred.
I began collecting the literature of the far-right in the mid-1980s. In 1991, the anarchist AK Press published my pamphlet, The Bigger Tory Vote, which detailed the close relationship between the right wing of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party and UK racist groups.
Soon after this, I got caught up in the much more enjoyable (and lucrative) business of writing books of poetry for children. We’d young children of our own and this work was much more conducive to our lifestyle.
Throughout the nineties and the noughties, I continued to collect far-right literature, guested on numerous radio and TV programmes as an authority of the far-right, but – with the exception of a few articles published in newspapers and magazines – wrote little. My researches brought me into uncomfortably closer contact with the British extreme right and I was repeatedly threatened by activists in neo-Nazi groups like The British Movement and Combat 18. I received regular threats by phone and mail. My photo, home address and phone number appeared in their magazines, sometimes with suggestions that I needed ‘sorting out’. Indeed, there were a couple of (unsuccessfully) attempts to attack me and my home. It was a daunting time for me and a frightening one for my family and friends.
In 2012, encouraged by my friend and fellow-researcher, Martin Durham, I decided return to writing about racism and started work on a book which would use much of the far-right material I’d collected. By then, this library amounted to more than a million books, pamphlets, leaflets, and other pieces of printed ephemera. It had been a mammoth task acquiring and filing the stuff, and it seemed very wrong to do nothing with it.
The book which I began writing in earnest in 2013 started as an account of an obscure Jew-hating organisation called The Britons which had been founded in 1919 by Henry Hamilton Beamish. This tiny body published a series of books and pamphlets unmatched in their vehement loathing of Jews and all things Jewish. For fifty years, their flagship publication was The Protocols of The Learned Elders of Zion which purported to prove that Jews were plotting to take over the world. To this day, it remains the key text for global anti-Semitism.
This book of mine took more than three years to write, during which time it evolved into a comprehensive record of the history of twentieth century Jew-hatred. I gave it the title Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators.
Unlike most writers, I’ve never had a literary agent. Given that more than 95% of published books are placed by authors’ agents, my approach seems like literary suicide. That may be so. However, I prefer to think of it as me being a renegade. I’ve no desire to have an agent try to pin me down as a children’s poet, political writer, journalist, humourist or whatever.
Here’s what happened. Having written the first drafts of a couple of chapters of the book, I sat back one day and thought about trying to find a publisher. Thinking I should aim high, I googled the biggest publisher. This was Routledge who published and distributed political books in the UK, USA and worldwide. I googled their phone number, rang it, and asked to speak to Craig Fowlie – a man The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook had informed me was their main political editor.
I later discovered that Craig was hardly ever there to take phone calls. However, that day he was in his office and answered my call. Here’s how our conversation went, I said:
“My name’s Nick Toczek and I’m writing…”
“Did you say Nick Toczek?”
“Are you the Nick Toczek who wrote The Bigger Tory Vote?”
“It’s one of my favourite books… wait. I’m pulling it from my bookcase… here…”
I heard him banging something against the phone.
“That’s your book. It’s one of my all-time favourites. Whatever you’re writing, send me a couple of sample chapters and a synopsis.”
I sent those to him and waited. When there was no reply, I assumed he’d not liked it. Two weeks later, however, a publishers’ contract arrived by post. I signed and returned it. An advance of £500 followed. I’d had my poetry for children published by major presses such as Macmillan, Hodder and LDA, but Routledge were the biggest publishers I’d ever had. Having a book taken by them seemed an extraordinary piece of luck.
Early in 2016, Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators was published in the UK and the USA in hardback, paperback and electronic format. I’m now working on two other titles which I hope Routledge will eventually publish. The first is a history of UKIP and has the working title of Farage Faces Foreigners. The other is about A.K. Chesterton who founded the National Front.
Nick Toczek, May 2018