IT'S a late Saturday afternoon in September outside Waterloo Station. For a few days, posters have been mysteriously popping up advertising a Blood and Honour rock concert.
Blood and Honour (BH) is a neo-Nazi, skinhead movement dedicated to promoting "white pride" and other National Socialist ideals through rock music. The organization takes its name from the old German Nazi slogan: "My blood is my honor." It was founded five years ago in Britain and is growing rapidly, with branches in Europe and the United States. While it's estimated there are some 30,000 hard-core members worldwide, thousands more attend concerts and identify with the movement.
BH acts as an umbrella for some 30 bands - half of which are British. It is reckoned that every week, somewhere in Britain, a BH gig takes place, sometimes secretly, sometimes not. These concerts are intended to help unify and expand the movement - with startling success. Whereas a few years ago, BH concerts attracted a couple of hundred people, they now pull in as many as 2,000, according to organizers.
BH was created by British skinhead Ian Stuart Donaldson, lead singer and songwriter for Screwdriver, one of the bands billed to play at tonight's concert.
BH concert organizers have kept the event's venue secret in an attempt to thwart antifascists. The word on the street is to be at Waterloo Station by 5:30 to find out where the gig will take place. As BH skinheads show up, they are confronted by anti-fascists throwing bottles and yelling epithets. The London protest organization, Anti-Fascist Action, which includes its own skinhead faction known as Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP), is out in force to try to keep would-be concert-goers and organ izers from connecting.
As the police put on riot gear, I talk with some of the onlookers. While most make negative comments about the neo-Nazis' appearance and style, there is a surprising amount of empathy expressed regarding their point of view.
"I don't mind people with a different skin color," sums up Paul Henning, a 19-year-old from Salisbury, "but I do think they should stay in their own country. At the end of the day, England is for the English."
An anti-fascist activist says that he believes his side is winning this afternoon. "The gig will definitely go ahead," the young man acknowledges, "but we've stopped a lot of [the neo-Nazis] from going. And a lot of those who do go will be very damaged when they get there." Suddenly, he leaps over a police barrier, followed by another man. They rush across the street into a me of flailing arms and flying rocks.
A couple of hours pass in sporatic skirmishes. Skinhead numbers are dwindling. The next challenge is to find the concert site. None of the police, antifascists, or journalists has a definite idea where it will be held.
Following a trail of police tips, and driving all over southeast London, I venture down a dark, quiet street - my last hope. There they are: a contingent of skinheads on foot flanked by police. Officers, acting as escorts, and skinheads walk side-by-side in silence. We stop in front of a pub. This is the place. We wait across the street.
Although several hundred people are already inside, word has it that the concert is to be cancelled. As we linger, I talk with some skinheads standing around. One says he has been a BH follower since its inception. He believes people try to stop their gigs because "we're trying to say something which is true, you know what I mean?" he explains. "Let's face it, nobody likes the truth, do they?"
What is the truth?
"Britain for the British," he barks. For him the phrase means "getting rid of" the Pakistanis, Indians, blacks, and Jews in this country.
Would this include attacking ethnic minorities, unprovoked?
"I wouldn't go out of my way, no," he replies. Five fellow skinheads nearby hear my query: "I'd do it in a minute," chimes in one. "I wouldn't hesitate." The others stare at me scowling in solidarity.
Two policemen nearby claim that "left-wingers" are more dangerous than the neo-Nazis. "Look, these people," says an officer, indicating the neo-Nazis, "are by and large supported by the police. The police are [generally] right-wing.... They've got no ax to grind against us, and we've got no ax to grind against them."
Suddenly we hear that the gig is on. The skinheads surge to the pub door to join the throng inside. I am pushed back by the bouncers, who make it clear that only BH skinheads can enter. A less-hostile skinhead, waiting outside for his friends, is happy to tell me what I could expect to see if I had been allowed inside. He even gives me his name - Al Cameron - the only BH member this evening willing to do so.
Cameron says he has been to dozens of these gigs. He is attracted to BH, he continues, "because [these people] seem to be the only ones that care - about the white race and where it's going." With obvious pride, he shows me a scrolled BH tattoo on the back of his neck. When asked about the public's fear of the uniform, "Good," he replies, with a smile. "It puts people off."
But don't you want more people to join?
"More people do join," he shoots back, confidently. "We're a growing scene."
At that moment, a skinhead opens the pub door and angrily yells at him to "quit talking to the press." Cameron, a tough-looking man, immediately becomes visibly shaken. He walks away, terrified.