The American Friends of the British National Party draws together U.S. hate groups while funding British racism.
American hate groups are notorious not only for the bigotry they spew, but also for their frequently vicious internal disputes.
After American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated by one of his own followers in, for instance, infighting eventually destroyed his organization. The Ku Klux Klan, which in the 1920s was largely a centralized, nationwide political machine, is now a bickering collection of some independent groups.
Organizing for white revolution has as often as not taken a back seat to stealing other groups' membership lists or accusing rivals of everything from informing to homosexuality.
But today, operating out of a small apartment in Falls Church, Va., a soft-spoken British expatriate named Mark Cotterill is doing what no fire-breathing leader on the American radical right has managed since World War II: He is uniting a significant number of American extremist factions, all in the name of raising funds for the neofascist British National Party (BNP).
Cotterill's group, the American Friends of the British National Party (AFBNP), has provided a meeting ground for hate groups as disparate as the neo-Nazi National Alliance and the more mainstream, neo-Confederate League of the South.
Featuring speeches by a stellar cast of foreign and domestic racist leaders, the AFBNP's frequent gatherings also have helped these groups to increasingly see eye to eye on issues as narrow as NATO's alleged injustices in the former Yugoslavia and as broad as the importance of "pan-Aryan" internationalism.
"I particularly like the fact that the AFBNP seems to operate as an 'umbrella group' for a number of other racial nationalist organizations," is the way one supporter put it in a letter to the group's bimonthly magazine, Heritage and Destiny.
"Our failure to cooperate with one another over the years has been a major factor in the enemies [sic] marginalization of us in the States. ... Clearly the AFBNP is on the right track."
That track includes what the British call "entryism" into the mainstream — an uncommon strategy for American extremists, who have more often than not rejected working within the system.
During last fall's U.S. presidential race, the AFBNP nearly succeeded in its explicit strategy to "infiltrate" and "hijack" several state chapters of the Reform Party, which was already heading to the far right under presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
And the tens of thousands of dollars that Cotterill's group has raised for the BNP — money donated in possible violation of both British and American law — contributed this summer to the most successful campaign in the history of Britain's most dangerous extreme-right party.
Race as the International Nexus
"Although we are all nationalists, here today we are only one nationality — white," Mark Cotterill told a recent AFNPB meeting, according to his own report in the group's Internet newsletter.
"It is not an American fight or a British fight or a German fight. It is a white fight, and we have got to win it."
To pave the path to victory, Cotterill has managed to bring in racists of almost every stripe, clearly helped by the primordial attraction to American white supremacists of his British background.
Besides the National Alliance and the League of the South, AFBNP meetings have featured Steven Barry, editor of the neo-Nazi Resister magazine, and white supremacist lawyer — and neo-Confederate enthusiast — Kirk Lyons.
Cotterill is especially close to Klansman-turned-politican-turned-expatriate David Duke and his racist European-American Rights Organization.
In all, Cotterill claims to have 100 dues-paying members in 40 states, with 1,000 people receiving his E-mail newsletter — people who are among the most active on the American white supremacist right.
AFBNP meetings are a far cry from backwoods Klan cross burnings. They're held in ordinary-looking meeting rooms and restaurants in cities like Arlington, Va., West Palm Beach, Fla., and Fort Lee, N.J. On the inside, though, racist rhetoric and ritual make the meetings feel like a world apart.
With walls draped in elaborate displays of the Union Jack and white power flags, tables are loaded with neo-Nazi paraphernalia like National Alliance leader William Pierce's racist novel, The Turner Diaries, and, in at least one case, a popular condiment for the hungry anti-Semite — "Holocaust Hot Sauce: Six Million Served."
Although they typically begin with a tepid rendition of "God Save the Queen," one recent meeting opened instead with a moment of silence — not for prayer, but for remembrance of Byron de la Beckwith, convicted murderer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
A February 2001 gathering closed with a particularly strange and solemn ceremony. Illuminated by torchlight, Cotterill stood next to a portrait of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. With Scottish bagpipes playing low, according to the AFBNP newsletter, Cotterill "read out the names of ... martyrs who had died for Britain, the Confederacy and the Racial Nationalist Cause."
Cotterill, now 40, would seem to cut a frightening figure himself. Seasoned in the bitter sectarian conflict of Northern Ireland and the early days of the British neo-Nazi Skinhead movement, he has sought out revolutionary racists at every turn.
But a personal meeting with Cotterill betrays this radical image. A pasty figure typically clad in deck shoes, chinos and a polo shirt, Cotterill looks more like a pudgy yuppie congressional aide than a major nexus of American hate.
His deferential, even bland, style has clearly been instrumental in smoothing over differences between America's contentious extremist factions. In his newsletters, Cotterill adopts the chirpy, upbeat tone of a church social organizer.
Cotterill's style also has been important for putting a new public face on hatred. Operating out of a down-at-the-heels, two-bedroom unit in a multiracial Falls Church apartment complex, he has worked patiently and tirelessly to make white nationalism palatable for public consumption, and he does not want any Hollywood Nazi to ruin his efforts. Cotterill is adamant that the AFBNP avoid any association with the more garish trappings of radicalism.
"Please note that the wearing of combat gear, high boots, paramilitary-style or Nazi-style uniforms, or T-shirts etc. of a nature that could be used by the media against the protest organizers, is strictly forbidden," Cotterill said in reference to a recent rally held to protest German restrictions on "hate" speech and to support a convicted German neo-Nazi murderer facing deportation from America.
"Anyone turning up wearing such items will be asked to leave."
Racist to the Core
Victory in Cotterill's "white fight" may seem far away, but he has a plan. He wants to help build up the British National Party (BNP) from its relatively weak position into a major political force in the United Kingdom, along the lines of extreme-right parties like France's National Front or Austria's Freedom Party.
American extremists have been willing to accept or at least try out this electoral strategy because the BNP is so clearly racist to its core.
"It is now time to give Americans of British heritage ... the opportunity to hear a real racial-nationalist message from the old country," one Scottish organizer explained to an audience at an AFBNP meeting. "That message is coming from the BNP and the BNP only."
In Britain, the BNP bars non-whites from membership and advocates "voluntary resettlement" of "non-white immigrants."
A former BNP member, David Copeland, killed three people and injured over 100 others in a 1999 London bombing campaign against blacks, Muslims and gays. The party has distributed lists of people who are supposedly part of a Jewish conspiracy. BNP leader Nick Griffin is a former member of Britain's neo-Nazi National Front and a founder of the neofascist International Third Position.
"I look forward to the day," says Griffin, "that Britain returns to being a White, Christian country."
Money and Politics in Great Britain
What the BNP needs most is money. Merely to run for parliament, British candidates must put down a deposit of £500 (about $800). If they do not poll at least 5% of the vote, the government keeps the deposit.
Further, under current media rules, political parties must field candidates in 50 parliamentary districts to qualify for free television and radio air time; they cannot buy ads as in the U.S.
Thus, minor political parties like the BNP — which has never had a member elected to parliament — have a strong need for deposit money just to get off the ground.
Thanks to the AFBNP, that money is now flowing. Each of the AFBNP's members pays $10 or more in dues every month.
Since the founding of the AFBNP in January 1999, there also have been 19 meetings, averaging 80-100 attendees who pay $10 to get in and then donate an average of $10 more. AFBNP organizers have bragged about miscellaneous checks, including ones for $10,000 and $16,000.
Since 1999, then, the AFBNP probably has raised $85,000 — and very likely much more.
That is enough to have a real effect on BNP fortunes, and the party knows it. It was no coincidence that BNP leader Nick Griffin made a fundraising trip to the United States a month before Britain's May 2000 parliamentary elections.
"Racially aware Americans can now contribute financially to future BNP campaigns," a Scottish BNP organizer explained to an American audience, "and know that their money is going to a worthy course — the fight for the very survival of white people in the British Isles."
With the Tories, Briefly
Mark Cotterill grew up in a world of ethnic turmoil. A Protestant reportedly born in Northern Ireland in 1961, Cotterill later moved to England, where he distributed illegal literature for the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association.
From 1978 to 1992, as the South West England organizer for the neo-Nazi National Front, he was very close to Britain's racist Skinhead movement during a period of sustained international growth and wild street violence.
Cotterill's first attempt at "entryism" came in 1992 when he joined Britain's Conservative party, comparable in views and stature to the U.S. Republican Party. Even with the Tories, Cotterill continued for months to campaign for the National Front.
A Loyalist magazine he edited during this period ran a cartoon advocating "ethnic cleansing" of Catholics in Northern Ireland. The next year, Cotterill was photographed laughing with neo-Nazi Combat 18 leader and convicted murderer Charlie Sargent.
Nonetheless, Cotterill was actually elected to a local council seat — until the Conservatives dumped him and prevented him from taking office.
Crossing the Ocean
Despite this radical history, Cotterill has been successful precisely because of his ability to build consensus. His networking in the United States began in 1993, when he visited neo-Nazi William Pierce at his National Alliance headquarters in West Virginia.
"I managed to talk to Dr. Pierce in depth," Cotterill wrote later. "I had 3 of the most interesting and enjoyable days of my life there, and I hope to make a return visit in the near future."
In 1995, Cotterill moved to the United States. He was the U.S. distributor for the British far right publication Right Now! and corresponded with future BNP leader Nick Griffin. He developed a friendship with former Klansman David Duke.
And using the pseudonym Mark Cerr, Cotterill served as the youth organizer for the Council of Conservative Citizens until he resigned following the December 1998 exposure of his identity in a special edition of the Intelligence Report.
A Party is Born
It was just after that incident that the AFBNP was born. In the Summer 1999 issue of Heritage and Destiny, Cotterill explained that the publicly owned British Broadcasting Corporation had recently raised the minimum number of districts in which parties must run candidates in order to receive free air time.
"The new conditions mean that the BNP must redouble its efforts, particularly with regard to fundraising," wrote Cotterill. "To help the BNP reach its target, an American support group for the party has been set up. 'American Friends of the BNP' was formed in January by a number of expatriate Britons."
Cotterill later indicated that one of the inspirations for the AFBNP was Noraid, the Irish Northern Aid Committee, which has reportedly raised millions of dollars from Irish-Americans for the Republican cause.
In any case, the AFBNP was successful from the beginning, quickly becoming a nexus for cooperation between American extremists. At several AFBNP meetings, donations were split with other hate groups.
Meetings have even featured speakers from foreign political parties besides the BNP, including Germany's neofascist NPD party and the Danish Racial Nationalist Movement. Cotterill also has met privately in the United States with top officials of France's neofascist National Front.
The AFBNP "is already showing the ability to bring together Americans from various different groups," Cotterill wrote in the BNP's British newsletter. This could "only help to bring some much needed unity to a fragmented and therefore nationally ineffective movement within the USA."
Reforming the Reform Party
AFNPB members would love to see an American racial nationalist party along the lines of the BNP. For several months last year, they thought they had found one in the Reform Party, with the presidential candidacy of right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan.
Spearheaded by the AFBNP, white nationalists around the country pursued a loosely coordinated plan to nominate Buchanan and turn his campaign towards explicit racial nationalism.
"Whatever Buchanan may or may not say to the liberal media, we all know that deep down he is a genuine Nationalist," wrote Mark Cotterill in the Winter/Spring 2000 issue of Heritage and Destiny.
"For the first time in many years we have the opportunity to see a Nationalist party take off in America. Let's not miss that opportunity!"
AFBNP members had attended at least two Buchanan fundraising events, the first as early as December 1999. Reform Party leaders from Florida and Virginia spoke at AFBNP meetings in February and March. Mark Cotterill and several other racists volunteered at the Virginia Reform Party offices.
Also involved in the Buchanan campaign were the racist, yet pseudo-mainstream Council of Conservative Citizens and the explicitly revolutionary neo-Nazi National Alliance. An open connection between these groups would have been highly unlikely but for their common ties to Mark Cotterill and the AFBNP.
Overall, white racists were deeply involved in the Reform Party in California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Yet an explicitly racist Reform Party was not to be. Buchanan's campaign threw out Cotterill and other racist volunteers after their presence was exposed by the Center for New Community and other groups.
Adding insult to injury, as the racists perceived it, Buchanan nominated a black woman, Ezola Foster, to be his running mate. Cotterill felt nothing but scorn for the woman he called "the Negress."
"Buchanan is now part of the problem, and not part of the solution," Cotterill wrote in the next issue of Heritage and Destiny. "The whole notion of trying to infiltrate someone else's movement and hijack it was a bad idea, as the Buchanan/Reform Party case proved.
"Instead, what Middle America needs is a vehicle openly dedicated to White survival and White interests through legal political struggle, which is to say, what is needed is an American version of the British National Party."
Votes and Firebombs
While the AFBNP was trying to infiltrate the Reform Party in the United States, the money it was raising was paying for BNP electoral campaigns — and indirectly, perhaps, racial violence — in Britain.
Before this year's June 7 parliamentary elections in Britain, race riots broke out in economically depressed northern England between poor whites and immigrants from South Asia. Businesses were firebombed, several people were stabbed and dozens were injured.
Calling for a boycott of Asian businesses, the BNP blamed the Asians for the violence and claimed the rioting showed "the failure of the multiracial society."
The British anti-fascist publication Searchlight reported that BNP leaders met with a group of white hooligans in the hours before one of the worst riots.
Authorities accused BNP organizers of helping to instigate the violence, and BNP leader Nick Griffin was even banned from entering the city of Burnley.
In that racially polarized atmosphere, the BNP achieved its best results ever, averaging 4% in all the districts it contested (and breaking the crucial 5% threshold in five towns). Griffin, running in Oldham, the town where the rioting began, did better than any other BNP candidate.
The party's three best results, including Griffin's 16%, were in the districts where violence occurred.
Foreign Agents and the Law
Cotterill and the AFBNP have enjoyed a series of political and financial successes, but it is not clear how long their activities will continue. The AFBNP's fundraising is in apparent violation of American and possibly also British law, although neither country has publicly taken action as yet.
The U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 specifies that any "agent" or "representative" of a "foreign political party" who "solicits ... money, or other things of value for" that foreign political party must register with the Department of Justice and provide detailed records of income and expenses. Penalties for noncompliance are five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Fittingly, FARA was passed by Congress just before the Second World War to keep tabs on the large number of German Nazi Party propagandists operating in the United States. Cotterill's activities appear to be exactly the sort that FARA was meant to cover.
The BNP is a "foreign political party" and Cotterill is listed as a "Key Party Official" in a recent BNP statement. But, according to a spokesman for the Department of Justice's FARA office, neither Mark Cotterill nor the AFBNP itself are registered under the act.
Cotterill may have other problems. He has said publicly that he is married to an unidentified American woman, which could guarantee his immigration status. But there has been no sign of any woman living in his Falls Church apartment, and Cotterill has told a number of associates that he has immigration problems.
Further, in November 2000, the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act became law in the United Kingdom. Regulations concerning political donations are quite complex, and Cotterill claims that Americans can each legally send the BNP up to £200 (over $300) annually.
But the Crown Government's official summary of the act says that it "imposes restrictions on the sources of donations so as to prohibit foreign and anonymous donations to political parties." The law also appears to bar donations by foreigners to individual candidates for office, an interpretation that the AFBNP rejects.
'Our Fitting Memorial'
Whether or not Mark Cotterill and his group are allowed to continue operations, the American Friends of the British National Party is not an aberration on the political landscape. The AFBNP is merely the best example of the larger trend on the extreme right that rejects older nativist ideas for white racial solidarity across national borders.
One article in the AFBNP's Heritage and Destiny titled "Race — The Only Real Foundation for Nationalism," explained the racist dream.
"In the very long run, ten thousand years or more perhaps from today, no one will know or care what we said about Northern Ireland or the European Union," the publication said.
"Quite possibly no one will remember us or even Britain. But if the people of that far-off day can look about them and see other white people, some with hair the hue of sunlight on ripe cornfields and some with eyes the blue of midsummer's heaven, then we will have our fitting memorial."