Skinheads and Neo-Nazis

The skinhead movement is a subculture born in the late 1960s among multi-racial working-class youth in the UK. It started as a reaction against the hippie movement, the British class society and the lack of job and social opportunities. The name skinhead comes from the close-cropped or shaved heads of the people representing this subculture. Originally skinheads aligned themselves mostly by fashion, music and lifestyle, not by politics or race. The first representatives of the movement were greatly influenced by black music imported by immigrants from former Caribbean colonies, Jamaican rude boys and British mods.

However, by the early 1980s part of the skinhead subculture started to identify themselves with racist and neo-fascist ideas propagated by the British National Front (BNF). This white-power movement spread to other parts of the world, particularly in the United States. Although skinheads are most often associated with far right-wing ideas, part of this subculture, known as Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP), is clearly anti-racist and left-wing oriented. Both types of skinheads listen to the same music and enjoy the same lifestyle but they differ decidedly over politics often fighting violently with each other. Apart from their hatred of different races and ethnic groups racist skinheads often show disrespect for and assault other minorities such as gays and lesbians.

Neo-Nazism is a general term referring to the related fascist, nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic beliefs and political tendencies that emerged after World War II. These views are propagated by numerous groups that aim to restore the Nazi order or to establish a new order based on similar doctrines. Many neo-Nazis are inspired by Mein Kampf (1925-26), a book written by German leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), known as My Struggle or My Battle in English.

Another important writing for this movement is Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics (1948) by US political thinker Francis Parker Yockey (1917-1960). There are also neo-Nazis that support related beliefs deriving from older Catholic, nationalist or other local traditions. One uniting factor for all neo-Nazis is racism and the belief in the dominance of the Aryan master race. The movement is also clearly anti-Semitic, claiming that the Holocaust never happened and arguing that it was a hoax perpetrated by Jews.

When the neo-Nazi skinhead movement spread around the world in the 1980s, some social scientists started looking for the reasons for people to join this kind of groups beyond notions of deviance and psychopathology. According to these scientists, people could become part of neo-Nazi groups for the same reasons as any other groups, namely driven by shared grievances as a result of social circumstances and by common goals that seem practical and reachable.

The growth of the neo-Nazi movement globally can be attributed to factors such as unstable economic, political and social conditions. These factors include simultaneous inflation and recession in the 1970s largely due to dependence on Arab oil; the collapse of the Soviet Union; waves of non-white immigration to Europe and to the United States; and the constant threat of war, especially in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The anxiety caused by these factors was used by leaders of neo-Nazi groups to attract more supporters.

Apart from skinhead neo-Nazism, Encyclopaedia Judaica names two other significant ideological innovations among neo-Nazi groups - the so-called Third Position neo-Nazism and neo-Nazi theologies based on hybrids of religion such as Protestantism and Paganism. The Third Position is a revolutionary nationalist political ideology that opposes both capitalism and communism merging the left-wing national socialism of the early Nazi Party with ideas of white supremacy. It calls for local economic cooperatives, support for the working class and environmentalism.

In addition, there are hybrids between different religions and white-supremacy ideas. For example, in the United States the Christian Identity movement is built around Protestant Christianity and neo-Nazi racialism. Another example is pagan neo-Nazism, which became quite popular in the 1990s, particularly in the Nordic region. This phenomenon is built around racist forms of Norse religious traditions such as Odinism, Ásatrú and Wotanism.

In the 1970s, the neo-Nazi movement started building bridges to more mainstream political and social movements across Europe and North America via numerous right-wing populist political parties and fundamentalist religious movements. In some countries, neo-Nazis became more involved in electoral politics rather than simply organizing street demonstrations and violent acts.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Terrorist Identity: Explaining the Terrorist Threat
Michael P. Arena; Bruce A. Arrigo.
New York University Press, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Racist Skinheads"
Skinheads Shaved for Battle: A Cultural History of American Skinheads
Jack B. Moore.
Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993
American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime
Mark S. Hamm.
Praeger, 1994
Subcultures, Pop Music and Politics: Skinheads and "Nazi Rock" in England and Germany
Brown, Timothy S.
Journal of Social History, Vol. 38, No. 1, Fall 2004
Civil Rights Group Warns of Neo-Nazis in the US Military
Jonsson, Patrik.
The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2009
Disappointed Eastern Europe Confronts Its Neo-Nazis
Orszag-Land, Thomas.
Contemporary Review, Vol. 291, No. 1694, Autumn 2009
The Ugly Face of Israel's Neo-Nazis
Frykberg, Mel.
The Middle East, No. 390, June 2008
Electronic Tribes: The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, Shamans, and Scammers
Tyrone L. Adams; Stephen A. Smith.
University of Texas Press, 2008
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Brotherhood of Blood: Aryan Tribalism and Skinhead Cybercrews"
Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement
Kathleen M. Blee.
University of California Press, 2002
Hate Crime: The Global Politics of Polarization
Robert J. Kelly; Jess Maghan.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "The Neo-Nazis and Skinheads of Germany: Purveyors of Hate"
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