The introduction and part 1 of Sea Changes are here.
Part 2 of Sea Changes is here, and here is part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.
In which we encounter the monomaniacal Ben Klein, "anti-fascist" extraordinaire.
It had been Ben Klein who had “come up with the goods on the bigot Gowt,” as he exulted on his blog—thanks to a remarkable archive and a pertinacity which bordered on the psychological.
He was the founder and sole proprietor of the National Anti-Fascist Foundation. Despite its fame, NAFF amounted to little more than 31 filing cabinets, crammed with clippings, photos, pamphlets, leaflets, books, court papers, posters, stickers, recordings, and ephemera all about the political Right, indexed using an eccentric but reliable mental filing system. Many documents had never found places in the cabinets, but teetered on tables, chairs, and windowsills, with Post-it notes protruding to show where subjects began and ended. The small NW11 house, with its barred windows and CCTV, contained more bile, crankiness, and obsessiveness than even Albert Norman’s office, and it was added to daily.
Ben remembered names, faces, defects, indiscretions, embarrassing incidents, financial finagling, linkages, and long extracts from newspapers, books, and court reports. Thanks to donations from jumpy private donors, trades unions, government and EU grants, he had been able to give up his accountancy job to dedicate all his time to unearthing racism.
Since then, he had come up with the goods on all kinds of people, from Nazi Satanist bikers to CD MPs, and all intermediate stages of intolerance, and was much relied on by journalists who needed to fill a“far Right” slot and knew he could supply a near-instantaneous thumbnail of a public figure with a past to hide or a hooligan with nothing to hope for. Over the decades, he had helped lots of journalists—except, of course, for the perverse Albert Norman. Ben could never decide what made him tick. Self-hatred? Anxiety status? It was curious that someone so clever didn’t realise that however hard he tried to assimilate, he would never be accepted.
He had tried to point this out to Albert once, when they had fortuitously met at a dinner party years before (their only meeting—their circles did not often overlap), but Albert had merely laughed and steered the conversation in other directions. Ben couldn’t understand the other man’s lack of critical faculty, or his obsession with all that boring classical music—music written, after all, for tyrants and absolute monarchs, and used to distract the masses from social questions. Besides, who was Albert Norman anyway—but a perverse (and perverted) dinosaur, refusing to let go of a dying world? Yet a part of him envied Albert’s arcane knowledge—Ben’s father had apparently sung both synagogue and klezmer with skill and verve, and would probably have wanted his only descendant to take an interest in such things.
But Ben was fervently loyal to his father’s shade in more important ways. His office was in fact a sort of shrine—a way to touch the lost past of the man he had never had the chance to meet, an educated and kindly man gunned down in the main street of a Byelorussian shletl by Einsatzgruppen one sunny spring morning in ‘43—just after he had secreted his pregnant wife in a storm-cellar, where she had lain unguessed at for a day before re-emerging into a horridness of smouldering houses and strewn neighbours, as larks rose and rang beyond the greasy smoke and the smell of incendiarized epidermis.
Mother—and Ben, born two months afterwards—had squeaked through the ensuing years, thanks to the forbearance of a Wehrmacht commander sickened by the SS, and feeding herself and her baby by working as caretaker of a vast wooden onion-domed church on an island in a lake in an immensity of grass and great bustards. When the Soviets rolled back over the area, there was no more room for monks so the church closed and she drifted west, alone except for little Benny. She told her son about his father, the life they had led, and the eternal vileness of Germans and Russians. No-one else ever knew what privations and humiliations she had suffered (she was a proud woman). Afterwards, they had come, somehow, to Finland, Sweden, and, ultimately, London, where she had almost immediately expired, worn out but secure in the knowledge that little Benny was safe.
He was safe, indeed, but un-Jewished, coming into contact with Marx soon after he left school. Decades later, he would realize that Marxism had not worked, but he blamed this on the Russians rather than the ideology. And anyway, its shortcomings paled into irrelevance when compared with the alternative—contradiction-carrying capitalism with its opiates of flags and faith, Germany reascendant, Mosley marching again in London, guarded by his “right” to “free speech.” Ben would sometimes go with comrades to throw stones at Mosley’s men—those were almost sexually ecstatic interludes of fists and flick-knives, kicking Cockneys and Teddy Boys in the balls, ripping down their posters and bearing away their banners as trophies. Some of the Union Movement’s faded fustian still resided in filing cabinet drawers, and occasionally he would come across these souvenirs by chance—and he would touch them and remember how and when they were won.
This still dangerous Europe was reinforced by an America raised on rancid foundations—a country he had always refused to visit on principle, nauseated by its imperialism, inequality, and space programs run by ex-Nazis, while the grandsons of slaves lived in shotgun shacks— that place where Jim Crow met Salem met Madison Avenue.
The further Ben moved from faith, the heavier his burden of guilt—his feeling he had betrayed his parents by not being able to believe what they had believed in and died for—to share fully in that extirpated culture. It was to assuage this feeling that he had finally decided to dedicate his life to ensure IT could never happen again.
He was unmarried (unsure about his proclivities, he had decided never to bother), bald but with a thin, curly reddish-grey beard, experienced blue eyes peering acutely from a thin face on top of a thin body of just five feet four inches. His fingers were always working out, always riffling tirelessly through papers, snipping, folding, following text as he leaned close over it, breathing through his mouth like Albert Norman did, reading things in a barely audible mutter as the traffic poured past outside, sometimes saying out clearly to the empty room “Hah!” or “Well, well...” or “Gotcha!”
He sat alone but connected, feeling for and finding fascism almost everywhere as governments arose and fell, and the Jewish delis in the nearby Parade became Kurdish kebab places. Twice his worst fears had been confirmed when skinheads smashed the windows of the house and daubed hateful slogans on the front wall. Ever since, his house had been wired into a private security firm’s emergency circuit, and occasionally the local police would visit to check that everything was all right.
He would have rejected the suggestion angrily, but the peculiar truth was that he had brooded so much on his enemies that he had become dependent on them, even a little like them—conspiratorial, defensive, angry at the hand he had been dealt by Fate. The always small numbers of his friends dwindled as the numbers of his contacts grew. His chunky leather-bound address book held an unusual combination of names, from East End enforcers and agents provocateur to academics, MPs, peers, police, media organizations, corporations, and overseas governments. Hidden beneath these often-conjured names, there lay, like an erased ghetto cemetery, other names—the Tippexed-out details of friends dropped and deceased. Sometimes in the relative silence of the smallest hours, lying in his grey and grubby bed in his mould- spotted bedroom, watching headlights pass across the ceiling, he would remember with a sweet pain some of these friends, and places seen years ago. But in the practical daytime he would block them out again—loved but lost like autumn leaves, necessary sacrifices to historic justice.
The filing cabinets around the walls were not just furniture, but fortifications, and sometimes even a little like people. He even had a nickname for each one, like “‘30s Stuff ” or “Big Grey ‘n’ Black.” They were his secret resource, his reason to wake every morning and get “on the blower,” as he called it East End-like. He spent whole days and weeks scarcely leaving his office in what had once been an elegant Edwardian sitting room, except to root in some less-used cabinet in one of the chill other rooms.
There were no personal pictures on the walls—just wall-planners, charts and maps, photos of him with celebrities—including the PM, taken just a few weeks ago at that big dinner when they had such an enjoyable conversation. He had a lot of time for the present PM. Then there was a shot of Ben in a TV studio, when he had blushed to be called “Britain’s bravest campaigner” (that phrase was emblazoned across his business cards), and newspaper clippings of his successes in forcing enquiries, purging organizations, having meetings cancelled, winning legal actions, once even having an ancient Cistercian exposed as a former Ustasha militiaman, and drummed out of the monastery where he had been since 1946, hypocritically building up a reputation for sanctity and good works. “YES!!!” was scrawled in large red letters across a copy of the man’s obituary.
Ben was now clipping out the bits from today’s papers to add to his files, while his darting eyes were already analyzing the next paper. It was perhaps premature to list this pig-ignorant farmer as another success, but wait and see! He clipped and felt clean and whole, while the traffic poured past day and night.
Next Tuesday - Part 9
Copies of Sea Changes are available from Amazon (a few copies of the first edition still available)
…........................................................................................- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times.
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Some recent articles from Derek Turner:MUDDLING THROUGH (OR NOT) WITH MULTICULTURALISM
Taking back the city
FALSE FLAGS, AND TANGLED GROWTHS
FLIGHTS OF FANCY