Former neo-Nazi describes how he was ‘groomed’ into becoming a skinhead — and why he’s fighting fascism now
Nigel Bromage, the son of trade unionists, was a mere 15 years old when a man handing out leaflets outside of his school became one of the first people who convinced him to become a neo-Nazi.
Bromage, who lived in his hometown of Birmingham, England at the time, told the Manchester Evening News that he got an anti-Irish Republican Army leaflet from the man. Superimposed over an image of a charred body were the words, “is this right or wrong?”
“It said if you thought it was wrong, get involved. Because I’d seen so much on the telly about the IRA and the bombings, something clicked inside me,” Bromage said. “The man handing them out wasn’t pushy. He said ‘we’ll be back in three months.’ When he did come back he remembered my name, which really had an effect on me.”
When the man returned months later, Bromage decided to attend the group — Birmingham Against the IRA — but continued to have friends of different races.
A few months into those anti-IRA meetings, the man who recruited him handed him an envelope with a membership card for the British chapter of the National Front, the same far-right and fascist party that rose to international prominence during the French presidential when their candidate Marine le Pen campaigned against now-French President Emmanuel Macron.
Bromage, who now calls the maneuver a “recruiting ploy,” initially rebuffed his recruiter’s attempts to get him to join the group.
“I remember saying to this man that I didn’t have a good opinion of the National Front, that I had black and Asian friends,” Bromage told the Evening News. “He said to me ‘have you heard any racist jokes?’ I said I hadn’t heard any racist jokes, I hadn’t heard anything abusive.”
The recruiter convinced Bromage to give the group a chance for “six months,” and soon, his former friends were replaced by skinheads.
The group bribed Bromage with tickets to social events, and later, they began buying gifts for his mother, who was dying of cancer.
“Then they started saying that my mum would have the drugs she needed if we weren’t sending aid to India and Africa. They said ‘look at your mum suffering when she’s worked all her life’,” he said. “That changed my way of thinking.”
By age 18, Bromage was a “fixture” at National Front protests, but began thinking the party was too focused on being “respectable.” After joining forces with a further right group, he then assembled other “disaffected” members of NF and founded a new group — Combat 18, a group that’s now-worldwide and has been associated with attacks on politicians and minorities that include murders.
As Bromage grew older, the group grew more and more violent — eventually leading to his wife leaving him due to her opposition to Combat 18. By 1997, two members of the group killed another member in an ideological “split,” and Bromage knew he had to get out.
He then moved to a diverse area of London to escape their escalating in-fighting, and after talking “religion and politics” with his roommate while in hiding, he began to de-program from Combat 18’s ethos, eventually becoming an organizer for working class rights and campaigning against groups like the one he co-founded.
You can watch a video of Bromage discussing his time within the UK’s violent far-right below.