Exploring Far-Right Terrorism

Whatever else it may have been, the early 21st  century has proven to be a particularly creative laboratory for right-wing terrorism. Here violent experimentation has thrived against a general backdrop of populist outrage: and in the widening gyre of endless culture wars and social media storms. Above all, it is far-right terrorists who have pioneered the template of the lone killer as civilizational saviour; and the slaughter of the innocents as live-streamed performance spectacle.

CSTPV has a venerable tradition of taking such violence from the far-right seriously. Indeed, the Centre’s founders, Paul Wilkinson and Bruce Hoffman, were amongst the very first scholars to engage analytically with neo-fascist violence as early as the mid-1980s. That tradition of taking long term and deeply contextualised views of the extremist threat on the Right continues up to the present day.

Here we showcase some of the recent work that has been done on far-right violence at the Centre that we believe deserve a wide readership. Both staff and students have contributed to this section: and the pieces selected are deliberately diverse in both their focus and approach. We hope you will find them illuminating – however uncomfortably so. 


Tim Wilson, Rightist Violence: An Historical Perspective, ICCT

The aim of this essay is to trace the evolution of extreme right-wing violence by paying close attention to its changing patterns from the late nineteenth century to the present. Its basic subject is the specific form of violent actions that have historically emerged from the Right. As such, it takes the form of a study of deeds rather than propaganda. This paper will go on to discuss the perpetrators and methods of right-wing violence from its statist emergence in the late nineteenth century to its pivot in the early twentieth century to taking the ‘low route’ to power, as Italian fascists and Nazi stormtroopers developed strategies focused upon the ‘conquest of the streets’. This essay will conclude by asking: having examined the historical violence of its antecedents, just how tactically innovative is today’s right-wing violence?

Bernhard Blumenau, Unholy Alliance: The Connection between the East German Stasi and the Right-Wing Terrorist Odfried Hepp”

This article, providing an example of state support for terrorists, looks at the cooperation between the Stasi and the right-wing West German terrorist Odfried Hepp in the 1980s. Based on research in Stasi archives, the article explains that gathering information, rather than using him as a terrorist weapon in the Cold War, was the main motivator for the Stasi to cooperate with a high-profile neo-Nazi. By looking at the details of the Hepp-Stasi alliance, it assesses what forms, results, and dangers this relationship produced. The article challenges the myth of the all-mighty East German State Security and demonstrates that the dynamics of this alliance were not always in the Stasi’s favour. In the absence of other instruments of coercion, the Stasi used the personal relationship between Hepp and his officers to control him. The article offers insights into Hepps’s terrorist career but also the pragmatic way in which the Stasi built its network of informants outside the GDR. It also adds nuances to the understanding of the relationship between Socialist states and terrorists during the Cold War.

Research Reports

Beatrice Williamson, Brenton Tarrant: the processes which brought him to engage in political violence. 

Bruce Hoffman, Right-Wing Terrorism in Germany, RAND Corporation 

Bruce Hoffman, Right-Wing Terrorism in EuropeRAND Corporation 


Bruce Hoffman, “The Next American Terrorist,” Cipher Brief

Bruce Hoffman, “The Challenges of Effective Counterterrorism in the 2020s,” Lawfare Blog

Bruce Hoffman, The Terrorist Threat in the United States—Visualizing 2020: Trends to Watch”, Council on Foreign Relations

Bruce Hoffman, “Are We Entering A New Era of Far-Right Terrorism?” War on the Rocks

Bruce Hoffman, “Is 3-D Printing the Future of Terrorism?” Wall Street Journal

Bruce Hoffman, “Halle Shooting: The New Terrorism Reality,” Council on Foreign Relations

Bruce Hoffman, “The Domestic U.S. Terror Threat: What to Know,” Council on Foreign Relations

Bruce Hoffman, “Back to the Future: The Return of Violent Far-Right  in the Age of Lone Wolves,” War on the Rocks

Bruce Hoffman, “How Serious Is White Nationalist Terrorism,” Council on Foreign Relations

Bruce Hoffman, “Mail Bombs, Hate Crimes, and the Meaning of Terrorism,”  Council on Foreign Relations