Extended Essay: Myths of the Battle of Cable Street

Abstract:  This essay seeks to examine and expose myths that are commonly presented by modern conception of the effect of the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ that occurred on October 4th 1936 in the east end of London. The essay will explain the events that occurred at the ‘Battle’. Then it will analyse 4 major misconceptions of the ‘Battles’ effects and show that they are in fact not true.  This will be done by placing the ‘Battle of Cable’ street in a greater context that is often ignored. For instance I will be using books that examine the whole interwar period such as We Danced All Night and books that examine the entire life of the British Union of Fascist such as the book by R. Benewick, The Fascist Movement in Britain and R. Skidelsky's book, Oswald Mosley. Additionally it uses information presented by both left and right wing sources like left wing media such as the communist’s newspaper, The Daily Worker and right wing media such as the BUF’s newsletter Blackshirt. Finally it will examine sources from the time of the ‘Battle’ such as newspapers and propaganda and also more resent publications such as Tony Kusher’s and Nadia Valmam’s book , Remembering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Society published in 2000.  This will provide a balance spectrum of work that will allow the essay to establish an argument that represents the truth rather that the conceptions that have been created over time and in the context of History due to modern perception of fascism.

Word count: 256

On October 4th 1936 Sir Oswald Mosley marched 8,000 black shirts and fascist supporters threw the highly Jewish east end of London. They were met by what the daily herald estimated to be around 300,00018 anti-fascist protestors and 10,000 metropolitan police officers 3,000 of whom were on horseback. The protestors consisted of communist, Jews, anarchists and many other people that disapproved of the British Union of Fascist and particularly their anti-Semitic policies and rhetoric. The aim of the Anti-fascists was to simply prevent the passage of the BUF and after the efforts of the police, to allow the BUF threw, failed they succeeded.

This Event has become seen, particularly for those people on the left as a “turning point in the struggle against Fascism in Britain”42. People such as Max Lativas, a survivor of the event and a left wing Jewish man, call it “a victory for ordinary people against racism, anti-Semitism and the fascists”. ‘The spectacle of the workers in action gave the Fascists reason to pause. It induced widespread despondency and demoralization in their ranks … [and] the East End Fascist movement declined.’ Claimed Ted Grant, another member of the demonstration and influential socialist thinker. The event still maintains a strong footing in the fight against right extremism. This story holds a place in the Imperial Museum in London as being a key factor to the decline of the British Union of Fascist and Fascism in general in the Great Britain and discribe by one Jewish historian as the ‘the most remembered day in 20th century British Jewish history’41.

This however is disputed buy the British Nationalist Party, the current right wing party in Britain. They claim that the information presented in popular belief is “left wing Media bias”. Furthermore they believe that the whole event was an artificial creation engineered by the communists and Jews; that the protester where not in fact from the east end3, that many were criminals4 and that it is presented to be much more of a victory than it actually was5. Based on this it is important to understand the context, the day and the aftermath of the Battle.

Context of the ‘Battle of Cable Street’

The whole event outline and put under the microscope many of the political issues that has befallen British, and much of Europe’s, society such as radicalism, violence, and anti-semetism. This climate stemmed mainly from the instability that World War One had caused. Radicalism can be seen across Europe with the extreme right Governments forming in Italy, Spain, Germany, Hungry and Poland, and the extreme right in many of the eastern countries such as the USSR and China. The radical parties that gained control in many other countries around the world were not able to gain a large footing in British politics. The BUF it’s self showed the manifestation of radicalism in Britain however they were never able to gain ‘ any real political power’ for one major reason; their shift toward Nazism which started in 1934.21 This shift caused massive drops in support and funding. However, as I will explain the actions of the BUF were no more radical or violent than the people fighting against them and the decline of the BUF had little to do with the ‘Battle of Cable Street’.

The British Union of Fascists or BUF was created in 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley however their had been fascist ideology circulating since the end of the First World War. Mosley was an adventures and often distasteful aristocrat. He is famous for his many affairs often spouting lines such as “vote labour, sleep tory”7. He also navigated all sides of the political spectrum as a politician Tory (Harrow, 1918-20)' Independent Conservative (Harrow, 1920-23)' Independent (Harrow, 1923-24)' Labour (Smethwick, 1926-31). In 1931 Mosley desperately tried to convince the labour party to adopt his radical state “socialism” form of government however he failed and split from the party creating the New Party. The party failed miserably gaining 16,777 votes in 24 constigencies.8 As his intrigue built for the fascists racemes in other European countries he began to travel and eventually after a trip to Italy he decided to create the BUF, modeling it on Mossaline’s  government.9

Mosley’s message to the people of Britain was that the BUF "object is no less than the winning of power for Fascism, which we believe is the only salvation for our country."10 This was not exactly the case as they were never able to gain any real political power but were able to gain 50,000 members in their first 2 years of egsistance11. The 50,000 included very powerful and influential members of the aristocracy such as Lord Rothermere and had the support of powerful institutions such as the Daily mail. The party however,by many, including the Daily mail, was seen to become progressively more and more violent and anti-Semitic.  Groups like the Communists and many Trade union organizations say that the “the struggle started years before [‘the Battle of Cable Street’]… we fought the fascists from 1930”, as Max Lativas put it, the masses began to see that the party was becoming a threat to order in June of 1934 when there was large outrage towards the violence and anti-Semitic actions at the Olympia rally where they brutally beat protestors. At this point the Daily mail relinquished their public support. This shift was made as they began to see the success of the Nazi’s in Germany and was all part of the BUF plans to appeal to the working class and create a solid base of support. They began to connect unemployment, bad economic growth, poverty and almost anything else negative with Jews, communists and the current astablishment. They went as far as to criticize supermarket such as marks and spencer’s for being foreign or communist.7 They began to cooperate with the British Brothers League who did such things as pass the Alien Restriction Act in 1905. 12 The campaign to gain support in the east end gained furry and violence. “Through endless street-corner meetings, fire-bombing and smashing the windows of Jewish shops, racist abuse and physical attacks, the fascists worked overtime to create an atmosphere of siege.”8  This transformation shows that this BUF was not the party it originally started of as. It had transformed into a party obsessed with anti-Semitism, violence and propaganda. It gained new supporters out of radically right wing groups but alienated the people that allowed it to be successful in the first place. This is illustrated by the fact that within the first years membership was around 50,000 but progressively decreased to about one a tenth of that41. The lost of support of major tools such as the daily mail and Lord Rothermere with violent assaults and attacks on Jews and communists being attach to them alienated people and lead them into a spiraling loss of support. Furthermore, they were harmed greatly by the fact that Britain began to emerge from the Great Depression rendering Mosley’s complex economic policies obsolete41. The British Union of Fascist was essentially destroying themselves threw their extreme shift to the right militaristic violance and inappropriate policies. Their popularity by October 1936 was at its lowest point and this had nothing to do with the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ as it is often attributed.  
This period of time also gave birth to the communist party, which had also gained a large amount of popularity. They had around 100,000 readers of their daily newspaper, the Daily Worker, and had member such as Shapurji Saklatvala elected to high positions such as MPs status7. This shows the radicalization of the British population as a whole, moving to both sides of the political spectrum many in search of the “land of heroes”, that had been promised by Chamberlin after the war, but did not seem to becoming reality.19 Furthermore, the majority of the support for the Communists came from the working class members of the population and this was the segment of the population that the BUF also recognizes as the foundation they would need to create a sustainable and popular party. Then as now the east end of London is one of the most impoverished area of the U.K. It was also seen as a consistent strong hold for the communist party. This made it an area with a particularly high risk of conflict when the BUF decided to try and gain support there. Additionally, the labour unions were taking a strong hold of the way the country was functioning. In the early 1920’s the number of people in Britain that had joined unions was upward of 10 million. This lead to strikes such as on in May of 1926 when strikes all over the country lasted for 9 days. These strikes lead to the loss of eighty million working days almost every year during the 1920’s. Strikes were also stages of massive violence, illustrated by the recording of 2,421 cases of assault or injury to the London metropolitan police (However the circumstances of these incidence are unclear and due to the fact that some police at this time frequently engaged in aggressive attacks on members of society therefore the may have propagated the violence that caused their injury) or when 5,000 people attacked a police station in Preston and freed many of the imprisoned criminals.20 This shows that the whole British society was not one of stability as we understand it today. Without understanding this it is easy to perceive the BUF as a radical group in their violent actions as well as their beliefs. However the only radical thing that the BUF entertained was to create, what could be called, a private army. These were the black shirts, trained in martial arts and the other methods used by the Black Shirts at the black house in Chelsea. There politically motivated groups using violence to fight opposition such as in the OMS but they had never before been organized, openly supported and paid for by the a party its self. This is partially why the black shirts activities began to gain so much attention from the other political parties and the mass media. Their brutality in the east end of London in the early 30’s and the many recounts such as David Low’s of how black shirts systematically “bashed him (protesters at a speech made by Mosley) and lugged him out.” shows how the black shirts were an organized army unlike anything else in Britain. The BUF took violence as a tool to level not seen before and were there for particularly terrifying and unacceptable to most British people such as Lloyd George said, "Mosley was a political maniac, and that all decent English people must combine to kill his movement". 6
In September of 1936 the BUF announce a march that would be held in the east end of London. It was part of their efforts to gain support in the area. This was scene by many in the east end especially Jews and Communists as a direct attack on them create to scare them into essentially hiding. Of course the BUF denied that it had anything to do with the Jews or communists in the area but never the less a massive and extreme opposition met the march. The Communist Party head up creating a petition saying they did not want the BUF from marching through and they circulated it around the east end. The manage to get 100,000 signatures in 48 hours and then sent it to the home office on Friday October 2 handed to them by a group consisting of the secretary of London Trades Council, a Labour MP for Whitechapel, two leaders of the JPC and a priest. However their effort were futile as the home office refused to prevent the march. This decision was met by polar opposite responses. The BUF said that one should have ‘every right to express your opinions, and it was intolerable that free speech should be brought to an end”27. On the other hand the Jewish, anti-fascists and communists were outraged.  The daily news paper wrote statements from the public such as, "We must give them such a reception that they will not march down here again"28 and made it clear that in their opinion “It was expected that every Fascist advertisement in the East End would be defaced or ‘removed’ by this morning."29 .Initially the communist party issued a statement in the daily worker asking "for workers to go in their thousands to Trafalgar Square, and after the demonstration to march through East London’s streets to show their hatred of Mosley’s support for the Fascist attacks on democracy in Spain" and not to face off against the BUF. However originations such as Ex-Servicemen’s Committee Against Fascism did promote fighting directly against the fascists. The Jewish synagogues were also split many of them did not officially support fighting against the Fascist as they are religious institutions. The Jewish board of deputies published in the Jewish chronicle, "Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Black shirt march and from their meetings”. However often much of their constituency was involved in promoting protests in the east end. Many of them were instrumental in coming up with the posters that have become so famous saying “They shall not pass”.  This type of split was the case in many of the organizations involve hiding vary radical ideas and plans with more moderate official statements. The Communist party too was split many of the party believe that they should abandon the event in Trafalgar Square and confront the BUF in the east end. On October 2 the tactics switch as the anti-fascist groups became aware that the Home Office would definitely not prevent the march and so the statements became much more radicle. The communist issued a statement saying "Workers’ contingents from various parts of London will march to the rally in Aldgate, Commercial Road, Cable Street, Minories and Leman Street", the independent labour party handed out leaflets telling their supporters to go and fight the BUF. Many synagogues either retracted their statements about not confronting the BUF or openly supported the confrontation. The socialist league handed gained participants and the Irish dockers began to group together. The Daily Worker wrote, "There is no doubt that from 2 o’clock onwards the roads will be crowded with people intent on opposing Fascism."11
The day

At 1:30 member of the BUF began to assemble at Royal Mint Street ready for their 2:30 meeting time so that they could march together 10 miles to 4 meetings in Shoreditch, Limehouse, Bow and finally to a rally in Bethnal Green. But as they began to march they began to get message from the Met police that it was not wise for them to walk their original route because as the Daily Workers reported "Hours beforehand every street between the Mint and Aldgate was thronged with people”15, 300,000 of them, all anti-fascist and ready to prevent Mosley’s Group of 8,000 from passing. Beatty Orwell, 89, explained how it was so crowed that “a friend of mine was thrown through a plate glass window." To give a sense of what they were fighting for many of them hold signs say No pasaran- they shall not pass or sing tunes such as.

‘Tell them in England, if they ask
What brought us to these wars,
To this plateau beneath the night’s
Grave manifold of stars –

It was not fraud or foolishness,
Glory, revenge, or pay:
We came because our open eyes
Could see no other way...’

These people like Max Lativas and Audrey Gillian felt as though they had tried tirelessly to prevent the BUF from implementing ‘anti-Semitic tirade’1 on the east end of London, and Britain as a whole, and that now the time had come when it was imperative to go to further measures to ensure that their worst fears were not realized. They had tried get the government to prevent the BUF from being able to pass threw but since they were unable to convince them they would decided they would have to prevent the BUF from passing themselves them selves. Therefore, The anti-fascist protestors created blockades all over the streets in the east end.  Prof. bill Fishman said that these barricades were made by placing “old lorry and mattresses in the middle of the road.” The Daily worker described it as well on October 5th, the day after the event, stating, "Barricades were built in the street, and packing cases, a lorry and a couple of carts, to say nothing of the contents of a builder’s yard, were called into service to build it.” Moreover, the daily worker describes how these blockades were not only used to prevent the black shirts or Policemen from passing by but, also, as vantage points from which protestors could through objects in order to prevent the police from coming into contact with the protestors. “Paving stones were tom up and broken into convenient sizes to serve as ammunition, glasses and bottles were broken and the splintered glass ground into the road to impede the passage of the mounted. The police tried to stop these operations but were powerless to do so."16 All to often it is assumed that a party acting against something that is generally disapprove of now a days or scene as a negative think, such as the BUF, that the people who fought against them did nothing wrong however that is not true. The fact is on this day the anti-fascist were the ones disturbing the peace not the BUF. The next day the BUF issued a statement saying "Socialists, Communists and Jews openly organized not only to attack the meetings but to close the streets of London by violence to members of the public [black shirts] proceeding to the legitimate meetings".  This is further shown by recounts of the moment when six black shirt arrive "At 1.30 two lone Black shirts appeared at Royal Mint Street. They were told to stand against the wall and six policemen were detached to stand in front of them, hiding them from the crowd. Shortly afterwards a covered vanload of Black shirts appeared. As the first two men dismounted the crowd was on them before the police could intervene, and in another second both were stretched out unconscious. Then the police activities started in earnest. From all quarter’s foot and mounted police appeared on the scene. Within ten minutes, there were three baton charges in Royal Mint Street, and all the while crowds were being pushed back and more streets cordoned off. Eventually the Minories was closed entirely and the crowd pushed back down Cable Street. By this time Royal Mint Street itself was emptied of workers and was occupied by 500 police and the assembling fascist forces which came up mostly in closed vans."14 these actions show the extreme nature of the protestors however indicate that the BUF on this day were not the ones creating unrest but instead it was the protestors. The police too were part in the extreme actions of that day. In fact it was not a battle between the fascist and the anti-fascist, but a “battle between the communists [and other protestors] and the police”.22  This is particularly illustrated by the way the “The police made several baton charges, in which a number of the crowed and two policemen were injured.”23
They also deployed 4 thousand police on horseback and another 6 thousand to support them.  This was exstremely large amounts at the time and so can be seen as a radical move by the metropolitan police.24 In this battle there were 150 people arrested 100 injured according to the BBC and many recounts such as this in the Daily mail, “Between 2 and 3 p.m. nine persons including a girl of 19, were admitted to London Hospital. A boy not more than 14, walked into the hospital with a head injury. Later two more young women were admitted to the hospital. Both had their hands tramped on in a stampede.” Finally, after repeated attacks on the crowds attempting to create a path for the Black shirts Sir Philip Simon received reports from the police, at 3:30, that it would not be possible for the black shirts to walk threw the crowed with out creating the “worst street fight Britain would have ever seen”. So instead he premised the BUF to west to Somerset House, where they arrived at 4:30.
One can trace the route using this map of the old east end30 and see the many small streets that created an even more difficult and complicated situation to handle.

The Myths

The ‘Battle of Cable Street’ decreased the popularity of the BUF

Gerry Webber wrote, the BUF actually gained more power after the battle of cable street and contemporary records support this. ‘Over the following months the BUF was able to convert defeat on the day into longer-term success and to justify a further radicalization of its anti-Jewish campaign’. 41 The BUF recognized  this and publish in their newspaper, Blackshirt, that their had been a massive boost in popularity for the fascist movement. This was backed up by the Special Branch of the government that reported monthly on extremist politics in Britain. They said that there was ‘ abundant evidence that the Fascist movement has been steadily gaining ground in many parts of east London’. It showed an increase of 2,000 recruits in London adding to its only 3,000 members ealier that year.
The BUF argued that, “While attempts by the Communist Party to raise enthusiasm over the “fascist defeat” were comparative failures, the British Union of Fascists, during the week following the banning of their march, conducted the most successful series of meetings since the beginning of the movement. In Stepney, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Stoke Newington and Limehouse, crowds estimated at several thousands of people (the highest being 12,000) assembled and accorded the speakers an enthusiastic reception.” Furthermore the Special Branch reported that the communist efforts to increase enthusiasm for their ‘victory’ was ‘met with a very poor response’ and concluded that ‘the alleged Fascist defeat is in reality a Fascist advance.’
As the lowest amount of support that the BUF had was during the period between 1935 and 1936 when they had approximately 5,000 members11 the idea that the Battle of Cable Street had anything to do with the drop in support can be dismissed. “A definite pro-fascist feeling has manifested itself throughout the districts mentioned since the events of October 4”. Furthermore Gerry Webber proved that the damage done to the BUF was minimal. He showed that in the elections of March 1937 they managed to obtain 23% in Betha Green, 19% in Limehouse and 14% in Shoreditch.51 These were the best results that the BUF had obtained during their life time in these areas and showed an obvious boost in support.
The support of the BUF far from dropping after the Battle of Cable street increased and the BUF began to provoke more serious debate about their reputability as a player in the politics of Britain.

"A victory for ordinary people against racism and anti-Semitism”50

Max Lativas describe the Battle of Cable street as “a victory for ordinary people against racism, anti-Semitism and the fascist”. This victory over anti-Semitism was not as drastic as presented by popular belief. In Fact it was isolated to the day of the battle. Following the 4th the BUF stepped up its anti-Jewish propaganda and policy. Sources from within the BUF party leaked to the British Jewry’s representative body that the BUF intended to use the Battle of Cable street on ‘a renewed anti-Semitic campaign’.41 In fact articles in the Blackshirt that were anti-Semitic increased from 21 per cent to 39 present in the 6 months after the Battle. This was matched by increases in anti-Semitic rhetoric during speech and rallies.48
Moreover the actions of the BUF and society as a whole were more worrying.   “in the 1930s it was quite an ordinary thing to see restaurants, hotels, clubs, beaches, and residential neighbourhoods barred to people with what were delicately called “dietary requirements.” … Contempt for [Jews] was not considered bad form. They were widely regarded as unlovable, alien, loud-mouthed, “flashy” people who enriched themselves at the expense of Gentiles.”49 Anti-Semitism persisted in popular culture until the Second World War but was even more extreme in the BUF and the rest of the right wing. The week preceding the 4th  Blackshirt is recorded to have said in a speech ‘by God there is going to be a pogrom… the people who have caused this are the Yids’. The next weekend, in the worst recorded anti-Semitic attack ever, 200 youths, armed with iron bars and hatchets, wrecked and looted Jewish shops, set alight cars and assaulted an elderly Jewish man and a child. 41 The Jewish Peoples Council claimed that there had been an “intensification” anti-Jewish behavior and that after the Battle of Cable Street it was “terrorism which appears to increase week by week”. They reported cases of violence, vandalism and abuse. The increased anti-Semitism was further shown by Sir Phillips Game, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He explained that the levels of anti-Semitic crime in London had seemed to have shot up during 1936 and 37.44 Finally, as this Anti-Semitic rhetoric intensified the BUF gained the votes for the BUF spiked51. This shows that the message was received well in the east end and other sections of the country.   

A Public Relation catastrophe for the Fascists

The BUF also officially released a statement the next day saying saying "Socialists, Communists and Jews openly organized not only to attack the meetings but to close the streets of London by violence to members of the public [black shirts] proceeding to the legitimate meetings".43 This outline the position that the BUF too after the 4th. They now had an ‘active opposition’ it allowed them to explain their Anti-Semitic propaganda with the example of the mayhem the protestors at Cable Street caused. It allowed the BUF to present themselves as the victims as BUF successes were rarely advertise and this was largely one of the first times people had heard about the BUF.48 Mosley struck a chord with many locals. The BUF said that a “strong sense of local patriotism’ had been “gravely offended by the rioting of Jews and Communists … [which] was felt as a disgrace to the god name of east London”45 in an internal document in 1937.

The BUF had always presented them selves as being forced into their Anti-Jewish polices by the actions of the Jewish people. This was so far the best and biggest example of the Jewish anti-Fascism or “Jewry’s biggest Blunder” and therefore fit into argument perfectly. The implementation of this concept can been seen in the fore mention figures of the increase in anti-Semitic propaganda and it reception can be seen by the fore mentioned  increase in popularity. Therefore, one can see that the action of the protestors, far from hindering the BUF, actually supplied them with more ammunition for their propaganda.

“The Impact [of the Public Order act of 1936] on the BUF was minimal”41

The Public Order Act of 1936 has become one of the dramatic things that happened to the BUF in its lifetime. This forbid people from wearing political uniform in any public place or public meeting and "association of persons ... for the purpose of enabling them to be employed in usurping the functions of the police or of the armed forces of the Crown," or "for the use or display of physical force in promoting any political object."38

After the Battle of Cable Street “it seemed possible that the situation might get out of control. The addition of a political conflict and the consequent intensification of activity meant that the risks of real trouble might have increased had the BUF been allowed its uniforms, its obscenities and its stewards...we must adjudge the Government’s maintenance of order and its strengthening of the law as an important reason why [the BUF] failed to become politically active.’ 35 It became obvious to many, such as Robert Benewich, a noted historian, that things about the BUF had become much weaker and that in many ways the new laws made it harder for the BUF to function in the same way as they had before. For Mosley34 as well as many others this put an end to the power that the BUF had been able to build and lost their ability to influence and control people in that way they had been able to before with the use of the black shirts. “The ‘private army’ was born of a situation in which order at public meetings and free speech in Britain had ceased to exist. The only period in which free speech at open meeting for the opponents of communism existed in Britain during my lifetime was while the ‘private army’ also existed” 36. The black shirts or ‘private army’ used by the BUF prior to 1936 was instrumental in the gaining of power. It gave them two important abilities; “The removal of black shirt also removed the discipline of our movement”37. It prevented them from controlling the members in a dictatorial militaristic way as they had before. Structure was lost and with out this structure the “center could not hold”, the center being its militaristic structure and paramilitary style rallies, and the BUF ended up losing all of its funding from Mousseline’s fascist party in Italy. This made many of them more radical in behavior, using violence more frequently and with out the punishment system that they had before the BUF had difficulty controlling them. Secondly, they lost their ability to subdue opposition which often meant that “Outdoor meetings were shambles” and it often led to situation such as in 1937 when Oswald Mosley got hit in the head by a metal object thrown from the crowd and sent to hospital. This changed the whole way that the party was run distancing it from its old way of a paramilitary operation. It was unable to assert its power on the unwilling as they had in rallies such as Olympia. As Herbert Morrison, a Home Secretary during the Second World War said that it ‘...smashed the private army and I believe commenced the undermining of Fascism in this country’.39


The ‘Battle of Cable  Street’, although a short term success, had a generally negative effect on the interest of the protestors. It did in fact create an increase in the support for the BUF, perpetuated Anti-Semitism and racism and provided propaganda material for the BUF to use as they step up their campaign after the 4th of October. However, the one negative effect of the ‘Battle of cable street’ was the introduction of the Public Order Act of 1936 as it created a collapse in the BUF organization and structure. All together the representation of this event, however, incorrectly shows the aftermath of Cable Street and its effect on the BUF.


1. The Legacy of Cable Street. Perf. Ubby Cowan. 2007.

2. "Battle of Cable Street, 1936‏ - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 28 July 2011. .

3. http://www.oswaldmosley.com/the-battle-of-cable-street.htm

4. James Morton - Jack Spot 1998

5. Public Records Office - MEPQ 2 3043

6. LLOYD. G, Yorkshire Post 9 June 1934

7. we danced all night

8. www.whatnextjournal.co.uk

9. mosleys book

10. R. Benewick, The Fascist Movement in Britain, Allen Lane, 1972, p.83.

11. R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, Macmillan, 1975, p.331.

12. Benewick, pp.25-7; F.G. Clarke, Will-o’-the-Wisp, OUP, 1983, pp.26-7

13. Daily Worker, October 5, 1936.

14. ibid

15. ibid


18. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/sep/30/thefarright.past

19. Communist website

20. PRO HO 144/6902

21. http://www.dkrenton.co.uk/anl/trent1.htm

22. www.oswald-mosley.com

23. Morning post October 5th 1936

24. http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2006/10/03/cablestreet_battle_feature.shtml

25. the daily mail October 5th 1936

26. Conrad news letter

27. mosley: my life

28. Daily Worker, October 1, 1936.

29. daily herald, October 1, 1936

30. http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/cable-street75/

31. http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/10/cable-street-battle

32. Special Branch report dated March 1937 and released by the Public Records Office

33. public order act of 1936

34. mosley my life

35. Benewick, Robert, op. cit., p.266

36. mosleys book

37. ibid

39. Mandle, W.F., op. cit., p. 67

40. R. Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, London: Allan Lane, 1969, pp. 279-282

41. History today.

42. Unite Against Fascism Pressure Group.

43. tony Kusher and Nadia Valmam (eds), Remebering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Society (Vallentine Mithcell, 2000)

44. Nigel Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain (Macmillan, 2000)

45. Morris Beckman, The Hackney Crucible (valentine Mitchell, 1996)

46. Thomas Linehan, East London for Mosley: The British Union of Fascists in East London and South-West Essex (Frank Cass,1996)

47. Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain (IB Tauris, 1998)

48. Martin Pugh, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars ( Pimlico, 2005)

49. The Last Lion, historian William

50. Max Lativas

51. Gerry C. Webber, ‘pattern of membership and support for the British Union of   Fascist’ Journal of contemporary history (1984)

FASCISM IN BRITAIN In addition, I would like to express my gratitude for Dave Baker’s comments on the manuscript and Colin Holmes’s sound advice, help and encouragement over many years and to John Hope for information on security and intelligence issues related to British fascism. I would also like to thank the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the British Museum, the Home Office, the Imperial War Museum, the London School of Economics Library, the National Council for Civil Liberties Archive, the National Maritime Museum, the Newspaper Library of the British Museum, the Public Record Office, Searchlight, the University of Sheffield Library and the Wiener Library for their assistance. I acknowledge gratefully the financial assistance received from the University of Sheffield Research Fund and the British Academy. Grateful thanks too are due to the secretarial help given by Irene Thurlow, Connie Goodwin and Pam Smith, who valiantly struggled to decipher my near illegible handwriting. Last but not least I would like to thank my parents, wife and children for their support, encouragement, love and affection over the years. BF BNP BP BUF GBM IFL ILP LEL NF NF after V NL NLP NSL NSM RC RPS UM WDL WUNS British Fascisti, British Fascists British National Party British People’s Party British Union of Fascists (and National Socialists) Greater Britain Movement Imperial Fascist League Independent Labour Party League of Empire Loyalists National Front National Front after Victory Nordic League National Labour Party National Socialist League National Socialist Movement Right Club Racial Preservation Society Union Movement White Defence League World Union of National Socialists Abbreviations Introduction Since the publication of Fascism in Britain: A History 1918–85 (Blackwell, Oxford, 1987), the continuing interest in the subject shows little sign of abating. There have been several major works on aspects of the topic, and a stream of articles; it is a popular theme for A level projects and undergraduate dissertations, and, increasingly, postgraduate work at all levels. New sources have also become available. There have been further releases under the Open Government Initiative of Home and Cabinet Office files on British Fascism and the Home Defence (Security) Executive in 1995 and 1996, and important personal papers from Nicholas Mosley, and the Mosleyite, Robert Saunnting problems of British society. Mosley’s later fascist ideas on govern- ment owed much to Lloyd George’s wartime reforms of the administrative structure, even if they had been devised in a democratic framework. His point was that a war in peacetime would have to be fought against unemployment, as it persistently remained above one million in the 1920s, and rose towards three million during the severe cyclical depression between 1929 and 1932. Lloyd George’s later ideas in the green and yellow books of the Liberal party in the 1920s were to play crucial roles in BUF policies on agriculture and unemployment in the 1930s.47 Increasingly, Mosley came to see unemployment and economic policy were the key issues in British politics. In 1923 he began to study economic theory and became convinced that govern- ment objectives, far from ensuring a return to prosperity, were 47 J. Campbell, The Goat in the Wilderness (London, 1977), pp. 121–3, 219–24. THE LOST GENERATION 19 actively discouraging it through deflationary policies and obses- sion with the return to the gold standard at pre-war parity. Mosley consciously educated himself through the writings of Keynes, Hobson and other Independent Labour Party (ILP) theorists to become the most perceptive of all government crit- ics actively opposing the consensus of economic policy-making in the 1920s. His mistake was to assume that the Labour party would provide a more receptive political vehicle for his ideas than the Conservatives. The fundamental divide in British politics in the inter-war period proved to be not the differences between the rapidly growing and supposedly socialist Labour party and the long tradition of high politics, encapsulated in the party divisions between the Conservatives and the steadily decaying Liberal party, but between the economic conservatives and economic radicals across the political spectrum.48 In the inter-war period the radicals made little headway. In government both the Conservatives and the Labour party fol- lowed vigorously orthodox economic policies. The radicals, such as Harold Macmillan in the Conservative party, the Independent Labour Party group and maverick individuals like Mosley and Ernest Bevin in the Labour movement, were effectively isolated and had little impact on policy. Only in the rapidly declining Liberal party did the radicals have any significant influence on policy. Lloyd George spent large sums of his private fortune (acquired in rather dubious circumstances as a treasure chest for the Coalition Liberals between 1917 and 1922), in research activ- ity which recommended radical policies for the Liberals in areas such as land reform and unemployment policy in the 1920s.49 Yet even Lloyd George’s influence was reduced to a family group of four followers in the 1930s, as the rest of the divided Liberals, although in two distinct factions, supported the coalition govern- ment. The goat, as he was jocularly known, was to end his politi- cal life in the wilderness. The essential disunity between the radicals made it easy for the inter-war period to be dominated by the conventional wisdom of economic orthodoxy and sound finance. This was personified by the ascendancy in the political sphere of Stanley Baldwin and the 48 R. Skidelsky, Politicians and the Slump (London, 1970), p. 11. 49 K.O. Morgan, The Age of Lloyd George (London, 1975). THE LOST GENERATION 20 rise in the economic sphere of Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England. Baldwin’s rise to power as the Conservative leader and prime minister in 1923 and 1924–9 was ruled by two considerations: first, the need to tame the Labour party and to force it to accept the conventions of parliamentary politics; and second to ensure that Lloyd George be kept out of office at all costs.50 Safety First, the uninspiring motto of his 1929 election campaign, represented his policy in political and economic mat- ters. The aim was to restore as far as was practically possible the conditions of the pre-First World War era. This was symbolized by the doomed attempt to restore the gold standard at pre-war parity as the basis of economic policy, which necessitated vigor- ous deflation to ensure financial rectitude in the altered conditions of the post-war world. It also meant the obligation to meet international debts, and for Baldwin to negotiate the 3^ per cent interest repayment on the American war loan in 1922. The policy of Norman and the Cunliffe Committee succeeded in placing economic and financial policy in a straitjacket between 1918 and 1931, severely limiting all subsequent British governments in the 1920s.51 Mosley’s political career in the 1920s has to be viewed in the context of the triumph of economic conservatism. He joined the Labour party in 1924 on the mistaken assumption that socialism in power would achieve economic and social reform. In practice, as his experience as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster between 1929 and 1930 proved, it lacked the will to implement any radical reform. The Labour party possessed a utopian ethic of socialism but it failed to develop the pragmatic programme either to alter the capitalist state which it inherited or to reform it from within. Mosley did find kindred spirits in the Labour movement, some of whom followed him into the New Party and a smaller proportion into fascism, but although the party conference and the Labour movement in general were sympathetic to his practical sugges- tions, the Labour government rejected his proposals. Mosley’s new success in the Labour party was to challenge effectively Chamberlain’s political control of Birmingham and to turn the ILP into one of the most significant sources of radical ideas in the 50 M. Cowling, Impact of Labour, pp. 15–44; Campbell, The Goat in the Wilderness. 51 K. Middlemas and J. Barnes, Baldwin (London, 1969), pp. 64–87. THE LOST GENERATION 21 1920s. However, neither of these achievements were to prove to Mosley’s advantage in the 1930s. His undoubted personal success in the 1920s in Birmingham was not to be repeated in the 1930s, as fascism made less impact there than in the East End of London or the north-west. The ILP rapidly declined into a fundamentalist socialist sect which was soon expelled from the Labour party. Mosley resigned from the Labour government in 1930 as a result of the Cabinet turning down his reflationary programme contained in the Mosley Memorandum. In political terms this represented, in Mosley’s view, a viable synthesis of available radical ideas, which together would provide an effective attack on the immedi- ate problem of mass unemployment and a longer-term beginning to the larger aim of reversing the decline of the British economy. After his narrow failure to convince the Labour party conference in 1930, he and six other MPs left the Labour party to form the New Party, which actively campaigned on the Mosley Manifesto, a rewritten version of the memorandum. Unfortunately for Mosley, although the economic crisis worsened in 1931, bringing about the fall of the deeply divided Labour government, it was replaced by a National Coalition made up of Conservatives, the majority of the Liberals and a few Labour MPs under Macdonald, Snowdon and Thomas. This was virtually the Conservatives in disguise with Baldwin, rather than the prime minister, Macdonald, its chief architect. In the general election of 1931 the National government won a veritable landslide with a majority of 410 seats. The New Party was obliterated, losing all its members of parlia- ment.52 The failure was to end Mosley’s effective attempt to change the policies of British government from within the parliamentary party spectrum. He now had nowhere to go, despite overtures from all three political parties.53 After a long, bitter process Mosley had discovered that the rules of the political game and the increasing conservatism of British government militated against effective action from within the political structure. Convinced of the right- ness of his policies and fearful of the consequences of economic decline, Mosley became attracted to the forms of activist mass politics in an attempt to rejuvenate society. British fascism was 52 D. Marquand, Ramsay Macdonald (London, 1977), pp. 534–40. 53 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983), pp. 1–6. THE LOST GENERATION 22 born of the failure of economic conservatism to check the rapid decline of Britain in the inter-war years. In spite of its obvious imitation of continental movements it was to be a profoundly British variant, with social and political roots in domestic problems. Chesterton, Williamson and the appeal of post-war fascism If Mosley came to fascism as a result of the failure of the process of British parliamentary politics to create the new society, the same could not be said of others, like Chesterton and Williamson, who had little or no contact with high politics. Indeed, an important element in the BUF was provided by those who came to fascism from outside the traditional party spectrum and who had little or no previous political experience. Other values from different spheres of activity were transposed to the political sphere to justify the move. In the case of both Chesterton and Williamson it was the combination of the lingering after-effects of the war and the transposition of supposed aesthetic values to the political sphere, together with personal traumas of varying intensity, which accounted for the turn to fascism. An interesting difference between the two was that Chesterton was never able to escape the effects of this potent brew after he became a fascist, whereas Williamson managed to do so to a considerable degree, despite his continued personal support for Mosley until his death. For both Chesterton and Williamson the First World War was a searing experience which provided lasting images of heroism, hor- ror, comradeship, leadership and fear. It marked them off from other men and made it difficult for them to settle down to the dull conformity of civilian existence after the war. The war on the Western Front in 1917–18 had turned Chesterton into an alcoholic, a condition which he finally controlled in the later 1930s, thanks to the generosity of Mosley who financed his cure at a special clinic in Germany.54 His most enduring memory, which haunted his imagination for much of the inter-war period, was of his time as a nineteen-year-old officer in 1918 when he led an 54 Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton’, p. 237. For Chesterton see D. Baker, Ideology of Obsession (London, 1996). THE LOST GENERATION 23 action to capture enemy trenches at Epehy. His great courage at the time eventually earned him the Military Cross, but the har- rowing experience was for a long while foremost in his mind and symbolized by the walk back to his commanding officer over a mass of dead German and British soldiers in which his feet scarcely touched the ground.55 Small wonder therefore that as a drama critic he grasped the significance of R. C. Sherriff’s famous play, Journey’s End, in 1929. Its hero, Stanhope, a young officer who survived three years on the Western Front imbibing increasing quantities of whisky, saw death, the escape into nothingness, as the only answer to the squalor of the trenches and the daily horror of seeing brave men victims of the slaughter and wastage.56 Chesterton, a Stanhope who survived, found in fascism a positive political creed with which he could identify. He could now move from cultural ideal- ism and aesthetic values to political commitment. Yet this was not to represent journey’s end for Chesterton’s political development. His growing disillusion with Mosley in the later 1930s led to his resignation from the movement and the collapse of his revolution- ary faith. He became an alienated reactionary for whom the trauma of the First World War was reinforced by the memory of the fascist God that failed, and his thought became increasingly dominated by the negative obsession of the conspiracy theory of history. Williamson’s experiences of the war were just as deeply ingrained. He had been a survivor of many of the major actions of the war, firstly as a volunteer soldier and later as a commissioned officer. Two events in particular were graphically imprinted on his mind. The first was the Christmas truce of 1914, when after the horrendous fighting of the first Battle of Ypres, German and British troops fraternized and played football together on Christmas Day. This for him came to symbolize the futility of the war, which seemed to be fought for no discernible purpose, between opponents whose essential common humanity was denied by the mass slaughter.57 Patriotism had been distorted by lying 55 Ibid., p. 63. 56 cf. R. Skidelsky, ‘Reflections on Mosley and British fascism’, in Lunn and Thurlow, British Fascism, p. 97. 57 J. Middleton Murry, ‘The novels of Henry Williamson’, in idem, Katharine Mansfield and other Literary Studies (London, 1959), pp. 125–6. M. Higginbottom, Intellectuals and British Fascism (London, 1992), pp. 66−74. THE LOST GENERATION 24 propaganda and the massacre of European civilization resulted from the dominance of corrupt political and industrial interests, which were the only ones to benefit from the war. For Williamson, only soldiers who had fought in the war, and who understood the horrors of modern conflict, could save Europe from further disaster. Hence his attempt to enlist T. E. Lawrence in a campaign to prevent war with Germany in the 1930s, which ended in Lawrence’s tragic death,58 and his naïve belief that since Adolf Hitler had been a member of the German regiment with whom he had fraternized in 1914 he was basically a man like Williamson who wished to maintain peace at all costs, unless forced into war by the manipulation of others. Williamson felt he had a special bond with Hitler, and even at times imagined aloud that he had spoken to him on that fateful Christmas day. The image of hope which had thus arisen in Williamson’s mind was soured by the reality of his second obsession: the sheer horror of his experience on 1 July 1916, when 60,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. This for him highlighted both the frightfulness of war and the ineptitude of the governing classes.59 The essential effect of such knowledge was to alienate Chesterton and Williamson from the contemporary world. Both of them found it difficult to express their feelings on the war, except in the third person, so strong were their views. This was particularly the case with Williamson who used the vehicle of his vast epic The Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight to develop his most mature insights into the nature of the war. Chesterton also tended to express his own feelings in the mouths of alleged fictional characters. Both men’s views in the inter-war period were highly subjective and embittered; both lacked the necessary detachment and sense of objective hindsight to bring the experience into proper perspec- tive. Indeed, fascism was to appeal to many who, on whatever grounds (most of them rational), suffered from an inability to see problems of contemporary society except in an intensely alienated form. Chesterton’s views were to become increasingly obsessional from the 1930s onwards; Williamson, as The Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight was to prove, particularly in its early volumes, regained a 58 H. Williamson, Genius of Friendship (London, 1941), p. 75. 59 Idem, The Golden Virgin (London, 1956). THE LOST GENERATION 25 considerable measure of detachment and objectivity in his profes- sional vocation as a novelist after the Second World War. Yet in the inter-war period for both Chesterton and Williamson the myth of the trenches bred a contempt for civilian society and those without direct contact with the nature of modern warfare. It was almost as though such an experience gave the initiated a glimpse of a deeper level of reality than the allegedly shallow analysis of contemporary society by those who had not faced at first hand the traumas of modern warfare. Such views predicated the existence of higher forms and judgements than the empirical mode of reasoning and pragmatic values of British society. Both Chesterton and Williamson, and to an increasing extent Mosley, were to utilize such ideas to justify the fascist revolt. British fas- cism was to come close to being rationalized as the political revolt of the romantic imagination in the twentieth century. Paul Fussell has developed the interesting point that the first world war was a peculiarly literary war. It occurred at a moment in time when reading represented the chief leisure activity, apart from sex and drinking, for the British population. For the upper class the belief in the educative values of classical English literature was still strong. The desire for popular education and self- improvement for the masses was at its peak.60 In the context of British fascism Chesterton was to use the aristocratic upper-class literary conventions to justify the impact of the war on his espousal of fascism. Williamson, through his mainly autobiographical work, was to provide a panorama of views on the impact of the war on ordinary working people and the lower middle classes, and through the hero of The Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, Phillip Maddison, was to show how the experience could lead to support for fascism; Mosley was to appear as Sir Hereward Birkin and the BUF as the Imperial Socialist party in the later volumes of the epic. The move to nationalism It was not, however, merely through political and artistic influ- ences that the impact of the First World War was to provide such an important background influence for British fascism. More 60 P. Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London, 1979). THE LOST GENERATION 26 important, perhaps, was the confluence of stimuli which activated the revolt of Sir Oswald Mosley against the political establish- ment. Far more than any other fascist leader, Mosley’s view of the post-war world was based on a rationally expressed intellectual critique. This contained two main elements: a reasoned attack on conventional economic policy in the 1920s, and a growing questioning of the philosophical basis of government and society. Together they were to form the essential background to the most important British variant of fascism. At the outset it should be stressed that Mosley’s mode of reasoning owed far more to continental than to British tradition, to a synthesis of ideas rather than empiricism. This was then applied to the native influences on his economic thought. The development of Mosley’s economic ideas in the 1920s showed a gradual transition from a socialist to a nationalist perspective. Mosley’s socialist ideas, mainly worked out under the influence of the Birmingham Labour Party and the ILP, were basi- cally a synthesis of Keynesian monetary theories and socialist concepts of planning. J.A. Hobson’s under-consumptionism, C.H. Douglas’s ideas of social credit and the war-time experience of government direction of industry.61 These ideas were published in the pamphlet Revolution by Reason in 1925. In this document, Mosley had argued for a managed currency rather than the return to the gold standard at pre-war parity as the basis of economic policy, for nationalization of the banks, the establishment of consumer credits to supplement working-class purchasing power, the development of an Economic Council to plan production, and the setting up of a mechanism to check that money supply was equated to production potential.62 The general aim was to ensure that the purchasing power of the population was equal to the vast expansion of industrial capacity in the war. Only if effective consumer demand was increased could the new productive pow- ers of industry be used at their full potential and unemployment avoided. In a remarkable series of speeches in the House of Commons and in the Memorandum and Manifesto in 1930 and 1931 Mosley developed his ideas. The growing nationalism of his schemes 61 Thurlow, ‘The return of Jeremiah’, British Fascism, pp. 103–4. 62 O. Mosley, Revolution by Reason (Birmingham, 1925). THE LOST GENERATION 27 needed only the more autarchic economic plan and the authoritar- ian nature of political control to turn it into fully-fledged fascism. Since he was elected in 1918 on a platform of socialistic imperial- ism, complete rejection by the political establishment of his more sensible ideas turned the potential into a certainty. But if Mosley’s practical search for radical economic policies was to provide a meaningful response to solve the problems of inter-war Britain, both Chesterton and Williamson survived by developing the higher metaphysical values derived from aesthetic appreciation of literature. By adopting such beliefs and applying them to contemporary society both found sustenance in elitist moral and ethical beliefs which were far removed from contemporary reality. As a result both were prone to a disastrous application of metaphysical cultural values to political analysis – in the case of Chesterton and his role as a drama critic and provincial journalist in the 1920s, to a vision of cultural despair based on a parallel theory of criticism to that of his friend the Shakespearian scholar, G. Wilson Knight.63 Williamson’s romanti- cism and nature worship, on a rather lower level of theoretical conceptualisation, was to owe much to the books of Richard Jefferies, in particular the sunlight imagery of much of his work.64 Both failed to see that there was an epistemological gap between metaphysical values as applied to culture and society. By arguing that such beliefs represented a higher appreciation of reality untroubled by empirical criteria both became prone to naïve interpretations of political society, most notably Chesterton’s virulent cultural anti-semitism and Williamson’s curious views on Hitler. Such beliefs that society needed to be reconstructed with new cultural values implied the revolutionary transformation of individuals. The fascist concept of the new man fitted in well with such ideas. Mosley too became increasingly prone to blur the distinction between art, philosophy and life. Although he was far more concerned with the didactic message of Shaw, Goethe and Wagner than with their artistic values, he transposed his interpretation of their meaning to the political sphere. This was particularly 63 Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton’, pp. 146–217. 64 D. Hoyle, ‘In the monkey house’, The Henry Williamson Society Journal, no. 4 (Nov. 1981), pp. 6–16. THE LOST GENERATION 28 pronounced in his interpretation of Nietzsche, where the latter’s ethical concerns were translated by Mosley into political equivalents.65 It was not only in the area of economic ideas and cultural criti- cism that the First World War was to be important to the roots of British fascist thought. The devastation and restructuring of European society gave credence to a whole variety of forebodings about the collapse of European civilization. The genre of apocalyptic historical prophecy reached its apotheosis in the writ- ings of Oswald Spengler, whose The Decline of the West had been published coincidentally at the time of Germany’s military defeat. The influence of Spengler’s thought on the BUF was to be seminal, as Mosley Alexander Raven Thomson and W.E.D. Allen were to signify.66 In their view, Spengler diagnosed the main historical trends of human society and accurately predicted the fate of decay- ing bourgeois society. For fascists, however, Spengler’s prophecies were too gloomy. Fascism would revive the corpse of Europe and prevent the final decline into barbarism.67 Mosley, arguing that Spengler’s understanding of Caesarism was profound but that he had failed to see the potential in modern science to rejuvenate society, saw fascism as a ‘mutiny against destiny’.68 It was Caesarism and Science, fascism as a revolution- ary corporate system of organization based on modern technol- ogy and a unified national purpose, which would renew the youth of European culture for Mosley. Yet apart from this acknowledged intellectual debt and critical reaction to Spengler Mosley developed other ideas from his work. Spengler’s concept of the alleged unity of European culture and its primary Faustian symbols was to be the basis of his ‘Europe a Nation’ campaign after the Second World War. Similarly, his idea that contact between different cultures merely led to decay and that Magian Jews and Faustian Europeans were bound to live in friction with each other, was to be an important intellectual influence on Mosley’s cultural anti- semitism and to re-inforce his later views on apartheid. 65 O. Mosley, ‘The philosophy of fascism’, The Fascist Quarterly, 1,1 (Jan. 1935), p. 39. 66 O. Mosley, My Life, pp. 316–35; J. Drennan (W.E.D. Allen), BUF, Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (London, 1934), pp. 176–204. 67 R. Thurlow, ‘Destiny and Doom’. Spengler, Hitler and ‘British’ fascism, Patterns of Prejudice, 15, 4. (October 1981), pp. 24–26. 68 Drennan, BUF, Mosley and British Fascism, pp. 176–204. THE LOST GENERATION 29 Thus the First World War was clearly of particular importance to the origins of British fascism for both its political and cultural roots. This was to be demonstrated by the significance given to Remembrance Day parades from the British Fascists through the BUF to the National Front and its splinter groups.69 The emergence of fascism symbolized a reaction to the continuing decline of Britain and the developing economic and social problems which had been accelerated by the war. British fascism was to contain extremes from both political right and left as well as to incorporate large numbers with no previous political background. It was to be influenced by both native British sources and events on the continent, but the most distinctive features, like all continental fascisms, was to be its intensely nationalist roots. THE LOST GENERATION 69 British Lion, Dec. 1927; The Blackshirt, 14 Nov. 1936; J. and V. Tyndall, ‘The boys of the old Brigade’, Spearhead, Nov. 1983. 2 The British Fascists and the ‘Jew Wise’, 1918–1939 British fascism originated in several distinct and contradictory reactions to the long-term decline of Britain and the disloca- tion caused by the First World War. In the 1920s fascism represented mainly an extremist form of the Die-hard revolt which developed away from the concept of high politics. This chapter looks at the development of a conservative fascist tradition and assesses racial nationalism. Both traditions were very marginal in their impact in the inter-war period; their practitioners were regarded as highly eccentric by the small minority who knew of their activities, and as a nuisance by the police. The British Fascists Indeed, the origins of both traditions lay more in publishing activ- ity than in organizing mass political movements. The funding of a Die-hard journalistic empire centred on the Morning Post, the Patriot and the Boswell Publishing Company, by Alan Percy, the eighth Duke of Northumberland, and Dame Lucy Houston, was non-fascist in inspiration, although the Patriot supported the British Fascists (BF).1 Similarly, the Britons Society and Publishing Company appeared to be nothing more than a minuscule middle- class organization with a bee in its bonnet about Jews. The BF on the other hand was named after the new Italian experiment in 1 M. Cowling, The Impact of Labour (London, 1971), p.83. 31 1923, even though it had little direct knowledge of the aims and ideas of Mussolini. Its history was of minor significance in itself, although its activities did lead to a degree of confrontation which acted as a precursor to the political violence later to become associ- ated with the BUF in the 1930s. Its importance as a forerunner was due less to its political ideas than to its military discipline and its administrative personnel, who were later to help organize the day- to-day running of the BUF. These groups had deep historical roots in the opening months of the First World War, which had seen the renewal of the sources of criticism of the radical right against the Liberal government. This campaign was directed principally at naturalized Englishmen of German and Jewish extraction who were thought to have conflicting loyalties. The rise of Lloyd George to become prime minister in December 1916, and the close proximity of Rufus Isaacs, Edwin Montague and Sir Alfred Mond as his advisers, gave a spurious plausibility to such claims. Since the beginning of the war demands had been made for the internment of naturalized aliens, and a spy mania developed. Lord Haldane was forced to resign from government as a result of coalition, and eminent businessmen such as Sir Ernest Cassel and Sir Edgar Speyer withdrew from public life for the duration of the war.2 Even the royal family changed its name to Windsor and Prince Louis of Battenberg resigned from the Admiralty as a result of this climate of thought. Yet the radical right was forced into an awkward position during the war as the most dynamic political leadership and organizing ability to ensure victory was provided by Lloyd George, the radical right’s bête noire. Two Conservatives, Henry Page Croft and Sir Richard Cooper, stalwarts from the pre-war Chamberlain tariff reform campaign, founded the National Party in 1917 as a protest against the Coalition government. Its programme included the raising of the conscription age to fifty, the closing of German-owned businesses, the internment of enemy aliens, conscription for Ireland, a guaranteed price for home-grown cereals, protection for British industry and counter air raids against German towns. The party put up twenty-three 2 C. Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society 1876– 1939 (London, 1979), pp. 122–4. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 32 candidates at the Coupon Election in 1918, but only Croft and Cooper were elected. The radical right’s anxieties had been further strengthened by the effects of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Not only had it removed Russia from the war, but its call for international revolution and the threatened collapse of the ruling class in much of central and eastern Europe in 1918, combined with an increase in working-class militancy at home, frightened many in the middle classes even outside the radical right. A plethora of pressure groups and popular move- ments grew up to give vent to such feelings, including the British Empire Union and the National Citizens Union. This fear found its most extreme expression in the activities of Alan Percy and his supporters, who can be seen as a connect- ing link between the pre-war Die-hards and a conservative fascist tradition. Although his death allegedly prevented the Duke of Northumberland from founding an anti-alien party,3 there were distinct links between the more extreme fringes of the Die-hard revolt and the emergence of British fascism. The chief connec- tions proved to be anti-semitism, anti-socialism and a patriotic espousal of the cause of the British Empire. This was expressed in a more rational and less extreme form than in the Britons Society, although individuals like Baron Sydenham of Coombe appeared to be connected with both. Die-hard conservatism represented a continuation of the fears and anxieties that had surfaced in those most respectable publications, The Times and the Morning Post, with their debates over the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Cause of World Unrest, at the end of the war.4 Indeed, the Duke of Northumberland was to purchase the Morning Post as a mouthpiece for Die-hard conservatism in 1924. The basic argument was that traditional conservatism should re-establish itself by an uncompromising opposition to liberalism and socialism and by combating the supposed international Jewish conspiracy whose sole purpose was the undermining of the British Empire. To these ends the Duke of Northumberland financed a publish- ing house, the Boswell Publishing Company, in 1921 and 3 Cowling, Impact of Labour, p. 85. 4 G.C. Lebzelter, Political Anti-Semitism in England 1918–1939 (London, 1979), pp. 13–28; Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, pp. 147–56. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 33 established a weekly newspaper, The Patriot, in 1922. With further injections of capital of £2,500 from Lady Houston and an anonymous bequest of £6,750, the cause of aristocratic Die-hard conservatism was to survive, at least in journalistic form, until 1950. The family connection linked the enterprise to the pre-war Die-hard revolt, and Nesta Webster – the principal author of the Boswell Publishing Company – linked it to both the National Citizens Union and the BF.5 Indeed, in political terms Die-hard conservatism proved to be even less relevant than its pre-war namesake. The radical right mainly drifted back towards the Conservative party and only a small minority associated with the emerging fascist movement. The rump of Die-hard support around the Boswell publishing concerns was to survive as part of an underground tradition. In 1950 the company was wound up and its copyright taken over by the Britons Society, in a merger of racial nationalist and Die-hard conserva- tive traditions – an ideological alliance of two of the major strands of political thought which later heavily influenced the ideas of the National Front. Rotha Lintorn Orman and the British Fascisti Rather less ideological in its programme was the British Fascisti formed in 1923 by Rotha Lintorn Orman. The organization’s political roots had greater connections to the mainly middle-class pressure groups which evolved at the end of the war to protect property against the alleged socialist menace, the most important of which were the British Empire Union, the Middle Classes Union and the National Citizens Union.6 Rotha Lintorn Orman was a spirited young middle-class woman. Her independence and organizing ability had been displayed early when she joined the Girl Scouts in 1909 and formed the first Bournemouth troop of guides. During the First World War she volunteered for the Women’s Reserve Ambulance and twice won 5 R. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right (London, 1983), p. 89. 6 Farr, ‘Right wing politics’, pp. 53–100, J. Hope, ‘British Fascism and the State 1917–27: A re-examination of the evidence’, Labour History Review 57, 3, 1992 pp. 72–83. J. Hope, ‘Surveillance or Collusion Maxwell Knight, MI5 and the British Fascisti’ Intelligence and National Security 9, 4, 1994, pp. 651−675. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 34 the Croix de Charité for gallantry for heroic rescues in Salonica. Invalided home with malaria in 1917, her war experiences no doubt contributed to her indifferent health and drink problem, which were to be factors in the weakness of the BF before her death in 1935.7 Rotha Lintorn Orman admired Mussolini as a man who had dealt firmly with the socialist menace. Apart from that fact she knew little of the nature or content of his fascist experiment. She borrowed the name and very little else from Italy. However, apart from that connection the British Fascisti reflected Rotha Lintorn Orman’s own experience of the Girl Guides, public service and a military background rather than any emulation of continental examples or ideologies. As a result the BF was organized as a cross between a glorified boy scout movement and a paramilitary group. The organization was run by an executive council who were responsible to a grand council, and was administered locally at the county level. In 1927 the blue shirt was adopted as the official uniform and in the 1930s a beret and dark trousers or skirt were added. Vastly inflated claims were made about the membership, which reached its peak in 1925–6 with several thousand active members. Accounts published during the bankruptcy proceedings in 1935 suggested that the subscription income had been £6,848 in 1925, £604 in 1928 and afterwards less than £400 a year.8 The position of Rotha Lintorn Orman in the organization was explained in large part by her financial resources. Her mother had handed over most of her fortune of £50,000 to Rotha and this was used to fund the organization. The grand council of the move- ment was dominated by retired military officers of the Colonel Blimp type, Die-hard conservatives, landed gentry and emancipated middle-class women. The first president was Lord Garvagh, who was succeeded by Brigadier-General Blakeney from 1924–6. Blakeney, who had been general manager of the Egyptian State Railway from 1919 to 1923, was responsible for organizing the tight-knit military discipline of the organization and for turn- ing the BF into a limited company, the anglicized British Fascists 7 Griffiths, Fellow Travellers, p. 92 8 H. Blume, ‘Anti-semitic groups in Britain 1918–1940’, MPhil thesis, University of Sussex, 1971, p. 106. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 35 Ltd, in 1924. He was also later to be connected with both the Imperial Fascist League (IFL) and the BUF.9 Other notable members who entered fascism through the BF, included Arnold Leese, later of the IFL, and William Joyce, Neil Francis Hawkins, E.G. Mandeville Roe and H.J. Donovan of the BUF. Arnold Leese was one of two fascist councillors elected at Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1924.10 William Joyce’s fanatical com- mitment to fascism was strengthened after receiving a razor slash on his cheek while helping steward a Conservative party meeting at Lambeth Baths in October 1924.11 Neither found the BF a suit- able vehicle for their increasingly anti-semitic views as the organization did not become hostile to Jews before 1932. Leese considered the initials of the organization to be unfortunate, and argued quite logically that it was misnamed, as its platform had little to do with fascism.12 Nesta Webster, however, who was a member of the grand council for three months in 1926 and 1927, thought that the BF had done more for British patriotism than all the other middle-class organizations put together.13 The fact that such later fascist luminaries became rapidly dis- satisfied with the BF was due mainly to its failure to become either an accepted ally of the state preparations against political extrem- ism or a credible independent political movement in the 1920s. In spite of its activism, its military discipline, the stewarding of right- wing Conservative speakers, the abduction of Harry Pollitt, and strikebreaking activities, the BF made little impact. The increasing eccentricity of its founder alienated many as well. Although there was no leadership cult, Rotha Lintorn Orman developed an increasing knack of instigating factional disagreement in the move- ment at periodic intervals, and as a result of the lack of initiative, leadership and purpose, there was a high turnover of membership. The first serious split occurred in 1925 with the formation of the National Fascists, a group of about 100 which broke away from the parent organization on the grounds that the BF were neither sufficiently anti-semitic nor fascist. For a time it proved to be more militant than the BF. A meeting in Hyde Park in 1926 was 9 Griffiths, Fellow Travellers, p. 355. 10 A. Leese, Out of Step (Guildford, 1947), p. 49. 11 J.A. Cole, Lord Haw Haw and William Joyce (London, 1964), p. 30. 12 Leese, Out of Step, p. 49. 13 British Lion, 7 Jan. 1927. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 36 attended by 1,000 people and ended with a fight with communist demonstrators.14 Other stunts included the breaking up of Labour party meetings and vandalizing a Daily Herald van by driving it into the railings of a London church. The movement survived as the National Fascists for three years, with a black shirt uniform. However, it too suffered from factional splits and lack of finance. In the winter of 1926–7 a power struggle brought it to the atten- tion of the police, this led to Seymour drawing a sword and point- ing an unlicensed gun at Eyres. In terms of ideology, the National Fascists were more extreme than the BF. According to an article in the paper’s journal, the Fascist Gazette, communists were ‘wild beasts’ whose ‘hell’s spawn’ should be pushed into the sea.15 Socialists and communists would be drastically punished, and the present franchise system would be restricted in the National Fascist state. An equally serious split occurred in 1926 over the issue of the General Strike. This posed the problem of the relationship between the BF, the government and the Conservative party. During the strike Rotha Lintorn Orman organized a fleet of cars from her mother’s London address to transport strike-breakers to work. She offered the services of 200,000 members – a grossly inflated claim – to join with the National Citizens Union in the Organization for the Maintenance of Supplies. Sir William Joynson Hicks, the Home Secretary and vice-president of the National Citizens Union, threatened to resign from that organization if the proposal was accepted. He objected to the aims of the BF and its vague idea to introduce a corporate state. The proposal of help could only be accepted if the BF altered their constitution to make explicit their belief in parliamentary government. While Blakeney and five other members of the fascist grand council accepted these terms, Rotha Lintorn Orman dug her heels in and with other members narrowly defeated the proposals, which would have abolished the independent status of the BF.16 Blakeney and several others then resigned. These two internal rows greatly weakened the movement. After 14 PRO HO 45/25386/37–40. 15 Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, pp. 151–6. 16 PRO HO 144/19069/85. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 37 the General Strike it rapidly declined and Rotha Lintorn Orman’s tenuous grasp of reality disintegrated still further. Several attempts to gain permission to publish a photograph of King George V in the BF journal, The Lion, were refused. As the BF increasingly lacked purpose and credibility other emerging movements became interested in its assets. Rotha Lintorn Orman, who appeared to become steadily more dependent on alcohol, became increasingly intransigent. She split the organization again in 1931 when Francis Hawkins and Mandeville Roe accepted Mosley’s merger terms with the New Party, whilst the women on the committee turned them down. However, in the 1930s, with her deteriorating health and the takeover of its most committed members by the BUF, the BF became practically moribund. Increasing financial difficulties became another problem when Rotha Lintorn Orman’s mother cut her allowance, believing that the BF had been taken over by disreputable elements, who lived off her daughter’s money and manipulated her by making her increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs. Drunken orgies and undesirable practices were alleged to have taken place at her London home.17 Whatever the truth behind this accusation, it was noticeable that the BF became increasingly anti-semitic in its death throes. In 1933 its total membership was believed to be about 300, but the cost of a fund-raising appeal for £25,000 proved to be more than the sum collected and the movement went £800 into debt. When in 1934 a further loan of £500 from a Colonel Wilson was not repaid, he forced the movement into bankruptcy after Rotha Lintorn Orman once more vetoed a merger with the BUF. She never recovered from the demise of Britain’s first fascist organization and died a year later. Nesta Webster and the conspiracy theory The BUF had little time for the reactionary tone of Die-hard conservatism, and its anti-semitism was derived from social and economic grievances rather than from an ideological tradition. Its significance was to be more for the racial nationalist tradition and the development of non-Mosley fascism after the Second World War. 17 PRO HO 144/19069/93; Fascist Gazette, no. 18. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 38 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were proved to be a forgery by The Times in 1921 and this went some way to defuse the growth of anti-semitic tendencies within the wider political culture.18 Although the main contributors to this tradition, such as the Duke of Northumberland, Baron Sydenham of Combe, Catherine Stoddart and Nesta Webster, were implicit believers of the Protocols, a more historical explanation was offered. This was based on the research of Nesta Webster, the grand dame of British conspiracy theory, who saw Jews in alliance with other subversive forces, as being behind all the ills of the modern world, from the threats to the British Empire through to the nudity movement.19 The alternative to the Protocols as a base to the conspiracy theory was the revival of the French counter-revolutionary tradi- tion, which had been developed in the first articles in the ‘Cause of World Unrest’ disclosures in the Morning Post in July 1920, and was handed down to posterity in more permanent form in Nesta Webster’s version of world history. The basic argument of this tradition was that revolution was caused by the machinations of secret societies, who used their knowledge of occult forces to undermine authority and the stability of governments. Freemasons were seen to be the power behind the French Revolution, whose role in contemporary disturbances such as the Russian Revolution had been taken over by the Jews. Nesta Webster had been deeply influenced by the occult revival of the late nineteenth century.20 Somewhat ironically, given the role bankers were to play in the conspiracy theory, she was the daughter of a director of Barclay’s Bank. Her ideas can fairly be described as the intersection of personal and group fantasies.21 Her personal delusion is described quite clearly in her autobiography. Whilst researching the material for her second book, the Chevalier de Boufflers, a romantic story about two French aristocrats on the eve of the French Revolution, she underwent a mystical experience. She became convinced that she had read the letters of the Chevalier de Boufflers to the Comtesse de Sabran in another life, and that she might be a reincarnation.22 18 PRO HO 144/19069/21–3. 19 N. Webster, The Socialist Network (London, 1926), p. 121. 20 Idem, Spacious Days (London, 1949), pp. 88–9. 21 D.B. Davis (ed.), The Fear of Conspiracy (Ithaca, 1972), p. xii. 22 N. Webster, Spacious Days, p. 173. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 39 This belief so dominated her thoughts that she began to form a coherent political ideology based on what she imagined the ancien régime to have been like, and became convinced of the perfection of the aristocratic society of eighteenth-century France. For Nesta Webster the French Revolution came to represent the cause of all the problems of the modern world. Nesta Webster’s fears had been reinforced by the collapse of the traditional social order in Europe in 1918. This led her to search for a continuous tradition which had been activated by occult means and linked the French and Russian Revolutions. With the transition from a basically personal hatred of the French Revolution to the more general threat to society posed by the Russian Revolution, continental freemasonry became insuf- ficient as a causal explanation. The Jewish cabbala was introduced as the force which originally inspired the freemasons.23 The Jews became the link which undermined both the English national state and the structure of society. It had been the Jews, together with Prussian militarism, that had been behind the Russian Revolution.24 This interpretation of the forces behind history in The French Revolution and World Revolution was taken to its logical conclu- sion in her most notorious work, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. With meticulous footnoting, she now argued that all plots and revolutions against the social order in human history had been caused by secret societies, through the use of black magic, mass hypnotism and telepathy.25 With eight editions published by 1964, this was to be the main connection linking Nesta Webster to the development of the fascist conspiracy theory. Although a member of the BF grand council in 1926, her political roots and beliefs emanated from Die-hard conservatism. Of little significance in the inter-war period, her ideas developed a new lease of life, both in Britain and the USA, after the Second World War, because her rationally expressed anti-semitism and pseudo- academic version of world history proved influential in themselves, as well as providing a respectable cover for more extreme ideas.26 Her work became an ideal base for a revisionist fascist conspiracy theory. Those who wished to appeal more directly to fascist or nazi 23 N. Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (London, 1928), p. 166. 24 Idem, World Revolution, p. 311. 25 Idem, Secret Societies, p. 30. 26 Gilman, Behind World Revolution, pp. 1–12, R. Thurlow “The Powers of Darkness: Conspiracy Belief and Political Strategy” Patterns of Prejudice 12, 6, 1978 pp. 1−12. THE BRITISH FASCISTS 40 ideas would criticize her Christian and anti-German ideas, while stating that she was on the right track. Others argued that her theories lacked an understanding of financial power. (The channel for the survival of Webster’s ideas in Britain within the fascist tradi- tion was to be provided by the publications of Arnold Leese and the Britons Society.) Although her views are still regarded as highly eccentric outside reactionary conservative and fascist circles, it is interesting to note that some historians now argue that secret socie- ties like the IRA and the Mafia have indeed played a significant role in world events, and that the Illuminati conspiracy in the 1780s was truly a model for future revolutionary organization. The BF, despite its short connection with Webster, was to have little relevance for the development of a native fascist ideological tradition. This was apparent in the BUF where the main administra- tive clique, who were recruited from the BF, were derided as totally lacking in ideas by the more idologically committed.27 The ‘Jew Wise’, 1918–1939 More militant than the British Fascists, although even fewer in numbers, were the groups who could be seen as closest to the nazis in their thought and inspiration. These were the self- proclaimed ‘Jew wise’,28 an odd mixture of reactionary conserva- tives and racial fascist enthusiasts whose obsession with political anti-semitism was to lead to an alternative tradition in British fas- cism to that provided by Mosley. The most important exponents of these beliefs in the inter-war period came from three organiza- tions: the Britons Society, the Imperial Fascist League (IFL) and the Nordic League (NL). The common element in all such move- ments was a fanatical belief in the authenticity and argument of the notorious forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an obsessional Jew hatred based on a gutter anti-semitism or an older Christian tradition, and a racial nationalist outlook.29 Reliable 27 PRO HO 144/21063/10–11. 28 PRO HO 45/24968/116, see also ‘Memorandum on the Nordic League and other organisations’, Nordic League File, Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1939, p. 14, R. Thurlow “The ‘Jew Wise’: Dimensions of British Political Anti-Semitism 1918−39” Immigrants and Minorities 6, 1, 1987, pp. 44−65. 29 N. Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (London, 1967), p. 169 . THE ‘JEW WISE’ 41 intelligence reports from meetings of such groups refer to such audience comments as ‘Kill the Jews’, ‘Perish Judea’, ‘We hate them’ and ‘Bastards’.30 The conspiracy mentality of members of these organizations represented a mirror image of the alleged Jewish plot to subvert the world, and partly explained the secrecy with which they hid most of their activities, and the fact that so very few knew of their existence. The relevance of these organizations certainly did not lie in the number of their supporters and activists. Although each of them gave greatly inflated estimates of their membership, reliable intel- ligence reports suggest that they were shoestring operations with minimal popular impact. The minute book of the Britons speaks of average attendance at meetings of between thirty and fifty members, and Special Branch officers discovered that the circula- tion of its newspaper The Hidden Hand was only 150 per month.31 Even the most detailed study of Arnold Leese and the IFL has overestimated the size of membership,32 intelligence reports have suggested that IFL numbers, despite inflated claims of several thousands, averaged only 150 during most of the 1930s. Its activi- ties were only kept going by fifty enthusiasts living in London and the obsessional fanaticism of Leese, its guiding spirit.33 The print order for its main propaganda vehicle, The Fascist, published between 1929 and 1939, was certainly more impressive than for the journal of the Britons; but of the 3,000 produced, 1,000 were purchased by a Mr Pope of Porthcawl and many of the remainder were sent to South Africa.34 The Security Service reported in the war that the IFL was mainly subsidised by Leese’s private means and that the largest individual contribution, by a Colonel Macdonald of Brussels in the period for which cash books were found between September 1930 and August 1933 and from June 1937 to November 1938, was only £5 per month with a special donation from him of £50 in 30 Memorandum on Nordic League, p. 20; PRO HO 144/21379/237; HO 144/22454/136. 31 The Britons Minute Book, PRO HO 144/21377/28. 32 J. Morell, ‘The life and opinions of A.S. Leese. A study in extreme anti-semitism’, MA thesis, University of Sheffield, 1974, p. 25. 33 PRO HO 45/24967/37. 34 PRO HO 45/24967/37. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 42 November 1938.35 The more popular meetings of the NL were attended by between 200 and 400, although attendances fell rapidly in the summer of 1939.36 The membership of such groups showed a marked bias towards individuals of petit bourgeois or middle-class background who had obsessions of varying intensity about the Jews. Otherwise members seem to have exhibited a fairly normal range of personality and most seem to have been socially well-adjusted despite the extrem- ism of their anti-semitic views. There was also a small working- class and youth element attached to the IFL, some of whom acted as a kind of precursor of the skinhead and football hooligan types later attracted to the National Front and British Movement.37 The true significance of these groups was fourfold. Firstly, the Britons and the IFL, although unimportant in themselves, were to provide crucial financial, publishing and ideological links to the revival of British fascism after the Second World War. Second, the activities of Maule Ramsay and the two secret societies he was connected with, the Right Club and NL, and his links with Mosley in 1939–40, were to be responsible for the internment of many fascists without trial in the Second World War, and in part the mutual recriminations between Mosleyites and racial nationalists which fragmented the revival of the tradition after 1945. Third, the important Rex v. Leese case in 1936 as explained later nevertheless established reluctance by the authorities to prosecute obvious cases of seditious libel against Jews and other minorities if public order was not threatened, because publicity might create more harm than good and because of the fear that jury acquittals might be misunderstood. Fourth, the IFL was associated with secre- tive underground activities which implicated it as one of the originators of a tradition of direct action and racial violence against immigrants. Whilst there were obvious similarities between this tradition and nazism, its inspiration and origins occur in a period before anybody in England had heard of Hitler. Prior to the First World War unrelieved hostility towards the Jews, which expressed both obses- sion with their alleged power and ascribed to them filthy moral 35 PRO HO 45/24967/105. 36 PRO HO 144/21381/244; Memorandum on Nordic League, p. 22. 37 M. Billig, Fascists (London, 1978), pp. 235–95. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 43 and personal habits, was rare. Only Joseph Banister in his England under the Jews appeared to suggest a total pathological malice towards them.38 He was a journalist who later edited the British Guardian in 1924.39 Sir Richard Burton had also revived ill- informed prejudices in his accounts of alleged Jewish ritual murder, even if the Board of Deputies of British Jews forced drastic prun- ing of his original text.40 Yet the same forces and influences on society which saw the emergence of the Die-hards as the main force of the radical right after the First World War also saw more extremist reactions from a small but significant group who thought like Banister, and who were prepared to use Burton’s supposed evidence. Beamish and the Britons Of all the multiplicity of middle-class organizations which arose as a response to the dislocation of war and the perceived threat of socialism in Great Britain, the distinguishing feature of the Britons Society was its crude and obsessional anti-semitism. Formed by Beamish in 1918 as a patriotic organization dedicated to the eradication of what it termed alien influences in British life, the Britons campaigned for the forced expulsion of Jews from England and for the revoking of the Act of Settlement of 1700,41 which would ensure that immigrants and their descendents would be ineligible to hold public office. The Britons claimed to discern a ‘hidden hand’ in British government which had delayed the vic- tory against Germany in the war, and argued that Jews had organ- ized an international conspiracy designed to promote anarchy and disorder in the world. With such beliefs the Society proved recep- tive to both the nativist anti-semitic tradition which had been focused on the anti-alien campaign in the East End of London between 1900 and 1905, to the Marconi scandal before the First World War, and to international influences such as the White 38 Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, pp. 42–5; J. Banister, England under the Heel of the Jew (London, 1907). 39 ‘The Britons’ (London, 1952). 40 Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, pp. 52–3; R. Burton, The Jew, the Gypsy and El Islam (London, 1898). 41 The Jew’s Who’s Who, ed. H. Beamish (London, 1920), pp. 258–9. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 44 Russian anti-semitic propaganda directed at the Bolsheviks after 1918. This latter influence became more pronounced when the Britons took over the George Shanks version of the Protocols, entitled The Jewish Peril, in 1920, and published the Victor Marsden version, World Conquest through World Government, in 1921.42 Later the Britons showed an interest in the activities of the National Socialist Workers Party in Munich and Beamish spoke at a Hitler meeting.43 The Britons remained a small lecturing and debating society, with a minuscule middle-class membership.44 The organization concentrated its activities on publishing anti-semitic literature, most notably the Protocols and Beamish’s own concoction The Jew’s Who’s Who (1920). Beamish had formed the provocatively titled Judaic Publishing Company, which was renamed the Britons Publishing Company in August 1922. Apart from the minutes of the two meetings in 1932 and 1948 there is little evidence that the Britons Society survived longer than that of its regular monthly publication from 1920–5. This was the journal Jewry Ueber Alles which had just been published in February 1920, and had altered its name to The Hidden Hand in September 1920 and to the British Guardian in May 1924. The Britons Publishing Society, however, had a much more last- ing effect on British racist thought. Dedicated to printing anti- semitic material and to disseminating the Protocols and other variants of the conspiracy theory of history, it was formally separated from the parent society in 1932, and continued as a publishing and distribution business for extreme right-wing groups until the 1970s, producing eighty-five editions of the Protocols as well as becoming the main outlet for circulating American conspiracy theory works and racist material.45 As a small clandestine organization the Britons Publishing Society was to become the main ideological source of an underworld whose 42 C. Holmes, ‘The Protocols of the Britons’, Patterns of Prejudice, 12, 6, (Nov.–Dec.1978), pp. 13–18; G. Lebzelter, ‘The Protocols in England’, Wiener Library Bulletin, 31, 47–8 (1978), pp. 111–17. 43 The Hidden Hand, 3, 2 (Feb. 1923). 44 C.C. Aronsfeld, ‘The Britons Publishing Society’, Wiener Library Bulletin, 20 (Summer 1966), pp. 31–5. 45 Britons Library, List no. 3, 1978. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 45 principal themes were later to influence the racial nationalist tradi- tion from the IFL through to the National Front. The founder and president of the organization from 1918 to 1948 was the above-mentioned Henry Hamilton Beamish. Beamish was the son of an admiral who was aide de camp to Queen Victoria, and brother of the Conservative MP for Lewes. He fought in both the Boer and First World Wars. In South Africa he came to the conclu- sion that the Boer War had been fought for the benefit of Jewish gold and diamond financiers, who were exploiting British imperial- ism for their own international purposes. This, combined with the presence of Jewish revolutionaries in the Bolshevik uprising, and the alleged Jewish capitalist funding of the communists from Wall Street, convinced him that there was a plot to undermine civilization and the British Empire.46 The British government was seen as completely dominated by Jewish interests since the Marconi scandal, with Isaacs, Montagu and Mond allegedly pulling the strings behind Lloyd George. With the rise of Lloyd George to become prime minister in 1916 Britain was now ruled by the ‘Jewalition’.47 The manifest disasters of the war could be quantified exactly in anti- semitic terms. Jews were supposedly responsible for one-quarter of the casualties of the war.48 Beamish decided to communicate such views to a wider public. Together with H. McCleod Frazer of the Silver Badge Party for ex-Servicemen, Beamish displayed a notice at Charing Cross in 1919 which alleged that Sir Alfred Mond was a traitor and that he had allocated shares to Germans during the war. Beamish was sued by Mond and judgement was found in the plaintiff’s favour to the cost of £5,000. In order to escape payment Beamish fled the country and he only returned to Britain at irregular intervals from then on. In Beamish’s absence the Britons survived under the direction of Dr J.H. Clarke until his death in 1931. Although Clarke tried to maintain interest, the organization foundered after the British Guardian ceased publication in 1925. J.D. Dell, a solicitor, became honorary secretary of the Britons Publishing Society until his retire- ment in 1949. In the inter-war period, apart from publishing the Protocols, the Britons made little impact. 46 Lebzelter, ‘Henry Hamilton Beamish and the Britons’, p. 42. 47 Jewry Ueber Alles, 1, 7 (Aug. 1920). 48 The Hidden Hand, 1, 10 (Nov. 1920). THE ‘JEW WISE’ 46 Membership of the Britons Society in the 1920s included more than ultra-conservative political reactionaries. Given the nature of its virulent anti-semitic propaganda, it was surprising that some fairly well-connected and distinguished individuals were associated with the organization. These included Dr J.H. Clarke, chairman from 1918–31, who was chief consulting physician to the Homeopathic Hospital in London, and was claimed to have some influence with the Conservative Die-hards in the 1920s; Walter Crick, the Northampton boot manufacturer, who was vice-president from 1925–36; and Arthur Kitson, the inventor, currency reformer and entrepreneur who provided another link with manufacturing industry. Other members included Lord Sydenham of Combe, an ex-Governor of Bombay and Victoria, Australia, as well as a secretary of the Imperial Defence Committee; George Mudge, Professor of Zoology at the University of London; Victor Marsden, Russian correspondent of the Morning Post; the Churchman Prebendary A.W. Gough; the explorer Bessie Pullen Burry; Lady Moore; Capel Pownall, the archery expert; and a bevy of military men including Lt-Colonel A.H. Lane, Brigadier-General Blakeney and Captain Howard. Kitson, Crick and Clarke were all talented individuals who disagreed strongly with the prevailing establishment views in their field. The fact that their discoveries were either ignored or did not bring their just rewards was partially responsible for inducing a conspiracy mentality. The presence of such energetic ladies as Bessie Pullen Burry in the Britons, of Nesta Webster and Catherine Stoddart in the Duke of Northumberland’s publishing concerns, as well as Rotha Lintorn Orman’s role in the British Fascists and Mary Allen’s, Mary Richardson’s and Mrs Dacre-Fox’s membership of the BUF, suggested a peculiar side-effect of the suffragette movement; politi- cal commitment and involvement could develop in very different directions from the dedicated socialism of Sylvia Pankhurst or the militant conservatism of her mother and sister. Indeed, the suf- fragette movement and its link to fascism represented one kind of genteel revolt by spirited upper-middle-class women against the stultifying effects of the Victorian ethic of limiting the role of respect- able ladies to ornaments in the social round.49 49 N. Webster, The Sheep Track (London, 1914). THE ‘JEW WISE’ THE ‘JEW WISE’ 47 Arnold Leese and the IFL There were close ties between the Britons and the IFL. Beamish was a vice-president of this organization and spoke at several of its meetings on his infrequent visits from abroad in the 1930s. Arnold Leese, its leader, was a member of the Britons and had gained a strong belief in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a result of contact with Arthur Kitson in Stamford, Lincolnshire, where Leese had lived in the 1920s.50 Anthony Gittens, secretary of the Britons from 1949 to 1973 and a member since 1924, was a prominent member of the IFL in the 1930s and opened a branch at Kentish Town in London. The IFL originated in November 1928 as a patriotic anti- socialist organization. It acquired its fanatical anti-semitism only after Arnold Leese became its guiding spirit in 1930. The move- ment was originally formed by Brigadier-General D. Erskine Tulloch,51 and was controlled by a directorate of three persons, Major J. Baillie, L.H. Sherrard and Arnold Leese. Baillie and Sherrard resigned in 1932 and Leese became the sole leader of the organization, assuming the title of director-general.52 Leese was a veterinary surgeon who had retired from his practice in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1928. This had some claim to be the hotbed of British fascism in the 1920s owing to the fact that Leese and a colleague had successfully stood for the local council on a British fascist policy in 1924. However, Leese quarrelled with the ‘BF’s’, as he called them, because he thought they lacked dynamism and credibility. Moving to Guildford, Leese’s fanati- cism and his willingness to devote all his time and resources to the new movement soon made him the fulcrum of racial nationalist activity in Britain. His ability to provide finance for publishing a newspaper, The Fascist, and a constant stream of pamphlets devoted to fascism, anti-semitism and racial nationalism, and his own editorial drive, made him a natural source of inspiration. However, although Leese’s virulent anti-semitism and racial fascist beliefs made him the nearest equivalent in outlook to an English Hitler, his personality and attitude to leadership were very 50 A. Leese, Out of Step (Hollywood, n.d.), p. 48. 51 PRO HO 45/24967/105. 52 PRO HO 45/24967/37. 48 different. Leese’s lack of impact, of course, was also due to the very different cultural traditions and values of British society compared with those of Germany. Leese had a pronounced anti- authoritarian streak in his behaviour and a quarrelsome personal- ity. His loneliness as a child had been reinforced by his years of solitary endeavour in the north-west frontier in India and Kenya, which made him the world’s leading authority on the diseases of the camel.53 He found it very difficult to work in collaboration with others. Although not untalented as a journalist, despite his venomous and eccentric views of Jews, he lacked any personal charisma. Racial nationalists and extreme anti-semites respected Leese’s fanaticism and dedication to the cause, but were not prepared to obey his commands or views without question, nor were they able to get personally close to him. For his part Leese accepted discussion and political argument in the IFL provided that official policy was not contravened.54 In practice this meant a marked toleration of a variety of extremist ideas provided that the individual had proved himself to be ‘Jew wise’. Leese’s view was that the chief function of the IFL was a training organization for an élite of anti-semitic propagandists, not as a political party in its own right. Amongst the coterie of fanatical enthusiasts around Leese, the most interesting were those who comprised the ‘literary board’ of The Fascist. This was a fluctuating group of four or five individu- als who were responsible for the literary output of the organiza- tion. The Board of Deputies of British Jews managed to infiltrate a reliable agent into the IFL for a time in 1937 and his information provides a fascinating glimpse of its workings. The chief implica- tion of his findings was that although Leese was the dominant personality of the movement, the literary output usually ascribed to him was in part a joint enterprise of the literary board. In particular, one of Leese’s most notorious pamphlets, ‘My Irrelevant Defence’, was co-written with Charles W. Gore. This outlined the basis of Leese’s claim that the Jews were guilty of ritual murder, which had led to his being charged with seditious libel in 1936. Gore apparently did not want his name on the cover 53 Leese, Out of Step, pp. 1–37. 54 PRO HO 45/24967/105. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 49 of the book and wished for it to be published by the Canadian fascist, Arcand, so that he could not be sued.55 The kind of material which members enjoyed at their weekly meetings was best exemplified by a Jewish intelligence report of a lecture given by the IFL vice-president H.H. Beamish in 1937, entitled ‘National Socialism (Racial Fascism) in Practice in Germany’, which appeared to have been fairly typical of his beliefs. Members heard Beamish tell the audience that Germany was a great country today because Hitler had named the enemy and it was to be hoped that he would soon call an international confer- ence on the question. According to Beamish, the IFL knew of three remedies to the Jewish question: to kill them, sterilize them or segregate them. In answer to questions after the lecture Beamish said that the Russian Revolution had killed off the intelligentsia and that the country was now inhabited by ‘animal life people’. With a chilling prophecy he then stated that it would be the task of a great leader, Hitler for preference, to march into Russia in the next five years and place one half of the population in the lethal chamber and the other half in the zoo. After the applause had subsided Leese then spoke to the effect that national socialism had been vilified in this country, and that Germany was supposed to have nudist camps of unclean practices, which was untrue, but the IFL’s photographers had penetrated into nudist camps in this country, which were perfectly foul and run by Jews. The meeting was then closed with all present saluting with a ‘Heil Hitler’, much to the agent’s embarrassment.56 If the more intellectual middle-class members were titillated by such political discourse, the IFL had more mundane functions. Clothed in full dress uniform, the members wore a black shirt (blouse pattern), khaki breeches, puttees, black boots and black beret. Black or grey trousers were worn on duties other than full dress parades, and a brassard showing a Union Jack with a swastika superimposed was worn on the left arm in conjunction with the uniform. This was usually worn when selling The Fascist and for other ceremonial duties. Some working-class members of the Legions also held open air meetings in Hackney and other locations in the East End of London at irregular intervals. After a 55 Intelligence Report, 27 Oct. 1937, IFL file, Board of Deputies of British Jews. 56 Intelligence Report, 15 April 1937, IFL file, Board of Deputies of British Jews. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 50 letter to the Home Secretary in 1934 complaining that the IFL speakers had stated at these meetings that they would clear all Jews out of the country, and if this was not possible they would starve them and murder them, Special Branch reported that a Mr Pipkin and a Mr Smith of the IFL, both about twenty-one years of age, had made reckless and rash statements at such occasions.57 Although the IFL’s extremism, lack of resources, and failure to make any impact made it of marginal political significance, the Jewish community were worried about its potential. The genocidal language of its speakers and propaganda undoubtedly increased tension in areas of high Jewish concentration such as the East End of London. The Jewish agent reported in 1937 that a secret group known as the ‘tough squad’, under the direction of Gore and Ridout, operated with members of the BUF at night in the East End. While the leadership of the IFL was evidently opposed to Mosley, they were prepared to co-operate with the rank and file of his organization.58 Leese distinguished between the ‘Kosher Fascists’ and the ‘British Jewnion of Fascists’ elements in the leader- ship of the BUF and possible allies within the membership of that organization who would be useful to his anti-semitic campaign. With the increased growth of tension in the East End in 1936 the Security Service became interested in the activities of the IFL. In view of the complaints of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the virulence of Leese’s propaganda, the government tried to silence him through recourse to the law. As a result of the publica- tion of the accusation that Jews practised ritual murder against Christians, Leese and his printer Whitehead were tried on charges of seditious libel and creating a public mischief on 18–21 September 1936. Using the argument that the Jews, not being a definite community, were not His Majesty’s subjects and therefore not under the protection of his laws, and quoting the Gospel of St John that the Jews were descended from the devil, Leese’s defence was partially successful. He was found not guilty of the serious charge of seditious libel but guilty of the lesser misdemeanour of creating a public mischief. In spite of this partial acquittal Leese still went to prison. He was given six months’ hard labour after he refused on principle to pay the fine. Leese claimed that his 57 PRO HO 45/24967/11. 58 Intelligence Report, n.d., IFL file, Board of Deputies of British Jews. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 51 ‘martyrdom’ had been achieved against the wishes of the Jury who had acquitted him on the serious charge.59 Thus although the authorities had their wish and Leese was effectively silenced for six months, during which time the IFL became a virtually moribund organization, the Rex v. Leese case had opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities for the racial national- ists. The Attorney-General had been astonished at the verdict and came to the conclusion that the jury had viewed Leese as a stupid crank with honest convictions who should not be convicted of the serious charge of seditious libel.60 After his release from jail Leese decided to challenge the validity of his imprisonment by publishing My Irrelevant Defence, a lengthy justification of his charge that the Jews ritually murdered Christian children for their blood at Passover.61 In spite of the fact that Leese’s charges were much more blatant than in the original offence the authorities decided not to prosecute in case an acquit- tal might be misunderstood by the general public. Recently released Home Office papers in fact show that the authorities drew back from prosecuting even the most blatant cases of anti-semitic propaganda both before and during the Second World War despite the fact that it was ostensibly being fought to destroy Hitlerism. The comments of both ministers and civil servants also showed a critical attitude towards British Jews within wide sections of the establishment. Maule Ramsays’s secret societies The IFL was not the only extreme anti-semitic organization in exist- ence in the 1930s. Another small group of racial nationalists called ‘The Nordics’ amalgamated with the IFL in 1934; other organiza- tions such as the Militant Christian Patriots, the White Knights of Britain and the National Socialist League were among the most conspicuous examples. Short-lived fascist organizations like the United Empire Fascist Party and the National Socialist Workers Movement appeared and disappeared in the 1930s. After 1937, when the international situation worsened, increasing numbers of 59 PRO HO 45/24967/52, Rex v. Leese (London, 1937). 60 PRO HO 45/24967/62. 61 A. Leese, My Irrelevant Defence (London, 1938), pp. 1–12. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 52 militant fascists and anti-semites, disillusioned with Mosley and Leese, and encouraged by nazi success in Europe, saw the need for an umbrella organization which would co-ordinate anti-semitic activity. It appears that the Nordischer Gesellschaft in Germany sent representatives to this country in 1935 to encourage such a grouping and that their spokesman referred in 1937 to the NL as being the English branch of international nazism.62 The NL had managed successfully to screen its activities from the attention of historians and political commentators to this day, but it was not so lucky with the relevant authorities. Both MI5 and the Board of Deputies of British Jews were well aware of its significance. Its importance was highlighted by the fact that Britain’s most notorious extreme anti-semite, Archibald H. Maule Ramsay, MP appeared to be its guiding spirit, which explains why there is now significant intelligence information on this society; the fact that Jewish sources, MI5 and the Council for Civil Liberties broadly confirm each other, suggests that the reports were reli- able. Indeed, Ramsay’s secret societies, the Nordic League and the Right Club, were so easily penetrated by intelligence agents, and the government has now released some of this material, that when this information is checked against independent sources it becomes possible to present a plausible account of what the British fascists were up to during 1939 and 1940. While Special Branch sent along junior officers to transcribe proceedings at NL meetings in 1939, the most important informa- tion we have on its activities is that procured by an intelligence agent working for the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Disturbed by the evidence of an increase in organized hostility towards the Jews during 1938, Neville Laski used his contacts with Special Branch at Scotland Yard to employ a recently retired inspector to penetrate the NL for the Board of Deputies.63 According to a letter in the files this man’s name was Pavey.64 His success in being accepted at the highest levels of the League enabled him to provide graphic accounts of their meetings and organization.65 He was so successful in avoiding suspicion that he was sent to a nazi ‘sum- mer school’ in Germany in August 1939 as a representative of the 62 PRO HO 144/22454/6. 63 S. Saloman, Now it can be told, File C6/9/2/1, Board of Deputies of British Jews. 64 Letter to Inspector Keeble, n.d., File C6/10/29, Board of Deputies of British Jews. 65 Memorandum on the Nordic League, PRO HO 144/21381/270–93. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 53 League. A photographic memory enabled him to avoid the obvi- ous suspicions which Special Branch officers noting the proceed- ings obviously fell under at such meetings. His reports, which confirmed those of Special Branch, testified both to the reliability of his memory and to his obvious potential as an infiltrator. There is evidence too that E.R. Mandeville Roe, an ex-member of the British Fascists and the BUF, also submitted reports on the NL to the Board of Deputies in 1939. Archibald Maule Ramsay was, with Mosley, the most significant figure on the fascist fringe of British politics. Although he vehemently denied being a fascist, merely wishing to purge the Conservatives of all Jewish influence,66 his unparliamentary statements expressed to the NL and his connection with the Tyler Kent affair in 1940 left considerable room for doubt. The Security Service thought that Ramsay was unbalanced and suffered from persecution mania so far as the Jews were concerned.67 In 1931 he was elected as Conservative MP for Peebles, as a supporter of the National Government. In 1938 he read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and appeared to suffer the same ‘road to Damascus’ transformation of personality which afflicted Arnold Leese on reading that docu- ment. Henceforth he interpreted all political phenomena in terms of an anti-semitic conspiracy theory. While he was increasingly regarded as a wild eccentric on the fringes of the Conservative party in Parliament, his extra-parliamentary activities included being in 1938–9 the dominant personality in two secret societies, the NL and the Right Club (RC). He was convenor of the fourteen-strong council of the NL and leader of the RC. The NL saw its role as co-ordinating the activities of extreme anti-semitic and racial nationalist bodies in fighting the so-called Jewish menace. To that end it eschewed a leadership cult and had a formless organization, although a council decided its policy. The Security Service and the Jewish agent noted its connections with practically all the fascist and anti-semitic bodies, such as the IFL, the National Socialist League, the White Knights of Britain, the Britons Society, the National Socialist Workers Party and the Militant Christian Patriots. There were also connections with more respectable organizations such as the Liberty Restoration League 66 A.H.M. Ramsay, The Nameless War (London, 1952), pp. 103–5. 67 PRO HO 144/22454/87. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 54 and the United Ratepayers Association. The only significant excep- tion to Maule Ramsay’s co-ordinated attempt to unify the fascist political fringe was Mosley’s refusal to connect his organization to the movement. However, after the NL was disbanded at the outbreak of war, ex-members of this organization were to join the move towards a closer collaboration of anti-semitic, pro-nazi and peace movements. The activities of the NL were primarily restricted to private meet- ings in 1938, although it was connected with the Militant Christian Patriots at the end of the Munich Crisis when it urged Chamberlain not to get Britain involved in Jewish designs for a world war. During 1939 it surfaced and held several public meetings in London of a pro-nazi or pro-appeasement character. It also had public viewings of nazi propaganda films of an anti-semitic nature, including one on the ritual slaughter of animals. Its notoriety and extremism, which was a principal reason why Mosley refused to get involved before the Second World War, was mainly due to the wild verbal excesses at its meetings. The toast at the bar was ‘P.J.’ or Perish Judah. This was a nazi form of greeting that had been popularized by P.J. Ridout of the IFL in 1936, presumably as a conscious pun on his own initials.68 In the aftermath of Kristallnacht the NL had to be treated by the authorities as more than an eccentric lunatic fringe organization. The secrecy of the League was primarily due to its connection with the White Knights of Britain, or the Hooded Men as they were sometimes called. This was a British 1930s version of the Ku Klux Klan which was active in 1936–7. With an elaborate initia- tion ritual modelled on the conventions of freemasonry, its aim was to ‘rid the world of the merciless Jewish reign of terror’.69 It was an occult body with secretive passwords and much mumbo jumbo. The meetings of the order, like those of the NL, took place among festoons of swastikas, and members had to swear blood- curdling oaths to its patron saint King Edward I, who had expelled the Jews from England. Death was the alleged penalty for those who divulged the secrets of the order. Commander E.H. Cole was the chancellor of the organization and T. Victor Rowe played the 68 PRO HO 144/21379/237. 69 ‘The White Knights of Britain’, Intelligence Report C6/10/29, Board of Deputies of British Jews. PRO HO 144/20154. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 55 key role of the man on the door in the initiation ritual.70 The order claimed over 7,000 members – but this was a wild exag- geration typical of this group. At the beginning of the war the Security Service categorzied the NL as the seditious body whose speakers did not hesitate to advocate methods of violence to achieve their ends, many refer- ring to a coming revolution.71 There was also a tendency towards the advocacy of a genocidal solution to the so-called Jewish ques- tion and much anti-semitic abuse at their meetings. Amongst the most extreme speakers were Maule Ramsay, Captain Elwin Wright, Commander Cole, Serocold Skeels, A.K. Chesterton and William Joyce. Ramsay steered an erratic course between advocat- ing the possible use of violence against Jews if other measures would not achieve their object, and milder comments. If Jewish control could not be challenged constitutionally it would have to be done by acts of Steel;72 and he saw the time approaching when, like the major of Bethlehem, he would have to arm his son against the Jews.73 On other occasions he drew back from the implica- tions of his argument by not referring directly to the Jews and by arguing that the British army would always obey the orders of the cabinet even if there was a Jewish Minister for War such as Hore Belisha.74 Other members did not mince their words with regard to the British government. William Joyce attacked the ‘Slobbering, bastardised mendacious triumvirate’ of Churchill, Eden and Cooper and argued that conscription would bring into the army thousands of young fascists whose training should not be wasted.75 Elwin Wright, who up until 1937 had been secretary of a respect- able Anglo-German Fellowship, advocated the shooting of Jews, called Neville Chamberlain a liar and a traitor and stated that Parliament was a ‘blackmailing corrupt body of bastards’.76 For 70 PRO HO 144/21381/250–1. 71 PRO HO 144/22454/85–6. 72 Intelligence Report of Nordic League meeting, 10 July 1939, Box 41/1, National Council for Civil Liberties. 73 Memorandum on Nordic League, p. 9. 74 Ibid., p. 12. 75 Ibid., p. 18. 76 PRO HO 144/21381/237. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 56 Commander Cole, the Palace of Westminster was full of dirty cor- rupt swine and the House of Commons was a ‘house of bastardised Jews’.77 Cole’s extreme anti-semitism had developed as a result of his exposure to the Protocols when he had been involved with allied help to the White Russians in the Civil War in the 1920s. For NL members shooting the Jews was the favoured solution, although on one occasion Wright suggested they should be destroyed painlessly and Chesterton wanted them strung up on lamp-posts.78 Serocold Skeels inverted the logic of genocide: as the Jews ritually slaughtered cattle and the Talmud viewed gentiles as animals, growing Jewish power threatened the security of the goyim everywhere; the Jews would soon have the legal power to murder whom they chose. Such arguments naturally alerted the authorities to the possible threat posed by such an organization. However, although there were some well-connected members and the Security Service was conscious of the links with the German nazis, the very eccentricity and extremism of the NL made it totally alien to British political culture. It completely failed to influence public opinion when it emerged from its secret society chrysalis in 1939, and in spite of its extremism and the uncertainties of the law with regard to sedi- tious libel where public order was not threatened, the authorities decided that any move against the group would give it unwanted publicity and might achieve more harm than good. Only on the outbreak of war were steps taken to discourage its members from any anti-war activity when two of its leading members, Oliver Gilbert and T. Victor-Rowe, were interned on 22 September 1939. The organization had already terminated its activities at the outbreak of war, although members still met unofficially in Gilbert’s house. Most of its members then joined other anti-war organizations and many were interned in 1940. Ramsay’s other secret society, the Right Club, was also ostensibly closed down at the outbreak of war. However, Ramsay and some of his closest associates still met and its activities were in fact to provide the government with the excuse to intern many fascists without trial in 1940. It was formed in 1939 for the same purpose as the NL, to amalgamate and strengthen various extreme right-wing and pro-fascist movements. The RC was ostensibly less 77 PRO HO 144/21381/236. 78 Memorandum on Nordic League, pp. 20, 22. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 57 nazi than the NL and was aimed at infiltrating and influencing the establishment to further Ramsay’s campaign to lessen the alleged Jewish influence on the Conservative party. It began life as a kind of January Club of the NL, but it rapidly became more significant. The RC concentrated its activities on contacting potential sympathizers, particularly in the armed forces. Ramsay signed up over 200 persons, whose membership was duly noted in the so-called ‘red book’. The authorities were more worried about this group than about the NL and only one document about it has so far been released, despite the fact that it was successfully infiltrated by several agents. The story of the RC – which will be given in more detail in another chapter – has still not been fully told, mainly because the documentation on it has been treated like the Crown Jewels. Racial nationalist ideology Such generalized and unsystematic anti-semitic obsessions as were displayed by individuals in these groups would suggest that little could be learned from an attempt to study the belief systems of such movements. The crude and splenetic expression and presenta- tion of such views suggested irrational pathological prejudice rather than a coherent ideology. No doubt personality problems played some part in the views of many of the individuals concerned, but perceived characteristics of Jews and their alleged behaviour provided a rationalization of such extremist views for most members of these organizations. Arnold Leese’s anti- semitism owed much to his hatred of Jewish methods of slaughter- ing animals and the cruelty that he believed resulted. Arthur Kitson’s views developed from a generalized critique of the bank- ing system and the role Jews supposedly played in it. Several of the other known members of such groups had Arab connections or were opposed to Zionist ambitions in Palestine. Whatever the origin of these views, the groups produced literature which fed such beliefs and this material found a wider readership through the NL. Much of the content of such literary activity was little more than political pornography. The Britons’ newspaper regaled its limited readership with many of the anti- semitic slanders of White Russian propaganda from the Civil War, including tales of how Jewish Bolsheviks boiled deacons in water THE ‘JEW WISE’ 58 and drunk the resultant soup.79 Leese fell foul of the authorities by publishing allegations that Jews indulged in ritual murder of Christian children for religious purposes.80 Both the Britons’ and the IFL literature contained lurid tales of alleged Jewish responsibil- ity for crime, the white slave traffic, for casualties in the First World War, for corrupting public life and for financial malpractices and banking irregularity. In much of this material there was little attempt to relate such antipathy and prejudice to a consistent and coherent theory of behaviour, but the assumption and arguments on which it was based can be seen as the origins of a racial nationalist ideology which was to be more rigorously formulated at a later date. In short, the obsession with blaming all the supposed ills of the modern world on to the Jews which com- mon to these groups was so great that coherence and intellectual consistency were often disregarded. It was not until after the Second World War that a distinction between an exoteric display of prejudice and an esoteric anti-semitic ideology can be discerned in racial nationalist literature.81 In the inter-war period the two were often mixed in a totally unco-ordinated manner. As a result the negative obsession of anti-semitism played a much greater role than the positive outline of racial nationalism and the Nordic, Aryan or Anglo-Saxon theme of such ideas. Yet an analysis of the ideology behind the antipathy and prejudice displayed in racial nationalism, despite the fact that so little of the expression of such ideas was coherent or systematic, is important for three reasons. First, the basic assumptions of such ideas in altered form were later developed into the ideology of the National Front. Second, the comparison with nazi ideas provides a guide to the influence of Hitler on British racial nationalism. Third, the comparison with Mosley’s fascism shows quite conclusively that as well as the competition between potential British Führers, and the personal and political gulf between British fascist movements, there was an ideological divide which hindered closer co-operation. All these factors were to play an important role in the disaster of 1940. Racial nationalism, which played a minor role in British fascism 79 Jewry Ueber Alles, March 1920. 80 The Fascist, July 1936. 81 M. Billig, Fascists (London, 1978), pp. 124–6. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 59 in the inter-war period, was to become much more significant in the revival of the tradition after the Second World War. The ideology of racial nationalism was nowhere coherently formulated in fascist literature in the inter-war period. The logic of such views naturally contained a number of contradictions. In terms of Darwinian theory, the most successful groups were those who had the highest reproduction rate. The fittest in British society should therefore have been the lower class and the immigrant, both of whom had higher birth rates than the upper classes. This fact obviously did not conform to the elitist views of ‘fitness to rule’ of most racial nationalists. The image of the Jew posed problems too. On the one hand he was supposedly an inferior being, with anti-social habits and disgusting personality traits; on the other hand he possessed a superior intelligence and sufficient group solidarity to leave him on the verge of world domination. But for individuals like Arnold Leese intellectual consistency mat- tered much less than his hatred of the Jews. At one NL meeting the self-confessed animal lover and Jew-hater suddenly adopted a full- blooded Lamarckian argument to explain the difference between Swedish and British cattle. Apparently Swedish cows, secure in the knowledge that they were going to be stunned by true Aryans before they were slaughtered, were happy and friendly towards man; British cows, who might be bled to death for kosher meat, had no such guarantee and were morose and sullen as a result.82 Leese’s ludicrous argument appeared even more bizarre, given his inflexible belief that acquired characteristics could not be inherited and that genetic endowment and not environment, culture or education determined behaviour; when applied to mankind these ideas led him to criticize Spengler and other nationalists for seeing culture rather than race as determining human action. For Leese, this explained why Spengler was national socialism’s worst enemy.83 This also strongly differentiated Leese’s fascism from Mosley’s since the latter explained his fascist revolt with reference to neo-Lamarckian arguments and Spengler’s historical and cultural vision.84 Leese also possessed a Manichean view of society, in which the 82 PRO HO 144/22454/60. 83 Gothic Ripples, no. 66 (15 July 1950); PRO HO 45/24968/124. 84 O. Mosley, Tomorrow we Live (London, 1938), pp. 69–72. THE ‘JEW WISE’ 60 future of civilization depended upon the outcome of the struggle between Nordic and Jew. For Leese, the Nordic or Aryan was the sole creator of culture and civilization. His noble and heroic quali- ties were diametrically opposed to the negative qualities of the Jew. The chivalrous, virtuous and humanitarian values of the Aryan contrasted with the assumed sadistic blood lust, ritual murder and hatred of the goyim allegedly typical of Jews. Whereas for Leese there were no pure races, ‘race mixing’ could be of two kinds. Where the parents were of radically different types this led to the degeneration of the qualities of the higher race, but if the racial outcrossing was between individuals whose characteristics were complementary or similar then it was beneficial. In practice this meant that Leese denounced the influence of Arabs, Negroes, Somalis and Chinamen whom he considered were defiling the race, particularly in seaports, as well as the alleged Jewish menace. To Leese immigration and race-mixing was a Jewish plot to undermine the British Empire, and to ensure that the ‘poisoning of our Anglo- Saxon blood by this yellow negroid horde is proceeding a pace’.85 THE ‘JEW WISE’ 85 Idem, ‘The colour problem in Britain’, The Fascist, June 1932. 3 The BUF and British Society, 1932–39 The British Union of Fascists represented the mature form of the fascist phenomenon in British society, being the only organization with any pretension to significance in inter-war Britain. Formed in October 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley, it drew its inspiration from Mussolini’s Italy and most of its initial impetus from the youth movement of the New Party (Nupa) and the membership files of the British Fascists. Mosley had decided during the 1931 general election campaign to form a fascist movement, after the devastat- ing defeat in which the New Party lost all its parliamentary seats and twenty-two of its twenty-four candidates forfeited their deposits, and his visit to Mussolini in Rome and to nazi leaders in Munich in January 1932 merely strengthened his resolve. The early years Mosley’s turn to fascism was a response to the failure of the British parliamentary system of government to adopt radical reform to cure unemployment, and to prevent the continued economic and political decline of Britain. This failure was symbolized by the crushing victory of the ‘old gangs’ as Mosley called them, in the general election of 1931. Ironically, given the severe limitations of freedom of speech planned in the future fascist state, Mosley deemed it necessary to protect that liberty by providing more rigorous stewarding of public meetings to prevent them being broken up by left-wing activists. Hence the 62 somewhat incongruous background to the emergence of Britain’s most important fascist organization: the publication of a reasoned pragmatic plan of action to attack unemployment in Mosley’s The Greater Britain, combined with the creation of a uniformed defence force to ensure that those who wished to hear of such ideas at public meetings would be able to do so. Thus from the beginning the BUF exhibited a Janus-faced appear- ance; it was a movement which was intellectually the most coher- ent and rational of all the fascist parties in Europe in its early years, yet whose aggressive style and vigorous self-defence attracted political violence. Paradoxically, the failure of the BUF was linked to both phenomena. It failed to convince the nation that authoritarian methods were necessary to solve Britain’s economic crisis and prevent further political decline, and it was blamed for fomenting the violence and public disorder which became associated with its activities in the 1930s. Furthermore, the British economy staged a revival in that decade. New industries and housebuilding in the south and east of the country led to a growth rate which rivalled that of the mid-Victoria era, and apart from a minor dip in the statistics in 1937–8 the sustained restructuring and recovery of the economy created many new jobs and reduced rates of unemployment in all but the most depressed areas dependent on the declining staple industries.1 For a party whose purpose was to solve the unemployment problem the BUF was conspicuously unsuccessful in recruiting a mass following from its victims. Apart from the cotton campaign in Lancashire in 1934 the BUF made no headway in the areas of high regional unemployment. Apathy or the new loyalties to working-class politics, where both the Labour and Communist parties were militantly hostile to fascism, ensured that the BUF made no impact in such localities.2 Neither increased living standards for the majority nor the despair of mass unemployment in the depressed areas proved conducive to the growth of fascism in Britain. The crisis of British society which Mosley saw as 1 D.H. Aldcroft, The Inter War Economy: Britain 1930–39 (London, 1973); S. Pollard, The Development of the British Economy (London, 1969), pp. 92–174; B. Alford, Depression and Recovery (London, 1972). 2 J. Stevenson and C. Cook, The Slump (London, 1977). THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 63 essential for the success of his movement, and which he predicted as having arrived in 1932, stubbornly failed to materialize.3 The political violence which became inextricably linked with the BUF proved to be the other great negative factor in its fortunes, despite some temporary gains amongst those who were frightened by working-class and Jewish militancy. Yet two facts must be stressed at the outset with relation to this problem in inter-war Britain. First, although it was a serious issue which eventually led to the introduction of the Public Order Act in 1936, such violence was only a pale reflection of the conflict which led to the growth of fascism in Italy and Germany in the inter-war period.4 There was no British Horst Wessel, nor indeed any anti-fascist martyr, as a result of political disturbances in the 1930s, although claims were made that a Blackshirt died later from injuries inflicted at a meeting at Holbeck Moor in Leeds.5 Second, political violence in England was not invented by the BUF, nor did it come about as a response to its activities. Throughout the 1930s Mosley stressed the propaganda theme that Blackshirt methods were necessary to prevent ‘red terrorism’. Although his accusations on that score were greatly exaggerated, the police had experienced problems with increased disorder at meetings as a result of the depression. The deployment of police at the end of the National Unemployed Workers Movement hunger march in London in October 1932 saw the most intensive public order precautions since 1848.6 In Bristol twenty-nine persons were arrested for assaulting the police, malicious damage and disorderly conduct with respect to the activities of the National Unemployed Workers Movement and the Communist party in 1931 and 1932.7 Certainly Mosley’s constant harping on the theme of left-wing intimidation was a fairly effective recruiting ploy throughout the 1930s. The second MI5 report on the activities of the BUF argued 3 J.D. Brewer, ‘Fascism and crisis’, Patterns of Prejudice, 13, 2–3 (Mar.–June 1979), pp. 1–7. 4 F.L. Carsten, The Rise of Fascism (London, 1967), pp. 45–120. 5 N. Driver, From the Shadows of Exile (n.d.), pp. 39–40. 6 J. Stevenson, ‘The politics of violence’ in The Politics of Re-appraisal 1918–39, ed. G. Peele and C. Cook (London, 1975), pp. 146–65; Stevenson and Cook, The Slump, pp. 145–94, S. Cullen, “Political Violence: the case of the British Union of Fascists” Journal of Contemporary History 28, 2, April 1993, pp. 245−267, J Morgan, Conflict and Order (Oxford 1987), pp. 229−275. 7 PRO HO 144/20140/267. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 64 that the Olympia meeting on 7 June 1934, which so alienated influential opinion, actually increased support amongst those who were concerned about political disruption by left-wing activists. For two days a representative cross-section of working-class men, ex-officers, and public schoolboys queued from morning to night at the Black House to join an organization which they saw as being dedicated to preserving freedom of speech.8 The Security Service, on the other hand, argued that violent demonstrations which threatened public order could only benefit political extrem- ism in general, as it provided incentive for recruitment for both fascists and communists. Mosley justified the turn to fascism as the result of the increased disruptive tactics used by opponents of the New Party. However, followers like Harold Nicolson noticed other fascist traits in 1931. Mosley’s adoption of a more authoritarian manner and the increas- ing importance he gave to developing the youth organization as a relatively disciplined defence force led to the departure of many of his more important political collaborators like John Strachey. The immediate cause of the decision to adopt fascist methods was the attack on Mosley at a New Party meeting in Glasgow in September 1931 when he was hit on the head with a stone and attacked with a life preserver. Mosley then decided to expand his personal bodyguard, the so-called ‘Biff Boys’, to create a more disciplined and trained group. Nupa, the New Party youth movement, was rapidly enlarged to create a viable defence force which later became the basis of the elite I Squad, and Harold Nicolson suggested a uniform of grey flannel trousers and shirts.9 Nupa emphasized physical fitness and organized discipline. However, the original ‘Biff Boys’, the hearty undergraduate types who had been trained by the Jewish boxer Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis, were now joined by others with more controversial opinions and methods; in August 1932 a nineteen-year-old member of the New Party was convicted of stick- ing labels on shop windows in London’s Oxford Street urging the expulsion of the Jews from Britain.10 During 1932 Mosley approached the other fascist movements in Britain to see if co-operation was possible. He attempted a 8 PRO HO 144/20142/115. 9 H. Nicolson, Diaries and Letters 1930–39 (London, 1966), p. 89. 10 S. Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists in Britain in the 1930s’, PhD thesis, University of Bradford, 1981, pp. 75–6. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 65 takeover bid of the major fascist groups, demanding their subordination and acceptance of him as their new leader. This determined the name of Mosley’s fascist movement, the British Union of Fascists, when it was formed in October 1932. However, Mosley only had limited success in this endeavour. His deputy, Robert Forgan, had satisfactory talks with Neil Francis Hawkins about the amalgamation of the New Party with the British Fascists, but the grand council of the British Fascists voted against a merger by one vote in May 1932 after its founder Rotha Lintorn Orman, who was very suspicious of Mosley and regarded him as a near communist, vigorously opposed the change. The men on the Committee, led by Francis Hawkins and E.G. Mandeville Roe, then resigned from the British Fascists and joined Mosley, bring- ing with them a copy of its membership list.11 Francis Hawkins was to rise to effective second-in-command of the BUF after 1936 and the impact of the ex-British Fascist members was to be significant in the organization and administration of the move- ment. Mosley contemptuously dismissed the remaining British Fascists as ‘three old ladies and a couple of office boys’,12 and after the split Mosley ignored the existence of the British Fascists. During the Jewish protest demonstrations against the nazis in Hyde Park on 23 July 1933 a small lorry carrying British Fascists in a counter-demonstration shouted abuse at BUF headquarters. In retaliation for this, and fearful that they might be blamed for any fascist hostility towards the Jews, between fifty and sixty BUF members wrecked the BF’s headquarters.13 Further negotiations with the remaining BF membership resumed in July 1934. Colonel Henry Wilson negotiated with Mosley in an attempt to merge the two organizations. He had lent £500 to the BFs to liquidate pressing debts, and in order to obtain repayment had either to bankrupt them or obtain financial backing from elsewhere. However, between Wilson’s meeting with Mosley and that of the British Fascist grand council, Rotha Lintorn Orman changed her mind and, allegedly under the influence of drink, strenuously opposed the proposal. The merger plan was again 11 C. Cross, The Fascists in Britain (London, 1961), p. 65; A.K. Chesterton, Oswald Mosley. Portrait of a Leader (London, 1937), p. 17. 12 R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (London, 1975), p. 291. 13 PRO HO 144/19069/197–8. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 66 abandoned, and Wilson began bankruptcy proceedings to wind up the BFs.14 The proposal to merge the IFL with the BUF completely failed. Mosley had chaired a meeting where Arnold Leese and Henry Hamilton Beamish had addressed Nupa on ‘The blindness of British Politics under the Jew Power’ in April 1932, but from then on relations rapidly deteriorated. Leese saw Mosley as an unprincipled opportunist and argued that his fascism was not based on racial nationalism. He was also extremely suspicious of Mosley’s first wife, Cynthia Curzon, accusing her of having Jewish blood in her veins. To Leese, Mosley was a ‘kosher fascist’,15 a Jewish agent planted to discredit the whole concept of fascism in Britain; to Mosley, Leese was no more than an anti-semitic crank. However, the existence of a potential rival, no matter how eccentric, meant that there was an alternative fascist allegiance open to disgruntled members of the BUF. The effects of this personal hostility and rivalry led to unofficial direct action being taken by members of the BUF in November 1933. A fight involving 150 people led to BUF members breaking up an IFL meeting, tearing up its banner and beating up Arnold Leese and Brigadier-General Blakeney, the ex-president of the BFs. Rubber truncheons, knuckledusters and chairs were used as weapons and there were many injuries. After this, according to MI5, the IFL became moribund and no longer ranked as a serious competitor to the BUF.16 After this assault Mosley reputedly was forced to discipline his own followers in order to maintain order in the BUF, and to discourage further acts of violence which invited retaliatory action by the authorities. Mosley repeatedly argued that his Blackshirt organization was a self-defence force and that although he could have disrupted other political meetings he never chose to do so. A policy of legality and the maintenance of public order was officially adopted by the BUF in its attempt to portray itself as a responsible organization. Indeed, the altered conditions of 1939 led to some co-operation between fascist, anti-semitic and pro-German groups, although Leese was excluded from the informal alliance. Before this, however, 14 PRO HO 144/20142/67–8 and 71. 15 A.S. Leese, Out of Step (Hollywood, n.d.), p. 52. 16 PRO HO 144/20141/309. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 67 potential rivals had been either ignored or treated ruthlessly by the BUF. Conditions for co-operation included total subservience to Mosley’s leadership, and for those like Leese who objected, unofficial violence often resulted. A group of Blackshirts vandal- ized the offices of the British United Fascists in Kensington in 1933;17 in 1936 Blackshirts in Liverpool assaulted the Social Credit Greenshirts with knuckledusters at their headquarters;18 and William Joyce’s Nationalist Socialist League was also subject to disruption by Blackshirts after he left the BUF in 1937. The early history of the BUF saw a rapidly expanding movement becoming quickly embroiled in conflict with left-wing opponents. At first many of the new recruits were from Mosley’s New Party; some were old followers from the ILP. Mosley tried to recruit from Conservatives and from those who were affiliated to no party. To the left he stressed the revolutionary aims of the BUF whilst to the right he emphasized authority and ordered government.19 While several important recruits, such as Robert Forgan, and in 1934 John Beckett, were to join the movement from the left, and W.E.D. Allen was to play an important role in the story of the BUF, in general it was those who came to fascism from outside politics who were to prove the most important elements in the organiza- tion. During 1933 Ian Hope Dundas, Alexander Raven Thomson, A.K. Chesterton and William Joyce all joined either as a result of Mosley’s charismatic personality or convinced by the fascist creed. Dundas, a martinet figure, was to be Mosley’s chief of staff, Raven Thomson his leading intellectual, Chesterton his best polemicist and Joyce the leading speaker, who rivalled Mosley in the bril- liance of his oratorial style, even if the content was often rabid nonsense. It was the excitement and potential violence which the BUF seemed to offer which proved the biggest recruiting spur. From the outset the establishment of a uniformed and disciplined fascist defence force, the Blackshirts, was Mosley’s first priority. Under the first commander, Eric Hamilton Piercy, and adjutant Neil Francis Hawkins, they were organized on paramilitary lines, particularly the elite I Squad at the Black House, Mosley’s 17 Cross, The Fascists in Britain, p. 82. 18 PRO HO 144/20146/136–8. 19 Blackshirt, Feb. 1933. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 68 headquarters. Blackshirts were driven to meetings in armour- plated vans. Interrupters were warned that fascists did not toler- ate hecklers, who if they continued were then ejected from the meeting. Knuckledusters and leaded hosepipes were sometimes used at early BUF meetings, though Mosley rapidly banned their use by Blackshirts.20 A graphic example of early Blackshirt violence was provided by the principal of Ruskin College, Oxford, who took sworn affidavits from victims who had been roughly treated at Mosley’s meeting in Oxford in November 1933. These included allegations of having been thrown downstairs, of fascists banging the heads of interrupters on the stone floor, and of protestors hav- ing fascist stewards’ fingers rammed up their nostrils.21 However, it would be misleading to suggest that fascist violence was the sole cause of conflict. As with Hitler’s nazis, Blackshirts argued that in using weapons they were merely copying the tactics of their opponents. The National Headquarters reputedly had a museum of offensive weapons used by anti-fascists which included knuckledusters, rubber piping, coshes of all sizes, razors set in potatoes and daggers.22 Mosley, with his combative language and stormy oratory, proved later to be no sluggard at defending himself with the good old British fist. At a Prestwich meeting in 1936 he lost his temper at persistent heckling, jumped into his audience and knocked three of the ringleaders senseless.23 When one of his own officials insulted him at a Leeds meeting Mosley knocked him unconscious.24 Mosley was himself quite seriously hurt by a brick at a meeting in Liverpool in 1937. The violence associated with the BUF from the outset, and which continuing throughout its history, represented an interaction of mutually opposed and conflicting forces. After a visit to see Mussolini’s International Fascist exhibition in the spring, Mosley organized the first large BUF march in June 1933 when 1,000 Blackshirts marched through London. The anti- fascists largely ignored this demonstration. Soon afterwards, in the autumn of 1933, the BUF bought the lease of the Whitelands Teachers Training College, Chelsea, which was turned into fascist 20 Cross, The Fascists in Britain, p. 70. 21 PRO HO 144/20141/157. 22 Driver, Shadows of Exile, p. 33. 23 Ibid., p. 39. 24 Ibid., pp. 31–2. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 69 headquarters, the so-called Black House. This became the organizational, intellectual and social centre of the BUF. The movement’s leading officials had offices there and between 50 and 200 Blackshirts were in residence at various times, living under military discipline. Opponents argued that the cellars were used for punishment purposes, and Special Branch alleged that a man had been seriously wounded by a knife in the stomach after horseplay between fascists at Black House.25 The rapid growth of the BUF and the increased problems of public order associated with it led to the government showing an interest in BUF activities. At a conference in the Home Office in November 1933 attended by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, two officers of MI5 and a superintendent from Special Branch, it was decided that information should be systematically collected on fascism in the United Kingdom.26 From the spring of 1934 onwards in a series of reports MI5 evaluated the significance of this intelligence. Most of this material is now available for consultation and, interpreted with care, it illuminates many aspects of BUF activity, since the papers expand and complement other sources. The drive for expansion received its greatest impetus from the support given to the movement by Lord Rothermere, who was persuaded by Mussolini to back Mosley. For six months his newspapers gave prominence to BUF activities, which was a splendid opportunity to increase propaganda, and produced a sharp boost in membership figures. During the same period Mosley tried to increase the quality of his followers too. At the beginning of 1934 he attempted to gain more influential and financial support from establishment and entrepreneurial sources; hence the formation of the January Club, a dining group which although not specifically a front organiza- tion, nevertheless was designed to influence politicians, business- men and members of the armed services towards the fascist case. The leading spirits behind the club were Major Yeats Brown, the Bengal Lancer, Dr Robert Forgan, deputy leader of the BUF, Sir Donald Makgill and Captain Luttman Johnson, all of whom were either members of the BUF or had close connections with Mosley. 25 PRO HO 144/20140/289. 26 PRO HO 45/25386/54–9. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 70 The function of the club was to allow leading fascists to discuss contemporary political issues with experts and some opponents in a convivial after-dinner atmosphere. As many as 350 attended such functions and amongst members and guests were Lord Middleton, Brigadier-General Spears, Sir John Squire, the Earl of Iddesleigh, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Sir Charles Petrie. MI5 was particularly interested in the contacts made with the armed services,27 but the Security Service could find little sign of important influential support for Mosley in Parliament, even at the peak of the BUF growth in 1934. Only three Conservative MPs had shown much interest in the movement,28 and the political establishment in general thought the best policy was to ignore Mosley. A few radical spirits were interested but most sympathized with Baldwin’s long-held view that Mosley was ‘a cad and a wrong ‘un’.29 Other areas of the establishment were infiltrated by fascists, and groups were set up in the Civil Service and in several educational centres and public schools, including the Universities of London and Birmingham, Stowe School, and Winchester, Beaumont and Worksop Colleges.30 Mosley’s and Rothermere’s interest in avia- tion led to the formation of a fascist flying club in Gloucestershire in 1934.31 As Mosley tried to make the presence of the BUF felt in 1934, so popular opposition to the growth of fascism increased. This was particularly marked amongst the organized working class. At the grass roots level this was shown when John Beckett, the ex-MP for Gateshead and recent Mosley recruit, returned to his old constituency as part of a speaking tour in May 1934. Greeted with shouts of ‘traitor’, he had to run the gauntlet of 3,000 anti- fascists in Gateshead and 5,000 in Newcastle. At Leicester a hostile crowd several thousands strong prevented A.K. Chesterton who was then the Midlands organizer, from attending a meeting.32 27 PRO HO 144/20141/300–6. 28 PRO HO 144/20140/117. 29 T. Jones, Whitehall Diary, ed. K. Middlemas (London, 1969), vol. II, p. 195. 30 PRO HO 144/20140/286; J.D. Brewer, Mosley’s Men (Aldershot, 1984), p. 86. 31 PRO HO 144/20142/118; P. Addison, ‘Patriotism under pressure. Lord Rothermere and British foreign policy’, in Peele and Cook, The Politics of Reappraisal, p. 200. 32 PROHO144/20140/76,96–8;Brewer,‘Fascismandcrisis’,p.86,N.ToddInExcited Times (South Shields, 1995), pp. 34−41. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 71 It was, however, after Mosley’s Olympia meeting on 7 June 1934 that public opinion in general began to harden significantly against the BUF. Although the meeting led to an immediate increase in recruitment, the BUF lost the propaganda war concerning responsibility for the violence associated with the occasion, and in retrospect it marked the turning-point in the fortunes of the move- ment. About 12,000 attended, including about 2,000 Blackshirts, half of whom acted as stewards. The police were not in attend- ance, although 762 officers were in reserve in case of trouble. Special Branch had warned that political violence was a possibil- ity as the communists were planning to disrupt the meeting; they allegedly had plans to locate the main power switch so that the lights could be cut off at a favourable moment.33 Mosley’s speech was interrupted continuously by hecklers who were unceremoni- ously removed by the stewards. According to Mosley, the inter- ruptions showed the necessity for the fascists to have a defence force and demonstrated that for many years past there had been no freedom of speech in the country. According to Special Branch, very violent treatment was meted out in the foyer to the men removed by the Blackshirts;34 the police intervened just in time to prevent serious injury. As it was, in the fighting at the meeting and afterwards many sustained injuries. Five were detained in hospital, including two fascists, and one doctor saw between fifty and seventy victims. He suggested that, given the nature of the wounds, it seemed that knuckledusters and razors had been used on members of the public.35 With hindsight it is clear that left-wing opponents planned to disrupt the meeting, for over 1,000 anti-fascists were involved in a counter-demonstration and in the systematic attempts to wreck the occasion. However, it is also plain that the fascists deliberately over-reacted and that the indelible impression left on most uncom- mitted observers was one of Blackshirt violence which frightened and dismayed many neutrals. Also, given the political context, it was not surprising that the growth of fascism should meet with such hostility in Great Britain. Organized labour pointed out the obvious possible parallels between fascism in Britain and its 33 PRO HO 144/20140/58. 34 PRO HO 144/20140/29–34. 35 PRO HO 144/20141/366–7. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 72 German and Italian counterparts. The General Secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen wrote to the Home Secretary arguing that the growth of fascism created a threat to organized labour since it had led elsewhere to the sup- pression and murder of trade unionists.36 The National Federation of Professional Workers had already objected to the proposed constitutional reforms of the BUF and what they saw as plans for the suppression of Parliament, the imprisonment of opponents, and the establishment of a private army.37 The National Joint Council of the Labour party, the parliamentary Labour party and the Trades Union Congress, in a deputation to the Home Secretary, argued that unless the government took action against the BUF the Labour movement would be unable to control the justified anger of extremists who were already forming anti-fascist organizations such as the Greyshirts.38 Such actions were understandable, given that fascist speakers like William Joyce were already bluntly stat- ing at public meetings that freedom of speech could not be toler- ated in a fascist state.39 However, it was the loss of Lord Rothermere’s support and the free publicity in the Daily Mail that contributed most to the decline of the BUF. In an exchange of letters Rothermere said he could no longer support a movement which was becoming increasingly to believe in dictatorship, anti-semitism and the corporate state.40 Mosley argued that the loss of Rothermere’s support was due to the threat of Jewish advertisers like Joe Lyons withdrawing their business from his newspapers.41 But Rothermere’s action was mainly caused by the unfavourable publicity for the BUF which followed the Olympia meeting, and the link in the public mind between its political creed and the far more sinister and violent events of the Night of the Long Knives of 30 June 1934 in Germany. Growing confrontation with political opponents rapidly became a method of obtaining much-needed publicicity, once Rothermere’s support had evaporated. In the second half of 1934 36 PRO HO 144/20140/7–8. 37 PRO HO 144/20140/162–81. 38 PRO HO 144/20141/51. 39 PRO HO 144/20140/275–7. 40 Daily Mail, 19 July 1934; Blackshirt, 20 July 1934. 41 O. Mosley, My Life (London, 1968), pp. 346–7. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 73 and in 1935 the movement all but collapsed as a national force, and to revive its fortunes the fascist political programme was de-emphasized and instead more attention was paid to fomenting local and regional grievances in populist campaigns. Thus the ‘tithe war’ was supported in agricultural areas, a cotton campaign in Lancashire, and shipping policies were emphasized in Liverpool. Sectional groups like the Fascist Union of British Workers tried to organize strikes at the Firestone works in Brentford and on Birmingham buses. The movement also represented individuals before the Public Assistance Boards, and collected information on the structure of British industry for the future fascist state, but its efforts soon petered out.42 The turn to anti-semitism The use of political anti-semitism within the BUF has to be seen in the context of these efforts at revival. Following Rothermere’s defection, radical voices within the movement suggested the use of open anti-semitism to stimulate popular response. Mosley, genuinely puzzled by growing Jewish hostility to the BUF, asked A.K. Chesterton who was now on the Headquarters staff to examine the influence of Jews in British Society. Whilst Chesterton’s later justified reputation of being one of the most rabid anti-semites connected with British fascism would suggest that this was like asking a cat to drink a bowl of cream, there is little evidence to suggest that prior to his involvement in the BUF he viewed the world primarily through anti-semitic spectacles, despite being a second cousin to such notorious anti-semites as Cecil and G.K. Chesterton.43 Although the report was not published, it convinced Mosley of Jewish dominance in British society and that over half the assaults committed on fascists had been by Jews. The interpretation given by Mosley and Chesterton to such findings would suggest that there was already a pronounced anti-semitic influence within the BUF which from the autumn of 1934 onwards was officially condoned by the leadership. 42 PRO HO 144/20140/73; Brewer, ‘Fascism and crisis’, p. 77. 43 D.L. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton. The Making of a British Fascist’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1982, p. 235. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 74 Indeed, anti-semitic behaviour had been incipient within the ranks of the BUF from the outset and included elements first recruited from the New Party. At the level of the official leader- ship anti-semitism was forbidden.44 However, double standards were used and attacks on the ‘alien menace’ in the fascist press used many anti-semitic stereotypes long before it was accepted as an official weapon; for instance in Blackshirt in October 1933 those Jews who attacked fascism were likened to a cancer in the body politic.45 But responsibility for the developing conflict with the Jewish community as with the hostility of the Labour move- ment, has to be seen as a matter of convergence. There was plenty of evidence to suggest a pronounced development of anti-semitic tendencies in the BUF ranks during 1933 and 1934;46 but as the Metropolitan police records make clear, militant Jewish youth and communist elements were assaulting Blackshirts selling newspapers at this time.47 Stephen Cullen has rightly pointed out that Metropolitan Police Records suggest that far more anti- fascists than fascists were arrested for public order offences, but the Metropolitan Police Commissioners in the 1930s Lord Trenchard and Sir Philip Game, saw this as a response to the deliberate provocation tactics of the BUF. The ending of Rothermere’s support and the turn to political anti-semitism were crucial to the future history of the BUF. Dropped by the one section of the establishment which supported it, and adopting policies that ensured that popular opinion would become increasingly hostile, Mosley destroyed whatever small likelihood the BUF had of becoming an effective force in British politics. It became increasingly a political pariah, relegated to a marginal posi- tion in society, which could be safely ignored by influential opinion. Thus a vicious circle of political impotence was set in motion by Mosley; in order to obtain much-needed publicity for the programme and political ideas of the BUF, which it was now denied in the national press, the techniques and methods of low politics leading to street conflict with political enemies were 44 Blackshirt, 1 April 1933. 45 Ibid., 30 Sept.–6 Oct. 1933. 46 Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists’, p. 77. 47 PRO Mepo 2/3069, HO 144/20143, S. Cullen ‘Political Violence: the case of the British Union of Fascists’, R. Thurlow ‘Blaming the Blackshirts’ in P. Panayi (ed.) Racial Violence in Britain 1890–1990 (Leicester 1995) p. 113–130. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 75 encouraged. The increasing switch to populist methods, and the threats to public order and the political anti-semitism with which this became associated in the public mind, meant that Mosley’s movement went increasingly beyond the pale. His earlier refusal to play the party game had led the political establishment to ignore him, and their view was now reinforced by the problems for public order brought about by Mosley’s street-corner politics.48 The rapid mushrooming of activity in 1934 and its equally spectacular decline led the Security Service to re-evaluate the development of the BUF. During 1935, as a result of intelligence information, they came to the conclusion that Mosley received most of his finance from Mussolini and that the national roots of the movement were weak and kept alive by artificial means.49 Fascism in Britain was to be an irritant in society, not a serious threat to the establishment. Mosley’s turn to political anti-semitism was signalled by his Albert Hall meeting in October 1934 when he attacked both the ‘big’ Jews who were seen as a threat to the nation’s economy and the ‘little’ Jews who allegedly swamped the cultural identity of localities where they settled.50 The official attitude to British Jewry taken by the BUF saw Jews in terms of a national rather than a religious or racial issue. Jews were supposedly a nation within a nation who owed allegiance to an international community rather than to the British State. Unlike the role it played in the IFL, politi- cal anti-semitism never became a total ideological explanation of all the imagined ills of British society for most of the official leader- ship of the BUF, though there were obvious exceptions like William Joyce and some of the speakers he trained for the East End campaign of 1935–7. In general, however, the developments of BUF anti-semitism from a rather vague ideological formulation to a virulent political weapon has to be seen as part of the strategy of lining up fascist sentiments behind regional issues, which attracted popular attention in different localities. Tom Linehan’s East London for Mosley has shown how the BUF used political anti- semitism to create political space in response to the separate 48 N. Mosley, Rules of the Game (London, 1981), and idem, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983). 49 PRO HO 45/25385/38–49. 50 PRO HO 14420143/71–80. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 76 problems of the ‘municipal particularisms’ of Bethnal Green, Stepney, Shoreditch, Hackney and Stoke Newington. The immediate trigger to the anti-semitic campaign was the recep- tion of Jock Houston as a speaker in the East End of London in 1935. Houston mixed earthy Cockney presentation with a crude political anti-semitism which drew a positive response from many in his growing audiences51 Apart from the area around Manchester, all other regions were experiencing a steep decline in membership by 1935, and anti-semitism now showed itself to be a viable propaganda vehicle in a particular locality; from then on it was given special prominence. Elsewhere it proved a negative variable, even in areas with a sizeable Jewish presence such as Leeds or Manchester. In Birmingham there was a virtually total neglect of anti-semitism.52 These tactics were necessary because the major national politi- cal issues of 1935 had proved in practice to be disastrous flops for the BUF. In particular, the ‘Mind Britain’s Business’ campaign against the League of Nations policy to boycott fascist Italy after her invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 cut little ice. The fact that Mosley had lost his main propaganda outlet meant that the British public for the most part paid little or no attention to beliefs which appeared to derive from ideological sympathy with Italian fascism or more sinister reasons. The other major issue of 1935 was also a non-event for the BUF. The general election of that year was boycotted by Mosley, using the less than inspiring slogan of ‘Fascism next time’ as the rationale for his decision. The fact of the matter was that the BUF had neither the organization nor the quality of personnel necessary for a national political campaign. The comprehensive victory of the National government showed how little impact fascism in particular and political extremism in general had made on the British public by 1935. From a national movement designed to revolutionize the political structure of the nation, the BUF had degenerated into an organization which became increasingly dependent on a localized campaign playing on anti-immigrant racial populist themes, which was to be the main pattern of British 51 PRO HO 144/20145/14–17, T. Linehan, East London for Mosley (London, 1996), p. xviii. 52 J. Brewer, ‘The British Union of Fascists and anti-semitism in Birmingham’, Midland History, 9 (1984), p. 114. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 77 fascism from then onwards. National campaigns, like the support for Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936,53 and the portrayal of the BUF as a peace movement in the later 1930s, either fell on deaf ears or were only partially successful in changing the focus of fascist politics from the parish pump and the anti- immigrant concerns of the East End of London to wider issues. The move from anti-Jewish sentiments to full-scale political anti- semitism went through several stages. It took twelve months from the Albert Hall speech in October 1934 until anti-semitism was used as the main plank of a political campaign. Even then Mosley appeared at first to have some regard to public opinion and the image the BUF projected of itself. Thus when it was discovered that Jock Houston had a criminal record he was immediately moved from London to Manchester, and replaced in Shoreditch by Charles Wegg Prosser, a law student with an impeccable background.54 However, this appointment was not approved by those who had been attracted to the movement by Houston’s populist oratory and Prosser was assaulted by two members of Shoreditch branch.55 With the rise of new men under Francis Hawkins, like Captain Donovan and U.A. Hick to control the administration of the movement in London, so the emphasis switched to the recruitment of anti-semitic elements and the qual- ity of the personnel deteriorated.56 Political anti-semitism in the East End of London had deep social causes and utilized a historical tradition of anti-alien hostility which had emphasized anti-semitism from the turn of the century.57 One-third of the Jewish population of Great Britain lived there and the influx of refugees escaping from persecution in eastern Europe between 1880 and the First World War had exacerbated many of the social problems of this decaying inner city area. Some Jews had been conspicuously successful in adapt- ing to British life and they undoubtedly brought a new vitality to an economically declining region. They also came to be blamed for the ills of the locality, including the use of sweated labour by 53 PRO HO 144/20710/38–42. 54 PRO HO 144/21062/282. 55 PRO HO 144/20147/142–3. 56 PRO HO 144/21061/315. 57 C. Holmes, ‘Anti-semitism and the BUF’, in British Fascism, ed. K. Lunn and R. Thurlow, (London, 1980), pp. 114–34. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 78 unscrupulous employers, rack-renting by slum landlords, and the increased crime rate. Both the Labour and Communist parties had already been highly critical of some Jewish employers before the fascists arrived in the area. Both they and the Jewish establish- ment argued that the best way to fight fascism was to eliminate the festering sores allegedly caused by some Jewish elements, by exhorting the whole community to adopt behaviour patterns which would give no grounds for offence.58 Some nativist elements in the host community were critical of what they saw as an assault on local culture by alien Jewish values and it was this ethnocentric attitude to change, when allied to the existence of genuine social grievances, which was to make some parts of the East End a fertile reception area for racial populist and anti-immigrant movements right through from the British Brothers League in 1900, the BUF from 1936 to 1940, the League of Ex-Servicemen and the Union Movement in the 1940s, to the National Front in the 1970s.59 The increasing conflict in the East End in 1936 and the follow-up campaigns of the BUF developed as a result of the inter-action of fascist anti-semitism and Jewish counter-attack. It arose out of genuine social issues, not because there was a disproportionate number of prejudiced personalities living in the locality. The threat to the breakdown of law and order, which led to the passing of the Public Order Act in 1936, was more complex than the simpli- fied picture of a battle between fascists and communists for control of the streets which both the BUF press and the Metropolitan Police records tend to convey. On both sides it was the rank and file members of the fascists, and the communists and the Jewish com- munity, who demanded more vigorous action. Initially the fascists tried to present a respectable form of anti-semitism for the campaign in the East End. However, the success of Houston and the failure of Wegg Prosser, coupled with the emergence of East End populist orators like E.G. ‘Mick’ Clarke, combined with 58 Idem, ‘East End anti-semitism 1936’, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, 32 (Spring 1976), pp. 26–32; G.C. Lebzelter, Political Anti-Semitism in England 1918–1939 (London, 1979), pp. 136–69. 59 C. Husbands, Racial Exclusionism and the City (London, 1983), pp. 93–5; idem, ‘East End racism 1900–1980: geographical continuities in vigilantist and extreme right wing political behaviour,’ The London Journal 8, 1 (1983) pp. 3–26; N. Deakin, ‘The vitality of a tradition’, in Immigrants and Minorities in British Society, ed. C. Holmes (London, 1978), pp. 158–85. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 79 increased hostility by militant working-class and Jewish elements to bring about a rapid reversal of policy. Fascist resources became increasingly concentrated here and recruitment of anti-semitic ele- ments and adolescents was actively encouraged. The forces of government, the working-class organizations and the Jewish establishment wished initially to ignore Mosley and the fascists in the hope that this would deny him publicity and defuse a potentially explosive situation. However some members of the Communist party and the Jewish community were increasingly concerned about fascist expansionism in Europe, Hitler’s anti- semitic legislation in Germany, his destruction of the German Labour movement and Mosley’s own move to anti-semitism. Since the Third International’s change to a popular front policy in 1935, groups such as the Jewish People’s Council against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, the International Labour Defence of Britain and the London Ex-Servicemen’s Defence against Fascism were part- Communist party front organizations and part spontaneous working-class resentment against the incursion of the fascists into the East End of London. The Council for Civil Liberty, which later became the National Council for Civil Liberties, fulfilled much the same function for mainly middle-class people interested in this subject, and worried by the threat made by fascism to cherished freedoms.60 Indeed, the leadership of the Communist party were more concerned with opposing fascism abroad, recruit- ing for the Spanish Civil War and developing trade union activity and housing associations than with fighting Mosley on the streets. However, their membership thought differently and Joe Jacobs and other militants backed up by massive popular support, forced the Communist party to organize the opposition to Mosley at the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ on 4 October 1936.61 What particularly enraged the East End labour movement and the Jewish community was the number of increased unprovoked attacks on Jews and communists by young hooligans in the Stepney, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch areas during 1936.62 60 J. Jacobs, Out of the Ghetto (London, 1978), p. 138. 61 Ibid., pp. 222–58; P. Piratin, Our Flag Stays Red (London, 1978); R. Skidelsky, ‘Reflections on Mosley and British fascism’, in Lunn and Thurlow, British Fascism, pp. 78–99; G.D. Anderson, Fascists, Communists and the National Government (London, 1983). 62 PRO Mepo 2/3085, 2/3086, 2/3087. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 80 Together with these assaults, the breaking of shop windows, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and synogogues and the massive spread of anti-semitic graffiti greatly heightened tension. While the IFL were responsible for some of the outrage, BUF members were behind much of the increased conflict. The growth of street corner meetings in 1936 where BUF speakers like ‘Mick’ Clarke and Raven Thomson made regular insulting remarks about the Jewish community inflamed passions still more. Fascists justified such behaviour as legitimate self-defence: it was they who had been first assaulted by razor gangs of alien Jews. The BUF argued that a West End bookmaker masquerading with a Scottish name had a fixed tariff of remuneration for the degree of severity of injuries his henchmen inflicted on Blackshirts.63 Anti-fascists argued that whoever was to blame for the violence, the police and courts treated them more harshly, and the National Council for Civil Liberties certainly produced reliable testimony to back up those claims.64 It is against this background that the Battle of Cable Street must be viewed. Mosley wished to hold a march through areas in the East End of London where there was both a large Jewish com- munity and elements who would be receptive to a fascist demonstration. The Labour movement and many in the Jewish community thought that the government, police and Jewish lead- ers were far too passive in their policy of ignoring Mosley. As a result a spontaneous movement whose leadership was seized by Jewish communist activists emerged. A petition organized by the Jewish People’s Council against Fascism and Anti-Semitism col- lected 77,000 signatures in two days; it was felt that if there had been more time over a quarter of a million would have signed against Mosley’s proposed demonstration.65 When Mosley led his men towards the East End on 4 October he discovered that more than 100,000 opponents blocked his path. At Cable Street the counter-demonstrators broke into a builder’s yard and a lorry loaded with bricks was overturned and used as a barricade. The police banned Mosley from proceeding with his march and 1,900 fascists marched westwards instead. 63 R.R. Bellamy, ‘We marched with Mosley’ (n.d.), p. 8. 64 H. Peel to NCCL, 3 Oct. 1937, statement H. Ogrodovitch, 26 Oct. 1937, Box 40/5 NCCL archive. 65 PRO HO 144/21060/316. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 81 Consequently it was the huge anti-fascist demonstration that cre- ated the major problem of public order. The Bethnal Green police reported that truncheons were drawn and mounted police used against militant anti-fascists. The Hackney police stated that of the 85 arrests made by them, 79 were of anti-fascists. At least 73 police and 43 private individuals needed medical attention afterwards.66 Civil liberties and the Public Order Act of 1936 The Battle of Cable Street has entered left-wing mythology as a great triumph of militant anti-fascism. Certainly the fascists did not pass and the numbers involved showed the depth of popular hostility against fascism and anti-semitism. Yet the police reports suggest a different interpretation. It was the end of the first stage of a conflict which was to rumble on up to the Second World War. The first results of the demonstration and violence were much the same as after the Olympia meeting in 1934; there was an immediate stimulus to recruitment for both fascists and communists and Special Branch estimated the significant, if transient, boost to fascist membership in East London to be around 2,000.67 The authorities became worried about the threat to public order and decided at last to act against both fascist paramilitary provocation and anti-fascist counter- violence, a decision influenced by deputations to the Home Secretary from the London Labour party and the Manchester watch commit- tee. Whilst their more extreme suggestions were disregarded, the degree of concern was duly communicated to the government. Herbert Morrison was extremely unhappy about the degree of ethnic strife and fascist propaganda to be found even in the schools of the East End of London, and he suggested there should be non-partisan agreement between all other political parties in the area that fascist political activities should be banned.68 The Battle of Cable Street had led to further hostilities between fascists and militant communists, Jewish and working-class ele- ments in the East End. A week afterwards fascist youths instigated the so-called ‘Mile End Road Pogrom’, when despite the presence 66 PRO HO 144/21061/92–101. 67 PRO HO 144/21062/259. 68 PRO HO 144/21062/10–45. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 82 of 2,000 special constables at a nearby communist victory rally, a gang of hooligans smashed windows of Jewish shops and houses and assaulted all those designated as Jews that they could lay their hands on.69 As a result of the serious increase in the level of politi- cal violence the government rushed through the Public Order Act, which became law on 1 January 1937, in an attempt to contain the situation. The Public Order Act represented the culmination of a long debate within the government about how increased civil disorder should be controlled. It was seen as necessary to increase police powers to ban and control demonstrations and marches and to remove ambiguities in the existing law. The Act was passed in response to the situation of conflict which had developed between fascists and anti-fascists in the East End, but had a wider purpose – to exert greater social control through increased police powers and the threat to public order posed by political extremism in general. In this sense it was aimed at the problems highlighted by the National Unemployed Workers Movement demonstration in 1932 as well as the fascist disturbances. Existing case law in Beatty v. Gilbanks (1882) and Wise v. Dunning (1901) left it unclear whether fascist demonstrations could be construed as a genuine attempt to convert people to a point of view or to provoke by insult.70 The Public Order Act reflected the police concern about the use of uniformed paramilitary groups which might challenge their monopoly of law enforcement and maintenance of public order, together with more general worries about the necessity of maintaining social control and of preventing provocative behaviour against law-abiding citizens.71 Recently de-classified Home Office papers do, however, show that there was a fluid situation within the agencies of state on this question. In general the Home Office was more concerned with the issue of protecting civil liberty and public order, while the 69 Cross, The Fascists in Britain, p. 161; PRO Mepo 2/3098. 70 Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, pp. 418–21. 71 R. Benewick, Fascist Movement in Britain (London, 1972), pp. 235–62; J. Stevenson, ‘The BUF, the Metropolitan Police and public order’, in Lunn and Thurlow, British Fascism, pp. 135–65, R. Thurlow, The Secret State (Oxford, 1994), pp. 173–213, R. Thurlow, ‘Blaming the Blackshirts: The Authorities and the Anti-Jewish Disturbances in the 1930s’ in Racial Violence in Britain 1840−1940 ed. P. Panayi (Leicester, 1993), pp. 112−129, D. S. Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur (Manchester, 1987), pp. 145−180. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 83 police wished to ban the fascist movement. In 1934 Lord Trenchard, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had written to the Home Secretary complaining that the BUF had passed false information with regard to a communist plot to attack the Holloway branch and an alleged IFL plan to attack the Chelsea headquarters, and suggested that this mischievous nonsense would best be dealt with by outlawing the fascist movement.72 The Home Office responded by stating that the same arguments which pertained ten years ago when General Horwood wished to ban the Communist party still stood today. While such move- ments should be closely watched, there was no argument for ban- ning them. To do otherwise would be to break the long- established political tradition of allowing people to hold whatever views they liked, so long as they did not break the law or urge others to do so. Only if public order appeared to be on the verge of breaking down would the government contemplate restricting political liberty. Provided that people in this country believed they had an honest system of government which dispensed even- handed justice, then there was no need to tamper with the law unless public order was threatened. To do otherwise was to risk driving underground legitimate political expression, which would create worse problems in the long run.73 Nevertheless, despite this classic defence of the traditional liberal position of the Home Office, the Secretary of State was prepared to examine whether several aspects of the problem which worried the police could be dealt with piecemeal. Emphasis was give by the Home Office and Cabinet to the desirability of laws which banned the use of political uniforms and the establishment of paramilitary organiza- tions, and research was concluded to see how other nations dealt with the problem.74 In 1934 the Home Office twice re-drafted a bill banning political uniforms, but concluded that the difficulties involved in definition, and the need to protect the civil liberties of other groups who wore distinctive clothing, together with the expected nit-picking objections of MPs like A.P. Herbert who were concerned to protect civil liberties, outweighed any advantages to be gained from such legislation. The failure to gain the consent of 72 PRO HO 144/20158/107. 73 PRO HO 144/20158/102–3. 74 PRO HO 144/20158/310. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 84 opposition parties and the improvement in the situation led to the dropping of the second proposal in 1934 and the Cabinet then decided that the matter should be put on ice unless the position deteriorated and immediate legislation was thought necessary. This situation occurred in 1936 after the Battle of Cable Street. However, the new Police Commissioner, Sir Philip Game, put forward fresh arguments when asked to comment. He still stressed the desirability of banning the fascists but he now stated that anti- semitism had added a new dimension to the problem since 1934. Sir Philip argued that anti-semitism appealed to a subconscious racial instinct which was almost universal, with the Colonel Blimps believing in the conspiracy theory, and that in East London it was envy of Jewish economic success which caused the problem; this development represented the only real danger of fascism. Although communists were a nuisance it was fascist anti-semitism which caused the real headache; if this were outlawed then the problem would be removed. Additions to the existing law which attacked the symptoms rather than the cause were useful: if the police were given the power to prohibit processions and meetings, to outlaw paramilitary defence corps and to ban political uniforms this would no doubt help, but suppression of fascist anti-semitism would be the best solution.75 Sir Philip Game’s important contribution to the debate showed that police attitudes towards fascism altered considerably during the 1930s. Contrary to left-wing and anti-fascist claims, the police at the highest levels were not biased in favour of fascism, even if there were problems of interpretation of the law in developing conflict situations at the street level amongst the junior ranks and local magistrates treated anti-fascists more harshly than fascists. Sir Philip argued forcefully that there were much stronger reasons for banning fascists than communists and that political anti-semitism should be outlawed. It was somewhat ironic that the Home Office moved from its traditional defence of political liberty into a law and order stance just as the main police spokesman was advocating more liberal and socially aware arguments. The Public Order Act was to reflect the traditional police palliatives, despite Game’s lukewarm espousal of them, and was to ignore his more radical solution. The terms of the Act forbade the wearing of political uniforms 75 PRO HO 144/20159/155–62. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 85 except on ceremonial occasions. The use of stewards was banned at open air meetings, and insulting words likely to cause a breach of the peace were declared unlawful in public speeches. The police were given the power to ban marches or alter their routes if in the opinion of the authorities they were likely to cause a breach of the peace. In addition this ban could be applied to all political parties in a locality for up to three months. The Public Order Act was a necessary but highly controversial piece of legislation. It severely limited the right of free speech, a fact denounced both by fascists and communists. Yet it was not clear that the Act was successful in controlling the situation after 1937; in Germany the banning of political uniforms had little effect on the rise of the nazis. There was also the problem of defining the use of insulting words and behaviour. Although the police did successfully charge fascists for this crime after 1936 the punish- ment was often derisory, and police interpretation of the law was often inconsistent. Raven Thomson was deemed not to be insult- ing when he said at Bethnal Green in March 1937 that he had the utmost contempt for the Jews and that they were ‘the most miser- able type of humanity,’76 but an Inspector Jones was overruled when he reported that Mick Clarke had used no inflammatory language at the same venue in June 1937, when other police shorthand notes stated that Clarke had called the Jews ‘greasy Scum’ and ‘the lice of the earth’.77 During the election campaign of March 1937 there were numerous complaints that the police failed to take action against provocative statements and actions against Jews by the fascists. Numerous assaults, cases of window smashing and the dissemination of graffiti continued unabated. The nature of the fascist impact in the East End of London was demonstrated in the first local elections of 1937. In the LCC elec- tions of March 1937 the British Union, as it then called itself, attained 23 per cent of the vote in North East Bethnal Green, 19 per cent in Stepney (Limehouse) and 14 per cent in Shoreditch. Six months later in the municipal elections it fought eight seats in five London boroughs. In six seats it finished second, with a best performance of 22 per cent in Bethnal Green North East. Outside London the British Union performed disastrously, with its 76 PRO Mepo 2/3109. 77 PRO Mepo 2/3115. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 86 candidates in Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton all finishing bottom of the poll. Even in its stronghold of East London the BUF’s impact was patchy. It never came close to winning an election anywhere and, despite the fears of Harry Pollitt, the Communist leader, it made little impact in London dockland around Wapping. Political anti-semitism attracted mass support for the BUF in a limited geographical area, but it engendered greater hostility within those same localities and had counter-productive consequences elsewhere. Mosley’s dream of a fascist nation was reduced to the reality of a minority anti-semitic political sub- culture in some areas of the East End of London. If the use of political anti-semitism can be seen as a crucial stage in the decline of the BUF from a national movement to a localized racial populist organization, then its attempt to resurrect its politi- cal pretensions in the Peace Campaign of 1938–40 merely hastened its inevitable total destruction. The campaign was at best only partially successful in recovering the fortunes of the BUF in 1938–9. As with earlier national campaigns against unemployment and the League of Nations policy of sanctions against Fascist Italy, the role of the BUF in the political history of the decision-making proc- ess was non-existent. However, in 1938 the ‘Britons fight for Britain only’ and ‘Mosley and Peace’ campaigns, although based on assumptions different from the government’s appeasement poli- cies and having no influence upon them, nevertheless harmonized quite well with the general drift of public opinion with regard to European intervention and the threat of war. From March 1939 the situation altered radically. With Hitler’s tearing up of the Munich agreement, with the invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia and the threat to Poland, British public opinion began to distrust Hitler’s word and the nature of nazism changed markedly. Mosley’s opposition to this national change of mood meant that for the small minority who still wished to maintain the peace of Europe at any price, he was momentarily seen as an alternative leader who would keep Britain out of a war. Such a policy led to a limited revival of the movement in 1939. According to Mosley, his great peace rally at Earls Court on 16 July attracted over 20,000 (the Special Branch claimed a figure of 11,000).78 Most of the audience were respectable middle-class 78 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale, p. 153; PRO HO 144/21281/150. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 87 citizens who sported fascist badges. However, although new members flocked to the movement others resigned in protest against what was seen as the placing of fascist loyalties above patriotic considerations.79 There had previously been problems in 1938 in Bethnal Green, Limehouse and East Ham when many members became anti-German.80 Mosley now tried to collaborate with other anti-war forces, but to little avail although this activity was to prove disastrous for the BUF in 1940. The impact of the BUF on British society in the 1930s was small; it was merely a minor irritant for the government. Although some success had been achieved through its radical economic, social and political programme in the early period, suspicions of the links with more sinister movements in Europe and the development of anti-semitism and political violence turned public opinion against the fascist movement. The BUF was contained by an unofficial publicity boycott in the media after 1934 and by the surveillance of the Security Service. When public order was threatened in 1936–7 the government hastily stepped in to implement palliative legislation limiting freedom of political expression, but this seemed to keep the problem within bounds. The pro-appeasement campaign of 1938–9 produced an accelerating recovery from a low base for the movement, but once war was declared this hastened its final destruction – although this is a complex story deserving separate consideration elsewhere. The important point, however, is that even in the dark days of May 1940 the Home Office was very reluctant to destroy the fascist movement, and the Security Service joined the campaign to intern Mosley and the most important members of the movement only after information had been acquired which suggested secretive behaviour and links with potentially treasonable behaviour. The government in the 1930s saw the BUF as a nuisance which needed to be watched, but which was felt to have little impact on wider society and which suffered from grave internal weaknesses. It was seen more as a patriotic form of national self-expression than as a pro-nazi organization and hence was not closed down in September 1939 when war was declared. 79 PRO HO 144/21429/18. 80 PRO HO 144/21281/97. THE BUF AND BRITISH SOCIETY 4 The Boys in Black, 1932–1939 Source material for the BUF The sources of information on the BUF are far from satisfac- tory. Many of the important records were seized by the police in 1940 and have either been lost or not released. Those that were returned by the authorities were later destroyed by bomb damage. What reliable material we have can be divided into three categories. The first of these lies in the information recently released by the PRO in the Mosley Papers. This Home Office material is mainly concerned with issues relating to public order, the impact of the BUF on British society, the attitude of the government and police to the movement, and the internment of fascists in 1940. There are some intelligence and chief constables’ reports which tell us something about the spatial distribution, membership, internal politics, finance and structure of the BUF, but these tend to supple- ment what we know from other sources rather than provide much new information. In general the authorities’ view of the BUF was far more objective than the attitude it took towards left-wing movements and the Communist party. The police sympathized with the discipline and control of the Blackshirts at public meet- ings unless provoked, although they disliked the threat posed to themselves as a uniformed law-enforcement agency. However, the quality of police intelligence varied considerably. Several contradictory accounts of fascist meetings, an inability to perceive where to draw the line between comment and abuse at such events, and a tendency to be more concerned with anti-fascist protest, leads one to doubt the complete reliability of the sources of information on which chief constables based their reports. The 89 government never saw the BUF as a threat to Parliament and thought it could best be handled by an unofficial boycott and intel- ligence surveillance. However, the internment files have to be viewed very carefully because charges against fascists were hur- riedly concocted in 1940 in an atmosphere of suspicion and panic. They do, however, contain some useful personal information. The second source of information comes from the personal recol- lections of the fascists themselves, which vary from the informa- tive to the bland and unrevealing. The ‘Friends of OM’ have been very helpful to researchers like Stephen Cullen, Tom Linehan and Andrew Mitchell with introductions to ex-Blackshirts. R.R. Bellamy’s unpublished ‘We marched with Mosley’ (a copy is in the University of Sheffield library) provides also an insider’s view of BUF attitudes in the 1930s. Mosley’s own memories of the move- ment were both bland and unrevealing. As one critic has alleged, Mosley was an ‘expert forgetter’1 who systematically expunged much compromising and dubious material from his own published views on the BUF. Indeed, it appeared that Mosley adopted a rigor- ous counter-subversion strategy from the outset, since he was fully aware that a movement whose inspiration came from Italy and Germany would be regarded as a potentially subversive organiza- tion and a security risk. Mosley knew the identity of the main intelligence agent in the organization, the ex-Ulster Unionist MP and managing director of a large printing firm, W.E.D. (Bill) Allen,2 who was heavily involved with two of the more secretive aspects of BUF affairs, the financing of the movement in the early years by Mussolini and the Air-Time commercial radio project in 1938–9. Mosley argued that Allen was a Walter Mitty figure with a vivid imagination, whose use as an agent by the authorities would prove to be unreliable. To a certain extent this was the case. Allen was somewhat spasmodic in providing information, although there is no evidence that it was of a fantastic or grossly inaccurate nature. Although the gist of his most important intelligence, that Mosley was being funded by Mussolini, was correct, the amounts he sug- gested were involved probably understated the true total and the 1 C. Welch, ‘The white hope in the Black Shirt’, Daily Telegraph, 3 Apr. 1975; R. Thurlow, ‘The Black Knight’, Patterns of Prejudice, 9, 3 (May-June 1975), pp. 15–19. 2 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale, pp. 174–5. THE BOYS IN BLACK 90 authorities only became convinced of their reliability a year after the payments became significant. This was so even though Allen himself created the means by which Mussolini’s money could be channelled into BUF funds and his own secretary paid most of this into the account. Although Allen was never a member of the BUF he did have sympathy with the reason for Mosley’s revolt; his book, BUF. Oswald Mosley, and British Fascism, written under the pseudonym of James Drennan, was by far the best contemporary account of the movement. Whatever Allen’s motives were, Mosley saw his use as a kind of double agent – somebody who would pass on sufficient material to convince the authorities that Mosley was not involved in any illegal or potentially treasonable activity. There were other signs that Mosley was very conscious of the activities of the Security Service. In the late 1930s he kept the membership of Commandant Mary Allen in the BUF secret in the hope that her unofficial women’s police force could provide advance intelligence if the authorities were about to move against the organization.3 Many important areas of BUF finances and con- nections were hidden from the membership reflecting not only the style of fascist leadership but also an attempt to confuse the Security Service in their surveillance of the movement. If Mosley deliberately obscured the nature and activities of the BUF, other ex-members have proved more informative, sometimes behind the cloak of anonymity. Studies using oral history interview techniques of ex-fascists in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Birmingham, the east end of London, Essex and East Anglia, together with Stephen Cullen’s wider sample have built up an extensive picture of the nature of the BUF in the 1930s.4 The material collected by Stuart Rawnsley is particularly revealing, as he is the first scholar to make use of the remarkable autobiography of Nellie Driver, the BUF women’s section organizer at Nelson and Colne, and one of the driving forces behind fascism in Lancashire. Her unpublished work represented a detailed and sympathetic view of many aspects of the movement, being particularly informative 3 PRO HO 144/21933/330. 4 S. Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists in Britain in the 1930s’, PhD thesis, University of Bradford, 1983; Trevelyan Scholarship Project, The British Union of Fascists in Yorkshire 1934–40; J. Brewer, Mosley’s Men (London, 1984), T. Linehan, op. cit. S. Cullen ‘The British Union of Fascists 1932–40; Ideology Membership Meeting’, (University of Oxford, M. Litt. 1987). THE BOYS IN BLACK 91 about the membership and the bitter experience of internment.5 The most successful and long-serving administrator in the north of England, R. Reynell Bellamy, has also written an unpublished work which presents the BUF view of the organization and the events of the 1930s, now available for consultation at the University of Sheffield library.6 When used in conjunction with the Mosley papers this material provides interesting source mate- rial which can be used to check and supplement the accounts provided by secondary works on the movement. The third source comprises the accounts provided by contemporary opponents of the BUF. However, these were far from objective and anti-fascist sources are more useful in explaining the nature of conflict created by British fascism than they are in producing an informed coherent view of the BUF, although its bias in emphasizing the violent and unpleasant aspects of the move- ment must not be ignored. The membership of the BUF Any account of the BUF must begin with an analysis of who the fascists were and the size of the membership. Unfortunately these have proved difficult to assess, owing to the dearth of a reliable quantitative sample of social class profiles of membership and the impressionistic nature of the evidence used to estimate numbers. The Security Service calculated membership at periodic intervals between 1934 and 1939, and some of these figures have been now tabulated in a systematic manner.7 Using this material and the assumption that the ratio between active and passive numbers was 1:11⁄2 for most of the 1930s, Gerry Webber has estimated that the total rose from 17,000 in February 1934 to a peak of 50,000 at the end of the Rothermere period (July 1934), and then collapsed to 5,000 in October 1935. After this date there was a slow recovery to 10,000 in March 1936, to 15,500 in November 1936, to 16,500 in December 1938 and 22,500 in September 1939.8 In general, 5 N. Driver, From the Shadows of Exile (n.d.). 6 R.R. Bellamy, We marched with Mosley. 7 G. Webber, ‘Patterns of membership and support for the British Union of Fascists’, Journal of Contemporary History, 19 (1984), pp. 575–606. 8 News Chronicle, 6 Feb. 1934; PRO HO 144/20142/107–22; PRO HO THE BOYS IN BLACK 92 this supports Skidelsky’s claim that the BUF was gaining in strength prior to the Second World War and his revised estimate of 20–25,000 members in 1939.9 Undoubtedly these are by far the most reliable of the assess- ments we have of the size of membership. However, a slight revi- sion of the size of the movement is in order. Webber’s intelligent use of the Mosley Papers and sophisticated analysis of the intel- ligence reports need some qualification. Although his emphasis on the BUF’S appeal to different groups in the population at separate times, on the fluctuating fortunes of the movement in various areas and on regional disparities, is most helpful, some of the assump- tions may need to be modified. Local studies, for example, do not always support the argument of a steady recovery between 1936 and 1939. Brewer’s work in Birmingham argues that apart from a few fascist tea parties and policy meetings the movement became moribund in the city after 1935.10 Rawnsley’s thesis suggests that the movement maintained its momentum in Manchester throughout 1934, and then declined steadily until the Munich crisis in 1938. Indeed, a Special Branch report of 17 June 1937 men- tions that although Mosley was reasonably satisfied with the good progress the movement was making elsewhere, he was unhappy with the collapse of the movement in South Wales and Lancashire. In the whole of the north-west, including Manchester and Liverpool, there were no more than 100 active members in 1937. Tom Linehan’s research on East London suggests a complex pat- tern of growth and development between 1935 and 1938.11 Similarly, the reliance on the Trevelyan Report for information on Yorkshire fascism probably overestimated the number of fascists in the late 1930s in that area. This study, although useful, accepts the estimated membership of the BUF in Leeds given by an ex-fascist and makes dubious assumptions that accurate totals can be calculated from the number of internees in 1940 in any given area. The main argument of the Report is that anti-semitism was continued 144/20145/14–17; PRO HO 144/20147/378–87; PRO HO 144/26062/403–7; PRO HO 144/21281/114; statement by Sir. J. Anderson, HC Debs 25 July 1940, vol. 363, col. 966. 9 R. Skidelsky, ‘Great Britain’, in European Fascism, ed. S.J. Woolf (London, 1981), p. 275. 10 Brewer, Mosley’s Men, pp. 86–103. 11 PRO HO 144/21063/4–7, T. Linehan, op. cit. THE BOYS IN BLACK 93 the chief cause of the growth of fascism in Leeds, despite the fact that the period of its most spectactular development had ended before the BUF adopted anti-semitic policies, which leads one to doubt the total reliability of this source. Indirect evidence relating to the poor performance of fascist candidates in local elections in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester in 1937 and 1938, to the North East Leeds by-election in 1940, when the BUF candidate received only about 2 per cent of the vote in a straight fight with the Conservative, and the fact that the number of full-time administra- tors for the whole of the north of England had been reduced to one by 1938 and that little or no attempt was made to advertise Mosley’s Earl’s Court meeting in 1939 throughout the north, would suggest that Webber’s estimate of 8,000–10,000 members in Yorkshire and Lancashire in 1939 was too high.12 In general a small downward revision of the total numbers may be suggested and a slightly different spatial distribution. Subjective impressions of ex-members that up to 100,000 people joined for a time in the 1930s were probably on the optimistic side despite the rapid turnover of membership. Indeed, the division between active and passive supporters may have been misleading; a better guide to the quality of membership is the length of time of participation. On this we have only qualitative evidence. Most observers agree that the movement built up steadily in 1933 to a peak of 50,000 in the Rothermere period (January-June 1934). The main areas of growth were in London and the north-west around Manchester and Liverpool, although there were sizeable local organizations in Birmingham, Leeds, South Wales, the South Coast towns, Bristol, Reading, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The withdrawal of press publicity led to the rapid decline of the movement in late 1934 and early 1935 in all areas outside the north-west. In October 1935 MI5 estimated that there were no more than 20,000 lukewarm or active supporters, although the chief constables’ reports indicated that there were probably less than half this amount and many members existed only on paper. In Cardiff only 7 of the 200 members were active and in Leeds 10 12 G. Webber, ‘Patterns of membership’, Journal of Contemporary History, 19 (1984), p. 590. THE BOYS IN BLACK 94 out of 66.13 During late 1935 there was a large increase in member- ship in the East End of London which more than compensated for the decline in Lancashire. Indeed, between 1936 and 1938 it is likely that more than half the national membership was concentrated in districts in the East End. Campaigns like the sup- port for Edward VIII during the abdication crisis, anti-semitism and the peace campaign after 1937, maintained the momentum and the movement made slow progress in most areas of the country. From Munich onwards membership increase accelerated as Mosley’s role in the peace campaign attracted more new converts to compensate for the loss of anti-German elements. The general impression was that the growth of support was much more pronounced in the south and east than in the north and west after 1937 and that total membership was probably approaching 20,000 again by the outbreak of war. The spatial distribution of members suggested that apart from one or two isolated outposts of fascism in South Wales, Scotland and Ulster in 1934 the BUF was misnamed. The BUF was predominantly an English movement with its main area of strength in London and the south-east, although there was sizeable sup- port in Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds in 1934. Unlike German nazism, it was mainly an urban movement which made little headway in rural areas despite the enthusiastic support of a few landowners. Throughout the 1930s problems of organization, administration and finance combined with the rapid turnover of personnel and the shifts of propaganda and programme to produce a constantly changing pattern of membership. Although to a considerable degree the BUF became a catch-all organization appealing to a broad spectrum of political idealists, war socialists, authoritarian personalities, men of violence, anti- semites and cranks, there are certain generalizations about the nature of the membership which can be highlighted. In the period of rapid growth until June 1934 the movement appealed to a broad spectrum which cut across social class divisions. Mosley portrayed the BUF as a movement against the ‘old gangs’ of British politics and appealed to youth, the politically uncommitted and displaced 13 PRO HO 45/25385/38–49. THE BOYS IN BLACK 95 idealists as well as those who were dissatisfied under the leader- ship of the political parties. Mosley appealed to maverick conserva- tives who were influenced by the style of Daily Mail patriotism. The BUF’S uniform and discipline attracted many with war experi- ence or military service as well as those who liked strutting about in neat apparel. In the Rothermere period fascism was politically fashionable, a temporary home for many who disliked either com- munism or the party system. According to the Security Service new members admired Mosley’s stand for free speech;14 a bizarre reason for joining, given that the BUF wished to close down all organizational forms of political opposition. With the rapid decline after 1934 the focus of recruitment shifted to the north-west and for a time Mosley seriously contemplated moving his headquarters to Manchester. In Lancashire and to a certain extent Yorkshire considerable headway was made for a period in recruiting from the unemployed and working class, although they were only a small proportion of these groups in the population as a whole, and the anti-fascist numbers of these categories were always far more significant than those who were attracted to fascism even in these areas. The basis for this support was the positive economic programme of fascism which promised immediate action to cure unemployment; fascist propaganda was aimed directly at the industrial problems of localities with cotton and woollen textiles emphasized in Lancashire and Yorkshire and shipping in Liverpool. However, when northern fascism declined after 1935 attention was re-directed to London with the discovery that anti-semitism was a good recruiting tactic in the East End. From 1935 to 1938 marked gains were made here amongst some working-class elements, the self-employed, the lower middle classes, those below voting age and others prone to the anti- semitic appeals. There was a general movement towards street corner politics and those followers were attracted by activism and the appeal of political conflict and violence. However, although the BUF achieved its greatest political impact here with over 2,000 active members and much passive support, it probably never had a majority even in these groups and marked hostility was shown by organized labour, the Jewish community and by popular opinion in general. 14 PRO HO 144/20142/115. THE BOYS IN BLACK 96 In the later 1930s the gradual shift towards recruiting more middle-class, elderly and right-wing members was accentuated by the peace campaign. Disillusioned Conservatives and some pro- appeasement and anti-war protestors now joined the BUF. With a partial decline in the East End, Mosley’s emphasis on ‘Mind Britain’s Business’ and no entanglements in Europe led to renewed growth in the rest of London and the south and east of England generally. The central focus of the movement shifted from the East End to North London in 1938–39. Intelligence reports in 1939 and 1940 suggest that Mosley’s support was mainly from the mid- dle and upper classes, with up to 30 per cent of his audiences being women and only 5 per cent under the age of thirty at his meetings.15 In general, then, a pattern of rapid growth and a large turnover of membership in urban centres in 1933 and 1934 was replaced by an emphasis on regional movements in the north in 1934 and 1935 and the East End of London between 1935 and 1938. The peace campaign turned the BUF into more of a national movement again, although its greatest impact was to be in the south and east of England. In terms of its official ideology of war socialism, the com- mitment to this belief of its elite cadre of leaders (many of whom came either from the left of the political spectrum or from outside politics altogether) should be noted, even if the popular impact of such ideas was negligible in terms of its lasting impact on British society. After 1934 the BUF relied less on ideological appeal for recruitment and more on populist campaigns based on ethnic resent- ment and the peace movement. It degenerated from a political move- ment based on a serious, if eccentric, alternative view of the future of British society, to a series of single-issue pressure groups and propaganda campaigns, the most important of which were anti- semitism and opposition to the threat of war. Racial populism as the basis of recruitment for fascist and neo-fascist movements was to represent the main source of the revival of the tradition after 1945. Home Office material and impressions of members themselves provide us with useful qualitative sources on the BUF. While it must be emphasized that police records tend to accentuate the 15 Report of British Union Luncheon at Criterion Restaurant, 26 Apr. 1940, C6/913/13 Board of Deputies Archive; PRO HO 144/21281/150. THE BOYS IN BLACK 97 dubious aspects of the movement, they nevertheless do suggest that the BUF did attract some individuals who exploited the lax administration and opportunities for criminal activity in the move- ment. The Brixton branch was organized as a brothel, the first leader of the women’s section was dismissed for allegedly misap- propriating funds, and the secretary of one of the Newcastle organizations was convicted of housebreaking.16 Stuart Rawnsley has emphasized some of the more irresponsible proclivities of the northern membership at all levels of the movement. Blackshirts armed with coshes and razors attacked Jews and communists in Lancashire; the commanding officer of the BUF in Manchester in 1934 was later charged in Westminster police court for stealing money from a restaurant; and another Manchester member absconded to Australia with all the proceeds of the National Fascist Fellowship Children’s Charity.17 Police records also comment on the fondness for the consumption of alcoholic beverages by many fascists. A.K. Chesterton was an ‘inveterate drunkard’ in the 1930s, although he underwent a successful cure for this affliction, and the leading officials in Cardiff were also heavy drinkers.18 The recollections of ex-members of the movement also mention the negative aspects of membership; Nellie Driver stated that for every normal member in Nelson and Colne there were several who were cranks or worse. One member spent five minutes selling Blackshirt and then ten minutes in the pub alternately and was as much concerned with shouting abuse at the Peace Pledge Union and Jehovah’s Witnesses as he was in promoting fascism. Driver saw the membership as extremely varied and argumentative with Protestants clashing with Catholics, Methodists with members of the Church of England and anti-vivisectionists with Christadelphians.19 Many members nationwide were literal social fascists who treated the local headquarters as convivial watering- holes and sporting clubs. Rawnsley, following Driver’s and Reynell Bellamy’s impressions, has argued that the high turnover of membership and lack of ideological commitment to fascism characterized the early period, but that those who joined in the later 1930s were more likely to be imbued with steadfast beliefs in 16 PRO HO 144/20140/251–2; PRO HO 144/20140/112; PRO HO 45/25385/38–49. 17 Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists’, pp. 105, 157. 18 PRO HO 144/21063/5–6; PRO HO 144/21062/413. 19 Driver, Shadows of Exile, pp. 21–2. THE BOYS IN BLACK 98 nationalist economics, anti-semitism and Mosley’s leadership.20 He also argued that Mosley appealed to those who feared unemployment, to Irish immigrants who liked his opposition to the Black and Tans in the 1920s, and to Catholics. Brewer has singled out for detailed analysis five ideal types from his small sample of fifteen. These purport to show that Mosley appealed to a cross-section of individuals from various social class backgrounds which included the working-class unemployed, wealthy landowners, the declining middle class, industrialists, and the young and politically inexperienced.21 However, although these qualitative examples provide graphic illustrations of some aspects of the profile of membership of the BUF, they have to be treated with caution. Rawnsley’s use of the autobiographical recollections of Reynell Bellamy and Nellie Driver, with regard to Lancashire fascism, together with eleven interviews with ex-fascists, and Brewer’s oral testimony from fifteen former members, can in no way be considered a representa- tive sample. Even in impressionistic terms they are deficient in at least two highly significant areas if they are to be used to assess the national movement; there is no representative from the East End of London and little on the motivation of those who backed Mosley as the saviour of the peace of Europe. In regional terms the samples were mainly biased towards the north of England, the Midlands and other regions, all of which were relatively insignificant in the history of British fascism after 1935. There is also no way of knowing how typical the interviewees were nor, given the minute samples, whether they can be properly regarded as ‘ideal types’ of specific kinds of member. Doubts must also be expressed about specific arguments drawn from impressionistic evidence. Although Mosley may have appealed to certain types of Irish immigrant or British Catholic it seems highly significant that he made little headway amongst Irish labourers in London dockland, an area of relative BUF strength.22 Similarly, it seems doubtful whether many of those staid middle- class new members who backed Mosley to keep Britain out of war 20 S. Rawnsley, ‘The membership of the British Union of Fascists’, in British Fascism, ed. K. Lunn and R. Thurlow (London, 1980), p. 158. 21 Brewer, Mosley’s Men, pp. 28–44. 22 C. Husbands, Racial Exclusionism and the City (London, 1983), pp. 51–6. THE BOYS IN BLACK 99 agreed with his radical economic and political policies, and could be considered as more ideological fascists than their predecessors. Thus the general pattern of the nature of the membership shows a shift in emphasis from the recruitment of the politically alien- ated from all political classes, with propaganda aimed at youth, ex-military types and the unemployed in 1933 and 1934, to the use of anti-semitism in mobilizing discontented lower middle-class and youth elements in the East End of London, to the appeal to a mainly elderly middle-class audience in the peace campaign. There was a discernible shift away from a core ideology linking an authoritarian structure with ideas which had their root on the political left, to an attempt to seize the leadership of a radical right opposed to war. This transition was effected by the espousal of anti-semitism which both provided an ideological affinity with the nazis and hypothesized a Jewish conspiracy which supposedly controlled the political left and allegedly usurped the traditional right. Thus in terms of its membership and ideas the BUF moved steadily to the right in the 1930s, even if the core beliefs of its official ideology remained unaltered until 1945. The rapidly chang- ing nature of its appeal and sociological base reflected a highly unstable mass movement in crisis. The attraction of fascism The basic appeal of the BUF was to those with initiative who had for some reason experienced bottlenecks in mobility patterns in society; this included cranks, criminals, alcoholics and worse. Rex Tremlett resigned as editor of Blackshirt in 1936 and told friends he no longer wanted to be associated with ‘cads, thieves and swine’.23 However, to overemphasize this aspect of the move- ment, acknowledged by ex-members themselves, would be misleading. Amongst its committed membership at all levels was a large majority of resourceful individuals whose spirit remained undimmed by personal adversity and an inability to achieve their full potential in a society where chances were blocked by the effects of economic depression and the lingering after-effects of the First World War. As in nazi Germany, members of the BUF saw fascism 23 PRO HO 144/20142/220. THE BOYS IN BLACK 100 as providing new opportunities for personal advancement which would by-pass the closed avenues of traditional society.24 Although the BUF had a small appeal in all social classes, its greatest impact was to be found amongst retired military gentlemen, some working-class elements, the lower middle classes and ‘spirited’ middle-class women. This picture is as true for the leadership as for the membership as a whole. Mosley has often stated that he attracted to the move- ment some remarkable individuals of outstanding ability and that they compared favourably in intellectual ability and initiative with his colleagues in the Labour government of 1929–31.25 There were indeed some interesting men in the BUF. Major-General J.F.C. Fuller was an original military strategist. A.K. Chesterton inherited more than his fair share of the family’s considerable literary tal- ent. William Joyce was a brilliant orator and Alexander Raven Thomson possessed a synthesizing mind of appreciable intel- lectual power.26 And the main point of similarity between the diverse personalities and backgrounds of those in the leadership of the BUF was that most of them were outsiders; for reasons of personality or ideological opposition they were alienated from conventional establishment values. Mosley was later to see Colin Wilson’s study of the alienated intellectual, The Outsider, of particular significance to the 1950s, although no doubt he also saw its relevance for the experience of the BUF in the 1930s.27 What is of interest is that apart from the few Labour MPs, members of the ILP and the Ulster Unionist, W.E.D. Allen, Mosley failed to attract any significant support from establishment quarters once Rothermere had broken his connection. In spite of the BUF having its main roots on the political left, the Labour party was implac- ably hostile to Mosley. Anti-semitism mobilized significant sup- port in one particular area, while his pro-appeasement and anti- communist policies appealed to a few right-wing Conservatives. However, Mosley’s economic radicalism was viewed with 24 W.W. Jannen Jr., ‘National Socialists and social mobility’, Journal of Social History, 9 (Spring 1976), pp. 339–66. 25 O. Mosley, My Life (London, 1968), p. 318. 26 A.J. Trythal, Boney Fuller (London, 1975); Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton. The Making of a British fascist’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1982; W.A. Cole, William Joyce (London 1964); A. Raven, Civilisation as Divine Superman (London, 1932). 27 ‘European’ Colin Wilson’s “The Outsider”, European, 48 (1957), pp. 337–51. THE BOYS IN BLACK 101 suspicion by the right and his attitude to Mussolini and Hitler was viewed with hostility by the left. Aggressive anti-semitism and the political violence associated with the BUF was antithetical to the high politics tradition enshrined within the party system at Westminster. The constantly changing emphasis of Mosley’s appeal merely added to the establishment view that he was unreli- able, irresponsible and forever changing his loyalties; a man who was not to be trusted and beyond the pale. A study of the parliamentary candidates chosen by the BUF after 1935 has emphasized the rootlessness of many of those attracted to the movement.28 Their main characteristics were experience of the armed forces, the high turnover of employment and the lack of previous political experience. Mosley appealed to those who could not settle down to the changed conditions of the post–1918 world. For some he was to be the embodiment of the creation of a new order based on new values, for others the reincarnation of an imaginery world which had never existed. Mosley’s propaganda aimed at forming a new synthesis combining aspects of the politi- cal left and right – the creation of a third way in British politics. Unfortunately for him the methods by which he proposed to achieve this end proved unattractive in the political and economic condition of the 1930s. The National government contained the crisis more by luck than judgement; nevertheless even the small minority in the establishment who sympathized with the reasons behind Mosley’s revolt saw no reason to foresake the party system to team up with a cavalier adventurer who was trying to turn a foreign tradition into a British political movement. Mosley was to appeal only to the politically inexperienced or the totally alien- ated. He was destined to become a marginal political figure linked by his creed to a lunatic fringe which he despised; his alliance with some of the ideological anti-semites in 1939 was to lead to his imprisonment and the destruction of British fascism. 28 W.F. Mandle, ‘The leadership of the British Union of Fascists’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Dec. 1966, pp. 360−383. THE BOYS IN BLACK 102 THE BOYS IN BLACK The organization of the BUF If the membership of the BUF exhibited a constantly changing profile, the same could be said of the organization of the move- ment. In 1936 British Intelligence discovered that a nazi agent called Colin Ross had reported to Hitler that the BUF was a fine movement and had a splendid leader but absolutely no organiza- tion.29 Mosley claimed that he divorced himself completely from the organization and administration of the movement while he concentrated on meetings and the party programme. What is certain is that those responsible for organization lacked the competence to manage the growth of a political movement. This was partly due to Mosley’s own faults. Whilst his political opponents criticized his lack of party loyalty those who were close to him saw that his major weakness was that he was too trusting and he had an inability to judge character.30 Although Mosley did not suffer fools gladly he was taken in far too many times by political con men and he often failed to see through those with eccentric views until it was too late. In terms of the organization this flaw was disastrous. Those who had access to Mosley’s ear realized that he was gullible in relation to propaganda about the growth of the movement and that the best way to advancement was to tell him what he wanted to hear, whether it was true or not. A.K. Chesterton later claimed that disastrous flops were always written up as great triumphs and that the toadying administrators of the movement had systematically prevented Mosley from hearing the truth.31 The organizational flaws in the movement were to be found at all levels. Under the first deputy leader, Robert Forgan, financial control over the rapidly develop- ing movement was to be non-existent with expenditure double the income and both petty corruption and fraud rife. It was Forgan’s failure in this area as well as his disagreements with Mosley over anti-Semitism and political violence which caused him to leave the movement.32 F.M. Box, Forgan’s replacement, told Mosley that the organization was in such a shambles that it would take at least 29 PRO HO 144/21060/55. 30 Driver, Shadows of Exile, p. 31. 31 A.K. Chesterton, Why I Left Mosley (London, 1938). 32 C. Holmes and B. Hill, ‘Robert Forgan’, Dictionary of Labour Biography vol. VI (London, 1982), pp. 111–14; PRO HO 144/20145/222–5. 103 ten years to build up a viable electoral machine.33 Mosley was also badly advised about several crucial organizational matters. The decision to become a professional political organization from the outset meant a massive financial outlay. The BUF paid top Fleet Street journalist rates and good comparative salaries throughout the organization. In 1936 the total wages bill exceeded £25,000 out of the total cost of £45,000.34 Various estimates sug- gest that the BUF had spent between £60,000 and £80,000 in 1934. In a period after membership had rapidly declined, in late 1936, Special Branch reported that with 4,000 active and 6,000 non- active supporters, income from members (with employed workers paying one shilling a month and unemployed fourpence) was only £8–£10,000 per annum.35 The obvious problems inherent in financing a political movement on such an insecure economic base, and the decline in external injections of capital in the later 1930s meant that the BUF was in a constant state of crisis. Severe cuts were made in 1935 when the Black House was dropped as a national headquarters, and in 1937 when half the major officials of the movement, all the paid speakers and most of the regional organizers were dismissed in a 70 per cent reduction of expenditure.36 Further cuts in 1938 and 1939 reduced expenses to £13,000 per annum and marked a transition from a professional administration to a mainly voluntary organization.37 The payroll was reduced from 350 to about 50 between 1936 and 1939. While these severe reductions had important effects on the nature of the organization, many of the fascist officials remained on a voluntary basis. However, constant reorganization and cuts in personnel meant that the highly imperfect administrative structure of the movement was in constant danger of collapse despite the valiant efforts of the few remaining administrators and the loyal volunteers in 1938 and 1939. Mosley’s offhand attitude towards organization, and his belief that activism and commitment were the main criteria of advancement and promotion, failed to distinguish between creditable achievement and optimistic flat- tery. The highly bureaucratic administrative structure with its 33 PRO HO 144/20146/82–3. 34 PRO HO 144/20147/378. 35 PRO HO 144/21062/344. 36 PRO HO 144/21063/233. 37 PRO HO 144/21281/121. THE BOYS IN BLACK 104 military overtones, organizational cliques, constant rationaliza- tion and re-deployment, merely institutionalized the problem. The BUF was originally organized into area, regions, branches, sub-branches and groups. At the local level they were further subdivided into companies, sections and units. If there were suf- ficient women members a separate female branch was founded and youth groups were also encouraged.38 It prided itself on being a classless organization where merit and loyalty to the cause counted more than social privilege or the old boy network. In Lancashire an eighteen-year-old was a district leader and an unemployed ex-trooper had seniority over a mill-owner’s daughter.39 While this arrangement worked better in some areas than others, the real weakness in the system was that the administrative centre only exerted its influence in the provinces spasmodically and had little financial control. Major-General Fuller’s reorganization in 1936, which created three types of member, was introduced after the BUF collapsed in 1935 and was only partially successful in reviving the movement although it greatly expanded the numbers of non-active members. All branch associations and activities were supposedly self-financing and the movement’s growth depended on the energy and activities of the local leadership. With the decline of the central administrative organization in the later 1930s local associations were left increas- ingly to their own devices, despite the valiant efforts of the remain- ing paid officials. These financial and organizational problems were compounded by Mosley’s basic misjudgements about the nature of the move- ment. The desire to create a classless organization based on merit, and the compulsory wearing of uniform to symbolize this fact and to instil discipline, were no doubt good ideas, but Mosley’s choice of dress was less than inspired. The Blackshirt reminded the general public of Mussolini and the jackboots of Hitler, and was no severe loss when banned by the Public Order Act in 1936. Similarly, Mosley’s attempt to palm off the use of the fasces and the flash in the circle as good old British traditions which had no connection with emulating continental examples, both in The Greater Britain 38 PRO HO 144/20140/104–21. 39 Driver, Shadows of Exile, p. 29; Bellamy, We marched with Mosley, chap. 6, p. 4. On Women and the BUF see M. Durham. THE BOYS IN BLACK 105 and before the Advisory Committee on Internment in 1940, was amongst the least convincing of his arguments.40 Mosley’s dubi- ous judgement of individuals and events, his impatience and uncertain temper, and his failure to see the limits of his power over language, along with the appalling lack of organization, proved his major weaknesses. At first sight the abysmal picture of the finances of the BUF would lead automatically to the conclusion that Mosley had severe monetary weaknesses as well. This, however, is a misleading impression. Mosley’s buccaneering spirit made him an ideal bud- ding entrepreneur and he more than recovered the fortune he poured down the drain in the BUF in later life through his financial investments. The fact that Mosley supposedly divorced himself from all financial aspects of the movement from the outset41 was undoubtedly a deliberate strategy. Not only did this free him to concentrate all his energies on speaking and policy, but enabled him to maintain the pretence that he was ignorant of the main sources of BUF finance. In particular it let him obscure the Italian connection and the fact that much of the cost of the dramatic period of growth until 1934 and the equally spectacular collapse in 1935 was underwritten by large financial subsidies from Mussolini, who provided the second largest source of income in overall terms during the 1930s, probably contributing over £60,000 between 1933 and 1936. Only Mosley, who spent £100,000 on the movement, subscribed more. Whilst there is some dispute over the amount Mussolini contributed, that it was substantial was beyond doubt. J. Chuter Ede’s claim, as Home Secretary in 1946, that Mussolini had funded Mosley has been substantially proved by documents found in Italian archives.42 The obvious conclusion that can be drawn about Mosley’s unconvincing and evasive answers before the Advisory Committee about the finances of the BUF were that his top priority was to obscure the sources of income for the movement from the outset, and the means by which this was achieved was a brilliant counter- intelligence operation. Mosley, despite the obvious suspicions that these obfuscating manoeuvres on finance aroused, nevertheless was 40 O. Mosley, The Greater Britain (London, 1932), frontispiece; PRO HO 283/13/43–5. 41 PRO HO 283/13/21. 42 David Irving, Focal Point, 30 Oct. 1981; N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale, (London, 1983), pp. 30–4. THE BOYS IN BLACK 106 able to maintain the fiction that he was unaware of the main source of funding in the early period until his death. The fact that Mosley’s top priority was to obscure the sources of his movement’s income rather than exert tight financial control from the outset is detailed quite clearly in the movement’s accounts. The Advisory Committee stated that they were in a most unsatisfactory state.43 The Committee had the audited account of BUF Trust Ltd, the main financial company of the organization, for the years ending 28 February 1934, 28 February 1935 and 31 March 1936. These showed a small deficit in the first year and slightly larger surpluses in the two following years. However, the chartered accountants criticized all three accounts for not provid- ing the means of verifying the amount of subscriptions and dona- tions. The totals equalled £36,812 8s 2d, £75,606 12s 2d and £84,468 3s 9d respectively for the three years. The Committee also had access to the accounts from 1 September 1938 to 31 January 1940, which were properly prepared. These showed that in this period the BUF received over £34,000 of which £30,000 was from two people, £24,000 from Mosley himself. Presumably this was at least part of the accounts Mosley had before him when he wrote in My Answer (1946), in response to Chuter Ede’s accusa- tion of Italian funding, that for a considerable period before the war they showed no evidence of this.44 However, the published accounts were not the only source of information about the BUF finances. W.E.D. Allen, who by 1940 was conveniently in Palestine, presumably tipped off the authori- ties that the main source of BUF funding in the first few years was via a secret account in the Charing Cross branch of the Westminster Bank. This acted as a conduit for foreign funds for the BUF and was operated in the names of Ian Hope Dundas, W.E.D. Allen and Major J. Tabor.45 Special Branch obtained access to the records of the account in 1940 and discovered that in 1933 approximately £9,500 was paid in, in 1934 £77,800, 1935 £86,000, 1936 £43,320 and in 1937 £7,630, all in foreign curren- cies. At the Advisory Committee hearing it was pointed out to Mosley that most of the monthly deposits were fairly standard 43 PRO HO 45/24891/40. 44 O. Mosley, My Answer (London, 1946), p. 4. 45 PRO HO 283/10/9. THE BOYS IN BLACK 107 amounts, in 1935 between £4,000–£5,000 a month, the small dif- ferences seeming to reflect the currency fluctuation of lira and sterling.46 MI5 interviewed Major Tabor in 1940. He was secretary to W.E.D. Allen between 1933 and 1937 and until 1936 a member of the BUF, where he had been in charge of providing food and supplies for headquarters. Although not very forthcoming, he told the authorities that he had frequently been given large packets of foreign notes for Allen to pay into the account. Robert Forgan told Colin Cross a similar story.47 Tabor had once asked Mosley where the money came from but he had been very angry and refused to tell him. MI5 learned that Mosley was receiving about £3,000 a month from Italian sources during 1935. However, the documents discovered by David Irving relating to the correspondence of Count Grandi, the Italian ambassador, suggest that in 1933 and 1934 Mussolini made four payments of about £5,000 as well as a special donation of £20,000. This would also fit in with the implications of the questioning concerning the regularity of similar monthly deposits in the banks in 1935. The fact that the total amounts deposited in the Charing Cross accounts were close to the published income of the movement in 1934 and 1935 gave credence to MI5’s claim that in the middle 1930s the movement was only kept going by Italian money.48 The ‘Mind Britain’s Business’ campaign over the attempted League of Nations boycott of Italy following the Abyssinian invasion of 1935 was a true quid pro quo, the price of foreign funding. As F.M. Box pointed out, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune.’49 Irving’s documents proved that Mosley received £40,000 in 1933 and 1934 from Italian sources. The likelihood is that he was given substantial further support during 1935 from there. If Allen is to be believed, this represented £3,000 a month which was reduced to £1,000 a month in 1936. The fact that Mosley was forced to abandon Black House and move to cheaper headquarters in 1935, while not reducing significantly his professional staff until 46 PRO HO 283/16/49. 47 C. Cross, The Fascists in Britain (London, 1961), p. 91. 48 PRO HO 45/25385/38.49; letter from Count Grandi to Benito Mussolini, 30 Jan. 1934, photocopy in Nicholas Mosley’s file on Mussolini’s funding of the BUF. 49 PRO HO 144/20145/12–13. THE BOYS IN BLACK 108 1937, suggested a cut in funding rather than an absolute withdrawal until its cessation in 1936 or 1937. Mosley’s counter-arguments to the Advisory Committee about the funding of the BUF were that the means employed through the secret bank account enabled British enterpreneurs and benefactors to pay substantial contributions through foreign currency without disclosing the source of such funds. Certainly Mosley did receive substantial financial assistance from businessmen in his New Party days and it is likely that some of this continued, at least for a time, in the BUF. Mosley acknowledged that Lord Nuffield had paid £50,000 to the New Party, Lord Portal £5,000, Cunliffe Owen ‘the tobacco man’ £5,000 and others various sums, to a total of £80,000.50 The Labour party argued in a research document entitled ‘Who Backs Mosley’ that he had received financial assist- ance from W.E.D. Allen, Lord Inchcape, Lord Nuffield, Sir A.V. Roe, Lord Rothermere, Baron Tollemache, Air Commander Chaumier, Vincent C. Vickers, Lord Lloyd, the Earl of Glasgow and Sir Charles Petrie.51 This list seems plausible, given Mosley’s known connections and interest in the aircraft indusry. Other size- able contributions included A.C. Scrimgeour, a rich admirer of William Joyce, who was alleged by Special Branch to have contributed at least £11,000 to party funds.52 Dame Lucy Houston nearly gave Mosley £200,000 in 1934 as a result of his interest in Rothermere’s National Air League, but decided against it after reading some unflattering comments about herself in Blackshirt. Some cotton manufacturers in Lancashire were also thought to have made some contribution to the movement.53 No doubt other contributions were made to BUF funds. Special Branch stated that one Conservative MP had given a donation of £500, for example.54 Yet for the most part hard information about BUF finances is difficult to come by. Two facts, however, are fairly certain. First, that the gap between membership subscriptions and expenditure during the 1930s was not made up by British industrialists acting as political sugar daddies. In so far as this was achieved it was due mainly to Mussolini in the period before 1936 50 PRO HO 283/14/8. 51 PRO HO 144/20142/217. 52 PRO HO 144/21062/282. 53 Interview S. Rawnsley with G.P. Sutherst, 16 Feb. 1977. 54 PRO HO 144/20140/117. THE BOYS IN BLACK 109 and to Mosley himself up until 1940. Second, Mosley made determined efforts both to hide the financial weakness of the BUF and to put its finances on a firmer footing. The idea of using commercial capital to fund his political move- ment probably originated with Lord Rothermere. In 1934 Rothermere toyed with the idea of using the BUF as a distribution outlet for planned cigarette production.55 To this end Mosley established New Epoch Products Limited and a factory was registered for production purposes. With an initial capital of £12,500, the articles of association included a Board of Directors which included two of Rothermere’s journalistic associates, Sir Max Pemberton and G. Ward Price, as well as Sir Oswald Mosley and Ian Hope Dundas from the BUF. New Epoch Products was conceived on a grand scale. It was envisaged by Mosley as the basis of an industrial empire which would include manufacturing, banking, retailing and financial functions.56 However, Rothermere changed his mind about the initial funding of £70,000 and the project proved still-born. In the later 1930s Mosley tried to revive his political fortunes through planned commercial profit. From 1937 onwards much of his time not devoted to BUF affairs was concentrated on cornering the market in commercial radio franchises. Mosley told the Advisory Committee in 1940 that there were four new industries in the twentieth century which could generate great profits: newspapers, motoring, aeroplanes and radio advertising. From his standpoint the latter was most promising as it required less capital and offered more scope for quick returns. Mosley argued that at present less than £1 million was spent on radio advertising in this country compared with £20 million in the USA. In terms of rela- tive population size there was a further £5 million worth of advertising to be won.57 Following the establishment of Radio Normandie in France, in which he had no stake, Mosley systemati- cally tried to establish a large interest in future commercial radio franchises. By the outbreak of the war Mosley had a 50 per cent interest in most advanced negotiations in Belgium, Ireland and Denmark and a 90 per cent interest in the concession from the 55 P. Addison, ‘Patriotism under pressure, Lord Rothermere and British foreign policy’ in The Politics of Reappraisal 1918–39, ed. G. Peele and C. Cook (London, 1975), p. 269. 56 PRO HO 144/20141/14–18. 57 PRO HO 283/13/107. THE BOYS IN BLACK 110 Dame of Sark.58 He had also persuaded Hitler to build him a radio transmitter in Germany. The aim was to syphon off the large potential profits from such operations for the funding of the BUF. These plans were so secret that few in the movement knew of them, since any disclosure would have created a political furore and wrecked Mosley’s designs. The careful planning and single- minded dedication to putting such blueprints into practice showed that Mosley had imaginative plans for rescuing his financially ail- ing movement.59 The commercial interest involved meant that Mosley also had less altruistic motives than matters of principle in his opposition to the war with Hitler in 1939. The internal politics of the BUF mainly centred around the contentious issue of organization and finance and their links to ideological differences. The fundamental importance of the leader- ship principle, Mosley’s own intellectual and moral stature within the movement and the lack of any credible alternative in the organization meant there was little coherent opposition in the period of growth. Such criticism as there was was dealt with in a military manner. Charles J. Bradford of the Industrial Propaganda Department, organizer of the Fascist Union of British Workers, was suspended for three months in 1934 for arranging a conspiracy to split the organization and for attacking the deputy Chief of Staff, Archibald Findlay, while under the influence of drink.60 Strict discipline was maintained in the organization and acts of spontane- ous violence against opponents were discouraged unless there was any provocation for it. However, with the twin problems of a collapse in membership and resultant financial difficulties, despite the benevolence of Mussolini, in the summer of 1934 a Court of Inquiry was established to stamp out increasing factional differences within the leadership. This tribunal had a strong military flavour, the Court of Inquiry comprising Captain Reavely, Major Lucas and Major Taylor. It centred on the linked problems of organization, finance and propaganda. It showed that there were two main fac- tions within the leadership cadre who viewed the future of the BUF in different ways, although there were pronounced personal and 58 PRO HO 283/13/110, J. and P. Barnes, ‘Oswald Mosley as Entrepreneur’, History Today 40, 3, March 1990, pp. 11−16. 59 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale, pp. 134–7. 60 PRO HO 144/20142/314. THE BOYS IN BLACK 111 ideological antagonisms on both sides of the argument. In general the dispute was between those who saw the BUF’S future in terms of a military organization appealing to law and order, and emphasized a style of disciplined marches and demonstrations, and those who saw the need to expound propaganda and convert the masses to fascist ideology. The first faction was led originally by F.M. Box, his adjutant Neil Francis Hawkins and Ian Hope Dundas, the latter group by William Joyce, John Beckett and A.K. Chesterton. Box, an ex-Conservative party agent, had been appointed by Mosley in 1934 as Forgan’s replacement with the principle brief of reducing expenditure. His attempts to prune propaganda expenditure met the principled opposition of ideological fascists. Many of these wished to promote anti-semitism and to encourage physical force arguments in the organization, which was also anathema to Box. The outcome, although superficially a victory for Box, proved pyrrhic. Joyce was criticized for only holding 70 meetings instead of 300 planned and Mosley blamed this on him rather than on Box’s expenditure cuts.61 However, the open anti- semitism advanced after October 1934 and the move into the East End of London showed that the BUF was developing in the direc- tion of Joyce and his associates. Box resigned, opposing both the move to anti-semitism and increased physical force confrontation with opponents.62 This did not, however, end the argument. The case of the organ- izers against Joyce and his associates was taken up by a more redoubtable opponent, Neil Francis Hawkins. He became director- general of the BUF in 1936 and combined the characteristics of an inflexible personal loyalty to Mosley, an 100 per cent commit- ment to the cause and political skills at ingratiating his henchmen into key personnel positions. By such methods he was able to outflank Joyce and win the war for Mosley’s ear. Francis Hawkins, a lineal descendant of the Elizabethan sailor, was an ex-opthalmic instrument maker who came into the movement from the British Fascists. A bachelor, he favoured promoting and working with unmarried men because they could commit more time to the cause. A workaholic himself, his attitude was one of the stated reasons 61 PRO HO 144/20145/222–5. 62 PRO HO 144/20146/82–3. THE BOYS IN BLACK 112 why Mosley kept his marriage to Diana Guinness in 1936 a secret: Mosley told the Advisory Committee that there was a legend in the movement that married men did no work.63 Francis Hawkins’s opponents alleged that he was a homosexual, an occupational hazard for all bachelors in the movement and other fascist organizations since. Francis Hawkins’ chief opponent was William Joyce. He was a brilliant orator who rivalled Mosley in his eloquence and was a first-class teacher. Unfortunately he was both mentally unbal- anced about the Jews, somewhat vain and a poor organizer. He had joined the BUF in 1933, and rapidly rose from being area administrative officer for the Home Counties to become Director of Propaganda in 1934, with responsibility for training and instruction of speakers, and for direction of the Research Department.64 Whereas Francis Hawkins argued the importance of developing virile ‘Blackshirts’ and semi-military psychology, and contended that bands, uniforms, marches and general discipline were more effective than clearly defined political programmes, Joyce and his associates were for developing an electoral machine and securing adherents by propaganda in the factories and workshops. Joyce’s abilities were initially appreciated by Mosley, who used them to good effect in the anti-semitic campaign in London’s East End. Gradually, however, Mosley came to support Francis Hawkins rather than Joyce for reasons of conviction and economy. Mosley increasingly began to see that the intellectual content of British fascism made few converts amongst the masses; populist campaigns based on activism and discipline attracted more support and the new recruits could then be converted to fascism. By 1937 Mosley had wholeheartedly adopted Francis Hawkins’ strategy and it was the Joyce faction which felt the full weight of the economy axe. Joyce then resigned from the move- ment. After leaving the BUF Joyce, in collaboration with the ex-labour MP John Beckett, formed the National Socialist League (NSL). This movement proved to be entirely inconsequential in itself, depend- ing entirely on the donations of Joyce’s benefactor Alexander 63 PRO HO 283/13/116. 64 PRO HO 144/21063/10–11. THE BOYS IN BLACK 113 Scrimgeour, and was never a serious rival of the BUF. Never hav- ing more than fifty members the NSL failed and soon Joyce’s obsessional anti-semitism and Hitler worship led to a split with Beckett.65 After Scrimgeour’s death in August 1937 it rapidly became insolvent and disintegrated completely in 1938. However, Special Branch infiltrated its early London meetings and their verbatim reports shed more light on the factional splits in the BUF. At the first meeting in April 1937 Joyce argued that he had effectively been demoted in 1936 when Francis Hawkins had gained control of the training of the party speakers, leaving him as a glorified office boy. He then stated that the financial irregulari- ties which had been charged against him were due to a forgery in order to blacken his reputation. Mosley’s complete support for Francis Hawkins convinced Joyce that Mosley was in fact no longer the leader but merely a figurehead controlled by Hawkins.66 A.K. Chesterton, the author of the BUF official biography of Mosley, later wrote a pamphlet published by the National Socialist League expressing much the same sentiments. Mosley’s hagiographer here thought that the BUF was a parody of National Socialist thought and principles, and considered that Mosley had either been misled by Francis Hawkins or had deliberately used him to do his dirty work.67 The factional splits and acrimony of the latter stages of the BUF represented the bitter backbiting of those who had committed their all to the fascist God that failed, and could not accept being discarded or the failure of Mosley. It should, however, be emphasized that many who lost their salary in 1937 remained as volunteers in the movement and followed Mosley to the end in 1940. Many fell by the wayside for various reasons but Mosley could always rely on a hard core of committed activists who unhesitatingly followed him even when the BUF became a scapegoat for the disaster of 1940 and most of the remaining leadership, both nationally and locally were interned, their ‘crime’ being that they were members of a now proscribed organization. 65 PRO HO 45/25690. Special Branch Report 2 April 1940. 66 PRO HO 144/21247/4–11. 67 A.K. Chesterton, Why I Left Mosley; PRO HO 144/21247/97–101. THE BOYS IN BLACK 5 The Mutiny against Destiny The BUF was almost unique among fascist movement in that its origin was marked by the publication of a coherent political programme and doctrine, in Oswald Mosley’s The Greater Britain in October 1932. This outlined the rationale behind Mosley’s revolt and the policies needed in his view to reverse Britain’s decline. Although ideology came to play a less important role in the move- ment after 1935, Mosley nevertheless concentrated his energies in this sphere and in communicating his message to the British public, delegating administrative and financial organization to others. The ideology and the movement The importance for Mosley of rationally expressing an alternative political strategy to the party system and establishment values has been interpreted by commentators in various ways. Of those who have gone beyond a mere exposition of Mosley’s and the BUF’s basic ideas, Brewer has concentrated on his conception of crisis and explained it in sociological and psychological terms, rather than in terms of the economic and philosophical ideas from which it was derived.1 Nugent has argued that a division should be made between the official ideas of the leadership and the less well formulated 1 J. Brewer, ‘The British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley and Birmingham: an analysis of the content and context of an ideology’, M.Soc.Sci thesis, University of Birmingham, 1975, pp. 1–171. 115 motivating concepts of the rank and file.2 Rawnsley, following Billig’s distinction between an esoteric and exoteric ideology in the National Front, has suggested that members were recruited through various populist campaigns and then indoctrinated with a secret inner core ideology which emphasized the need for dictatorship, militarism, anti-semitism and the corporate state.3 Farr has interpreted the emergence of the BUF as a watershed in the history of the British right: the development of a form of fascism with roots deep in a British national tradition which marked an integration of nationalist, socialist, imperialist and racist attitudes and had been formulated in the last stages of the New Party.4 Skidelsky, in a bril- liant and mainly convincing exposition, has analysed the develop- ment of Mosley’s economic and philosophical ideas in a sympathetic manner, even if he attacked Mosley’s establishment opponents in too cavalier a fashion and was not critical enough of his fascist ideas. Stephen Cullen has outlined the main themes of BUF ideas, Roger Griffin has emphasized the ‘palingenetic’ (rebirth), revolutionary and modernity themes in Mosley’s thought and Roger Eatwell the significance of the synthesis of ideas from opposite ends of the politi- cal spectrum.5 All these interpretations have something to commend them, although Brewer’s tautologies and arguments are difficult to fol- low at times, and he has not looked at the most interesting aspects of Mosley’s conception of crisis. In this chapter I propose to examine Mosley’s fascist ideas in terms of the historical develop- ment of his thought and relate this to the fortunes of the move- ment, and also to assess the practicality of such ideas and the role and function of the ideology to the movement, with some refer- ence to the explanations already outlined. 2 N. Nugent, ‘The ideas of the British Union of Fascists’, in The British Right, ed. N. Nugent and R. King (London, 1977), pp. 133–64. 3 S. Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists in Britain in the 1930s’, PhD thesis, University of Bradford, 1983, p. 48. 4 B. Farr, ‘The development and impact of right wing politics in Great Britain, 1903–32’, PhD thesis, University of Illinois, 1976. 5 R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (London, 1975), S. Cullen, ‘The Development of the Ideas and Policy of the British Union of Fascists, 1932−40’ Journal of Contemporary History 22, 1987, pp. 115–136, R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (London, 1993), pp. 26−55, R. Eatwell, ‘Towards a New Model of Generic Fascism’ Journal of Theoretical Politics 4, 2, 1992 pp. 161−194. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 116 Several facts need to be firmly emphasized before a detailed analysis of the ideas is undertaken. Firstly, Mosley’s conviction that radical alternative economic and political policies were vital to halt what he saw as the inevitable decline and collapse of Britain was a constant and genuine belief which underlies all his actions. Having said that, however, the changing tactical and strategic shifts in policy necessitated by pragmatic political realities possessed one attribute in common. The turn from Conservative to Labour and the flirta- tions with the Liberals which made him so suspect to the establish- ment in the 1920s, and his switch to the leadership principle in 1931, all placed Mosley in the centre of events. Britain needed radical new policies which, if they could not be achieved through the democratic process by Mosley and his changing allies, would have to be solved by Mosley the dictator. His iconoclasm and egotism both pointed to Mosley as the big wheel around which all else revolved. In the 1930s he led the fascist revolution of youth against the ‘united muttons’ of the ‘old gangs’.6 In his old age he argued that there was no substitute for practical experience.7 His whole political life was dedicated to two propositions: that the British Empire and/or Europe was in danger of collapse without drastic reorganization under firm leader- ship, and that he alone could provide the heroic flair and drive to restore the power that was being insiduously undermined by external and internal enemies. Secondly, the distinction between official ideas of the leadership and unofficial fascist ideology of the rank and file was no different from the intellectual coherence of leaders and ideologists in most organizations with the reductionist transmission of such concepts. Fascism was a leadership movement, and although members influenced policy it was Mosley who brought the tablets down from the mountain to the membership. It was not true, for example, that the tactics of political anti-semitism and street violence were accepted by Mosley because of rank and file pres- sure. Mosley’s own concept of personal honour and his rational analysis of the activities of some Jews against the BUF, and their role in British society, convinced him that assaults by enemies on the movement should be resisted by defensive force. Some members 6 O. Mosley, The Greater Britain (London, 1934), pp. 149–50, R. Eatwell, Fascism (London, 1995) pp. 175−191, R. Griffin ‘British Fascism, the Ugly Duckling. In M. Cronin, The Failure of British Fascism (Basingstoke, 1996), pp. 141−165. 7 Idem, My Life (London, 1968), pp. 128–36. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 117 left because of the increase in violence and trend towards anti- semitism to which these tactics led; individuals were disciplined and expelled for unprovoked violence, or personally challenging the authority of the leader; but this did not constitute differences between official and unofficial ideology. Thirdly, the core nature of fascist ideas remained remarkably consistent during the 1930s despite the various campaigns designed to appeal to popular sentiments and prejudices in order to draw people into the movement. Mosley’s main statements of his beliefs in The Greater Britain (1932, revised 1934), Fascism – One Hundred Questions Asked and Answered (1936) and Tomorrow We Live (1938), all heavily accentuated the economic critique and political analysis of his alternative vision. Anti-semitism and foreign policy made no appearance in the first work and comprised only four and eight pages respectively out of seventy-two in Tomorrow we Live. The marked contrast with the space devoted to these themes in Action and Blackshirt after 1935, and the virulent political campaigns after 1936, inverted the emphasis between official ideology and populist rhetoric. With the failure of official BUF ideology to provide a stimulus for recruitment after Rothermere’s defection, populist campaigns appealing to local sentiment were the main weapons designed to restore the movement’s collapsing fortunes. Racial populism and appeasement were used to recruit followers and those who became committed followers were converted to the basic beliefs of inner fascism. The vast majority of members in the 1930s were never wholehearted supporters of the full ideological package; only a small group of several thousand members were ever that. This gap between the true believers and the single-issue fascists helps to explain the widely differing estimates of numbers made by com- mentators on the movement in the 1930s. To argue as Rawnsley does that there were different layers of ideology is correct, but unfortunately he does not take his analysis far enough. Whilst committed fascists believed in leadership, militarism, anti-semitism and corporatism, they did so in an entirely open and non-conspiratorial manner. These beliefs lay just below the surface of fascism and accounted for its notoriety and apparent addiction to physical violence, but the real inner core was something entirely different. This represented the concept of the new fascist man derived from heroic vitalist and creative THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 118 evolutionist philosophies.8 Man, through overcoming his own nature, would be able in a disciplined and socially responsible movement to transform himself and his society to create a new stage in the evolutionary development of mankind. This may have been utopian and the idea only fully rationalized by Mosley after 1945, yet sufficient contemporary evidence exists to suggest that these beliefs were at the root of Mosley’s revolt in the 1930s. Both Robert Skidelsky and Nicholas Mosley have examined these ideas, the latter in a critical fashion, and have illuminated the beliefs behind British fascism in the most convincing fashion.9 Finally, the nature and content of Mosley’s thought deserves special emphasis because its logical structure was far removed from British academic and intellectual traditions. Mosley’s powerful mind produced stimulating ideas which were usually expressed in a coherent and rational manner. However, the development of his argument was dependent on continental methods of analysis rather than on British traditions. Although not an original thinker, he was a strong believer in synthesizing ideas, no matter how disparate, to produce new thought at a higher level.10 While the intellectual justification for this was not developed by Mosley until after 1945, it was characteristic of the way his mind worked in the inter-war period. Thus although British fascism was strongly rooted in relatively weak national traditions, its political expres- sion and intellectual justification were much more strongly influenced by European examples.11 If Marx’s ideas represented a fusion of English economics, French politics and German philosophy, Mosley’s system, at a lower level of analysis, represented a fusion of English radical economics, fascist politics and German idealist philosophy. The links were to be in philosophical method, as Mosley’s insistence on idealism and psychological roots of behaviour were to contrast with Marx’s materialism. For Mosley, Marx’s materialism denied man’s spiritual and evolutionary potential. 8 E. Bentley, The Cult of the Superman (Gloucester, Mass., 1944); J. Drennan (W.E.D. Allen), BUF, Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (London, 1934), pp. 176–293. 9 Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, pp. 299–316, 465–80; N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983), pp. 35–42. 10 O. Mosley, My Life, p. 91. 11 R.Thurlow,‘TheReturnofJeremiah’,inBritishFascism,ed.K.LunnandR.Thurlow (London, 1980), pp. 100–13. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 119 Mosley and other BUF theorists presented their case both in terms of sweeping away the old parliamentary system of government and of the need to replace it with a new fascist conception based on leadership and personal responsibilities. Mosley was perfectly serious when he talked of the need for a revolution.12 Britain was facing a crisis and was in a steady decline which could only be checked by the forming of an instrument of steel.13 The immedi- ate problem was to solve growing unemployment, which reached 3,000,000 in the last months of 1932. However, this was only a symptom of the more insiduous collapse of British power in the twentieth century which had been accelerated by the First World War. These twin problems demanded radical new economic poli- cies and a new political system of government if Britain were not to decline to the level of Spain.14 To reverse the situation required a different type of leader and the development of a community imbued with cohesive and coherent national values. Thus for Mosley and the BUF new political, economic and philosophical ideas were necessary to prevent long-term trends turning into terminal decline. The BUF was at base an attempt to defy the trend of history, a ‘mutiny against destiny’ as James Drennan (W.E.D. Allen) called it.15 Blackshirts in the Black House in the Rothermere period had an almost chiliastic belief in the BUF attaining power within a few months. Mosley did not produce a systematic theory of why Britain had declined from her peak as an imperial and industrial power in the eighteenth and nineteenth century until after 1945.16 He then developed an interesting historical and psychological critique of the British ruling class. In the 1930s the demands of British fas- cism left him little time for new constructive thought and the intel- lectual content of his argument against the British ruling class at this time often degenerated to the level of crude propaganda and virulent political abuse. He had lost patience with the British establishment and became totally alienated from the methods of parliamentary government and its apparent inability to solve the fundamental problem of political decline. His failure, outside a 12 Blackshirt, Feb. 1933. 13 O. Mosley, Tomorrow we Live (London, 1938), p. 10. 14 Parliamentary Debates, vol. 239, 28 May 1930. 15 Drennan, BUF, Mosley and British Fascism, p. 200. 16 O. Mosley, The Alternative (London, 1947). THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 120 small and diminishing coterie of convinced followers’ to persuade any political party or government until 1931 to commit themselves to radical policies to fight a war in peacetime against unemploy- ment, convinced him that parliamentary democracy could not solve Britain’s fundamental problems. Although some radicals sympathized with this analysis, few of any consequence were prepared to follow Mosley and work outside the system. Mosley therefore concentrated on the economic analysis of the reasons for Britain’s decline and the philosophical justification for, and politi- cal blueprint of, the proposed fascist utopia. During the 1930s, apart from some interesting comments on Spengler, Mosley left the historical justification for British fascism to others. The BUF argued that the principles of British fascism were embed- ded deep in British history, and that it was the dominant Whig interpretation that had distorted the historical textbooks.17 Taking their arguments from a recently published modern history of England, they argued that the founding of the history schools at Oxford and Cambridge had been a propaganda stunt to justify the Hanoverian dynasty and were endowed in order to write Whig history.18 To Bill Allen, for instance, the National government of 1931 was another long Walpolean lassitude, a revived Whigdom. Modern conservatism, despite its turn to Protectionism, had failed to develop national planning to make the policy effective. The BUF by contrast saw itself as a continuation of a tradition which linked feudalism, the guild system, Tudor centralized authority and the spirit behind the achievement of Empire to their own conception of the corporate state.19 In particular, it was the vital spirit of endeavour that so characterized the Elizabethan age which the BUF tried to emulate. They believed that the Tudor nation-state concept which had produced the basis of British world supremacy had been undermined during the seventeenth century by the victory of parliament over the centralized authority of monarchy.20 As a result liberal capitalism and the dominance of powerful vested interests had replaced the needs of the state as the paramount 17 A.L. Glasfurd, ‘Fascism and the English tradition’, Fascist Quarterly, 1, 3 (July 1935), p. 360. 18 G.R. Stirling Taylor, A Modern History of England 1485–1932 (London, 1932), p. 28. 19 Drennan, BUF, Mosley and British Fascism, p. 16. 20 Ibid., p. 30. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 121 influence on government. As David Baker has shown, other fascists, like A.K. Chesterton, also saw in the Elizabethan age the model for fascist revolt. For Chesterton, it was not the lessons of history but the aesthetic appreciation of the plays of Shakespeare which provided a guide to political action.21 This dubious attempt to place the BUF within the mainstream of British history was seen by Mosley as the explanation of why the political establishment had failed to adopt his, or anybody else’s, radical policies to solve the immediate problems: the British ruling class had become ossified and was unable to meet the rapidly changing circumstances of the post-war world. His near apocalyptic gloom and doom foreboding was partly based on a rational economic critique, but was also partly a critical reaction to Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West. BUF ideas and society Mosley’s economic ideas in the late 1920s had gradually moved from a mildly socialist and strongly Keynesian criticism of orthodox finance and Treasury policy to a belief in conservative planning within a protected national framework.22 The failures of the Mosley Memorandum and Mosley Manifesto had led him to turn his back on party politics and with the defeat of the New Party to move outside parliamentary politics altogether. By 1931, Mosley’s economic analysis was no longer tempered by the constraint of the pragmatic realities of parliamentary politics and the narrow limits within which governments could operate in economic policy before that time. His increasingly utopian prognosis was no longer subject to the critical gaze of Cabinet committees and government colleagues and nobody of influence now took any notice of his ideas. Skidelsky has pointed out the seminal influence of Keynes and the arguments of his Treatise on Monetary Reform on Mosley in the 1920s; with Mosley’s fascist economic ideas came a reversion to some of the themes of J.A. Hobson as well as the economic nationalism common to all fascists. 21 D. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton. The making of a British fascist’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1982, pp. 146–217. 22 A. Oldfield, ‘The growth of the concept of economic planning in the doctrine of the British Labour Party 1914–25’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1973, pp. 225–47. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 122 Mosley’s fascist economic programme derived from the main ideas of his socialist and radical synthesis of the 1920s transposed into an ultra-national context. For Mosley, the basic problem was that the ability of the industrial system to expand production far exceeded its propensity to consume the excess output. Unemployment was caused by a failure of demand to meet the productive potential of industry, and there was therefore an immediate need to institute consumer credits amongst the low- paid in order to raise purchasing power. Britain’s liberal economic system’s only response to this problem was to export excess goods. As industrializing nations increasingly put up protectionist barri- ers so the British economy became dependent on third world markets, on the need to ‘find enough Negroes to sell bicycles to’. Worse still, Britain had exported her own capital to ensure that the overseas markets upon which Britain was dependent could now industrialize themselves. Britain, which more than any other country was dependent on overseas trade, had pursued policies leading to a continuous decline in its export potential. To Mosley the situation was so serious that palliatives like the Conservative protection policy were totally inadequate.23 What was needed was a planned economy under firm governmental direction which could utilize the resources of the British Empire in an efficient manner. While the capitalists ensured the necessary incentives for rewarding personal initiative, an increased role for the state was necessary to ensure that production and consump- tion were brought into proper balance and that a scientific mechanism for ensuring permanent economic growth could be developed. The liberal economics of successive British govern- ments had meant that the economy had become dependent on world markets. These in turn had become controlled by finance rather than productive enterprise, particularly since the First World War when Wall Street had replaced London as the world’s lead- ing financial centre. Scientific protection and firm leadership were now needed to insulate the British Empire from both world condi- tions and the power of finance over industry. In Mosley’s view, fascism was needed because only a ‘modern movement’ could revolutionize the British economy; the short-term palliatives like his own and Lloyd George’s public works projects of 1929 and 23 O. Mosley, The Greater Britain, p. 89. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 123 the tentative moves towards protection and reflation of the National government were now totally inadequate to meet the growing seriousness of the problem.24 Mosley believed that the breakdown of the liberal economic order heralded the doom of parliamentary government and politi- cal democracy. What was needed to restore Britain’s power was a rationalization of government as well as industry. To create national investment boards and planning mechanisms to equate production with consumption would be inadequate unless govern- ment were given the authority to act to solve the pressing economic problems. Although fascism would come to power by entirely constitutional means, the first action of the elected fascist govern- ment would be to pass a General Powers Bill which would enable the prime minister and a small inner cabinet of five to initiate legislation without recourse to Parliament. MPs were to have the constitutional check of being able to pass no-confidence motions when it was deemed necessary to call Parliament, but the talking shop and blocking powers of the party system were to be abolished. If a no-confidence motion was passed the king would create a new prime minister who would ask for the support of parliament. Political parties would be abolished and the second parliament of the fascist utopia would have MPs elected on a corporate basis. Mosley’s view of the function of MPs was that they would assume the leadership of local government. In the same manner as the prime minister would be responsible for the national govern- ment, so the MPs woud control local politics. The constitutional mechanism would significantly alter under fascism. MPs would no longer be elected on a geographical franchise; in the new corporate state each industry and profession would elect its own representatives to a National Chamber of Corporations. A corporation would also be established for each industry, compris- ing a third representation for labour and capital, with the consumer interest and government holding the balance of power.25 Mosley argued that the average voter did not understand the complexities of national politics and the current bartering for votes by the national parties was a farce. The electorate was only concerned with and interested in the issues which immediately confronted 24 Ibid., pp. 98–147; idem, Tomorrow We Live, pp. 23–52. 25 A.R. Thomson, The Coming Corporate State (London, n.d.). THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 124 them at work. National politics would best be understood by the technical experts who would gravitate towards the highest echelons of the corporate state, and whose importance would be institutionalized further by representation in the Assembly of Notables which would replace the House of Lords. Mosley saw British fascism as part of a managerial revolution.26 If fascism meant a revolution in the British state, then its future depended on the full utilization of the resources of the Empire. Mosley viewed the fascist Empire as a mercantile super-state where the dominions and colonies would happily supply primary products and raw materials in return for British manufactured goods. A Council of Empire would formulate policy for British imperial interests as a whole. What the political relationship should be between fascist Britain and the dominions was not spelt out as Mosley assumed that it was inconceivable that they could refuse the offer of preferential access to the British market. Mosley argued also that the ‘backward and illiterate populations’ of the colonies were totally unsuited for self-government and that both India and British African territories should remain under the tight political control of our imperial interest.27 The other fascist empires of Germany, Italy and Japan were considered to be Britain’s ‘natural’ allies in the world-wide spread of fascism. These countries should be encouraged to develop their own closed economic systems with adequate access to raw materials and it was argued their geographi- cal expansion would not compete with British imperial interests.28 This ideological core of fascism was philosophically rational- ized from the outset. Raven Thomson, Bill Allen and Mosley all argued that the heroic vitalist tradition behind Oswald Spengler’s grand panoramic vision of the rise and fall of civilizations and the imminent prophecy of the doom of the ‘Faustian culture’ of Europe was of vital importance to the understanding of contemporary history. Raven Thomson, who was much influenced by Spengler’s organic method, argued that the processes of nature were a series of biological integrations, and that with each new synthesis old 26 O. Mosley, The Greater Britain, pp. 17–35; idem, Tomorrow We Live, pp. 9–22; L.P. Carpenter, ‘Corporatism in Britain 1930–45’, Journal of Contemporary History, 11 (1976), p. 4; A. Booth and M. Pack, Employment, Capital and Economic Policy (Oxford, 1985), pp. 29–34. 27 O. Mosley, Tomorrow We Live, pp. 42–3. 28 O. Mosley, ‘The world alternative’, Fascist Quarterly, 2, 3 (1936), pp. 377−395. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 125 natural laws ceased to have their applications and new forms emerged; the highest form was civilization, which was a super- biological force directing the actions of men to its higher aims, the very realization of the Superman.29 Soon after writing this Thomson came to see fascism as the twentieth-century expression of the will to infinitude and Mosley as the leader who would transform the world. Mosley and Bill Allen both argued in typical fascist fashion that Spengler’s prognosis was far too pessimistic. Although he had cor- rectly analysed the cyclical pattern of history and the forces which led to the rise and fall of civilizations, his prognosis of the fate of the Faustian culture was wrong. Whereas Spengler had argued that the emergence of new Caesar figures could only delay the decline of the west, Mosley argued that his misunderstanding of the potentialities of modern science has led him to mistaken conclu- sions. For Mosley, Caesarism and Science could renew the youth of western culture and fascism was the only political system which could create a new civilization.30 Without fascism Spengler was right and Europe was doomed, a prey to the money power, its instrument democracy, and the predations of outer barbarians, particularly Russia. Mosley saw himself as one of the great ‘fact men’ of history leading us on to a higher destiny.31 If Mosley rationalized his historical vision with reference to a critical reaction to the writings of Oswald Spengler, then his philosophical justification was based on his interpretation of the writings of Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw. In Mosley’s view fascism represented a synthesis of Nietzschean and Christian values, of the will to power exemplified by the athleticism and discipline of the individual striving to become Superman, being harnessed into service for the community. The fascist movement was to represent the heroic elite who would guide and educate the rest of a society to a higher stage of evolution, where national planning and co-operation could lead to material and spiritual progress. For Mosley, each Blackshirt was to become the individual 29 ‘A. Raven’, (Thomson) Civilisation as Divine Superman (London, 1932), p. 33. 30 Drennan, BUF, Mosley and British Fascism, pp. 176–202; O. Mosley, Tomorrow We Live, pp. 69–72. 31 R. Thurlow, ‘Destiny and doom, Spengler, Hitler and “British” fascism’, Patterns of Prejudice, 14, 5 (Oct. 1981), pp. 17–33. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 126 cell of a collective Caesarism.32 Nicholas Mosley has argued that his father’s interpretation of Nietzsche sometimes failed to recognize the ironic attitude of the Superman concept. He often confused the need for self-control with power over others and he failed ultimately to resolve the problem of the function of evil.33 Whether or not this interpretation of Oswald Mosley’s view of Nietzsche is correct is beside the point. The fact is that Oswald Mosley took very seriously indeed the philosophical justification for his political career. At root the BUF was envisaged as the prototype of a new kind of humanity, and Mosley was a neo- Lamarckian who believed that through action and conscious striv- ing man could create a better society. That the BUF failed to live up to these standards was clear enough, however the political ideal- ism and belief in creative evolution which lay behind it was fundamental to Mosley’s revolt against the political establish- ment. The most notorious aspect of BUF ideology was the development of anti-semitism. This was not part of the initial programme of the BUF and only became pronounced after Mosley’s speech at the Albert Hall on 28 October 1934. Even then it took over a year for it to become a central part of a political campaign. Anti-semitism had been a potent force beneath the surface of BUF ideology since its inception and fascist journalists had often commented on the ‘alien’ menace in Blackshirt and Fascist Week, despite frequent pronouncements that Jew-baiting was forbidden ‘by order’.34 Contrary to the claims of several authorities, the use of political anti-semitism by the BUF has to be seen as a genuine belief rather than a cynical device to prop up an ailing movement. Mosley was not an ideological anti-semite but he became convinced that some Jews were acting against the British national interest through their role in international finance, and that others were trying to destroy the BUF through physical violence. Mosley presented his case against the Jews in terms of these ‘well-earned reputation’ argu- ments.35 The anti-semitic campaign of the BUF can best be 32 O. Mosley, ‘The philosophy of fascism’, Fascist Quarterly, 1, 1 (Jan. 1935), p. 43. 33 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale, pp. 38–9. 34 ‘BritainfortheBritish.Thealienmenance’,Blackshirt,30Sept.–6Oct.1933:‘Fascism and the Jews’, Blackshirt, 1 Apr. 1933. 35 ‘Blackshirts take up the challenge thrown down by Jewry’, Blackshirt, 2 Nov. 1934. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 127 understood as a result of the interaction of bitterly opposed fascist and anti-fascist elements, rather than simply a reaction to fascist scapegoating of Jews.36 Unlike the other major ingredients of fascist theorizing, Mosley’s attacks on the Jews were not highly conceptualized nor did anti- semitism ever represent a total ideological explanation. The criti- cisms of ‘big Jews’ and ‘little Jews’, of the alleged Jewish control of international finance and the British media, and the supposed Jewish dominance of the Communist and Labour party opposi- tion to the fascists was never developed beyond the loosest of conspiracy theories in Mosley’s populist rhetoric. Mosley thought the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a silly forgery and that the existence of a world-wide secret conspiracy throughout the ages was a ludicrous fantasy.37 However, despite a toning down of social and economic arguments against Jewish immigrants after 1937, he still declared the Jews to be largely responsible for the deterioration in Anglo-German relations in 1938–9.38 In so far as Mosley possessed a perspective on the Jews it prob- ably derived from Spengler’s influence. Mosley, like Spengler, believed that culture rather than race determined behaviour and that the ‘Oriental’ Jew was more alien to the British than any European nation.39 Spengler’s belief that different cultures could not be transposed on or influence each other was at the heart of the traditional hatred between Jews and Christians in European society. From such beliefs Mosley was to develop an apartheid perspective both with regard to Jews in the inter-war period and Africans after 1945. That he developed into an anti-semite in the 1930s was admitted before the Advisory Committee in 1940: In the fascist state, Special Commissions were to be set up to decide whether individual Jews were more Jewish or British in their attitude, and those who failed to pass the test would be expelled.40 If Mosley’s anti-semitism was less well conceptualized than most of his beliefs, this did not apply to some of his followers. True 36 C. Holmes, ‘Anti-semitism and the BUF’, in Lunn and Thurlow, British Fascism, pp. 114–34. 37 O. Mosley, My Life, p. 342. 38 O. Mosley, ‘For Britain peace and people – no war for Jewish finance’, Action, 2 Sept. 1939. 39 O. Mosley, Tomorrow We Live, p. 59. 40 PRO HO 283/13/38–42. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 128 believers in anti-semitism, both as an ideology and political weapon, were to be found at all levels of the BUF. In terms of ideology, special mention must be made of William Joyce’s ‘Letters from Lucifer’ in Blackshirt and two of the most virulent of all anti-semitic diatribes in the inter-war period, Major-General Fuller’s ‘The Cancer of Europe’ and A.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Apotheosis of the Jew’.41 As an hierarchical leadership movement Mosley’s views set the tone for the BUF, but discipline often broke down under confrontation situations and unofficial violence and co-operation with more extreme groups often resulted, particularly in the East End campaign. The reactions to Mosley’s ideas in British society were mainly of a moral and ethical nature. Few, if any, were prepared to discuss the practicalities or necessity of Mosley’s vision outside the fascist movement. The reaction from the British establishment was almost entirely negative. Stanley Baldwin’s view that Mosley was a cad and did not play the game was symptomatic of Conservative attitudes; from the left Beatrice Webb argued that Mosley’s paternalistic approach to the working class ran counter to trade union and co-operative traditions, and that he was ‘loose with women’, which offended both her and presumably the working class’s puritan sensibilities.42 Organizations like the January Club may have afforded some links to the establishment but had little lasting impact, given the negative view of British fascism taken by respectable opinion after the Olympia fiasco. Ideas such as the need for fascist man with new values cut no ice with traditional party politics and parliamentary government. In so far as the establishment found it necessary to respond to the positive content of Mosley’s ideas, the view taken was represented by the Cabinet Committee’s rejection of the Mosley Memorandum in 1930 (see pp. 40–2). Neither local government, nor landowners, nor planning authorities would have the neces- sary time for consultation in terms of immediate action on neces- sary public work projects. Improvements to transport infra- structure would have to take place in terms of a co-ordinated 41 Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, ‘The cancer of Europe’, Fascist Quarterly, 2, 1 (1935), pp. 65–81; A.K. Chesterton, ‘The apotheosis of the Jew’, British Union Quarterly, 1, 2 (1937), pp. 45–54. 42 Passfield Papers; B. Webb, unpublished diaries, vol. 44, p. 60, entry 29 May 1930, quoted in Oldfield, ‘Economic planning’, p. 247. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 129 integrated national policy. There was also no guarantee that unemployed workers wanted public works projects which would involve uprooting men and their families from their homes or of the necessary trade union co-operation in terms of the dilution of national agreements that would presumably result from such activ- ity. Overlapping jurisdiction between the Inner Cabinet and its technical experts with the traditional machinery of government would also cause friction.43 The establishment viewed Mosley’s ideas for economic national- ism as a non-starter for two reasons. First, Mosley’s memorandum represented a direct challenge to the Treasury view of economic policy in the 1930s and to the Labour government’s financial policy. Mosley argued that a sound domestic economy was a pre- requisite for our other problems to be solved. The Treasury and the Labour government took the view that, given that one-third industrial production was dependent on international trade and that we were not self-sufficient in the production of raw materials for our industry, our international commitments should be given the first priority. Hence the much maligned (by Mosley) Lord Privy Seal, J.H. Thomas, circulated a memorandum arguing that the real objection to financing public works through large public loans was that it hindered the chances of conversion of part of the War Loan debt to a less oppressive level, and that large public expenditures were the policy of those who wished to reduce real wages by inflation.44 While these arguments were not so important after the collapse of the Gold Standard in 1931, Mosley had exag- gerated when he argued that underconsumption was a root cause of unemployment. Real wages had remained constant in the 1920s whilst retail prices fell from 110.8 to 105.1 (1930=100).45 Second, the establishment would have viewed Mosley’s plan for economic nationalism as entirely impracticable. As early as 1902 Joseph Chamberlain had proposed to the Colonial Conference that the Empire should be an economically insulated unit similar to the German Zollverein and had been rebuffed by the Canadian prime minister. When Milner had proposed a Council of Empire to 43 PRO Cab. 24/203/104 (29). 44 PRO Cab. 24/211/120. 45 D.H. Aldcroft, The Inter-war Economy (London, 1970), p. 352. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 130 co-ordinate policies of foreign policy and defence in 1907 the idea was met with hostility by both Canada and South Africa.46 In the 1930s Mosley’s autarkic solution was even more of a pipedream. It went totally against the Empire’s economic interests. Dominions since the 1850s had been given the right to impose customs duties and had used this freedom to discriminate against the import of manufactured articles in order to protect their own nascent industrialization. At Ottawa in 1932, the dominions wished to continue to discriminate against British goods, which would have been anathema to Mosley. Similarly the economies of the national states of the Empire were by no means complementary, particularly given the steep turn in the terms of trade against primary producers in the inter-war period and Mosley’s insistence that the needs of British farmers should come before those of the Empire. How Australia was to diversify out of wool, which represented nearly half her exports, without industrialization and at the same time run a full-employment high- consumption economy was not explained by Mosley.47 Canada was supposed to exchange wheat for British coal in Mosley’s model, but how this was to rebound to Canada’s advantage was obscure, given the obvious geographical and economic advantages which coal from the USA would give Canada. The National government in fact did take some tentative steps in the direction advocated by Mosley, but these were achieved within the democratic framework and the pragmatic constraints of the economic system. Mild reflation after 1932 led to economic recovery with growth rates once more reverting to mid-Victorian norms. Protection was introduced for most imports in 1932 and the system of Empire Preference was evolved. Trade did switch from other markets to the Empire. The proportion of British exports sent to the Empire rose from 22 per cent to 47 per cent48 while the percentage of imports from non-Empire sources fell from 80 to 61 per cent.49 Almost one-quarter of the new capital raised 46 Farr, ‘Right-wing politics’, p. 12; A.M. Gollin, Proconsul in Politics. A Study of Lord Milner in Opposition and in Power (London, 1964), p. 139. 47 W.K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs II, Problems of Economic Policy Vol. 2 Pt. 1, (London, 1940), p. 251. 48 I.M. Drummond, British Economic Policy and the Empire 1919–39 (London, 1972), p. 18. 49 Ibid., pp. 20–1. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 131 in London was sent to the Empire.50 Mosley’s assumption that most of the British capital exported overseas had been sent to finance sweated labour in third world countries was misleading, as was his total misrepresentation of the function of overseas investment.51 The British Cabinet spent more time discussing mat- ters of economic policy than any other aspect of imperial affairs.52 Thus the British government did in fact prove to be highly flex- ible within the limits of practical politics and did co-operate with the dominions in trying to restructure the collapsing international economy. Mosley’s draconian solution of establishing an authoritarian state with drastically reduced individual liberties, expelling minorities, anti-semitism and the abolition of political opposition, was of little appeal to the bulk of the British people. The implied tightening of control over the dominions and colonies on which the system was based was totally unrealistic and would have been violently resisted by the rest of the Empire. Above all, Mosley’s prognosis of the imminent collapse of the economy and democracy proved to be unfounded. Mosley was perhaps unfortunate in that he founded his movements at the depth of the Depression. His mistaken economic analysis failed to account for rising real wages for those in work, as income fell less than the price level, the emergence of new industries which led to a sustained economic recovery in the 1930s and falling unemploy- ment apart from the worst regional blackspots. The National government proved to be acceptable to most of the population and the Labour party recovered from the débâcle of 1931. Even if Britain’s relative decline was only checked in the 1930s, the British people preferred democracy and political liberty to the fantasies of Mosley’s Spenglerian dreams. THE MUTINY AGAINST DESTINY 50 Ibid., p. 29. 51 O. Mosley, Tomorrow We Live, pp. 23–36. 52 I.M. Drummond, Imperial Economic Policy 1917–39 (London, 1974), p. 426. 6 The Hitler Fan Club Among the most controversial areas of the study of British fas- cism has been the relationship, if any, between the various anti-semitic and fascist movements and German nazism and Italian fascism, and the reasons for the internment without trial of over 750 individuals connected with these organizations for varying lengths of time after 1940. In particular the shadow of Sir Oswald Mosley’s lawyer has loomed large in previous discussions of these subjects. But while Mosley can be criticized for the secretive nature of his dealings with the fascist powers, and the fact that he was evasive and ambiguous about both the financing of the BUF and his relationship with other fascists, anti-semites, or peace move- ments in 1939–40 before the Advisory Committee, there is little evidence that fascists in Britain were directly implicated in potentially treasonable behaviour before they were interned. Fascists or traitors? Previous literature has dealt very delicately and with varying degrees of illumination about these sensitive subjects. The most important work on the first of these themes, Richard Griffiths’s Fellow Travellers of the Right, has shown that for much of the 1930s there was a widespread mood in sections of British public opinion that was not only strongly in favour of appeasement, but saw some positive virtue in the fascist regimes. Only with the col- lapse of the post-Munich euphoria did the extremists, who 133 included the fascists, become isolated from the dramatic change of opinion about Hitler in influential circles.1 Praise of this admirable work nevertheless requires qualification with regard to its descrip- tion of the fascist fringe, partly as a result of the release of new material. For instance, Griffiths’s assumption that individuals like Mosley and Sir Barry Domvile were nazi enthusiasts, primarily because of ideological sympathy, is questionable; both in fact saw friendship with Germany as a necessity if their primary considera- tion, the security of the British Empire, was to be maintained. Griffiths also fails to discuss adequately the crucial events of the phoney war period, particularly the secret meetings between representatives of most of the extremist organizations mentioned in his text, and how they were interpreted by the authorities. Equally, Mosley’s version of these matters can be criticized. His exceptional reticence about many aspects of British fascism was shown in his autobiography where he merely justified his public attitude towards Hitler and British isolationism.2 He provided lit- tle new material for Skidelsky’s stimulating analysis of BUF views on foreign policy in the 1930s.3 Nicholas Mosley stressed his father’s patriotism and, despite emphasizing his secretive behaviour, his partial covering up of the sources of funding of the BUF, and his ambiguous use of language, implied that although Sir Oswald may have been misguided in some of his actions, he was certainly no traitor.4 Recent releases of Home Office material on British fascism, the discovery of an important diary of an internee, Sir Barry Domvile, which was successfully hidden to avoid being taken by the Security Service in 1940, and work on the history of MI5 and its agents, have provided sufficient new information for a reassessment of these questions. Although much of this material must be viewed critically, particularly with regard to events in May 1940, it nevertheless provides a fascinating insight into the death throes of inter-war British fascism. At the outset two general points need emphasizing. First, for many British fascists there was a conflict of interest between their ideological sympathy with Italian fascism and German nazism and 1 R. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right (London, 1983), pp. 334–67. 2 O. Mosley, My Life (London, 1968), pp. 377–97. 3 R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (London, 1975), pp. 423–46. 4 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983), pp. 168–78. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 134 their deep sense of patriotism and British nationalism. Although Mosley assumed no conflict between Britain’s world-wide com- mitments and the continental imperialism of other fascist powers, Arnold Leese became critical not only of Mosley’s views but of Hitler’s actions in the Second World War. Many who desired peace at any cost joined the BUF in 1939, while others left because they could not equate their primary commitment to British patriotism with either Mosley’s position or their ideological sympathy for fascism. Second, there was little relationship between the strength of com- mitment to anti-semitism or racial nationalism and support for Hitler. William Joyce and A.K. Chesterton were two of the most virulent anti-semites in the BUF in the 1930s, yet while the former was found guilty of treasonable behaviour in working for the nazis in the war as the infamous Lord Haw Haw, Chesterton fought against Hitler in the British army in East Africa.5 Other anti- semites such as Douglas Reed were also vehemently anti-nazi.6 Indeed both the Social Credit movement and Reed during the war came to see Hitler as a Jewish agent whose function was to destroy Europe by placing it under the hegemony of the ‘golden international’ – Wall Street finance, the alleged power behind the American imperialism, and Russian communism. If fascists and anti-semites were not necessarily Hitler’s friends, then both the policies of the nazis and the attention of the Security Service allowed little scope for the emergence of a fascist-inspired fifth column in England. It is now clear that Hitler saw Britain as a potential ally until 1937 and forbade the Abwehr to develop an intelligence network there. After that date the relative success of Maxwell Knight’s B5b section of MI5 in infiltrating suspect organizations like the Link and the Right Club, and with partial effect the BUF, meant that the Security Service was always in control in monitoring both suspect ‘aliens’ and native fascists.7 The mass internment of both groups in 1940 was unnecessary; they were made scapegoats by the new Churchill government which was determined to maintain collapsing morale by a show of action in 5 D. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton. The making of a British fascist’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1982, pp. 351–8, D. Baker, Ideology of Obsession (London, 1996) p.?? 6 R. Thurlow, ‘Anti-Nazi anti-semite’, Douglas Reed file, Times Archive. 7 N. West, MI5 British Security Service Operations 1909–1945 (London, 1983), pp. 96–136; A. Masters, The Man who was M (Oxford, 1984), pp. 55–75. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 135 the face of the nazi onslaught in western Europe in April and May 1940. This represented an ad hoc response to crisis, not a conscious conspiracy orchestrated by the Security Service and the War Office.8 Similarly, it is not at all clear that the implications of BUF policy, if not its assumptions, with regard to nazi Germany were radically different from that of the British government until March 1939. Griffiths has shown that there were a large number of fellow- travellers who held favourable views of the dictators. Indeed, it was also true that Mosley’s continuing demand for appeasement still had considerable support even during the phoney war period. Revisionist accounts of British foreign policy in the 1930s suggest both that appeasement of the dictators was a popular policy and that public opinion fully supported the government position, at least until the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Even then, when the active appeasement policies which culminated in the Munich Settlement were shown to be a disastrous mistake, at least in terms of accepting the reliability and good faith of the dictators, Chamberlain was still able to keep control of the govern- ment and the support of his followers until the collapse of Norway in April 1940. Appeasement had been based on economic, political and strategic motives, stemming from the need to limit the costs of rearmament and the impact this would have on domestic welfare expenditure. The policy accepted the justice of German demands for a revision of the Versailles treaty, and the need for a settle- ment to ensure the peace of Europe and encourage the opening up of German markets for British exports. Appeasement reflected too the growing independence of the British dominions and their fear after the Chanak Crisis of being embroiled in further European conflict, and growing suspicion of French attempts to create a network of alliances in eastern Europe which had little relevance for Britain’s essential strategic interests. These factors were prob- ably uppermost in Chamberlain’s mind when deciding to move from Baldwin’s passive appeasement policy to more active attempts to produce a European settlement in 1937.9 8 P. and L. Gillman, Collar the Lot (London, 1980), pp. 115–30; R. Stent, A Bespattered Page (London, 1980), p. 253; PRO FO 371/25253/138–40. 9 W.R. Rock, British Appeasement in the 1930s (London, 1977), pp. 41–53; Royal THE HITLER FAN CLUB 136 The complete reversal of this policy followed, with the guarantee to Poland and other eastern European countries in 1939 after the collapse of Czechoslovakia. This was brought about both by the growing belief that Hitler had to be stopped, justified in terms of the traditional balance of power within Europe, and the govern- ment’s fear that the Labour party would seize the popular initiative in advocating a collective security policy in order to attempt to block the dictators.10 What is particularly interesting for our theme is that British fascists only began to diverge from the implications of govern- ment policy after March 1939. Although appeasement had been rooted in the moral and ideological dogma of liberalism11 while BUF ideas were based on the nationalist and neo-mercantilist beliefs in state power which had been resurrected in Die-hard and national efficiency ideas of the Edwardian era, the implications for foreign policy were similar up until 1939 with regard to the need for an understanding with the European dictators. Even after March 1939 it was not at all clear to what extent popular opinion followed the government’s lead. Although fascists were as divided as other sections of the community in response to the growing crisis in 1939, Mosley’s claim that his peace campaign produced a large increase in membership appeared to be accurate, although it also provoked significant defections as well. Those early attempts at gauging public opinion, the Mass Observation surveys and Home Office intelligence reports on civilian morale, suggested that there was considerable support for a negotiated peace with Hitler during the phoney war period.12 Only with the German invasion of Norway and the attack on western Europe did public opinion harden, and Mosley was physically assaulted at the Middleton and Prestwich by-election the week before he continued Institution of International Affairs, Political and Strategic Interests of the United Kingdom (London, 1939), pp. 3–99; M. Cowling, The Impact of Hitler (Cambridge, 1975), pp. 97–208; W. Mommsen and L. Kettenacker (eds), The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement (London, 1983), pp. 79–206 and 223–251. 10 M. Cowling, The Impact of Hitler, pp. 257–92; W.R. Rock, Appeasement on Trial (Hamden, Conn., 1966), pp. 31–45. 11 M. Gilbert, The Roots of Appeasement (London, 1966), pp. 4–5; C. Barnett, The Collapse of British Power (London, 1972). 12 File 39, Silvertown by-election, Feb. 1940, p. 12; File 59, North East Leeds by-election, Mar. 1940, p. 1, Mass Observation File Reports; I. McClaine, Ministry of Morale (London, 1979), pp. 34–61. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 137 was interned in May 1940.13 Poor organization and the failure to get his message across to the electorate accounted for the dismal performance of the BUF in the first two by-elections they fought in 1940, not popular opposition to his call for a negotiated settle- ment. It was the fifth-column scare after the rapid collapse of western Europe and the fact that public opinion, quite wrongly, perceived Mosley as a potential Quisling, which accounted for the drastic change in public perception of the BUF in May of that year. Of the groups operating on the fascist political fringe it was the ‘reactionary right’ who changed their admiration for Hitler into outright hostility at the onset of war. It was The Patriot, the journal started by the Duke of Northumberland in 1922, and the Militant Christian Patriots who seized on the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 as the sign that Hitler could not be trusted.14 Nesta Webster, who since 1933 had been praising Hitler because his anti- semitism showed that he was undermining the power behind Prussian militarism, and because he had cleared out all the pornographic literature from Germany,15 now changed her mind. In her view the position of The Patriot had always been the cor- rect one. Hitler had been wonderful for Germany but he had now sold his soul to the devil; evil influences around him, notably Goebbels, Streicher and Rosenberg, had gained the upper hand as the old Prussian vices reasserted themselves. Germany could no longer be trusted and Mr Chamberlain was forced to declare war against German aggression.16 What this signified was that the reactionary right’s approval of Hitler’s attack on alleged Jewish power was withdrawn because of the pact with Bolshevism, and the old Die-hard fear of Germany re-asserted itself. If the conservative fascist tradition was able to show that its basic patriotism outweighed its admiration for nazi anti-semitism, the problem was much more difficult for racial nationalists and extreme anti-semites. There was a thin dividing line between patriotism and treason, as the case of William Joyce was to testify. Yet the main organizations – the IFL, NL, RC and NSL – were all to resolve the problem in different ways despite some derisory and 13 File 154, Middleton and Prestwich by-election, 30 May 1940, pp. 10–12, Mass Observation File Reports. 14 PRO HO 144/21382/297. 15 N. Webster, Germany and England (London, 1938), pp. 3, 18. 16 Idem, ‘Germany and England’, Series II, The Patriot, Nov. and Dec. 1939. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 138 bitter division. It was to be the activities of one of these groups, the Right Club, trying to resolve this dilemma under the alert gaze of MI5, which finally led the government to put up the shutters on British fascism. The IFL provided an interesting example of the predicament of racial nationalists. For a man reputed to be the most rabid anti- semite in Britain, Arnold Leese adopted an increasingly critical view of Hitler’s actions in 1939–40 and of the ‘more German than the Germans’ faction in the IFL.17 Before the beginning of the war attitudes to Hitler had not caused any problem within the organiza- tion. Delegates from the IFL had attended Nuremberg rallies at the invitation of Streicher in 1935 and 1936. The IFL had close rela- tions with nazi organizations and agents in Britain, and the Brown House in Munich had arranged for IFL literature to be translated into various languages. However, although MI5 used almost the full range of their techniques to observe the IFL, including the use of agents and postal intercepts, it found little of significance. The nazis provided no funds, nor did they use the organization to infiltrate agents into Great Britain. The close interest of the Security Service did lead to the production of a fascinating report, however, on the nature of the organization in 1942, from which much of our knowledge of this subject is derived.18 Leese stated at the outset of the war that his primary loyalty was to king and country. It was indeed the supposed insult to his patriotic instincts which led to his violent reaction to the order for his internment in June 1940. He avoided detention for over four months and was only arrested after a violent struggle. He then proceeded to smash up his police cell in protest at the loss of his liberty without due process of law. He wrote later to one of his followers that he was amazed that patriots like Ramsay and Domvile had co-operated with the Security Service and appealed to the Advisory Committee, although this action was only to be expected from Mosley and Raven Thomson.19 For Leese, Mosley was an ideal candidate for an English Quisling, and he meant this as a term of abuse. He also thought no man of honour would 17 Weekly Angles, 9 Sept. 1939. 18 PRO HO 45/24967/105. 19 Letter, A.S. Leese to A. Gittens, ‘30 Oct.’, n.d., File 3574, Britons Library. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 139 have done what Joyce had done.20 Leese was proud to have taken the same attitude to the Security Service as Rudolf Hess and one or two minor fascists like Knott. For Leese the Second World War was quite simply a ‘Jew’s War’. It had been caused by the internationalism of the Jewish money power and its object was to destroy the one oppositional force to its world hegemony. However, this did not mean that Hitler should be supported unreservedly. Leese was against giving back the mandated territories and he criticised ‘big money’ (Mosley) fas- cism for suggesting it.21 He was also against the Nazi-Soviet Pact and thought Hitler had taken leave of his senses by allying with Jewish Bolshevism. This mistake was compounded by the nazi invasion of the ‘holy ground’ of Finland and Norway in 1939–40. As he stated to Beamish, Hitler had been a marvel but was no longer one.22 Leese’s attitude to Hitler and Joyce was to alter significantly by 1945, but in 1940 he was highly critical of both. Leese’s attitude to Hitler in 1940 was not shared by all his fol- lowers. Many in the IFL (or the ‘Angles Circle’ as it called itself after September 1939) placed hatred of the Jews and admiration for Hitler above patriotism in their response to the war. Individuals like Harold Lockwood, Elizabeth Berger, Tony Gittens and Bertie Mills were openly critical of Leese at IFL meetings. All these were later interned. The most significant of these in relation to the events of 1939–40 was Mills. He was to be one of the most active in the attempt to form a united alliance of the fascists, anti-semites and some of the peace movements in this period. The position of many in the IFL was summed up by a correspondent of Leese in 1940, who argued that he did not want to be ruled by Germans or other foreigners but that was nevertheless preferable to being ground under the heel of the Jewish financier and his pimps and proselytes.23 For the NL the war quickly led to a cessation of activities. Like most of the other fascist, anti-semite and pro-German organiza- tions, apart from the BUF, the NL officially disbanded soon after the outbreak of war but its leading members continued to meet in the house of Oliver Gilbert until his internment on 22 September. 20 Weekly Angles, 24 Feb. 1940. 21 Weekly Angles, 2 Mar. 1940. 22 PRO HO 45/24967/105. 23 Ibid. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 140 Two members of this extremist organization, William Joyce and Margaret Bothamley, had already gone to Germany and many of the other members had difficulty reconciling their extreme anti- semitism with their basic patriotism. There was a wide range of views amongst them on how they were to react now their country was at war. Few were willing to bear arms against Germany but the majority felt that nothing should be done which would prejudice Britain’s interest. They should play their part in civilian defence and humanitarian work but should try to convince those with whom they worked of the ‘real nature’ of the causes of the war. Some, such as J.C. Vaneck, Oliver Gilbert and Aubrey Lees, were prepared to go further and Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay MP enlisted their support in the continuing dissemination of anti- semitic propaganda. This was to be distributed among MPs, clubs and the Services and leaflets and adhesive labels were to be distributed secretly during the night.24 At a meeting on 11 September it was agreed to disband the NL and to encourage all members to sink their former differences with Mosley and join the BUF.25 Ramsay’s other secret society, the Right Club (RC) continued in a clandestine form. Its original aim of purging the Conservative party of all Jewish influence and of infiltrating the establishment had been reduced to a secret operation of disseminating Ramsay’s anti-semitic and pro-nazi propaganda.26 Ramsay’s concern was that the Jews as a result of a world-wide conspiracy were forcing on Europe a war in which millions of gentiles would be slaughtered. For him it was a patriotic crusade ‘to save this country from the strangling tentacles of the Jewish octopus’.27 The other small racial nationalist and extreme anti-semitic organization of some relevance for this theme was the National Socialist League (NSL). This was the main vehicle for William Joyce’s politics in 1937–8 after his split with Mosley, and was led jointly by John Beckett and himself. Joyce argued in National Socialism Now that Hitler was a great German patriot but that an English national socialism was needed for this country.28 After he 24 PRO HO 144/21382/298. 25 PRO HO 144/22454/85–6. 26 PRO HO 144/22454/87. 27 PRO HO 144/22454/109, PRO HO 283/3. 28 W. Joyce, National Socialism Now (London, 1937), p. 15. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 141 fled to Germany in July 1939 he wrote that England was now morally decaying and in terminal political decline and that only Hitler’s Germany could provide the leadership and drive for the reconstruction of Europe.29 His defeatist propaganda as Lord Haw Haw on Radio Hamburg was to provide entertainment and an alternative source of information for many during the phoney war period, but once the war started in earnest he was to be perceived as more sinister than amusing.30 Yet before his decision to replace Mosley with Hitler, Joyce had been involved with Beckett in an attempt to broaden the influence of national socialism through an alliance with Lord Lymington’s pseudo-left-wing peace organizations. The formation of the British Council against European Commitments at the height of the Czechoslovakia crisis directly linked the NSL with Lymington’s English Array. Although Joyce soon left, Beckett became deeply involved with Lymington and his New Pioneer magazine in 1939. Together with A.K. Chesterton, H.T. Mills, Lymington and George Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers, this group published a mixture of pro- German, anti-semitic and economic reform articles. Lymington fol- lowed the romantic occultist and back-to-the-land beliefs of Rolf Gardiner’s native volkish movement, English Mistery, and Pitt Rivers was a colonial administrator and anthropologist who was strongly influenced by eugenics and a belief in the conspiracy theory of history.31 In the summer of 1939 Beckett left to form a new political move- ment, the British People’s Party (BPP) with Lord Tavistock (later the Duke of Bedford), Ben Greene and John Scanlon. Greene, Beckett and Scanlon were all ex-members of the ILP. and the latter two were ex-followers of Mosley. Together with Tavistock’s com- mitment to Social Credit, the new party was dedicated to the cause of social reform at home and peace abroad.32 Its ideas were similar to those of the New Pioneer group but had a more radical tinge. Its signifiance was that it provided an alternative focus for the 29 Idem, Twilight over England (Metairie, n.d.), pp. 129–42. 30 Survey of broadcasts from Hamburg, December 1939 BBC’, J.W. Hall (ed.), Trial of William Joyce (London, 1946), pp. 302–7; File 65, p. 2; ‘Public and private opinion on Haw Haw’ Mar. 1940, 29, Mass Observation File Reports. 31 R. Griffiths, Fellow Travellers, pp. 319–29. 32 Ibid., pp. 351–3. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 142 peace movement to that given by Mosley. Even though some left- wing opponents could tar it with the same fascist brush, the pres- ence of Beckett as Tavistock’s right-hand man meant that potential collaboration between the two movements would always be dif- ficult, for Beckett still felt bitter hostility for Mosley since being made redundant from the BUF in 1937. Of all the groups on the fascist fringe of British politics it was only Mosley’s BUF that developed the coherent and systematic views on foreign policy which Skidelsky has seen as providing a genuinely credible alternative to government attitudes towards the dictators in the 1930s. Mosley argued that national socialism and fascism were essentially nationalist doctrines whose substance differed more widely between nations than international creeds in the past.33 The BUF‘s policy was born of British inspiration and reflected her com- mitments alone, and was governed by the necessity of protecting Britain’s vital interests in her Empire. Because Britain had world- wide imperial duties her power depended on protecting her geographically diffuse territories so it was vital for Britain to be on friendly terms with other potential rivals. She should no longer interfere in quarrels which did not clash with her vital interests, namely the development of the Empire. Mosley was particularly criti- cal of the moral and international approach to foreign affairs of the dominant liberal ethos, and the British obsession with the balance of power in Europe, which he saw as irrelevant to her strategic requirements. He told the Advisory Committee in 1940 that he did not actively oppose the fact that Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Belgium, Holland and France,34 because European politics were not Britain’s vital interest. According to Mosley the fascist powers, namely Germany, Italy and Japan, should be encouraged to expand. German and Italian expansion, particularly in eastern Europe, were of no interest to Britain and their growing power would lead eventually to the col- lapse of the USSR, particularly if it was encircled through an alli- ance with Japan.35 Japan should be encouraged to expand in northern China, thus avoiding a conflict with Britain’s Far Eastern interests. 33 O. Mosley, Tomorrow We Live (London, 1938), p. 2. 34 PRO HO 283/14/83–4. 35 O. Mosley, ‘The world alternative’, Fascist Quarterly, 2, 3 (July 1936), pp. 377–95. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 143 Mosley argued that these nations with their disparate interests had no incompatible problems which would lead to conflict between them. Hitler viewed Britain as a potential ally and we should encourage good relations by offering to return to Germany the mandated territories given to us at Versailles. Even if his assessment of relations between fascist powers should prove optimistic, Mosley declared, the insurance policy of a thoroughgoing rearmament would deter any potential aggressor from attacking the British Empire. Since 1933 he had called repeat- edly for a rapid expansion of all the Armed Services so that the resources of the Empire could be adequately protected.36 Mosley contrasted this ‘appeasement from strength’ policy with the flac- cid weakness of the National government’s position in the 1930s, whose failure to start a rearmament policy early enough meant that by 1940 England was in danger of being reduced to a ‘dungheap’.37 Mosley’s views represented an alternative foreign policy which was totally ignored by the political establishment. This no doubt derived from the unofficial boycott in the media of his ideas after the 1934 Olympia meeting and from the natural suspicion that Mosley was a tool of Italian fascist and German nazi propaganda. It was also a reflection of the fact that Mosley had broken the rules of the political game and now operated outside the parameters of conventional discourse. The content of Mosley’s views was based on very different assumptions to those of the political and diplomatic world. Not only was he opposed to the strategic basis on which British foreign policy since the eighteenth century had been formed, and the dominant ethos of liberal moral- ism and internationalism with which it had been conducted, but he presented his arguments in terms of an economic explanation of political decision-making which often degenerated into crude anti-semitism, particularly at movements of crisis. Thus an interpretation of the National government’s foreign policy in terms of the Hobsonian theory of imperialism, which itself had no explanatory value in terms of what was really happening in the 36 Blackshirt, 24 June–1 July 1933; Fascist Week, 26 Jan.–1 Feb. 1934; Blackshirt, 5 July 1935. 37 PRO HO 45/24895/10. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 144 international economy in the 1930s, degenerated into the argu- ment that Britain had been forced into war by a quarrel of Jewish finance against Germany because the nation was controlled by Jews. Poland was supposedly a Jewish-controlled state under which millions were oppressed and the Nazi-Soviet Pact represented a Jewish communist plot to create war between Britain and Germany.38 Mosley was later to justify his foreign policy stand in the 1930s by arguing that it was the only credible alternative which would avoid the mass slaughter of European population and would save the continent from American imperialism and Russian com- munism. He argued that this was a patriotic policy designed to preserve the integrity of the British Empire. Mosley’s arguments were close to the case put forward by Admiral Sir Barry Domvile, whose pro-German Link organization and connection with the Anglo-German Fellowship was based on the assumption that Britain needed to be friendly with the expansionary fascist powers if she was to preserve her Empire.39 Domvile was to write for Action in 1939–40 and to co-operate closely both with Mosley and with other elements of the patriotic neo-fascist fringe in the British Council for Christian Settlement in Europe. The major dif- ference between Domvile and Mosley was purely technical; the former emphasized the importance of the navy whilst the latter stressed air power as the most important part of Britain’s defences. There can be little doubt that the views of Mosley and Domvile on foreign policy and defence were sincere and persuasively argued. The Advisory Committee itself acknowledged this and said that Mosley’s views and actions were not illegal. However, apart from the increasing moral revulsion with which politicians and significant public opinion came to view the dictators’ actions after Munich showed their word could not be trusted, there were a number of factors which meant that Mosley’s outlook could not be seen as a credible alternative. Most important was the fact that the constant British attempts to unify dominion attitudes had met with increas- ing rebuffs in the inter-war period. Not only were Canada and South Africa showing marked differences to British interests in political policy, but Australia and New Zealand were very concerned about 38 PRO HO 144/21429/6; HO 45/24895/22. 39 Admiral Sir B. Domvile, Stand by your Moat (London, 1937). THE HITLER FAN CLUB 145 Japanese intentions in the Pacific since the lapse of the Anglo- Japanese treaty.40 The Empire, hardly a figment of the imagination in terms of power politics, was nevertheless a disunited force contain- ing disparate beliefs. Mosley’s view of the Empire was to impose British interests and the fascist system of government on the dominions, the colonies and India, but the reality of growing independence within and between various elements meant that only a very loose confederation based on consent not force was a tangible option. Mosley’s view of leadership was alien not only to the British political tradition but to the development of the dominions as well. If Mosley’s assumptions could be criticized as unrealistic in the political world of the 1930s, they could also be attacked from the nationalist perspective. Mosley seemed unaware that the leading British geopolitical theorist, Halford Mackinder, who based his analysis on similar neo-mercantile assumptions as the fascists in relating economic resources to strategic interests, had come to dia- metrically opposed conclusions. For Mackinder the control of the heartland of Eurasia, a combined German-Russian empire, would directly threaten Britain’s interests and because of the geographi- cal concentration of resources such a combination would be a more powerful force than the scattered units of the British Empire.41 It was Hitler and not Mosley who was influenced by this view. It is now clear that although there were lingering suspicions, the Government and the Security Service accepted much of Mosley’s explanation that his actions derived from genuine patriotic motives. His appeal before the Advisory Committee on Internment in 1940 developed mainly into an examination of the charge of foreign influence on the BUF. Mosley valiantly defended himself, arguing that even the most obvious similarities between BUF style, uniform and policy and their foreign counterparts in fact derived solely from British roots. The Committee was not convinced by such explanation,42 and was very suspicious of the arrangements 40 R.Thurlow,‘TheReturnofJeremiah’,inBritishFascism,ed.K.LunnandR.Thurlow (London, 1980), p. 107; Barnett, pp. 121–234. 41 P. Hayes, ‘The contribution of British intellectuals to fascism’, in Lunn and Thurlow, British Fascism, pp. 183–4; H. Mackinder, ‘The geographical pivot of history’, Geographical Journal, 23, 4 (Apr. 1904), pp. 421–44; idem, Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, 1919), pp. 191–235. 42 PRO HO 45/24891/40–5. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 146 the BUF made to pay foreign currencies into a secret account and the supposed lack of knowledge Mosley professed about the sources of the movement’s finances. They viewed rather more charitably Mosley’s explanations of his negotiations, via his second wife the former Diana Mitford, with the nazis to set up a com- mercial radio station to beam programmes to Britain from Germany. The commercial profits from this were to be used to fund the BUF. They also concluded that Mosley’s policy of oppos- ing the war while asking his followers not to take any action which would hinder its prosecution was the product of a very clever mind determined to keep the BUF within the law.43 The general conclusion of the Advisory Commission was that Mosley had been frank with them when it suited his purpose and evasive when he wished to hide or cover up his actions. We now know that Mosley was indeed funded by Mussolini in the early years of the movement and that the BUF‘s ‘Mind Britain’s Business’ campaign in support of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia was more than an altruistic display of sympathy. Similarly, Mosley’s sincere opposition to the Second World War nevertheless had a material side, since war meant the loss of his investment and ingenious plans to corner the market in com- mercial radio advertising. Mosley’s secrecy and the covering-up activity showed his obsession with minimizing the damage the Security Service could inflict. As well as hiding the laundering of Mussolini’s lira, the secret negotiations over the wireless franchise and his wedding in Berlin in 1936, Mosley went out of his way to confuse the Security Service. When he discovered a nazi agent in the organization in 1936 he immediately sacked him and he ostentatiously avoided the German embassy and known nazi agents in England. Presumably he was unaware that Joyce was sending highly unreliable intelligence about the BUF to Berlin in 1936. It appeared that the BUF had no links with the nazis and they certainly received no financial assistance from them. Diana Mosley was a personal friend of Hitler and she was instrumental in gain- ing the wireless franchise but there is no evidence of other links to them. Mosley’s later comment that he would rather die fighting 43 PRO HO 45/24891/63. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 147 for his country against invaders than be a Quisling is understand- able, as was his belief that long before that situation would have arisen after an invasion he would have been killed by the Security Service.44 Mosley was only interested in power after a negotiated peace which left the integrity of the British Empire intact. Hitler’s attitude to defeated nations and most other fascist movements in western Europe made that eventuality unlikely.45 The Patriots International, 1939–1940 If German influence and connection proved to be problematic, the committal of illegal behaviour by fascist groups in the war was even more negligible. Only a handful of minor cases of BUF person- nel trying to help the Germans were discovered by the Security Service.46 Mosley told the Advisory Committee that he thought only 5 per cent of the membership of his organization were suspect. MI5 officers told the Home Secretary that between one-quarter and one-third of members were security risks.47 Even with the imminent danger of a German invasion and the fifth column scare this vague accusation seemed insufficient evidence for making members of the BUF the main victims of the Tyler Kent affair, an event with which they had no connection whatsoever and which will be fully discussed in the next chapter. This fact makes the enigmatic secret annexe to the Cabinet minutes of 22 May 1940 more mysterious. This argued that Ramsay had been involved in ‘treasonable practices’ and was ‘in relations with’ Sir Oswald Mosley although on another matter. Whether Tyler Kent is viewed as an American patriot, an isolationist or a Soviet agent, he was obviously a serious security risk. Ramsay too was in a position to inflict great damage if he made public Tyler Kent’s documents. Yet Mosley had been assessed by MI5 as at worst a clever but misguided patriot and the Home Secretary had only recently emphasized in the Cabinet that he was very clear in his instructions to members not to impede the war effort. Anthony Masters has argued that the linking of Ramsay with 44 N. Longmate, If Britain had Fallen (London, 1975), p. 116. 45 D. Littlejohn, The Patriotic Traitors (London, 1972), pp. 335–8. 46 West, MI5 Operations, pp. 161–3. 47 PRO HO 283/16/88. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 148 Mosley represented an attempt by Maxwell Knight and MI5 to convince the War Cabinet that a major right-wing coup was being planned, and that there was no concrete evidence for this accusa- tion.48 A close survey of the first three releases of Home Office papers on British fascism does produce one document which throws some light on this matter. This is a Special Branch report of 25 June 1940, in the Commandant Mary Allen file. It states that when Aubrey Lees was detained on 20 June 1940 under DR 18b he was found to be in possession of two typewritten letters, unheaded and unsigned, concerning meetings at 48 Ladbroke Grove, W11, in March, April and May 1940. Lees refused to discuss the object of these meetings but said they were secret affairs and stated that amongst the people attending were Sir Oswald Mosley and Commandant Mary Allen. What was described as ‘a very reliable informant’ reported that these meetings were convened by Mosley and Ramsay and attended by leading members of the various pro-nazi and anti-semitic organizations in Britain. The object was to secure the greatest possible collabora- tion between them and make preparations for a coup d’état.49 On her Advisory Committee appeal Commandant Allen denied hav- ing attended such meetings but thought the address was the home of Mrs Dacre-Fox who ran an anti-vivisection society.50 This was a known fascist front organization and ‘Professor Dacre-Fox’ was later interned (pseudonyms for Dudley and Norah Elam). One other released Special Branch report refers to a secret meet- ing between prominent fascists and anti-semites on 7 February 1940. This was convened by Mosley and amongst those who attended were Francis Hawkins, Domvile, Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, Aubrey Lees, the Earl of Mar and Norman Hay. This was similar to a previous meeting held on 9 November 1939. The chief deci- sion taken at the 7 February meeting was to fight Silvertown and Leeds North East by-elections.51 The important point about this report is that its reliability with regard to who attended the 7 February meeting can be confirmed from an independent source, the diary of Admiral Sir Barry Domvile. The entry for 7 February 1940 states that Domvile attended a Mosley meeting and that 48 Masters, The Man who was M, p. 90. 49 PRO HO 144/21933/330. 50 PRO HO 144/21933/418. 51 PRO HO 45/24895/16. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 149 amongst others attending were Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, Francis Hawkins and Aubrey Lees.52 Domvile also attended another Mosley meeting on 8 November (the discrepancy of one day was probably accounted for by the fact that Special Branch reports were sometimes written the day after events took place). The most interesting fact about this meeting was that Mosley and Ramsay were the main speakers. The evidence in Domvile’s diary suggests that he was one of the motivating forces behind the initiative to gain a greater degree of unity amongst the fascist and anti-semitic movements. Indeed, his organization the Link was aptly named. Not only did it provide a channel for Ribbentrop and Goebbels to influence British public opinion,53 but Domvile saw his role as the key link man between the various groups. He wrote for the BUF newspaper under the pseudonym ‘Canute’ or ‘Naval Expert’, he spoke for the BPP candidate in the Hythe by-election, he was on friendly terms with Ramsay, Norman Hay, Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers and Tavistock, as well as founding the Link. As a retired admiral, an ex-assistant secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence 1912–14, Director of Naval Intelligence 1927–30, and president of the Royal Navy College at Greenwich 1932–4, his patriotism and the accuracy of his diary seem beyond reproach. His daily addiction to the writing of his diary spanned his long active life from the 1890s to the early 1970s; it can now be consulted at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. What information can be gleaned from the Home Office Papers confirms much of the detail of Domvile’s account, as do the internment files on Aubrey Lees and Neil Francis Hawkins. Domvile’s diary for the phoney war period is a significant docu- ment because it lists many of the people who attended the meet- ings he was at, as well as some cryptic references to the discussion. The general picture which emerges from the diary is that there were loose connections between fascists, anti-semites and peace movements from before the war. Many BUF members helped H. St John Philby, the diplomat and noted Arabian explorer, when he obtained 578 votes for the BPP at the Hythe by-election in July 52 Dom. 56, 7 Feb. 1940. 53 S. Wiggins, ‘The Link’, MA diss., University of St Andrews, 1985, p. 6. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 150 1939.54 Domvile attended a dinner with Mosley when Ramsay was also present on the 26 July 1939.55 In the early phoney war period the diary lists the meetings of the British Council for Christian Settlement in Europe with ex-Mosleyites like Gordon Canning, ex-members of the closed Link and NL, and members of the BPP.56 After this attempt to rally public support for a peace campaign had been exposed as being dominated by well-known fascists and anti-semites, Domvile took the initiative in persuad- ing Mosley to organize meetings of the pro-nazi and anti-semitic organizations and other fellow-travellers of the right who desired an end to the war.57 These meetings took place at fortnightly intervals between October and December 1939.58 The first on 26 October, when it was decided to hold regular meetings of the group, was attended by the leading members of the BUF, the Link, the BPP, the New Pioneer group, Information and Policy, the RC and the NL. Those who attended some of these meetings represented many of those categorized as extremists in Griffiths’s Fellow Travellers of the Right. They included Ramsay, Domvile, Lymington, Lane Fox Pitt- Rivers, Mills, Lees, C.G. Grey of the Aeroplane, Commandant Mary Allen, Major-General Fuller, Francis Yeats Brown, A.P. Laurie, Norman Hay, Lady Pearson, Lady Dunn and Francis Hawkins. The meetings were deliberately kept secret as all present were very worried by the threat of internment should their activi- ties be made public. From Domvile’s list it is possible to deduce that the BUF, the Link and the NL appeared to be more enthusiastic participants than the Tavistock and Lymington groups. After Christmas 1939 Domvile’s diary is less suggestive. He attended fewer meetings, which may not be that significant as the handwriting deteriorates and he appears to have been ill for part of the winter. What is significant is that Ramsay was not mentioned as attending the two meetings of 17 January and 7 February although other ex-members of the Link and the NL were.59 A fresh impetus to the flagging peace hopes of the extremists was provided 54 Dom. 46, 14 and 21 July 1939. 55 Ibid., 26 July 1939. 56 Ibid., 19 Sept. and 18 Oct. 1939; PRO HO 144/22454/87–8. 57 Dom. 56, 26 Oct. 1939. 58 Ibid., 26 Oct. 1939, 8 Nov. 1939, 22 Nov. 1939, 6 Dec. 1939. 59 Ibid., 17 Jan. 1940, 7 Feb. 1940. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 151 by Lord Tavistock as a result of his obtaining Hitler’s draft peace proposals from the German legation in Dublin and the published correspondence resulting with the Home Secretary.60 This set off a flurry of activity and Domvile arranged a meeting between Mosley, Tavistock, Mills and himself on 13 March. At this meet- ing Mosley was reported as saying that Lloyd George would have to come back and lead a ‘Peace Government’.61 However, apart from attending a few Information and Policy meetings and reports of tea with Mrs Ramsay there are no significant reports of meet- ings before his internment. It is also apparent from ‘Dom 56’ that Domvile was well aware of the significance of this volume of his diary. Although he held eccentric views on Hitler and the Jews, which were transformed into a peculiar personal conspiracy theory by the experience of internment, Domvile was certainly no fool with regard to intel- ligence matters. He was highly critical of British Intelligence when Director of Naval Intelligence and he blamed falling out with Vernon Kell, the Head of MI5, between the wars as one of the causes of his early retirement. The reason why volume 56 of the diary can now be consulted is because, as he explained inside the original cover of the book before it was rebound, it was hidden under the henhouse just before Special Branch arrested him, and although gnawed by rats, it was then taken indoors by the ‘faithful household’.62 Domvile was fully aware of the significance of the list of names and meetings he produced in his diary. Yet the very fact that he felt able to write about them at the time, given his previous intimate experience of the Security Service, strongly suggests that nothing of an illegal nature could have been discussed at these meetings. The fact that he was the instigator of these secret meetings and that he mentioned in his diary some relevant details of the first of them (where MI5 alleged treasonable activities were discussed on 15 March), would support this interpretation. Domvile knew that fascists and fellow travellers were prime candidates to be made scapegoats to public opinion for the fifth column scare, and the 60 Tavistock, The Fate of a Peace Effort (High Wycombe, 1940). 61 Dom, 56, 13 March 1940. 62 Dom. 56, original cover. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 152 immediate crisis which faced the British government in April and May 1940. Ramsay too was well aware of the risks he was taking with his continued anti-semitic campaign, and indeed he gave Tyler Kent the membership list of the RC because he thought he would have diplomatic immunity. This, however, did not prove to be the case. There is evidence that Ramsay co-operated closely with Mosley during the last half of 1939. Not only does the Domvile diary suggest that Ramsay played a leading role in the peace campaign, but Special Branch reported that the NL side of Ramsay’s opera- tions closed down and several ex-members joined the BUF, most notably at the Maida Vale branch.63 Much the same appears to have occurred to the anti-semites and fascists who were in the Link. Special Branch reported that Mosley and Ramsay had reached agreement on 16 September on a common policy towards the war. They agreed on a continued peace campaign whilst avoid- ing engaging in activity which could be construed as treasonable. The RC were, however, apparently more suspicious of Mosley and unlike the NL were unprepared to sink former differences and regard him as their new leader. The split response to Mosley as a unifying leader of the anti- semitic and fascist groups campaigning for a negotiated peace with Hitler was typical of Ramsay’s judgement. As the intelligence reports of NL meetings signified, he oscillated between a wild extremism which appeared to sanction the use of force against the Jews, the need to purify the Conservative party by whatever means came to hand, and a rigid constitutionalism which warned his followers not to use illegal methods. His failure to use the Tyler Kent documents showed similar indecision. There appeared to be an unresolved tension between his fanatical hatred of the Jews, which developed in 1938, and his undoubted patriotism. The Security Service argued that he wished to co-operate with the Germans in the conquest and government of Great Britain,64 but his contact with Germany appeared to be limited to one dinner at the German embassy and such sentiments were against his deepest instincts. Ramsay was an eccentric patriot, a brave soldier who had been injured in the First World War, and for whom the concept 63 PRO HO 144/22454/86. 64 A.H.M. Ramsay, The Nameless War (London, 1952), p. 102. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 153 of treason was anathema. Yet virulent hatred of the Jews led him to sympathize with the rationale behind nazi anti-semitism. He wished to cleanse Britain of Jews without the help of the nazis. The apparent decline in the contact between Mosley and Ramsay after Christmas 1939 may have represented a cooling in relation- ships. At no stage was Mosley impressed by the crude anti- semitism of Ramsay, and the latter or his supporters may have been resentful of the intellectual and political leadership of the BUF. Alternatively they may have reached a conscious decision to try to confuse the Security Service, with Mosley and Ramsay decid- ing not to meet together but with the latter’s interests being looked after by Aubrey Lees or other ex-NL members. Whatever occurred, there are signs that Mosley and the BUF began to see the NL as an infernal nuisance and as a potential lightning conductor for increased public hostility to the BUF after April 1940. Raven Thomson suggested at a BUF meeting that a propaganda attack should be made on the NL people, accusing them of being nazi traitors while emphasizing the BUF‘s absolute loyalty to Britain and the Empire.65 Mosley’s own explanation before the Advisory Committee of his political behaviour in the 1939–40 period represented another area where he was evasive and told less than the whole truth. There were elements of ambiguity in the explanation he offered. On relations with Ramsay he said quite truthfully that he knew nothing of the ‘American business’, as he called the Tyler Kent affair, until he was told Ramsay’s version of it in Brixton. He claimed that he did not get to know Ramsay until they were interned, as he ran his own show, although he had been to see him to ask questions in the House of Commons. On another occasion he said that Ramsay had been to see him four or five times in the office to discuss questions of mutual concern such as anti- semitism. He now liked Ramsay personally but implied that he had very violent views about Jews and freemasons.66 He admitted to working with Domvile, who would often visit him in his office and published articles by him in Action.67 Mosley’s views of the 65 PRO HO 45/24895/34. 66 PRO HO 283/14/85–6. 67 PRO HO 283/14/91. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 154 NL were more vitriolic. He thought they were a parasitic organiza- tion who took to extremes the views of the BUF, and that they made the whole principled stand of the peace campaign look fool- ish.68 What was clearly evasive in Mosley’s answers was that he never at any stage admitted holding meetings with other organizations, despite the long list of such events chronicled in Domvile’s diary. Occasionally some intimations of these occasions emerged in his answers. Thus his various attacks on the NL and other small socie- ties, whom he portrayed mainly as those who had been thrown out of the BUF, included a very interesting comment on one who had attended NL and BUF meetings. This was Aubrey Lees, in whose possession Special Branch found the invitations to secret meet- ings. For Mosley, Lees was ‘absolutely certifiable’, although whether this was a result of his extremist views or of the fact that he opposed Mosley’s line on every occasion is not clear from the context in which he made the remark.69 It is clear, however, that although Mosley painted others as extremists and himself as thoroughly patriotic, Ramsay told the Committee of some of the details of the conversation he had with him, one of which related to Mosley inviting Ramsay to take over Scotland ‘in certain circumstances’.70 The Advisory Committee used this example as an indication of their belief that Mosley had been far from frank with them. If Mosley was somewhat reticent about his relations with other fascist groups and fellow travellers before the Advisory Committee, others were more forthcoming. Neil Francis Hawkins said that he had met Lord Tavistock about co-ordinating the activities of those groups who had views about the war similar to the BUF. Various meetings were held in the early part of the war to concentrate the efforts of those who believed in the movement for negotiating peace. Francis Hawkins who had represented the British Fascists in the merger talks with the New Party in 1932 and had experi- ence of such activities was a natural choice for Mosley to make as the BUF‘s chief negotiator. Hawkins also told the committee that 68 PRO HO 283/16/72. 69 PRO HO 283/13/73. 70 PRO HO 45/24891/49. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 155 at one of these meetings Lord Lymington, Sir Barry Domvile, Lord Tavistock and Bertie Mills were present.71 Aubrey Lees also convinced the Committee that there was noth- ing untoward in the three meetings he attended. According to Domvile’s diary these were on the 8 November, 6 December 1939 and 7 February 1940, and indeed Lees categorically stated to the Advisory Committee that he attended no more meetings after the latter date. Lees said that at the first meeting, to which he had been invited by Ramsay, Mosley read out a long statement relat- ing to a BUF internee named Thomas and that the meeting was about the preservation of civil liberties. He attended the second for personal reasons in order to see Domvile who through his naval and military connections might be able to get him an army post to release him from his new appointment as a colonial civil servant on the Gold Coast. A Special Branch report suggested the third meeting was about supporting BUF candidates in by-elections. Lees persuaded the Committee that there was nothing wrong or unusual about any of these three meetings, and it was this fact and because he had been wrongly accused of being a member of the BUF which led to the Home Secretary agreeing with the Advisory Committee that he should be released from internment in October 1940.72 Lees’ files also contain further information on the three meet- ings in March, April and May 1940 which Special Branch were so concerned about. These relate to meetings on 13 March, 17 April and 29 May 1940.73 Domvile’s diary shows that there was a meet- ing on 13 March attended by Mosley, Domvile, Mills and Tavistock about the desirability of a negotiated peace. There is no mention of Lees being present and the evidence in Domvile’s diary appears to confirm that he was honest to the Committee about attendance at such meetings. There is no mention in Domvile’s diary of the alleged meetings of 17 April and 29 May 1940. Indeed, given that many of those who would have been invited to 29 May meeting were already interned by that date and others would have been concerned about their own immediate future, it is extremely unlikely that the last meeting ever took place. In general, then, the 71 PRO HO 45/25700. Advisory Commission Report on Neil Francis Hawkins 29 July 1940. 72 PRO HO 283/45. Advisory Commission Report on Aubrey Lees 5 Sept. 1940. 73 PRO HO 45/25728. Special Branch Report 22 June 1940. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 156 evidence in Domvile’s diary and the released internment files strongly suggests that the so-called secretive behaviour of fascist groups decreased rather than increased between the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940, and that collaboration between the groups, which was never very great, proved to be of no significance during the crisis of spring 1940. Whatever the complex truth about the nature of the Patriots International in 1939–40 it is quite clear that the relationships between the individuals and organizations concerned were far from harmonious. The mixed collection of fascists, anti-semites, pacifists, Social Credit enthusiasts and neo-nazi extremists had lit- tle in common except a burning desire to bring the war to a negoti- ated peace as quickly as possible and to maintain the integrity of the British Empire. A very reliable informant told the authorities that some collaboration resulted from these meetings but those present could not agree who should be leader.74 Hardly surpris- ing, such meetings failed dismally to produce a coherent united front or influence the public. Although all the organizations concerned adopted a common programme of opposing the war while doing nothing to upset Britain’s vital interests, the public, in so far as they were aware of the fascist political fringe, viewed them at best with suspicion. Even though there was considerable evidence that public opinion was not wholeheartedly behind the war effort in the phoney war period, the fascists were unable to capitalize on this fact at that time. THE HITLER FAN CLUB 74 PRO HO 45/25728. Special Branch Report 8 June 1940. 7 Internment, 1939–1945 Within those walls confined at night I often heard them cry Although my woes were far more light My own eyes were not dry, It seemed that justice came that way And haughtily passed by. Nellie Driver, ‘The Ballad of Holloway Gaol’ The story of the internment of British fascists has been conveniently swept under the carpet with the tacit agreement of most of the parties involved. An obsession with secrecy has characterized all British governments in the twentieth century with reference to national security considerations, even with regard to British fascism which has no relation to current problems in that area. Such reticence is justified also by the need to protect sources of information in intelligence-gathering activities and to cover up the sometimes dubious methods employed in security and espionage operations. Whatever the merits of such a policy in security terms, they are a nuisance to historians of British fascism. Of the surviving Defence Regulation 18b internment files, 18 out of 54 have not been released in the HO45 series and 19 out of 49 in the HO283 series. In addition to this many subfiles and some transcripts of Advisory Committee hearings within the released material have been kept by the Home Office. Practically the whole of this material is retained under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act, which means there is no present intention of releasing it in 158 the foreseeable future. About 15 individuals who were associated with fascist groups have had their files released. The information given by fascists on internment also has notable gaps. It is informative on prison conditions and aspects of physi- cal deprivation but less than helpful on the reasons why the govern- ment felt it necessary to lock up fascists and fellow travellers in the first place. While there is no doubt that the vast majority of internees imprisoned under DR 18b (1a) were unjustly incarcer- ated, the deafening silence about the stupidity of Maule Ramsay and the secretive behaviour of Mosley and others on the fascist and anti-semitic fringe in the phoney war period is suspicious to say the least. In particular the fact that there is not one word on the Tyler Kent affair (see p. 194) in either Sir Oswald or Lady Mosley’s autobiographies, or in Skidelsky’s or Nicholas Mosley’s biographies, is highly significant. In one sense it is understandable, of course. The Mosleys had no connection whatsoever with Tyler Kent and only learned about his activities in prison. However, the significance of this event and its ramifications most certainly would have been immediately recognized by Sir Oswald Mosley. There appears to have been a sophisticated cover-up operation ever since to deny the secret meetings across the fascist political fringe in 1939–40 and the links between Mosley, Maule Ramsay and oth- ers, which has continued to the present day, even though Maule Ramsay died in 1955 and Lady Mosley has recently discussed some aspects of the Tyler Kent affair with Anthony Masters. Given that the balance of the evidence suggests that Mosley and most of the fascist fringe were not indulging in illegal behaviour in 1939–40, the fact that so much has been deliberately obfuscated for so long increases rather than decreases whatever suspicions remain. Yet the internment of British fascists is obviously an important episode: fascists and fellow travellers were the main native victims of internment during the Second World War, along with a few IRA members and pacifists. Not only that, internment destroyed British fascism, and its later resurrection in various revisionist or deriva- tive forms was compromised from the outset by the smear of the necessity for preventive detention for fascists in the Second World War and the fear of infiltration by MI5 agents. The de facto suspen- sion of habeas corpus with regard to interned fascists also represented one of the darkest pages in Britain’s liberal tradition; unlike the IRA in the 1940s and 1970s the vast majority of interned INTERNMENT 159 fascists were British patriots not engaged in subversive or terrorist activities. The fact that the government felt that such a draconian change of policy towards the fascists was necessary demands fuller explanation than it has so far received. The background to internment The Second World War, with Britain at conflict with the two major fascist powers by 1940, placed native fascists in an invidious posi- tion. Most of the fascist and pro-nazi organizations apart from the BUF immediately closed down in September 1939 to avoid pos- sible official retribution. The government had already rushed through Parliament on 24 August 1939 an Emergency Powers Act which empowered it to make regulations by Orders in Council for the Defence of the Realm. These sweeping powers enabled the government to promulgate Defence Regulation 18b on 1 September 1939; this allowed the authorities to detain those whom they had cause to believe were capable of prejudicial acts against the state. Its effect was to remove the main defence to civil liber- ties provided by the Habeas Corpus Acts. This legislation represented an instinctive response by government to the threat of war. In fact the authorities had no plans to intern large numbers of aliens or native fascists; the Home Office under Sir John Anderson wished to maintain as great a degree of civil liberty as the necessary emphasis on national security would permit. His primary objective was not to repeat the mistakes of the First World War when public pressure had led to the internment of 32,000 aliens and the repatriation of 20,000 others.1 Apart from the wish not to follow the same path in internment matters as in the First World War, there was one essential differ- ence between the security situation in 1939 and that in 1914. This was the fact that there had been no important native pro-German organization in 1914, whereas in 1939 British fascists could be assumed by the uninformed to have close ideological affinities with the German nazis which would compromise their patriotism. In fact this problem did not arise until May 1940. During the phoney war the BUF failed to capitalize on the less than wholehearted public 1 C. Andrew, Secret Service, pp. 181–2. INTERNMENT 160 support for hostilities. Mosley’s highly successful rallies at Ridley Road, Dalston, Kingsway, Bethnal Green and Manchester’s Free Trade Hall during the autumn and winter of 1939–40,2 and the British Union Luncheon at the Criterion Restaurant as late as 26 April 1940 with over 400 in attendance,3 did not reflect significant public opinion. The poor performances of the British Union candidates in the three by-elections fought at Silvertown, North- East Leeds and Middleton and Prestwich in 1940 was rather more typical. They all received miniscule votes representing less than 3 per cent of those who voted either in straight fights with the ‘old gang’ party whose seat it was, or in a three-cornered contest with the communists as the other participants. Indeed in Silvertown, in an area adjacent to its area of greatest strength in the East End of London in the late 1930s, the BUF received only one-sixth of the communist vote. The fact that the DR 18b powers were seen more as a weapon of last resort than as immediately applicable was seen in the early history of the legislation. In the first months of the war only 12 were arrested under its sweeping powers, including four with British fascist connections. All detainees were given the right to appeal to an Advisory Committee whose function was to advise the Home Secretary regarding the internment of DR 18b prisoners, and the internment and repatriation of enemy aliens detained under the Royal Prerogative (until 7 June 1940). This Advisory Committee was hurriedly set up under the chairmanship of Sir Walter Monckton. However, he was soon transferred to the Ministry of Information and was replaced by Norman Birkett KC. Under Birkett the Committee was to conduct its most important hearings in 1940. The Advisory Committee was a strange legal hybrid set up to provide a safety net for those who could prove that the authorities had earlier made a mistake in interning them or who could show they were no longer a threat to national security. As there was little in the way of precedent for such an institution it made its own rules up as its work expanded., Its first meeting on 21 September 1939 decided that appellants should present their appeals in person and not be assisted by 2 Action, 12 Oct. 1939, 19 Oct. 1939, 23 Nov. 1939, 8 Feb. 1940. 3 C 6/9/3/13, Board of Deputies Archive. INTERNMENT 161 counsel or solicitors.4 After the Committee heard a case it passed its recommendation regarding the detainee to MI5, who then either agreed to or rejected its findings before sending them on to the Home Secretary who made the final decision on whether the deten- tion order should be extended. The release of two personal files relating to fascists who were detained and the review of all the Orders made before the revision of DR 18b on 23 November 1939 give some insight into the security situation regarding the supposed threat posed by British fascists at this time. Only one of the fascist detainees, E.J. Thomas, was a member of the BUF in 1939 and the Advisory Committee recom- mended his release after the hearing, a decision upheld by the Home Secretary. It was the Thomas case, and the threat posed by DR 18b, which led Mosley to attempt co-operation with other fascist groups in the phoney war period. Oliver C. Gilbert, an ex-member of the BUF and member of the NL who had visited Germany with Thomas in May 1939, was detained for 41⁄2 years for having ‘hostile associations’ with German and Japanese agents in London, for preventing Thomas making anti-nazi sentiments on his return to London for fear of damaging the BUF, and for knowing that Hoffman of Munich provided nazi propaganda for distribution at NL meetings.5 In its review of the case the Committee admitted there was no convincing proof that Gilbert had ever committed an illegal act.6 The other two cases involving fascists also raised serious ques- tions about the infringement of civil liberties. Quintin Joyce was interned for nearly four years on the grounds that he was a friend of a known nazi agent called Christian Baur who lived in England between 1934 and 1937, that he was a member of the NSL and brother of William Joyce and might try to communicate with him in Germany, and because of his admiration for Hitler.7 The Committee were highly suspicious of Joyce’s correspondence with Baur in June 1939 when the latter asked for British African stamps of Somaliland, South and East Africa for a friend. The Committee suggested that in certain circles stamps were a euphemism for 4 PRO HO 283/22, memorandum on work of Advisory Committee by Norman Birkett, 5 Mar. 1941. 5 PRO HO 45/25692, report of Advisory Committee on O.C. Gilbert, 23 Oct. 1939. 6 PRO HO 45/25758, review of Orders made before the revision of 18b. 7 PRO HO 45/25690, petition from Edwin Quintin Joyce. INTERNMENT 162 maps.8 Victor Rowe, a strongly pro-nazi member of the NL, was interned for over four years for boasting that he could or did travel by air from Croydon to Germany without passing through airport control and further that he was an import agent of German goods and well supplied with finance which did not originate in his own business. Rowe argued that although he festooned his flat with nazi regalia his claims were made out of bravado and he had never been to Germany, and the Committee concluded that he was gener- ally unreliable and mentally unstable.9 If these cases represented the most blatant examples of British fascist connections with the enemy then it is clear that the Security Service had the home front well under control and that growing dissatisfaction with the infringement of civil liberties during the phoney war period was justified. In fact in all four cases the authorities could not prove any illegal activity whatsoever. As a result of back bench pressure the government was forced to amend DR 18b on 23 November 1939 to the effect that the authorities must have reasonable cause to believe the hostile origins or associa- tion of individuals or that internees must have been recently concerned in actions which had compromised national security. This change was to cause problems when the grave military situ- ation in May 1940 led the new government to a drastic alteration in security policy and the decision to intern not only most aliens but British fascists as well. The decision to intern The decision to terminate the activities of British fascism and to intern the leading members of the various organizations represented the conjunction of several influences. The collapse of the dominoes in western Europe before the nazi blitzkrieg in April and May 1940, with the fall of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium and the failure to stop the attack on France, brought to an end the complacency of the phoney war period. This was suc- ceeded by a ‘fifth column’ scare, manufactured by credulous 8 PRO HO 45/25690, report of Advisory Committee on E.Q. Joyce, 25 Oct. 1939; PRO HO 283/43, transcript of Advisory Committee hearing E.Q. Joyce, 16 Oct. 1939, pp. 17–19. 9 PRO HO 45/25758, review of Orders made before the revision of 18b. INTERNMENT 163 diplomats in Holland and reinforced by a hysterical Rothermere press, which threw suspicion on all aliens, fascists and fellow travellers as potential traitors. The same spy fantasies which had been projected by popular novelists like William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim before 1914 suddenly seemed much more plausible in 1940.10 Fascism was now seen as a potential nazi Trojan horse within Britain. Given what had happened in Norway, the public leaped to the conclusion that Mosley was a prime candidate for a potential British quisling, and overnight indiffer- ence to his person turned into outright hostility as signified by the physical assault on him at the Middleton and Prestwich by-election in May 1940. This was the background as to why the new prime minister, Winston Churchill, who had succeeded Chamberlain after the Norway fiasco on 10 May, thought there should be a very large round-up of enemy aliens and suspect persons in Britain.11 However, the Home Office resisted the extension of internment to mass detention of a group of British citizens. While ostensibly see- ing the wisdom of such a move, Sir John Anderson pointed out to the Cabinet that the police would be overtaxed just processing the aliens, and as there had been no evidence of fifth column activities by either fascists or communists he would not proceed to move against either of these groups at present. This was a view he maintained at both the Cabinet meetings of 15 and 18 May when the issue was discussed.12 This resistance was overridden by the implications of the Tyler Kent affair, which proved to be the trigger mechanism for the immediate internment of British fascists. The Tyler Kent affair arose when MI5 agents in the Right Club uncovered a real breach of national security. They discovered a link via a member of the RC, Anna Wolkoff, between a cipher clerk at the American Embassy, Tyler Kent, and the Italian Embassy. They also discovered that Wolkoff and Kent had shown crucial intercepted documents between ‘Naval Person’ (Churchill) and President Roosevelt to Maule Ramsay. Maxwell Knight, the head of B5b in MI5 and in charge of placing agents in fascist and communist 10 Andrew, Secret Service, pp. 34–5. 11 PRO Cab. 65/7 WM 123 (40), p. 139. 12 PRO Cab. 65/7 WM 128 (40), p. 177. INTERNMENT 164 groups in Britain, linked such information to the belief of the Government’s Code and Cipher School’s intercept system that the German ambassador in Rome, Hans Mackenson, had been look- ing at Churchill’s correspondence with Roosevelt.13 As Churchill’s correspondence was carried on without the knowledge of the Cabinet, if Kent published his material in a pro-isolationist publication in the United States, or Maule Ramsay asked a ques- tion about it in the British Parliament, there was a real possibility that the secretly pro-interventionist Roosevelt would not be re-elected and that Churchill’s government would fall. Roosevelt although supporting American isolationism in public was work- ing behind the scenes to increase aid to the beleagured British. The Security Service decided to act and Tyler Kent was caught red-handed on 20 May 1940, not only with a girl friend in bed but also with copies of 1,500 secret documents, including the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence, and the ‘red book’, the list of members of the RC. It was these discoveries coupled with sup- posedly reliable information that Maule Ramsay and Mosley were ‘in relations’,14 and that attempts were being made to unify fascist, anti-semitic and peace groups, which led the Cabinet and the Security Service to strike at the entire anti-war neo-fascist fringe and not just the RC. The Security Service had claimed that Maule Ramsay was organ- izing meetings of the pro-nazi and anti-semitic groups with Mosley, and Anderson later confirmed that one of the main reasons why the fascists had been interned and the communists left free was because of the secrecy surrounding the former’s activities and the open manner of the latter. During the phoney war the BUF and the communist party both opposed the war. The authorities, not noted for their belief before June 1941 that communists were fine upstanding patriotic gentlemen who eschewed secretive subversive activity, undoubtedly had other motives. The decision to intern fascists and to leave communists free reflected the rise of the Labour party to share power in a coalition government. Whereas Labour was militantly anti-fascist, the left wing of the party had been co-operating with communist popular front policies since 1935. Although there is no evidence to suggest that interning the 13 A. Masters, The Man who was M (Oxford, 1984), pp. 86–7. 14 PRO Cab. 65/13 WM 133 (40), 22 May 1940. INTERNMENT 165 fascists was one of the conditions of coalition – indeed it was Churchill and Chamberlain who were the main supporters of such a move according to Cabinet minutes – the decision to keep a substantial number of key fascist personnel interned after the crisis was past in the autumn of 1940 did reflect Labour pressure. The influence of communists in the labour force in key strategic industries and the role they played in the forefront of the demand for social reform also made the government think twice about banning the party. The authorities had a more relaxed attitude to the communists than to Mosley after 1939 because MI5 had successfully infiltrated communist headquarters in King Street and knew far more about their activities than about the BUF. Since late 1938 when W.E.D. Allen had quarrelled with Mosley over the Air Time project, MI5 had had no effective agent near the centre of the BUF. The fact that Mosley had covered his tracks so successfully meant that intern- ment became more likely as suspicions increased. Given Mosley’s formidable record in the Law Courts, where he had never lost a case, the fact – as Anderson continuously emphasized to the War Cabinet – that the evidence against him was so flimsy meant he could only be kept under lock and key if the emergency powers were invoked. Thus although the authorities had unfounded wor- ries about either a joint anti-war or anti-semitic campaign by com- munists and fascists, it was decided to differentiate between the two groups in the action taken against them. In the end a half-way house of stopping communist propaganda by banning the Daily Worker and The Week was decided upon. This was used as a warning to the communists not to disrupt war production. With the nazi invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941 this became academic, since overnight the communists became virulent anti-nazis once more. They also resumed the leadership of a vitriolic anti-Mosley campaign; their opposition had been muted since the Nazi-Soviet pact in August 1939 and the lack of militant opposition partly explained the success of Mosley’s anti-war rallies during the phoney war period. Only dur- ing the Silvertown election was there much evidence of fascist- communist hostility at this time. In his comments to the Cabinet Committee on Communist Activities on 20 January 1941 on the different treatment of the two major anti-war groups, Sir John Anderson argued that INTERNMENT 166 although there was no evidence which could justify the prosecu- tion of fascists there had been reason to believe that they were preparing secret plans which would enable them, in the event of an invasion of this country, either to range themselves on the side of the enemy, or by a coup d’état to seize power and make terms with them.15 The Home Office now viewed the BUF as a highly organized conspiracy whose object was to overthrow the govern- ment and make peace with Germany. Both Mosley and Maule Ramsay were supposedly obsessed with a ‘march to power’. Mosley had predicted at the outset of hostilities that a revolution- ary situation would develop against the ‘Jewish War’.16 However, there was no definite proof of subversive activity. Indeed the Home Secretary and the law officers decided after the 22 May meeting when the War Cabinet were told of the Tyler Kent affair that it would be unwise to prosecute Maule Ramsay under Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act of 1911 as it was unclear whether an offence had been committed. This was undoubtedly the correct decision, for when Mrs Christobel Nicholson of the RC, wife of Admiral Nicholson, was charged for photocopying the classified documents which Ramsay had handled she was found not guilty of the charge under the Official Secrets Act. Maule Ramsay said he only read the documents and had taken no copies because he did not find in them the evidence for which he had been looking of sinister Jewish activities.17 Interning rather than charging Maule Ramsay also meant that the authorities could freely interrogate him about his links with nazi Germany and Mosley,18 and avoided his claims that as an MP he could only be tried by his peers. As the evidence against fascists was even more flimsy than with Maule Ramsay the use of DR 18b against them was seen as the best way of allowing MI5 the free opportunity to discover through interrogation the nature of the fascist threat to national security. Although Anderson still argued, even at the 22 May Cabinet, that there was little evidence to substantiate the claims of subversive fascist activity and that 15 PRO Cab. 98/18, Committee on Communist Activities, 1st Meeting 20 Jan. 1941; p. 3; N. Branson, History of the Communist Party of Great Britain (London, 1985), p. 318. 16 PRO HO 45/25754, minute of Home Office meeting, 18 Sept. 1940; PRO Cab. 66/35 WM 148 (43), p. 5. 17 PRO HO 45/25748, undated Home Office minute on Ramsay. 18 PRO Cab. 65/7 WM 133 (40), p. 219. INTERNMENT 167 there was nothing illegal in the pronouncements of Sir Oswald Mosley, which although anti-war were couched in patriotic language, it was nevertheless decided that 25–30 leading members of the BUF should be interned. New laws were immediately promulgated to allow for internment of fascists on 22 May. The use of DR 18b, brought in as much as a counter measure to the threat of sabotage and terrorism in a renewed IRA campaign as to potential nazi-inspired activity, was amended in DR 18b (1a) which allowed for internment without trial of members of organizations which were subject to foreign influence or control, or whose lead- ers had or had had associations with leaders of enemy govern- ments, or who sympathized with the system of government of enemy powers. No longer did the government have to prove that subversive activity was being contemplated or had been commit- ted before fascists could be interned. On 10 July 1940 under DR 18b (AA), the British Union was decared a proscribed organiza- tion. The closing down of British fascism by the authorities in the spring of 1940 reflected the deteriorating war situation. The government were determined to leave nothing to chance and for reasons of security and to allay public fears all suspect groups with the exception of the communists were put under lock and key. The total lack of influence of fascists in society or the armed services should have convinced the government that the whole idea of a fascist fifth column was a figment of the imagination – a ludicrous fantasy. As it was, many innocent aliens and fascists were unjustly interned as (a result of the government’s loss of a sense of proportion,) and became the scapegoats for the desperate situation in which the new government found itself. No evidence at any stage was ever produced to show that the BUF, or any other fascist group, had ever sanctioned illegal behaviour, despite the devious tricks and intimidation later applied by the Security Service during the interrogation process. During the Second World War a few individual fascists were sentenced to terms of imprisonment for trying to help the enemy,19 and several others became conscien- tious objectors after telling the Advisory Committee that they wished to be released from internment in order to fight for Britain. 19 N West, MI5. British Security Service Operations 1909–45 (London, 1983), pp. 161–3. INTERNMENT 168 Many members of the BUF performed valiant service for Britain’s armed forces during the war. The evidence produced by the govern- ment of actual unpatriotic behaviour in England before 1945 by members of the BUF was scanty. However, despite the undoubted patriotism of many associ- ated with the BUF, several ex-members were convicted of serious offences at the end of the war. Punishment included four death sentences, two of which were commuted to life imprisonment. These related to individuals who were either prisoners of war who had gone over to the enemy, or who were in Germany at the outbreak of hostilities. Some of the more serious offences involved ex-members of the BUF who had broadcast on German radio, such as William ‘Lord Haw Haw’ Joyce, had joined the Waffen SS, who had assisted German intelligence or who had been responsible for helping to recruit prisoners of war for the Legion of St George or the British Free Corps units in the German army to fight the Soviets on the eastern front.20 (No current member of the BUF in 1939 was thought to be involved in such treasonable behaviour.) Although 24 of the 66 MI5 renegade files sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions have been retained by the Home Office under Section 3 (4) of the Public Records Act, the released files show little active involvement by such individuals in fascist organizations. The files relating to those who were members of the British Free Corps confirm Rebecca West’s impressions at the treason trials; that weak-willed individuals, those who had chips on their shoulders and disreputable characters were as likely to commit treason as those with ideological affinities with the nazis.21 The actual evidence of treasonable behaviour by the fascists tends to suggest that Mosley’s estimate that 5 per cent of his membership were potential security risks was more accurate than the estimate of 25–30 per cent by MI5 to the Home Secretary on 22 May.22 20 R. West, The Meaning of Treason (London, 1952); R. Seth, Jackals of the Reich (London, 1973); M. de Slade, Yeoman of Valhalla (Mannheim, 1970); ‘Roll of Honour, British Union of Fascists’, NCCL 1946, Lazar Zaidmann Papers, PRO HO 45/25798, PRO HO 45/25805. 21 PRO HO 45/25834–25836, PRO HO 45/25817/25819/25820. 22 PRO Cab. 65/13 WM 133 (40), 22 May 1940; PRO HO 283/14/88. INTERNMENT INTERNMENT 169 ‘Very reliable’ sources The internment of British fascists raises several important points about the nature of the evidence which merits further examina- tion at this time. In particular there is a need to evaluate those MI5 operations against British fascism in 1939–40 whose discover- ies played such a crucial role in the decision to intern. There is also reason to ask why the wartime material on British fascism is so sensitive and why such a large proportion of it has been retained by the Home Office. The decision to intern represented the triumph of the hawks in the Joint Intelligence Committee, MI5, War Office and the War Cabinet and the defeat of the policy of Anderson and Vernon Kell, the head of the Security Service, who until the Tyler Kent affair considered with some justification that Britain’s security defences had not been breached. Kell, who was in poor health, was to be the main victim of the security crisis and was to be sacked by Churchill. With hindsight it is clear that the Security Service surveillance of British fascism was a model of restraint and sophisticated analysis of the various intelligence sources by F.B. Aikin-Sneath, the officer in charge of assessing fascist activities in F division, and the case officers in B5b, until the autumn of 1939. Then the unorthodox behaviour of Maxwell Knight, the head of the agent running activi- ties of B5b, in not informing the American Ambassador that Tyler Kent was a security risk, signalled a change to a less charitable view of the activities of British fascists. The failure fully to penetrate the BUF, Mosley’s counter-intelligence precautions, obsessive secrecy and other protective measures to shield his activities from the Security Service, were seen in a different light from the misguided patriot view of the old professionals by the new intake following the rapid expansion of MI5 in 1939. The clear indication that the fascist fringe were secretly collaborating with each other was not interpreted in a similar manner in the hysterical atmosphere of spring 1940, and Churchill’s order to ‘collar the lot’ was to be almost as relevant for British fascists as for aliens. This change in the general viewpoint of MI5 derived mainly from the cloak and dagger activities of Maxwell Knight’s agents and an increasingly suspicious view of the gaps in that intel- ligence. Material from American sources, most particularly the 170 transcript of the Tyler Kent case which is at Yale University and some State Department documents, together with the published reminiscences of an MI5 agent, Joan Miller (real name Joanna Phipps), have provided valuable information on the Tyler Kent case and the RC. Unfortunately official sources cannot cor- roborate this material as practically all files relating to the RC remain classified. The American sources, together with declassi- fied Home Office documents and the Domvile diary provide us with the necessary material to evaluate the inter-action of fascist activity and MI5 surveillance at this time. The basic source for most published accounts of cloak and dag- ger activities has been the revelations of Joan Miller. These have appeared in an interview with her in the Sunday Times Colour Magazine and in Anthony Masters’s account in The Man who was M.23 There have also been two attempts to publish her ghosted memoirs, One Girl’s War. However, after threats to prosecute by the authorities and the belief that the material in this added little to previous knowledge, One Girl’s War was not published until 1987. MI5 try to prevent publication of agents’ memoirs, even in this case when attempts have been made to do so posthumously, so as not to compromise the confidentiality of sources of informa- tion. It is not only a matter of principle in this instance, however; MI5 have no wish to provide a precedent whereby the potentially more explosive memoirs of mole-hunter Peter Wright can be published in Australia. Even though the contents of Joan Miller’s memoirs are innocuous in terms of current national security problems the authorities took unsuccessful steps to prevent their publication. One Girl’s War proved to have little new information and Joan Miller’s version of events needs to be handled with a great deal of care. The transcript of the Tyler Kent case reveals important discrepancies between her later account and what was told to the court. Joan Miller was a brave and resourceful agent but the fact remains that she was only one of three MI5 operatives working on the Tyler Kent case. In her account she mis-names one of the other agents: ‘Mrs Amos’ (Marjorie Mackie), according to the transcript of the Tyler Kent case and the statement of Mary 23 Interview with Joan Miller, Sunday Times Colour Magazine, 18 Oct. 1981; Masters, The Man who was M, pp. 76–106. INTERNMENT 171 Stanford, in the Norah Briscoe case was known in the RC as ‘Miss Marjorie Amor’.24 The role ascribed to Joan Miller in The Man who was M was taken by another agent at the trial, a Belgian girl called Helene who testified that she took a letter, from Anna Wolkoff to William Joyce, to Maxwell Knight. This presentation of the evidence may have represented deliberate policy on the part of MI5 in an attempt to shield Joan Miller. However, the case was held in camera and Helene too was later apparently used again by the Security Service. Joan Miller did not give evidence at the trial although her activities were mentioned. The Joan Miller version sounds plausible, but there is no independent source which would verify her account. It would be better to interpret her revelations not as the product of her own role but as the combined operations of all three agents. Joan Miller had a chip on her shoulder concern- ing her treatment by Maxwell Knight and the Security Service and her story probably over-dramatizes the contribution she made, particularly as Marjorie Amor was involved with the RC for a longer period of time than herself. The revelations of Joan Miller have also overstated the significance of the RC. Agents are not trained to assess the significance of their work. Although the Tyler Kent affair represented a breach of national security there is no hard evidence that either Kent or Maule Ramsay contemplated breaking the law by publishing their information. In fact as a secret society the RC exhibited farcical rather than sinister aspects. Kent told the court of a meeting with a man introduced to him as ‘Mr Macaroni’ from the Italian Embassy. Marjorie Amor said the group around Maule Ramsay represented the inner circle of the RC and Kent that Helene had given him the secret symbolic badge of an eagle and snake to mark this fact. Indeed, the part of the RC still operat- ing in May 1940 that was implicated in the Tyler Kent affair appears to have consisted of Maule Ramsay, Kent, five women with eccentric views and three MI5 agents. Anna Wolkoff was convicted only as a result of one of the informers acting as an agent provocateur by supplying her with the means to com- municate with William Joyce in Germany. Wolkoff, who apears to have been the source in the RC of the information about secret 24 Transcript of the Tyler Kent Case, 23–8 Oct. 1940, PRO HO 45/25741; statement of Mary Stanford to Special Branch, 21 March 1941. INTERNMENT 172 meetings between Mosley and Maule Ramsay, would only have known about such events at second hand. Like the rest of the RC apart from Maule Ramsay, they viewed Mosley with suspicion and the Domvile diary does not mention Wolkoff or her female cronies like Enid Riddell, Mrs Nicholson or Mary Stanford. Her lunatic fringe views on Jews and nazis also fails to inspire confidence in her credibility. As against that, however, the informa- tion gathered from her by the MI5 agents on Tyler Kent was highly reliable, at least to the extent that he proved to be a serious security risk. Joan Miller’s account is misleading too in its implication that the RC agents were the chief source of information on secret meet- ings between fascists and fellow travellers. Joan Miller’s main work in the RC was between March and May 1940 at a time when co-operation between most of the fascist fringe was becoming less significant and Maule Ramsay and his secret societies appeared to have lost interest in combined activities. Although it is not pos- sible to say with certainty what MI5 agents in the RC found out on this matter, a new source of information can be pinpointed through analysis of declassified Home Office files, the Domvile diaries and the research of Anthony Masters. This suggests that several agents operated on the fringes of the BUF , the Nordic League, the Link and the British Council for Christian Settlement in the autumn and winter of 1939–40. An important source of information on these organizations and assessment of its quality can be deduced from information in the released personal files of Aubrey Lees and John Beckett, and agents’ reports in the Norah Briscoe case. Aubrey Lees was a colonial civil servant who was deputy governor of the Jaffa district in Palestine. While home on leave in 1939 he had contacted anti-semitic groups like the NL, IFL and BPP and passed on details of alleged Jewish atrocities in Palestine. He also lived with a woman member of the BUF which probably accounted for the crucial mistake MI5 made in the stated reasons for his internment. The evidence he gave about secret meetings to the Advisory Committee has already been mentioned (see p. 186). A letter to the Advisory Committee Chairman in his file names the intelligence agent who gave information against Lees. This letter was in response to information given to Lees by Birkett who told him that ‘Mr. James Hughes (P.G. Taylor of the B.U.) is an INTERNMENT 173 intellegence agent.’25 Lees claimed he met him regularly, and the implication is that he was a source of the information on the NL decision to close down and Maule Ramsay’s decision to col- laborate with Mosley, as Lees’s attitude is mentioned in the report. Special Branch knowledge of the secret meetings in the phoney war is confined to the three meetings Lees attended and not the others listed in Domvile’s diary and the three meetings Lees was invited to but did not attend between March and May 1940. The fact that Lees was wrongly accused of being a member of the BUF in the reasons for his internment suggested that the ‘very reliable source’ in this case passed on inaccurate information. What appears to be the same man is also mentioned in the John Beckett file. Beckett, whose collaboration with William Joyce in the NSL in 1937–8 meant he was regarded with deep suspicion by both MI5 and the general public, and whose quarrel with Mosley in 1937 led him to be viewed with equal hostility by the BUF, singled out an ‘agent provocateur’ called P.C. Taylor (sic) whom he regarded as responsible for many of the allegations in his case.26 Anne Beckett, his wife, wrote to Birkett claiming that at a meeting in their flat early in 1940 between Mr Taylor, Beckett and herself propaganda alleged to have been made by her husband was in fact made by Taylor in an apparent attempt to elicit information.27 The Committee decided that they were unable to deny or confirm MI5 allegations but in general were impressed with Beckett’s case.28 However, Taylor was not the only source of such allegations. Ben Greene, who was also involved in the British Council for Christian Settlement, had introduced Beckett to a ‘Mr. Court’, a young German, who later confessed that he had given untruthful evidence in the Ben Greene case; Beckett now demanded in January 1942 that ‘Court’s’ evidence should not be held against him.29 The government had been forced to release Ben Greene when Oswald Hickson, his solicitor, proved that Harald Kurtz, one of MI5s agents, had indeed passed on false information and the case 25 PRO HO 283/45, Aubrey Lees to Norman Birkett, 26 Aug. 1940. 26 PRO HO 45/25698, MI5 report on John Beckett. 27 PRO HO 283/26, Anne Beckett to Norman Birkett, 14 July 1940. 28 PRO HO 45/25698, Advisory Committee Report on John Beckett, 10 July 1940. 29 PRO HO 45/25698, John Beckett to Norman Birkett, 19 Jan. 1942. INTERNMENT 174 was to undermine Maxwell Knight’s credibility.30 Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, admitted the justice in Beckett’s claims. Evidence which suggested that Beckett would join the anti- parachute corps, would harbour escaping pro-nazi Germans, had contacted the armed services and had been in communication with the German government would have to be disregarded for much of it was supplied by Kurtz. Morrison, who thought that Beckett was a ‘proletarian gone wrong’, still thought in 1942 that he should remain interned, however, because it was likely that if released he would form an organization of the various malcontents.31 Further evidence on agents’ operations and the methods employed is provided in the Norah Briscoe case. Here the court allowed two MI5 agents to use code names as Agent Q and Agent X when giving evidence, because the wife of one had a mother living in Germany and the other was a German national. Q described himself as a British subject who had been employed under Major Maxwell Knight since 1936. Under his direction he was associating with persons belonging to various fascist or pro- nazi organizations including the BUF, the IFL, the RC and the Link.32 X said he was 27 years old and was born in Germany although his mother was half English. He had lived in England since January 1937 and had worked under the direction of Major Knight since May 1938.33 X can be positively identified as Harald Kurtz from the description of him in The Man who was M.34 Q may have been ‘Taylor’ or an unknown third agent. The Norah Briscoe case in 1941 represented MI5 tying up the loose ends of the RC. After the Tyler Kent affair most of the active members of the RC were interned. However, Mary Stanford’s appeal to the Advisory Committee was successful and she was released in September 1940. An informant reported that ‘Molly’ (sic) Stanford, who had just been released, and Aubrey Lees were soon active in proposing various schemes to aid internees and the proposed dissemination of peace propaganda.35 Q, who had attended a meeting of the RC at Marjorie Amor’s flat in April 30 Masters, The Man who was M, pp. 141–67. 31 PRO HO 45/25698, minute from Herbert Morrison, 6 Jan. 1942. 32 PRO HO 45/25741, statement of Witness Q to Special Branch, 21 Mar. 1940. 33 PRO HO 45/25741, statement of Witness X to Special Branch, 21 Mar. 1940. 34 Masters, The Man who was M, p. 141–2. 35 PRO HO 45/25728, informant’s report on Aubrey Lees, 20 Nov. 1940. INTERNMENT 175 1940 at which Maule Ramsay, Anna Wolkoff, Mary Stanford and Jock Houston amongst others were present, was now directed back into the RC. His purpose was to monitor the activities of Stanford. According to Q’s testimony, Stanford introduced him to Mrs Briscoe, a typist in the Ministry of Supply. She lived with Gertrude Blount Hiscox, Jock Houston’s girlfriend. According to Q, Stanford knew that Briscoe had photocopies of classified docu- ments which she wished to pass to the Germans. Q introduced Briscoe and Hiscox to X, a supposed nazi spy. The denouement of the episode followed when X met Briscoe and Hiscox in his flat and received the classified documents which dealt with relatively trivial matters like the transfer of equipment to Northern Ireland and details of goods from Australia lost at sea. Meanwhile Special Branch Officers took shorthand notes of the conversation between Hiscox, Briscoe and X and attempts were made to record the proceedings with primitive equipment. Maxwell Knight and a Special Branch officer then appeared and arrested Hiscox and Briscoe. Although they had no evidence against her, apart from the claims of Agent Q, Mary Stanford was re-interned. With Briscoe and Hiscox receiving 5-year sentences at their trial, MI5 finally succeeded in closing down the RC. Although Briscoe and Hiscox were obviously culpable in wanting to impart information to the nazis, Q and X had acted as agents provocateurs in the operation. Such activity was reminiscent of the techniques of Oliver the Spy, who set up and helped close down the Pentridge rising (1817) and Cato St Conspiracy (1820). The other major case where an agent played a key role in the internment decision was with Admiral Sir Barry Domvile. In his account of the episode Domvile argued that the proceedings of the Advisory Committee were amongst the most unsavoury episodes in English history. His initial hearing on 22 October 1940 he reported passed off very pleasantly. However, he was recalled on 5 November and the barometer was no longer ‘set fair’ but was ‘stormy’.36 The minutes of the Home Defence (Security Executive) on 6 November sheds some light on this. Birkett had decided that the Advisory Committee need not see agents but would accept the word of intelligence officers as they wished to do nothing which 36 Sir B. Domvile, ‘From Admiral to Cabin Boy’, p. 108, Dom. 84, Sir Barry Domvile Papers. INTERNMENT 176 would compromise the sources of information available to the Security Service.37 They would therefore not wish to see the agent who had provided the evidence against Domvile. The implication was that Domvile was interned mainly as a result of the allega- tions of an unknown agent whom MI5 had produced after the first hearing and whose credibility and veracity were never tested. Other sources and the survival of documents from the weeding process in released files provides us with the minimum of informa- tion from which assessment can be made of why this material is so sensitive. At the outset it must be stated that much of the mate- rial that has been released is embarrassing for the authorities. The assessment of the RC material too, suggests that the response of the government to the Tyler Kent affair was that of taking a sledge- hammer to crack a nut. The activities of MI5 agents and the willingness of the Advisory Committee to accept uncorroborated evidence from unknown agents without giving the defendant the chance to cross-examine or allow him legal support at his hearing was a black episode in English legal history. So too were the House of Lords judgements in the test cases brought before it in relation to the operation of DR 18b. In effect these meant that even where it could be shown that the grounds for detention were false it had to be demonstrated that the arrest represented bad faith by the Home Secretary, before the courts were prepared to challenge DR 18b.38 This undermining of individual civil liberties could only be justi- fied by the war emergency and the invasion scare. Bearing this in mind, the performance of the Advisory Committee in exception- ally difficult circumstances perhaps deserves more praise than blame and a case can be made that it successfully stood up to the Security Service and kept the erosion of civil liberties to a neces- sary minimum. The position of the Security Service needs to be seen in perspective too. The propaganda whipped up by the Rothermere press over the fifth-column issue meant pressure on the Security Service to block off all potential allies for the nazis in the event of an invasion. Although the home front was well under control, MI5 and its agents had to cut corners and find imaginary 37 PRO HO 45/25754, minutes of Home Defence (Security Executive), 6 Nov. 1940. 38 Times Law Report, 14 Nov. 1941, Liversedge v. Anderson, Greene v. Secretary of State; C.K. Allen, ‘Regulation 18b and reasonable cause’, Law Quarterly Review, 58 (1942), pp. 232–42. INTERNMENT 177 fifth columnists in some numbers to maintain morale and provide scapegoats to explain the nazi threat. Aliens and native fascists became the victims of such pressures; many of the aliens were anti-nazi and only a small minority of fascists could be seen as pro-German. Major General Liardet in charge of defensive preparations in Kent even went so far as to suggest there were large numbers of disloyal British subjects in his area who should be moved out of the county and the aliens restriction zone.39 The pressures on MI5 to obtain results and its obsession with secrecy to protect sources mainly accounts for the sensitivity of the fascist internment files. The fact that Mosley had always adopted an anti-subversion strategy within the BUF and that even when W.E.D. Allen had been in place as an agent his reports may not have been reliable became significant factors when knowledge of fascist activities become more important during 1939. Several of the closed files on the BUF probably relate to unorthodox and possibly illegal methods used by MI5 in obtaining information about Mosley and the organization. It is also true that relatively few personal files on BUF members have been released, about a dozen out of the 750 or so who were interned. Mainly this is because the large majority of them have been lost – but the fact that within the released material there are a significant number of subfiles which have been retained suggests that sources are being protected on a large scale and that certain MI5 operations are being covered up. As next to nothing has been released on the RC and the Link the same conclusions apply even more strongly. Other sources and stray comments within released material enable more to be said on this issue. MI5 operations for example involved both the bugging of Mosley’s cell in Brixton prison in 1940 and the use of postal intercepts on some fascists. All cor- respondence of internees was censored but prior to internment the mail of Arnold Leese and Richard Findlay was intercepted, as was Cola Carroll’s on his release in 1943.40 Findlay was a member of the Council of the NL, and the RC, the vice-chairman of the Central London branch of the Link, who corresponded with Mosley, and he had resigned his commission in the RAF in 1936 in protest 39 PRO HO 45/25758, Major-Gen. Liardet to Chief Constable of Kent, 2 June 1940. 40 PRO HO 45/24967, MI5 report on IFL 1942; PRO HO 283/26, MI5 to Home Secretary, 4 May 1944. INTERNMENT 178 INTERNMENT against the abdication of Edward VIII. He was not released from internment until 1945. Carroll, the editor of the Anglo-German Review, was closely associated with Domvile and the Link. Although it is not known whether Carroll’s and Findlay’s files are amongst those not released, Arnold Leese’s file has been retained. Similarly the files of Alexander Raven Thomson, one of the lead- ers of the BUF, have not been opened by the Home Office. Whatever the reasons for this it is certain that part of the explanation can be accounted for from an article he wrote in Union, one of Mosley’s post-war publications, in 1948. As another member of the BUF, J.L. Battersby, refers to the same matter in a published account, the events described, if not their interpretation, can be verified. This relates to the interrogations of fascists by military intel- ligence at Latchmere House, Ham Common, during August and September 1940. This episode is also graphically described in the official unpublished history of the BUF and Charlie Watts’ manuscript ‘It has happened here’. According to Raven Thomson a group of BUF leaders, including himself, were taken to Ham Common in an attempt to obtain information about the organization. To begin with fascists were placed in solitary confinement and when let out for exercise were not allowed to communicate with each other. Food rations were minimal and only just enough to survive on. After this softening-up exercise groups of fascists were allowed to congregate in a room and allowed to talk for a quarter of an hour. The fascists, suspecting there were hidden microphones, spent most of their time denouncing their captors. Sometimes fascists were awoken late at night and subjected to interrogation by a military tribunal under fierce arc lighting. One fascist burst into uncontrolled laughter when he saw the set-up and denounced the tribunal for its ludicrous Gestapo tactics. The whole range of techniques of psychological warfare was allegedly used in an attempt to break down the fascists. Men were threatened with being shot one moment and the next offered immediate release and financial recompense if they would give information against the leaders of the movement. At other times the alleged confessions of other fascists were used in an attempt to elicit information. At the end of a gruelling five-week ordeal Raven Thomson had lost two stones in weight. Mosley, when he heard of what was happening, immediately instituted legal proceedings and the whole grisly 179 charade quickly came to an end. Fascists claim that military intel- ligence learned nothing from the experience because there was nothing to tell.41 If MI5 interrogation techniques have been wholly covered up then some material has filtered through about how information concerning interned fascists was gained in prisons and the camps although the significance of this still remains a secret. The use of a ‘very secret and delicate source’42 to obtain in advance details of Mosley’s defence before the Advisory Committee suggests that his cell in Brixton was bugged. Prison warders were present at all visits to internees and reported on conversations. The presence of R. List, described as a ‘camp informer’, amongst the permanent residents of Brixton gaol in April 1942 suggests either that he was transferred from the Isle of Man to elicit information,43 or that his cover had been blown at Peveril. Just prior to this his activities in the camp were referred to in a report from the Senior Intelligence Officer where List provided the information about the nature of internee St Barbe Baker’s religious meetings.44 No doubt there were many more reasons why the internment files on British fascists have proved to be so sensitive. What is clear is that the cover-up relates to traditional security considera- tions and not to a desire to hide any potentially embarrassing connections between the mainstream of British politics and fascist activity. Apart from a few minor figures in the Conservative party who were interested in Mosley for a time, there is no evidence, apart from the disastrous Maule Ramsay connection, that British fascism had any significant links to the establishment after 1934. DR 18b (1a) The story of the internment of British fascists has also to be seen in the perspective of the parallel internment of aliens. While the 41 A. Raven Thomson, ‘Ham Common’, Union, 19 June 1948; J.L. Battersby, The Bishop said Amen (Poynton, 1947), p. 29. R.R. Bellamy ‘We Marched with Mosley’; C. Watts ‘It has happened here’. Both these manuscripts are available in the University of Sheffield library. 42 PRO HO 283/6/7. 43 PRO HO 45/25752, 18b (1a) detainees in Brixton and Holloway gaols, April 1942. 44 PRO HO 214/45, religious meetings in Camp, 2 Apr. 1942. INTERNMENT 180 fascists after 22 May 1940 were interned under DR 18b (1a), most aliens of enemy origin were interned under the Royal Prerogative and neutrals under Article 12 (5A) of the Aliens Order 1920 (as amended in 1940). There were 1,300 interned under DR 18b of whom about 750 were associated with the BUF, and 22,000 German and Austrian aliens and about 4,000 Italians.45 The vast majority of these were interned between May and July of 1940. As some of the aliens were refugees who had come to Britain to escape nazi persecution the treatment they received has to be regarded as more scandalous than that meted out to British fascists. Indeed, if some dubious behaviour can be pointed to amongst a small minority of British fascists and suspicious activities of its leaders in the eyes of the authorities, then the evidence of pro-nazi operations by aliens is negligible. The fact that such large numbers were suddenly interned created grave administrative problems for the authorities which led to overcrowding and poor facilities in the prisons and internment camps, at least in the short term. For the Advisory Committee which had been set up to deal with the problem of Aliens and DR 18b internees the new situation was a nightmare and after the beginning of June 1940 it narrowed down its field of operations to deal only with DR 18b cases. Even this created a difficult situation and eventually four separate com- mittees under different chairmen had to be employed to hear all the cases. The decision to intern 25–30 leading members of the BUF on 22 May had been extended to include 350 local officials on 4 June.46 This probably represented one of the first decisions of the security revolution with the sacking of Kell and the establish- ment of the Home Defence (Security Executive) to co-ordinate counter-subversion activities. However, the security authorities were over-zealous in their work and 750 persons were detained because of association with the BUF in the summer of 1940.47 Of these detentions 216 were originated by the Security Service, between 20 and 30 by Special Branch after consultation with MI5, 45 M. Kochin, Britain’s Internees during the Second World War (London, 1983), pp. 22–7; R. Stent, A Bespattered Page (London, 1981), pp. 83–94; Andrew, Secret Service, pp. 478–80. For the legal and social history of fascist internment see A.W.B. Simpson, In the Highest Degree Odious (Oxford 1992). 46 PRO Cab. 65/7 WM 130 (40), p. 188. 47 PRO Cab. 66/35 WP 148 (43), p. 6. INTERNMENT 181 and the rest by Chief Constables.48 However, the information available the central card file of MI5’s registry was supplemented by information passed to it by the Board of Deputies of British Jews at the outbreak of war. This material was supplied by an informant within the BUF who provided every week a complete file of fascist activities and their programmes. By such means the Board of Deputies claimed they not only knew the venue of all fascist meetings indoors and outdoors in advance, so that counter- measures could be devised, but they also obtained a full list of members of the party. Many of these names were quite unknown to the authorities. The Board of Deputies mole was code-named ‘Captain X’ and was an Irish ex-officer and supporter of Sinn Fein who had joined the BUF because of Mosley’s support for Irish Independence.49 Fascists claim that arrests were carried out indiscriminately and that in so far as there were suspect persons in the organization the wrong people were arrested. A police source who attended MI5 conferences in London claimed that the basis for arrest was uniform.50 The truth probably lies between the two. The authori- ties certainly went over the top in manufacturing evidence for detainment and in arresting double the number of fascists they were instructed to. Members were even arrested in the armed forces and interned after fighting the Germans or returning from bomb- ing raids. The aim was to destroy the organization both nationally and locally and in this they were certainly successful. Mosley had made contingency plans to protect the administra- tion of the organization if he was interned. The authorities discovered in the papers of Mrs Elam, who ran the London and provincial anti-Vivisection society as a Mosleyite cover organiza- tion, and Hector McKechnie, a leading administrator of the BUF, a list of eight individuals whom Mosley trusted to do as they thought fit if he was arrested. The others mentioned were R. Temple Cotton, Commander C.E. Hudson, K.E. Marsden, J.H. Hone, E. Dudley Elam, N. Francis Hawkins and B.D.E. Donovan.51 Most 48 PRO HO 45/25754, minutes of the Home Defence (Security Executive), 6 Nov. 1940. 49 Information from Nigel West; S. Saloman, ‘Now it can be told’, C 6/9/2/1, Board of Deputies of British Jews. 50 Trevelyan Scholarship Project, ‘The British Union of Fascists in Yorkshire’, p. 19. 51 PRO HO 283/48. Note in Hector McKechnie file. INTERNMENT 182 of these were interned for varying periods of time. The list of prominent persons interned52 included most of the leading Mosleyites and several of those like Domvile, Ramsay, Hay, Lees, Gordon Canning, Greene and Beckett who had been involved in the various secret meetings or peace organizations to which the authorities attached such significance. The list did not include Lord Tavistock or any prominent individuals rumoured to be con- nected to the RC. Several of the interned fascists were to complain that socially influential supporters of Mosley were not interned while ordinary members were. With such vast numbers of aliens and native fascists to process the authorities had to draw a fine line between administrative convenience and national security considerations. They rapidly had a change of heart over aliens and once the invasion scare receded after September 1940 the majority of them were gradu- ally released. The DR 18b Advisory Committee recommended release for over 60 per cent of the internees it processed in the autumn of 1940. Most of the DR 18b prisoners were first interned in Brixton and Liverpool gaols. However, it was found necessary to open two camps to deal with the overflow and with aliens. In July 1940 a camp at Ascot racecourse was brought into use for the accommodation of internees and a second camp was opened at York in October. Many were then moved to a council estate in Huyton, Lancashire. In May 1941 the bulk of the prisoners were transferred to the Isle of Man and settled in two separate camps, one for men and one for women. The overcrowding problem was so serious that in July 1940 the Cabinet discussed whether interned fascists should be sent to overseas camps in the Dominions or Colonies. It was decided that this was not practical when the Law Officers informed the Cabinet that the government had no power to ship British subjects overseas against their will and without trial, nor did it have the power of jurisdiction once an internee had landed on the shore of a self-governing Dominion. The Cabinet then dropped the suggestion that internees be sent to Australia, New Zealand or St Helena.53 There is no evidence that the recent sinking of the Arandora Star, which led to the deaths of many 52 PRO HO 45/25747. Prominent persons arrested. 53 PRO HO 45/25767. Proposal to send BUF internees overseas. INTERNMENT 183 innocent interned aliens being sent to Canada, played any part in the decision.54 In the summer of 1941, of the 671 DR 18b internees still in custodial detention over 500 were in the Isle of Man camps. Of the remainder 44, including Sir Oswald Mosley and nine other leaders of the BUF, were in Brixton prison and 24 women were detained in Holloway. Some 18 had been removed to Walton gaol, Liverpool, for disciplinary reasons from the Isle of Man. Mosley and his leading lieutenants were not sent to the Isle of Man because the authorities thought he would have an undesirable influence on other detainees by hardening their fascist attitudes.55 However, it was decided to allow both the Mosleys and Domviles to visit each other in Holloway gaol in 1941. Lady Domvile was soon released and the authorities then moved Mosley to live with his wife in Holloway, rather than the Isle of Man. During 1943 and 1944 the authorities released many of the more serious cases, as they termed them, including Mosley, Sir Barry Domvile, John Beckett, Archibald Maule Ramsay and Mrs Nicholson.56 Only 45 British subjects were interned on the Isle of Man until the end of the war.57 The task of the Advisory Committee was to assess who should remain interned. It had to balance the administrative problems involved in keeping such a large number of individuals interned without trial with the national security arguments. Although the final decision rested with the Home Secretary who took into account wider political and security factors, in practice the Advisory Committee was the most important source for decisions on continued internment. The Home Secretary had the powers under DR 18b (1) and DR 18b (1a) to make a detention order. Under DR 18b (2) he could suspend the order subject to specified conditions. He also had the power to revoke the suspension order if either the conditions of suspension were flouted or the safety of the realm was at issue.58 As the law officers considered that provided the request was not frivolous an individual could appeal 54 PRO HO 215/205. Arandora Star. 55 PRO Cab. 66/20 WP 279 (41), p. 3. 56 PRO Cab. 65/40. 156th Conclusion, Minute 4 (Confidential Annexe 14 Nov. 1943). 57 PRO HO 215/495, Herbert Morrison to Edward Harvey MP, March 1945. 58 PRO HO 45/25754, memorandum by chairman of Advisory Committee on the Administration of DR 18b, 1941. INTERNMENT 184 as many times as he liked about his internment or the conditions relating to the suspension of the order,59 in practice the work of the Committee was concerned almost wholly with internment orders until 1943 but increasingly after that date became concerned with the conditions of suspension.60 Although it used its powers sparingly certain suspension orders were revoked and individuals re-interned. The case of Mary Stanford (see p. 205) and Arthur Marson fell into this category. Marson was re-interned after becoming a conscientious objector when conditionally released, and failing to notify the authorities of a change of address.61 The Advisory Committee’s guidelines for recommending release of internees was dependent on four variables. They recommended release when the order had been made as a result of incorrect information as in the case of Aubrey Lees (released 1940). Similarly if further information had come to light or the Home Secretary had acted on information which was not quite up to date; the case of J. Smeaton Stuart (released 1940), who left the BUF in 1937 and joined the local Conservative Association, falls into this category.62 Again, the committee recommended that if a man could be shown to have changed his view since the invasion of the low countries he should be released. This was a very difficult area as the com- mittee were aware that some fascists might tell untruths in order to obtain release. The case of Captain Dudley Evans (released 1941) fell between the last two categories. He held the view that the BUF ought to have discontinued its activities when war began and that when the country was at war national unity was essential.63 Conversely, those who appeared unrepentant in their pro-nazi sympathies were punished with continued detention. Harold Lockwood and Thomas Guillaume St Barbe Baker were treated in this manner, the latter’s case being compounded by his organizational abilities which made him potentially dangerous in the eyes of the committee.64 Both were to be interned until 1945. 59 PRO HO 45/25754, law officers’ opinion on DR 18b, 21 May 1941. 60 Ibid. 61 PRO HO 45/25736, Arthur Marson. 62 PRO HO 283/64, J. Smeaton Stuart. 63 PRO HO 45/25727, Dudley Evans. 64 PRO HO 283/46, Harold Lockwood; HO 283/28 Thomas Guillaume St Barbe Baker. INTERNMENT 185 Finally, comparatively unimportant members of fascist organiza- tions who would probably have been frightened by internment could be released.65 In practice this last point explained the release of the vast majority of internees in 1940. In practice too, wider political considerations were also important in the decision to continue detention or to release the most important internees after 1940. This however did not affect the decisions of the Advisory Committee. (Fascists complained that the Advisory Committee was little more than a public relations exercise whose legal basis was extremely dubious.) It accepted evidence from the Security Service without evaluating the reli- ability of its sources, it failed to allow for legal representation of the accused and it recommended continued internment for individuals even though no evidence had been produced that any crime had ever been committed. Its Jekyll and Hyde facade, with its peculiar improvised procedure which seemed to combine ele- ments of a court martial and a vicarage tea-party, was certainly hostile to the internee. Certain hearings were more ritualistic than judicial; it went through the motions of a scrupulously fair hear- ing, with Mosley, for example, before reaching its pre-ordained conclusion that he should not be released. As Robert Skidelsky has pointed out, the government never had any intention of let- ting Mosley go free.66 The fact that the authorities’ suspicions about Mosley’s secre- tive behaviour were only obliquely referred to in the lengthy hear- ings and that his replies on such matters were not subject to a rigorous cross-examination raises immediate doubts about the Advisory Committee’s function, as does the failure to question the political judgement of Mosley and his wife in negotiating with Hitler to build a wireless transmitter when diplomatic relations between Britain and Germany were deteriorating rapidly after March 1939. Similarly the fact that MI5 allowed the Advisory Committee access to its files on Mosley and supplied it with advance information on the nature of his defence pointed to closer links than was usual between the prosecution and judicial process in the English legal system. All this suggests that the released PRO material on internment 65 PRO HO 45/25754, Home Office Minute, 31 Oct. 1940. 66 R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (London, 1975), p. 449. INTERNMENT 186 and the Advisory Committee needs to be handled with a great deal of care. The stated reasons for internment in the personal files, for example, should not be taken too seriously. These were hurriedly concocted after the individuals had been arrested, and were for the most part dependent on unsubstantiated allegations, local gossip, and the use of agents provocateurs and whatever dubi- ous insinuations could be hastily cobbled together. Nellie Driver patiently explained to her Advisory Committee hearing that the people accused of visiting her at night for secret meetings were respectively the insurance agent, the landlord, the trade union col- lector and an uncle. One of her friends was closely questioned about a book of maps she had drawn as a child 50 years ago. Another woman was asked about the significance of the words ‘Bob’s your uncle’ in a letter to her brother.67 John Ellis, manag- ing director of a firm of motor distributors in Yorkshire, was questioned about why bays, harbours, golf links and ferries were marked in ink on his maps; he explained that these showed places with quiet beaches where he could take the children for a holiday.68 Another BUF member allegedly wrote in his diary, ‘the Queen must be replaced.’ He explained to the Committee he was a bee- keeper.69 Diana Mosley stated in her autobiography that she did not take the Advisory Committee seriously and from an examina- tion of her internment hearing one can see what she meant. Her bland and not very revealing answers on her relationship with Hitler and other nazi leaders appeared to have much the same significance for the Committee as the rather more fatuous probing into her behaviour at a ‘Boycott German goods’ rally in 1934 in Hyde Park.70 The most plausible explanation of this is that W.E.D. Allen had convinced the authorities that the Mosley’s connection with Hitler was purely a commercial one. Although the anger and frustration of the fascists was fully justi- fied an examination of the released Home Defence (Security Executive) minutes gives a different perspective on the perform- ance of the Advisory Committee. The Home Defence (Security Executive) had been set up on 28 May 1940 to co-ordinate all 67 Nellie Driver, ‘From the Shadows of Exile’ (n.d.), p. 57. 68 PRO HO 45/25726, John Ellis. 69 Sunday Telegraph, 16 Feb. 1986. 70 D. Mosley, Life of Contrasts (London, 1977), 177; PRO HO 144/21995/17; Driver, ‘Shadows of Exile’, pp. 51–2. INTERNMENT 187 aspects of national security under the chairmanship of Lord Swinton (until 1942). It comprised three independent members, and representatives from the armed services, the Home Office, War Office, MI5, MI6, the Advisory Committee and other security organizations. It established the framework of policy within which the Advisory Committee functioned. The minutes of the meetings of 15 October, 31 October and 6 November 1940 make it quite clear there was a significant battle for the control of internment policy between the Advisory Committee and MI5 with regard to DR 18b detainees which the former won. Of the first 317 cases heard the Committee had recommended continued detention in 118 cases and release in 199. Of the latter the Security Service had agreed in 88 cases and disagreed in 111. As a result of a confer- ence MI5 had agreed not to make further representations in 96 of these cases and only to press the other 15.71 A Home Office minute signed by one of their representatives on the Executive stated that it had been agreed, with MI5 dissenting, that subject to special circumstances in individual cases the Home Secretary should be advised to accept the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, that the armed services would have the right to refuse employment to ex-internees, that all those released should give an understanding not to engage in political activities for the duration of the war and that in special cases orders imposing restrictions on the movement of individuals would be invoked.72 It was also agreed that the Advisory Committee would send a copy of their recommendation to the Home Secretary and MI5 at the same time, thus cutting down on administrative delays in the resolution of cases. In effect MI5 now had to show that BUF internees were potential security risks, rather than just proving they were members of the BUF. What this signified was a decisive victory for the Home Office over MI5 for the political control of national security. With the defeat in Cabinet of Sir John Anderson’s reluctance to impose blanket internment measures on aliens and fascists, the insistence by Birkett and the Advisory Committee that as many internees should be released as soon as possible contingent on national 71 PRO HO 45/25754; minutes of the Home Defence (Security Executive), 15 Oct., 31 Oct. and 6 Nov. 1940. 72 PRO HO 45/25754, minute from A.S. Hutchinson, Home Office (n.d.). INTERNMENT 188 security considerations and that MI5 should not have an effective veto on who was released enabled the Home Office, with its liberal tradition in civil liberty issues, to minimize the repercussions of the fifth column scare and the backwash of the Tyler Kent affair. Although fascists would with justification continue to feel aggrieved with their treatment, the situation would have been much worse for them if the Advisory Committee had lost this political battle. Sir John Anderson and Herbert Morrison, the two Home Secretaries involved accepted 400 of the 455 recommenda- tions for release by the Advisory Committee, 86.6 per cent of the total by 6 February 1941.73 Yet if the Advisory Committee can be stoutly defended in its role and for the large number of cases it conscientiously processed, it could perhaps be criticized for not making greater use of its powers to recommend the release of internees under conditional terms which would keep them out of alien restriction zones and their home areas, and limited their movements to within five or ten miles of their residence. Oswald Hickson, the solicitor of a group of DR 18b internees, suggested to the Home Office in August 1940 that they should be released conditional on them accepting restrictions on their movements and reporting to the local police. In one case it was seriously suggested that an internee would volunteer to assist at communist meetings and sell copies of the Jewish Chronicle as a punishment.74 This request was turned down on the grounds that the police had too many duties in the national emergency situation to worry about the whereabouts of fascists, and that internment represented the most efficient use of resources in the total security context. As the fortunes of war changed, such conditional release of supposedly serious cases was, however, to become the main solution to the authorities’ security dilemma. The Advisory Committee in retrospect was a fig leaf which tried to provide a respectable judicial gloss for an aberration in the tradition of the English legal system. Although the fascists regarded its deliberations with hostility and contempt they should perhaps be thankful that its recommendations stood between them and the much harsher response proposed by MI5. Fascists saw the 73 PRO HO 282/22, memorandum by Norman Birkett, 5 Mar. 1941. 74 PRO HO 45/25758, Oswald Hickson to Sir Alexander Maxwell, Home Office, 21 Aug. 1940. INTERNMENT 189 Advisory Committee as a dark episode in English legal history in which they were the main victims; others could point to its valiant battle to minimize the damage inflicted to civil liberties and the rule of law in the grave national emergency of 1940 by success- fully standing up to MI5 pressures. Whatever view is the more relevant in the perspective of hindsight, proscription and intern- ment represented an ironic fate for members of a political party which had announced that it would silence all opposition to itself if it ever gained power, and that it would have used similar com- missions to the Advisory Committee to decide whether Jews were patriotic Englishmen or not.75 Those who failed that test would not have been interned but expelled from the country. Perhaps not too many crocodile tears should be shed for the wartime fate of British fascists. The internees The effects of detention on the internees and the security clampdown produced a variety of responses ranging from a loss of belief in fascist activity, to sullen acceptance or militant hostil- ity. Although conditions were initially worse in some of the intern- ment camps used exclusively for aliens, owing to their greater numbers, nevertheless fascists experienced severe overcrowding and deteriorating conditions in the prisons and internment camps, and the role of the Advisory committee became one of thinning out the number of internees so that acceptable conditions would prevail for those who remained. The Home Office always maintained that DR 18b was preven- tive and custodial in character and not punitive. It issued instruc- tions in 1940 which attempted to make the conditions of confinement seem less oppressive. Internees were allowed to associ- ate with one another at meals, labour and recreation, visitors were permitted at least one visit a week and, subject to censorship, internees could write two letters per week. They could receive as many letters as were written to them. Regular outdoor exercise, games and recreation were encouraged. Smoking was allowed at exercise and recreation except during the hours of associated 75 PRO HO 283/16/28. INTERNMENT 190 labour.76 The logistics of overcrowding and the exigencies of the war situation were to make the conditions of confinement more oppressive than intended and for those incarcerated for long periods of time was to lead in many cases to a deterioration in health. The living conditions at the initial detention centres at Brixton, Liverpool and Holloway gaols were deplorable. The mass influx of internees led to the opening up of little-used wings in Brixton and Holloway, and to the reopening of the old female prison at Liverpool. Many of the male internees at Brixton went into C Wing which was lice-infested. Only after interrogation and appear- ance before the Advisory Committee did they graduate to the more tolerable conditions of E Wing. No doubt this represented a peculiar mixture of administrative difficulties and psychological warfare.77 Holloway was extremely dirty, with walls running with damp, filthy mattresses and disgusting lavatories.78 At Liverpool the authorities admitted that the general conditions of detention for internees were initially much less comfortable than those which would normally be enjoyed by ordinary prisoners. However, they saw most fascist internees as ‘lazy and shiftless’ persons, who failed to keep their rooms properly cleaned, expected to be waited on by the prison staff and deliberately put material down the drains in order to block them.79 Food was unappetizing in all institutions and had a low nutriment value. Vegetables were unwashed and unprepared, the meat tasted like horse and even the cats refused to eat the fish pie.80 Nightly air raids meant blackouts and prison- ers locked up often for 23 hours a day in 1940.81 At Liverpool five ordinary prisoners were killed by a bomb when some of the internees were in residence.82 A prison wardress’s report at Holloway stated that Diana Mosley felt that she and her class were tortured by living in such close confinement and that it was 76 PRO Cab. 66/20 WP 279 (41), p. 1. 77 Sir B. Domvile, ‘From Admiral to Cabin Boy’, p. 107. 78 D. Mosley, Life of Contrasts, p. 177; Driver, ‘Shadows of Exile’, pp. 51–2. 79 PRO HO 45/25753. Note on conditions of detention of 18b detainees at Liverpool, summer 1940. 80 Driver, ‘Shadows of Exile’, p. 58. 81 Sir B. Domvile, ‘From Admiral to Cabin Boy’, p. 96. 82 PRO HO 45/25753, Liverpool prison governor’s annual report, 1940. INTERNMENT 191 very different for the working classes who were used to living in the dirt and noise.83 Conditions in the internment camps in the Isle of Man were generally less onerous but the monotonous routine, futility and poor rations sapped morale. From the accounts which survive it is possible to deduce that internment was less harsh for fascists than for the alien refugees who were first sent there, that the facilities were better and terms of confinement less oppressive for the women than the men. The men were in the Peveril Camp, in a section of the promenade at Peel which was cut off from the sea and town by barbed wife 15 ft high and 6 ft deep. Food rations were rudimentary and were based on porridge, bread and salt fish, with two small meat rations per week. Basic educational facilities were provided in the mornings.84 The women were interned at the Rushen Camp at Port Erin. Here there was no barbed wire and there were kindly landladies. The British fascist women comprised only a small proportion of the total inmates and there was a camp restaurant for all internees, both fascist and alien, which was subsidized by the German government through the Red Cross.85 The most severe effects of such conditions on the health of internees was the combination of inadequate heating facilities in winter with poor diet. Sir Oswald Mosley blamed the flaring up of his phlebitis on the failure to heat the annexe at Holloway during the coldest part of the winter in 1942 and 1943, the general long- run effects of two years’ imprisonment and worry about his wife’s health.86 Richard Findlay, the camp leader at the Peveril (M) Camp, complained in 1943 that accommodation in the lower group of houses which were cold and damp was to be kept open, whilst those higher up which had fewer problems were to be closed for economy reasons. This he claimed would worsen the health of many of the elderly internees.87 Some of the long-term internees were moved to better accommodation in 1944. The resistance to internment by fascists was of both an active and passive nature. Fascists were at a disadvantage because the 83 PRO HO 144/21995/108. 84 Battersby, The Bishop said Amen, pp. 37–40. C. Chappell, Island of Barbed Wire (London, 1986). 85 Driver, ‘Shadows of Exile’, pp. 85–101. 86 PRO HO 45/25753, O. Mosley to prison governor, Holloway, 17 Oct. 1943. 87 PRO HO 214/67, Richard Findlay to Home Secretary, 30 Nov. 1943. INTERNMENT 192 authorities merely extended the detention orders for those they considered dangerous or who refused to co-operate. Given this, the range of response was quite extensive although some alien internees gave the authorities more problems than the fascists. Of the general files on internment released by the Home Office only three relate to DR 18b fascist internees, and they appear to be very rarely mentioned in the 500 other files in the HO 215 series. The first reaction by DR 18b detainees was to use the legal system to argue that their detention broke the law of the land. However, the judgements in Re Aubrey Lees (1940), Liversidge v. Anderson, Greene v. Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Smeaton-Stuart v. Anderson88 (all 1941) all went against the plaintiff and established the precedent under the Emergency Powers that provided the Home Secretary thought there was subjective cause as a result of information accepted in good faith the government could intern whom it deemed necessary. Mosley and Maule Ramsay both used the legal system in an attempt to protect their reputations, with varying degrees of suc- cess. Mosley sued or threatened to sue all those who impugned his patriotism, including on one occasion Beverley Nichols who had written a sympathetic article in the Daily Express which contained one ambiguous phrase. Maule Ramsay sued the New York Times in July 1941 for implying he was a traitor; the judge awarded token damages to him and said that although he did not understand what fifth column meant he thought that Maule Ramsay had been disloyal to the Crown.89 Others took more direct action against the threat of internment. Arnold Leese and Jock Houston both went underground to avoid capture. Leese avoided capture for four months and Houston for over six months.90 Others like E.G. ‘Mick’ Clarke, Arnold Leese and John Beckett tried to ignore the conditional terms relating to their release.91 Others broke prison or camp discipline and appealed at every available opportunity to the Advisory 88 PRO HO 45/25714, John Roland Smeaton-Stuart, A.W.B. Simpson In the Highest Degree Odious (Oxford 1994). 89 ‘Lest We Forget’, Captain A.H.M. Ramsay, Rogues Gallery, C 6/9/3/2, Board of Deputies of British Jews. 90 PRO HO 283/41, Richard Alistair (Jock) Houston. 91 PRO HO 45/25713, BU members released under a suspending direction; PRO HO 283/26; MI5 to Advisory Committee, 4 May 1944. INTERNMENT 193 Committee. John Beckett was punished for three minor offences when held at Stafford prison, and removed from the Isle of Man back to Brixton gaol after conflicting with BUF detainees. He petitioned for release on the grounds that he had been framed by agents provocateurs and wanted to know why the Duke of Bedford had remained free whilst he was interned. He even complained about the nature of his conditional release: he thought it unfair that he should be restricted to a five-mile radius from his home whilst Mosley and others were allowed ten miles.92 More direct resistance was rare. Probably the most daring exploit was the escape from the Peveril Camp of three DR 18b prisoners with fascist and IRA connections in 1941. They managed to tunnel under the fence and escaped in a motor boat from which the sparking plugs had been removed. Even so they managed to get within a few miles of the Irish coast before being recaptured. According to the authorities they were given food on the boat on the return to camp and then interrogated. The camp inmates thought the escapees had not eaten for three days and when they were brought back to Peveril the refusal of the camp authorities to give them immediate rations provoked a riot. Shots were fired in the air and after this disturbance was brought under control, and on the following day when Osbert Peake, a parliamentary under- secretary, was jostled, about 20 alleged ringleaders were sent to Walton gaol.93 This incident was to lead to the replacement of the military authorities by the Metropolitan Police as the main uphold- ers of security at the camps.94 Mock fancy dress balls, which were introduced as a diversion for fascists and other inmates at Holloway at Christmas 1940, were hastily terminated after an internee who had successfully imitated Hitler and Sir Anthony Eden on such occasions dressed up as a nun and tried to escape.95 Jeffrey Hamm, who had been interned on very dubious grounds in the hulk of a ship in Port Stanley harbour on the Falkland Islands in 1940, was also involved in an ironic variant of the 92 PRO HO 45/25698, John Beckett. 93 Battersby, The Bishop said Amen, pp. 44–5; S. Rawnsley, ‘Fascism and fascists in Britain in the 1930s’, PhD thesis, University of Bradford, 1981, p. 216; PRO HO 215/492, Mona’s Herald, 23 Sept. 1941. 94 PRO HO 215/493, Home Secretary’s Report on Incident at Peveril Camp, 2. Oct. 1941. 95 Driver, ‘Shadows of Exile’, p. 51. INTERNMENT 194 attempted escape British prisoner of war drama; he was active in tunnelling at Leuwkop internment camp in South Africa just prior to his release.96 The other major episode of active resistance to internment involved Frederick Bowman, a member of the BPP. He was force fed in Brixton gaol in 1942 as a response to a hunger strike fol- lowing punishment after trying to pass uncensored mail out of the prison. His case was taken up by Ramsay who led a deputation to the Governor and asked the Home Secretary a parliamentary ques- tion on the matter. Ramsay wanted to know whether forcible feed- ing should be used as a punishment in cases where a prisoner has expressed his willingness to take the nourishment in question. After a verbal protest Bowman submitted quietly. Another detainee then tried the same procedure as Bowman but when told he would be fed artificially unless he took the diet ordered he changed his mind and took his punishment.97 Bowman however exacted his revenge by refusing to accept conditional terms for his release in 1942 and the authorities decided to release him unconditionally in 1943 as they regarded him as an unimportant detainee whose stroppy behaviour made him an undesirable influence in prison.98 Arnold Leese claimed too that he went on a hunger strike where he was forcibly fed in protest at not being told the reasons for his deten- tion.99 There is no confirming evidence of this but given Leese’s general attitude it is certain he resisted the authorities as far as he could. A more dignified expression of protest was displayed by the released internee, Charles Watts. He was district leader of the Westminster branch of the BUF and organized the cab drivers group of members which allegedly contained 1,000 members. He had been released in 1941 with restrictions applied to his freedom of movement. On 16 November 1942 he helped organize a party to celebrate Sir Oswald Mosley’s birthday. At this function, at which 96 J. Hamm, ‘Other concentration camps’, The European, 8, 5 (Jan. 1957), pp. 313–19; idem, Action Replay (London, 1983); PRO HO 45/25740, Jeffrey Hamm. 97 PRO HO 45/25729, Frederick H.U. Bowman; PRO HO 45/25700, note by W.H. Lines (governor) of meeting with Maule Ramsay, Domvile et al., 4 Nov. 1942,; PRO HO 45/25753, note on the forced feeding of H.U. Bowman. 98 PRO HO 45/25729, unconditional revoking of detention order, 7 Apr. 1943. 99 A.S. Leese to Earl Winterton MP (n.d.), note on my internment file 3573, Britons Library. INTERNMENT 195 he appeared in the illegal Blackshirt uniform, Watts made an impassioned speech saying there was far too much suspicion and distrust amongst the members of British Union, who instead of uniting in one party were now forming numerous small groups which were wary of each other. He then stressed the point that British Union must be regarded as a British organization, and any adherent harbouring pro-German thoughts was a menace and thoroughly deserved detention under DR 18b.100 A minor sign of resistance from some internees was shown by the adherents of St Barbe Baker’s new religion. St Barbe Baker was a victim of the First World War, where he had obtained an MC as well as the after-effects of shell shock and gas poisoning. He was an able man who was responsible for the advertising for the British Empire exhibition in 1923. His poor health, alcohol- ism and variable mental state meant he only found irregular employment in the inter-war years. His behaviour at the outbreak of war, when he joined the BUF as ‘Colonel’ Moore-Hope – he was in fact a captain – and his propaganda at the meetings of Maida Vale BUF and NL members that the Royal Oak had been sunk by enemy bombing and not a submarine and that Hitler was about to unleash his secret weapon against France by unlocking the flood-gates of the Rhine, brought him to the attention of the authorities.101 He was interned and the Committee, although recognizing his eccentricity, formed the opinion that his pro- Hitler beliefs and organizing abilities and his evasive behaviour made him a potentially dangerous man if released. He was to be interned until the end of the war. At Peveril Baker began preaching a new religion which glorified Hitler as Christ returned to earth. He emphasized that the Jews should be pitied and well treated and he was distrusted by some anti-semites. However, he had a certain amount of success in converting other detainees to his peculiar views. On one occasion, Baker and one of his converts, J.L. Battersby of the BUF told the camp commandant after reading him a passage from the Acts of the Apostles that if he followed the wisdom of St Paul’s gaoler and let them go free, he and his family would be saved from eternal 100 PRO HO 45/25702, Special Branch report on Charles Watts at Mosley birthday party, 20 Nov. 1942. 101 PRO HO 283/28, MI5 report on Thomas Guillaume St Barbe Baker, 1940. INTERNMENT 196 damnation.102 St Barbe Baker in 1942 held religious meetings in camp where the diehard nazis, according to the camp informant, interpreted Baker’s quotations from Isaiah, which said that rulers and kings would pay tribute to a man who lived on the mountain and that when he came ‘Joybells would be rung’, as Hitler living at Berchtesgaden and the ringing of church bells in the event of an invasion.103 Needless to say St Barbe Baker’s religious meetings seem to have been rapidly closed down by the authorities after two meetings. If active resistance was minimal, the most sustained response was a passive resistance to the boredom, physical deprivation and increasing mental strains of internment brought about by the seem- ingly never-ending ordeal for those who failed to gain immediate release from the Advisory Committee. In spite of using prison and camp warders as informants and the bugging of Mosley’s cell, little of consequence was learned by the prison and internment authorities about supposed fascist treason. Indeed, the prison governor at Brixton later commended BUF internees on their patriotism and their support for the RAF against the Luftwaffe in the nightly air raids.104 Although it is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from anecdotal evidence a few tentative points can be made about the effects of internment of DR 18b detainees. Lengthy internment undermined the constitutions of even the fittest and healthiest, but it should be remembered that many recovered physically from the ordeal. For example, Mosley lived to be 84 and Domvile survived into his 90s. However, the long list of internees who were released mainly on health grounds included Mosley, Leese, Domvile and Beckett amongst others. All internees lost weight and were physi- cally debilitated by the experience, but most survived without permanent undermining of their health. The mental scars, however, produced more long-term effects in some cases. Sociological and psychological literature on the institutionaliza- tion of individuals, and the growing use by historians of such mate- rial, has suggested that reductionist models of behaviour patterns 102 PRO HO 45/25732, report on St Barbe Baker, 1945. 103 PRO HO 214/45, Religious Meetings in Camp, 2 Apr. 1942. 104 Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, pp. 455–6. INTERNMENT 197 have to be treated with a great deal of scepticism.105 This is certainly the case too with internment and it could of course be argued that such personality change as was noticed could have had other causes. Of those who survived the experience, some of Mosley’s closest followers adjusted well to the post-internment world. Although Francis Hawkins never re-entered active politics, a coterie of prominent and junior members of the BUF whose commitment to Mosley and his ideas had been strengthened by internment persuaded him back into politics in 1948 against his better judge- ment. Mosley and his wife also endured the experience without noticeable psychological scars. Mosley used his enforced rest in prison to read widely; he learned German and his main interest became ancient Greece. Through a correspondence with his eldest son, Nicholas, his pronounced classicism gradually shaped out the forms of his radical new post-1945 ideas. This correspondence was to develop the intellectual basis of the non-materialist evolutionism whose roots were in Jungian psychology and the new physics of Jeans and Eddington,106 views which were later to be developed in The Alternative, where the evolution of the ‘Thought- Deed’ man was to be contrasted with the ‘will to comfort’ type prevalent in the puritanical ethos of British capitalism and its rul- ing class.107 These ideas were to be much better thought out than the activism behind fascist ideology. Ironically, these new ideas were to be closer to European revisionist fascist ideology, mainly deriving from Waffen SS propaganda, the nazi colonial bureau and the ex-South African Minister of Defence, Oswald Pirow, whose Europe-Africa colonial ideas were to influence the survival of European neo-fascist views after 1945, than BUF ideology had been to either German nazism or Italian fascism in the 1930s. Internment helped turn Mosley into a European. This derived from the experience of internment tempered by the realization that his movement had been too totalitarian and nationalistic in the 1930s. The majority of internees, however, retired from active political 105 S.Elkins,Slavery(Chicago,1976);A.J.Lane(ed.),TheDebateoverSlavery(London, 1971); R. Fogel and S. Engerman, Time on the Cross (Boston, 1976); P. David and P. Temin, Reckoning with Slavery (New York, 1976). 106 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983), pp. 216–27. 107 O. Mosley, The Alternative (London, 1947), pp. 25, 289. INTERNMENT 198 life after the war. Nellie Driver argued that most fascists drifted off after the war because some had suffered too much for the cause; others like herself found new enthusiasms, in her case Roman Catholicism. She herself found it impossible to get a job for three years after she was released, and practically all the intern- ment files comment on the difficulty fascists had obtaining employ- ment when they were released. Francis Hawkins’s appointment at the Medical Supply Association in 1945 led to a threatened strike by the staff and his dismissal.108 For some the scars of internment were to be more pronounced. Certain of the ‘Jew wise’, for example, became hardened in their eccentricity. Maule Ramsay, who had congratulated the Advisory Committee on having no Jewish members,109 immediately on his release tried to reactivate in Parliament an ancient thirteenth- century statute which would have introduced Nuremberg-type laws for the Jews in Britain. Leese appeared to revel in being persecuted for his adherence to fanatical anti-semitism and his one-man crusade was intensified. Admiral Sir Barry Domvile now became a much more committed adherent to the conspiracy theory of history; for him Judmas (a combined Judaeo-Masonic plot) was responsible for the calamities of the modern world. His objections to the way the Intelligence Community functioned and his peculiar attacks on specialists in the Royal Navy which he thought had eventually led him to be pensioned off in 1934, were now rational- ized in terms of his refusal to be recruited by a Jewish freemason while he was Director of Naval Intelligence.110 Some of the less exalted internees also suffered from long-term mental aberrations. Harold Lockwood, the second man of the IFL, commented on the essential truth behind the DR 18b detainees propaganda pamphlet, It might have happened to you (Glasgow 1943). He said he had seen men slowly losing their grip and san- ity, becoming physical wrecks as a result of internment.111 108 PRO HO 45/25700, Jewish Chronicle, 4 May 1945. 109 PRO HO 283/45, Advisory Committee hearing with Aubrey Lees, 29 July 1940, p. 17. 110 Domvile, ‘From Admiral to Cabin Boy’, p. 73; idem, By and Large (London, 1936), pp. 175–80; Domvile to A.K. Chesterton, 15 Aug. 1965. 111 H.H. Lockwood, ‘Not finished yet’, People’s Post, Dec. 1945. INTERNMENT 199 Although Lockwood was an extreme anti-semite whose judge- ment can be questioned he was not entirely wrong in his assess- ment. One of St Barbe Baker’s converts, J.L. Battersby, published privately after the war a pamphlet describing Hitler as the champion, redeemer and saviour of the Aryan people in their relentless struggle with the Jews. The Germans were the God-appointed lords of the earth and ‘The God has indeed come down from heaven and his name is Adolf Hitler.’112 The release of Mosley If the effect of internment on the fascists was varied, for the com- munists the release of Mosley in November 1943 produced an outbreak of emotion which momentarily threatened to disrupt war production. The whole sorry saga of internment produced a peculiar inversion of the normal political responses to the vexed question of civil liberties. Whereas usually it was the political left who criticized the government for infringement of fundamental liberties, now it was the Communist party and the Council for Civil Liberties (the precursor of the NCCL), which they partly controlled, who were at the forefront of the demands to keep Mosley interned. Harold Nicolson resigned from the Council over its general reaction to Mosley’s release, on the grounds that he thought it illogical that such a body could support a belief that a citizen could be kept in prison without trial.113 There were 38 other resignations over the same issue. While there was an understandable case for locking up fascists in 1940, the logic of the argument became progressively weaker as the fortunes of war changed and the threat of invasion receded; and given the fact that the Communist party had played a less than glorious role in the phoney war period when they too advocated an anti-war policy, it was not surprising that the authorities viewed these protests in a somewhat cynical manner. Although the communists provided the froth of the anti-Mosley campaign, it was the attitude of the Labour party and Trades Union Congress which accounted for the longevity of internment. 112 J.L. Battersby, The Holy Book of Adolf Hitler (Southport, n.d.). 113 Harold Nicolson to CCL, 23 Dec. 1943, Box 41/4 NCCL Archive. INTERNMENT 200 Since 1940 Richard Stokes, the Labour MP for Ipswich, and a few other members had persistently demanded the release of Mosley and the fascists on the grounds of the continuing infringement of his civil liberties. In the eyes of such critics Mosley should either be tried as a traitor or set free. The objections of the left were summed up in two letters to Herbert Morrison from the Transport and General Workers Union and the TUC in the furore following Mosley’s release in November 1943,114 which argued that to release Mosley then would reduce civilian morale as Mosley had come to symbolize fascism and nazism for most of the British people. Although the British government was very sensitive to issues of civilian morale, Churchill and the Conservatives were equally concerned about foreign, particularly American, opinion. It was thought to be somewhat incongruous to be fighting a war against an allegedly unspeakable tyranny when the government were imprisoning British citizens without trial. From the autumn of 1940 onwards the Advisory Committee was consciously used as a device for reducing as quickly as possible the numbers interned. The government was particularly concerned that DR 18b prison- ers should not have their health undermined and where this appeared to be occurring internees were released. General debility or threat to life were the reasons why ‘serious’ cases were released, and when Mosley’s phlebitis started to spread in 1943 the medical authorities informed the Home Office there was a threat to Mosley’s life, particularly given the fact that the conditions of internment had already reduced his weight from 14 stone 7 lbs to 11 stone 4 lbs.115 It was in the light of these facts that the Cabinet decided to release Mosley in November 1943. The Left organized a series of demonstrations in November and December 1943, although Special Branch argued that these were mainly planned by the Communist party or front organizations.116 At least 21 anti- Mosley meetings in London were reported to the authorities in the month following his release, with attendances rising to 1,300 114 PRO HO 45/28492/252 and 257, HO 262/6 115 PRO HO 45/24892/129. 116 PRO HO 45/24893/3–4. INTERNMENT 201 and several over 1,000.117 Following one demonstration an empty quart beer bottle was delivered to the Home Secretary labelled ‘Rat Poison’ and ‘Cure for Phlebitus’ (sic).118 On 23 November over 1,000 demonstrators yelled outside the Palace of Westminster: ‘We’ve got to get rid of the rat M-O-S-L-E-Y.’119 The government was more worried by the 14 days’ notice of strike action at nine Glamorgan collieries over the issue, although it appears these did not take place.120 The virulence of the opposition, with London as its epicentre, reflected both the degree of popular hostility felt in the capital to Mosley following the blitz, and the fact that the Communist party had organized tenant associations and front organizations in local communities, particularly in the East End. The government were particularly concerned about the growth of anti-semitism during the Second World War and the possible role fascists might have in fanning its embers.121 This arose partly as a result of criticism of alleged involvement by some Jews in black market activities. This was one of the reasons why the conditional release of many fascists did not allow them access to the Metropolitan Police District. However, even before the end of the war there was conflict between communists and ex-fascists and the meetings of Jeffrey Hamm’s League of ex-Servicemen were to bring alive once more the ten- sions of the 1930s in parts of the East End for a short period after 1945. Thus internment brought the official history of British fascism to an abrupt conclusion. The BUF and IFL were never to be reformed. Yet fascism did not die; like the leopard, it changed its spots. Its resurrection in a greatly altered post-war world was to be achieved in revisionist forms. Few were to emerge from the sorry saga of internment with any credit and the continuing obsession with secrecy by both the authorities and those who suffered make a final assessment of it difficult. What can be said, however, is that internment, which began as a response to a political and military crisis in 1940 and 117 PRO HO 45/24893/11. 118 PRO HO 45/24893/6. 119 PRO HO 45/24893/110. 120 PRO HO 45/24893/114. 121 Aaron Goldman, ‘The resurgence of anti-semitism in Britain during World War II’, Jewish Social Studies, 40, 1 (1984), pp. 37–50. INTERNMENT 202 was introduced on the grounds of national security, after 1941 was maintained as a political act; the purpose of internment subtly changed from preventive detention of an arguably potential fifth column to the maintenance of public morale through the punish- ment as scapegoats of those in British society who appeared to resemble most, at least superficially, the nazis and what they stood for. It was ironic that the Communist party, who turned from an anti-war party to super-patriots overnight in June 1941, exhibited far more signs of foreign control than the fascists ever did; although Mosley had received significant finance from Mussolini for a few years in the 1930s, this was no more reprehensible than the financial support and rigid direction that Moscow had always provided for the communists. If the Zinoviev letter, whether forged or not,122 and the funds provided for the Daily Herald suggested attempted Moscow influence behind the British Labour move- ment, the Security Service completely failed to produce clear evidence of any close control of British fascism by the more suc- cessful European movements, at least insofar as their activities in 1939–40 were concerned. 122 Andrew, Secret Service, pp. 298–338. INTERNMENT 8 New Wine for Old Bottles, 1945–1960 Inevitably the end of the Second World War marked a watershed in the history of British fascism. Although fascism had not been banned, the use of DR 18b (1A) and DR 18AA against the BUF, and the wholesale internment of many of the leading members of the BUF, IFL, NL, BPP and the Link, meant that the state had squashed flat the political activities of these organizations. After the war only the BPP was to survive under the aristocratic patronage of the Duke of Bedford. Post-war revisionist fascism For those whose faith in British fascism remained undimmed the realities of the post-war world had to be taken into account. The experience of 1940 and the war to the finish against Hitler had radically altered that perspective. A new consensus had formed. State and society were hostile to all forms of political activity which could be seen as friendly to or influenced by nazism. Prior to the Second World War, apart from organized labour and militant Jewish movements, there had been widespread indifference to fas- cism provided that public order was not threatened. After the Olympia fiasco on 7 June 1934 the BUF was perceived by much public opinion with ridicule and contempt. This was shown in the assessment of public opinion in the Mass Observation files, where the two main surveys of anti-semitism in 1938 and 1943 showed a marked difference in attitude on the 204 part of the researchers, from an anthropological oddity to a seri- ous social problem.1 Reactions to Mosley changed from indiffer- ence in the first two by-elections fought by the fascists in 1940 through the physical assault of Mosley in May 1940 and popular support for the mass internment of fascists to the marked hostility to Mosley’s release in late 1943.2 Indeed, although Tom Harrison probably under-estimated the extent to which the Communist party orchestrated this event, his comment that his researchers found stronger feelings on this last subject than on any other that they had examined since 1937 did reflect a change in public senti- ment. After 1940 British fascism faced the domestic equivalent of the mood which wanted to hang the Kaiser and squeeze Germany until the ‘pips squeaked’ after the First World War. It was in this light that the new Labour government in 1945 set up a committee on fascism. This was in response to Mosley addressing a meeting of about 600 DR 18b internees on the 15 December 1945. However, although the first meeting of the committee assumed it would be a good thing to ban fascism, the Home Secretary, J. Chuter Ede, soon changed his mind.3 It was thought too difficult to define the concept and, if it were outlawed, either far too wide a range of opinion would be suppressed or such movements would margin- ally alter their beliefs to move outside the range of definition. The new committee also found it very difficult to obtain material to support charges of seditious conspiracy against Leese, Ratcliffe and others who were still actively propagating anti-semitic doctrines, in the wake of the repeal of the Defence Regulations.4 Chuter Ede considered that vigilance and informed discussion of democratic principles was all that was needed to defeat fascism. Thus the Labour government, although taking note of such groups as the London Trades Council, who wished to ban all fascist activ- ity and put Mosley back in gaol in 1947, reverted to the classic 1 File 12, Anti Semitism Survey, 1938, File 1669, ‘On overcoming Anti-Semitism 1943’, Mass Observation File Reports. 2 File 39, Silvertown By-election, Feb. 1940; File 59, Leeds NE By-election, March 1940; File 154, Middletown and Prestwich By-election, 1940; File 135, Reactions to Internment of Mosley; File 2011, Mosley and After, Mass Observation File Reports. 3 PRO HO 45/25399/89. PRO Cab 128/2 Cab 63 (45) Minute 3, PRO Cab 128/5 Cab 31 (46), Cab 129 CP (46) 137. 4 PRO HO 45/25399/123. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 205 liberal line of the Home Office in the 1930s to maintain freedom of speech while closely watching the suspect organizations who were creating public disquiet.5 Thus fascism had caused an ironic reversal of attitudes in British society. While the Labour movement and the NCCL were calling for a reduction in the freedom of speech, the government was valiantly defending the right of all groups in society to liberty of expression provided that public order was not threatened. Thus if the government was reluctant to suppress fascism, the fascists were aware that they would have to move very carefully to avoid reprisals. The hanging of William Joyce provided further bad publicity. Although Mosley called him an ‘offensive little beast’ and Chesterton thought he deserved to be hung as a trai- tor,6 the public linked by association the smear of Joyce’s treachery with British fascism. Whatever the doubts about Joyce’s British citizenship and whether it was legally valid to hang him,7 amongst the leading proponents of the tradition only Arnold Leese, in a reversal of his position in 1940, was prepared to defend him. Leese wrote to the Home Secretary saying that Joyce had no treachery in his heart and his only motive was to bring Britain and Germany closer together in a great European civilization.8 Later, Chesterton was to write six articles on Joyce’s treachery when he was employed by Beaverbrook in 1953, but at the last moment it was decided to reduce the story to one article which was subedited down to a bowdlerized version which did little justice to Chesterton’s meticulous use of the material given him by Margaret Joyce, John Macnab and Aubrey Lees. Even so, the article in the Sunday Express created a furore, with accusations that Chesterton was trying to whitewash Joyce. Chesterton, with the judgement of hindsight and researched knowledge, now considered that Joyce’s defence on legal technicalities was a strong one but that neverthe- less he was still morally guilty of treachery.9 Even though Mosley and Chesterton were both horrified by Joyce’s action during the 5 PRO HO 45/25399/320–2. 6 PRO HO 283/13/63. ‘The National Front. Its formation and progress’, p. 7, 6 July 1945, Ivan Greenberg papers, 170/5, Mocatta Library. 7 J.W. Hall (ed.) The Trial of William Joyce (London, 1946). 8 Letter, Leese to Chuter Ede, n.d., File 3574, Britons Library. 9 A.K. Chesterton, ‘The strange case of William Joyce’, Article 6, p. 11, in A.K. Chesterton papers. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 206 war, the fact that they had both been closely connected with him in the 1930s was to compromise their reputations as judges of men; guilt by past association was to cloud, however unfairly, their future activities. This extremely negative perception of all kinds of fascist activ- ity after 1945 meant that all those who took a less fundamentalist line than Arnold Leese were very wary and security-conscious. Mosley, ever mindful of the case of William Joyce, was exception- ally careful not to become associated with extremist lunatics who advocated sabotage and armed insurrection. Although he kept rigidly to a legal and constitutional line and expelled from the Union Movement (UM) (see pp. 214–5) those who advocated illegality, the very fact that it took him so long to see through many dangerous extremists in the first place was disquieting, as the case of Francis Parker Yockey and his associates was to prove. Chesterton told the National Front after Victory group (NF after V) in 1945 that he had received a letter from the IFL proposing the formation of an underground movement which possessed arms and ammunition dumps, with a strict discipline enforceable by death. Chesterton’s line, which he held consistently throughout his career, was to arm privately if in defence of the king but not otherwise.10 Leese and some of his followers were gaoled in 1947 for being involved in a conspiracy to help escaped Dutch Waffen SS prisoners of war. The other major factor which led public opinion to detest all movements which appeared to have any connection with the nazi regime was the grim revelations of the survivors of Belsen and the death camps in Poland. From 1945 onwards the chief accusation to be hurled at all varieties of fascists by opponents was their supposed commitment to the physical extermination of Jewry. In terms of two of the major political survivors of British fascism this accusation was untrue. Mosley had never advocated anything beyond the physical separation of Jews and Englishmen and the forced expulsion of Jews from England. Chesterton’s position was equally clear; his opposition to nazism after March 1939 and friendship with individual Jews like Joseph Leftwich led him to a partial realization that his rabid anti-semitism before 1939 could be construed as genocidal. Indeed, in his confused state in 1939 he 10 ‘The National Front. Its formation and progress’, p. 11. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 207 more than once ended his arguments at meetings with statements which implied exactly that. Yet although his anti-semitism was to remain a lifelong obsession, he was to recoil from the implications of his extremism before 1939 and to argue that those responsible for the gas chambers and the horror of the concentration camps should go to the gallows.11 His own conspiratorial anti-semitism was seen as part of an Anglo-American tradition which presum- ably was supposed to have milder consequences than the nazi ver- sion. What these were was never spelt out and he failed to understand the contradiction between the logic of his arguments and the moral revulsion he felt about the excesses of nazism. Arnold Leese’s bias, in contrast, hardened significantly. For him the nazi defeat, despite his earlier misgivings about Hitler, was now seen as an unmitigated disaster and represented the triumph of the forces of international Jewry and Zionism. His genocidal beliefs were strengthened by the war and he was to advocate these arguments again after 1945.12 Cranky views like those of Leese were to have no impact on society after the war. Leese had become a one-man band whose main impact was through the Britons Society. Post-war fascism was to see an oscillation of fortunes between purveyors of revisionist forms of fascism and the classic nazi mantle assumed by Leese after 1945. Both Mosley and Chesterton vehemently denied that they were fascists after 1945. Mosley argued that the narrow nationalism of fascism was no longer appropriate to the need to create an integrated European state whose government supposedly would be more amenable to democratic controls than the pre-war fascist conception. Chesterton, presumably regretting his pre-war hero worship of Mosley and the embarrassing attempts to transfer this mantle to Lord Lymington or Maule Ramsay in 1939, was no longer filled with the need to worship at a leader’s feet. Yet their politics, although they developed in radically different directions, were both rooted in separate aspects of the inter-war tradition, and both reflected developments in the attempt to revive the phenomenon on the continent after the war. In short, both can be 11 A.K. Chesterton and J. Leftwich, The Tragedy of Anti-Semitism (London, 1948), pp. 150, 212–13; London Tidings, Nov. 1947; D. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton. The making of a British fascist’, PhD thesis, University of Sheffield, 1982, pp. 392–93. 12 C. Holmes, ‘Historical revisionism in Britain; The politics of history’, Trends in Historical Revisionism, Centre for Contemporary Studies Seminar, May 1985, p. 4–8. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 208 viewed as separate revisionist forms of fascism even if their experi- ences had led them to emphasize the need for legality and democratic forms. Revisionism in this sense has been seen almost entirely in terms of those who have argued that the Holocaust never happened.13 This view has been put by non-fascists but it has assumed a central role in the case of certain contemporary self-proclaimed national- ist or neo-nazi organizations. Its origins date from the war and some of its earliest proponents were anti-nazi anti-semites.14 Yet the chief survivors of the British fascist generation believed that Hitler had committed foul crimes against European Jewry, even if Leese argued that the Holocaust was a Jewish myth. For Mosley and Chesterton new responses of the fascist generation were needed after 1945 to meet the changed political conditions of the post-war world, and it was their very different ideas which represented the revisionist link between two generations of fascists. It was only through the smokescreen of hindsight that later apolo- gists for Hitler in the NF and BM felt bold enough to promote a cover-up of nazi atrocities and attempted Jewish genocide through so-called ‘revisionist’ works – a euphemistic label for a historical fairy tale. The fascist revisionism of Mosley and Chesterton arose partly from continental and American influences and partly from the logic of the situation in Britain. Mosley had spent some of his enforced rest during the war in learning German and catching up on his reading. The similarity between many of the ideas outlined in The Alternative (1947) and the emergence of proposals for a Nation Europa and Eurafrika in the underground and semi-legal national- ist movements in post-war Germany appeared to be related to these facts.15 The Alternative was translated into German and was more widely read in that country than in Britain. The FBI noted that the UM in 1948 had a European Contact Section and a German adviser called Alfred Francke Kriesche who had links with the Bruderschaft, an elitist underground society of ex-SS officers.16 13 Ibid. 14 D. Reed, A Prophet at Home (London, 1941), p. 94; idem, The Controversy of Zion (Durban, 1978), p. 400. 15 K.P. Tauber, Beyond Eagle and Swastika (Middletown, Conn. 1967), pp. 208–38. 16 CG100–25647, FBI files, K. Coogan, ‘Francis Parker Yockey and the Nazi International. A preliminary report’ (1982), Appendix. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 209 Such contacts, no doubt, were the reason why the British govern- ment refused to give Mosley back his passport until 1949. Similarly there was a parallel between Mosley’s later new ideas on ‘European socialism’, advocating syndicalist forms of organiza- tion in industry, and Mussolini’s attempt to return to his roots in the Republic di Salo in Italy in 1944.17 This may have represented a similarity of response by men who came to fascism from the political left, or the influence of Italian contacts with the UM. It was indeed ironic that a man who spent most of his time arguing before the Advisory Committee how British his movement was, should now turn intellectual somersaults in a so-called extension of patriotism to merge some of his pre-war beliefs into a European superstate concept. Chesterton’s revisionism was at first sight less dramatic in its new orientation. He did not lose his basic patriotism as the cornerstone of his beliefs. Yet his anti-semitism showed important changes. No longer did he indulge in violent anti-semitic abuse, and he inveighed against the nazi influences of Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s ‘clotted nonsense’ and Rosenberg’s ‘racial rub- bish’.18 However, this attack on nazi nordicism did not also apply to anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Although Chesterton’s views were rationalized in terms of Anglo-American influences they were also very similar to Rosenberg’s. Rosenberg’s ‘golden international’ alliance of Jewish capitalists and Soviet communists became an obsessional bogey-man in his revisionist ideas, and even the Protocols, forgery or not, were to be used as evidence of what really happened in the world. In the 1950s racial abuse was transferred from the Jews to coloured immigrants and Africans, where an odd mixture of colonial paternalism and virulent racial- ism symbolized his attitude to the new scapegoat which was seen as a threat to the remnants of the British Empire and way of life.19 Chesterton’s new ideas like Mosley’s were a reflection of the changed geopolitical realities in Europe and the British Empire after 1945. Europe and Britain were exhausted and it was the two new superpowers, the USA and USSR, who were the main factors 17 A.J. Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism (New York, 1969), pp. 283–303. 18 A.K. Chesterton, ‘Why Patriotism’, Candour, Apr. 1971; idem, ‘The myth of race’, Truth, 4 Aug. 1950. 19 R.C. Thurlow, ‘Ideology of obsession’, Patterns of Prejudice. 8, 6 (Nov.–Dec. 1974), pp. 23–9. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 210 in international politics. Fascists whose anti-Bolshevism had always been a motivating force now, like Mussolini in the 1920s, saw the USA as an equally dangerous enemy. Chesterton’s conspiracy theory was to highlight the supposed role of Jewish financiers in US policy and how it was designed to destroy the British Empire. However, although he was to be as virulently anti- American as his German friend, Otto Strasser, Chesterton was never influenced by Strasser’s ideas for European confederation, Eurafrika or pro-Soviet sympathies.20 The survival of political forms derived from inter-war fascism after 1945 in a hostile Britain was to depend not only on the tenacity of those involved but on financial resources as well. The most influential groups were those who possessed sufficient capital to publicize their views. In this sense Mosley, with his own financial resources and personal magnetism, was in a position to survive once he decided to re-enter active politics in 1948. Arnold Leese, too, who had carefully husbanded his own resources in the inter-war period, inherited part of the estate of H.H. Beamish after the war. After paying succession duty he received £3,350 from this source,21 which was used to help finance Gothic Ripples and the Britons Society. Chesterton, a professional journalist who was deputy editor of Truth from 1944 to 1953, and literary adviser to Beaverbrook in the latter year, was able to form his own newspaper Candour in late 1953 thanks to receiving a cheque for £1,000 from an eccentric ex-patriate millionaire from Chile called R.K. Jeffery. During the next few years until Jeffery’s death in 1961, Chesterton was reputed to have obtained £70,000 from this source and these bequests were used to fund Candour and the antics of its political offshoot, the League of Empire Loyalists.22 Jeffery had read Chesterton’s pamphlet, ‘Truth has been murdered’, an account of how that journal was turned into an orthodox Tory publication when bought by a Conservative MP. The dispute over Jeffery’s will, which was mysteriously altered at the last minute to deprive 20 D.L. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton, the Strasser brothers, and the politics of the National Front’, Patterns of Prejudice, 19, 3 (1985), pp. 23–33; O. Strasser, Germany in a Disunited World (Eastbourne, 1947), pp. 26–31. 21 Estate of H.H. Beamish, H.H. Beamish Correspondence etc., File 3571, Britons Library. 22 Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton’ (thesis), p. 370. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 211 Chesterton of the estate, stopped the National Front from receiv- ing a massive injection of funds, reputed to be over a million pounds, in its early years.23 Many of the problems emphasized here were to be experienced in one of the early attempts to revive the tradition in 1945. The NF after V group was a still-born operation which formed a patriotic, anti-semitic nationalist movement in revisionist cloth- ing. The ever-alert Board of Deputies of British Jews reactivated their mole who had successfully burrowed into the innermost recesses of the NL in 1939 in order to infiltrate the organization. In a classic whistle-blowing operation, the Board of Deputies arranged for Lord Vansittart to make a speech in the House of Lords to condemn the revival of fascism so as to prevent a merger between this group and the BPP, the effect of which was to destroy the organization.24 The agent’s reports of the meetings of this group, in which he was part of the small team who negotiated the merger with the BPP, provided much valuable information on the psychology and mood of such organizations. The driving force behind the NF after V group was A.K. Chesterton. He was not one of those who, in the euphemistic words of John Beckett at the merger talks, had been ‘held together’ during the war. Although he was suspect in some quarters because he was not interned it is thought that this was because MI5 had intercepted Chesterton’s indignant refusal to be recruited by the nazis to broadcast propaganda to Britain in 1939.25 The group, which was formed in 1944, spent much of its time watering down Chesterton’s original proposals, which were to represent his basic political position for the rest of his life. Talk of impeachment of political leaders who did not put the best interests of Britain first and guarding against the further extension of Jewish power and influence were replaced by more euphemistic expres- sions. Many of the original members, like Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, dropped out of the organization, not because they were against its principles but, as Chesterton pointed out, because they 23 Sunday Times, 30 Mar. 1969. 24 S. Saloman, ‘Now it can be told’, p. 7, C6/9/2/1, Board of Deputies of British Jews Archive. 25 Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton (thesis), p. 364, D.L. Baker, Ideology of Obsession (London, 1996). NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 212 wished to hide behind a barricade of mumbo jumbo. The group contained several internees, including H.T. Mills and Ben Greene, the latter merged his English Nationalist Association with the group. The BPP negotiating team also numbered several internees including John Beckett, ex-BUF and NSL, Aubrey Lees, ex-NL, and Harold Lockwood, ex-IFL. The NF for V, which was always short of cash, approached such well-known far right benefactors as Gordon Canning and Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers for support. The significance of the group lay in its name; Chesterton was to sug- gest it, plus much of its original programme, as the basis of the National Front when it was formed in 1967.26 The new groups and immigration There can be little doubt that fascism would not have survived as a political irritant in Britain after 1945 if those who adopted revisionist forms of the pre-war doctrine, or who still saw Hitler as the saviour of European civilization, had not latched on to the problems created by the influx of new commonwealth immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s. The actual fascist, nazi or revisionist doctrines at the core of the various movements since 1945 were like a political dodo, dead from the outset. Neither Mosley’s Europe-a-Nation campaign, the japes and stunts of the League of Empire Loyalists (LEL), or Leese’s vitriolic anti-semitic venom, had any political influence whatsoever. In so far as they had any minimal significance at all it was the role played in the nativist response to what was to be called coloured immigration. In the 1960s racial populism was to fulfil the same function as the BUF‘s anti-semitic campaign in the East End of London from 1935–8. It was to be the UM, the LEL and the political legacy of Arnold Leese which were to act as the prototypes of the full range of negative political responses to the issues posed by coloured immigration. Since the Second World War western Europe had attracted a migratory flow of labour to fuel the boom years from 1945–73 and to prevent a labour shortage. Britain’s experience, with its imperial past, citizenship rights of Commonwealth immigrants, lower rates of economic growth and nativist resentment over fears 26 ‘The National Front. Its formation and progress’, pp. 1–11. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 213 of economic competition, housing shortages and cultural clashes, produced earlier conflict than elsewhere. In particular, the lack of controls on the flow of new commonwealth immigrants created hostile feelings. If the net migration to the UK was only 12,000 between 1951 and 1961 and negative thereafter, the steady build-up of immigrants, mainly from the West Indies, after the arrival of the first shipload in the Empire Windrush in 1948, led to many social problems in areas where they settled. Numbers had risen from 2,000 a year in 1953 to 136,000 in 1961.27 Significant racial violence had occurred in the Nottingham and Notting Hill riots of 1958 and in attacks in Birmingham, Liverpool, Deptford and Camden Town. Cyril Osborne, Conservative MP for Louth, was to galvanise a campaign in Parliament, the Conservative party and amongst public opinion to end immigration. In this latter area he was to be aided both by the rapid growth of nativist organizations and by the racial populism of UM and the heirs of Arnold Leese. The return to active politics of Sir Oswald Mosley after the war had an air of theatricality about it which suggested a degree of stage management behind the spontaneity. Four separate move- ments, the 18b detainees’ aid fund, the League of ex-Servicemen, The Union of British Freemen (UBF) and the Mosley Book Clubs, forty seven of them nationwide, coalesced in the UM in February 1948 when Mosley finally, politically, came out in the revivalist atmosphere of one of his old East End haunts. The 18b detainees’ aid fund had been founded with the laudable purpose of helping the families of those who had been unfairly imprisoned without trial during the Second World War under DR 18b. The League of ex-Servicemen had been developed in the immediate post-war years by Jeffrey Hamm, a minor BUF figure in 1939 whose internment hardened his commitment to the Mosleyite cause; the experience was to turn him into a follower who eventually rose to the posi- tion of Mosley’s political secretary after the death of Raven Thomson in 1955. Hamm’s vigorous defence of Mosley and his criticism of his Jewish opponents led to outbreaks of violence at his meetings in London between 1948 and 1951 when the 43 group and the Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen (AJEX) interrupted 27 Z. Layton Henry, The Politics of Race in Britain (London, 1984), pp. 16–29. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 214 his oratory with organized heckling and physical violence.28 The Mosley Book Clubs were designed to introduce his followers to his new thought – the result of his reading and cross-fertilization of ideas with new German contacts. The German contacts of Mosley are mentioned in FBI files on Francis Parker Yockey. Yockey was a nazi agent who, incredibly, was employed in the US legal team at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal. After his dismissal from this position he came to London and made contact with Mosley in 1947. According to the FBI he became one of Mosley’s paid officials and was employed in the European Contact Section of what was later to become the UM. Mosley, who was unaware of Yockey’s nazi past, was impressed with his intelligence. Within UM Yockey quickly became a disrup- tive influence. He gathered around him a group of extremists who were influenced by his plans to create anti-American hostility in Europe and to establish links with the Soviet Union for funding propaganda and sabotage. After reading Yockey’s Imperium, a geopolitical epic which synthesized nazi and Spenglerian themes, Mosley refused the offer that it should be published in his name. Realising now that Yockey was a dangerous contact Mosley dropped him. Mosley suffered neither fools nor madmen gladly and being accused by Yockey of being an American agent and tool of Churchill placed him in that category. Yockey’s breakaway group, the European Liberation Front, was to include some whose aims were to infiltrate other nationalist groups and foster extrem- ism and sabotage. Such individuals were later to be associated with the LEL and the Northern League.29 Given the fact that Mosley would inevitably initially attract such extremists as Yockey, UM emphasized that the leopard had indeed changed his spots. Mosley jettisoned much of the nationalist bag- gage and style of the BUF and started political life anew with a pronounced commitment to more democratic European ideals. It was the force of his personality which attracted some of the survivors of internment back to the cause. Others whose belief in 28 PRO HO 45/24467–70, M. Beckman, The 43 Group (London, 1993), J. Hamm, Action Replay (London, 1989), R. Thurlow, ‘The Guardian of the “Sacred Flame”: the Failed Political Resurrection of Sir Oswald Mosley after 1945’ Journal of Contemporary History, 33, 2 April 1998. 29 CG100–25647, FBI files. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 215 the Empire or extremism were stronger than their personal loyalty to Mosley were to drift off to join the LEL or the more radical forms of ‘nationalism’ favoured by a new generation of militants. However, few significant new faces were to be found in Mosley’s entourage and UM was to exhibit an increasingly elderly profile of aging revolutionaries amongst its functionaries. The new genera- tion were to find their inspiration and sustenance elsewhere. Mosley’s return to politics after 1945 was based on his fear that Europe would be overrun by the Red Army and Soviet Communism unless the ‘men of vision’ many of whom had been ‘silenced’ in 1945 could awake the continent to repulse the threat. The history of UM was to represent a low-key variant of that of the BUF after 1934. Whilst media attention gave it bad publicity for its racial populist campaigns, its serious political programme was totally ignored. Since 1935 the BBC had responded to govern- ment pressure to allow neither fascists nor communists access to wireless or television, and this was to continue until Mosley published his autobiography in 1968;30 the press continued its unofficial boycott of Mosley’s meetings, and reported only the conflict and violence. The UM cut no populist ice with its ‘Europe a Nation’ and ‘Europe-Africa’ campaigns, though its attacks on immigration gave it some impetus in parts of east and north London. In the 1940s this was aimed at immigration from eastern Europe. Headlines in Union to the effect that ‘Life blood flows out, sewage flows in’31 were used to argue that every spiv and shark in eastern Europe was determined to get into Britain. Occasionally reminders of the past surfaced and more blatant anti-semitism obtruded following the findings of the Lynskey tribunals and the murder of British servicemen in Palestine.32 Mosley later told the Anti Defamation League that UM could get by without name-calling. Whereas previously he had attacked international Jewish bankers, his fol- lowers knew exactly whom he was talking about when he now criticized American capitalists,33 and this front of respectability enabled UM to permeate the other political parties. Although 30 R. Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (London, 1975), p. 517. 31 Union, 11 Sept. 1948. 32 Union, 5 Feb. 1949. 33 The ADL Bulletin, Mar. 1954. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 216 anti-semitic sentiment surfaced during the Suez crisis of 1956, memories of 1940 meant that UM was amongst the first to volunteer to fight for Britain. If anti-semitism was toned down in comparison to pre-war attitudes, more strident racial views were noticeable. Mosley told the UM conference in 1949 that European investments in Africa should never be threatened by African governments of witch doc- tors and ju-ju men.34 It was amongst the first to take up the issues posed by coloured immigration and after his partial retirement, after moving to Ireland in 1951 and later to Paris, this was the issue which was to bring Mosley back to political campaigning in the later 1950s. The UM first attacked the ‘coloured invasion’ in 1951 and Union regaled its readership with tales of the coloured work-shy, dope peddlars, molestation of white women and black crime.35 As early as 1952 UM was fighting local elections primarily on an anti-immigrant platform, demanding a ‘white Brixton’.36 The UM directed its main organization into the new reception areas and moved out from its old stamping ground of the East End and North London into parts of south and west London like Brixton and Notting Hill. Antipathy and prejudice against the new immigrants and social disorders in 1958 led Mosley to attempt a political comeback in the 1959 general election in North Kensington. In fact UM had not been responsible for the encourage- ment of antipathy. The main area where UM was active was Notting Hill and even here, as The Times pointed out, the methods employed were strictly legal and constitutional and did not involve the advocacy of violence against coloured immigrants.37 However, as in pre-war days, racial populist politics appealed to youthful activism and teddy boys were defended by UM speakers. Mosley’s campaign in 1959 was an odd mixture of economic radicalism and racial prejudice; the high road of ‘Europe a Nation’ and the low road of ‘Kit-E-Kat’ politics which criticized immigrants for their supposed love of catfood.38 The voters of North Kensington were supposedly strange hybrids: willing to accept the most drastic economic and political changes including 34 Union, 12 Feb. 1949. 35 Union, 7 July 1951, 5 Apr. 1952, 19 June 1954. 36 Union, 15 March 1952. 37 The Times, 8 Sept. 1959. 38 Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, p. 513. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 217 the merging of British sovereignty into a European State, the ‘wage price’ mechanism (an early form of prices and incomes policy), and ‘European Socialism’ (a syndical form of organization for industry); yet on the other hand so socially conservative that cultural pluralism was projected as a dire threat to the British way of life. UM propaganda was relatively restrained and did not overtly incite racial harassment although demands for forced repatriation of coloured immigrants, even if this was coupled with vague refer- ences to forms of compensation and building up the Caribbean economy, did nothing to calm the fears of the emerging black community. However, while Mosley thrived at synthesizing the contradictions in his political programme at a higher level of thought, the voters of North Kensington not surprisingly found it all rather confusing. After his canvassers had promised him a nar- row victory Mosley lost his deposit with 8 per cent of the poll. Attempts to prove electoral malpractice foundered for lack of evidence. After the air of unreality surrounding the North Kensington fiasco Mosley turned his attention back to his European dreams. With the help of contacts abroad Mosley tried to form a unified National Party of Europe at a conference in Venice in 1962, where he addressed a motley assortment of ex-SS officers and representa- tives of Europe’s neo-fascist movements. In his autobiography this is presented as a resounding triumph.39 The reality was rather more mundane. All that the representatives of the Italian and German groups agreed to do was to set up a permanent liaison office. They were not prepared to merge themselves into a National Party of Europe and many of the most significant neo-fascist European organizations were not represented at the conference.40 The re-emergence of Mosley and the rise of a more virulent new generation of racial nationalists led to more conflict between the survivors of the changed fascist tradition, a new generation of racial populists and neo-nazis, and the Labour movement and Jewish community. Groups such as the 62 group and Yellow Star movement created disturbances at UM meetings and public disorder resulted, including at least one physical assault on Mosley. Such confrontation led to the growth of UM with a maximum 39 O. Mosley, My Life (London, 1968), pp. 434–40. 40 Tauber, Beyond Eagle and Swastika, p. 221. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 218 membership of about 1,500 and inactive support of about 15,000 in the early 1960s. It was this violence, plus a reduction of his vote to 4 per cent in the 1966 election and the less than brilliant performance of his candidates elsewhere, which led to Mosley retiring from active politics in that year. The mainly favourable reception given to his autobiography ushered in the last semi-respectable phase of his career.41 Given some access to the media once more, he crossed swords with some redoubtable past and present opponents and provided evidence that old age was no handicap for one of Britain’s most formidable political debaters of the century. His reviews for Books and Bookmen and occasional articles in the Daily Telegraph colour magazine meant that he ended his days in 1981 with a small improvement in political status – from beyond the pale to the margin of respectable society. When fascism eventually re-emerged after 1945 it did so slowly and furtively. Various extensions of pre-war fascism and anti- semitism during the 1940s organized themselves politically. Amongst the most significant of the non-Mosley groups were the so-called North West Task Force, an anti-semitic group active in Hendon and Edgware in 1946–7, the Britons, and the National Party. All these had links with the political activities of Arnold Leese and in 1948 the IFL tradition was reactivated when the new management at the Britons, now partially funded by Maule Ramsay and Arnold Leese, formed the National Workers Movement, with a journal called Free Britain. At its inaugural meeting Leese sent a message to his old followers urging them to eschew quarrels amongst themselves, forget old feuds and to recol- lect that a ‘Jew wise’ man or woman was a rare and precious phenomenon.42 However, Tony Gittens and Anthony Baron later fell out with each other at the Britons, Leese’s plea was disregarded and the movement collapsed in the early 1950s.43 The significance of the National Workers Movement was that it enabled the Leese tradition of racial nationalism to survive into the 1950s in political form. In itself it had no importance, being a vehicle for about thirty ex-IFL members to vent their spleen against 41 Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley. 42 PRO HO 45/24968/116. 43 Note from A.S. Leese, 31 Jan. 1951, File 3571, Britons Library. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 219 the Jews in private and to give the nazi salute at the end of their meetings.44 It was decided at one of these events that any Briton who willingly associated with a Jew was guilty of treason and a suitable punishment was being devised for any member of the group who ever gave sanctuary to one. The main difficulty was to find suitable venues for such meetings as local vicars were none too keen to rent church halls for gatherings which disseminated nazi propaganda. The other problem was that the retirement of Leese meant a leadership void for Britain’s racial nationalists. Although hardly potential Führer material himself, Leese had been able to achieve some semblance of discipline amonst the highly argumentative racial nationalists before the war. The search for a new leader in the racial nationalist tradition was to lead to develop- ments in the 1950s which strengthened these extremist senti- ments. Organizations like the National Workers Movement and the Britons provided a cultural transmission of ideas from an increasingly elderly and embittered pre-war generation to an emerging dynamic new leadership of young ‘nationalists’ who were to make racial nationalism, in its revisionist conservative fascist clothing, the most important strand in the post-1945 revival. The spirit of inter-war conservative fascism, that of the British Fascists and the ideas of Nesta Webster, was reasserted by the LEL. Although the fascist tradition was explicity disowned as being outmoded, discredited, and associated with political violence and genocidal policies, its real pedigree was in little doubt. Autocratically led by the ex-BUF propagandist A.K. Chesterton, who controlled the purse strings of the Jeffery largesse and the LEL’s weekly newspaper Candour, it represented a forlorn rearguard action against the demise and changing nature of the British Empire. It regarded the Conservative government of the 1950s, particularly the Macmillan administration, as a collection of traitors who deserved to be hung like William Joyce.45 The LEL believed in publicity-seeking stunts and demonstrated at public events although it disowned political violence and terrorism. Chesterton’s old argument with the dominant martinet clique in the BUF after 1935 also explained his tactics; the LEL was organ- ized as a League, not a party, and believed in disrupting opponents’ 44 PRO HO 45/24968/116. 45 Candour, 14 Feb. 1958. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 220 meetings through publicity stunts rather than by holding demonstrations and marches itself. The LEL was a halfway house between an open reactionary right political movement and an underground clandestine operation fomenting civil disobedience, although not open terrorism. Its significance lay partly in its abil- ity to attract figureheads – retired military gentlemen, ex-colonial administrators, anti-communist and anti-semitic Roman Catholics, alienated scions of the Conservative establishment and energetic upper-middle-class ladies – to be a respectable front for rather dubious activity behind the scenes. Indeed, one chairman of the organization resigned when he considered the LEL’s operation had gone beyond the bounds of legality in 1959.46 It was to be the ideas of A.K. Chesterton, and the growing realization by some of this group that extremist and nazi ideas could be given a veneer of respectability through being expressed in more moderate language, which was to be the central importance of the LEL. Without the financial backing from Jeffery, whom Chesterton never met, it is certain he would never have been able to start either Candour or the LEL. Indeed, once funds from this source had dried up after Jeffery’s death in 1961, the LEL and Candour had difficulty continuing their operations and political activities were on a much reduced scale. However, between 1955 and 1961 the LEL had often been drawn to public attention in the media as a result of its antics. Members blew bugle horns at Conservative party conferences, interrupted state occasions by shouting that Anthony Eden had just shaken hands with a murderer when Khruschev and Bulganin arrived at Victoria Station in 1956, gate- crashed the Lambeth Conference in 1958 by dressing up as Greek Orthodox bishops, and interrupted meetings of the Movement for Colonial Freedom and Anti-Slavery Society amongst many oth- ers.47 Renegade ex-members denounced the movement and its schoolboy pranks with its amateurish counter-subversion strategy against the Security Service.48 Although it possessed up to 3,000 members at its peak in 1958, by the early 1960s this had fallen to a few hundred; the LEL was to gain support from both the remnants 46 Letter from Chairman of LEL to A.K. Chesterton, 20 May 1959, A.K. Chesterton papers. 47 The Times, 13 Oct. 1958; Candour, 27 Apr. 1956; Guardian, 5 July 1958; The Times, 28 June 1956; The Times, 24 June 1960. 48 The People, 29 Jan. 1961. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 221 of the Die-hard tradition, who were dismayed by the collapse of the British Empire, and ex-fascists who resented Mosley’s new European idea. In spite of its old-fashioned political tactics its role was to be seminal in the founding of the National Front in 1967. As well as disruption and more clandestine activity, the LEL presented more conventional challenges to the establishment in a series of by-elections. It stood as the conscience of a form of traditional Conservatism, as the Die-hard remnant of the Tories. It attacked as treason the withdrawal from Empire, the scuttle at Suez and Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ policy towards Africa. With a peculiar mixture of anti-Americanism, anti-communism, crude racialism and colonial paternalism, all woven together by a conspiracy theory of how politicians were merely pawns of the American Jewish financial establishment, the LEL had little impact on the electorate. Only at the North Lewisham by-election in 1957 did they have the moral triumph of having the best candidate, according to several observers.49 Politically, however, they sank without trace; their candidates all lost their deposits. Mosley, Chesterton, Leese and the ‘new’ fascism In terms of the relevance of their respective ideas to new forms of British fascism for Mosley, Chesterton and Leese, there was to be an inverse correlation between the quality of such thought and its impact on ‘nationalist’ movements and society. Mosley during both his enforced rest from active politics in the Second World War and much of his semi-retirement read and reflected widely. Both the nature and content of his writing after the war was much more interesting than anything he had achieved as a fascist in the inter-war years. But apart from a small coterie of devoted follow- ers nobody took any notice of what Mosley was saying. Although several elements within his ideas were to remain pernicious in terms of assessment by liberal humane values, and others hopelessly utopian and unrealistic, the synthesizing power of Mosley’s mind has to be respected and the nature of his arguments have some intellectual interest. The same cannot be said of the work of Chesterton and Leese; both became increasingly obsessed by sup- posed Jewish plots, and although there was a certain elegance in 49 Evening Standard, 12 Feb. 1957. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 222 Chesterton’s journalism, the all-pervading conspiracy fantasies and different kinds of virulent racism meant they had no significance except to fascists, where their post-1945 impact was much more important than that of Mosley. At the root of the differences between Mosley, Chesterton and Leese were their varying assessments of the nature and function of evil in society. Although, as Nicholas Mosley argues, Sir Oswald’s view, based on an interpretation of Goethe’s Faust, a critical appreciation of Shaw’s view of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and Nietzsche’s philosophy, can ultimately be rejected because a person cannot manipulate ends and means as if they were words,50 it was nevertheless a sophisticated attempt to explain and rationalize his own ideas and actions, and of a totally different order to the simplistic and reductionist views of Chesterton and Leese, neither of whom could see human activity except in stark black and white terms. Mosley argued that Faust’s quest for beauty and achieve- ment could only be realized by ceaseless striving and that once contentment was reached so man’s evolutionary urge was extinguished and death ensued. Man’s restlessness could be harnessed for positive achievement, like the draining of the marshes, even if this led to the death of innocent victims. For Mosley ‘evil’ could be harnessed for ‘good’ in both art and life.51 This interpretation of Faust meant that for Mosley Wagner in his Ring Cycle saw further than either Nietzsche or George Bernard Shaw. The Twilight of the Gods was not mere grand opera, as Shaw claimed, but the inevitable destruction of the hero once mere adventure replaced the evolutionary urge to higher forms.52 Perhaps here there is an ironic unconscious commentary on the history of the BUF. Mosley inevitably failed once he had allowed his revolutionary programme to be sidetracked into a pointless quarrel with the Jews. Chesterton, however, could not handle the complexity of evil except in crude terms. Although he was not interned, the trauma of the abject failure of the British fascist political revolution turned Chesterton into a conspiracy theorist. Searching for reasons to 50 N. Mosley, Beyond the Pale (London, 1983), pp. 39–41. 51 O. Mosley, ‘Which inheritance? Goethe or “The Vicar of the Minster of Basle”’, European, 2 (Apr. 1953), pp. 37–49. 52 O. Mosley, ‘Wagner and Shaw: a synthesis’, The European, 37 (Mar. 1956), pp. 51–61. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 223 account for the collapse of his fascist faith, Chesterton found an explanation in the writings of the political underground. Studying both the occult explanations of Father Denis Fahey and Nesta Webster and the materialistic interpretations of A.N. Field, Douglas Reed and C.H. Douglas, Chesterton came to explain complex political events in terms of the occult powers of Jewish conspirators behind the scenes to manipulate government and society mainly through their control of the money power.53 With a prodigious journalistic output, Chesterton outlined in Truth and Candour and in several pamphlets and books the details of this conspiracy. In essence, American Jewish financiers under Bernard Baruch and his henchmen Paul and Max Warburg were not only responsible for financing all social unrest since the Russian Revolution, but were behind the dastardly plot to destroy the British Empire and set up a one-world Jewish superstate based on the Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks agreements and its derivative agencies like the World Bank and United Nations. All American-inspired international organizations like the Council of Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission or the Bilderberg Conferences were seen as front organizations for the conspirators. Unlike Mosley’s complex philosophical and psychological ideas, Chesterton’s simplistic conspiracy theory saw good and evil in Manichean terms, with trai- tors and agents of the devil in control of events. Leese’s perception of the complexity of the modern world was even less sophisticated than Chesterton’s. For him it was axi- omatic that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion explained the evil forces at work in society, and everything he disliked was ascribed to the machinations of Jews. After his dramatic fight against intern- ment his views became more rigid and extreme. Great Britain was infested with Jews and rotten with free-masonry.54 The Second World War was a Jewish war of survival and the end result was the death of Europe. Leese’s Manichean views and his total intransigence suggested not only a prejudiced personality but his increased willingness to suffer persecution for his strange beliefs hinted at a progressive form of abnormality.55 53 A.K.Chesterton, Menance of the Money Power (London, 1946), frontispiece; idem, The New Unhappy Lords (Liss Forest, 1965), pp. 247–8. 54 Gothic Ripples, 11 Apr. 1946. 55 C. Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society 1876–1939 (London, 1979), p. 231. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 224 If there were marked differences in the style and sophistication of Mosley, Chesterton and Leese with regard to their views of the role of evil and the nature of the political process there were also fundamental differences with their attitudes on the nature of man. This was particularly marked in relation to their views on race, culture and evolution. Sociological theories of race relations have suggested that two types of determinist belief system are symptomatic of those who believe in racial ideologies; racism, which is the belief in different biological, physical and genetic fac- tor endowments between races, and ethnocentrism, which is the variation in cultural development between groups as defined by the subjective observer.56 This can be expressed in terms of theoretical conceptualism or common-sense.57 There is some dispute over whether ethnocentrism is merely a functional equivalence of racism in an intellectual environment where racism has become discredited. More recently it has been suggested that where both racist and ethnocentric attitudes are seen as outmoded what is misleadingly called the ‘new racism’ is developed as a functional equivalent.58 This argues merely that cultures are dif- ferent, and not superior or inferior to each other, but the fact that such variations exist creates conflict and hostility between groups in society. Mosley, Chesterton and Leese were to develop varying aspects of these types of racial ideologies to justify discriminatory policies towards Africans and coloured immigrants. Mosley’s view of race developed significantly from his view in the inter-war period that racial hatred was not a desirable policy for the British Empire. In essence they were close to the racial views of Italian fascism, and the concept of the nation as a race cradle which developed from the English anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith.59 Its main assumptions were that race formation was a dynamic historical and political process within the confines of the nation state and that the derived characteristics of the nation-race could be acquired by the interaction of heredity, environment, culture and education over historical time. This was essentially Mosley’s position.60 56 M. Banton, ‘Racism’, New Society, 10 Apr. 1969, pp. 551–4. 57 J. Rex, Race Relations in Sociological Theory (London, 1970), p. 138. 58 M. Barker, The New Racism (London, 1981), pp. 12–29. 59 Gregor, Ideology of Fascism, pp. 258–9. 60 Mosley Right or Wrong? (London, 1961), pp. 115–31. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 225 As a Lamarckian Mosley believed that culture rather than race was the major factor behind evolution. However he derived from Spengler a belief that different cultures should be separated from each other because contact brought decay and not growth. These ideas were developed with the help of Oswald Pirow, the ex-South African Minister of Defence, into an apartheid perspec- tive which in 1948 envisioned European control over African development and in 1953 rigid separation of White and Black Africa;61 it was cultural difference and not a notion of superior- ity which made this inevitable.62 With such a view he argued that coloured immigrants could never be harmoniously integrated into Britain and should be involuntarily repatriated with some compensation. The obvious contradiction that a belief in evolu- tion implied an encouragement of wide outcrossing from the original stock and contact with a wide variety of cultural forms showed the basic incompatibility between his Lamarckian and Spenglerian beliefs. To a certain degree this contradiction can be explained in Mosley’s linking of the Faustian culture of Europe and its potential for evolutionary development towards the Superman concept, the ‘Thought-Deed’ man.63 This brought Mosley perilously close to some nazi ideas and during the early post-war years he justified his views in terms of the underlying reality of race as representing the base of European unity and the close similarity between the peoples of Britain, northern France, Germany and Scandinavia.64 Mosley also used crude arguments; in the same way that you only produced disaster if you attempted to cross horses with cattle or cabbages with roses, so you woud get the same result if the races and cultures of mankind were mixed.65 If Mosley’s was essentially a mixture of an intellectualized ethnocentrism and new racism attitude towards racial questions, both Chesterton and Leese developed views at a much lower level of conceptualization. Chesterton eschewed all theory and relied on instinct to tell him that so-called race mixing was an 61 O. Mosley, The Alternative (London, 1948), pp. 143–70; ‘European’ (Mosley), ‘The African problem’, The European, Apr. 1954. 62 Idem, ‘Underlying realities’, Union, 10 Apr. 1948. 63 O. Mosley, The Alternative, p. 289. 64 Idem, ‘Races. The first reality of European unity’, Union, 15 May 1948. 65 Union, 10 Apr. 1948. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 226 abomination.66 He exhibited a strange mixture of racial paternal- ism and race prejudice in his attitudes towards Africans and coloured immigrants. To Chesterton, the African had no culture and was little more than a savage.67 Similar animal imagery to Mosley’s was also used on occasion comparing race-mixing with attempts to cross mastiffs and Yorkshire terriers or Siamese cats and African elephants.68 Leese was even cruder than before the war. His views on Negroes were shown in his ‘Nigger notes’ in Gothic Ripples and his refer- ences to all educated men of colour as ‘babus’. Jews were encourag- ing coloured immigration to dilute Britain’s racial stock so that Aryan civilization could be destroyed.69 In Leese’s view, there was no difference between the face of Jomo Kenyatta and that of a gorilla.70 Leese’s racial hierarchy saw Aryans as the superior race responsible for creating all culture and civilization and the Negro was the most inferior type of mankind. Jews were not human at all and like Hitler he viewed them as a racial mishmash, an anti- race. The war had represented the triumph of Jewry and the last remaining strongholds of Aryan ascendancy were in danger of dying out as the Nordic elements merged with the ‘scrub popula- tion’.71 In terms of the political programmes of these three men there were two main kinds of contrast; first, that of the European emphasis of both Mosley and Leese in their very different ways, and the continued belief of Chesterton in the British Empire, and secondly, while Mosley concentrated on outlining his positive political programme both Chesterton and Leese spent most of their time writing about their negative obsessions, and in particular the alleged Jewish conspiracy. Mosley’s political object in the UM was to campaign for a union of European peoples, to resist communism and finance, to fight for a new civilization and way of life, to attain power by vote of the people, to develop Africa for the benefit of Europeans and not Africans, to abolish class, privilege and hereditary wealth and to 66 Chesterton and Leftwich, The Tragedy of Anti-Semitism, p. 72. 67 Candour, 15 June, 1956. 68 A.K. Chesterton, ‘The myth of race’, Truth, 5 Aug. 1950. 69 Gothic Ripples, Dec. 1952. 70 Gothic Ripples, May 1953. 71 Gothic Ripples, 11 Apr. 1946. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 227 encourage hereditary service in creative enterprise.72 The war had destroyed the political power of Europe which could only be restored through the voluntary co-operation of European peoples. The urgent need was to remove the outside power of the USA and USSR from Europe and for the new European superpower to develop Africa for her own benefit. These arguments outlined in The Alternative, together with his creative evolutionist ideas about the Thought-Deed man, were very similar to the revisionist ideas emerging in the nationalist groups in the Western Allies’ occupied zones of Germany. In essence Mosley’s European idea had certain similarities with nazi New Order European propaganda during the Second World War and some elements of its racial philosophy after the Nordic school had been discredited.73 Given the contacts Mosley had at this time, it should be viewed more in this light than as a precursor of the democratic idea of the EEC. It probably had some influence in turning some German nationalists away from co-operation with the Soviet Union.74 During the 1950s Mosley was less concerned with the geopoliti- cal grand design and he returned to his original preoccupation with economics which had led to his fascist revolt in the first place. Now the new ideas were ‘European socialism’ and the wage-price mechanism, which were interesting attempts to redistribute wealth through syndical forms of organization and ownership and a highly complex and somewhat bureaucratic prices and income policy.75 Mosley as a result of internment, now attacked the power of the state to suspend habeas corpus, and to detain people without trial during proclaimed periods of emergency. However, like Mussolini, who also became an economic radical once his fascist utopia was blown away, and Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera in Spain, Mosley became the hero in the empty room; the grand theorist to whom nobody of importance listened. The British fascist tradition was to pay more attention to Leese’s post-1945 ‘ideas’ than to Mosley’s interesting new synthesis, though indeed Leese had nothing positive to contribute to new post-fascist views except his monomaniacal conspiracy beliefs and vicious racism. 72 Mosley News Letter, 13 Dec. 1947. 73 R.Herzstein,WhenNaziDreamsComeTrue(London,1982);A.J.Gregor,‘National Socialism and race’, The European, 1958, pp. 273–91. 74 J. Guinness with C. Guinness, The House of Mitford (London, 1985), p. 546. 75 O. Mosley, Europe Faith and Plan (London, 1958); idem, My Life, pp. 432–46. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 228 Chesterton, however, became the key originator of what was to become the main surface tradition in post-1945 British fascism. At the end of the war he had been mainly responsible for the programme of the NF for V and was also involved in writ- ing the policy of the BPP. It was these ideas which were to represent the core of his positive beliefs as expanded in the programme of the LEL and National Front in 1967. For Chesterton the NF after V movement in 1945 was a revolutionary organization in that the solution of the problems facing the British people was outside the range of existing politics. Chesterton believed that Britain’s problems would be solved by contracting out of the international financial system and by building up a strong national and Empire economy. Purchasing power would be related to productive capac- ity within the nation and private enterprise preserved. Agitation against the national sovereignty would be an act of high treason and every political leader who did not put the best interests of Britain first would be impeached. Lastly there was the need to guard against the further extension of Jewish power and influence in Britain.76 This programme represented in essence Mosley’s inter-war BUF programme superimposed on Chesterton’s re-vamped and more rationally expressed conspiracy theory anti-semitism. Chesterton himself was to become obsessed with his conspiracy theory and neglected to develop his positive programme, and indeed most of his contemporaries in the LEL and National Front were to do the same. Younger elements were to find Chesterton’s programme and rationally expressed conspiracy ideas an ideal camouflage for more extreme sentiment; they became a kind of code to hide nazi ideas. Similarly, the clandestine activities of the LEL, although originally designed for juvenile pranks and stunts, were adapted to more sinister purposes in the NF once Chesterton left. The old Leese underground tradition of the ‘Tough Squad’, premeditated racial violence, and paramilitary groups, became a reality for the NF as well as the British Movement. Indeed, this development was beginning to alarm Chesterton before he died. In one of his last letters he wrote to John Tyndall, who had proposed making him 76 A.K. Chesterton, ‘Proposed policy of the National Front for Victory’, The National Front: Its Formation and Progress, Ivan Greenberg papers 110/5. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 229 President of the NF, saying he was concerned about the participa- tion of some NF members in an operation called 88.77 In terms of the British fascist political tradition, Chesterton’s ideology and clandestine operations were used as a smokescreen by others to promote the Leese/nazi mode of expression and operation which differed in degree and not kind. Had Chesterton lived and realized what was happening in the NF he would have been horrified. In the 1970s the Leese tradition dressed in Chesterton’s clothing was to be the dominant historical tradition operating in the NF. Mosley, who was incomparably the most interesting British fascist, and from whom John Tyndall learned his oratorical style and his inter- war economics, was a long-forgotten failed fascist to be remembered only in a gushing obituary in Spearhead. NEW WINE FOR OLD BOTTLES 77 Letter from A.K. Chesterton to John Tyndall, 17 May 1973, A.K. Chesterton papers. 9 National Socialists and Racial Populists, 1960–1967 The 1960s saw both the decline of revisionist neo-fascist move- ments with their leadership rooted in inter-war groups or personalities, and the rise of a new generation of young racial nationalists and nazis who revived the tradition in militant form. Although never able to escape the negative perception of fascism by state and society, many of the young ‘nationalists’ were to emphasize Hitler worship, anti-semitism, a virulent anti- immigrant racial populism, political activism, mass politics, anti- Americanism, anti-communism, militant nationalism and covert and conspiratorial behaviour which sanctioned offensive violence and illegal methods against opponents where legal and political means were considered ineffective. The 1960s saw the emergence of the main outlines of such small but militant neo-fascist groups in blatant form. The new nationalists of the 1960s and 1970s In essence the new generation were to be united in their opposi- tion to the political system, their anti-semitism and their virulent hatred of coloured immigrants, but bitterly divided on most other aspects. The most important contrast with the inter-war period was that there was nobody who possessed the moral authority, the intellectual power or political experience of Sir Oswald Mosley to pose as a credible leader of a new fascist tradition. As a result the new movements were riven by personality conflicts, ideologi- cal disputes and leadership struggles which were to be repeated on 231 a broader canvas in the National Front in the 1970s. The new groups were to represent an alliance of racial populism, a vicious ad hoc response to coloured immigration, with the political legacy of Arnold Leese. The political extremism and the nazi influence on several of the new organizations meant that they were regarded as little more than a nasty lunatic political fringe in British society.1 Certainly in terms of numbers none of these groups were of any consequence; the British National Party (BNP), which was ambivalent about nazi connections, was probably the largest group with about 1,000 members in 1967.2 Yet size was to be relatively unimportant, for it was one of the smallest groups, the Greater Britain Movement (GBM), with a distinct nazi heritage and just 138 members, which was to play the most important role in the National Front (NF) during the 1970s. The most blatantly nazi of these groups, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), and its successor the British Movement, were to remain outside the umbrella of the NF and to remain relatively small; but it was to have close links with an emerging political underground which fomented racial violence and had connections with European fascist political terrorists. In general terms the new generation thought that the political methods and ideas of Mosley and Chesterton were outmoded. They were failed politicians from whose experience much could be learned but who were definitely yesterday’s men. Mosley’s attempt to build up a mass party, and Chesterton’s tactics of a genteel form of political disruption, could be developed. It was the political intransigence of Arnold Leese, his refusal to compromise with political reality and his willingness to martyr himself for his beliefs which provided the main spur from the fascist political tradition for extremists like Colin Jordan, John Tyndall and Martin Webster. In particular, Leese’s identification in his last years with the nazi heritage and the policies of Hitler was to be of seminal significance. Other new recruits were critical of the nazi appreciation society from the outset. The racial populists of the BNP were to dispute the wisdom or desirability of linking British nationalism so directly to the swastika; Tyndall and Webster were later to justify their split 1 G.P. Thayer, The British Political Fringe (London, 1968). 2 M. Walker, The National Front (London, 1977), p. 67. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 232 from Jordan in 1964 by stressing that English rather than German traditions needed to be emphasized. This division was to be accentuated by the relative emphasis placed on anti-semitism or opposition to coloured immigration by the various groups. The revival of racial nationalism after 1945 derived from Arnold Leese’s one-man band, the publishing activities of the Britons Society and its political offshoot the National Workers Party, and some of the disaffected Mosleyites. An organization called Natinform, with links to the covert nazi underground and the Socialist Reich Party in West Germany, was developed which opposed Mosley’s Europe a Nation and the Catholic anti- semitism of the Britons, now under the management of Tony Gittens. Natinform believed that only the re-establishment of the German Reich to the primary power position in Europe would lead to success in the battle against Bolshevism. Its geopolitical dreams supported the Pirow plan for Europe Africa in which South and East Africa were to be the preserve of the white man.3 This Anglo-German movement, which had marginal impact even in nazi German circles, disintegrated in 1953, but one of its main organ- izers was later to become an associate editor of the Northlander, the journal of the Northern League, an extremist group based in Holland, dedicated to the nazi nordic ideal and with links to both German and American nazis. This played an important role in promoting international nazism. Of the various nazi enthusiast soap-box orators noticed by Special Branch after 1945 the only significant one was to be Colin Jordan.4 After wartime service in the Army Education Corps, Jordan read a history degree at Cambridge and later formed a nationalist club in Birmingham. He made contact with Arnold Leese and became an avid disciple. The Britons published several of his anti-semitic pamphlets and his book Fraudulent Conversion in 1954, but relations with Gittens were less than harmonious. When Leese died in 1956 his widow was to make Jordan his politi- cal heir, to allow him to use Leese’s property at 74 Princedale Road in London for political activity, and eventually to make him 3 K.P. Tauber, Beyond Eagle and Swastika (Middletown, Conn., 1967), pp. 246–7. 4 PRO HO 45/24968/120. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 233 the sole selling agent when it was sold in 1968, much to the annoy- ance of the Britons.5 As well as the tangible assets from the Leese inheritance, Jordan’s political education was to be furthered in the LEL, for which he was Midlands Organizer in 1955–6. Most of the leaders of the second-generation racial nationalists received their political baptism in the LEL. Jordan, John Bean, John Tyndall and Martin Webster, all later prominent in the tradition, joined Chesterton’s movement in the 1950s. Bean was an industrial chemist and editor of a trade journal and Tyndall and Webster salesmen whose variable hours of employment enabled them to develop their political interests. Tyndall was born in 1934, the same year as Mosley’s Olympia meeting as he later noted; his obsession with military disciplines probably originated in his days of national service. All became highly critical of Chesterton’s style of leadership, his old-fashioned political methods, his obsession with the British Empire and the cranky stunts with which the move- ment was associated. Jordan was the first to go in 1956 when he formed the White Defence League (WDL). In 1957 Bean and Tyndall left to form the National Labour Party (NLP). Jordan wished to promote a nazi movement and to forge links with continental groups and Bean and Tyndall to emphasize an English national socialism rather than the Die-hard conservatism of the LEL. All were accused of disloyalty by Chesterton, and Bean’s behaviour in trying to steal a copy of the membership list of the LEL was seen as particularly reprehensible, a factor which was to impede the negotiations on the formation of the NF in 1966. The WDL and the NLP rapidly became much more extremist in their orientation than the LEL. The major difference was they were both more pronounced in their explicit racialism, in attacking coloured immigration rather than bemoaning the collapse of the British Empire. Jordan’s Black and White News was amongst the most scurrilous publications promoting race hatred, and John Tyndall in the earliest editions of Combat demanded the ‘elimina- tion’ of the Jewish ‘cankerous microbe’ in our midst.6 Both move- ments too became associated with particular localities; Jordan’s base in Notting Hill enabled more racial provocation by the WDL 5 Undated letter from solicitor to Gittens, File 3570, Britons Library. 6 Combat, Apr./June 1959. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 234 than could be achieved by the better-organized and disciplined UM. John Bean was later to develop his connections in Southall in the BNP. In 1960 the WDL and the NLP merged to form the BNP. Both movements had tangible assets. Jordan and his mentor, Mrs. Leese, had premises in Notting Hill and the NLP had Combat. In the new movement Jordan was to be national organizer and John Bean was to edit Combat. Andrew Fountaine, a Norfolk landowner, was to be president and Mrs. Leese vice-president. Fountaine had fought for Franco in the 1930s, had risen to the rank of Lt-Commander in the navy in the Second World War and had been adopted as a Conservative parliamentary candidate for Chorley in 1949. However, after an embarrassing speech at the Conservative Conference in which he criticized the party for allow- ing Jews to achieve positions of public importance, he was disowned and lost the candidacy. He stood instead as an Independent Conservative, split the Tory vote and only lost the 1950 election by 341 votes.7 In 1958 he had formed his own shortlived National Front. The immigration issue The philosophy of the BNP was based on racial nationalism, on the need to preserve the northern European folk, predominantly nordic in race, and to free Britain from Jewish domination. All non-northern European immigration was to be terminated and racial aliens repatriated.8 However, tension soon developed between Bean and Fountaine on the one hand and Colin Jordan on the other. Jordan’s increasing nazi stance led to a split in the movement in 1962 when he and Tyndall left to form the National Socialist Movement (NSM). Henceforth the BNP was to concentrate on local political activity and building up a strong political base in constituencies like Southall and Deptford which saw growing coloured communities. In 1964 John Bean was to attain over 9 per cent of the poll in the general election, the highest until then by a radical right candidate in Britain since 1945. Its increasingly 7 Walker, The National Front, p. 28. 8 Combat, May/June 1960. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 235 racial populist tone and the strident racialism of Combat were to make the BNP emphasis on opposing coloured immigration the main propaganda weapon for both them and the NF. Indeed, it was to be the issue of coloured immigration which was to make the emergence of racial populist, neo-fascist and nazi movements in the 1960s more significant than a mere lunatic politi- cal fringe. The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of 1962 had failed to check nativist resentment and anxieties, and maverick Conservatives as well as the radical right accentuated the issue. The general election of 1964 was notable not only for Bean’s performance, but for the election of the ‘parliamentary leper’, Peter Griffiths, at Smethwick, where against the national swing Patrick Gordon Walker was unseated, and for the defeat of Fenner Brockway, the noted campaigner against colonialism and racial discrimination, at Eton and Slough. The failure to elect Gordon Walker in a safe Labour seat at Leyton and the highly illiberal 1965 White Paper, Immigration from the Commonwealth, showed how sensitive the government was to the issue. The latter severely cut back on New Commonwealth immigration and reduced it to only 8,500 in a period of labour shortage.The narrow Labour parliamentary majority of four was thought to be due to the failure of the party in the west Midlands, where its more liberal ethnic policies than those of the Conservatives had a negative effect. Only by neutralizing the issue by highly illiberal policies could the Labour party defuse the issue in time for the 1966 election.9 The fact that public opinion was so sensitive to the matter was not to go unnoticed amongst the racial populist and neo-fascist organizations. Although the rapid growth of such groups was not to occur until 1968, the political issue of race relations in the early 1960s alerted the radical right to its political significance. Both Mosleyites and the BNP saw not only a revival of racialist senti- ment but also of militant hostility by the left against the resurgence of fascism. Anti-fascist movements such as the ’62 group and Yellow Star attacked Mosley rallies for the first time since the 1948–51 campaign, and increased hostility against the BNP and in particular the NSM. As in the 1930s, political violence was to be a catalyst for recruitment and with a much greater public antipathy 9 Z. Layton-Henry, The Politics of Race in Britain (London, 1984), pp. 59–64; P. Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics (London, 1965), pp. 124–94. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 236 towards immigration in the 1960s than in the 1930s even the more eccentric nature of the new form of fascism was given greater credibility. The new radical right were also to learn from the growth of mass politics on the political left. Although completely opposed to the cause of nuclear disarmament, fascists and racial populists saw that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament had shown that mass political activism could be organized around single issues. ‘Stop immigration now’ was to become the fascist and racial populist slogan equivalent of ‘ban the bomb’ on the left. However, before the new breed of fascists were to use racial populism as the great recruiting sergeant of the radical right, Colin Jordan was to attempt to organize an open nazi organization, whose blatant anti-semitism alerted both the Jewish community and the Home Office to renewed concern about public order and race relations in British society. In 1961 Special Branch was already interested in John Tyndall’s Spearhead group in the BNP, which engaged in paramilitary training. When the NSM held its first rally in Trafalgar Square in 1962 the anti-fascists disrupted the meeting and the police arrested Tyndall and Jordan for insulting words likely to cause a breach of the peace. Jordan argued at this meet- ing that Hitler was right and that we should have been fighting world Jewry and its associates in the Second World War and not Germany. Tyndall was even more blunt. He said that the Jew was the ‘assassin of Europe’ and like a ‘poisonous maggot’ in society.10 For these offences Jordan received two months in jail and Tyndall six weeks. Tyndall’s sentence was later reduced to a fine after he argued on appeal that what he said about Jews was no worse than Aneurin Bevan’s charge that the Tories were vermin. Prior to his first trial Jordan had created more publicity by announcing that the NSM was to organize a summer camp where an international nazi conference was to be held. As a result of pressure from Labour, the trade unions and the Jewish com- munity, international delegates to the conference were banned from entering the British Isles; but Jordan and Tyndall were able to smuggle the American nazi leader, Lincoln Rockwell, into the country although he was deported before the camp. 10 Transcript of speeches of Colin Jordan and John Tyndall, NSM rally, 1 July 1962, File 144.8, NCCL archive. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 237 The object of the conference was to set up a World Union of National Socialists. Those who eventually attended elected Colin Jordan as world Führer and Rockwell was named his heir. In the ‘Cotswold Agreement’ the object of WUNS was stated to be to form an international ‘combat efficient’ organization to oppose international Jewish communism and Zionism and to promote the Aryan race. There was a long-term objective of the unity of white people in a world order with complete racial apartheid. What dif- ferentiated WUNS and the NSM from other organizations on the extreme right was that it acknowledged the spiritual leadership of Adolf Hitler and demanded a ‘final settlement’ on a world-wide basis of the Jewish problem.11 Such blatant extremism led the authorities to move against the NSM by charging four of its leading members with offences com- mitted under Section 2 of the Public Order Act. This related to the paramilitary antics of NSM recruits in the Spearhead group organ- ized by Jordan and Tyndall. They were found guilty of causing reasonable apprehension that they were training for the use or display of force in promoting political objectives. Jordan was sentenced to nine months, Tyndall six months and Roland Kerr Ritchie and Denis Pirie for three months each. Prosecution evidence at the trial included allegations that Tyndall had purchased sodium chlorate weedkiller, suitable for making exposives. One of these tins had ‘weedkiller’ crossed out and replaced by ‘Jew-Killer’.12 After this conviction the unofficial self-protection units of the neo-fascist and racial populist political fringe were forced to conform, at least outwardly, to the law. Uniforms and paramilitary training were now outlawed, but the later Leader-guard of British Movement, and the Instant Response Unit and Colour Party of the National Front, were allowed to function. However, the extremists who believed in both offensive and defensive use of physical force went underground into more conspiratorial organizations like Column 88, named after the Austrian nazi group that had gone underground when national socialism was banned in that country in 1934. 11 Walker, The National Front, p. 41. 12 Transcript of Spearhead Trial, File 172.2, NCCL archive. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 238 The preparations for the trials, the prison sentences and the publicity associated with the antics of the NSM, led to the revival of militant anti-fascist activity in the early 1960s. As the NSM lost its leadership as a result of the jail sentences it was the Mosleyites who bore the brunt of new anti-fascist anger. Mosley had already made tentative suggestions that Bean and Jordan should become the national organizers of UM in 1962, but this was ignored.13 Neither Bean’s racial nationalism nor Jordan’s ‘racialist twaddle’, as Mosley was later to call it, represented the mainstream of UM beliefs. However, the hostility of anti-fascist groups and the attempt by the state to crush the NSM led to a reassessment of tactics once the jail sentences were served. Personal factors also became involved in an increasingly bitter feud between Jordan and Tyndall for the leadership of the NSM. The cause of this was the French heiress Françoise Dior, who had joined the NSM in 1962. Courted by Jordan, she became engaged to Tyndall while the former was still in prison. On Jordan’s release there was a competition for her affection which Jordan won. Jordan and Dior were married in a strange ceremony complete with nazi regalia, but separated after a few months. Briefly reconciled, they were finally divorced in 1967. Tyndall never forgave Jordan for stealing Dior’s affections. Jordan was equally incensed. He accused Tyndall and Webster of making disgusting telephone calls to his wife whilst she was in Paris to try and ter- rorize her.14 These incresingly bitter personal feuds and growing ideological disagreements as to how far open support for nazi policies was detrimental to the growth of the NSM in British society led to a split between Jordan and Tyndall in 1964. Tyndall, together with Webster and most of the headquarters staff, departed to form the GBM, leaving Jordan with the NSM name and the premises at Princedale Road. Tyndall began a new magazine, Spearhead, which was to be his main base in the future history of the radical right. The split led to a battle over which of the two organizations, the NSM or GBM would be recognized by WUNS. Jordan had been forced to hand over his position of world Führer to Lincoln Rockwell 13 Walker, The National Front, p. 44. 14 NSM, ‘Internal Bulletin’, May 1964. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 239 during his jail sentence and both Tyndall and Jordan did their best to smear each other in their attempt to woo Rockwell. The world Führer, now called the Commander, who was already under great pressure from so-called mutineers within the American Nazi Party, instinctively sided with Jordan. For him, internal dissidents were greater enemies to national socialism than even the Jews.15 He was also suspicious of Tyndall’s plan to drop the swastika as a nazi symbol, believing that true nazi vanguard organizations did not disguise or camouflage their intentions.16 Tyndall, disap- pointed with his failure to convince Rockwell, then established contact with ‘White Power’ and the National States Rights Party, both highly critical of the supposed growing moral depravity and political tactics of the American Nazi Party. They alleged that Rockwell surrounded himself with homosexuals and kept a mistress in nazi headquarters.17 Between 1964 and the formation of the NF in 1967 the open stance of Jordan and Tyndall was to show a marked contrast. Prior to the GBM split, it had been Tyndall and not Jordan who had made the most vituperative and obscene anti-semitic outbursts in public, although both had been equally crude in the pages of National Socialist. After 1965 Tyndall’s language became more measured and reasonable in tone and he presented his argument in more rational terms. As he explained in letters to American nazis, one could adhere to the principles of fascism and nazism whilst presenting them in a manner in which Britons could identify with the cause of their own country. In any merger with any other group Tyndall was not worried about losing overall control of the movement, provided he had control over premises and publica- tion.18 Both for tactical reasons, and because of the need to avoid prosecution under the new Race Relations Act of 1968, it was expedient to use coded language when expressing ideological opinions. Jordan was becoming more outrageous as Tyndall camouflaged his extremism. He stood against Gordon Walker at the Leyton by-election in 1965 and engaged in flamboyant political stunts to embarrass the government. A follower dressed up as a black and 15 Lincoln Rockwell to John Tyndall, 6 July 1964, Searchlight Files. 16 Matt Koehl to John Tyndall, 14 Sept. 1964, Searchlight Files. 17 Open letter to George Lincoln Rockwell, 15 Sept. 1964, Searchlight Files. 18 John Tyndall to William Pierce (23 March 1967), quoted in Searchlight, Aug. 1978. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 240 white minstrel and tried to register as Mr Walker Gordon the ‘race mixing’ candidate who would ‘make Britain black’.19 A member of the NSM dressed up as a monkey while another held a placard stating that the immigrants were going to vote for Gordon Walker.20 Colin Jordan interrupted a House of Commons debate from the gallery by shouting that Harold Wilson was betraying Britain’s interests by allowing coloured immigration.21 More worrying than the open propaganda was the conspirato- rial secretive aspects of the NSM and GBM, whose members were implicated in racial attacks, arson and sabotage. This again appeared to derive from the Leese tradition. Both organizations were implicated in such behaviour. NSM members were jailed for attacks on synagogues in Clapton, Ilford, Kilburn and Bayswater;22 from evidence given at one of these trials Françoise Dior was given an eighteen-month sentence in 1968 for conspiring to burn a synagogue. Martin Webster was jailed for assaulting Jomo Kenyatta when he came to London in 1964, an act which was Webster’s idea although Tyndall authorized its implementation.23 Beneath the vitriolic personal hostility, the differing tactics and style of the two movements was a frightening militancy which often spilled over into violence and conspiratorial and subversive behaviour. There is no evidence that either movement was ever significant in numerical terms. A police search of Jordan’s card index in 1966 discovered that there were only 187 full members in the movement’s history, of whom 35 were still paid-up and active in 1966. There were also 271 active supporters and 114 subscribers to the National Socialist magazine.24 Searchlight, however, has reliable information that up to 1,200 were associated with the movement in the course of its history, with 680 at its peak in late 1962. There were never more than 138 members of the GBM, many of whom would also have been in the NSM at an earlier date.25 It would be ridiculous to argue that they were chiefly responsible for 19 Leytonstone Express, 15 Jan. 1965. 20 Ibid., 5 Feb. 1965. 21 Sun, 16 Feb. 1965. 22 Jewish Chronicle, 11 Feb. 1966; Guardian, 9 Nov. 1966. 23 Letter from J. Tyndall to M. Koehl, 25 Sept. 1964, Searchlight Files. 24 Walker, The National Front, p. 41. 25 Ibid., p. 47. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 241 Britain’s deteriorating race relations in this period, but they nevertheless raised the political temperature considerably. The leadership struggles between Bean and Jordan in the BNP and Jordan and Tyndall in the NSM, the discovery by Bean that racial populism and the issue of coloured immigration could turn an obscure fanatical sect into a potential mass movement, and the tactics of Tyndall which showed that nazi ideology could be presented in more acceptable form which might appeal to a much wider audience than the blatant Hitler worship of Jordan, provided important lessons for the young generation who were preparing to usurp the leadership of the tradition. Apart from the open nazi organizations and the racialist BNP, racial populist groups were sprouting in areas where strong local cultural traditions acted against the growth of new immigrant com- munities. The various immigration control organizations in the Midlands and south were loosely linked in the Racial Preservation Society (RPS). This combined elements which had links to extrem- ist groups like the BNP and Northern League and, at the other end of the spectrum, the Conservative party. It also had several wealthy private backers who helped fund a range of publications including the Sussex News, the Midland News, the British Independent, New Nation and RPS News. It has been estimated that this group was responsible for publishing over two million copies of various types of literature between 1965 and 1969.26 The RPS was significant because of its financial backers and its links with orthodox politics; it was not a fascist organization but a confederation of racial populist associations who militantly opposed immigration. While the level of much of the propaganda output of the new generation of nazis and racial populists made Arnold Leese by comparison seem an intellectual giant it was of some significance in forcing the government to tighten up the loopholes in the law which made it so difficult for the authorities to act against group libel or even racial incitement. Although it was far from the only factor involved, both Conservatives and Labour being mainly concerned about increased anti-immigrant feelings within their own parties, the passing of race relations legislation in 1965 and 1968 was directed partly against the scurrilous abuse and group libel with which such extremist groups fomented racial hatred. A 26 Ibid., p. 60. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 242 bi-partisan consensus developed which became highly illiberal in terms of New Commonwealth immigration into Britain, but which tried to improve race relations by attempting to outlaw the worst forms of published material which promoted race hatred. The loophole in the law which Leese and others had highlighted was now to be closed. Not all Conservatives agreed to such an approach, however, and mavericks such as Enoch Powell were to oppose such legislation.27 The difficulty of enforcing and interpreting such laws was to be demonstrated in a test case at Lewes in 1968, when the NF and the Britons Society were to organize a successful defence of individu- als charged under the new legislation.28 Although successful prosecutions were to be brought against explicit racist material disseminated by neo-fascist organizations in the 1970s and 1980s, much blatant propaganda from such groups was still published. Such use of the law has led to the closing down of Bulldog, the NF journal aimed directly at recruiting youth to the party through virulent racialist propaganda. Such legislation was a factor in John Tyndall’s newfound caution, but others such as Chesterton claimed not to have altered their style or arguments in any way as a response to the new legislation. Jordan and Tyndall The open nazi ideology of Colin Jordan was explicitly based on racial nationalism. In his NSM days it was directly modelled on the crudest form of nazi nordicism and anti-semitism.29 It was through the ‘malignant’ and ‘satanic’ ambition of world Jewry to achieve world domination that the Jews had manipulated democracy to cause national decline, and the whole structure of white civiliza- tion was to be replaced by a ‘mongrelised world system’. The British state should protect and improve the ‘Aryan, predominantly Nordic blood’ of the British and all non-Aryans, including all Jews, would be expelled and would not be permitted to have sexual 27 P. Foot, The Rise of Enoch Powell (London, 1969), pp. 66–128. 28 A.K. Chesterton, Not Guilty (London, 1969). 29 G.G. Field, ‘Nordic racism’. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 243 relations with Britons. All marriages between Aryans and Jews would be dissolved and measures taken to prevent the reproduc- tion of defective ‘stock’.30 As well as equally scurrilous sentiments, John Tyndall’s early contributions to the ideology of racial nationalism included a pamphlet on the nature of the new Aryan utopia. This was published both by the BNP and NSM and was called ‘The Authoritarian State’. In contrast to the virulent public outbursts which led to his prosecution, Tyndall here used relatively measured and seemingly rational arguments to attack the Jewish money power behind both democracy and communism. In his view this had caused the decline of Britain, whose resurgence could only be accomplished by the creation of an authoritarian state under the command of a leader. For Tyndall no other principle could meet the challenge of the modern age; for him only ‘The best will rule’ – presumably John Tyndall.31 What was significant about this expression of extremist ideas was its use of fairly primitive coded language to present obvious nazi sentiments in a seemingly more rational form. After his break with Jordan in 1964 Tyndall was to develop this euphemistic use of language. He announced his intention in the first issue of his new journal Spearhead, which became the mouthpiece of the GBM, arguing that it would not differ in sentiment from The National Socialist except that it would relate to the supposed needs of the British people rather than nazi antecedents.32 Whilst Tyndall wrote portentous articles which combined the arguments and style of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion with those of Mosley’s Tomorrow We Live, ‘Julius’ (Martin Webster) specialized in gutter anti-semitism which attacked the ‘unheroic, greasy, shifty-eyed, sickly moneylenders, rent racketeers, porno- graphers and big business wide boys’33 in language which was at least as bad as that published by the NSM. This division of labour, with Tyndall writing seemingly respectable, rationally expressed articles using euphemisms and coded language to hide extremist and nazi sentiments while Webster graduated from gutter anti-semitism 30 Colin Jordan, Britain Reborn (London, n.d.). 31 J. Tyndall, The Authoritarian State (London, 1982), p. 20. 32 Spearhead, Sept. 1964. 33 Spearhead, Dec. 1964. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 244 to virulent racialist abuse of New Commonwealth immigrants, was to be continued in the NF. The presentation of Tyndall’s ideas was to become more sophisticated in the progression of his thought in the 1960s and 1970s. From open Hitler worship and barely disguised expression of such ideas in the NSM, through the ‘English’ form of national socialism in the GBM, to the expression of such sentiments clothed in apparently respectable form in the NF, Tyndall was to retain the basic extremist views which had always characterized his thought. Webster meanwhile acted as the drummer boy, the disseminator of crude propaganda which would appeal to the alienated.34 Both learned from the mistakes of the 1960s; Tyndall discovered that open nazism was counter-productive; Webster that the potential for racial populism in British society was in directing racist propaganda against coloured immigrants rather than Jews. Neither was to lose their basic anti-semitic obsessions; they merely learned to project them in a seemingly less counter-productive manner. The growth of anti-fascism, which paralleled the growth of the NF, was to ensure that nobody forgot their disreputable political past; and in the end it was to catch up with both of them. NATIONAL SOCIALISTS AND RACIAL POPULISTS 34 M. Billig, Fascists (London, 1978), pp. 344–50; N. Fielding, The National Front (London, 1981), pp. 86–104. 10 The Grand Synthesis, 1967–1985 The formation of the National Front in 1967 was the most significant event on the radical right and fascist fringe of British politics since internment. It represented the culmination of a proc- ess whereby the various strands of revisionist neo-fascist and racial populist politics came together in an attempt to form a national mass party which, although anti-Mosley, had distinct roots in the BUF of the later 1930s. The NF was never an explicit fascist party; indeed it had spent most of its history vehemently denying the significance of the blatant past fascist associations of some of its leading members. Much of the internal feuding of the movement and the bitter struggles for power have centred around this theme. Its dramatic growth, which led some observers to see it, quite improbably, as Britain’s fourth political party and a serious chal- lenger to break the mould of British politics, testified to the significance of the issue of immigration in British politics in the 1970s. This was so despite the complete shambles of the political structure of the NF; the forces making for disintegration, and personal and ideological differences within the leadership, lost the movement the great opportunity presented for the emergence of a racial populist movement in the 1970s. The rise and fall of the National Front Although some credit for the growth of the NF has to be shared between the unholy alliance of John Tyndall and Martin Webster 246 and their rivals in the mid-1970s, the ‘populist’ ex-Conservatives,1 the major reason for its expansion was due to the failure of the Conservative party to make much political capital of the immigra- tion issue. Although they were responsible for the restrictive Immigration Act of 1971 which made right of entry for New Commonwealth citizens much more difficult, Edward Heath’s government was more liberal in some ways than the Labour administration which preceded and succeeded it. For example, it allowed if somewhat reluctantly, the inflow of Ugandan Asians in 1972 fleeing from Idi Amin’s atrocities; the Labour government had proved less accommodating over Kenyan Asians in 1968.2 The right wing of the party, the Monday Club, and many traditional party supporters felt intensely alienated by the attitude of the Heath administration and made their opposition felt through their support of Enoch Powell. Powell had been unceremoniously dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet in 1968 as a result of breaking the bi-partisan consensus in his notorious ‘River of Blood’ speech at Birmingham, where he said we must be literally mad to allow 50,000 dependants of immigrants into the country each year. His successful campaign to block the inflow of Kenyan Asians and the enormous popular sup- port for his restrictive position on this matter, which totally contradicted his liberal views on other economic and social issues, made him deeply suspect in the eyes of the Conservative establish- ment. The tone of his speech, with its apocalyptic scenario, the apocryphal tale of little old ladies having excreta pushed through their letterboxes, and its reference to ‘wide-eyed, grinning piccanin- nies’,3 brought the language and arguments of the neo-fascist political fringe into the heart of the establishment. Although spurned by the authorities, the enormous popular impact of Powell’s outburst forced the government to be highly restrictive in its attitude to immigration from then onwards. Isolated by the Conservative leadership, Powell ignored the racialist political fringe. However, they, and particularly the NF, made political capital of Powell’s impact and racial populism moved from the gutter to the centre of politics in inner city areas. 1 M. Walker, The National Front (London, 1977), pp. 133–202. 2 Z. Layton-Henry, The Politics of Race in Britain (London, 1984), pp. 75–86. 3 P. Foot, The Rise of Enoch Powell (London, 1969), p. 115. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 247 The other important issue which affected the growth of racial populism was the tightening of the law with regard to racial abuse, and the introduction of the Race Relations Act of 1968. Although the authorities were spasmodic in their use of the law, the fact that racialist propaganda could now be seen as incitement to racial hatred made some, although not all, radical right and neo-fascist organizations more careful in their use of language; it was certainly a factor in John Tyndall’s move from extremism to a more ration- ally presented expression of similar sentiments. Through a legal loophole, publishers of racist material like the Britons Society kept in business by making their customers members of book clubs and societies (they kept links with the NF through publishing Candour for A.K. Chesterton). However, it was to be amongst those who either spurned the NF or who were not permitted to join that the impact of the Race Relations Act was most pronounced. Colin Jordan’s position as the British Führer was undermined by his refusal to martyr himself to the new law; some of his ex-followers now went underground to set up Column 88, which was faithful to the nazi inheritance. This subversive paramilitary group infiltrated many far-right organizations including the NF and was to be implicated in illegal activity and the encouragement of racial violence. The NF was to represent the revisionist political expression of the British fascist tradition, with nazi elements barely camouflaged behind racial populist policies and struggling for power with renegade ex-Conservatives. The more sinister clandestine operation, also with its inspiration in the Leese tradition, was to have important financial links with international nazi groups and political terror- ism abroad.4 In terms of the British fascist tradition, its part in the NF may be seen as an attempt to synthesize the mass politics and economic and political programme of the BUF with the ferocious anti- semitism and racial populism of Arnold Leese which, however, was presented in the more respectable and seemingly rational guise of the conservative fascism of the survivors of the Die-hard inherit- ance. This in essence is what the NF became, although its early years and much of its development were spent in trying to distance 4 Searchlight, May 1975; P. Wilkinson, The New Fascists (London, 1981). THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 248 itself from its obvious associations, since the NF aimed at recruit- ing both discontented Conservatives and the alienated white inhabitants of inner city areas, both of which would have failed to have been attracted by open fascist propaganda. This was well understood by the practitioners of the new political game. When members of the GBM were allowed into the NF in 1968 as individu- als, they were quite happy to serve a probationary period. Tyndall was prepared to eschew thoughts of immediate leadership and to invest in the future with secure premises and Spearhead as his main base in the party. Through their hard work and dedication ex-members of the GBM were to become the most significant fac- tion in the NF despite their lack of discipline; their camouflaged extremism and rapid rise to positions of influence in the move- ment meant that they saw themselves as controlling events from behind the scenes, a mirror image of their conspiracy theory mentality. This appeared to be Tyndall’s grand design; but unfortunately the pawns failed to make their allotted moves. The origins of the NF have to be seen as a compromise between mutually suspicious parties. In essence the NF represented a merger between the LEL and BNP, to which were added individual members of the RPS. Tyndall, who had urged a reunification of the non- Mosleyite groups since 1964, was kept waiting in the wings, partly because he was in jail for illegal possession of a firearm and, with his notorious immediate past, he was neither forgiven nor forgot- ten by his ex-colleagues in both the LEL and BNP. His enthusiasm for a more moderate presentation of extremism had been increased when Lincoln Rockwell refused to reconsider his allegiance to Jordan in WUNS in 1965. For Chesterton merger with the BNP was desirable because it had more relatively successful political experience and appealed more to the working class than the LEL.5 The LEL was also concerned with the emergence of the Monday Club on the right of the Conservative party, which was siphoning off their dwindling support. Although he still disliked populist methods and preferred an elitist group to a political party, Chesterton was forced to compromise to stop the threatened collapse of one of the last outposts of the British Empire. 5 A.K. Chesterton to John Bean, 1 Nov. 1966. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 249 For the BNP the attraction of a merger with the LEL related to the premises operated by Chesterton in central London and the lure of the Chilean gold which would benefit the NF if the Jeffery inheritance was finally procured. Although the president of the BNP, Andrew Fountaine, was a rich man his wealth was tied up in land and was not available to the movement. For Bean and other militants the LEL was a piece of Victoriana, an outmoded relic of a bygone age which had no political relevance for the contemporary world. His own acrimonious departure from the LEL in 1957 meant that he was suspicious of Chesterton, whose coterie of devoted followers he instinctively distrusted. He accused them of being sycophants and Chesterton of authoritarian behaviour.6 Bean would have like to have welcomed Tyndall back to the fold in 1967 but Fountaine would not countenance such a suggestion. Chesterton, who had been impressed by the suitably patriotic and rationalist tone of Tyndall’s Six Principles of British Nationalism, was also coming round to the idea of allowing him to join the party for a probationary period. The fact that the RPS had several wealthy backers and connections to the Conservative Party made their members a more desirable immediate addition to the coali- tion. There can be little doubt that the NF would not have survived if Enoch Powell had not unwittingly given it such a helping hand in its infancy. The early history of the NF from when Chesterton became the first chairman of the Directorate in 1967 until his resignation in 1970 was a period of mutual backbiting, suspicion and paranoia by practically all the participants of the merger. Almost the only person who did not get involved in the accusa- tions and intrigue was John Tyndall, who after being admitted to the movement in 1968 was a model of diligence and correct behaviour. In this period there was a power struggle between Chesterton and Fountaine. This involved Chesterton in legal battles with both Robin Beauclair of the RPS and Fountaine. The issues were personal incompatability, mutual recriminations about inefficient administration and authoritarian behaviour, disputes about jurisdiction on disciplinary powers within the movement, and ideological differences. Behind this were BNP suspicions of 6 Internal memo to council members, BNP, 9 Oct. 1966. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 250 Chesterton’s lack of commitment to mass politics, criticism of his winter visits to South Africa for his health, his refusal to merge Candour and his LEL office into the movement and allegations about improper use of funds. For his part Chesterton criticized Fountaine’s call to help the police if there was an insurrection in 1968 as alarmist and found him totally impossible to work with, as he kept up a barrage of criticism in which nobody was spared. After this power struggle, which Chesterton eventually won, a second battle was fought with a so-called Action Committee of new young members of the Directorate who blamed Chesterton for the poor election results of 1970 and the lack of direction of the movement. This blew up immediately after Chesterton had left for his winter visit to South Africa and he resigned in high dudgeon, with the rest of the LEL remnant soon following him into the political wilderness. What was interesting about these early disputes, which effectively removed the main protagonists involved in the original merger, was the fact that there was so much factional strife at a time when the movement was expand- ing rapidly. The degree of mutual hostility and suspicion in what was a relative success story for a young political movement was a congenital weakness of the non-Mosley fascist fringe and helps to explain its lack of political credibility. Indeed, the fact that Chesterton was prepared to use bugged conversations of members of the movement, that he employed not only his own cronies but also Tony Gittens to act as an intelligence agent for him within the NF while he was in South Africa, and that like several others he saw potential M15 agents everywhere, illustrated the degree of insecurity and the awareness of the methods of infiltration by the authorities which had always characterized the fascist tradition.7 There has been a tendency in some accounts of the NF to see a deep seated machiavellian plot organized by John Tyndall and Martin Webster to gain control of the party through infiltrating their personnel into key administrative positions and by monopolizing the movement’s propaganda, which would then be used to indoctrinate members and the public by clothing nazi senti- ments in more euphemistic language which over a period of time 7 A.K. Chesterton to Andrew Fountaine, 27 May 1968, Report 1, Conspiracy against A.K. Chesterton, A.K. Chesterton to A. Gittens, 11 Dec. 1970. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 251 would anaesthetize critical faculties and make more extremist solu- tions acceptable – the technique pioneered by Goebbels to develop the logic of the genocidal model of anti-semitism in nazi Germany. This thesis has been most notably argued by Michael Billig,8 whose impressive value analysis of NF publications and use of sophisticated psychological models of personality development gives credence to such a thesis as far as the original intentions of Tyndall and Webster were concerned. However, it may be doubted that ex-Conservatives, members of the Monday Club, and the working-class voters attracted by racial populism who flocked to the NF in the early 1970s in such members, were secret or even potential nazis. Certainly the persistence of anti-nazi arguments in the criticisms of Tyndall and Webster throughout the 1970s appeared to derive from more than tactical cynicism. The other main problem with such a case is that when it is viewed in terms of the actual historical development of the NF then the model fails to fit. Although the ex-GBM members did play a key role in the NF, the evidence suggests that they were more of a group of mutually hostile individuals whose actions lacked discipline and owed more to the principle of anarchy than conspiracy. Even the obsessively conspiratorial Tony Gittens, no friend of either Tyndall or Webster, failed to find evidence to con- nect them with the plot to oust Chesterton, even though the organ- izer of the coup, Gordon Brown (né Marshall) was ostensibly Tyndall’s right-hand man and the landlord of GBM’s headquarters. In the great power struggle with the ‘Populists’, Gordon Brown was later to give his casting vote to ex-Conservative John Kingsley Read rather than Tyndall. In the showdown in 1980, after the 1979 election débâcle, Tyndall and Webster were to split, the former going off to form the New National Front and later the BNP. Three years later Webster was booted out after another ex-GBM member, Andrew Brons, sided with the third generation ‘Strasserites’ against him. There is also considerable evidence that Tyndall and Webster, as chairman of the Directorate and activities organizer of the NF for much of the 1970s, spent as much time squabbling with each other as in organizing a unified movement. Thus for example when 8 R.C. Thurlow, ‘Racism in British society’, Patterns of Prejudice, 13, 4 (July-Aug. 1979), pp. 1–8. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 252 Tyndall proposed that Chesterton should be made president of the NF in 1973 Webster, according to the former, was opposed because of almost pathological hatred for the old LEL founder.9 In 1976 a memorandum from the Policy Committee of the NF noted that Webster supported the maintenance of parliamentary democracy while Tyndall was opposed to it.10 After the split in 1980 Tyndall attacked Webster for incompetence, sloth and mal- administration as well as his responsibility for the indiscipline of what he now called the ‘gay National Front’.11 The performance of the hard-line ex-nazis in the NF suggested that personal animosities, jealousy and ideological and tactical disagreements were as rife amongst second-generation racial nationalists as they had been in Arnold Leese’s day. Far too many had dreams of the Führer’s mantle to give more than grudging support to either Tyndall or Webster, although Tyndall with his obsession about leadership could lay some claim to the succes- sion, particularly as he had isolated Colin Jordan outside the NF. Jordan, forsaken now both by the newly respectable GBM within the NF and despised by the hardliners by what they regarded as his failure to confront the Race Relations legislation made a partial comeback through his British Movement, which was later taken over by younger enthusiasts. Compared to the NF, the British Movement was not impressive. Its major significance was in mobilizing groups of young toughs and skinheads in inner city areas in direct action against the left and coloured immigrants in the 1970s. In this it was to be copied by the NF. Martin Webster saw skinheads and football hooligans as suitable material to engage in both defensive and offensive violence against anti- fascists and the British black community, but Tyndall’s elitism and attempts to give a veneer of respectability to the NF thoroughly disapproved of such a move; this was another cause of the friction between himself and Webster in the NF. If the history of the NF was to be riven by conflict between the ex-fascists, it was also to be characterized by the instinctive clos- ing of ranks against greater democracy in the movement. During the early 1970s the Ugandan Asian influx, growing inflation and 9 J. Tyndall to A.K. Chesterton, 6 June 1973. 10 Memorandum from Policy Department to National Directorate National Front, Searchlight 38 (1978). 11 Spearhead, July 1983. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 253 the oil crisis of 1973 had all undermined the credibility of the Heath administration in the eyes of some right-wing Conservatives and members of the Monday Club. Some of these joined racial populist groups which had links to the NF while others entered the movement openly or had friendly contacts with it through some local branches of the Monday Club. There can be little doubt that this development was a two-way process. The NF developed its own counter-subversion strategy which saw infiltration of the political establishment as a mirror image of the activities of the Security Service. The Conservative Central Office in particular became especially keen in blocking off contacts between the party, its affiliates and racial populist and extremist movements like the NF such as WISE (Welsh, Irish, Scots, English) and local immigra- tion control associations, many affiliated to the RPS, still maintained contacts with both groups, however. There were certainly links between such groups and some right- wing Tory MPs in the 1970s and 1980s which can be compared to the interest of a few Conservatives in Mosley in the 1930s. Some older supporters such as Oliver Gilbert used the old Mosleyite technique of infiltrating fascist arguments into local round table debating societies and mock parliaments. Gilbert was one of the first fascists interned under DR 18b. He was also a member of his local Conservative association after the war, as well as being connected to the NF. Other individuals like Chesterton, Frank Clifford, Ted Budden and Alan Hancock linked the old Mosleyite tradition to the contemporary far right. The main effect of the sudden influx of ex-Tories into the party was to inject some much-needed electoral experience of mainstream politics into the movement. In inner city areas and in neighbourhoods where strong local cultural traditions were potentially threatened by an influx of immigrants the ex-Tories used racial populism to attract support, but they became highly critical of the past nazi associations of the leadership of the NF after Tyndall had taken over from John O’Brien, who had a caretaker role after Chesterton’s resignation. They were also suspi- cious of the centralization of power in the movement by Tyndall and his activities organizer Martin Webster. Thus began the battle for power between the so-called ‘populists’ and John Tyndall. Ex-Tories like John Kingsley Read and Roy Painter managed to out-vote Tyndall at Directorate meetings when some ex-GBM THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 254 members and their associates began to side with them. The expanded membership also strongly supported the Populists and John Kingsley Read replaced Tyndall as chairman in 1975. Control of the movement was shifted away from the ex-nazis by non- fascist and ostensibly more democratic elements.12 However, Tyndall had learned from previous leadership skirmishes. From his own experience with Jordan and having observed Chesterton’s tactics in the NF, he realized that the key to success in intra-party feuding lay in control of propaganda, in having a secure organizational base within the movement and using the legal system to one’s own advantage. For a revolution- ary party which wished to overthrow the state, the NF has frequently used the state’s detested legal system to settle the increasingly bitter disputes which have affected the movement; despite the NF’s grand talk of attaining state power, most of these disputes have seemingly been petty squabbles or arcane disputes about control of property and legal costs. They can be explained by the fact that Tyndall had correctly perceived that fanaticism, hard work and control of administration and propaganda were the key to power in the NF. With his own relatively secure organizational base, Tyndall attacked and tried to discredit the main propaganda weapon of the Populists, Britain First. In this he was aided by a new ally, Richard Verrall. Verrall was the Front’s intellectual, who pos- sessed a first class honours degree in History. From 1976 until 1980 he became editor of Tyndall’s journal Spearhead and was a member of the Directorate. In an important article in Spearhead, Verrall portrayed the Populists’ demands for greater democracy in the NF as leftist propaganda,13 which sparked off an internal row leading eventually to the mutual expulsion of Read and Tyndall, with the latter retaining his journal and the name National Front and maintaining the allegiance and the majority of constituency organizations. Read and the Populists split away and formed the National Party which gradually sank into oblivion in the late 1970s. In retrospect it is more accurate to see the Populists as pseudo- Conservative racial populists rather than as syndicalists or left 12 Walker, The National Front. 13 R. Verrall, ‘Left wing shift in the National Front’, Spearhead, Dec. 1975/Jan. 1976. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 255 fascists as portrayed by Verrall. The real leftist heresy was to raise its head two major splits later: Tyndall was forced to take the blame for the poor general election performance in 1979 and was ousted when Webster sided with a new populist faction demand- ing more street politics and confrontation tactics. NF infiltration of football hooligans and skinhead ‘bovver boys’ was now the new political tactic, with Webster determined that the NF should kick its way into the headlines. However, the bad publicity which these tactics had brought, and the continued personal attacks on Webster by Tyndall in Spearhead, undermined his position and he was ousted when Andrew Brons, the ex-GBM chairman of the Directorate, sided with the ‘Strasserites’, the young third- generation British fascists who derived their ideas from the opposi- tion within the nazi party to Hitler.14 Webster was finally expelled from the NF in February 1984. Meanwhile Tyndall had established the New National Front, which he portrayed as the authentic voice of British nationalism; it became the British National Party in 1982 after an alliance with a breakaway faction of the British Movement, ex-members of the NF and the British Democratic Party. The grand design to produce a unified radical right grouping under fascist control had irredeem- ably fractured into two warring factions more concerned with fighting each other than any common enemy. In retrospect, three important factors can be singled out to explain the decline and fall of the NF in the 1970s and 1980s, which to a certain extent paralleled the experience of the BUF in the 1930s. First, as in the 1930s, the rise of what was perceived as at least in part a neo-fascist mass political party was met by marked hostility by the left, immigrant organizations, the Indian Workers Association, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen. An umbrella protest organization, the Anti-Nazi League continued the tradition of mass opposition to incipient fascism in Britain whenever it had posed a threat since the 1930s. As then, the political violence associated with confrontation led to the growth of both right and left extrem- ism in the short term, much to the concern of the authorities; the climax of this street conflict occurred with the deaths of Kevin 14 D. Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton, the Strasser brothers and the politics of the National Front’, Patterns of Prejudice, 19, 3 (July 1985), pp. 23–33. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 256 Gately and Blair Peach. The NF were to have a martyr: Albert Marriner became the British Horst Wessl. Street politics between the militant left and right was to be as bitter in the 1970s as in the 1930s. The decline of the NF after 1974 was partially due to the suc- cessful undermining of it by the Anti-Nazi League. When the lat- ter itself was blatantly taken over by the Socialist Workers’ Party the organization folded as the bulk of the membership refused to tolerate being controlled by a notorious factional hard-line Trotskyist group. The left, however, was still able to keep abreast of developments on the fascist political fringe, thanks to Searchlight magazine and Gerry Gable’s intelligence activities, which appeared to find out more about the extreme right than the fascists knew themselves. Searchlight has more recently helped to organize the Campaign against Racism and Fascism and Anti- Fascist Action. The second factor was the emergence of Margaret Thatcher as the new leader of the Conservative party in 1975, which marked the end of what later became known as the dominance of ‘wet’ Toryism. Her forceful aggressive leadership, her uncompromising stance on law and order, the stand against the unions and the illiberal attitude towards immigration meant that many on the right of the party could now identify with what they saw as traditional Conservatism, despite her liberal economic policies.15 The Falklands War showed that patriotism was still a powerful underlying force in British politics and that Mrs Thatcher’s Conservatism could fully tap that source. Since 1975 the NF experienced a steady decline as a result. Attacked by the left, undermined by the state and having its appeal to patriotism made unnecessary by the actions of Mrs Thatcher, the racial populist neo-fascist right had nowhere to go. The highly fragile stability of the NF and other groups disintegrated as a result and the deep fissures which appeared led to the collapse of a coherent fascist tradition. The sight of ex-nazis in party political broadcasts at general elections draping themselves in Union Jacks did little to restore their credibility. Third, the activities of the state and private intelligence agencies severely damaged the far right. While the authorities faced severe 15 A. Gamble, Britain in Decline (London, 1981), pp. 207–26. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 257 criticism from the left and immigrant communities for not doing more to act against the increase in racial violence which was partly inspired by neo-fascist propaganda,16 the Public Order Act (1936) and Race Relations Act (1968) had been used against some of the more blatant acts of incitement to racial hatred. However, more worrying was that the failure of the more open political campaigns of the neo-fascist revival had driven the real hardliners underground; and that a covert and violent secret tradition, which involved illegal paramilitary training and links with wanted European neo-fascists suspected of terrorist activity, secret nazi funds, and connections with the Ulster Defence Force in Northern Ireland, was much more difficult to deal with. Fascists underground The growth of the underground tradition was characterized by a large increase in racial attacks by hooligans against New Commonwealth immigrants during the late 1970s and 1980s. Although it was not the only source of such violence, nevertheless both the NF and British Movement were implicated in such assaults and the authorities found the guerrilla warfare against Asians and West Indians difficult to contain. Indeed, one of the root causes of the breakdown of police-community relations in inner city areas in the 1980s has been the failure by the authorities to perceive racial motives in the increased violence against New Commonwealth immigrants. Obviously black unemployment, social and economic deprivation, drug-related offences and hooliganism provided the immediate background to the race riots of 1981 and 1985, as the Scarman Report emphasized in the former case. Yet at least some of the reason for the lack of confidence in the police shown by the black community has been due to their failure to even perceive that racist motives, some deliberately fomented by extremist organizations, have been behind at least a proportion of the large increase in crime in such areas. The traditional Home Office policy of surveillance and legal action against the most blatant offences proved insufficient with 16 Z. Layton Henry, ‘Racial attacks in Britain’, Patterns of Prejudice, 16, 2 (1982), pp. 3–12. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 258 the neo-fascist revival. Although the fascist groups were nowhere near as skilled as Mosley in adapting security measures to minimize the impact of M15 surveillance, or in disseminating propaganda and the use of infiltration tactics in the way that Domvile had with the Link, sporadic terrorism was far more difficult to handle.17 Whilst the Security Service had been responsible for the termina- tion of the activities of inter-war fascists, the most significant dam- age to the post-war revival was caused by the intelligence activities associated with Searchlight. This occurred when the journal man- aged to ‘turn’ Ray Hill, an ex-member of the NSM in the 1960s, when he returned from South Africa in the late 1970s. He was run as a mole inside the British Movement, and when he had led much of its most active membership out of the organization, he joined the BNP in the 1980s. When he finally came out the exposure of his activities, which had already led to the break up of British Movement, severely weakened the new BNP. Hill was also able to penetrate the underground secret tradition and make contact with the European fascist underground and its sources of finance. The activities of Ray Hill led to the exposure of the gunrunning operation to Northern Ireland involving members of the National Democratic Party, the thwarting of a plot to explode a terrorist bomb at the 1981 Notting Hill carnival, and the passing of information to the authorities of the provision of ‘safe houses’ for wanted German and Italian terrorists, who in return (it was alleged) were providing paramilitary training and proceeds from previous bank robberies on the continent. Hill provided evidence that practically all of Britain’s nazis were implicated in some of these activities, including the British Movement, the League of St George and Column 88. More recently the Strasserite ruling group in the NF has been connected to the community of Italian fascist terrorists in London.18 What has differentiated the membership and electoral support of the NF from inter-war fascism has been both the key issue of immigration in NF propaganda and politics and the much greater willingness to take part in the electoral process. Indeed, this latter 17 P. Wilkinson, Terrorism and the Liberal State (London, 1977); ‘The murderers are amongst us’, Searchlight, Special Issue, Nov. 1985. 18 Searchlight, 106, 107, 108 (Apr., May, June 1984). THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 259 fact has led some observers to see the NF as a much more significant fascist threat than the BUF ever was. This, however, is a mislead- ing analysis. At its peak the NF had an active membership of less than half that of the BUF in 1934 – about 17,500 to 50,000. Even at the outbreak of war BUF members, on the most reliable estimates, were higher than at the peak of NF activity. The fact that the NF were able to mount much more significant electoral campaigns than the BUF is mainly accounted for by a quirk in the electoral process – that the NF were identified with a social issue, that of immigration, which touched a raw nerve in the electorate in the way that no campaign, except locally, of the BUF ever did. It was also far easier to find the electoral deposit of £150 in the 1970s than it was in the 1930s, after the ravages of inflation. Where the NF undoubtedly scored over the BUF was in its electoral organiza- tions; Tyndall and Webster appeared to have had more success in this area than Mosley’s administration. The best analysis of NF membership and the electoral process casts further doubt on whether it can be seen as simply a fascist party in sheep’s clothing. Christopher Husbands’ impressive book Racial Exclusionism and the City showed that NF growth came about as a response to several issues of urban politics. There was no high correlation of areas of high immigrant settlement to strong NF presence. However, the spatial distribution of NF support represented a reaction by the resident host community to a perceived threat to strong local cultural traditions by immigrants rather than a reflex response to economic issues like housing, class or employment competition. Areas like the East End of London which have maintained an almost unbroken cultural tradition of racial populist politics from the early 1900s to the present day have been the most significant localities for such policies. The NF has also helped spread such resentment into other areas threatened by so-called cultural ‘swamping’, most notably in the west and east Midlands, Lancashire, west Yorkshire and in areas of south and north London. In terms of its membership and support the NF was similar to the middle period of the BUF; an urban working-class racial populist party which had a much wider impact in geographical terms than Mosley’s movement, because the influx of immigrants was more visible and geographically widespread. For an alleged nazi party, the support of the NF had a peculiar sociological profile; THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 260 the nazis’ greatest strength was amongst the rural agricultural areas and Protestant small towns in Germany;19 in the cities its greatest support came from the upper middle classes.20 The NF also dif- fered from neo-fascist revivals on the continent since 1945: in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France until recently, there has been no correlation between radical right and racial exclusionist politics and urban working-class support.21 While the membership figures of the NF have not been released, Searchlight has produced the most reliable estimates. This sug- gests a period of growth from about 4,000 in 1968 to a peak of 17,500 during the Ugandan Asians crisis in 1972 and a gradual falling away to 15,000 by the time of the Populist split which lost the NF several thousand members to the National Party so that at the time of the 1979 general election membership was around 10,000. With the poor performance in 1979 and the split between Tyndall and Webster, the numbers collapsed and were only partly checked by the recruitment of ex-British Movement activists. After the removal of Webster, membership slumped to reach 3,148 on 1 October 1984,22 and fell precipitously to just under 1,000 in January 1985, but has since made some recovery to about 2,000 by the autumn of 1985. The British Movement, given the volatile nature of its membership, is more difficult to estimate, but prob- ably had several thousand members at its peak. However, this collapsed after an internal struggle for power. The financing of the NF is an even more closely guarded secret. Paid-up membership in recent years has probably accounted for one-half of its total income from normal subscriptions and dona- tions. About one-third of local branches are thought to have a ‘good fairy’ who give sums of up to £100 a month and will pay for candidates’ deposits at elections. There is also a profit from publications and other NF sales. Individual donations of up to £20,000 have also been provided and there is some overseas fund- ing; the NF’s old headquarters building in East London was more than half purchased by a £16,000 donation from friends in France. Arab funding for revisionist and anti-semitic literature has also 19 C. Husbands, Racial Exclusionism and the City (London, 1983), pp. 140–1. 20 R. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler (Princeton, 1982). 21 C. Husbands, ‘Contemporary right wing extremism in western European democra- cies: a review article’, European Journal of Political Research, 9, 1 (1981), pp. 75–99. 22 ‘The financial structure of the National Front’, Searchlight files. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 261 been provided for the Historical Review Press, as have funds from German revisionist historians to print material. Although no adequate sample of membership has been constructed, the impressionistic interviews of Taylor, Fielding and Billig have indicated a mixed impact of the attempt to influence the NF with nazi propaganda.23 The most that can be said about this complex topic is that some members have been converted to the conspiracy theory mentality and others have shown an increased tolerance to its implications, while others either do not understand it or regard its simplistic logic as a personal idiosyncracy of some of the more dedicated and hard-line members of the movement. Electoral support for the NF has been more marked in local than general elections. Most of the evidence suggests that in both cases the NF vote was a protest vote against immigration and the assumed links to cultural decline and urban renewal, and had lit- tle or nothing to do with any perceived or hidden fascist political programme. Even allowing for this, the performance of the NF should not be exaggerated. Only two local councillors in Blackburn were ever elected as candidates of the racialist right and only in one parliamentary by-election, in West Bromwich in 1973, did any NF candidate ever retain his deposit. In local elections the NF peak came in 1977 when the average NF vote was a high as 17.8 per cent in Tower Hamlets, 13.9 per cent in Hackney and 12.5 per cent in Newham. They also received 12.6 per cent at Leicester, 11.3 per cent in Oadby and Wigston and 10.6 per cent in Wolverhampton in the seats contested in that year. In general elections the performance of the NF declined throughout the 1970s. In February 1974 NF candidates received an average of 3.17 per cent of the vote in the seats which were fought and 3.12 per cent was the mean for the ninety candidates in October 1974.24 In 1979 the average for the 303 seats fought was 1.5 per cent and in 1983, of the 58 seats 1.1 per cent. The rival Tyndall BNP was well under 1 per cent in 1983.25 The perceived poor performances by the NF at all general elections since 1970 have led to power struggles and the removal of 23 S. Taylor, The National Front in English Politics (London, 1982), pp. 96–107; N. Fielding, The National Front (London, 1981), pp. 137–56. 24 AJEX Defence Bulletin No. 4, Oct. 1974, p. 3. 25 Spearhead, June 1983. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 262 Chesterton (1970), Tyndall (1975 and 1980) and Webster (1983) from the movement as a result. On the other hand, Tyndall used the local election campaigns of 1973 and 1976 successfully to heal developing rifts in the party. The ideology of the National Front If the title of this chapter appears to exhibit more than a little of the conscious irony inherent in several others, then its essential purpose can be more readily comprehended by an examination of the ideology of the movement. As has already been intimated, it is dangerous and somewhat misleading to write the history of the NF from the perspective of the inversion of the conspiracy mentality of Spearhead. Nevertheless, it remained true that the ideology and propaganda of the NF was dominated by the ex-GBM faction until the split between Tyndall and Webster in 1980, and the intel- lectual support it received from Richard Verrall. However, this reflected an attempt to portray the essentials of nazi ideology in more rational language and seemingly reasonable arguments, representing Tyndall’s intellectual debt to A.K. Chesterton from the discussions which preceded the formation of the NF, which left him a semi-respectable if controversial figure within the coalition while Jordan was left in the political wilderness. Essentially the presentation of NF ideology was on three levels. In Spearhead, Richard Verrall (its editor from 1976 to 1980), provided the intellectual core of a seemingly academic presenta- tion of NF racism and conspiracy theory. At the intermediate level Tyndall argued in forceful but rational language the conspiracy, leadership and racial themes which barely disguised more extrem- ist sentiments. Martin Webster in National Front News concentrated on racialist abuse of coloured immigrants interspersed with a few conspiracy themes designed to appeal to the racial populist beliefs of the rank and file.26 The political programme of the NF has represented the synthesis of Mosley’s inter-war economic ideas, Chesterton’s conspiracy 26 M. Billig, Fascists (London, 1978), pp. 124–90. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 263 theory and Leese’s racial nationalism,27 being anti-immigrant, anti- semitic, anti-American, anti-European Economic Community, anti-liberal, and anti-communist;28 its most notorious policy was the compulsory repatriation of New Commonwealth immigrants. It tried to blend Mosley’s positive utopia with the dreary negative obsessions of those who fell under the spell of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The programme and ideology of the NF was essentially designed to broaden the outlook of the vast majority of members who had been attracted to the movement by its anti- immigrant policies. Indisputably its function was to convert racial populists into fascists. Given the very high turnover of members and the evidence of only partial success amongst those who remained, it did not achieve these aims. Neither did the near monopoly of propaganda output of the Tyndall-Webster clique after the expulsion of the Populists silence opposition within the NF. Factional opposition to Tyndall and Webster began to crystal- lize around Andrew Fountaine in 1978, as he once more became openly critical of the barely concealed nazism of the leadership, the growing involvement with skinheads and football hooligans, and the emergence of quite a high level of homosexual proclivities amongst members. He too was to split after the débâcle of the 1979 election to form the NF Constitutional Movement. Bearing in mind the less than monolithic unity achieved by the ideology and propaganda, it nevertheless remained true that its purpose was to instil fascist and nazi beliefs into the NF in disguised form, as was most blatantly shown in Tyndall’s version of Aryanism. Tyndall had cultivated connections not only with the Northern League and European nazism but through them with the racist States Rights party in the United States as well. The link between such geographically diverse groups was ‘Anglo Saxonism’, the British race.29 For Tyndall it was the Anglo-Saxons who were solely responsible for all culture and civilization; without them, we should all still be living in mud huts, art would consist of primitive scrawlings and literature would speak to us ‘in grunts’.30 27 R. Thurlow, ‘The witches’ brew’, Patterns of Prejudice, 12, 3 (May-June 1978), pp. 1–8. 28 ‘For a new Britain’, The Manifesto of the National Front, 1974 election. 29 J. Tyndall, ‘In the cause of Anglo-Saxonism’, Spearhead, Oct. 1979. 30 Idem, ‘Tyndall speaks, on Anglo-Saxon heritage’ (tape NNF, 1981). THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 264 A similar masking of basically nazi ideals was evident in Tyndall’s critique of liberalism. For this Tyndall adapted the ideas of Oswald Spengler and applied them in what was a basically nazi critique of liberal society. The contradictions in such a synthesis of ideas were ignored since Spengler’s emphasis on culture was incompatible with nazi racial determinism.31 Tyndall adapted the interpretation of Spengler, and his American interpreters Francis Parker Yockey and Revilo Oliver, to conclude that liberalism had sapped British national pride, willpower, the sense of destiny and awareness of race.32 Verrall, like Arnold Leese before him, was to point out the incompatibility of Spengler’s ideas with racial nationalist thought. For him there was a contradiction between the quest for infinitude by Faustian man and Spengler’s pes- simistic conclusion of the inevitable death of the culture; for racial nationalists race created culture, not the other way around.33 Tyndall also tried to make his anti-semitism more respectable. He tried to distance himself from what he termed gutter forms of anti-Jewish behaviour, while believing that there was a Jewish Question which should be openly and candidly discussed.34 This did not relate to the problem of the State of Israel but to alleged Jewish power within the nation states of the world. The updating of the conspiracy mentality and the attempted removal of its Protocols of the Elders of Zion and nazi connotations was to be further developed by Verrall, who was to write several articles on a conspiracy theme suggesting the role of Jewish money behind the Bilderberg meetings of influential people, the Jewish and com- munist influences behind the ‘race equality charlatans’, and the importance of Lamarckianism in social thought.35 Verrall’s most notorious contribution to NF propaganda was as the author ‘Richard Harwood’, whose ‘Did Six Million really Die’ was the most important of all the falsifications of history 31 R. Thurlow, ‘Destiny and doom, Spengler, Hitler and “British” Fascism’, Patterns of Prejudice, 15, 4 (Oct. 1981), pp. 17–33. 32 J. Tyndall, ‘Spengler updated’, Spearhead, Aug. 1982; J. Tyndall, ‘Spengler revisited’, Spearhead, Mar. 1985; F.P. Yockey and R. Oliver, The Enemy of Europe and The Enemy of our Enemies (Reedy, W. Virginia, 1981). 33 R. Verrall, ‘What does Spengler have to say to us’, New Nation, 2 (Autumn 1980). 34 J. Tyndall, ‘The Jewish Question; out in the open or under the carpet’, Spearhead, Mar. 1976. 35 R. Verrall, ‘Technique of the “race equality” charlatans’, Spearhead, Jan. 1978; idem, ‘Karl Marx’s Piltdown men’, Spearhead, Feb. 1978. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 265 perpetrated by so-called revisionist historians with regard to Jewish genocide. For the NF it was important to deny the Holocaust because it was the attempted genocide of the Jews which had made racism such a disreputable subject since 1945. It was also more difficult to project the Jews as a threat if it was admitted that up to 6,000,000 of them had been slaughtered in the war. ‘Harwood’ was also the editor of ‘Holocaust News’, which quickly folded after he left the Directorate of the NF. His identity, long suspected by observers of the far right, was definitively proved when he sued the publishers, Historical Review Press, for royalties. This organization has now replaced the Britons Society as the chief publisher and distributor of neo-fascist, conspiracy and racialist literature; it has links to both the Northern League and the NF. Verrall’s views on race and their relatively sophisticated presenta- tion appear to be influenced by the interconnected American and European academic network which embraces the Northlander (Northern League journal), Mankind Quarterly, Neue Anthropologie and Nouvelle École.36 If the negative anti-semitic obsessions still lay just beneath the surface, Verrall provided the material for a more sophisticated presentation of racial nationalism. He combined arguments indicating the ‘fraudulent’ use of material by Jewish social scientists with a totally uncritical acceptance of the findings of ‘true’ racial scientists to prove an alleged Negro inferiority.37 However, this case did not depend on the traditional superior- inferior dichotomy of the fascist racial nationalist tradition. Verrall now used the findings of socio-biology to indicate that genetic factors and not environment were responsible for differences in performance between racial groups in society and that it was a natural instinct to be racially prejudiced. This argument came peril- ously close to genetic determinism and implied a belief in the crud- est form of Social Darwinism:38 man was a pre-programmed bundle of instincts and reactions with little volition or control over his behaviour. This truly dismal creed was made even more gloomy by its racist assumptions: according to such a view, racial 36 M. Billig, Psychology, Racism and Fascism (Birmingham, 1979). 37 R. Verrall, ‘The reality of Race’, Spearhead, Apr. 1976. 38 Idem, ‘Sociobiology; the instincts of our genes’, Spearhead, Mar. 1979; idem, ‘Science is championing our creed of social nationalism’, New Nation, 1 (Summer 1980). THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 266 degeneration would be the inevitable outcome of ethnic cross- breeding, despite the obvious contradictions with the basic principles of Darwinian and Mendelian thought. It is also interesting to note the fundamental difference between Mosleyite and NF views on race, culture and evolution. Mosley was a neo-Lamarckian with his views firmly grounded in Shaw’s critique of Darwinism and, like Spengler, of the opinion that culture was more important than race. However, the essential dif- ference was not in the supposed inferiority of non-European cultures or races: Mosley, like Spengler, believed in pseudo- morphosis – that you could not impose different values on another culture without internal decomposition and decay. Other cultures, to the European, were not superior or inferior but different and this led him to an apartheid perspective. To Mosley, European (Faustian) man through action and striving could achieve a qualita- tive leap in evolutionary form.39 The quest for Superman had parallels with the more optimistic side of nazi ideas in the thought of Houston Stewart Chamberlain; while that of the NF was firmly rooted in the pessimistic degeneration hypothesis of Gobineau.40 The lowest level of propaganda in the NF was indistinguishable from the racialist tone of much of the neo-fascist press prior to its formation. Martin Webster, responsible for National Front News, kept up a dreary repetitive output of reports of murder, lootings, muggings and rapes in which race was seen as the key to behaviour and the New Commonwealth immigrant was made the scapegoat for the increase in crime;41 compulsory repatriation of all immigrants was seen as the only response to the developing crisis of Britain’s inner city areas. With the split between Webster and Tyndall in 1980 and the retirement of Verrall, the NF went into a steep decline. There were severe financial problems and a drop in publishing activity. Webster tried to revive the movement through his copying of the tactics of the British Movement. However, the most interesting feature of the period after 1980 was the rise of a third generation 39 R.C. Thurlow, ‘Some more peculiarities of the English’, ‘fascist views of evolution, race and national character’, International Conference on History and Ideology of Anglo- Saxon Racial Attitudes, 1870–1970 (1982). 40 G.G. Field, Evangelist of Race (New York, 1981), p. 223; M. Biddiss, Father of Racist Ideology (London, 1970), p. 244. 41 ‘Multi-racialism is murder’, National Front News, 34. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 267 of British fascists who led the NF on a new path. Self-styled ‘Strasserites’, they deliberately followed the policies of the main opposition to Hitler in the nazi party. After an internal row which finally led to the dismissal of Webster from the movement and the retirement of Brons, the long period of the ex-GBM dominance in the NF finally came to an end. Strasserism, although represented quite improbably as ‘national bolshevism’ by John Tyndall, was an attempt to merge economic radicalism with populist policies. In its original German form it was against finance capitalism, for the break-up of agricultural estates, and demanded the decentralization of political power and the replacement of parliamentary democracy by a corporate system. It represented a utopian radical dream which had more in common with the traditional and medieval forms of economic organization in Germany than modern industrial capitalism.42 Its latter-day exponents tried to locate English tradition within which to place the new ideas. They found this in the national socialism of Robert Blatchford and the ideas of the Chesterbelloc circle, and they again, somewhat implausibly, tried to relate their views to those of the first NF Chairman of the Directorate, A.K. Chesterton.43 The back-to-the-land, national syndicalism ideas sounded somewhat incongruous, particularly as they seemed to have connections with individuals who held distinctly un-Strasserite views. Otto Strasser (who spent much of his life after 1933 denouncing nazi murder squads and political violence) would have been less than happy seeing his new British protegés providing safe houses for alleged Italian fascist terrorists, influenced by the more elitist views of Julius Evola and the concept of ‘political soldiers’. The third generation of British fascists appears to seek a convergence of the political and underground tradition in a new guise. 42 A.J. Lane, ‘Nazi ideology: some unfinished business’, Central European History, 7, 1 (Mar. 1974), p. 24. 43 Baker, ‘A.K. Chesterton, the Strasser brothers and the politics of the National Front’, Patterns of Prejudice, 19, 3 (1985), pp. 23–33. THE GRAND SYNTHESIS 11 Terminal Decline? Since 1985 the radical right/neo-fascist and racial populist politi- cal fringe has shown few signs of revival, let alone growth. With the single exception of Derek Beacon’s short lived triumph of election as a British National Party (BNP) candidate in a by-election in the Isle of Dogs in Millwall, London in 1993, the political scene has remained bleak for neo-fascists and racial nationalists.1 There has been little evidence of significant political activity, despite the BNP possessing the resources to put forward 56 candidates in the 1997 General Election, most of whom received less than 2 per cent of the vote in the constituencies they contested. Such lack of progress has encouraged the continuing tendency to splits and divisions within existing organisations. Personal animosities, ideological divisions, tactical differences and political rivalries have all encouraged the continued fracturing and realign- ment of the movements and an inability to produce a coherent, well regarded and satisfactory leadership of the tradition has led to stagnation and decline. The fact that John Tyndall and the BNP have the most visible political presence on the extreme right has not increased its credibility or enhanced its electoral significance; 1 N. Copsey, “Contemporary Fascism in the Local Arena: The British National Party and Rights for Whites” in ed. M. Cronin The Failure of British Fascism (Basingstoke, 1996) pp. 118–140, R. Eatwell, “The BNP” in eds H.G. Betz, and S. Immerfall, New Party Politics of the Right (New York, forthcoming 1998), R. Eatwell, “The Extreme Right and British Exceptionalism” in ed. P. Hainsworth, The Extreme Right in Europe and the USA (London, forthcoming 1998). I would like to thank Roger Eatwell for letting me read the manuscripts of these two articles. 269 encumbered by his Nazi past, and the constant reminders of this fact by the various anti-fascist organisations, there are few signs of electoral breakout from its beachheads in East London or West Yorkshire. Stagnation and Decay The lack of organisation, leadership and the resources necessary to mount a sustained political campaign by the neo-fascist and racial populist radical right means the tradition is now exhibiting many of the symptoms of continued disintegration, if not terminal decline. Few important new faces have appeared since 1985; the BNP and the various factions of the NF have remained the dominant voices on the racial populist/neo-fascist political fringe. The most important new developments have been the dissemination of Holocaust denial literature and the use of web sites on the Internet to improve communications and spread propaganda.2 Opposition to immigration and hostility to race relations legisla- tion led to a tightening of controls by the state, and an upsurge in nativist and nationalist reaction, particularly on the right of the Conservative Party. The NF has continued the factional infighting of the early 1980s and although the most significant rump emerged as the National Democrats in 1995, it has made little impact. The most visible group since the 1980s has remained the BNP which has maintained its organisational cohesion, despite the occasional desertion following discontent with John Tyndall’s autocratic control of the party, and the acrimonious split with a direct action neo-Nazi group, Combat 18 and its political wing, the National Socialist Alliance in the early 1990s, which considered Tyndall’s elitism, and attempt to appear as a respectable and constitutional political party, not to their taste. The failure to reinvigorate the tradition has resulted from both organisational deficiency and cultural factors. In ideological terms few of the core fascist myths have made much cultural resonance outside the coteries of dedicated members, and has limited the potential for growth. Thus French “New Right”, Strasserite “left” 2 R. Eatwell, “The Holocaust Denial: A Study in Propaganda Technique” in eds. L. Cheles, R. Ferguson and M. Vaugham, Neo-Fascism in Europe (London, 1991) pp. 120–146. TERMINAL DECLINE? 270 fascism, and Julius Evola’s “Political Soldiers”, influences on the various factions of the NF have, not surprisingly, atrophied, given they derived from european rather than British roots. Only the “Flag” group prospered relatively speaking, as its British Nationalist roots and myths had some cultural resonance.3 However, not only were they attempting to tap a relatively limited potential market of political racists, but they were also competing with the BNP. Worse the restrictive nature of the Conservative immigration and asylum policies in the Thatcher/Major era limited the potential of a political breakthrough by an anti-immigration party. The political space was not created for either the BNP or NF, as there were far more acceptable alternatives for the potential electorate influenced by anti-immigrant, anti-Common Market or nationalist slogans. Few were interested in esoteric and arcane ideological inheritances which derived much from continental traditions. Thus the BNP, the largest of the groups has only 3000 members, while the various factions of the NF appear to have nosedived into terminal political decline. Even the BNP realised the need for ideological change; Tyndall’s adherence to BUF econom- ics since the 1950s suddenly developed an interest in market economics and he accused John Redwood of stealing BNP ideas during his leadership contest with John Major in 1995.4 The failure of the neo-fascist right in electoral politics, has led to an increase in “direct action” and political violence against blacks in Britain; racial vigilantism has increased and the extrem- ist neo-fascist fringe has gone underground. While the authorities were slow to acknowledge the problem, since the late 1980s the police have become much more concerned about racially motivated crime and the increase in physical assaults on members of the black community in Britain. Although direct linkage between political violence, common assault and racially motivated crime is difficult to prove, members of neo-fascist and racial populist organisations have been implicated in such activity, and racist literature has added to the degree of hatred which has led to physi- cal assault. Although football hooliganism has declined significantly since 1986, and “nationalist” rock groups such as 3 R. Eatwell, “The Esoteric Ideology of the National Front in the 1980s” in ed. M. Cronin, op. cit. 4 Spearhead July 1995. TERMINAL DECLINE? 271 Skrewdriver have remained a cultural undercurrent, the linkage between neo-fascism, racism and forms of attempted cultural indoctrination in youth culture remains a potentially disturbing one.5 In electoral terms neither the BNP nor any of the various fac- tions of the NF have registered on any political Richter scale, apart from the short lived triumph in the Isle of Dogs in 1993. This is best demonstrated by the failure of the extreme right racial populist/neo-fascist political fringe candidates since 1987. In three general elections since then the average vote for such candidates has hovered around 1 per cent in the small minority of seats contested in England (both the “National” Front and the “British” National Party remained “English” in electoral terms, as the racial nationalist/neo-fascist political parties have not put up candidates on the Celtic fringe).6 While the BNP candidates have performed marginally better than the NF or ND candidates, the greater number of constituencies fought, qualifying it for election broadcasts, have helped give the BNP a higher political profile. Although opponents have criticised the BNP election broadcasts in both 1992 and 1997, wrapping oneself up in the Union Jack failed to benefit the candidates. Apart from local pockets of support (in the east end of London BNP candidates received 7.5 per cent of the vote in Bethnal Green and Bow, and Tyndall obtained 7.26 per cent in Poplar and Canning Town, while in Dewsbury the BNP candidate gained 5.2 per cent) the average vote hovered round 1 per cent with most representa- tives attaining less than this figure in the 1997 general election.7 The persistence of racial populism in the east end suggests a histori- cal or cultural tradition, but Tom Linehan’s East London for Mosley suggests that causal relationships between neo-fascist movements and economic, social and political factors are complex, and varied considerably, even within the same locality during the 1930s, let alone over time. In Bradford, Leicester and Nottingham the decline of the BNP and NF suggest that sociological and 5 C. Husbands, “Racial Attacks: The persistence of Racial Vigilantism in British Cities” in eds. T. Kushner and K. Lunn, Traditions of Intolerance (Manchester, 1989), G. Gable, “The Far Right in Contemporary Britain” in eds. L. Cheles, R. Ferguson and M. Vaughan, op. cit. 6 R. Eatwell, “The Extreme Right and British Exceptionalism”. 7 Times 3 May, 1997. TERMINAL DECLINE? 272 psychological models of behaviour need to be relatively complex to have explanatory value, given their weakness today. Racial Populist and neo-fascist political parties do not appear to have benefitted from the decline of the Conservative vote over three elections since 1987. The Failure of a tradition Why then has the racialist far right failed to make more of an impact since 1985, and what of the future? Much recent explana- tion has concentrated on the lack of political space for a neo- fascist revival given that interwar fascism made little impact, and that since 1945 anti-fascism has been one of the lynchpins of British political culture.8 Hence the potential for development, apart from an alienated minority is slim, as the impact of anti- immigration as a political weapon has been siphoned off by both mainstream political parties advocating tougher anti-immigration restrictions, and by liberal nationalist pressure groups unencumbered by fascist political baggage. This factor has oper- ated in tandem with more specific legal sanctions against racist behaviour and discrimination which has discouraged direct confrontation between extremist groups and the authorities. Similarly the success of “black Britain” over a wide range of sporting and cultural activities (athletics, football, pop music etc), the emergence of high profile television personalities, and the continuing assimilation of second and third generation immigrants into British society, has meant the growing incorporation of black Britain into the rapidly changing nature of the “British” national character. Obviously the continuance of prejudice and discrimina- tion is still a problem, and high levels of black alienation are reflected in national statistics relating to health, crime, depriva- tion, and poverty but the overall picture is far from entirely bleak. As simplistic policies like “repatriation” appear increasingly unrealistic with regard to at least three million British citizens, as well as alien to Britain’s liberal political culture, the potential for 8 M. Durham, “The Conservative Party, the British Extreme Right and the Problem of Political Space” in ed. M. Cronin, op. cit. pp. 81–98, R. Eatwell, Fascism (London, 1995), p. 259. TERMINAL DECLINE? 273 anti-immigrant politics declines as a plausible political option, although opinion polls still record high levels of public support for opposing further immigration. Diethelm Prowe has argued that although there have been obvi- ous continuities between interwar fascism and the postwar radical right in europe, there have been more important dissimilarities; these relate to the centrality of anti-immigration since 1945 and the relative decline of antisemitism in postwar movements, and the altered political, economic and social context.9 Since 1985, in Britain, the neo-fascist political fringe has not prospered in either periods of growth and fall in unemployment (the Lawson boom of the late 1980s, the long economic recovery of the Major govern- ment between 1993 and 1997) nor in the recession and high unemployment of the early 1990s. The ending of the Cold War, and the collapse of international communism (including the Communist Party of Great Britain) removed one of the threats which had led to the revival of new forms of fascism in the postwar era. Roger Griffin has suggested that fascism (“palingenetic populist ultra nationalism” or revolutionary rebirth) since 1945 has exhibited three major variants, “nostalgic fascism”, “mimetic fascism” and “neo-fascism”.10 Of these, since 1985 neither nostalgic nor mimetic fascism has appealed outside a dedicated coterie of fanatics, and although neo-fascism, in its various permutations has a continuing appeal to some intellectuals, it lacks populist appeal. Roger Eatwell has highlighted the syncretic nature of fascism and its ability to incorporate ideas and values from all parts of the political spectrum into a “radical third way”.11 While these developments led to the intellectual survival of fascism as an ideol- ogy, the great variety of permutations and the watering down of the doctrine, lessened its impact and appeal. Only in the BNP, where Tyndall’s Nazi past, and his autocratic style of management were equally offputting, could surviving influence of both the ideological fascist and British fascist tradition remain as significant factors. 9 D. Prowe, “Classic Fascism and the New Radical Right in Western Europe: Comparisons and Contrasts” Contemporary European History 3,3,1994, pp. 289–313. 10 R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (London, 1993) pp. 161–169. 11 R. Eatwell, ‘On Defining the “Fascism Minimum”: the Centrality of Ideology’ Journal of Political Ideologies 1,3,1996, pp. 303–319. TERMINAL DECLINE? 274 TERMINAL DECLINE? Unless an unlikely collapse of the British economy occurs, the outlook for “fascism” in Britain appears bleak. As well as anti-immigration, the BNP in particular has emphasised the importance of “leadership” for national renewal. Charismatic politics is central to fascist political style, and although Tyndall’s oratory, and, until recently, his interwar economics were derived from Sir Oswald Mosley, Tyndall’s authoritarianism, like Mosley’s has led to periodic divisions amongst the ranks outside a dedicated cohort of ideological soulmates and personal followers. The lack of a credible leader who could unite the warring racial populists and neo-fascists has greatly weakened the appeal of the far right, which since 1985 has been as divided as ever by personal rivalries and ideological differ- ences. Indeed leadership from the radical right perspective in the 1980s, that has remained of central significance to British politics until the 1997 general election, which united much of the nation, was provided not by a fringe politician, but by Margaret Thatcher. The “Iron Lady” led the Conservatives to three consecutive elec- tion victories in 1979, 1983 and 1987; although there were tacti- cal retreats before the unions and over economic policy at critical junctures, the strategy followed was firm and consistent for the most part. The Falklands War in 1982, the breaking of Union power with the Industrial Relations Acts and the victory over the Miners in 1985, the toughened stance on immigration and politi- cal asylum, the doughty cold war warrior, the provision of the “backbone” behind the decision to stand up to Saddam Hussein, and the increasingly frosty relations with the European Community, were all issues which “nationalists”, as well as much mainstream public opinion, could approve the lead given by Britain’s most successful post 1945 Prime Minister. Similarly the long run success of Thatcherite economic policies, which although they caused much pain and unemployment during the Howe and Lamont Chancellorships, nevertheless the pursu- ance of supply side economics and monetarist policies, led to sustained economic growth and rapid falls in unemployment, which was a real achievement despite the statistical conjuring tricks used to reduce the figures. Although Thatcher remained person- ally unpopular with many, she was greatly admired as a convic- tion politician who displayed strong leadership qualities. Her 275 achievement could be measured by the fact that “New Labour”, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown borrowed her market economics and monetary policies, and adapted them to social policy. The BNP also jettisoned much of the protectionist and corporatist economic policies and became more influenced by market econom- ics. John Major’s difficulties stemmed from a perceived leadership weakness; he was forced into too many U-turns, which despite his successful Thatcherite economic management, meant he became more personally unpopular than any previous incumbent. Neither the BNP nor any other radical right or neo-fascist group were able to take advantage of the disarray in the Conservative party during the post-Thatcher era. Weakened by the challenge of John Redwood to John Major’s leadership, and unable to control “the bastards” on the right, or to placate the more european left, the Conservatives appeared rudderless under weak leadership. The Labour landslide in 1997 exposed the weaknesses of the extremist right. Since the early 1990s Tyndall had targeted disil- lusioned Conservative voters and proclaimed the BNP as a radical right party, but despite the rout of the Major government the neo- fascist and racial populist tradition failed to benefit.12 Conservative voters deserted in droves to “New Labour” with its dual approach of social radicalism and neo-Thatcherite market economics. Those who were more worried by the potential loss of national sovereignty to Brussels bureaucrats in the Common Market voted for the Referendum Party of Sir James Goldsmith, or the U.K. Independence Party, both unemcumbered with neo-fascist or racial populist political baggage and firmly in the constitutional mainstream. The failure of Tyndall’s campaign to target alienated Conservatives, and the exposure of the “dirty tricks” plot by the National Democrats to sabotage the Referendum Party in the West Midlands in the 1997 election meant that the radical populist/neo- fascist political fringe were well aware of the opportunity presented, and their failure to benefit from the implosion inside the Conservatives. If the far right failed to take advantage of the fall of the Conservatives from power, then longer term factors than the immediate political and ideological weaknesses of the extremist 12 R. Eatwell, “The Extreme Right and British Exceptionalism”. TERMINAL DECLINE? 276 fringe need emphasis. Although well tuned to the pronounced nativist undercurrents in British culture, nevertheless the dominant liberal traditions of mainstream party politics have not been seri- ously undermined during the 1990s, with both Labour and the Liberals gaining from the misfortunes of the Conservatives, and for more respectable and less extreme alternatives successfully competing for the available political space provided for the British nationalist alternative. The state, too, since the 1960s, has shown an increasingly firm response against left and right political extremism. Race relations legislation in the 1960s has been strengthened, and the introduc- tion of a new Public Order Act in 1986, have both led to increased use of legal means against members of the BNP and NF, as well as more extreme movements. While the authorities remain concerned about the thin dividing line between incitement and civil liberties, the trend since 1979 has been to political correctness, the restric- tion of freedom of expression, greater censorship and the use of the law against threats to public order and organised political violence against ethnic minorities.13 While the increase in racial violence against individuals remains of great concern, the role played by organised racism remains problematic and difficult to enforce. Yet since 1995, when MI5 closed down its counter subversion branch, the far right, like the extreme left, was no longer seen as a threat. However, recent evidence suggests that the authorities still like to be aware of developments on the farther shores of British politics. The recent “coming out” of Andy Carmichael, alleged MI5 agent and National Democrats infiltrator into the Referendum Party, and the exposure of a plot to withhold nomination papers in West Midlands seats in the 1997 General Election, fits into the general pattern of political surveillance of right wing extremism.14 From the time of the British Fascists, when MI5 recruited its Director of Intelligence, Maxwell Knight, and the BUF when “P.G. Taylor” (James McGuirk Hughes) doubled as its Chief Intelligence Officer and as an MI5 agent, the authorities have always been well informed about developments within the extreme right, and have used this knowledge to monitor and control events (most 13 R. Thurlow, The Secret State (Oxford, 1994) pp. 328–331. 14 Sunday Times 27 July 1997. TERMINAL DECLINE? 277 notably in 1940). Often aided and abetted by private intelligence organisations, the authorities have found it much easier to infiltrate and manipulate right wing rather than left wing organisations. National Propaganda, and the Economic League, were sources of useful, and sometimes inaccurate intelligence for the authorities in the interwar period, and Communist agents provided anti-fascist organisations with much useful intelligence against the BUF in the 1930s. The Board of Deputies of British Jews gave the Home Office much interesting intelligence on Fascist organisations in 1939–40.15 Similarly the Intelligence operations of the 43 group in Mosley Book Clubs and Union Movement in the 1940s and the activities of Ron Hill, as a Searchlight agent in the Nazi political fringe during the 1980s, have helped weaken attempts to revive British fascism.16 Whether such intelligence gathering activities have always provided accurate information may be doubted, but even if that is the case, the exposure of either the agent or actions against the fascist tradition following intelligence activity, have led to an increased degree of suspicion and division within racial populist or fascist movements, thus weakening racial nationalism. The British fascist political tradition, always a sickly growth, failed to recover from the war Britain fought to force the “unconditional surrender” of Hitler and Mussolini in 1945. Anti- fascism was no longer dominated by communists and their allies but now was a deeply engrained part of British character and the national culture. If public opinion viewed fascism with a mixture of fear, ridicule and indifference in the interwar period, after 1945 racial populism and neo-fascism were movements beyond the pale, loathed by respectable society. 15 R. Thurlow, The Secret State pp. 175–179, 203–213, J. Hope, “British Fascism and the State 1917–27: A Re-examination of the Evidence” Labour History Review 57,3,1992, J. Hope “Fascism and the State in Britain: The Case of the British Fascisti 1923–31” Australian Journal of Politics and History 39,3,1993, pp. 367–380, J. Hope “Surveillance or Collusion? Maxwell Knight, MI5 and the British Fascisti” Intelligence and National Security 9,4,October 1994, pp. 651–675. 16 R. Hill and A. Bell The Other Face of Terror (London, 1988). TERMINAL DECLINE? farce. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Conclusion: The Sawdust Caesars History always repeats itself. The first time as tragedy, the second as Marx’s view of the Bonapartist interludes in nineteenth- century French political history is distinctly appropriate for the history of British fascism. Whatever one may think of the highly controversial personality of Sir Oswald Mosley, there is little doubt that his involvement in British fascism proved the last straw for his prospects of a potentially highly successful career within the orbit of high politics. The self-destructive side of his personality, his inability to compromise on issues of policy and principle, his notorious short temper and failure to suffer fools gladly, and his poor judgement of men and events, represented the negative side of a brilliant but erratic man. The establishment rationalized these drawbacks in terms of the narrow Nonconformist puritanical moral ethos into which the great liberal tradition of British politics had sunk by the 1920s. As both Robert Skidelsky and Nicholas Mosley have pointed out, Mosley’s revolt went beyond the refusal to play the game of party politics and was justified by him in terms of the need not only for a revolutionary transformation of the political system but in the nature of man himself. Of course such views were utopian and unrealistic, given the straitjacket within which the British economy and political system operated within the inter-war period. Mosley’s chosen vehicle to spearhead the assault on the establishment, the British Union of 279 Fascists, also failed to live up to such high expectations. It did motivate an interesting collection of talented idealists and politi- cal mavericks who were attracted by Mosley’s dream in the drab Depression years; it also drew a motley crew of cranks, anti- semites, petty criminals, opportunists, thugs and literal social fascists who recognized an easy ride when they saw it. Mosley’s organizational weaknesses, his personal flaws, his counter- productive obsession with secrecy and security-consciousness, and his failure to paper over the developing fissures within the move- ment after the collapse of membership in 1934, meant that the BUF increasingly attracted at all levels of the movement the deeply alienated or those who had chips on their shoulders. The original revolutionary economic and political programme of The Greater Britain increasingly came to play a secondary role to populist campaigns which appealed to local prejudices, of which the whip- ping up of anti-semitic sentiment in the East End of London was to become the most notorious. Indeed, although there was a constant ideological core to the BUF in the 1930s, the move from emphasis on a revolutionary economic and political policy to anti-semitism and to preserving the peace of Europe, reflected both the changing sociological base of British fascism and the alteration in political emphasis from a pseudo-left wing to a radical right organization. The supposed ‘third way’ in British politics in the 1930s was a shifting alliance of disparate groups and individuals in a movement which appeared to be in constant turmoil and crisis. Mosley’s failure in the 1930s was achieved partly by his own inadequacies, the lack of impact of the BUF, and astute political management by the National government. Mosley was a poor judge of events and had wretched luck in the 1930s. His much- vaunted economic expertise led him to misjudge the nature of the crisis; the mass unemployment of 1929–32 was not the final crisis of capitalism and the economy made a significant recovery in the 1930s. Only in regional blackspots too dependent on staple industries did recovery fail to occur. Even in these areas, apart from the cotton campaign in Lancashire in 1934 the BUF cut little ice. Mosley failed to accept that the British public had deep conservative instincts; that they preferred a slow economic decline to radical reform which would revolutionize the social fabric of the nation. CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS 280 CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS The Home Office, worried by increased conflict between com- munists and a rapidly growing fascist movement, began a policy of surveillance of the BUF in 1934. MI5 and Special Branch reported on developments, although their sources of information proved to be not as useful as elsewhere from the fascist political fringe. Mosley’s counter-subversion strategy, which compromised the organizational efficiency of the BUF, was specifically designed to minimize damage caused by infiltration by the security service. The available evidence suggests that MI5 had a cosy view of Mosley and his activities in the 1930s; unlike the Communist party the BUF was seen as patriotic and by 1935 they were no longer seen as a threat. Renewed conflict between fascists and com- munists and Jews in 1936 did lead the government to act to maintain public order and political uniforms were banned. However, only in the special circumstances of spring 1940 did MI5’s attitude to Mosley change overnight in the aftermath of the Tyler Kent affair. The other major aspect of government management of the BUF was the publicity boycott. After the withdrawal of Rothermere’s support in 1934 the BUF was given little coverage in the media and that only of a negative kind, associating it with political violence. From then until the publication of his autobiography in 1968, Mosley was kept beyond the pale, a political unperson. He was carefully shunted into a siding of British politics, and the BUF and lateral political movements associated with him became a dead end. Internment in the war meant that a general attitude of indif- ference to him was turned into a deep suspicion of his motives and activities; the always hostile view of the political left became an accepted view of society as a whole. After 1968, however, Mosley’s political reputation began to stage a recovery. Members of the establishment praised his autobiography and academics began to portray him as a visionary seer and prophet of Britain’s decline, a trend which reached its peak in Robert Skidelsky’s biography. The critical reception of Skidelsky’s work was most interesting, however; some reviewers castigated the author for whitewashing the most controversial aspects of Mosley’s career, most particularly the political violence and anti-semitism associated with fascism. Little was said about Skidelsky’s stimulating and often brilliant exposition of Mosley’s economic ideas and the interesting development of his thought 281 after 1945. Nicholas Mosley’s volumes, too, represented a fascinat- ing account of his attempt to come to terms with the mind of his father, from a more critical perspective than that of Skidelsky. Both authors emphasized that Sir Oswald Mosley possessed a powerful intellect as well as brilliant oratorical skills. I suggest that such ability was woefully misused in British fascism; not only did Mosley talk a lot of nonsense in the 1930s but his self- imposed political isolation meant that the cause of economic and political radicalism was seriously weakened as a result. Thus Mosley, the deeply flawed hero, was both the tragic victim and incomparably the most significant figure in the tradition. Indeed, without him British fascism would never have been even of minor significance in the politics of the inter-war period. Of all the sawdust Caesars and tinpot Führers of the British fascist politi- cal tradition, only Mosley had the requisite political ability to look the part as a credible leader or the author of an alternative economic and political vision for Britain. He was also the most important political sugar-daddy of the tradition, who poured more money down the political drain of British fascism than any other single individual either before or since the Second World War. Yet doubts still persist about Mosley. These centre around the obsessive secrecy with which he disguised his fascist activities. Mosley’s strategy of releasing as little information as possible about the BUF was aided both by the accident of fire damage and by the fact that most of the documentation on the BUF disap- peared into the innermost recesses of police files or the Security Service in 1940. Only now can part of this material be consulted in the Home Office Papers. Almost certainly the fact that Mosley’s memory about the BUF seemed so selective had laudable motives. He wished to protect many who were true patriots from the nega- tive perceptions which state and society held of the BUF even many years after the war. However, such an attitude also meant that much which was embarrassing could be covered up. Recent discoveries have shown that much of the early growth and collapse of the BUF was underwritten by subventions from Mussolini, that Mosley had audacious plans based on the profits of commercial radio to fund the BUF, including a potentially highly controversial agreement with Hitler, and that the decision to intern British fascists was connected, however improbably, with the Tyler Kent affair. The CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS 282 present volume adds significantly to the internment saga by bring- ing together information and plausible arguments to show that this political decision derived chiefly from essentially accurate intel- ligence linking Mosley to Ramsay and much of the rest of the pro-German, anti-semitic and neo-fascist fringe. However, I feel that although this was the case MI5 misinterpreted the significance of this information in the hysterical atmosphere of spring 1940. British fascism was crushed in 1940 as a result of a number of factors: as a by product of Hitler’s conquest of much of the rest of Europe, of Maule Ramsay’s stupidity, and Mosley’s obsession with secrecy. British fascists may have been politically naive, but the vast majority of them, like Mosley, were patriots not potential traitors. If the BUF can be seen as part of a political tragedy, then the most important post-war variant on the fascist political tradition, the National Front, is deserving of the more negative side of Marx’s aphorism. Although not all aspects of the NF can be considered fascist (indeed, much of the political shambles of the organization has derived from internal arguments about the significance of past blatant nazi associations of ex-GBM members), it nevertheless can be seen as directly connected to the tradition. In essence the NF represented a synthesis of three separate British fascist traditions: Mosley’s BUF economic and political programme, the rationally expressed conspiracy theory mentality of conservative fascism, and the virulent racism of Arnold Leese’s racial nationalism. For much of its history after 1970 the NF was effectively control- led by a clique who derived their inspiration from the Leese tradi- tion but who had learned to express their ideas in the more rational language of conservative fascism. To the fore now were the sup- posedly respectable ideas of A.K. Chesterton, whom many – although not all – among the second generation had derided when he was alive, which were used as a form of code to mask more extremist sentiments. However, faction fights with ex-Tories, racial populists and Strasserites, and the total lack of discipline of the ex-nazis, gave an often farcical aspect to the internal politics of the NF. The surprising thing about the NF is the fact that it made such an impact, given such blatant internal contradictions. The history of British fascism can be traced back in those three separate traditions which failed to synthesize harmoniously in the NF. To most observers this somewhat seedy and dark underside in CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS 283 recent British history has now nearly collapsed, at least in organizational terms, although the NF and BNP continue to exist with much reduced numbers compared to the 1970s. State and left-wing opposition have effectively neutralized the open political threat posed by neo-fascist mass movements in racial populist clothing. However, some of the more militant and hard-line of the individuals associated with the revival of nazism in the 1960s appear to have organized a basically illegal underground tradition which has been implicated in racial violence and paramilitary train- ing, and there are also connections with political terrorism and European movements. Although only of minor interest to the Security Service, compared to the more obvious terrorists and guer- rilla warfare problems posed by the IRA and various left-wing international organizations, the known presence in London of wanted Italian fascists suspected of terrorism, who have connec- tions to most of the contemporary organizations on the neo- fascist fringe, is a worrying development. British fascism then was small beer. At no stage could it be considered a credible political threat. In terms of numbers it reached its peak in 1934 when it had the backing of the Rothermere press and was alleged to have had 50,000 members. After 1945, it was only in the early 1970s that a movement which had some fascist associations approached half that size. The actual hard core membership probably never numbered more than a few thousand at any stage. During the 1930s single-issue populist campaigns, of which the two most significant were anti-semitism and anti-war, boosted membership and kept up flagging morale. After 1945 racial populism and anti-New Commonwealth immigration poli- cies fulfilled the same function. In terms of its impact on society and politics, British fascism has been over-rated. The BUF failed to put forward a slate of candidates in the 1935 election; and it polled disastrously in the three phoney war elections it fought. Only in the East End of London was there success of a kind; they polled respectably in three boroughs in both local and GLC elections in 1937, although no seats were won. Elsewhere local election results in 1938 and 1939 were abysmal. In spite of the reams of analysis of NF election results their perform- ance, although better, has hardly been anything to crow about. Only a couple of councillors have ever been elected and only once, CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS 284 in 1973 at West Bromwich, did an NF candidate ever save his deposit in a parliamentary election. The impact on government was also not of enormous significance. The street conflict between Jews, communists and fascists in 1936 explains the timing of the Public Order Act of 1936, although its terms were explicitly designed for wider significance than just keeping fascists under control. The long delay in providing legislation against racial incitement, despite the obvi- ous and persistent use of loopholes in the existing law by fascists, did highlight an interesting aspect of domestic policy. Throughout the inter-war period and from 1945 to 1965 the Home Office was more concerned with safeguarding freedom of speech than with protecting ethnic minorities from racial abuse. Only where public order was threatened, as in 1936, or grave external threats intervened, as in 1940, or the situation was in danger of getting out of hand as during the 1960s, were stronger measures contemplated. A kind of ethnocentric liberalism has generally been the norm in such matters, although the mouse that was British fascism was rapidly crushed in 1940 when the usual practice was swept away, habeas corpus effectively suspended and DR 18 b (1a) was used to intern without trial many fascists. In a sense this represented the final irony for British fascism in the inter-war years. The BUF, whose principle raison d’être was to close down all other political parties if it ever got the chance, had its own activities terminated by its enemies in a summary fashion. Once the security of the political system appeared to be threatened, British fascism became one of the scapegoats as the traditional liberalism of the Home Office broke down for the duration of the war. CONCLUSION: THE SAWDUST CAESARS Select Bibliography An excellent introduction to the available bibliographical mate- rial on British fascism is provided in P. Rees Fascism in Britain: An Annotated Bibliography (Hassocks, 1979). The main primary sources used for this book were: The Culture of Fascism The Culture of Fascism Visions of the Far Right in Britain Edited by Julie V. Gottlieb and Thomas P. Linehan Published in 2004 by I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd 6 Salem Road, London W2 4BU 175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010 www.ibtauris.com In the United States of America and Canada distributed by Palgrave Macmillan a division of St. Martin’s Press 175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010 Copyright © 2004 by Julie V. Gottlieb and Thomas P. Linehan The right of Julie V. Gottlieb and Thomas P. Linehan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by the authors in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. ISBN HB 1 86064 798 7 PB 1860647995 A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available Typeset in Palatino 10/12 by JCS Publishing Services Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin Contents Contributors’ Biographies Julie V. Gottlieb and Thomas P. Linehan: and the British Far Right Introduction: Culture vii 1 Part I: Cultural Perspectives: The British Far Right and Ideologies of Culture Matthew Hendley: Women and the Nation: The Right and Projections of Feminized Political Images in Great Britain, 1900–18 13 Thomas P. Linehan: Reactionary Spectatorship: British Fascists and Cinema in Inter-War Britain 27 Roger Griffin: ‘This Fortress Built Against Infection’: The BUF Vision of Britain’s Theatrical and Musical Renaissance 45 Richard Thurlow: The Developing British Fascist Interpretation of Race, Culture and Evolution 66 Part II: Cultural Representations: Cultural Histories of British Fascism Julie V. Gottlieb: Britain’s New Fascist Men: The Aestheticization of Brutality in British Fascist Propaganda 83 Philip M. Coupland: The Black Shirt in Britain: The Meanings and Functions of Political Uniform 100 Helen Pussard: The Blackshirts at Belle Vue: Fascist Theatre at a North-West Pleasure Ground 116 Steven Woodbridge: Purifying the Nation: Critiques of Cultural Decadence and Decline in British Neo-Fascist Ideology 129 VI THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Part III: Cultural Confrontations: Foreign Influences and Cultural Exchange Claudia Baldoli: Anglo-Italian Fascist Solidarity? The Shift from Italophilia to Naziphilia in the BUF 147 Richard Griffiths: Another Form of Fascism: The Cultural Impact of the French ‘Radical Right’ in Britain 162 Dan Stone: Notes Index The Far Right and the Back-to-the-Land Movement 182 199 247 Contributors’ Biographies Claudia Baldoli completed her PhD at the London School of Econom- ics in International History. She is a research fellow in Rome and a visiting Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London. Philip M. Coupland completed his PhD in the Department of History at the University of Warwick in 2000. He has taught history at the Uni- versity of Warwick and at the time of writing (December 2002) is a researcher on the European Commission funded project ‘The Churches and European Integration’, based in the Department of His- tory at the University of Glasgow. Dr Coupland has written on British fascism and other topics of British political history in the Journal of Contemporary History, Twentieth Century British History and elsewhere. Julie V. Gottlieb completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1998, was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, taught at the University of Manchester and the University of Bristol, and is a Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Sheffield. Her publications include Feminine Fascism: Women in Britain’s Fascist Move- ment, 1923–1945 (I. B. Tauris, 2000, paperback 2003) and articles and chapters on gender, culture and British fascism. She is co-editor of the forthcoming Power, Personality and Persuasion (I. B. Tauris, 2004) and she is currently working on ‘Gendering Appeasement: Women and Foreign Policy in Britain, 1918–1940’. Roger Griffin is Professor of History at Oxford Brookes University where he lectures on aspects of the History of Ideas relating to ide- ologies and values which have shaped the modern world. His major work is The Nature of Fascism (Pinter 1991, Routledge 1993) which established the first new theory of generic fascism for over a decade and continues to have an influence on the ‘new consensus’ which is now emerging in fascist studies about the need to take seriously fascism’s intent to inaugurate a national or ethnic rebirth in the sphere of political culture. This approach was refined further in Fascism, a documentary reader of primary sources relating to fascism published by Oxford University Press (1995), and International Fascism. Theories, Causes, and the New Consensus, a documentary reader of secondary sources published by Arnold in 1998. He has also published VIII THE CULTURE OF FASCISM numerous articles and chapters on the relationship of both inter-war and post-war fascism to such topics as the myth of Europe, time, reli- gion, aesthetics, the New Right, and the theatre. His long term project is a comparative study of fascist culture for Macmillan which will focus particularly on the quest to regenerate the collective experience of history through a transformation of political culture brought about in the classic era of fascism by ultra-nationalist forms of ritual politics. Richard Griffiths was Professor of French at King’s College London from 1990 to 2000. He has written extensively on the British and the French extreme Right, and his most recent publications include An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Fascism (Duckworth, 2000) and Patriotism Perverted: Captain Ramsay, the Right Club, and British Anti-Semitism 1939–1940 (Constable, 1998). He is also the author of the ground- breaking Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933–39 (Constable, 1980). Matthew Hendley has a PhD in History from the University of Toronto. He has completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada post-doctoral fellowship at McMaster University, and was the Northrop Frye Postdoctoral fellow at Victoria College, University of Toronto, before becoming assistant professor at SUNY- Oneonta. Hendley’s dissertation, ‘Patriotic Leagues and the Evolution of Popular Patriotism and Imperialism in Great Britain, 1914–1932’, is a study of the impact of the First World War on organized patriotic and imperialist movements. This thesis received honourable mention for the Canadian Historical Association’s John Bullen Prize in 1999. Dr Hendley has a strong interest in the intersection of gender with politi- cal and imperial culture and has published three articles in Albion, the Canadian Journal of History and the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association. He is currently revising his dissertation for publication. Thomas P. Linehan read History at the University of York, and later went on to receive his doctorate in History from Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London. He is the author of East London for Mosley: the British Union of Fascists in East London and South- West Essex 1933–1940 (Frank Cass, 1996) and British Fascism, 1918– 1939: Parties, Ideology and Culture (Manchester University Press, 2000). Dr Linehan is currently working on a study of the Communist Party of Great Britain during the inter-war years. He is currently a Lecturer in History at Brunel University. Helen Pussard is a Lecturer in the Social and Cultural Study of Sport and Leisure at the University of Surrey Roehampton. She is currently CONTRIBUTORS’ BIOGRAPHIES IX finishing her PhD thesis on pleasure grounds in the first half of the twentieth century at the University of Manchester. Dan Stone is Lecturer in Twentieth-Century European History at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He is the editor of Theoretical Interpretations of the Holocaust (Rodopi, 2001) and author of Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Inter- war Britain (Liverpool University Press, 2002), Constructing the Holocaust: A Study in Historiography (Vallentine Mitchell, 2003) and Responses to Nazism in Britain: Before War and Holocaust (Palgrave, 2003). Richard Thurlow in a Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Sheffield. He has published widely on British fascism throughout the twentieth century. His publications include the seminal Fascism in Brit- ain: From Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts to the National Front (I. B. Tauris, 1998), The Secret State: British Internal Security in the Twentieth Century (Basil Blackwell, 1994) and Fascism (Cambridge University Press, 1999) Steven Woodbridge is Lecturer in Politics in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, Surrey. He was awarded a PhD from Kingston in 1998, his area of research being British fascist ide- ology during the inter-war period. His research interests currently include British fascist and neo-fascist ideas during the twentieth century, together with the wider comparative nature of extreme right- wing ideology in Europe. He has given conference papers on the development of the extreme right in the 1990s, British neo-fascist atti- tudes to culture, and the resurgence of conspiracy theory in the twenty-first century. He is at present working on a study of British fas- cism during the 1920s. Dr Woodbridge is a member of the ECPR Standing Group on Extremism and Democracy. Introduction: Culture and the British Far Right The historiography of the British far Right has evolved over the past decades from studies adhering to largely empirical approaches, and motivated principally by the need to understand the ‘failure’ of British fascism according to political and socio-economic explanatory models, to fresher perspectives and more innovative methodological approaches that suggest the relative place of the far Right in larger debates in the fields of both contemporary British history and comparative fascism. The study of the British far Right has long been dominated by investigations of local support for the British Union of Fascists (BUF) or by demographic surveys of membership;1 definitional discussions of British fascist ideology and political devel- opment;2 studies of the electoral (mis)fortunes of far Right groups and government responses to political extremism;3 investigations into the formal and informal relations between British ‘fellow travellers’ and their continental counterparts;4 and political biography of leading fig- ures or more narrative but no less lively family histories (where the Mosleys and their assorted high-bred relations provide the anecdotal raw material for a veritable cottage industry).5 Together these approaches – which have benefited a great deal from, and whose pro- liferation has been justified by, the periodic release of illuminating official documents and the more systematic archiving of personal papers and printed material6 – have been able to reveal as much as is likely to be known about the BUF in particular; a political movement that has arguably received more retrospective notice and has been the subject of more painstaking historical analysis than its impact on the 1930s alone might merit. The empirical approach has constructed a narrative of the far Right’s political marginality, personal eccentricity and quirkiness, and ‘otherness’.7 However, in the past decade historians have sought to redraw the theoretical and methodological boundaries of the historiography, and thereby revise and renarrate the development and the significance of the far Right. Those conducting their research in this field have of late begun to bring the perspectives of culture (both mass and elite)8 and gender (both the position of women and the construction of feminine and masculine typologies),9 as well as the history of ideas to bear on the growing wealth of source material and historical evidence.10 It is 2 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM the mission of this volume to offer as representative a sample as poss- ible of these new perspectives, and to supplement the empirical approach by providing close readings of the symbols, the language and the (self)representations of the British far Right. While our collective approach requires the re-reading of the sources, reflects on newly-excavated primary material and acknowl- edges the volatility of historical categories, the editors of this collection maintain that any reinterpretation of fascism must remain firm in its fundamental condemnation of the British far Right and its project. All contributors to this volume condemn, without hesitation, the far Right’s authoritarianism, posturing elitism, anti-democratic aggression, violence, intolerance, sexism and racism. A cultural approach does not provide retrospective legitimacy to the far Right, nor does it celebrate its production in the sphere of culture, however revolutionary and even ‘avant-garde’ certain aspects of ‘fascist moder- nity’ might have been. It would be myopic to believe that this bid to understand, and this process of imaginative intellectual probing, in any way detracts from the political and moral need to expose the offensive, intolerant and violent extremism of fascism for the present generation. Taking a cue from the so-called ‘consensus’ on the ‘primacy of cul- ture’ thesis in fascist studies, all the essays in this volume share an interest in the relationship between politics and culture.11 We aim to demonstrate through a variety of specific case studies that British fas- cism is not merely a political movement, but also a cultural movement, a (failed) attempt at Kulturkampf and a culturally-informed expression of political belief. If the British far Right can be understood to be a cultural movement, this inevitably challenges the reigning nar- rative of fascism’s failure in Britain in relation to the political system and in interaction with competing notions of the state and the nation. In other words, however unsuccessful the British extreme Right has been in the course of the twentieth century by the measure of political gain, it has nonetheless often been a reflector and recycler of wider cultural phenomena, and in grudging dialogue with current cultural discourses. The far Right has not developed in a cultural vacuum. However marginal vis-à-vis the liberal–democratic consensus, for all that British fascists have absorbed, appropriated and corrupted from their British socio-cultural and political context, they have also been a vocal participant in that contentious debate, still ongoing, regarding the meaning of ‘Englishness’ and what constitutes the British ‘character ’. In common we consider both the movement’s reactions to high and popular cultural forms (film, theatre, music, mass media, visual art and literature), as well as offering readings of political expressions informed by cultural history. We thus seek to provide a cultural his- INTRODUCTION 3 tory of fascist politics, and not merely another investigation of political culture. Only by re-reading the cultural expressions of the British far Right do we feel that this area of scholarly interest can be revitalized by beginning to engage with innovative theoretical and methodological paradigms through which fascism is represented historically. Why read British fascism as a cultural phenomenon? Culture was an indispensable feature of fascism’s revolutionary project, as is now recognized by many scholars of generic and continental fascism.12 This was certainly the case with the BUF. The Mosleyites’ gloom-laden prognosis that contemporary British life was exhibiting signs of acute ill-health – manifested in a range of imagined decadent features (materialist individualism, rationalism, urbanism, intellectualism, ‘cultural Bolshevism’ etc.) – stemmed from a world view that, to a large degree, was cultural in origin and inspiration. To the BUF, cul- tures, like nations and civilizations, were biological organisms with their own evolutionary life cycles. Britain was thought to be nearing the end of its life cycle of creative cultural development that appar- ently accounted for the ‘pathological’ symptoms referred to above. As fascist revolutionaries, of course, the Mosleyites believed that they could check and reverse this ‘organic’ process of biological decline. They would expedite the evolutionary process by initiating a variety of measures (corporate, Faustian-scientific etc.) designed to rekindle the nation’s ‘life force’ and evoke a sense of national destiny similar to that which they believed characterized earlier eras of national advance and cultural attainment.13 Thus the British far Right did not confine itself to high political discourse, to economic policy, to street-level provocation and demon- strations, or to formal or more casual relations with soon-to-be-hostile foreign powers. Rather, British fascists developed an extensive and, more often than not, coherent cultural package, complete with sug- gested readings, suggested theatre and film viewing, recommended ‘listening in’ and proscriptive ways of understanding modern art and music and modernist art forms. In relation to the latter, one of the underlying questions that this volume is asking is whether there was any validity in the BUF’s claim to be a ‘Modern movement’, and how the fascist definition of the ‘modern’ appropriated and/or contested our current definition of Modernism (the latter defined as an artistic sensibility, as well as a conglomeration of normative constructions of Modernity). On the other hand, the BUF developed its own politicized techn- ology – the theatre of the mass meeting, the adaptation of media technology to animate the appearance of Mosley as matinée idol, the production of films, songs and political literature – in flattering imita- tion of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s politicized aesthetic experiments, and 4 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM also in competition with the techniques of mass politics being devel- oped by the mainstream parties. This technological innovation and the distinctive material culture spawned by the movement was due, partly, to legislative prohibitions on fascist activity. For example, the BUF was banned from broadcasting on the BBC, and with the Public Order Act (1936) political uniforms were banned. However, an all- consuming cultural life was also integral to the development of a community of fascist ‘fanatics’. The BUF, and later in the century the National Front and British National Party, recast cultural forms in the fascist mould, and an anthropological reading of the fascist move- ment’s own popular culture can thus reveal a great deal about the proximity or the distance between the manners and habits of the mainstream members of the British community and their black- shirted political black sheep relations. We are thus equally interested in investigating the far Right’s own cultural production, alongside an analysis of its cultural values and ideals. Spanning the entire twentieth century, the essays offer cultural readings of propaganda, political ideas, racial theories, political aes- thetics, gender ideologies, material culture and forms of literary expression that were closely engaged with the political discourse and aspirations of the far Right. The essays are arranged into three thematic categories. In Part I, the unifying concern is with cultural perspectives. The essays in this section consider far Right perspectives on culture in the context of particular cultural and ideological expres- sions, namely cinema, theatre, music and ideologies of gender and race. Providing some longer-term perspectives on the British Right and highlighting the blurred boundaries between sections of the Conserv- ative Party and the far Right, Matthew Hendley examines feminized political tropes in Primrose League and Conservative Party propa- ganda. By taking the Primrose League as the main subject of investigation, he unveils an interesting paradox: that a political move- ment that was characterized by high rates of female membership, and that sought to politicize women from the Right, referred to a set of images that tended to undermine or subordinate the female role. Nonetheless, the Primrose League continued to attract a dedicated female following. Indeed, it might even be argued that this imagery and rhetoric was the key to its success with women, building as it did on traditionalist and familiar symbolic codes in English politics and on the typologies and aesthetics common to political satire. (George Mosse has argued that the power of the fascist aesthetic was also to create nothing new or original, but to offer continuity with national and nationalist cultural codes.)14 As Hendley points out, the prepon- derance during the inter-war period of women members of the British Fascists Ltd (1923–35) and the BUF with Conservative backgrounds INTRODUCTION 5 speaks for this subjective continuity, and it could even be argued that their transfer of loyalties was facilitated by their comfort with these familiarly gendered nationalist symbols. Thomas P. Linehan’s essay on fascist cinema spectatorship consid- ers the representations of contemporary cinema at play in the film discourse of the British far Right in the inter-war period. Through a range of lively examples culled from the far Right’s publications, he shows how fascist writers depicted contemporary cinema, in both its international and home-grown variants, as an agent of encroaching Americanization, as an intellectually bankrupt ‘mass culture’ object, and as a dangerously seductive site of sexual titillation. Similarly, cin- ema figured in this critique as a conduit for the circulation of so-called ‘international’ Jewish propaganda, and as a forum that offered a bas- tardized view of British history. British fascist film spectators would never be content to restrict themselves solely to such passive ‘anti-’ observations though. For, as Linehan goes on to show, as ‘palin- genetic’ revolutionaries the fascists imagined and strove to bring into the domain of popular cultural discourse an alternative model of Brit- ish cinema, one refashioned to serve their goal of national rebirth. While Linehan analyses the far Right response to the influence of the modern cinema, Roger Griffin surveys the BUF’s responses to theatre and music during the 1930s. In his essay, Griffin draws upon his pioneering work into the core of palingenetic myth underlying the fascists’ ‘regenerative’ mission and fascist rebirth ideology. Quarrying the BUF press to discern a British fascist critique of contemporary cul- tural forms, Griffin fleshes out the emergent fascist canon, and speculates on the nature of cultural politics in fascist-corporatist Brit- ain. But the essay does not merely scrutinize the BUF’s cultural preferences or its own hit parade. Griffin also reveals a great deal about the movement’s fascistization of cultural forms, from their marching songs, their hosting of musical evenings, to their own ‘Aryan bands’ offering a play list of popular favourites as well as Anglicized fascist anthems. Griffin’s essay convincingly shows, too, that the Mosleyites’ diagnosis of the health of Britain’s theatre and music was informed by their Spenglerian assumption concerning the organic life cycle of cultures that was so integral to their palingenetic vision of the nation’s destiny. The formation of Aryan dance bands was obviously predicated on a theory of race, and Richard Thurlow’s essay provides the wider con- text for British fascist racial theories and explores the prioritization of notions of culture within these racist pseudo-scientific musings. Span- ning the entire twentieth century, considering the long-term resonance of the BUF’s contribution to racist discourse and taking an intellectual history approach, Thurlow charts the evolution of racist intellectual constructs and points to key areas of divergence between the British 6 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Nazi genetic racists and the British Mosleyite cultural racists. Thurlow considers the influence and the uses and abuses of science by Britain’s leading racists, and leads us to speculate that alongside the fascist appropriation of artistic forms, Britain’s far Right also developed its own ‘fascist science’ that was specific to the British historical context and to the British scientific community. Part II of the volume is concerned with the cultural representations and the cultural production emanating from within the far Right itself. The essays in this section provide readings of the BUF’s ‘new fascist men’, the uniforms donned by these self-tailored new fascist men, and the playground of the mass meeting arranged to entertain new fascist men and women. The development of their own cultural forms was most often a reaction on the part of the fascists to what they diagnosed as the unrelenting decadence of the age, and Steven Wood- bridge’s essay brings the discussion up-to-date, with a thorough analysis of the post-war far Right’s cultural diagnostics. Julie Gottlieb’s essay explores the construction of masculinity in Britain’s fascist movement, with a focus on the early years of the BUF. The BUF developed its own language of aesthetics and its own cata- logue of symbols that were at once derivative of concurrent continental models, yet distinctive for the movement’s stated aim of expressing a quintessentially nationalist and British cultural heritage. She argues that a distinctively British fascist aesthetic was discernible in the BUF’s graphic arts, in its political cartooning, in newspaper critiques and editorials on art exhibitions, films and modern literature, in hagiographic portrayals of the ‘Leader’ and in the development of fascist journalists’ own evocative and idealizing language for describing moments of political violence and brutality. She suggests that the aggressively masculine British fascist aesthetic – which first responded to and then inflated normative constructions of masculin- ity – provided a symbolic code to express the aspirations of a fledgling fascist movement in Britain. The British fascist construction of mascu- linity was further defined by a hostility to psychoanalysis and sexology, to the perceived effeminacy of the post-war British state and to the sexual disorder which allegedly characterized avant-garde and Modernist art forms. Nonetheless, she points out that aesthetic resonances with Vorticism and Futurism complicate the BUF’s identi- fication with or rejection of cultural Modernism. The BUF’s aesthetic sensibilities and its construction of manliness were most readily visible in the style and cut of the Blackshirt uniform itself. Philip Coupland’s essay offers a close reading of the BUF’s sartorial culture, examining the meaning of the Blackshirt uniform and its significance to the wearer, the political observer, and its sym- bolic values in the political climate of the 1930s. Coupland provides a factual account of the development of the uniform, insignia and INTRODUCTION 7 regalia of the BUF. However, his major effort is to detail and analyse the meanings appended to the shirt within both fascist subculture and in wider political culture. This requires outlining and analysing the formal rules governing who could wear which uniform where. Around that basic framework fascist rhetoric and aesthetics built a rich and complex symbolic language. In relation to the ruling dress codes of the day the shirt, as worn by the Leader and his ‘brother Blackshirts’ on the march or when speaking at, or stewarding, public meetings articulated a force for order, dynamic action, brotherhood and modernity. Where brother Blackshirts gathered and strutted in their uniforms is the subject of Helen Pussard’s investigation. Pussard examines the appropriation of mass culture forms by the Blackshirts. Hers is a tightly focused case study of the BUF’s meeting at Belle Vue, Manches- ter, in 1934, and by turning the microscope to this one meeting she is able to recreate, and then deconstruct, the spectacular theatricality that distinguished the BUF’s political technology from other political movements in the period. The Belle Vue meeting was a showcase for the BUF’s political marketing and an opportunity to flaunt its show- manship. The uses and impact of noise, lighting, the distribution of propaganda and platform oratory are each examined in this essay, emphasizing the convergence of political and leisure spaces. If the British far Right developed its own cultural forms as a correc- tive to what it diagnosed as a decadent culture, then how did the theme of decadence persist after 1945? Steven Woodbridge brings us up to the present day, offering an overview of the discussion of cul- ture by, and the leitmotif of decadence in, post-war British fascist movements. British fascists, in common with European fascist activ- ists and ideologues in general, often took the view that Britain’s culture in the twentieth century had become decadent and was show- ing clear signs that the nation was in serious decline. They argued the need for the ‘purification’ of the arts, literature and music as part of the political and social project to renew Britain and bring about the rebirth of a healthy polity, leading to a supposedly ‘higher form’ of civilization. In conjunction with their critique of decadence, they also put forward ideas on the nature of their alternative vision of culture. By concentrating on three extreme Right movements – the Union Movement (formed in 1948), the National Front (formed in 1967) and the British National Party (formed in 1982) – Woodbridge’s overall objective is to illustrate some of the common ideas held by all three regarding cultural themes and thus some of the continuities in neo- fascist discourse. Part III of the volume is concerned with cultural confrontations, the exchange of ideas and practices between fascists in different national contexts, and the British fascist intrusion into wider philosophical 8 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM debates. Claudia Baldoli’s essay examines the relationship between Italian Fascism and British fascism, and argues that there was a signif- icant shift in BUF ideology and policy from an imitative reverence for Italian Fascism to greater admiration for Nazi Germany as the 1930s unfolded. She is concerned with detecting the BUF’s foreign influ- ences and British fascism’s place within a universal and pan-European fascist political culture. In addition to the analysis of original new material on Italo-BUF relations, she also offers a close reading of the motivations and cultural activities of the BUF’s Italian branches and its successor, the significantly named Anglo-Italian Cultural Association. Richard Griffiths also illustrates foreign influence and cultural exchange between fascists and fascist fellow travellers, but he takes a less immediately obvious case: that of cultural and intellectual exchange between the British and specifically the Welsh intelligentsias and the French radical Right. His essay offers an intellectual history of the influence of the French radical Right on a handful of British Mod- ernist writers, and on some of the founding members of the Welsh Nationalist Party. The focus here is on the impact of fascism in elite cultural circles. While the two parts of the chapter: the influence of the Action Française on T. E. Hulme and T. S. Eliot among others, and the interaction between French ultra-nationalism and Welsh nationalists may appear at first sight only loosely connected, the thread of French influence ties them together convincingly. The concluding discussion of the relationship between fascism and literary Modernism is espe- cially illuminating. Dan Stone also considers the issue of (high) cultural and philo- sophical exchange, especially the exchange of ideas between those on the peripheries of Britain’s fascist movement and those advocates of a rural revivalism in inter-war Britain. His essay examines the way in which the English landscape was central to the concerns of inter-war British fascists, and demonstrates the way in which representations of the landscape were key in the development of a specifically English form of fascism. This had two poles, a negative and a positive one. The former concentrated on the threat to the landscape presented by foreigners, especially Jewish immigrants (depicted as rootless inter- nationalist cosmopolitans) concentrated in dirty cities, and the second on a celebration of the health and vitality of the English landscape, and the rootedness of the people in it. For the back-to-the-land move- ment, their vision of a culturally homogeneous nation or race, dependent on the soil and deriving identity and meaning, as well as food, from it means that the cultural and political aspects of this type of fascism are inseparable. The anthropological bent in cultural his- tory that stresses representations and the creation of meaning through symbolic landscapes here comes up against a movement that derived its symbolic action from (putatively) real landscapes. In his conclu- INTRODUCTION 9 sion, Stone considers how this changes our understanding of cultural history and of British fascism. Indeed, all the essays in this volume seek to do just this: by taking a cultural history approach we each hope to suggest different interpre- tations of British fascism, as well as offering some insight into the potential of cultural history in this field of historical enquiry. Julie V. Gottlieb and Thomas P. Linehan Part I Cultural Perspectives: The British Far Right and Ideologies of Culture Women and the Nation: The Right and Projections of Feminized Political Images in Great Britain, 1900–181 Matthew Hendley As a cultural form, fascism might be considered to be masculinity without civilized restraint. Scholars of gender have looked at the phenomenon of European fascism with a combination of fascination and revulsion. Germany and Italy had National Socialist or Fascist Governments. Naturally enough, these regimes have attracted the most attention from those wishing to examine the link between fascism and gender.2 The British fascist movement was much less well developed but has attracted a growing number of scholars. The inter- est in gender as a means of understanding British fascism and the role of women in the fascist movement has led to a blossoming of new and important studies.3 However, despite these studies there is still much work that needs to be done, especially in tracing the origins of gender constructions on the Right in Britain. As the essays in this volume make clear, there must be a greater effort to understand British fascism on a cultural level. This chapter suggests that the gender ana- lysis of the political culture of British Conservatism will serve as an important foundation for understanding the political culture of British fascism. It will focus on British Conservatism’s considerable success in gendering aspects of itself and its ideology to be female. In particular, it will focus on feminized imagery used by the British Conservative Party and its ally the Primrose League towards the perceived threats posed by the Ulster crisis, Liberal reformism, socialism and free trade, as well as the Conservatives’ satirical feminization of their political opponents. Part of the appeal of British fascism for its supporters lay in its use of aggressive masculine political rhetoric. The governing elite was portrayed as effete and the parliamentary system was said to keep in power an ‘old gang’ that emasculated the nation and left it ripe for a Communist takeover.4 Certainly, this construction of masculinity was crucial for defining fascist ideology but must be considered in the con- text of the political culture of the traditional British Right to be properly understood. In fact, the fascist embrace of a culture of hyper- 14 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM masculinity was an important move away from the growing embrace of feminized imagery by the mainstream forces of the British Right such as the Conservative Party.5 The continuities and discontinuities of the gendered aspects of British fascist culture can be best under- stood, therefore, through an analysis of the pre-war origins of feminized imagery used by the Conservatives. The Primrose League was the principal means through which Con- servative women could participate in mass politics before 1914. Originally formed in 1883 after the death of the Conservative leader Benjamin Disraeli, the League quickly became a mass organization. Skirting the restrictions of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1883, it was for- mally independent of the Conservative Party and reliant on its own funds. The League was pledged to various eternal ‘principles’ that included ‘the maintenance of Religion, the Estates of the Realm and the unity of the British Empire’.6 Though its membership records tended to be inaccurate and inflated, it is undeniable that the Primrose League was one of the largest political organizations of the late Victor- ian period. By the late 1890s, it claimed to have two million members scattered throughout the United Kingdom in over 2,500 local branches (called ‘habitations’). Studies by Martin Pugh and E. H. H. Green have shown that before 1902, the Primrose League also served as an impor- tant vehicle for political and social integration by freely mixing social classes and voters with non-voters, as well as by forging links between ‘old and new Conservatives’.7 It was equally notable in its appeal to women, who formed at least half of the overall membership and often provided its most active members.8 The study of British politics used to be thought of in exclusively male terms. Almost the sole exception was the well-developed histori- ography on women’s suffrage.9 Although politically-involved women were most often to be found supporting the Conservative Party, it is only recently that historians have given Conservative women their due.10 The volumes of new work on women’s involvement in politics has erased any idea that British politics was ever solely a man’s game. The next step is to examine the imagery used by politicians and the political culture they helped create. It is vital to see how certain cul- tural assumptions on gender and other matters entered into political discourse and were deployed by political organizations. National symbols, tropes used to represent specific issues or people and the portrayal of ordinary citizens form crucial components of any political culture. All political parties try to create a political culture to support their own ideology. It can be argued that the success of any given political movement is in part linked to its ability to present its ide- ology in a political culture that is acceptable to a majority of the nation’s citizens. WOMEN AND THE NATION 15 The Conservatives put special emphasis on feminized imagery well before women could vote. Feminized imagery placed gender at the centre of political debate and served as an important weapon in the Conservative arsenal. Key aspects of feminized imagery included placing political situations in domestic environments, the presentation of women both as political symbols and political actors and the por- trayal of issues Conservatives considered to be of importance to women. An interesting omission from the feminized images used by Conservatives and the Primrose League was Britannia, the ancient female symbol of Britain. This image only rarely appeared in Conserv- ative literature.11 She was slightly more frequently used by the Primrose League but often in a non-political fashion to symbolize the Empire.12 Britannia appeared only once each in directly political con- texts, such as a single anti-free trade image and in praise of the Borden government’s offer to help fund dreadnought construction.13 The issues Conservatives believed women were most interested in usually centred around food, home and the family. Images of women threatened by political opponents and their ideology played a ready role in popular propaganda. The image of the home is particularly important as it is contested terrain. Women’s historians have por- trayed it at the heart of ideas of separate spheres for men and women. Radical women’s historians have understood the home as ‘a site of oppression, gender struggle and/or the privatized reproduction of the labour power required to fuel capitalism’.14 However, the idea of home is both historically and socially constructed and is a ‘profoundly resonant metaphor for psychic needs’.15 Examining the force of such ideas and images can lead to a new understanding of the dynamic of women and British politics. Conservatives learned at their peril the political impact of food and domestic issues in their defeats in the 1906 and 1923 general elections. Back in office in 1924, their new poli- cies included the creation of an Empire Marketing Board that advertised imperial foodstuffs as well as pensions for widows.16 This movement towards a more feminized type of politics was fore- shadowed by the gradual eschewing of a more masculine-centred Tory populism from the late Victorian period onwards. Rather than defend ‘historic male pleasures ... in urban popular culture such as the pub and sport’ from the interventions of Liberal do-gooders, the Conservative Party moved towards a more domestic-centred poli- tics.17 It is crucial to remember that the transition within the Conservative Party to the more feminized and domesticated values represented by the post-war leader Stanley Baldwin had its roots in the Edwardian period.18 It is also important to compare the use of feminized imagery by the mainstream forces of Conservatism before 1918 with the Edwardian radical Right and the British Fascists of the 1920s. Before 1914, there 16 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM was widespread concern over the decline of Britain as a nation due to economic competition from Germany and the United States as well as the inept British performance in the Boer War. The Edwardian period has been described as the ‘age of leagues’.19 Before 1914, Britain was beset by a variety of radical Right groups claiming to have a solution to Britain’s problems. Radical Right organizations generally rejected a number of the long-held traditions of British political culture, includ- ing belief in parliamentary democracy, advocacy of a small professional voluntary army and adherence to free trade. Some organ- izations such as the National Service League, founded in 1902, and the Navy League, founded in 1895, looked to military solutions to Brit- ain’s problems. Some were purely obstructionist like the Anti-Socialist Union founded in 1908. Others, like the Tariff Reform League, founded in 1903, looked to economic means for Britain’s salvation such as the abandonment of free trade. Finally, other groups such as the British Brothers’ League catered to anti-alienism and opposed immigration. One characteristic common to most of these groups was their strongly masculinist bent. Most had an almost exclusively male leadership and put women in purely secondary roles. Even more importantly, their imagery, arguments and rhetoric were strongly masculine. Groups like the National Service League were perhaps the most masculinist with a focus on military training for men above all.20 Of all the groups, the Tariff Reformers paid the most attention to femi- nized imagery and had their own separate organization for women (called the Women’s Unionist and Tariff Reform Association founded in 1906).21 However, none of these groups was as notable in their use of feminized imagery as the Conservatives and the Primrose League. As Richard Thurlow has argued that the Edwardian radical Right was a key foundation for the inter-war fascist movement in Britain, this shortcoming is significant.22 The British Fascists of the 1920s forms a curious paradox in the study of political organizations using feminized imagery. It was the most important fascist organization in Britain in the immediate post- war period and had some echoes with the Conservatives and Prim- rose League. Founded by a woman (Rotha Lintorn-Orman), eager to promote women in its organization and even having female para- military units, it nevertheless remained a fringe movement and was later superseded by the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1930s. The British Fascists may have used the Primrose League as an organi- zational model. Like the League, the British Fascists had a grand council, children’s clubs and a strong focus on social activities. It dif- fered from later British fascist organizations because it seemed to embrace ‘traditional ideas of gendered behaviour for women’ com- bined with ‘a high degree of female activism and propaganda directed at women’.23 Rotha Lintorn-Orman believed in the ‘regimentation of WOMEN AND THE NATION 17 femininity’; she thought women should place their own interests behind those of the nation. Consequently, she had no real interest in issues of female emancipation. However, her thinking was not com- pletely fascist either. Gottlieb has argued that the British Fascists did not meet the definition of the ‘fascist minimum’.24 Despite its grandi- ose claims, the British Fascists lived on the farthest edge of the political fringe. Compared to the Conservative Party, Primrose League and the BUF, the British Fascists were an organization whose impact on British society and political life has been described as ‘marginal’.25 Their negligible political presence meant that their overall influence in promoting feminized imagery was minimal. With the power of feminized images in mind, it is none too surpris- ing that the Primrose League as well as the Conservative Party appropriated them. The League eagerly mixed such images with views of threats posed by a host of perceived malignant enemies. Peaceful British domesticity was continually vulnerable. Irish nation- alism, Liberal reformism, socialism and free trade formed a formidable group of enemies who threatened the sanctity of the Brit- ish household. Conservatives had long demonized Irish nationalists and had aggressively opposed William Gladstone’s efforts at disestablishment, land reform and ultimately Home Rule. When the Liberal government of H. H. Asquith began to put forward its Home Rule legislation from 1912 onwards, the Conservatives reacted vehemently. After the Parlia- ment Act of 1911 prevented the House of Lords from killing Home Rule, Conservative behaviour became increasingly desperate. The new Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law seemed ready to advo- cate armed resistance against the British government to prevent Home Rule from becoming law.26 It is in this context that one must examine the Primrose League’s initiative to evacuate Ulster women and children and the use of femi- nized images by the Conservatives and Primrose League to portray the Ulster crisis. This episode is important as it mobilized female and male supporters into political action with a strong use of feminized political imagery. As an organization pledged to the maintenance of the Empire, the Primrose League had long opposed Home Rule and any concessions to Irish nationalists.27 As Home Rule legislation became increasingly possible, the League ended its policy of formal independence from the Conservative Party. In 1913, it amended its declaration and tied membership in the League directly to support of the Unionist cause.28 After a mass meeting of the Primrose League in Nottingham in December 1913, a ‘Help the Ulster Women’ Committee was formed. This organization was a joint effort of the Primrose League and the Women’s Unionist Association.29 The scheme was to provide ‘shelter to the women and children of the Ulster Loyalists in 18 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM the event of the Home Rule bill becoming law, and of the civil war resulting’.30 By the end of 1914, Home Rule legislation was passed through the Commons but remained suspended for the duration of the First World War. This meant that the League’s scheme was never put into effect. However, there are several important aspects of the scheme to con- sider. To begin with, the League took it seriously. By August 1914, the League had secured promises of accommodation for over 8,000 Ulster women and children as well as donations of £17,000.31 In addition, there were plans for the reception of refugees, hospitality, communi- cations and clothing.32 The reception of the refugees showed the importance of female domesticity and linked it to hospitality, house- hold comforts and safety. An additional aspect of the scheme worth noting is the fact that the Irish Unionist women themselves did not always fit the gendered stereotype that had been created for them. At the climax of the Ulster crisis between 1913–14, Ulster women were portrayed as victims of the Liberal government’s plans for Home Rule. A number of popular pamphlets issued by the Conservative Party showed Ulster as a soli- tary young woman wrapped in a Union Jack and threatened by an ominous mob of men.33 One pamphlet starkly pointed out that politi- cal support for Home Rule and the implied military coercion of Ulster would mean widowhood for vast numbers of women in Northern Ire- land.34 For the Primrose League and the British Conservative Party, feminized imagery centred on female victimhood and threats to domesticity seemed most appropriate. For the Ulster women and their organizations such as the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council, such imagery was overtly passive. Ulster women were preparing to stay in northern Ireland to work in ambulance and nursing corps, to maintain postal and electronic communications and as medical auxiliaries. If they were to leave Ulster, it was to speak, canvass and distribute liter- ature for the Unionist cause in Britain itself, not to fly as refugees.35 A final part of the scheme to consider is its importance as a pre- cedent for wartime work by the women of the Primrose League. During the final preparations for the Ulster refugee scheme, it was mentioned that many of those involved had done similar work during the South African war.36 When Britain became involved in the First World War, the League turned itself over quickly to wartime phil- anthropic efforts including hospitality for Belgian refugees.37 This continued the pattern of female mobilization against a threatening ‘other’ that had first been represented by the Irish nationalists. Such war work was symbolic of the general movement of Conservatives towards a feminized and domestically centred version of British poli- tics.38 This work helped keep the Primrose League organizationally active during the wartime political truce between the major parties. WOMEN AND THE NATION 19 This activity proved vitally important and helped ensure the League’s survival into the post-war period. In addition to opposing moves on Ulster prior to 1918, the Conserv- ative Party and the Primrose League denounced reformism, socialism and, as always, feminized imagery played an important part in these denunciations. Specific Liberal reforms such as National Insurance were targeted, as was the general Liberal ideological commitment to free trade. In addition, a sustained attack was made on the nefarious effects of socialism on family life well before the Russian revolution of 1917 had made such condemnations commonplace. Conservative propaganda often portrayed the negative impact of specific Liberal reforms and free trade policy on women. The National Insurance Act, a key Liberal innovation that provided contributory provision against illness and unemployment, was criticized with ref- erence to its negative impact on female servants.39 In feminizing this issue, a cross-class perspective was adopted. Pamphlets from 1911 were directed at both middle-class housewives with servants as well as working-class mothers with daughters in service.40 While specific Liberal reforms generated the predictable level of Conservative opposition, the more general Liberal commitment to free trade aroused the fiercest response. The Conservative Party was being torn apart from before the General Election of 1906 by those advocat- ing tariff reform led by the crusading Joseph Chamberlain. While much ink was used to explain the economic superiority of tariff reform over free trade, an effort was also made to show free trade’s destructive impact on families and women. E. H. H. Green has shown that tariff reform promised to defend British industry, increase dom- estic employment, fund social reform and strengthen imperial links.41 When Joseph Chamberlain first launched his campaign for tariff reform in October 1903 he argued that tariff reform would help the working class keep their jobs and maintain their living standards in the face of foreign competition.42 Conservative pamphlets amplified this theme by using feminized imagery to show that free trade led to unemployment and domestic suffering. ‘The Child’s Appeal’ of 1910 showed a small child with her working-class father imploring the reader not to ‘tax the land that grows the children’s bread but tax the foreigner who takes dad’s work instead’.43 A 1908 pamphlet entitled ‘Dearer Living and Less Comfort’ juxtaposed a British family who sat freezing by an empty fire with a contented fat German and his daugh- ter who sat by a toasty fire and complimented Mr Asquith for allowing them to buy cheap untaxed coal.44 One of the major arguments used by the Liberals against tariff reform was that abandoning free trade would increase the cost of liv- ing because of food taxes. Conservatives were livid at such attacks. The issue of food taxes was rebutted in Conservative pamphlets using 20 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM the threat posed to the price of bread (in the guise of the ‘Dear Loaf’) as an example and showing its negative impact on women. House- wives loomed as important political figures in such propaganda in spite of not possessing a formal vote. One pamphlet from 1910 asked male voters to ‘Ask your wife’ whether the Liberal commitment to free trade had actually resulted in cheaper bread and provisions.45 Another pamphlet from the same year directly told housewives that the actual impact of tariff reform on the cost of bread would be mini- mal or non-existent.46 Conservative housewives were encouraged to confront intrusive Liberal canvassers by pointing out that the price of bread under a Liberal government was now higher than ever. A pam- phlet showing a housewife’s fiery rejection of Liberal political entreaties while standing in her kitchen wearing an apron shows a simultaneous commitment to traditional feminine values and Con- servative economics.47 It is important to note that the Primrose League, with its less sophisticated ideological framework, did not present such stark images over tariff reform. The Primrose League felt threatened by more radical Conservative organizations such as the Tariff Reform League (and especially its women’s organization) and wished to avoid being so divisive. The League was officially neutral on the issue.48 Nevertheless, some leading members on the Grand Council were active tariff reformers and local workers often lent their efforts to the Conservative tariff reform organizations.49 With such divisions over the issue, it is unsurprising that the Primrose League’s use of dramatic feminized imagery over tariff reform was much rarer than that of the Conservative Party. In all the issues of the Primrose League Gazette, only two feminized images were used on tariff reform and one was used to illustrate the need for more effective political cartoons.50 The Conservatives’ use of feminized imagery against specific Lib- eral reform initiatives as well as free trade is interesting for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that although women did not have the vote, their influence was considered important enough to have specific messages and images directed at them. Such an understanding was explicitly spelled out in the 1912 Conservative Party guide for party workers entitled Party Notes. As the guide noted: ‘wives are some- times very useful allies; by all means endeavour to enlist their support in their husband’s absence.’ It did caution, however, the need to ‘make a point of seeing him as well’.51 This advice and the general desire to direct political messages at women and use their talents in canvassing echoes the Primrose League’s entire raison d’être. The use of feminized imagery also suited their purposes well. Second, it shows a defensive mindset in Conservative propaganda against Liberal reforms. Liberal reforms were criticized for interfering in British households where women held sway. Arguments over the validity of these reforms or WOMEN AND THE NATION 21 their cost to the nation were glossed over in this analysis. Finally, this type of Conservative propaganda argued that Liberal promises to lower the cost of living were empty and that free trade ideology had a destructive impact on women’s lives. The struggle to oppose free trade was all consuming for the Conservative Party after 1906. Large num- bers of British people believed in free trade dogma with almost religious fervour.52 The Conservatives produced a great number of economic studies attacking free trade but rational arguments could only go so far against such a deeply held belief. Pamphlet literature often used feminized imagery to reach the same level of emotion roused by Liberal free traders. Specific Liberal reforms and the general commitment to free trade generated significant Conservative opposition but so did less tangible opponents such as socialism. Although socialism was not a major political force in Britain before 1914, Conservatives recognized it as such. In fact, socialism was never clearly defined in Conservative propaganda. It was presented as an ideology that was an absolute rejection of the political, religious and social status quo. The Primrose League ‘believed that it had a special mission to defend the family, especially the working-class family from the demoralizing doctrines of atheistic Radicals and Socialists’.53 In its more sensationalist form, the League equated socialism with free love and the nationaliza- tion of women and children. Unlike other more extremist extra- parliamentary groups such as the Anti-Socialist Union, the Primrose League put the defence of a sentimental view of marriage ahead of property rights in its battle against socialism. For example, an article in the Primrose League Gazette of 1908 asked how the socialist state would nurse the babies, wash the children and ‘wheel the perambula- tor’.54 In a similar light, one cartoon showed Keir Hardie, the first Labour MP, ineptly fulfilling his duties as the Chief State Nurse at the Interior of the State Nurseries.55 In its popular pamphlet literature, the Conservative Party was even more aggressive in portraying social- ism’s impact on the family. In 1907, two pamphlets misquoted a number of leading socialist thinkers, including H. G. Wells and Wil- liam Morris, to show that socialism would substitute the state for the traditional family. Other pamphlets before the First World War put forward the image of the state regulating all aspects of family and per- sonal life, including the choice of marriage partner, living quarters and child-rearing methods. To make matters worse, socialism would lead to meal preparation in central kitchens and the end of all reli- gious instruction.56 Overall, the use of feminized imagery for the cause of anti- socialism did not always have the desired impact before the First World War. This was due to the generally weak nature of British socialism at the time as well as the lack of finesse in painting socialism 22 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM and Liberal collectivism with the same brush. Furthermore, this tech- nique was of limited effectiveness because ‘large sections of the Conservative Party, including groups such as the Primrose League, acknowledged the necessity for social reform’.57 The strongest use of anti-socialism linked to feminized political imagery would come after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.58 With the first instalment of women’s enfranchisement in 1918, the Primrose League suffered com- petition among Conservative organizations as women could join the Unionist Party directly. Consequently, the League’s membership suf- fered a considerable decline.59 The League hoped to distinguish itself as an anti-socialist platform that paid special attention to women vot- ers. As well as sponsoring speaker’s classes for women and continuing canvassing, the League embraced feminized imagery with a venge- ance.60 Women in the fascist movement denounced the Primrose Leaguers as quaint and unsuited for modern politics. However, it was partly due to the League’s efforts that the Conservative Party would garner the lion’s share of female support after 1918.61 A final area of feminized imagery to discuss is its use as a form of political satire by the Conservative Party and the Primrose League. Faced with strong reform-minded opponents after the Liberal land- slide of 1906, the Conservatives and the Primrose League responded by portraying their opponents unflatteringly dressed in women’s clothing or overwhelmed by family situations. The humour was com- bined with sharp political criticism and formed a continuum with the BUF’s later condemnation of the unmasculine aspects of parliamen- tary politics. One key point to remember was that the feminized images used by the Conservatives and Primrose League were always directed towards a single party and not the system at large. The feminization of political figures was not invented by the Conservatives nor was it a twentieth-century phenomenon.62 Never- theless, there was an explosion of these images during the politically- fraught Edwardian period. From 1900 to 1918, the Conservatives made use of satirical feminized imagery in two main ways. First, before the election of 1906, Conservative pamphlets often portrayed Henry Campbell-Bannerman as a hapless mother or nanny and his Liberal colleagues as squabbling children. Second, after the election and the retirement of Campbell-Bannerman, feminized imagery showed leading Liberals such as the new Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, as flighty women or domestics. In addition, the Primrose League made a special effort to place John Redmond, the Irish Nationalist leader, as well as Lloyd George, in feminine clothing. The satires of Campbell-Bannerman rejoiced in portraying Liberal divisions in a family setting or the Liberal leader as a befuddled domestic servant. Pamphlets in this vein were ironically titled ‘The WOMEN AND THE NATION 23 Happy Radical Family’ or ‘A Happy Family’.63 The latter was particu- larly evocative, with Campbell-Bannerman presented as a matronly mother resting uncomfortably in the family bed with rambunctious children marked ‘Alien’, ‘Little England’, ‘Sectarian education’ and ‘Small army and navy’ pulling away at her sheets. Other images included Campbell-Bannerman as a matronly servant or housewife unsuccessfully attempting to serve a sceptical John Bull a helping of ‘Radical Pudding’.64 After the Liberals had won the election of 1906 and were proceed- ing with their various reforms, feminized imagery continued. David Lloyd George was the leading spokesman for many of the Liberal reforms and the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1908 onwards. He seemed to get the most attention in Conservative propaganda. In 1908, Lloyd George was shown as Old Mother Hubbard upsetting a cup- board marked the ‘Exchequer’ and breaking a number of stored bottles with the words ‘budget surplus’ marked on them.65 In another image entitled ‘John Bull’s Kitchen’ there are too many disaster-prone Liberal cooks, including ‘Georgina Lloyd’.66 The Primrose League generally followed the lead of the Conserva- tives in their use of feminized imagery, although they reserved special venom for John Redmond. The Primrose League reproduced fifteen feminized images between 1906 and 1914 mocking their opponents. Following the Conservative Party, the majority of these images were employed against the Liberals with Asquith and Lloyd George singled out for special attention. Once again, Lloyd George appeared as an incompetent female domestic and flighty housewife as well as holding a new role as a churlish nurse.67 Asquith appeared as an old lady named Dame Asquith.68 Other feminized Asquith identities included Asquith as housekeeper admonishing the clumsy maid ‘Georgina Lloyd’ and Asquith as a lady with a huge hatpin labelled ‘coercion of Ulster’.69 The most creative anti-Liberal image employed is a 1908 image entitled ‘The Dress Exhibition’ which had the leading Liberal ministers in drag with their dress types described in terms to echo their failings as politicians.70 These satirical representations of leading Liberals follow a similar pattern to the Conservative pam- phlets. However, an important difference for the Primrose League images is that John Redmond also figured prominently. One-third of all the images in the Primrose League Gazette include Redmond. It is significant that all of the Redmond images appeared after the January 1910 election gave the Irish Nationalist Party unpre- cedented power to keep the Liberal government in office. This fact, combined with the Parliament Act of 1911, made Home Rule almost inevitable despite Conservative opposition. Redmond was thus shown as a governess restraining a baby Asquith, a matronly dance partner forced upon a reluctant Asquith, a housewife threatening a 24 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM henpecked Asquith hiding under his bed, an overweight lady in a boat being rowed by a straining Asquith and a nurse forcing a crying child-Asquith into his bath of ‘Home Rule’.71 The image here was of the unnaturalness of Home Rule that was being imposed on reluctant Liberals by the Irish Nationalists. The fact that Redmond was shown as female was a way of undermining the legitimacy of Irish aspirations. There are some important points about the use of satirical femi- nized imagery by the Conservatives and the Primrose League. First, it reveals the English cultural bemusement at cross-dressing. The ori- gins of this phenomenon are unclear, though it has certainly remained constant in twentieth-century British popular culture up to and including the comedy of Monty Python and Benny Hill.72 Second, it highlights the lack of control that the Liberal leadership held over its more divisive party members. It also implies that firm leadership is male. In contrast, the Liberals were led by kindly matrons unable to control unruly children. In combining these ideas, Conservative prop- aganda showed Liberal unsuitability for office by feminizing Liberals in a mocking manner. This pattern would continue after 1918. David Jarvis has noted the Conservative Central Office ‘often satirized Labour leaders, and particularly Ramsay MacDonald, as a female fig- ure – unattractive, shameless and with a difficult brood of children’.73 Third, the satirical imagery is an effort not to belittle the entire politi- cal system but only one party. There are male figures of reason still present in the images, such as John Bull, who usually look on in hor- ror or bemusement. Unlike the fascists, the entire political system was not condemned. The timing of the pamphlets is also crucial. The Edwardian period was one in which the suffragette movement undertook a powerful and often violent campaign to win female suffrage. The Primrose League occasionally felt it necessary to address the female suffrage issue, although in its editorials it remained steadfastly neutral. It claimed that League members could attend meetings on either side of the issue as long as they did not compromise the chances of any Unionist candidates.74 Leading female members both supported and opposed the struggle for the vote.75 The Conservative Party’s pam- phlet literature also did not portray female suffrage very often. One slight exception is a pamphlet entitled ‘Female Suffrage’ which focused on Asquith’s own inconsistency over the issue rather than the merits of the suffrage cause itself. In this image a unambiguously masculine-looking Asquith is confronted by a sexless spinster who represents the suffrage cause.76 The use of a spinster figure to symbol- ize suffrage is important. Lisa Tickner has argued that the suffragette spinster was a key type often utilized by the anti-suffrage movement in addition to other ‘unwomanly’ figures such as hysterical women WOMEN AND THE NATION 25 and the ‘shrieking sisterhood’.77 Despite the overlap with established anti-suffrage images, the Conservatives did not use these images fre- quently. As the suffragette campaign became increasingly militant, the satirical feminized imagery became rarer. With women activists using their femininity in a threatening manner, the feminization of oppo- nents could no longer be used as shorthand for the weakness of political opponents. One important question to conclude with is to ask why female Primrose Leaguers and Conservatives seemed to accept the use of feminized imagery as a form of mockery. Though Conservative femi- nized imagery often showed women in noble poses, when it satirized political opponents the feminine was used as a source of humour. This fact reveals several things. First, most of the images used were by male artists.78 Second, it shows that despite the important female pres- ence on the Primrose League, true power lay elsewhere. The main leadership of the Primrose League and the Conservatives was always male and this male power structure led to a political culture willing to use feminized imagery but only in terms suitable to the leadership. Third, it reveals that Conservative women and female members of the Primrose League clearly embraced a gendered political culture that privileged male political domination. Feminized political imagery for Conservatives and Primrose Leaguers never meant feminist political imagery. The use of feminized imagery before 1918 was useful for a number of reasons. First, it enabled the League and the Conservatives to put on a social conscience, even if for partisan political purposes. The Ulster refugee scheme masked much less benign partisan objectives based on political self-interest. Feminized imagery was useful before 1918 when women would work for Conservative ends in an auxiliary role or after 1918 when they could vote directly. This ability paid par- ticular dividends when the League faced competition from other Conservative rivals for membership. In fact, it might be argued that the use of such imagery helped give the Primrose League a new role in the age of mass democracy after 1918. A final advantage of femi- nized imagery was to tie Conservatism to the central notion of Englishness through the image of the household. By taking a seem- ingly immutable image, such as the British family, and presenting the Conservative Party as its protector against political and foreign threats, Conservatism became conceptualized as permanent, natural and necessary. Rather than being one ideology among many to choose from, Conservatism was raised to a more prominent and less politi- cally vulnerable status and equated with the English love of the home. After 1918, women could vote and feminized political imagery could be directly assessed by female voters. After 1918, the BUF and other fascist groups competed for female support with the 26 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Conservative Party. Although the Conservatives were more fearful of losing male supporters to the BUF than women, the BUF did make some noted gains amongst activists if not the overall electorate.79 As Julie Gottlieb has noted, British fascism ‘attracted women with radi- cally conservative beliefs who sought to play more militant and pro- active roles than those offered by the Conservative Associations’.80 The types of feminized imagery that the Conservatives and Primrose League used after 1918 differed from that of the pre-war period. How- ever, the pre-war gendered imagery used by Conservatives resembled much more closely its post-war counterpart than the aggressive hypermasculine discourse of the fascists. While the wartime experi- ence may have prompted fascists to reject the feminized imagery of old, it may have reinforced Conservative preferences for it. The vast difference between the political cultures of the fascists and Conserva- tives in the inter-war period was foreshadowed by the pre-war movement to feminine gendered images. Reactionary Spectatorship: British Fascists and Cinema in Inter-War Britain Thomas P. Linehan In language saturated by nostalgia and anti-Semitism and replete with images of combat and foreign invaders, A. K. Chesterton, a senior fig- ure in the British Union of Fascists (BUF), declared that: ‘The cinema was captured by American and Polish Jew financiers and made to contribute to the general demoralisation of the people. It either neglected or befouled the English scene, so full of pageantry and memories of colourful adventure and daring, to superimpose a bas- tardised Judaic-American pseudo-culture upon a nation with a superb cultural inheritance of its own.’1 Chesterton’s prognosis of the state of the nation’s cinema between the wars was one of a number of similar negative representations in the discourse of the far Right.2 Fascist writers represented the contemporary cinema, negatively, in a number of ways: as an agent of threatening Americanization, as an intellectu- ally barren mass cultural form, as a dangerous site of seduction, as emblematic of encroaching decadence, or as a vehicle which propa- gated immorality. Cinema figured in this negative discourse, similarly, as a symptom of soulless modernity, as an instrument for the promo- tion of so-called ‘international’ Jewish propaganda, or as a forum which presented a bastardized view of the nation’s past and imperial heritage. There was another narrative in play, however, which expressed a less critical view of cinema and its role in British society. Britain’s far Right fringe imagined a time when American and other so-called ‘alien’ influences would be exorcized from the nation’s cin- ema, when British cinema would be refashioned to serve the fascists’ revolutionary goal of national ‘rebirth’. Cinema in service to the fas- cist revolution would play a different role in society, disseminate a different set of film messages and images, and draw on alternative themes to those circulating in the era of so-called ‘Financial Democracy’. The notion of cinema as agent of an encroaching America figured prominently in far Right film discourse. Fascists disliked the fact that American distribution companies and American films dominated the 28 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM nation’s cinema. In 1926, for example, British films accounted for a paltry five per cent of all movies shown in British cinemas.3 Despite the passing of the 1927 Cinematograph Films Act, obliging an exhibi- tor to show a proportion of home-grown films, the bulk of movies showing in British cinemas during the late 1920s and 1930s continued to be American.4 Many native fascists feared the cultural fall-out from the Hollywood motion picture and imagined the piecemeal Ameri- canization of British culture. They deplored the American movie, its thematic content, its perceived ideological message and its signifi- cance for the national culture, British identity and even the native English language. A BUF member complained about those British who ‘adopt the strange half-English idioms of the Jew-inspired Amer- ican films’, while A. K. Chesterton remarked that Samuel Goldwyn was ‘symbolically Lord of the English scene’.5 Chesterton went on to berate the Britons who spurn Shakespeare yet ‘swallow the soporifics of the culture dope-pedlers [sic] or welcome the degrading aphrodisi- acs which they sell’.6 Another Mosleyite remarked on the glut of American films showing in British cinemas, ‘which are no encourage- ment to national pride’.7 ‘Metro-Goldwyn’ film products, complained another follower of Mosley, where British men and women were ‘being taught to sentimentalize over foreign dope that is totally unlike the life we live’, had displaced the ‘whole-hearted entertainment of English plays and variety’.8 American film images were cast in roles other than that of foreign invader or alien presence. At other times, the Hollywood movie was reviled as a key prop of the mass culture industry, its quintessential expression. Ironically, in a perspective that echoed elements of Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s mass manipulation theory of the ‘culture industry’, many on the far Right saw popular cinema as a form of cul- tural debasement and a weapon of mass deception.9 Undoubtedly, the bulk of contemporary films were consciously designed as mass con- sumer products rather than works of art, ‘artifacts for instant consumption and discard’ which took their cue from the mass public’s seemingly insatiable demand for escapist recreation.10 In inter-war Britain, cinema, with American products in the forefront, was the pre- dominant form of mass entertainment. By 1938 there were 4,800 cinemas in Britain, boasting an overall seating capacity of four and a- quarter million, catering for this mass audience.11 In that year alone, 1938, an estimated 987 million cinema tickets were purchased by eager cinema fans. This represented twenty-five times the number of tickets bought by soccer supporters during the same year.12 A Gallup poll in January 1938 revealed that forty-seven per cent of the popula- tion attended the cinema every week or ten days.13 Cinema was a cheap and affordable form of entertainment, a cinema ticket costing just 6d., or the equivalent of the price of a pint of beer by the mid- REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 29 1930s.14 The private sphere of the cinema offered plush wall-to-wall comfort, relaxation, temporary pleasurable diversions, a space to dream and an opportunity to engage in narcissistic identification. Films are a voyeuristic exercise where spectators are allowed to com- prehend events from a safe position of separation and of mastery.15 Movies also playfully provoke anxiety but, again, it is an anxiety that is experienced in safety. In general, films are a spectator’s unlived life, offering a vicarious experience freed from the peril of consequences.16 Fascists, as with other cultural elitists of this ilk writing in Britain between the wars, such as Clive Bell, T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, John Cowper Powys and Aldous Huxley, expressed disquiet about the onset of an apparently all-consuming ‘philistine’ mass culture. Power- ful trends in modern life, which included technological change, the mass democratic suffrage, a mass-based popular press, and increased leisure time and disposable income, were bringing forth a ‘mass society’ and this supposedly philistine mass populace, the eager con- sumers of the new mass culture. The charges levelled against mass culture by the elitist self-appointed guardians of the nation’s cultural heritage were damning. A mass cultural form like the Hollywood movie, for example, supposedly pandered to the cheap, unthinking emotional response and lowered and homogenized taste. It was also accused of producing standardized mass thoughts and immobilizing minds. ‘Uniform mass man’ was the outcome, living a standardized mass existence and languishing in a drugged state of mental stupor, the ‘unvarying Deltas and uniform Epsilons’ of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).17 Britain’s fascists expressed similar views. ‘We live in an age of standardisation, not only of things but of ideas and recre- ations’, complained John Frederick Charles Fuller, writing in 1932 just prior to his joining the BUF, adding that the ‘film buffoon and heroine are standardised performers’.18 To its detractors, mass society was an intellectually and spiritually barren cultural desert that signalled the death of authentic self-hood, a bleak place which stifled all noble thought, inspiration and creativity. Britain’s fascists, in particular, believed that mass culture lacked a heroic base, and was thus the antithesis of ‘true’ culture as they defined it. The pursuit of ignoble ends is often concealed by high-sounding rhetoric and this is particu- larly so with regard to fascist rhetoric on culture. Authentic culture, according to the fascist mind, should be expressive of humankind’s aspiration to achieve ‘noble’ aims in the struggle that is life. The goal of art and culture, in other words, was to inspire and elevate the human soul. Culture should affirm supposedly eternal verities, too, truths which were thought to be universal and in tune with life’s higher aspirations. In the fascists’ opinion, such elevated themes were simply not in evidence in mass cultural products and consequently in the bulk of 30 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM popular films consumed by British spectators between the wars. The offerings of the escapist ‘dream palaces’ of the Hollywood-dominated mass culture industry, the wearisome round of trite love stories and sensationalistic melodramas, lacked the ability to inspire and uplift the human spirit. One BUF member referred to the prevalence of ‘idiot films’ on show in Britain’s cinemas, while a columnist writing for the far Right journal the New Pioneer in 1939 complained about ‘all the slush imported into our cinemas from Hollywood’ during that year.19 In a similar vein, a BUF film reviewer considered the standard Holly- wood plot to be ‘incredibly naïve’. Reviewing two Hollywood adventure yarns, he found the usual stock of ‘tough cowboys and bouncing young women, hold-ups and bank robberies’ and ‘marches through trackless forests, where pools are so crowded with alligators that the intrepid marchers walk over their backs to the other side’.20 The American motion picture industry, to its fascist detractors, debased culture by simplifying reality in this manner. The celluloid images disseminated by the Hollywood ‘dream factory’ were per- ceived to be hollow, bogus and duplicitous, symptomatic of the artificial, synthetic culture that was part of an increasingly ‘Ameri- canized’ post-war England. In the elaborate prose of one Mosleyite, Hollywood was all ‘tinsel artifice and meretricious sentiment’.21 ‘Mass manipulation’ outlook fascists believed that post-war Brit- ain’s inhabitants were turning their backs on reality and political participation by succumbing to a cinematic escapist world of make- believe and synthetic pleasures. A. K. Chesterton wondered about the Briton who worships ‘at the shrine of his favourite shadows of the screen’ and mass culture’s ‘strange preoccupation with unreal things’.22 Youth, the so-called ‘Bright Young Things’, were thought to be particularly prone to falling under the spell of cinema’s overpower- ing illusions. James Rudd of the BUF feared that a large segment of Britain’s post-war youth generation was caught in the grip of hedon- ism and had an ‘incessant desire to get away from the facts of life’.23 The young ‘pursue pleasure and cease to exist in the outside world’, he complained. What particularly concerned Rudd was that ‘in their pursuit of pleasure they subject themselves utterly to the influence of the cinema’ which, for him, was wholly objectionable. Another Black- shirt, Michael Goulding, attacked those of Britain’s youth who, by frequenting the cinema, sought ‘adventure by artificial means’.24 Such sentiments strike one as ironic, of course, given that fascism, too, traded on illusions and the ‘imaginary’, as we shall discuss below. To the fascists, the eager consumption of the cinematic mass prod- uct by ‘Britons’, and particularly the nation’s youth, was a sure sign of encroaching decadence. The inter-war fascist imagination was charac- terized by a fear of impending national disintegration, and it was decadence that was assumed to be the harbinger of this decline. To the REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 31 pessimistic fascist mind, decadence was a spiritual and moral blight that stifled the regenerative urge. The regenerative urge was imagined as a sort of enigmatic Bergsonian inner spiritual ‘life force’ that, if assiduously cultivated within the national psyche, would ensure the nation’s survival and allow it to pass to a higher state of evolution. The cultural stakes were thus very high indeed for Britain’s fascists. Fas- cism had a mission and it was to regenerate youth, a task upon which ‘may well depend the moral and physical culture of our race’ declared James Rudd.25 Evidently, Mosleyite fascism had set its face against the destiny of the decline of Europe’s ‘Faustian’ culture prophesied by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West (1918, 1922), a pessimistic and fatalistic tome which had exerted much influence on the BUF’s imagination. In proclaiming that fascism would beget the rebirth of Faustian Europe and its transition to a higher plane of existence, how- ever, the BUF recognized that the struggle would be long and hard. Mosley and his followers were aware, too, that the terrain of aesthetic culture, including film aesthetics, would be the site on which many of the key battles against the scourge of domestic decadence would be fought. Britain’s fascists were convinced that great nations and empires passed away as a result of domestic decadence. A British Fascisti member, writing in 1926, claimed that it was the destructive power of internal ‘immoralities’ which brought Rome, Egypt, Carthage and Greece to heel, rather than the power of external foes.26 The onset of ‘immorality’ terrified the fascists, and to many of them the cinema was heavily implicated in spawning it. Films, declared a Mosley fol- lower, which, along with theatre and novels, ‘pervert and distract’ Britain’s youth with their ‘sordid entertainments’, are ‘now used to destroy our moral conception of social order’.27 The contemporary cin- ema, therefore, would provide some British fascists with an anti- phenomenon to juxtapose with their own moral paradigm. In the same vein, palingenetic fascists accused films of being exces- sively ‘sex-conscious’ which, for them, served to encourage the seemingly ever-increasing tendency towards sexually promiscuous behaviour and ‘unnatural’ vice in the wider society. Reviewing The Gay King, a historical period piece dealing with the Risorgimento pro- duced in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, a BUF writer thought it a ‘great relief’ from the ‘fantastic and erotic thing usually offered from Holly- wood’.28 The senior BUF official Robert Gordon-Canning, also, was disapproving of Hollywood films, which too often ‘appeal to the cruder sex emotion of the audience’ and whose narrative content con- tained barely concealed ideas ‘bordering on the pornographic’.29 This imagined link between many of the offerings of contemporary cinema and apparently unrestrained sexual indulgence within the wider 32 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM society mirrored a deeper anxiety of course: the fascist fear of sexuality-out-of-control. The cinema ignited another fear. Apparently movies glorified, and rendered heroic, those thought of as society’s permissive, delinquent, darker and marginal characters. A BUF member wrote of ‘the gross glorification of thieves, murderers, adulterers, swindlers, and prosti- tutes, which are frequently the themes of films’.30 It was a characteristic thought to be most apparent in the incoming American films. A fascist writing under the pseudonym ‘Junius’ saw American films as ‘lauding of just those spectacles of barbarity to which the fall- ing Roman Empire was a constant witness in the arena of the Colosseum. Horrific pictures, animal fights, torture, gang fights, swin- dling and gladiatorial combats displayed between one low criminal and another’.31 The American gangster film became the principal focus of this anxiety. To its far Right critics, the gangster film stylized gangsterdom and glamorized crime. Fascist reactions to the gangster film are partly linked to far Right sensibilities concerning authority, order and discipline. The American gangster flouted authority and displayed a casual irreverence for the rule of law. Fascists feared the gangster melodrama’s seditious message, its potential to shape audi- ence disposition towards established authority, and its encoding of gangster as hero. Unwitting young male spectators in British cinemas were presented with ‘an inversion of values, whereby the gangster, the killer, the man who challenges the authority of the state becomes the hero’, observed James Rudd.32 Fascists conflated gangster films with juvenile criminality. Motion pictures ‘glorify the gangster and the gunmen, who, well armed, show their heroism in shooting the defenceless in the back’, complained the Blackshirt Michael Gould- ing.33 Youth ‘has little chance in face of this insidious disruption’ and is thus ‘taught crime from the first time it sees a film’, he continued.34 The 1930s film gangster hero not only signified social menace and moral subversion to the fascists, he encoded highly individualistic principles of a type which they found repugnant. As a vulgarized ‘Horatio Alger’ type who craved easy riches and upward social mobil- ity, the screen hoodlum was the embodiment of individual self- aggrandizement, a character who spurned the principle of obligation to the collective, an ideal which fascists believed was fundamental to the maintenance of a stable ordered polity.35 The American gangster genre may have disturbed fascist sensi- bilities in other ways, triggering a whole cluster of phobias in the fascist mind concerning the modern city. The city was cast in numerous negative roles by fascist writers in inter-war Britain. In a reactionary narrative informed by degenerationist, eugenic and Spenglerian ideas, the modern city or ‘Megalopolis’ featured as a place of formless criminal and sexual anarchy, as a centre of REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 33 devitalized existence, as an agent of biological retrogression and physical and spiritual enfeeblement, and as ‘daemonic stone-desert’ which threatened the more ‘authentic’ rural way of life.36 The 1930s urban gangster film has been read as a dark allegory for the menace of the modern city.37 The screen gangster was at home in the heavy claustrophobic atmosphere of the city, a forbidding presence that moved menacingly through its shadowy mean streets. In the same vein, the 1930s urban gangster movie has been read as an allegory for America’s deviation from a truer path back to the ‘garden’, conceived as pre-modern, artisanal and rural-pastoral rather than urban.38 The screen gangster, who inhabited a violent and unrelentingly dark expressionistic urban environment that seemed to mirror his violent persona and dark soul, apparently signified this fall from grace and deviation from the path back to the garden.39 The theme of city as negative presence was not confined to Ameri- can gangster movies during the 1930s. It featured in Frank Capra’s screwball comedy masterpiece Mr Deeds Goes to Town, a 1936 Colum- bia production that starred Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. Unlike the urban gangster hero, however, who was content to inhabit the modern city’s dark spaces and was a symbol of its corruption and ‘decadence’, the hero of Capra’s movie, Longfellow Deeds, was a small-town out- sider who sought to redeem the city by bringing to it the values of the country.40 Capra’s film illustrated a moral lesson about big city greed, cynicism and corruption, the clash between metropolitan and rural values, and the capability of an incorruptible, honest individual to ultimately bring about a urban-rural reconciliation. Britain’s fascists found Capra’s message about the wise-guy corruption, hypocrisy, cynicism and greed of the big city and its clash with the incorruptible hero figure from outside much to their liking. One BUF reviewer described Mr Deeds as ‘a picture of supreme merit’ which was ‘stag- gering in its truth and sanity’.41 Breaching the urban-rural divide was not the only mode of narrative closure sought by comedies like Mr Deeds Goes to Town. Capra’s ultimately upbeat comedies resolved to heal social-class tensions, a perennial fascist preoccupation, and to mend fractured gender relations though the latter was framed, nar- rowly, in terms of a reassertion of patriarchal privilege. These themes were certainly evident in Frank Capra’s other contemporary screwball comedy classic, It Happened One Night (1934), which starred Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, and may partly account for the BUF’s refer- ence to it as a ‘delightful, well-balanced film’.42 Of course, Capra’s films served up aesthetic delights as well as social and moral mes- sages. His witty, romantic, screwball films displayed an effervescence and verve that even Britain’s fascists, ever suspicious of Hollywood’s power of mass seduction, found difficult to resist. Henry Gibbs, one of 34 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM the BUF’s foremost movie critics, was evidently dazzled because, for him, Capra was ‘one of the world’s greatest directors’.43 If Capra’s screwball comedies engendered pleasure in the fascist spectator, the same could not be said for many of the historical films shown to British audiences during the inter-war period. For the far Right, too many Hollywood and native films offered up parodies of the past, cinematic caricatures which not only vilified esteemed traditions and injured national pride but created permanent miscon- ceptions in impressionable minds, the mass of British film-goers being ‘usually deficient in all historical sense’.44 Although there were a few exceptions, as we shall see below, histor- ical films were accused of maligning Britain’s past and its imperial heritage. Far too many films ‘purporting to show events in our national life’, bemoaned Anne Cutmore of the BUF, ‘show us a nation of crafty plotters, without honesty or charity’.45 Similarly, claimed ‘Junius’, with whom we are already acquainted, the soldiers and sail- ors who ‘fought with cutlasses’ to win an empire for Britain were depicted in American features as ‘bloody pirates’ and Cecil Rhodes as ‘building an Empire with a cheque book and murder’.46 The 1936 Gaumont-British production, Rhodes of Africa, which sought to cast Rhodes as a stoical, compassionate imperial hero, did not go nearly far enough for ‘Junius’ who thought it an ‘awful film’.47 To ‘Junius’, Wal- ter Huston as Rhodes looked ‘like Ramsay MacDonald’ rather than an imperial hero, while the film’s director, Berthold Viertel, was ‘an Aus- trian Communist’.48 Rhodes of Africa, declared another disgruntled Blackshirt, ‘will add nothing to the reputation of the great hero’ of Africa, because the ‘task of making a film to illustrate the building of empires is not compatible with the mentality of those who have more usually to present the tragedy of Jazz’.49 Historical features were charged with ridiculing cherished institu- tions, too, particularly that of monarchy. The ‘so-called historical films’ pouring out of Hollywood ‘have for their motive the belittling of the Monarchy as an institution’, complained the far Right proto- fascist journal, the Patriot, in 1926.50 Citing a cluster of historical films that had monarchy as one of their principal themes, the Patriot pro- claimed that ‘every weak, mean, discreditable feature’ of the monarch depicted therein ‘is enlarged and emphasized’.51 Villains of the piece included Universal’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), the mid- 1920s version of Scaramouche, a light-hearted swashbuckler set in revo- lutionary France, and The Eagle (1925), United Artist’s period romp about Cossacks in pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia, starring Rudolph Valentino. The implication of these representations of the past, Hollywood-style, and others like them, the Patriot continued, ‘is purely anti-monarchical – that is, to depict the Crown as cruel, unjust, REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 35 ridiculous, and obnoxious’, an image that could easily be imprinted on impressionable minds.52 The BUF, a decade later, could be just as scathing about movie rep- resentations of monarchy. Reviewing the 1936 RKO historical costume drama, Mary of Scotland, the Mosleyite Anne Cutmore slammed this Americanized version of the national past where Elizabeth I, ‘the greatest queen of our history is compared to her disadvantage with a trollop of little wit’.53 In a similar vein, Robert Gordon-Canning lam- basted two Alexander Korda productions, The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) and Catherine the Great (1934), on the grounds that ‘in not one of these has the greatness of monarchy been shown’.54 Korda’s depiction of monarchy in The Private Life of Henry VIII, in which Charles Laughton played Henry, evidently touched raw fascist nerves. Laughton’s irreverent characterization of Henry, with its multiple sig- nifiers of monarchial self-indulgence and courtly excess, sent fascist tempers soaring. Anne Cutmore was appalled by the film where ‘one of our greatest kings is held up to ridicule as a glutton and a sot’.55 Leigh Vaughan-Henry writing in the BUF press thought that Korda had reduced the Tudor king to ‘an inflated “Sugar Daddy”, philander- ing flatulently’ in the manner of any ‘regular guy’ or ‘moron’.56 It was the parliamentarian demagogue, the ‘mediocrity’ and the ‘levellers- down’ who would draw comfort from such images, declared Vaughan-Henry, ‘when history’s outstanding figures are presented as sub-human pathological types, belchingly uncontrolled creatures of every low instinct’.57 If motion pictures like The Private Life of Henry VIII shamelessly fic- tionalized monarchy, other inter-war history film narratives supposedly trivialized the historical process. Revolutions, which the far Right took very seriously, were reduced by Hollywood film mag- nates to dewy-eyed romances complete with ‘mysterious damsels, stucco palaces, and armed pasteboard soldiery’.58 When Hollywood offered up more earnest treatments of revolutionary sagas, it pro- moted, for the Patriot, the unsavoury and potentially inflammatory notion that revolutions ‘produce noble leaders’.59 It was a theme clearly discernible, thought the Patriot, in D. W. Griffith’s 1921 epic about the French Revolution, Orphans of the Storm, and MGM’s 1926 version of Ben Hur.60 Orphans of the Storm and Ben Hur also illustrated the equally unpalatable political lesson ‘that empires are necessarily tyrannous’.61 The encoding of revolutionaries as noble and empires as oppressive was particularly evident in the latter film. Ben Hur, with its images of ‘brutal and oppressive Roman civil government’ not only sought ‘to slander the Roman Empire’ but was ‘a sermon against Imperialism, made in USA’.62 Ben Hur’s greatest calumny, in the eyes of the Patriot, however, even more heinous than its anti-imperialist message, was its casting of a 36 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Jew as hero. Inter-war fascists were forever indulging in extravagant rhetoric to camouflage fascism’s dark and destructive character. Simi- larly, they were ever eager to present themselves, piously, as warriors embarking on a noble mission of cultural regeneration and rebirth. Not surprisingly, therefore, there were frequent references to heroes and heroic values in fascist discourse. Following Carlyle, Nietzsche and Shaw, the BUF, for example, celebrated society’s supposedly ‘highest types’, the aristocratic leader-figures who, like the ‘god kings’ of Greek mythology, were imagined to be part human and part divine.63 In the far Right’s highly personalized elitist account of his- tory, it was the heroic exceptional individual, the creative ‘will-to- achievement’ type who, at history’s pivotal moments, acted decisively to move the historical and evolutionary process forward. History’s heroic figures, particularly those native-born, were thought to embody the fascist character in its supreme form, in that they epi- tomized the ideals of duty, service, responsibility, stoicism, and self sacrifice to a higher ideal. Heroes functioned as convenient figures of symbolic identification for the far Right. British Rightists had their own pantheon of heroes: Clive of India, Cecil Rhodes, T. E. Lawrence to name but a few, but Jewish heroes did not figure. Ben Hur, by pre- senting ‘a heroic Jewish figure’ in the young Jewish patrician Judah Ben Hur was ‘consequently forced to falsify Roman history and even the plain narrative of the New Testament’.64 For Jewish figures to be cast in positive roles in historical movies, as in Ben Hur, was anathema to the British far Right. Thus a BUF film critic slammed Warner Brothers’ 1929 biopic, Disraeli, a ‘bastard bio- graphy of California’ which portrayed the famed Tory prime minister as ‘an angelic and virgin-souled’ figure.65 Even greater scorn was heaped upon Twentieth Century Fox’s lavish 1934 costume drama The House of Rothschild. The Rothschild banking dynasty loomed large in the inter-war British fascists’ anti-Semitic, mythically charged view of a world in sway to an allegedly all-powerful self-interested ‘inter- national Jewish finance’. Not surprisingly, then, the fascists’ preferred image of a Jewish high financier was darkly anti-Semitic. Instead, in the Fox movie, Nathan Rothschild is interpreted by George Arliss simultaneously as a Union Jack waving super-patriot and as ‘a dear old fatherly gentleman in everything but mutton chops’.66 For the BUF reviewer, the historical distortion was compounded by C. Aubrey Smith’s presentation of the Duke of Wellington in the same movie as a ‘bluff old imbecile war-horse’.67 The BUF’s contemporary, the Imperial Fascist League, also deplored this supposedly ‘whitewashed’ treat- ment of the house of Rothschild in the Fox film and of its portrayal of ‘our wonderful leader, the Duke of Wellington, as a veritable clown’.68 To anti-Semites on the British far Right, the positive images of Jew- ish heroes contained in historical films were the carefully crafted REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 37 creations of ‘international Jewry’, as were the negative interpretations of Western institutions and the British national and imperial experi- ence. Conspiratorial anti-Semitism and the myth of a Jewish ‘hidden hand’ financing and orchestrating a global network of pro-Jewish, anti-British, anti-imperial, anti-Western and anti-Christian intrigue via cultural institutions such as the cinema was rampant on the far Right fringe during the inter-war period. Writing in the 1920s, the Patriot pronounced that the motion picture industry was almost wholly in Jewish hands, and that imported films were being ‘used on a large scale to further the objects which the Protocolists have described, and are being so employed with special designs against our Empire’.69 The belief that the new so-called ‘Jewish’ film medium, par- ticularly the Hollywood movie, was being used to damage imperial prestige in the Empire was common. ‘No wonder, when the Empire is saturated with Judaic American products year in and year out, that it is beginning to think England is finished’, bemoaned ‘Junius’ of the BUF.70 The East was thought to be the most vulnerable to these allegedly Jewish orchestrated machinations. What effect the ‘decadent materialism of Hollywood’ has had ‘on India and the East I dread to say’, declared ‘Junius’.71 British far Right imperialists feared the Orien- talist East’s metamorphosis into a vapid Americanized simulacrum of the spiritually bankrupt materialist West. In this gendered narrative of loss, the recast Americanized East would be divested of its allure and mystery, no longer the exotic inviting virginal place of the Western imagination which signified both threat and object of sexual desire.72 Jews impregnated themselves in the world of cinema, and then used it to further their own ends, according to the far Right, for vari- ous reasons, one of which was commercial self-interest. Indeed, within the fascist mind-set, the pernicious presence of the Jews lurked behind the modern phenomenon of commercial mass culture, in that they profited from the crude ‘dumbing down’ of aesthetic taste sup- posedly associated with it. The commercialization of the arts by the Jews was an ‘attempt to mould our thoughts’, declared one BUF activ- ist, so as to increase the potential for economic exploitation.73 When the cinema was not being exploited for commercial gain, it was appar- ently utilized as an instrument for the promotion and dissemination of ‘international’ Jewish propaganda. Thus Twentieth Century Fox’s The House of Rothschild (1934) contained a message, that is ‘to threaten Hitler with dire financial consequences’ if the Nazi dictator proceeded to persecute the Jews.74 Similarly, London Films’ rousing swash- buckler about Elizabethan England’s triumph over the Spanish Armada, Fire Over England (1937), was interpreted by the same BUF writer as an allegory about the fate awaiting continental tyrants should they step out of line.75 In the movie, Raymond Massey’s King Philip of Spain functions as the textual representation of the modern 38 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM fascist dictator, while the unquestioning conformity demanded by a pious and intolerant Catholic Spain was a metaphor for the Nazi sup- pression of Jews and others’ religious and personal freedoms. The intention of Fire Over England, according to far Right semioticians, was to not only throw out a warning to Hitler, but to create bad blood between the Third Reich and Britain and to stir up already troubled political waters in Europe.76 The Mosleyites claimed that ‘international Jewry’, for reasons of communal and financial self-interest, sought war between London and Berlin. Even more than Fire Over England, Charlie Chaplin’s satire of Adolf Hitler, The Great Dictator, was adjudged to be guilty of fanning the flames of war. Emblematic of the worst type of anti-German, pro-war propaganda, Chaplin’s film was an ‘insult to the German nation and Herr Hitler’ complained a BUF reviewer, who urged that it should not be exhibited in Britain. For this Blackshirt, ‘the Chaplin film is the most dangerous piece of celluloid ever to come into this country. It may set all Europe on fire, and every theatre exhibiting it will be selling Jewish propaganda and endanger- ing the relationships of England and Germany’.77 Britain’s far Right luxuriated in the idea of a national cinema that would no longer be dominated by the Hollywood film industry nor be under the alleged aegis of Jews, and which would cease to churn out movies that supposedly sapped national vitality, corrupted Britain’s youth, appealed to base instincts, ridiculed cherished institutions and caricatured or maligned the national and imperial past. The fascists determined to re-appropriate the national cinema and to reconfigure it to serve fascist ends. ‘One of the first duties of Fascism will be to recapture the British cinema for the British nation’, declared A. K. Chesterton.78 A reconstituted national cinema would perform a differ- ent role in society, disseminate a new set of images, fashion a different film aesthetic, and draw on alternative themes and paradigms to those of the epoch the fascists sought to ‘transcend’. British cinema screens would be filled with native sights and sounds, for example. The Brit- ish people should derive their impressions and suggestions from films which ‘present British life and ideals’, urged the Patriot in 1925.79 The BUF would harbour a similar desire. ‘In heaven’s name, why don’t they [British film producers] put Britain on the screen?’ asked Henry Gibbs.80 For Gibbs, British studios should ‘make films which present the true, living vital Britain’.81 Movies should express national life and ambition and only when they were ‘supremely national’ in this way, would Britain create a film industry that would gain the respect of the outside world.82 If Gibbs had had his way, documentary films and similar realist fare would have formed part of the diet of films offered to British audiences. The documentary genre’s gritty realist thematics and distinct stylistic features seemed well suited to the task of telling the national story. British cinema screens should feature stories about REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 39 the perils of coal mining, the varying fortunes of the domestic cotton industry and the drama of life in the merchant fishing fleet, according to Gibbs.83 Robert Flaherty’s 1934 British documentary film, Man of Aran, chronicling the lives of crofters and fishermen in the west of Ire- land, pointed the way forward for Gibbs, as did a later home-grown documentary film, Edge of the World (1937), portraying love, life and death on a remote Shetland island.84 Gibbs also admired John Grier- son’s classic 1929 documentary film, Drifters, profiling the life of the North Sea fishing fleet.85 British audiences should also see film adap- tations of ‘grand novels about tillers of English earth’.86 Throughout his sojourn as a fascist, Gibbs would remain attached to the view that cinema should get ‘nearer to life’ in order to remain popular and truly national.87 It is tempting to suggest that Gibbs’s predilection for realist docu- mentaries and the themes contained therein are connected to fascist sensibilities and preoccupations. Man of Aran, Edge of the World and even Grierson’s Drifters contain themes which fascists liked to identify with. In all three filmic accounts, we find hardy types inhabiting remote places in close touch with a nature relatively uncontaminated by modernity, confronting the challenge and rigours of the elemental. Here, vitality is associated with man’s struggle against a forbidding, untamed environment, where the physical world suggested both threat and uplifting challenge. It should not surprise us that Gibbs’s favourite movie for 1937 was MGM’s account of a Chinese peasant and his family, The Good Earth. For Gibbs, The Good Earth was a mov- ing story of man and woman ‘united in their never-ending struggle against the force of pitiless Nature’ and as such was an epic that ‘rises above time and place’.88 A similar fascist sub-text can be detected in the sentiments of another BUF review of a foreign film. Appraising the 1936 Italian Fascist film Lo Squadrone Bianco (The White Squadron), which depicted life in an Italian garrison in Libya, the Mosleyite reviewer enthused that it ‘has all the enduring greatness of simplicity. There is no affection, only a plain recounting of Man’s eternal battle with Nature’.89 To Britain’s fascists, particularly those of a neo- Romantic persuasion, nature was a special, timeless place far removed from the alienation and duplicity of liberal-capitalist modernity. Like their continental counterparts, they would indulge in a nostalgic yearning for nature, imagined as a site of purity and redemption lost to liberal-capitalist modernity and as a metaphysical source that nour- ished the spirit, the latter thought to be a vital well-spring of the individual’s and the nation’s cultural expression. Similarly, nature was perceived by ‘blood and soil’ racial fascists to be a vital repository of the nation’s racial essence. Nature was also considered to be the only source of life and truth. ‘Only from nature could the truth arise’, declared the Mosleyite Henry Williamson.90 40 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM British audiences would not be treated exclusively to documentary and other realist genre films, though. No longer under foreign domin- ion and cleansed of imagined alien impurities, British cinema would be relocated in the vanguard of the fascist cultural and spiritual revo- lution and serve the goal of national regeneration. It would be a cultural forum where ‘the finest creative genius and artistic talent of Britain may find its true expression independently of present-day box office assessments and in service to the ideal of enriching the life of a great people’.91 Films in service to the fascist revolution would have firm contours, spiritual substance and convey reassuring messages. Such films would be interspersed with morally uplifting themes and endeavour to instil national pride in the movie spectator. Reflecting favourably on the 1938 Warner Brothers’ version of The Dawn Patrol, dealing with the exploits of Royal Flying Corps officers in France dur- ing the First World War, Henry Gibbs remarked: ‘we would welcome more films, wherever they may come from, recalling our people to a proper pride in their nationhood’.92 Like the heroic themes and char- acters in The Dawn Patrol, the latter being ‘specimens of British fighting-men which nobody would wish to disown’, Gibbs yearned for film narratives that sought to express the ‘best’ of the national past and the British character. Fascist histories were mythic constructions, of course, fictionalized narratives imposed on the past that aimed to align the spectator with the far Right’s preferred version of the national past. The national past was an idealized space, or other, that fascists cherished as an uncon- taminated place of spiritual and moral purity lost to liberal-capitalist modernity. The national past had a more overt political function, how- ever. Within the far Right mind-set, the past should act as a source of inspiration for the present and serve as an instrument to mobilize sen- timents in the quest to attain the fascist revolution. Fascists believed that historical films, rather than malign or parody the national past as the bulk of inter-war historical movies allegedly did, should play their part in this national project. Film representations of the British past, therefore, should always celebrate national achievements and sup- posed national virtues. They should be reassuringly nostalgic and suggest a common cultural heritage which the present could draw upon. Historical films should serve the needs of the fascists’ rebirth revolution in other ways, too, in that their themes and messages should arouse patriotic emotions and mobilize support in the present. As Eric Rentschler has noted, fascist films imputed to historical mat- erial ‘a timeless authenticity for a timely calling’.93 Ironically, given that many on the far Right adopted a ‘mass mani- pulation’ perspective on the American motion picture, a few Hollywood historical films seemed to provide a model worthy of emulation by a future fascist film industry. These ‘model’ Hollywood REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 41 historical epics, many of which were eulogies to British imperialism, were frequently acclaimed in the BUF press. After watching Para- mount’s 1934 historical spectacular Lives of a Bengal Lancer, one Blackshirt reviewer wrote that, ‘It takes America to put the British spirit on the screen’.94 This BUF film critic could barely contain his excitement as he surveyed the grand cinematic extravaganza unfold- ing before his eyes, ‘It is magnificent!’, he gushed. The scenes in India baffle description when it comes to technical diffi- culties. ... Intense pity, breath-taking admiration, pride of race, all combine to thrill. That is how I felt sitting amongst a packed and delighted house, watching Sir Guy Standing, Gary Cooper, Aubrey Smith, and Richard Cromwell giving us the return of the Briton. The people gasped. Could it be true? Dare anyone eulogise the soldier, dare anyone remember the North-West Frontier...95 Another BUF film critic was equally enthralled by the 1936 Warner Brothers’ blockbuster, The Charge of the Light Brigade, which catapulted Errol Flynn to superstardom. Commenting on the famous charge at Balaclava, he enthused that ‘it is impossible to be British, to watch it, and not to be proud’. Overcoming his irritation at the film’s numerous factual inaccuracies, the Mosleyite pronounced ‘that here is a film cal- culated to thrill every British audience to its marrows and to make the finest type of British propaganda throughout the world’.96 Such grand historical epics as The Charge of the Light Brigade drew squeals of delight from fascist cinema spectators because they found such overt expressions of manly valour and the martial values impos- sible to resist. More pointedly, however, the far Right praised these Hollywood historical films because the representation of British his- tory depicted therein conformed more closely to its preferred image of the national past, an image that was heroic, celebratory and unasham- edly nostalgic. Occasionally, a British-made historical feature film elicited similar praise. Whereas one BUF film critic, as we have seen above, interpreted London Films’ Fire Over England as a Jewish con- trived anti-Hitler parable, another thought it virile, ‘full of inspired patriotism’ and ‘one of the finest and most inspiring films yet seen’.97 This was a celluloid image of England and the English past that Brit- ain’s far Right preferred British audiences to gaze upon. ‘This is an England which considers reputation well risked for Empire in Amer- ica, and it is an England of splendid patriotism, untouched with snivelling and ineffective remonstrance and accusation’, opined the BUF writer.98 Similarly, Flora Robson’s Elizabeth I in Fire Over England, unlike the ‘purely politically minded, vicious harridan’ portrayed in RKO’s Mary of Scotland, was motivated by high ideals and selfless patriotism.99 ‘This may be Elizabeth idealised’, admitted this BUF film critic, ‘but it is the Elizabeth we prefer to see’. Another patriotic offering from London Films, Alexander Korda’s 1939 adaptation of 42 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM A. E. W. Mason’s The Four Feathers, a rousing imperial yarn about cow- ardice and redemption set against the backdrop of the war in the Sudan, inspired similar feelings. Some of its scenes, including that showing the story’s hero Harry Faversham ‘fighting with Kitchener in the bloody sands before Omdurman’, were ‘filled with breathless excitement’ for a film critic of the far Right journal the New Pioneer, who thought it ‘the finest film of the year’.100 Historical films that con- tained a patriotic imperialist theme would, no doubt, hold pride of place within a fascist-run native film industry. ‘As we have an Empire, gained by struggle and hardship’, proclaimed Henry Gibbs, ‘it should be the most natural thing in the world to film it’.101 Even more than the smattering of American productions and the occasional home-produced feature, contemporary film offerings from Nazi Germany suggested the form that some films might take in a future British Fascist film industry. The BUF would spare nothing in its praise for Der alte und der junge König (The Old and the Young King) for example, Hans Steinhoff’s 1935 period piece about the stormy rela- tionship between a youthful and rebellious Frederick the Great of Prussia as crown prince and his father Frederick William.102 Eventu- ally disabused of his recalcitrant ways by his father, an unyielding disciplinarian played by Emil Jannings of Weimar cinema fame, the young crown prince forsakes his own pleasures for the sake of a higher obligation to crown and state. Having been brought to an awareness of his duty and ‘destiny’, the young Frederick repositions himself in a domain ‘of straight lines, uniformed masses, and unques- tioned allegiances, joining the masculine space of the parade ground and the state, assuming its language and order’.103 The BUF obviously approved of the fascist motifs in The Old and the Young King, as well as its gendered narrative of temptation and conquest which duplicated the classic horror film’s message of a body penetrated by a monster deemed to be sexually and biologically different. Its suggestion, for example, that the young Frederick’s inner self was being invaded by ‘alien’, foreign bodies associated with degenerative, feminine, lustful pleasure, which must be ruthlessly expunged if he is to re-enter the ‘masculine’ world of disciplined self-control and social responsibility signified by his authoritarian father.104 The BUF also applauded The Old and the Young King’s desire ‘to show the stark reality of national destiny’ and express ‘great themes of national and social purpose’ in its narrative.105 Calling it a film ‘in the best Fascist spirit and Fascist temper’, it mused ‘would we had a national film industry in this coun- try capable of doing the same for ourselves, instead of pursuing the trivialities and obscenities of post war decadence!’106 Another production from the Third Reich, Veit Harlan’s Der Herrscher (The Ruler) which won the 1937 German Film Prize and which again saw Jannings in the lead role, elicited a tribute from the REACTIONARY SPECTATORSHIP 43 BUF similar to that for The Old and the Young King. Like Hans Stein- hoff’s film of Frederick the Great’s passage to leadership, The Ruler transparently reflected fascist ideology in its message of the resolute lonely leader determined to fulfil his higher duty to the Volksgemein- schaft. One BUF reviewer pronounced The Ruler ‘an extremely fine film’ and a ‘drama of human passions’ which ‘possesses all the intrin- sic dignity of simplicity’, while another thought it ‘a full depiction of the leadership principle in action’.107 It is evident from the glowing appraisals of The Old and the Young King and The Ruler that the far Right would have favoured exposing British audiences to fascist message movies in a future fascist Britain. If Mosleyites like Robert Gordon-Canning had had their way, fascist principles would have been embedded in the narrative structure of many a film. In the ‘debased’ cinema world of ‘Financial Democracy’, complained Gordon-Canning, the supposedly fascist ‘ideas of service, responsibility, duty, are buried out of sight’.108 It is very likely, how- ever, that British fascist cinema would not just deal in fascist propaganda, reflect ideological impulses, or display signs of fascist revolutionary imperatives; nor would it aspire to be exclusively heroic, celebratory, and unashamedly nostalgic and patriotic. The empirical evidence from regime fascisms in Italy and Germany sug- gest that such films would represent only a percentage of the output of a native fascist film industry, and probably a small percentage at that. In Fascist Italy, propagandist and other such ‘virile’ and celebra- tory films, represented just five per cent of national film production during the twenty-year period of Mussolini’s rule.109 Escapist films, melodramas, and sentimental and often frivolous comedies for the most part, which bore a striking similarity to Hollywood features of the same era, dominated Italian Fascist cinema. In the Third Reich, too, the vast bulk of films were ‘un-political’ light-hearted escapist fare, with not a swastika, well-proportioned machine body, lonely leader-figure, or choreographed massed bloc of inanimate human subjects in sight. Indeed, around fifty per cent of the films on show during the Nazi era were comedies and musicals.110 As in Fascist Italy, many of these escapist entertainment films would bear the mark of the Hollywood ‘dream factory’. Nazi cinema was above all, in Eric Rent- schler’s phrase, ‘a Ministry of Cheer and Emotion’: it was not ‘an elaborate dance of death, a prolonged exercise in violence and devas- tation’, nor did its films exhibit the ‘customary tropes of the uncanny and the horrendous’.111 In all likelihood, a British fascist film industry would have pre- sented a similar menu of escapist entertainment films to the British cinema public, many of which would have probably mimicked Holly- wood formulas. Despite the elitist cultural rhetoric and the disparaging comments about mass cultural taste on the part of those 44 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM who harboured a ‘mass manipulation’ perspective on the cinema, many native fascists acknowledged the seductively attractive power of popular cinema. ‘What a blessing are films!’ exclaimed Henry Gibbs, ‘for a shilling, eighteen-pence, we escape drab realities, inherit worlds of make-believe, ... attain various forms of Utopia, Atlantis, where life achieves poetic, if unhappy, conclusion’.112 Gibbs under- stood that the appeal of mass cinema was to a large extent based on its ability to create these captivating ‘worlds of make-believe’, compel- ling illusions that tugged at the emotions and orchestrated desire. He also recognized that this aspect of cinema was perfectly compatible with fascism, fascist ideology, and fascist film aesthetics. Astute observers of fascism like Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer rec- ognized that its rule was based as much on illusion, mass seduction and appeals to the imaginary, as on terror.113 ‘Reality’ and aesthetics became virtually interchangeable in fascism because it sought to break down the traditional divide between political experience and aesthetic experience. In the realm of fascist film aesthetics, too, the wiser practi- tioners of fascist propaganda knew that, because of cinema’s unique capacity to transcend the boundary between the real and the aesthetic and create warmly reassuring imaginary experiences, mastery could be gained over the subject through means other than overt external coercion. Rather than bludgeon the subject or spectator into submis- sion with heavy-handed propaganda messages, therefore, a fascist cinema could serve fascist goals best by entering a private, inner emo- tional space and subtly manipulating imaginations and desires. In so doing, this cinema of seemingly harmless illusions created the ulti- mate illusion, the illusion of freedom, the perception that there existed a private inner space beyond the remit of the party and state.114 As one historian has noted in relation to cinema audiences in the Third Reich, contented subjects who believed that a measure of personal freedom was being preserved were more malleable and less prone to question the authority of the state.115 In Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, the escapist entertainment film was symbiotically related to the more overt fascist message movie. The former was the Dr Jekyll to the Mr Hyde of the latter, the more acceptable public face behind which fas- cism concealed its real, darker and more malevolent character and intentions. In the future fascist Britain that the British far Right sought, it is reasonable to assume that a native fascist film industry would have taken on a similar dual and contradictory persona. ‘This Fortress Built Against Infection’ The BUF Vision of Britain’s Theatrical and Musical Renaissance Roger Griffin Britain’s Forthcoming Artistic Renaissance The ideologues1 of the BUF produced no equivalent to Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century as a comprehensive statement of its vision of cultural renewal and artistic palingenesis, nor any mono- graphs on individual spheres of artistic endeavour.2 Nevertheless, its diagnosis of the health of Britain’s theatre and music can be recon- structed as a relatively coherent ‘discourse’ from what is, for an abortive political movement which lasted a mere seven years, an abundance of publicistic3 references to them in the movement’s news- papers and periodicals.4 It was a diagnosis informed by a cluster of axioms about the arts that were broadly consistent with the ‘Spengler- ian’ view of the organic life cycle of cultures that became so central to the Leader’s palingenetic vision of Britain’s imminent destiny after 1932.5 The first premise was that the state of the arts was a direct expres- sion of the ‘greatness’ of the nation conceived in a way typical of the patriotic mind-set of inter-war Europe as a synergy between military, political, and imperial strength on the one hand, and the ability to pro- duce achievements in science, technology and the arts on the other. The profoundly patriarchal nature of such an assumption, already implicit when ‘great men’ alone are listed as having incarnated the qualities of an age actually named after a queen6 or in the constant ref- erences to ‘man’, becomes explicit when Mosley calls for the ‘new Britons’ to embody virility’7 or a ‘manful appreciation of life’.8 Before the days of feminism and political correctness such chauvinist lan- guage could be generated by the patriotic pride in the cultural achievements of the nation’s artists and intellectuals that, in liberal democracies, so often coexists with a recognition of the deeply pri- vate, unpredictable and mysterious nature of human creativity. What made it specifically fascist,9 or at least ultra-nationalist, in orientation 46 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM in the BUF context was the insistence that all such achievements were to be seen as direct manifestations of the national genius, as revela- tions of what Herder called the ‘Volksgeist’ or essential spirit of the people. Hence there were such pronouncements as the following: ‘art is the expression of the whole community, or it is nothing but neurotic self-exhibitionism’;10 ‘art must have roots: when it is uprooted, when the deadly disease of cosmopolitanism sets in, it ceases to be the trum- pet of man’s spirit and becomes the gangrened emblem of the spirit’s death’;11 ‘culture is the supreme achievement of a nation’s conscious communal effort’; ‘a healthy civilisation in which culture flourishes and art is alive, beautiful, is a civilisation in which men may lift their eyes to something nobler than themselves’,12 ‘politics has lost the one quality which could make it eternal: its close association with the arts and with the culture of man’.13 A second axiom was that Britain had once achieved a totality of political and cultural greatness which eclipsed that of any other nation, namely in the Elizabethan era (occasionally referred to as the Tudor Age). The flowering of England’s contribution to the European Renaissance coincided with her emergence as a great naval and colo- nial power, thereby lending a specious empiricism to the BUF’s organic theory of culture, its patriotic belief in Britain’s genius and world civilizing mission, and the sense of the lamentable decline from a Golden Age of art and culture so essential to the movement’s core myth of imminent rebirth. Indeed, whereas the Italian Renaissance flowered at a low-point in Italy’s history as a unified nation-state, the Elizabethan Renaissance (like the ones which took place in sixteenth- century Spain and seventeenth-century Holland) perfectly embodied for a twentieth-century fascist the lost Atlantis when thought and action, culture and empire were inextricably bound up as expressions of a young national community growing in self-awareness and organic strength. Anchoring Britain’s future in nostalgia for the Tudors played a major role in the ‘naturalization’ of continental fascism by enabling BUF ideologues to develop an internally consistent metapolitical dis- course in which to articulate the diagnosis of contemporary Britain, one that went considerably beyond slavish imitation of continental role models. Indeed, both Italian Fascists and Nazis could only point to ‘Golden Ages’ which long predated their emergence as a modern nation-state. To the Fascist mind-set of a Spenglerian persuasion, the fact that Queen Elizabeth, Marlowe and Purcell were roughly con- temporaries and that the creation of the greatest empire ever seen began in the lifetime of William Shakespeare, the greatest dramatist of English, if not world, literature, had to be more than a coincidence. Dowland’s madrigals, the first dawning of the British scientific, mathematical, and technological revolution, the colonization of the ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 47 Caribbean, the defeat of the Armada were all ‘obviously’ manifesta- tions of the same fundamental reality: an organic culture in the full bloom of its first spring. Seen through a mythic lens of palingenetic ultra-nationalism Eliza- bethan society allowed what Mosley described in The Alternative as the ‘thought-deed man’14 to hold sway untrammelled by a democratic conscience which makes cowards of us all. Hence his statement in Tomorrow We Live that ‘Our new Britons require the virility of the Eliz- abethan combined with the intellect of and method of the modern technician’.15 Hence the conviction of one of his rank-and-file support- ers that ‘Fascists have an opportunity to bring about a Renaissance of British letters comparable to Elizabethan splendour’,16 and that when Hitler launched the purge of modernist art in 1936 it was a call to Ger- man artists to restore the ‘national function of art’ that existed when Shakespeare encapsulated in dramatic prose the soul of Tudor Eng- land.17 The resolute confidence displayed by A. L. Glasfurd in the profound compatibility of fascism with the ‘English tradition’, not least in the sphere of culture, should thus come as no surprise: The vigorous patriotism, the advanced social conscience, the idealism and the vital spirit of endeavour that characterised the Elizabethan is also typical of the Fascist. Both, in a word, are men of action. Both belong in a different world from that of the intermediate liberal- bourgeois type. The complacent Old Party politician, who regards our new insurgent Fascism with numb horror or attacks it with hysterical abuse, is also congenitally incapable of understanding the spirit of the Elizabethan age. Those who see in Fascism a force destructive of culture should examine this period of history. Like the dawning Fascist era, the age was an age of popular dictatorship and national integration, an age when individualism was not suffered to degenerate into anarchy, an age when men did not hesitate to meet force with force. It was the epoch of Hawkins, Drake and Raleigh. And yet it was in this ‘barbarous’ period that England experienced a cultural Renaissance unequalled in her pre- vious or subsequent history. The Elizabethan had hot blood and a ready hand, but he was none the less not a great artist.18 The third vital premise of the BUF’s discourse on the contemporary British arts was that they were now afflicted by the same pathological symptoms which were affecting the whole of the West. One of the most comprehensive statements of this conviction came, appropri- ately enough, from the Leader himself in the first flush of his conversion to Spenglerism: [W]e have reached the period, by every indication available to the intel- lect, at which each civilisation and Empire of the past has begun to traverse that downward path to the dust and ashes from which their glory never returned. Every fatal symptom of the past is present in the modern situation, from the uprooting of the people’s contact with the soil to the development of usury and the rule of money power, 48 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM accompanied by social decadence and vice that flaunts in the face of civ- ilisation the doctrine of defeat and decline.19 Another characteristic jeremiad about the state of the nation’s art came from the pen of the most Spenglerian of the BUF’s ideologues, Raven- Thomson: Culture in literature bitterness, cynicism and Gertrude Stein; in music sensuality, swing and Stravinsky; in painting introspection and surreal- ism; in sculpture puerility and Picasso, excrescences and Epstein. No longer does the artist seek to capture elusive beauty, rather does he make it his business to worship the transient futilities spewed up by modern life, glorifying the misbegotten and pandering to the pervert.20 Though the profound decadence of contemporary culture was axiom- atically assumed by all BUF ideologues, they might cite as its root cause one of a number of factors familiar in fascism’s catalogue of the blights and woes of modern civilization.21 These included the ‘disease of Industrialism, with its accompaniments of excessive mechanisation and urbanisation’,22 the presence among ‘the people of Britain in the dark days of their eclipse’ of ‘cosmopolitan geniuses willing to make a burlesque of their noble cultural heritance’;23 the ‘sorry mess of ego- tism and greed’ which results ‘when man ceases to be an individual and becomes a democrat that is, when he forgets the soil’,24 or when ‘money dictates the damning of the founts of English culture’.25 Other factors adduced were the rise of leisure, which, according to A. Raven- Thomson, initiated ‘the decline of Rome’;26 usury, which Ezra Pound was convinced had brought down not just the Roman Empire but the Chinese one as well;27 the ‘excessive individualism’ that ‘appeared with particular violence at the Reformation, which is one of Disinte- gration’s land-marks’;28 the collective ‘harking back to the ideals of the tribe’ comparable to a garden reverting ‘back to the jungle’;29 or the spread of democracy with its ‘Philistine majorities’.30 A major result of such pathological processes was a fundamental change in the relationship between the ‘people’ and artists, who have formed ‘a rebellious Bohemian community, intent mainly upon shock- ing the hippopotamus that crushes their talent, but seldom succeeding in penetrating its thick Philistine hide’.31 ‘Looking from the ugliness without to the ugliness within’32 in the search for recognition, their art no longer unconsciously articulates the values of the people which they have internalized as members of the national community, but expresses ‘that extreme mental extroversion which is ultimately responsible for the chaos – social, political, economic and cultural – in which the West now finds itself’.33 As a result it cannot help but be ‘artifice – synthetic and barren, deadening to the soul’.34 The anti-type of the true artist were the ‘Bloomsbury intellectuals’ who had made it fashionable to assert that ‘Fascism is anti-culture’,35 thereby per- ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 49 versely missing the point that Fascists were committed only to destroying decadent art: ‘Are we to destroy all the works of art in Great Britain, or the little muddied stream of forced and warped thinking emanating from long-haired men and sandalled women in Bloomsbury’s dirtier boarding-houses?’36 An even more ominous symptom of the ‘whole rotten intellectual mess of the present day’37 was the alleged domination of the arts by Jews, which was presented as the outward manifestation, not of an alleged loss of racial purity (as Nazi ideology insisted), but of the growing power of money. Thus ‘the Jew’ is accused of being eternally preoccupied with gold ‘causing him to drive Western civilization down to the standards of Eastern barbarism in his quest for profit’.38 One consequence of this was the commercialization of art, the eager- ness to pander to the taste of the lowest common denominator for the purpose of pure profit. Another was the unscrupulous employment of foreign artistes at the expense of British ones. As a result of Jewish infiltration, aesthetic canons themselves had been degraded and pub- lic taste corrupted. In short, the BUF perceptions of cultural decadence were dominated by the feeling (reminiscent of the science-fiction film The Invasion of the Body Snatchers39) that British culture was being infil- trated by alien forces and destroyed from within, a paranoia epitomized in Chesterton’s graphic warning that the statues of Shake- speare and Nelson might be one day replaced by ones of Samuel Goldwyn and Hore-Belisha.40 The final axiom was that one of the principal missions of the BUF was to reverse this deplorable state of cultural collapse: ‘[Fascism] is a new and revolutionary creed of national and cultural regeneration, come with a two-fold purpose: to check the rapid decay and corrup- tion produced by the illusion of democracy, and to restore a deeper purpose to national life.’41 ‘Fascism will sweep away that cult of ugli- ness and distortion in art, music and literature which is the product of neurotic post-war minds, sickened by long incarceration in dim cit- ies.’42 It would defy Spenglerian laws of inexorable decline by acting as the catalyst for national awakening. For, as Raven-Thomson put it: ‘a revolutionary urge that restores the national spirit of the British people may well recover the Tudor atmosphere that gave us Shake- speare and the greatest triumphs of English poetry and drama.’43 The BUF press makes it clear that two key areas of British culture where the battle to combat the syndrome of pathological degeneration prom- ised to be particularly fierce were the theatre and music. The ‘Death’ of the British Theatre As is implicit in Raven-Thomson’s words, Shakespeare was a gift to the cultural pundits of the BUF as the epitome of everything that 50 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Britain once stood for and was now under threat. Indeed, the only other literary genius who can be directly compared with him for his value to fascists as a cultural icon, and who could be selectively quoted to underpin their ultra-nationalist agenda, is Dante, whose call for the unity of the Italian nation Mussolini’s Blackshirts could claim they were finally answering in a new age of faith.44 Not only is Shake- speare an ‘immortal’ dramatist of indisputable world renown, and the embodiment of the glories of the English language, he was a man ‘of the people’ about whose private life remarkably little is known com- pared with the outstanding figures of the Italian Renaissance. Moreover, his plays ‘work’ linguistically and dramatically entirely within the bounds of the shared world view and iconography of his contemporaries just at the time when England was emerging as a self- conscious nation-state with its own unique cultural and political ‘des- tiny’. As a result they are replete with eminently quotable sentiments rooted in a vitalistic, mythically charged world view that patently pre- dates the secular individualism of liberal democracy, or, for that matter, socialist egalitarianism, materialism, hedonism, artistic mod- ernism, or any other of the ‘isms’ whose proliferation is, for a fascist, synonymous with cultural putrefaction. In short, Shakespeare sup- plied irrefutable evidence of the fact that ‘the theatre ... was not created out of the fortuitous desire of a small section of humanity, but it grew spontaneously from the whole of the people’.45 A. K. Chesterton thus spoke for many in the BUF movement when he invoked Shakespeare as proof of the superior truthfulness of art compared with science, and of the need for ‘vision’ in the life of a people, before going on to deplore the modern values that have caused the immortal bard’s place to be taken by the likes of Aldous Huxley and H. G. Wells.46 The BUF’s appropriation of Shakespeare reaches Monty Pythonesque heights in the article ‘Shakespeare would have been a Fascist’, in which he is presented as the embodiment of patriotism, the hatred of communism, total loyalty to the monarch, and the celebration of war. What is more, he had understood that only by ‘wounding herself’ could England become vulnerable to foreign conquest. One phrase from John O’Gaunt’s speech, suitably cut, acquires a fresh resonance in the context of the BUF’s campaign to put ‘Britain First’: This fortress built for nature by herself Against infection and the hand of war.47 For BUF columnists, convinced that the days when the Globe played Shakespeare to houses packed with audiences drawn from all social strata represented the high-point of the British theatre, the symptoms of its advanced state of decay in the 1930s were plain to see. Instead of being ‘an expression of the spirit and the feeling of the people’, the ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 51 play had too often become ‘merely the hobby of a man whose money has been made in a purely utilitarian pursuit, and is seeking diversion and the possibility of more profit in the theatre’. In other words it was reduced to being ‘the vehicle for the flaunting of some entirely worth- less small personality which has in some ways touched ... the pocket of the wealthy’. The ‘spontaneous expression of mental life in the peo- ple ... has been ‘delivered over to cupidity and avarice’. There is thus ‘great danger that an impoverished and unworthy theatre may be completely superseded by the cinema’. No wonder ‘the theatre today is said to be dying’.48 A major cause and symptom of this lamentable situation (in fascist discourse causes and consequences of decadence are mostly indistin- guishable) was that both the management of theatres and the system for engaging professional actors had fallen into the hands of Jews. Pre- dictably, BUF columnists had no scruples in enlisting Shakespeare as propagandist of anti-Semitism. Thus a BBC broadcast of excerpts of Shylock’s speeches becomes a pretext for citing Antonio’s pronounce- ments on the impossibility of ever reasoning with a Jew in an article that finishes with the threatening words: ‘It is fortunate perhaps for Jewry that we have not in England one of these ancient laws of Venice called into execution by Portia!’49 Another assures readers that ‘There is many a stirring message for National Socialists in the works of Shakespeare’, an assertion which it illustrates by citing words from Romeo and Juliet as an indictment of the suffering and degradation inflicted on the poor by ‘Financial Democracy’, usury, and the ‘greed for gold’. It proceeds to offer a ‘description of modern England’ which consists of a passage from Richard II, interpreted as the portrait of a country crippled by the interest on foreign debt and the influx of ‘cheap foreign goods’ which are ‘condemning thousands of our fellow countrymen to the miseries of unemployment’: ‘Shylock must have his pound of flesh, cost what it may’.50 There is little doubt that BUF journalists struck a deep chord with readers on this issue. One letter to Blackshirt complains that what was once ‘the Theatrical Profession’ had now degenerated into a ‘“racket” almost totally controlled by Jewish managers and agents, who exploit the artistes, force them to starvation salaries, and import foreign and Jewish artistes in preference to our own and the public have no say in the matter.’ He called for Fascists to sit in silent protest whenever a foreign or Jewish act was on stage.51 Such complaints recur time after time in the BUF press. In ‘The Blight of the Jew’, a former actor claims he lived well until Jewish theatrical management and agencies estab- lished their ‘stranglehold’ and forced out British actors like him. He concludes with a memorable racial stereotype: ‘Now, in my opinion, large brown and soulful eyes gleam brightly on either side of Jewish noses and the whisper is “Television”. Observe and see if I am 52 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM wrong.’52 In another article a cabaret dancer recounts the immense hardship and humiliation she has experienced in her profession due to the fact that ‘foreigners’ have taken over the music hall.53 Such per- sonal testimonies were grist to the BUF’s satanic mills. A leading article ascribed the crisis in the theatre to ‘Exploitation run mad, exploitation carried to a point of destruction that only a Jew knows. The net result was that the theatre faltered and failed, with the life of it being slowly choked out.’54 Another claims that in 1935, while British variety artistes joined the dole queues, 1,600 permits for foreign acts were issued and the BBC signed up a growing number of foreign acts, a situation attributable to the fact that ‘nearly 90% of the booking agencies are controlled and owned by Jews’.55 The point was summed up in what was hardly the best example of the national genius for writing headlines containing outrageous puns: ‘British Artists Shall not Starve that Foreigners May Staff’.56 According to the BUF press the Jewish theatrical ‘racket’ meant not only a flood of foreign artistes and unemployed British actors, but a flood of vulgarity as well: The English theatre is dying, and the cinema is not responsible. It is the people who dictate that overworked, half-naked chorus girls, queasy- weasy sex philosophy and corpses shall constitute theatrical entertain- ment and art. But people get tired of blatant stage sex and bright young men and women, devoid of all pretence to humanity, to hurl cheap witti- cisms at each other from behind the footlights.57 Serious drama was not the only victim of the crisis. The great British pantomime had fallen on hard times because it was in the hands of ‘aliens’ culturally incapable of understanding it.58 The BBC was taken to task for preferring to give airtime to comedy served up by ‘four col- oured Americans, one Chinese, the usual surfeit of Semites’, rather than choose the ‘eminent’ (and presumably pro-Fascist) English humorist, Mr Gillie Potter.59 Even when ‘true art’ was staged, there was another sinister sign of the desecration of the British theatre: the foreign infiltration of Shakespeare. A. K. Chesterton wrote a scathing critique of Hollywood’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet and of the deci- sion to allow Russian director Komisarjevsky not only to stage Antony and Cleopatra, but to invite him to produce yet more plays in the very Mecca of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon. But what appears to have stuck in his throat above all else was the casting of the Austrian Jewess Elizabeth Bergner in the role of Rosalind in As You Like It, espe- cially since it was stipulated in her contract ‘that the name of Bergner should take precedence over the name of Shakespeare’.60 ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 53 The Eclipse of British Music For a British fascist obsessed with national decline, the state of music was no more encouraging than the state of the theatre. As with drama, the recurrent BUF premise was that healthy art is a spontaneous expression of the people, unmediated by artifice or idiosyncrasy, so that ‘music is an integral part of the social life, not of a few, but of the nation. It should be allowed to grow and flourish on the natural soil of its country’. The very idea that the natural home of music was Ger- many or Italy was ‘astonishing when one thinks of the Elizabethan age when England was almost, if not the, leading musical nation in the world’, and could still boast having in Elgar ‘the greatest living composer’.61 Here, too, history had smiled on Fascism by imparting some empirical objectivity to the myth of an era from which Britain had so palpably declined. To quote one of the BUF’s resident musical experts, Selwyn Watson, ‘in the Elizabethan Era – the Golden Age of Britain – we were the supreme and acknowledged masters of the art of music’. It is a matter of record that a cluster of outstandingly original composers, such as William Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons, Wilby, Weelkes, John Dowland, Robert Jones, and one giant, Purcell, created a dis- tinctly ‘English’ dialect of Renaissance music. However, Watson’s claim that ‘the men who defeated the Armada prided themselves on their singing of madrigals’ owes less to academic research than to wishful thinking about the intimate link between military might and musical genius in that ‘organic age’.62 British music and the theatre may have been equally moribund, but the cleavage which existed in the coverage of ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ music was more apparent than for ‘theatre’ and ‘variety hall’. As far as ‘high-brow’ music was concerned, a major cause for concern for the Fascist intelligentsia63 was the neglect of British composers such as Elgar, Bax, Delius and Vaughan Williams,64 who had been crowded out by foreign operas. In his plea to ‘Rescue British Music’ the BUF musical pundit, John Porte, goes so far as to dismiss the Grand Opera season at Covent Garden wholesale as a ‘spectacle of international rubbish’ staged by those who fail to realize that ‘Grand Opera is not part of the life of English musical people’: ‘We are a nation of singers and players, as well as masters of theatre work, but opera, that mud- dled mixture of bad plays, bad acting and good music and singing, is not English.’65 In another scornful attack on the Covent Garden season – ‘foreign operas performed by foreign singers and supported by a motley audience of aliens and Society folk who consider Grand Opera Seasons as variations of Goodwood and Ascot’ – Porte claims that in France, Germany and Italy audiences hear operas performed in their own language, and calls for British operas to be written which reflect ‘the spirit of our own people’.66 At least Captain Cuthbert Reavely, of 54 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM whom more anon, could not disapprove of the main fare in the 1935 Grand Opera season, which was Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Nevertheless, he took the opportunity to criticize the inclusion of a Rossini festival alongside the works of the master – Wagner – to deplore the ‘almost complete absence of any British singers’, and to express relief that audiences were spared ‘the threat of “Wozzeck”, another modern Jew- ish perpetration’.67 Berg’s expressionist opera epitomized the fascist equation of Jewish creativity with an ugly, unintelligible modernism, or what Nazis called ‘Cultural Bolshevism’ (a phrase whose very absence from the BUF press again underlines the fact that we are not dealing with the simple cloning of Nazi aesthetics). If the BUF’s high-brow critics were reduced to carping from the wings, the popular music scene offered a contemporary phenomenon which its more populist cultural purists could really get their critical fangs into: jazz. For Arthur Reade, who set out the principles involved in the defence of Western civilization, the ‘passion for jazz’ was a symptom of regression,68 while the music critic who called himself ‘Bluebird’ accused the Jews of literally being able to call the tune thanks to the cultural domination they had achieved in Britain, and of imposing ‘primitive “native jew” [sic] tunes with only that weird jumble of rhythm once associated with the half-civilized’.69 The most extreme indictment of jazz stems from the vitriolic pen of an anonymous columnist in Blackshirt who portrays jazz as a modern form of St Vitus’s dance, which originally arose as a hybrid cultural product of two races singing for a lost homeland, the Jews and Amer- ica’s negroid population. Broadway (like Hollywood, a Jewish financial empire) then turned it into a powerful weapon in the Jews’ cultural war against the Gentiles. He claims that not only does con- stant exposure to jazz’s subversive rhythms undermine racial differences, but the cynicism and resignation of its texts sap the young of courage and vitality, thereby inducing a collective ‘neurasthenia’ calculated to make the host nations more likely to succumb to Jewish influence.70 As with the theatre, the BUF believed that the corrupting influence of the un-British contents of the art form went hand in hand with the pernicious economic dimension of its performance imposed by Jewish ascendancy. There is some evidence here of the growing virulence of BUF anti-Semitism (much more apparent in the more overtly political and economic pages of the BUF press) as the decade wore on. In 1934 a piece entitled ‘Music in the Gutters’ claimed that only 4,500 out of 40,000 British musicians were in employment and blamed the arrival of the talkies for ruining the profession without any mention of Jews, not even their domination of Hollywood. By 1936 the diagnosis pre- sented in such articles had taken an ominous turn. According to one purporting to expose ‘The Menace from the East’, ‘our Press and lead- ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 55 ing publishing houses, all our cinemas, and even the radio, are either owned or at least controlled to a large measure by Jewish finance’, so that now ‘the musical profession is entirely in Jewish hands, and, whilst hundreds of English musicians are unemployed and in dire want, hundreds of German Jews have been allowed to come here and gain employment’.71 The direct causal link between the alleged Jewish domination of the entertainment industry and its high levels of ‘indig- enous’ unemployment was emphasized in numerous articles. One of the more effective, ‘Behind the Saxophone’, used personal testimony to bring home the hard times inflicted on a British bandsman by the rise of alien jazz.72 It was a situation summed up in the hardly very poetic ditty ‘Yiddles play their fiddles on the wireless, Gentiles play their brass-bands in the gutter’.73 In case the economic crisis for British musicians might be thought to affect only dance bands, ‘The Tragedy of the Concert Hall’ described in vivid detail the humiliations and penury suffered at the hands of agency sharks by a gifted soprano attempting to break into the world of concert performance in terms reminiscent of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?74 The BUF’s campaign against the BBC (a foretaste of some of the more hysterical episodes of government paranoia in the Thatcher years) shows how far it too was considered an extension of the same ‘racket’, as well as acting from within the establishment as the Trojan horse for the (Jewish) destruction of British culture on all fronts. A steady drip-feed of articles in Action and Blackshirt pilloried its exploitation of British artists; employing too many foreigners; putting on variety acts, drama and music which were out of touch with the people; broadcasting too much jazz; and of acts of such fla- grant cultural subversion as hosting a Bessarabian orchestra which played music in ‘truest kosher style’ (‘Was it a cat fight or an Abyssin- ian funeral? It was not music’),75 and desecrating Christianity by scheduling ‘Louis Levy and his Jewband’ for Christmas Day. In one singular fit of cultural paranoia a columnist raises the spectre of the BBC selling ‘British ether’ to the highest bidder.76 In this context an article by Ezra Pound on how ‘mercantilism rots the arts’ and how usuriocracy’ has been destroying English music from within ever since the well-remunerated ‘Handel’ (George Friederic Händel!) first crossed the Channel does not seem out of place in content, despite the idiosyncrasies of style.77 The Panacea The doom and gloom that pervaded BUF diagnoses of the pitiful state of Britain’s theatre and music, no matter how unrelenting, were far from pessimistic. They were an intrinsic part of the rugged palin- genetic logic behind Fascist mythic thinking in every sphere of 56 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM political analysis, and hence dialectically linked to the vision of rebirth in a revolutionary new order. According to the logic of cyclic rather than linear time, the darker the night, the closer the dawn; the worse the current plight, the more imminent the rebirth. Hence the heady ‘cultural optimism’ displayed after grim evocations of the present state of the arts in such assertions as ‘Nothing short of a national revival, an awakening of the national consciousness, can rescue the national art from slow expiration’;78 ‘Release our natural genius in all directions and music in this country would flourish as it did in the Elizabethan era’;79 ‘We are, as it happens, on the verge of a tremen- dous musical renaissance’.80 The organic laws of culture mean that once the people were stirred politically from their slumber by the gathering momentum of Mos- ley’s movement the drama too would be awakened.81 The same law (even if incomprehensible to the minds of art experts and intellectuals still in the thrall of decadent liberalism or modernism) will banish dis- cord from popular music and allow melody to return home from exile. It is only when ‘the rapidly rising British Union ... arouse[s] once again full-blooded feelings in the minds and bodies of full- blooded British men and women ... we may hope to hear really great tunes again’.82 Yet even the most manic Fascist ideologue recognized that the process of cultural rebirth could not be left simply to a process of osmosis: as in other spheres it had to be induced. National life could only start becoming ‘organic’ once more if the new government created an all-pervasive structure capable of reintegrating the key areas of activity that had become so fragmented and corrupt under ‘Financial Democracy’. In practice, this meant some radical institu- tional and constitutional innovations. The first concerned the function of the Second Chamber with which Mosley proposed to replace the ‘unworkable anachronisms’ of the House of Lords. There is documentary evidence here to suggest that the influence which Spengler exerted on Mosley’s thinking after 1933 led him to place culture much closer to the centre of his scheme for the new national order than it had been when his diagnosis was couched in mainly economic terms. In the first (1932) edition of The Greater Brit- ain Mosley envisages the new Chamber as a technocratic body, the ‘National Corporation, which would function as an effective Parlia- ment of Industry’.83 The second edition of 1934 talks of the House of Lords being replaced by a Chamber ‘which represents in a special sense every major interest of the modern State’, though the ensuing list makes no reference to cultural matters beyond ‘religious thought’ and ‘education’.84 But in 1936 Mosley’s Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered specifies that the Second Chamber will represent the industry, culture, and ability of the nation, including outstanding per- sonalities from the fields of education, religion, the services, science, ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 57 art and every aspect of the people’s spiritual life. ‘From this pool of culture and ability Government will derive a real assistance.’85 E. D. Randall, composer of the words to the BUF anthem ‘Britain Awake’, reflected the shift in Mosley’s thinking when, as early as 1934, he wrote ‘In the Second Chamber of the Fascist Parliament will sit elected representatives of the national culture – men distinguished in their service of the arts and sciences, philosophy and religion, so that for the first time in our history men of creative genius will receive their rightful share of public honour, hitherto reserved for politicians and soldiers – ministers of deceit on the one hand, and on the other, of destruction’.86 The main organizational framework for the regeneration of British culture, however, was to have been provided by the Corporate State. Just how the arts would have been regimented in the new Britain is a matter of speculation. By 1937, when Raven-Thomson, the BUF’s main theoretician of British corporatism, published The Coming Corporate State, there were two full-scale contemporary experiments in the fas- cist incorporation of culture on which he could draw: the cultural sections of Italy’s ‘Corporativist State’ whose structural and legislative apparatus was still evolving on paper, however minimal its effective- ness as an organ of Fascistization, and the far more rigorously hierarchical and ruthlessly ‘coordinated’ Reichskulturkammer which Goebbels ran as his personal empire. Yet in the mere four pages dedi- cated to the Gleichschaltung and revitalization of British culture in Raven-Thomson’s blueprint for the new Corporatist Britain, little spe- cific on culture emerges other than the crudely utilitarian equation of art with a parlour-game such as backgammon (one which would have raised the hackles of J. S. Mill). According to the section ‘the problem of leisure’, every corporation would have been responsible for organ- izing the leisure facilities in its productive sector, which meant encouraging ‘sport and athleticism’ as well as ‘less strenuous forms of recreation of equal value’ such as ‘music, dramatics, literature, debate and indoor games of skill’. This was followed by an even more laconic chapter entitled ‘The Patronage of the Arts’ which tells us ‘a special corporation’ for the artist would ensure ‘him’ (of course) ‘self- governing powers’ and ‘training’ while securing ‘his’ own honoured place in national life.87 However, when Anne Cutmore’s blueprint for the ‘reawakening of British drama’88 promises that there will be a Cor- poration just for the theatre we can assume that detailed planning of the new structure was still in its early stages. The same is true of the third major organizational innovation on which Britain’s cultural rebirth was to have depended: ‘Afterwork’, a nation-wide capillary movement for filling the nation’s free-time with healthy productive purpose which was explicitly modelled on the Fas- cist ‘Dopolavoro’ and the Nazi ‘Kraft durch Freude’ organizations. Its 58 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM highly invasive impact on the private lives of the ‘New Britons’ is implicit in Raven-Thomson’s pronouncement that within the Corpo- rate State ‘leisure must be directed into developing the cultural standards of the masses by recreational activity’, and that ‘the mass, in their recreational hours, will be encouraged, by reduced prices and special facilities, to visit concerts and opera, theatres and exhibitions of pictures and sculpture’.89 Anne Cutmore’s scheme for drama’s rebirth confirms that the BUF saw ‘Afterwork’ as a vital means both of healing Britain of its cultural malaise and of solving the problem posed by the increasing amount of leisure that she assumed would be generated by the Fascist mastery of science, technology and planning and the subsequent reduction in working hours. While the Second Chamber, the Cultural Corporation(s), and After- work were being put in place, a raft of new legislation and measures could have been expected from a Mosley government aimed at regen- erating the theatre and music. For one thing the new state would ensure that no artist was forced to live in poverty. Not only would the arts be heavily subsidized, but the existing agency system would be swept away and replaced by a national organization run by paid pro- fessionals.90 On paper this meant that at a stroke not only would exploitation and the profit motive be taken out of the arts, but that it would be possible finally to regulate centrally the number of foreign- ers working in Britain while guaranteeing jobs for (registered) British artistes. Moreover, the aesthetic content of theatre programmes, classi- cal concerts, and light entertainment (not forgetting the BBC, which would finally become a ‘British’ Broadcasting Corporation) would be strictly controlled – through mechanisms of censorship never spelt out – so as to eliminate any art which smacked of the cynical, the prurient, the vacuous, the sensationalist, or the cosmopolitan. In the case of the theatre, for example, this system would have ensured a steady supply of ‘edifying plays and suitable variety acts to be performed in a national network of Municipal Theatres subsidized by a special tax so that tickets were affordable’.91 Afterwork would, presumably, have seen to it that their seats were always full.92 But, such measures were within the BUF mind-set only the prag- matic, ‘material’ aspect of a deeper spiritual process which lay at the heart of the Fascist ‘reawakening’: the healing of the rift between the artist and ‘his’ people, the rerooting of the artist’s inspiration in the common experience and aspirations of ‘his’ nation from which it had been torn, the reharnessing of artistic talent to the collective des- tiny of Britain. It is in this sense that Raven-Thomson announces that ‘The Corporate State will maintain a much closer contact between art- ist and people’.93 The organic, idealist vision of culture which is second nature to fascists made it self-evident to BUF cultural com- mentators that any constitutional or institutional innovations it ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 59 introduced would fail miserably if it did not succeed in spreading a sense of higher communal purpose. This they saw as vital to the syn- ergy between the nation’s material and cultural power that they believed had existed in its Golden Age some three centuries earlier. For Fascists it was axiomatic that the real revolution commenced ‘in the hearts and not on the barricades’.94 ‘It will be in rediscovering the Age of faith of Christendom and the vital energy of Tudor England that we may realize in part the great future of our nation’.95 The Ambiguities of Britain’s Cultural Rebirth For those imbued with the ‘decadent’ mentality of scepticism it is pat- ently obvious that the BUF’s seven years of intense ideological activity had been insufficient to resolve many crucial issues raised by the per- ceived need to reverse the decline of Britain’s theatre and music. Not only were the mechanisms of the control and organization of the arts still at a rudimentary stage of forward planning and described in neb- ulously mythic language, but a close study of the BUF press reveals that major differences in interpreting the Fascist vision of Western civ- ilization persisted at the highest level on such issues as the role of Christianity or religion in underpinning the West’s past and future ‘greatness’, the part played in its decline by Jews, and the centrality of culture rather than technocracy to its regeneration. A comparison of the ‘philosophy of history’ of Mosley with that of major ideologues such as Raven-Thomson, A. K. Chesterton, Arthur Reade or E. D. Ran- dall suggests latent conflicts and potential personality clashes on Britain’s reborn culture at least as profound as the ones which existed between Hitler, Goebbels, Darré, and Rosenberg. For instance, Raven- Thomson’s Philistine view of art as a glorified leisure activity was incompatible with Chesterton’s more genuinely ‘organic’ (and far more virulently anti-Semitic) view which owed much to fin-de-siècle aestheticism both in the supreme value it put on art as a gratuitous expression of human spirituality, and in its fascination with putrefaction. Also latent in BUF publicism on the arts was an impenetrable vagueness about precisely what the aesthetic forms and contents of Britain’s reborn arts would be. Blackshirt and Action are frustratingly devoid of the detailed theatre criticism or surveys of contemporary drama which might have allowed inferences to be drawn about the sort of British and continental plays from the past which would have become the basis of an expurgated ‘British’ repertoire, and what kind of new ones would have been encouraged – presumably with the competition prizes and generous grants of the sort instituted in the new Italy and Germany. It is not even clear if all forms of experimen- talism or theatrical modernism would have been banned, since Leigh 60 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Vaughan-Henry’s article strikes a stridently Futurist note when he insists that: We cannot carry over the effects of a new spirit and a new mental trend in the garbage of outworn thought or expression. We live in an age of aviation, telegraphy, radio, and electricity. Only in equivalent types of thought and expression can we voice the spirit of our time.96 In similar vein, another commentator declares that ‘The world is mov- ing forward to a new and strange age, and Fascism must be ahead of, not behind, the times. There is no place for the reactionary’.97 Trans- lated into terms of theatre management such pronouncements imply that at least some elements within the BUF might actually have encouraged the emergence of a British Pirandello or Marinetti (though tributes to Vorticism or a BUF attempt to emulate Wyndham Lewis’s Blast are conspicuous by their absence). In music, too, the case for a Fascist modernism had its proponents. Indeed, it was the main music critic of the BUF, Selwyn Watson, who must have shocked many a reader with his article ‘In defence of Mod- ern Music: its causes and its future’. It not only stressed that music is constantly evolving, so that over time what seems jarring comes to be heard as melodious, but praised Debussy, Stravinsky and Schönberg as ‘revolutionaries of immense talent’. The unfamiliar harmonies and atonal qualities of modern classical music, like the syncopated rhythms and strident discords of jazz, reflected a world, which with the outbreak of the First World War had simply ‘gone mad’. Yet he insisted that even British composers whose sound to many was ‘unwelcome’, such as William Walton and Benjamin Britten, had ‘defi- nite points of contact with the past’, and that in their day Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Wagner were trail-blazers and mould- breakers.98 The decadence or health of musical modernism was not the only nettle a BUF regime would have had to have grasped. There was also the dispute between those advocates of radical cultural cleansing who would have banned opera sung in a foreign language (and even opera altogether as ‘un-British’), and those who, true to a sense of belonging to a Western and not just British civilization, vigorously defended per- formances of opera in the original as long as the British public saw the best that foreign musicians could offer.99 It would also have had to decide whether to give in to calls for a total ban on foreign artists working in Britain or to introduce some sort of quota or exchange sys- tem.100 If extreme xenophobes and anti-modernists had won the Kulturkampf over the interpretation of the slogan ‘Britain First!’ when applied to theatres and music halls, it would have led to a cultural revolution which smacked more of Chairman Mao than of Queen Elizabeth I. ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 61 There is slightly more to go on in the case of music than of the theatre when trying to hazard a guess as to what the new regime might have promoted in practice. In popular music the marching anthems of the BUF are on several occasions welcomed as signs of the rebirth of British tunefulness after the cacophonies of jazz, despite the fact that the tune of E. D. Randall’s ‘Britain Awake!’101 was cribbed from the Nazi Horst Wessel Lied. Yet Fascists in whom Elgar’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ induced shivers of ecstasy were on a collision course with the many advocates of British swing. One self-styled ‘Christian’ bandsman even wrote to Action claiming that British dance music was actually pioneered by ‘white men’, but that ‘the Jews, true to their character, soon copied the original brains’.102 This mythic nar- rative left the door wide open to a ‘de-Judaised’ jazz scene persisting under Mosley, and adverts offering the services of BUF and Aryan dance bands suggest that, as in Germany, ‘decadent’ rhythms would have continued to be heard in the new Britain, as long as they were played by Gentile hands.103 As for classical music, the presence of a fundamentalist xenophobic lobby is suggested by the inordinate praise heaped on Iernin, a Cor- nish opera of ‘phenomenal brilliance’104 composed by George Lloyd [sic], ‘a young composer of genius’, and on Sir Edward German’s no less obscure Merrie England, which, we are told, pointed the way towards ‘a real national opera in a future national England’.105 John Porte’s scheme for ‘rescuing British music’ within the Fascist state also involved an unmistakable völkisch element in his emphasis on revital- izing ‘our great heritage of folk singing and dancing, and our amateur choral societies, so returning Britain to its ‘natural State’.106 A more reliable glimpse of the musical shape of things to come in a Fascist Britain is probably afforded by the concert held on 18 December 1935 at the Aeolian Hall in London by the BUF. The programme consisted of orchestral pieces by Elgar, Schubert and Wagner performed by the All British Orchestra in a display of ‘uncompromising, joyful virility’. These were supplemented by Carmen’s ‘Toreador Song’ and ‘In the Gloaming’ sung by Captain Cuthbert Reavely (described as ‘in the forefront of living baritones’), who also helped organize the concert and was a contributor of several articles on music to the Fascist press. In the sphere of classical music at least, the ascendancy of safe, bour- geois, ‘middle of the road’ music over the avant-garde seems to be a law-bound feature of all modern revolutions whatever their political complexion,107 and the same would have undoubtedly been true of the ‘reawakened’ British theatre as well under Mosley. Yet in British Fascism, following another apparent ‘law’ of modern revolutionary movements, a mystifying rhetoric routinely papered over any ambivalences concerning aesthetic modernism and the pro- found contradictions between the BUF’s utopian promises and the 62 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM banality of what probably lay in store for audiences. A classic example of this rhetoric is provided by the short speech that Mosley made after the hardly earth-shatteringly innovative Aeolian Hall concert. In it he announced that, since great ages of creative activity foreshadow rather then reflect the periods of action, from his movement there would emerge an art, pure, original and higher than anything so far conceived: ‘Fascism will bring to the new age the inspiration that is lacking today, for any creed which affects the human spirit so pro- foundly, and which fuses all human things in a white heat, can never fail to bring an art and a culture which shall be the glory of mankind’.108 Yet Mosley’s bombast euphemized something much more sinister than a Philistine misunderstanding of the anthropology of culture, the nature of artistic creativity, and the impossibility of inducing cultural rebirths without creating aesthetic abortions. Latent in so much of the BUF’s coverage of theatre and music, and perhaps made more insidi- ous by the absence of explicitly eugenic or biological rationale, is the hidden agenda of ethnic cleansing in the name of cultural regenera- tion. The BUF may have started out as a movement trying to emulate Fascist Italy, but it is clear from its cultural criticism that, for most of its active supporters, its heart lay in Berlin rather than in Rome. In July 1935 we are told that Jews ‘only have themselves to blame’ for the decision to eliminate their culture from German life, given the fact that ‘the infusion of alien thought and repulsive forms of “art” into the culture of a nation is infinitely more harmful’ than economic domina- tion.109 The following year, on the occasion of the opening of the Haus der deutschen Kunst and the Decadent Art Exhibition in Munich, we are informed that Hitler is ‘superbly suited to put an end to the infan- tile meanderings of the “Modern Art” of international Jewry’.110 But as early as July 1933 the Blackshirt published what is, in the wake of the Holocaust, a chilling article in its series ‘Letters of Lucifer’ entitled joyfully ‘Cleansing England!’ It vilified the hostility of ‘decadent’ ‘Bloomsbury’ intellectuals to the draconian literary censorship recently introduced by the Third Reich and to the book-burnings that accompanied it: While the Nazis are cleaning out the sewers of the Kurfürstendamm and burning the productions of German intellectual decadence, the ‘enlight- ened’ government of Parliamentary England allows handbooks on opium-smoking to circulate among the young generation of our country. It is high time that Fascism applied the stomach-pump of common sense to the unclean stomach of English intellectualism.111 Thus the call in 1936 for a ‘cleansing flame’ to purge Britain of vice as effectively as Hitler has done in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich’,112 or the warning two years later that ‘it will need the iron grip of National ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 63 Socialism to loosen the Semitic stranglehold on the arts’,113 suggest that the BUF’s ‘economic’ and ‘cultural’ variant of anti-Semitism might well have led to a use of state terror to ‘remove’ Jews from civil society indistinguishable in practice from that imposed by a more overtly biological, eugenic variety. Even in this crucial area of BUF ideology ambiguities persisted, however. The article lamenting the ‘death of tunefulness’ and the readiness of the British to ‘dance with no heart to any little yiddish tune that any little yiddish dance band cares to give them’, makes the very un-Nazi admission that ‘many of the great tunes which we all sang in 1914–18 were composed by Jews’, explaining that ‘the jew then was the servant and not the master’.114 Arthur Reade argued that Jews should lose all citizenship rights and be physically removed from the West if its civilization was to be saved. But he went on to debate where they should be moved to, suggesting that Palestine was too small, and that the most likely candidates were Uganda, Biro- Bidjan (in a far Eastern province of the former USSR near the Chinese border), and Madagascar (by the late 1930s a favourite imagined loca- tion for a Jewish homeland among non-exterminatory anti-Semites). The article closes with another sentiment unthinkable in a Nazi con- text that, once secure in their own territory, the Jews’ drive towards world domination may well be channelled into ‘developing an all- round national life which would constitute their own special contribu- tion to the human race’.115 Nevertheless, even if the BUF’s anti-Semitism stopped short of being genocidal, there is ample evidence in its press that, despite the steady flow of information about what was happening to the ‘enemies of the Third Reich’, in the main its supporters’ admiration for the esca- lating Nazi programme of ethnic cleansing was sustained right up to the outbreak of the war. For example, one article published in the summer of 1939 expressed unqualified enthusiasm for the cultural and spiritual rebirth which would ensue from a ‘de-Judaised’ Europe.116 It is thus difficult to see how when push came to shove the BUF would have avoided collaborating in the Final Solution just as whole-heartedly as Pétain’s Vichy or Szálasi’s Hungary in its pursuit of a ritually purified and regenerated culture, no matter how ‘unbio- logical’ its racial theories. With hindsight, then, Blackshirt’s reference to England as ‘a fortress built against infection’ manages to contami- nate Shakespeare’s turn of phrase with anachronistic eugenic connotations of industrialized mass-murder using chemical pesti- cides. As Goethe (another of Mosley’s cultural heroes) once put it, ‘real events cast their shadow before them’. 64 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM Conclusion: The Nemesis of One Faustian Man Denied political space by Britain’s stable liberal democracy and sated nationalism, deprived of a structural crisis profound enough to spark off an epidemic of palingenetic political myth, British Fascism could never gain critical mass as a charismatic revolutionary movement.117 The Corporate Britain was thus destined to remain a figment of uto- pian fantasy. It must therefore remain a matter of counterfactual speculation what would have become of the theatre and music within a Mosleyian new order. Were it to have retained political autonomy I suspect that a typically British compromise (no doubt dignified by the euphemism ‘synthesis’) would have resulted: a botched blend of Ital- ian Fascist ‘hegemonic pluralism’ in which the state associated itself with any outstanding acts of creativity (even by non-Fascists) without imposing an official aesthetic or indulging in racial persecution,118 and Nazi-style ‘totalitarianism’, complete with attempted purges of ‘for- eign’ modernism and Jewish ‘cultural bolshevism’ from British society and impressive state-sponsored revivals of Elizabethan drama and music (not to mention madrigals and morris-dancing). On the other hand, there is every indication that the new Britain, had it been incor- porated into the Nazis’ New European Order, could have supplied enough home-grown collaborators who sympathized with Nazi aes- thetics and art policies to ensure the sort of cultural convergence with the Third Reich that was witnessed in occupied France. It is far from inconceivable that stage-managed book-burnings outside the British Museum and the spectacle of the front rows of London theatres and concert halls filled with Nazi uniforms might one day have become part of the British way of life within the ‘European New Order’. As for Mosley himself, it is perhaps a tribute to the extraordinary tenacity of palingenetic myth (not to mention the human capacity for denial and self-delusion) that in the last phase of his life he did not recognize how badly he had misjudged the revolutionary potential of Britain’s political situation in the 1930s. Nor did he contemplate with relief the systematized mass murder in which he would have been forced to collude had circumstances turned him into an English Quis- ling. Instead, he withdrew into a highly aestheticized ‘meta-political’ world of his own extrapolated from his pre-war Spenglerian vision. His essay ‘Wagner and Shaw: A Synthesis’ suggests that towards the end of his life he cast himself (at least subliminally) in the leading role of a cosmic opera in which his consummate failure in reality was simultaneously dramatized and lyricized, transfigured poetically into a heroic self-sacrifice which opens up for others the possibility of eventual triumph. In it he suggests that Wagner chose to follow the portrayal of Siegfried’s triumph in the eponymous epic with the depiction of his failure in Götterdämmerung in order to convey ‘THIS FORTRESS BUILT AGAINST INFECTION’ 65 the message (one that he believes was too subtle for Shaw to have grasped) that beyond all human striving, whether successful or not, a higher cyclic law of nature is at work. The opera’s theme is ‘the pres- age of rebirth in the recurring motif of destiny proving, affirming, and heralding another great upsurge in the life force’. In this cosmic, aestheticized vision of the historical process Mosley has indefinitely postponed the paradise of a new Britain until another turning point in history occurs at some unspecified point long after his death. He now clearly identifies with those men he feels are the true subject of Wagner’s opera, ones ‘who will be ready to renounce the lesser order to achieve the greater, who will yield joy to serve des- tiny because some are called to strive greatly that higher forms may come’. To be worthy of this higher calling such a man: must have within him ‘die ewigen Melodien’ (the eternal melodies) and be ‘at one with all high things’. Otherwise the synthesis of life and love would not be there. He would not be the final hero, the symbol of that generation of higher men which is ready to give all that all may be won.119 In 1933 Mosley had proclaimed his bid to create a new breed of ‘Faus- tian Man’ in the ‘sceptred isle’, seemingly oblivious of the cycle of murder, destruction, and self-deception into which the legendary Faust was drawn by his drive to conquer the realm of total experience. But, as in Goethe’s version, he had now found a way of narrating his own redemption at the last minute, even if he had to play the part of the ‘eternal feminine’ himself: the ultimate patriarchal fantasy. The Developing British Fascist Interpretation of Race, Culture and Evolution Richard Thurlow The British Union of Fascists (BUF) synthesized strands of radical right, national socialist and racial populist thought in Britain into a unified idea whose dynamism would sweep away the ‘united mut- tons’ of the ‘old gangs’ and create a ‘new order’.1 This chapter will explore the ideological divide in British fascism which made Mosley’s project of a united British fascist movement a forlorn utopian dream. At root it was the different conceptions of race, culture and evolution which reinforced the personal divisions between competing ‘leaders’ and movements.2 It will be argued that there were two viewpoints, which evolved in different directions between the inter-war and post- 1945 periods, the Mosleyite and racial nationalist traditions. Although the BUF was more important than its rivals in the 1930s, Mosley was turned into a pariah figure by the war, and racial nationalism became far more significant after 1945, with the National Front (NF 1967–) and British National Party (BNP 1983–) having important backward link- ages to the extremist inter-war movements like the Britons Society and the Imperial Fascist League (IFL).3 In essence Mosleyites argued that culture created national and racial difference, while racial nationalists believed that race determined culture. Mosleyites believed in a neo- Lamarckian evolutionary process, while racial nationalists were genetic determinists influenced by Social Darwinism. The differences between the Mosleyite and racial nationalist inter- pretations of race, culture and evolution invites a more thorough examination than those who would simply dismiss both as ‘racist’. In general, it may be said that the Mosley tradition was closer to the Ital- ian idealist fascist view of race, while the materialist British racial nationalism bore similarities to Nazism. Italian Fascist views on race derived from the theory of ethnocentrism of the Austrian-Jewish soci- ologist Ludwig Gumplowicz, and the concept of the nation as a race cradle suggested by the English anthropologist, Sir Arthur Keith.4 The argument was that race formation was a dynamic historical and polit- ical process within the confines of the nation-state and that the DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 67 defining characteristics of a people were acquired by the interaction of heredity, environment, culture and evolution over historical time. The Nazi conception of race, justified in both mythic and scientific terms, was a static, taxonomic, materialist view which was entirely depend- ent on heritable biological traits. Each of the main races had its own mental and physical attributes which were not subject to change except by racial mixture. Miscegenation would lead to the degenera- tion of the qualities of the supposed ‘higher’ race.5 For Mosley culture developed as the spiritual and artistic achievement of the evolution of a people, influenced by history, environment, nationality and genetic endowment. Racial nationalists saw culture as determined by alleged innate characteristics of the ‘nation’ which led to inevitable decay and decline if influenced by outside forces imported by ‘inferior’ races. For Italian Fascists and the BUF, provided there was not too wide a variation from the original ‘stock’, race-mixing within the nation state was not discouraged because it broadened the gene pool for future development. To Nazis and the IFL this view was absurd. For the BUF, most British citizens could not be racially categorized as superior or inferior to one another. For the IFL, the Nazi conception meant the ascribed superior-inferior dichotomy was fundamental with all non ‘Nordic/Aryan’ groups being viewed with disdain. Other ethnic cate- gories ranged from the ‘submen’ of the Slav, black and aboriginal races, to the ‘anti-nature’ of the Jew, who was not even categorized as a human being.6 Although there was a generalized xenophobic nationalism built into much BUF propaganda, there was little attempt to turn it into an explicit racist philosophy. The official line was that the existence of a multi-racial empire made that impractical. However, Mosley talked about ‘African savages’, as well as stereotyping Jews during his anti- Semitic campaign, but his nationalism, unlike Joyce and BUF East End speakers, avoided biological images for the most part. Mosley believed that ‘the great third factor of education is added to heredity and environment in human affairs, and the consequent evolution of a culture increases rather than diminishes difference’.7 Thus, for Mosley, culture remained more important than race as the basic unit of group categorization. Genetic arguments were used on occasion but they were always subsidiary to culture. In 1936 he warned of the possibility of a ‘brother’s war’ in Europe, a metaphor based on his conception of the cultural and spiritual unity of Europe, when the real enemy was the ‘Oriental barbarians’ of another culture, Soviet Russia. After 1945 he developed this idea by using a racial metaphor to describe his basic cultural conception: ‘The idea of kin- ship is the true idea, the reaching out of our hands to those who are kindred of the same kind ... As a family of the same stock and kind Europe should always have been united in this ideal.’8 By this he 68 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM meant that all Europeans possessed the spiritual attributes of an evo- lutionary vision and the ceaseless striving of Faustian man. This, however, was not to be viewed as a characteristic that was superior to those of another culture, merely a difference which was innate and not subject to transmission. In contrast, the racial nationalist tradition developed a pseudo- scientific theory of a much lower order of thought than Mosley’s. This was similar to Nazism, although it developed from a Nordic ‘Anglo- Saxon’ intellectual tradition. Both the minuscule Britons Society, which published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Britain after 1920, and the IFL made minimal political impact.9 The Britons, with a small middle-class membership, held meetings on racial and nationalist themes and published a monthly newspaper-journal in the 1920s, although its print run was only 150.10 Although its typical content was the political pornography of a scurrilous gutter anti-Semitism, Profes- sor G. P. Mudge of London University outlined the basic philosophy of racial nationalism in a series of articles in The Hidden Hand, entitled ‘Pride of Race’. The Britons described him as ‘one of the first scientists to lecture on the importance of the Nordic and Mediterranean races in Britain and the danger of race mixture with Jews and Negroids’.11 Mudge argued that: The greater contest in which we are all engaged is a conflict between races or nations. We must accept it as an axiom that this conflict is inevi- table. The circumstances of nature and the impelling motives of human kind are such, that struggle and battle are as certain as the setting and rising of the sun, and are indeed part and parcel of the same universal laws.12 He stated: ‘The English nation is the most homogenous of the nations of Europe’ and from an anthropological point of view it was ‘peopled by Nordic and Mediterranean types’. Mediterranean peoples were purportedly vivacious, versatile, impulsive and sociable, but they lacked the virtues of discipline, truthfulness, personal loyalty and leadership. In contrast to the ‘Mediterranean’, the ‘Nordic’ allegedly possessed the personality features which the former lacked. Nordics supposedly combined beauty, brains and nobility, being typically blond, blue- eyed, tall and strong with a strong character reference as being sport- ing, sociable, loyal with steadfast and enduring qualities. Mudge then concluded from his analysis of the two ‘great races’ that history shows us, ‘that the Nordic race has formed the administrative and organising caste and supplied the national leaders in classic, medieval and mod- ern times, while the Mediterranean has constituted a great part, perhaps in the same nation as the bulk of the people’.13 Mudge also emphasized that ‘a nation should be populated by a people as similar in blood and race as it possibly can be’. If racially DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 69 divergent strains were allowed to enter the country then ‘this is to invite national disaster in the struggle for existence, particularly if they were Jews, Chinese, Mongols, Indians or Negroes’. Mudge con- sidered the majority of Englishmen were Nordics, although, given his favourable view of the English blend, he then partially contradicted himself by arguing that no Nordic should marry a Mediterranean as this would dilute the quality of the race.14 Today Mudge’s views read like a classic case study of nineteenth- century racism. The mixture of social Darwinism, the categorization of national and racial types, the reading of personality from physical attributes, primitive eugenics, and the attribution of an aesthetic ideal of beauty and Victorian value judgements to specific ‘races’ were symptomatic of this. So too was the ascribed superiority of Nordic man and Anglo-Saxon nations. (Particularly significant, despite the Nordic’s supposed love of liberty, was that his more authoritarian qualities were emphasized. There appeared also to be a shift from the traditional assumption of Anglo-Saxon authority over colonial peoples to a more elitist anti-democratic control by ‘Nordics’ over ‘Mediterraneans’ in British society.) This transition from nineteenth- century ‘Anglo-Saxonism’ was to be completed by Arnold Leese.15 Leese, a member of the Britons, became Director-General of the IFL in 1930.16 Its active membership of a few dozen individuals were the main British fascist alternative to what Leese called ‘kosher fascism’ and the ‘British Jewnion of Fascists’ in the 1930s.17 He argued that Mosley was a Jewish plant to discredit fascism in Britain, and wrongly accused his first wife of Jewish ancestry (Cimmie Mosley’s grand- father, Levi Leiter, was an American millionaire with Dutch Calvinist roots). Although he changed his tune following internment, in 1940 he criticized Hitler for attacking ‘Aryan’ Norway.18 He was also scathing about Mosley’s failure to understand the primacy of race and his sup- posed failure to understand the ‘threat’ the Jews posed to British society; for Leese, Spengler was the enemy of fascism and national socialism. In the Fascist he demonstrated his obsession with anti-Semitism but his garrulous style exhibited a perceived racial philosophy. For Leese, ‘Race as a guide for statesman to future political events is a neglected study; breeds of men have characteristics just like breeds of dogs and there is no equality either in men or dogs’.19 He possessed a Man- ichean view of society in which the future of civilization depended on the outcome of the struggle between the Nordic and the Jew. For Leese ‘the Nordic may claim with justification that his race has ever been the greatest force for civilisation in the history of man’s life on the globe’. The Nordic was responsible, according to Leese, for ‘the great cultures of the ancient world’.20 While for Leese there were no pure races, ‘race mixing’ could be of two kinds. Where the parents were of radically 70 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM different types this led to the degeneration of the qualities of the ‘higher’ race, but if the racial outcross was between individuals whose characteristics were supposedly complementary, then it was bene- ficial. Like Mudge, Leese thought ‘that there were far too many Arabs, Negroes, Somalis and Chinamen contaminating the white blood of our race with the assistance of the lowest of the low of white women’.21 This, however, was secondary to the real problem that ‘the acceptance of the Jew as a citizen of this country’ meant that the ‘poi- soning of our Anglo Saxon blood by this yellow negroid horde is proceeding apace’.22 For Leese the Nazi defeat in 1945 meant the destruction of the Nordic race and Anglo-Saxon civilization: ‘Europe is dead and gone never to rise again ... as the Nordic race merges with the scrub population’.23 Leese’s views on racial nationalism derived mainly from an ‘Anglo- Saxon’ tradition. He mentioned Hans Guenther, The Racial Elements of European History, L. A. Waddell, The Makers of Civilisation in Race and History, Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race and three books by Lothrop Stoddard, The Revolt against Civilisation, The Rising Tide of Colour against White World Supremacy and Racial Realities in Europe. From Waddell, the Professor of Tibetan at the University of London, he took the myth of the ‘Aryan’ origin of civilization and the bearer of culture throughout history. This view of the Nordic as the creator of culture owed much to Hans Guenther. For Leese, Guenther shows that middle-class moralizing and aesthetic value judgements could be incorporated into scientific endeavour. Guenther’s pseudo-scientific rationale for race thinking and Nordic supremacy deeply influenced Leese as well as the Nazis. Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard applied Social Darwinism to ‘Nordic’ man and to Leese they demon- strated the importance of heredity over environment in history. They attacked Lamarckism and argued that mankind had made no ‘racial progress’ in either physical or brain capacity. For Leese the aim would be to preserve the innate qualities of the Anglo-Saxon ‘Nordic’ stock and to save them from degeneration rather than strive towards Mos- ley’s higher form.24 Since 1945 race has been a key issue in the attempt to resuscitate neo-fascist movements in Britain. Although the National Socialist Movement (1962–8) and the British Movement (1968–) were blatant mimetic Nazi organizations, other racial populist and neo-fascist groups distanced themselves from fascism. The League of Empire Loyalists (1953–67), the British National Party (1962–7) and Mosley’s Union Movement (1948–67) were attacked as ‘fascist’ by their enemies but did not see themselves as such. They and their most important successor organizations, the NF (1967–) and John Tyndall’s BNP (1983–) were racial populist organizations which exploited public con- cern about ‘black’ immigration. Although the anti-Semitic obsessions DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 71 of some leading members of the NF and BNP, and the racist influences on a new generation of British ‘nationalists’ have been pronounced, it would be more correct to see radical Right racial populist movements since 1945 as hybrid movements which incorporated neo-fascist and racist anti-immigrant themes. Other European countries have experi- enced similar developments.25 Although a ‘Jewish conspiracy’ has often been invoked to explain the alleged plot to destroy the ‘Anglo- Saxon’ race through immigration, in both the NF and BNP, anti-black racism rather than anti-Semitism has been the main propaganda for recruitment purposes. Perhaps the most sophisticated mixture of prejudice and ‘racial sci- ence’ was the racist propaganda of the NF. This incorporated the idea supposedly derived from socio-biology, that it was a natural instinct to be racially prejudiced, with the traditional inferior-superior dichot- omy of racism. In a range of publications, but particularly in John Tyndall’s Spearhead, the ideology of a British racial nationalism was developed. While the most scurrilous projection of racial fantasies onto black immigrants was left to Martin Webster and National Front News, Tyndall, and his editor, Richard Verrall, from 1976 to 1980 developed a range of arguments which incorporated influences from the British racial nationalist tradition, American anti-Semitic and anti- black literature, and the European neo-fascist New Right, although the latter mainly influenced a younger generation of NF activists. Also both Tyndall and Webster were ex-members of Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement. If Richard Verrall was the link to con- temporary academic racial nationalism, then John Tyndall was the main remodeller of old traditions. He developed a full blown theory of Anglo-Saxonism out of xenophobic British nationalism. This ful- filled the same functional role as the Nordic in the Mudge–Leese tradition, with Anglo-Saxons throughout the world being accredited with much the same values and character as the older tradition. How- ever, for Tyndall, the weakness of the ruling class and the decay of racial values in the population at large meant also the decline of Britain.26 For Tyndall, British nationalism needed ‘unity as a people ... link- ing all in a dynamic upsurge of creative vigour in every field of work and leisure’.27 If this unity can be achieved then the ‘resurgent spirit of Nationality and Race, with its promethian ideals of Genius, Beauty, Nobility, Destiny and Heroism’ may transform the future of the nation. This ‘resurgent spirit’ was ‘Anglo-Saxonism’. Tyndall believed that the Anglo-Saxons were one of the two ‘truly great and leading races in the world – the other being the Germans’. In Tyndall’s view, Anglo-Saxondom was defined as the people of British stock in the world. Together they comprised 150–60 million inhabitants and if they were united they would be ‘indisputably the strongest power on 72 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM earth’.28 Without the Anglo-Saxon inheritance ‘our land would be a wilderness. Our villages and towns would consist of mudhuts. Our art would consist of primitive scrawlings. Our literature would speak to us in grunts. We would have no feats of engineering and science.’29 The racial fascist conception of high culture derived from supposed innate qualities inherent in the racial and national origins of the artist, which ascribed favoured characteristics such as classical form to the Nordic race, and negative traits, such as all forms of ‘modern art’, as typical of other inferior races. To Tyndall the British political establishment was corroded by lib- eral ideals which had produced weakness and national decline. Even the racial quality of the Anglo-Saxon heritage of Britain was in doubt as ‘racial downbreeding and a society without discipline are increas- ing our population of useless slobs’. Tyndall was referring not only to the racial problems posed by black immigration but also to the sup- posed ‘inferior strains within the indigenous races of the British Isles’, particularly football hooligans and skinheads.30 This was coded lan- guage for those who had forced his resignation from the NF, leading to his formation of the New National Front in 1982, and its change of name to become another British National Party in 1983. Tyndall attacked them because he believed only a movement of discipline and authority under strong leadership, with an elite cadre of members, could arrest the forces of decay. The strategy of ‘national bolshevism’, with its attempt to recruit alienated unemployed youth, was total anathema. The idea that these shock troops were the new barbarians who would destroy the effete decaying bourgeois values of British society, offended against Tyndall’s Anglo-Saxonism with its roots in Victorian ideals of respectability and authority. His old chums were now part of a racially heterogeneous rabble, which he repeatedly referred to as the ‘gay National Front’ as a result of alleged homo- sexual activities by leading members. Tyndall’s Anglo-Saxonism also has to be viewed in terms of his own political development. Tyndall tried to synthesize the British fascist tradition. For a time he was deputy leader of Jordan’s National Social- ist Movement, before he formed his own more British form of ‘national socialism’ in the Greater Britain Movement, the title of Mos- ley’s original BUF manifesto. During his probation in the NF, he learned from A. K. Chesterton the art of cloaking racism and anti- Semitism in more moderate and rational language. Tyndall attempted to fuse both the racial nationalist and Mosleyite inheritance of the Brit- ish fascist tradition, together with concealed Nazism and extreme racist American influences in the NF and BNP. In spite of his tactical ability and ambition, his extremism and Nazi background forever tainted his attempts to move ‘British nationalism’ into the political DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 73 mainstream and in 1999 he was ousted from the leadership of his own creation, the BNP. Unlike the racial nationalist tradition, for Mosley culture rather than race was the unit of categorization. Genetic arguments were used but they were always subordinate to the main cultural case. For Mos- ley cultural achievement developed from a variety of historical, environmental and artistic influences and was not dependent on a narrow genetic or national endowment. During the 1930s Mosley argued that British history and culture provided the tradition which, if harnessed under fascist leadership, would lead to the rebirth of Brit- ish civilization; after 1945 the spark of Faustian culture needed to be relit to defend Europe from the threat of internal and external barbarians.31 The BUF argued that British fascism was embedded deep in British history. For the BUF, fascism linked feudalism, the guild system, Tudor centralized authority and the winning of Empire to the concep- tion of the Corporate State. In particular, ‘the vigorous patriotism, the advanced social conscience, the idealism and the vital spirit of endeavour that characterized the Elizabethan is also typical of the Fas- cist’.32 This peak of British history was reached again in the eighteenth century when much of the Empire was added to Britain’s domain. Others, like A. K. Chesterton, saw in the Elizabethan age and the dra- mas of Shakespeare the aesthetic values which could guide political action.33 These achievements had been undermined by the allegedly stultifying effects of the victory of parliament over a centralized authority of monarchy: ‘As it was the bourgeois class dictatorship, and not the functional state emerged from the chaos of the parliamentary wars, which saw the overthrow of the Tudor Nation state concep- tion.’34 As a result, liberal capitalism and powerful vested interests replaced the needs of the state as the paramount influence on government. For Mosley the British ruling class has been characterized by two basic types: The man of life enthusiasm and achievement with the capacity of Hel- lenism, charm and cultural expansion, alternates with that cautious, restricted, inhibited prig who conceals his main interest, which is money, behind a mask of smooth piety that is rendered the more effec- tive by the fact that he has deceived himself before deceiving others. These two forces are the age-old contenders for the soul of England. They are proved incapable of effective synthesis, despite all attempts and observations to the contrary; so the conflict for some time past has been almost completely, if temporarily resolved by the victory of the latter.35 To Mosley, the victory of the Puritan spirit and the emergence of the ‘will to comfort’ type, who evaded rather than grappled with the great 74 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM political problems, meant that the British parliamentary system was no longer capable of solving the great historical crisis now facing the nation. Mosley’s fascist thought developed from heroic vitalism and cre- ative evolutionism. For Mosley fascist idealism meant the synthesis of Nietzschean and Christian values, of the will to power exemplified by the athleticism and discipline of the individual striving to become Superman, being harnessed into the service of the community.36 The BUF represented the Spartan heroic elite teaching a muscular Christi- anity which would indoctrinate society with the values of the new fascist man.37 The BUF saw Spengler’s Decline of the West (1914) as the ‘greatest expression of the bourgeois mind’ whose cyclical view of history sup- posedly outlined the cause of the rise and decay of societies. Mosley was deeply influenced, too, by his concept of Caesarism, his morph- ology of culture in general and the incompatibility of the Faustian (European) and Magian (which included the Jews) culture in particu- lar. Mosley also argued, following Spengler, that the great cultures were not for export and that attempts to impose values on others were doomed to failure. For Spengler ‘race’ was a feature of all cultures, and meant the classic expression of the symbols and values of a cul- ture. Where Spengler was mistaken was in his pessimism. As Mosley saw it, fascist man would be inculcated with the values and energy to end the organic decay of European civilization and the British Empire and to rejuvenate society.38 After 1945 Mosley made ‘Europe-a-Nation’ rather than the British Empire his utopian dream through an ‘exten- sion of patriotism’. The significant differences between the Mosleyite and racial nation- alist traditions over race and culture also had implications for their views on human evolution. For whereas the BUF viewed evolution in neo-Lamarckian terms, racial nationalists interpreted it as a perverted form of Darwinism. Such differences were accentuated because Mos- ley and the BUF argued from cultural premises, whilst racial nationalists developed their views from ‘scientific racism’. The major implication of a neo-Lamarckian view of human evolu- tion was the belief that characteristics acquired during a parent’s lifetime could be inherited by offspring under certain conditions. A biological organism was able to respond to environmental change by adaptation in the interest of the survival of the species. The mechani- cal application of this belief led to the disastrous experiments in Soviet agriculture by Lysenko. However, Mosley and the BUF emphasized willpower as the prime agent of evolution rather than the influence of the environment.39 Accordingly, humanity had the capacity to control its own destiny and to plan evolution. As this could be accelerated by will power and education, the main force for change could be social DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 75 and cultural factors rather than physical. Hence what mattered for Mosley was not alleged racial characteristics of a people but cultural values. These enabled adaptation as a response to events and the will to transform reality. Thus, in theory, the social implications of Mos- ley’s vision had more in common with Marxist ideas about the malleability of human nature rather than racial determinism. Mosley, however, followed the assumptions of most nineteenth-century Lamarckians who limited their theory of inheritance of acquired char- acteristics to those of European stock, by arguing that evolution had come to an end amongst the ‘lower races’, and that they could no longer respond to the challenge of the environment.40 This form of pseudo-biological culturalism was very different to Boasian cultural relativism because the assumptions of late nineteenth-century neo- Lamarckism explicitly denied the transfer of values outside a very limited range of cultural and physical difference.41 This reinforced Spengler’s cultural morphology, which insisted that the defining fea- tures of a culture could not be grafted on to another, particularly if in the case of the Faustian (European, early autumn) and Magian (Jew, winter) they were in different phases of development. This belief led Mosley to support apartheid in his ‘Eur-Afrika’ dreams of the 1940s. The major contrast between Lamarckian and Darwinian theories of human evolution was that the former emphasized the interaction between the mind and will of man and the environment, whilst the latter argued that adaptation through random mutation and natural selection was the chief motor of change. Today Lamarckism is not taken seriously as a theory of evolution, although acquired character- istics obviously are an important feature of the transmission of culture and education in human development. Nevertheless the obscure backwater of British fascism has shed some interesting light on the arguments and played a small bit-part in a significant scientific debate. The root of BUF ideology saw a dichotomy between an optimistic view of the evolutionary potential of man and the performance of the British governing class. For Mosley the potential for man was almost limitless: Biology begins again to teach that the wilful determination of the species to rise above the limitations of material environment is the dominating factor in evolution. ... In fact every tendency in modern science assures us that in superb effort the human spirit can soar beyond the restraint of time and circumstance.42 The future belonged to the ‘thought-deed’ man, the apotheosis of the ‘will to achievement’ type who would control human evolution. This belief was raised to a religious principle when Mosley argued that aid- ing the ‘progressive movement from lower to higher forms’ meant 76 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM serving the ‘purpose of God’ and that his life was dedicated to that purpose.43 He wished to create a new man in a new society with new values. For Mosley, ‘every Blackshirt is an individual cell of a collective Caesarism. The organised will of devoted masses, subject to a volun- tary discipline and inspired by the passionate ideal of natural survival, replacing the will to power and a higher order of the individ- ual superman.’ The dynamic leadership, authority and spiritual idealism of fascism would create the necessary prerequisites that would ensure future prosperity. Mosley argued that ‘Caesarism and Science together could evolve Faustian man’.44 Mosley derived his Lamarckian ideas from George Bernard Shaw, particularly from the preface of Back to Methuselah (1922). For Shaw the failure of reconstruction after the First World War confirmed his doubts, ‘whether the human animal, as he exists at present, is capable of solving the social problems raised by his own aggregation, or as he calls it his civilisation’. This failure led him to believe that the rulers of society were ‘all defectives’. If society was to progress, man would have to change: ‘What hope is there then of human improvement? According to the neo-Darwinists, to the Mechanists, no hope what- soever, because improvement can only come through some senseless accident which must, on the statistical average of accidents, be pres- ently wiped out by some other senseless accident.’ Shaw argued that this was far inferior to the Lamarckian belief that living organisms changed because they wanted to and that ‘consciousness, will, design, purpose, either on the part of the animal itself or on the part of the superior intelligence controlling its destiny’ was the motive force behind evolution in a species. Vitalism, with its concept of will to power through self control and creative evolution, offered far more hope to man than the ‘dismal creed’ of Darwinism.45 Like Mosley, as a result of his enforced leisure during the Second World War, Shaw’s interest in Lamarckian evolution partially derived from Goethe’s morphological view of nature. This utopian optimism needs, however, to be kept in perspective; the dark side of Mosley’s wrestling with the implications of the Faustian riddle illustrated his descent into the political gutter with the adoption of political anti- Semitism after 1935, and the anti-immigrant campaign in Notting Hill in 1958–9. As Nicholas Mosley pointed out: ‘that while the right hand dealt with grandiose ideas and glory, the left hand let the rat out of the sewer ’.46 In marked contrast to the Mosleyite tradition, post-war racial nationalism in the NF and BNP has developed an extreme form of Darwinism and genetic determinism as the basis of its racist outlook. Like Mudge and Leese these included the ascription of psychological characteristics to physical classification, ethnocentric middle-class DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 77 moralism and the use of aesthetic values to create a racial hierarchy. These arguments were sometimes used as a cloak for the resurrection of Nazi ideas, or to advertise the more academic presentation of the Nordic tradition in the publications of the Historical Review Press or the physical anthropology journal, Mankind Quarterly. Such influences buttressed the conclusions of ‘scientific racism’ which included ‘proofs’ from phrenology, the blending theory of genetic inheritance of the biometricians, intelligence testing and the alleged findings of socio-biology.47 Prime among these assumptions were the alleged superiority of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ stock over other racial groups, and the threat to the ‘racial purity’ of ‘white’ Britain posed by ‘black’ immigration. This was usually portrayed as a ‘Jewish’ plot, engineered by ‘Jewish’ finance and ‘Jewish communism’, and vigorously propagated by ‘Jewish’ scientists. Somewhat ironically, the ‘Science for the People’ critics seized on the NF interpretation of the alleged conclusions to accuse the socio-biologists and ‘Selfish Gene’ kin selectionists of genetic determinism with racist implications, an accusation which was refuted by Ed Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and other biologists.48 While conversely, the social sciences have successfully resisted being reduced to a branch of biology, nevertheless population genetics is now a reputable science, despite the long shadow engen- dered by Nazi atrocities. Both the socio-biology/evolutionary psychology and ‘science for the people’ disputants accept that popula- tion genetics and Mendelism do not support racist ideas. The range of variation in mental and physical characteristics are greater within a population than between different ethnic groups. Culture, language and human interaction with the environment was thought to differen- tiate man from other life forms, and dominant and recessive genes make genetics far more complex than any determinist model. Like fundamentalist evangelical Christians, racists have tried to exploit the divisions between evolutionary biologists. By misinterpret- ing what socio-biologists and evolutionary psychologists were claiming about human nature and relating it exclusively to social Dar- winism and instinctivist psychology, Richard Verrall of the NF claimed that human actions were genetically determined and that racial prejudice and nationalism were natural programmed instincts.49 For Verrall both Lamarckian theories of evolution and the importance given by social scientists to human culture represent the work of ‘sci- entific hoaxers’, leading to the absurdities of Lysenko’s experiments in the Soviet Union. Lamarckism is depicted as the Marxist theory of evolution, because it encourages social engineering: ‘it held out the prospect of giving certain physical treatment to human beings which could turn them into equal communist zombies whose acquired char- acteristics could be inherited by succeeding generations’.50 78 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM For Verrall although men have some free will, and the environment plays a minor role in influencing development it is the genetic inherit- ance which determines his potential: ‘Against this destructive theory we racialists declare that man and society are the creation of his bio- logical nature. We insist not only that genetic inheritance determines inequality – not social environment – but that social organisation and behaviour are essentially the product of our biological evolution.’ Ver- rall argues that it is ‘the modern science of sociobiology that has finally buried Marxism’, and that Crick and Wilson have put the seal of scientific approval on this ‘biologically determinist view of man and society’. Their significance for the NF was that they had, alleg- edly, rediscovered ‘Darwinian evolution in micro-biological terms’. The implication of this for Verrall was that ‘Sociobiology has shown us that evolutionary processes have genetically and therefore immutably programmed human nature with instincts of competitiveness, terri- torial defense, racial prejudice, identification with integral behaviour within one’s kin group (nation), instincts which the Marxist fantasy said were socially determined which would and should be eradi- cated’.51 Some of the intellectual ‘young Turks’ in the NF were influenced by the French neo-fascist ‘New Right’, especially Alain de Benoist, and the Italian Julius Evola. The ‘differentialist’ emphasis that each cultural group should retain its own identity was advocated in such ultra-nationalist publications such as Scorpion. While this misinterprets the beliefs of most socio-biologists and geneticists, even in 1980, nevertheless there is still significant scientific disagreement over the implications of socio-biology and evolutionary psychology. While such racist (and indeed sexist) ideas as projected by the NF have no scientific basis or moral or social validity, controversy over the human genome project, or other forms of genetic engineer- ing, make this still a highly contentious area. What can be said, however, is that there have been flights of rhetoric in the language of socio-biologists and ethnologists which has sometimes led to mis- interpretation, as in the case of the NF. So little is known about the relationship between individual genes, or groups of genes, and behav- iour, indeed the programming of the genetic code, the relationship between mind and the genes and the role of culture, that some of the most influential population geneticists have urged caution in inter- pretation of data. While some of the most important and well funded scientific research is taking place in this area, much of it remains highly controversial.52 Although both the Mosleyites and racial nationalists within British fascism developed racist ideologies, there were significant differences, which help explain why the divisions became so bitter and impeded unity. At root these views were determined by the opposing views of the role of culture and the nature of human evolution. For Mosley cul- DEVELOPING BRITISH FASCIST INTERPRETATIONS 79 ture created race while racial nationalists argued that racial characteristics determined culture. Mosley’s fascism was based on vitalist and idealist traditions whilst racial nationalists were material- ists and determinists. Whereas the evolutionary debate in British fascism began in nineteenth-century traditions of neo-Lamarckism and crude Social Darwinism, Mosleyites developed a synthesis of cre- ative evolutionism and Spenglerian cultural morphology, whilst racial nationalists evolved from Nordic man, to genetically programmed men (and women). I would like to acknowledge the financial assistance of the British Academy and the comments of Liz Harvey on an earlier version of this paper. Part II Cultural Representations: Cultural Histories of British Fascism Britain’s New Fascist Men: The Aestheticization of Brutality in British Fascist Propaganda Julie V. Gottlieb In a much-quoted passage from The Greater Britain (1932), Sir Oswald Mosley stated that ‘we want men who are men and women who are women’.1 Mosley’s gendered perception has traditionally been read as a clear statement on the type of woman the British Union of Fascists (BUF) intended to recruit, and as an articulation of an uncompromis- ing vision of bifurcated sex roles in British fascist ideology and practice. While the historiography of British fascism has begun to address the history of women in the BUF,2 the scholarship has still tended to take for granted that the construction of a culture of ‘femi- nine fascism’ was a subaltern complement to an aggressively masculinist fantasy of national palingenesis, and a counterpoint to a pervasive glorification of male violence and male sexualized fanaticism. This chapter will gender the history of British fascism from another perspective – from that of the creation of ‘masculine fascism’ in Britain – by examining patterns of male hegemony from the founding of the New Party; by demonstrating the institutionalization of an aesthetic of brutality in the paramilitary hierarchies and in the mobilization of the male civilian combatant; and by exploring the images and mission of British manhood as they were inscribed in the movement’s visual cul- ture, rhetorical flourishes and leadership cults. Walter Benjamin famously diagnosed that the power of fascism was to ‘render politics aesthetic’,3 and it is intriguing to explore how this process functioned within a fascist movement on the peripheries of power. It has only been very recently that historians have begun to exam- ine the British extreme Right through these thematic and methodological lenses. Other authors in this volume are now doing just this, and Tony Collins has rightly observed that ‘little has been written about the relationship between British Fascism and masculin- ity’, and that ‘this is curious since it was the BUF’s commitment to manliness and its construction of a distinct masculine identity which provided a crucial element in the underpinning of its paramilitary 84 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM politics’.4 While the project to ‘gender’ British fascism is a relatively new one, the historiography of international fascism(s) has paid close attention to gendered representations in fascist iconography, literature and propaganda, and a growing body of literature is concerned with providing generic definitions for the new fascist man, and exposing the fallacy and farce of ‘fascist virilities’. Historians acknowledge that ‘as with any revolutionary movement that aims at fundamental change, in its consecration of the Superman political icon, Fascism had as its ultimate goal the creation of a new human being, Homo fascis- tus’.5 George Mosse has identified the new fascist man as ‘a warrior- crusader in the service of a faith’; ‘this new man must be disciplined, at one in spirit with like-minded men through a way of perceiving the world, of acting, of behaving, based upon a sober acceptance of the new speed of time and a love of combat and confrontation’; he is ‘forceful, energetic, hard and proud’; he is identified by his generation for ‘to have experienced the war led to true manhood ... Yet, this idealized veteran was no individualist, he was one with his squad and his people’; ‘the new man’s body represented his mind as well’; he is torn between a triumphant masculinity and the ideal of family life, most often leading to a rejection of family responsibility and a scorn for women. Notably, there is little historically unprecedented nor exceptionally original in this stereotype. Nonetheless, ‘never before or since the appearance of fascism was masculinity elevated to such heights: the hopes placed upon it, the importance of manliness as a national symbol and as a living example played a vital role in all fas- cist regimes’.6 Drawing on national traditions of artistic expression, ‘the aesthetics of fascism used both a pseudo-classical ideal, if not con- sistently, and the instrumentality of that part of established religion which ever since the baroque had represented the “beauty of holi- ness”’.7 Examining the discourse of Italian Fascism, Barbara Spackman has argued that ‘virility is not simply one of many fascist qualities, but rather that the cults of youth, of strength and stamina, of obedience and authority, and of physical strength and sexual potency that characterize fascism are all inflections of that master term, viril- ity’.8 BUF propagandist A. K. Chesterton’s analysis of the originality of fascism certainly conformed to the general exaltation of virility. In 1936 he explained: ‘In Fascism there appears once again on the world scene, vigorously contending for world masterdom, the great creative urge of the masculine spirit which through the ages has sped man for- ward to the heights of his achievement ... It is the spirit of the man of action, the conqueror and the law-giver.’9 While Chesterton was reflecting on the universal ethos of fascism, we need to take a more nationally focused approach and examine how the BUF adopted and adapted these masculinist paradigms. As a movement, and never a regime, did the masculine culture of British BRITAIN’S NEW FASCIST MEN 85 fascism adhere to these continental typologies? Was there anything unique about the cultural construction of manliness in the case of Brit- ish fascism? Indeed, this chapter will argue that the BUF represented a nationally-specific response to perceived imperial, cultural and bour- geois decadence, building on the particular and peculiar manly traits of Britain’s answer to charismatic leadership in the person of Sir Oswald Mosley – the ‘Rudolf Valentino of Fascism’. Masculinity in Crisis: Blackshirts to the Rescue? Furthermore, during the 1930s the BUF forcefully intruded into cur- rent national debates on gender roles, the future of British youth in crisis, the permission for political violence, and the appropriate ways and means of commemorating the men who died in the trenches, debates which each depended on competing and conflicting images of masculinity. Joanna Bourke has observed that ‘a generation of men who had been too young to be actively engaged in military services grew up in a world in which certain aspects of “being a man” were believed to be threatened, and their aesthetics of the body reflected this perception’.10 Certainly, there was a general recognition that the Blackshirts were appealing to just this generation of young men by ‘suggesting that it is manly to dress in uniform, to march and counter- march, and to give a swaggering impression of strength and force’. However, few of those engaged in the enterprise of rebuilding the for- tress of British manhood were convinced by the Blackshirts’ approach. Indeed, A. V. Alexander identified as the alternative to Blackshirt mas- culine aggression the Brotherhood Movement which would ‘lead the way in educating our youth to the fact that it is far more manly ... to stand for the principles of brotherhood and liberty’. While the late Inspector of Army Physical Training, E. L. W. Henslow Clate, dis- agreed that the Brotherhood Movement was the best distraction from Blackshirt violence, he also rejected the BUF’s attempted resurrection of British manhood, instead offering as the solution ‘a more vigorous outlook’ in education, religious teachings and in their leisure.11 Simi- larly, Lord Rothermere’s provocative and ageist support for the Blackshirts spawned a lively debate in the British press on the best solutions to this crisis among the nation’s youth.12 As these examples suggest, the BUF was not far off the mark in its own diagnosis of a national mood of a crisis of masculinity. What British fascists offered to each of these debates was an extremist position that inflated norma- tive masculine stereotypes.13 British fascists argued in favour of the bifurcation of male and female political activism; they prophesied that the male youth of Brit- ain would provide the leadership for a fascist revolution in the name of the return to British pre-eminence; and they constructed models for 86 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM their coming fascist state in the form of gangs of paramilitary men, a nationwide system of political activity organized around sport, regu- lar rehearsals for the greater violence to come and strict hierarchies crowned by the infallible leader. One of the BUF’s marching songs, ‘Come, All Young Britain’ (the music composed by Lord Berners), described the mission, bodies and consciousness of this British fascist vanguard: We are men of the modern age, We are steadfast and proud and strong; We believe in our heritage, We are eager lithe and young! We’ve a plan of courageous revival For the problems and needs of to-day. We must fight for the right of survival; We must turn from the things of decay. – Come all Young Britain, and march with the Blackshirt Battalions!14 These gangs of fascist men were encouraged to use violence not only ‘’Gainst vested powers, [the] Red front, and massed ranks of Reac- tion’,15 but were also sanctioned to deal brutally with dissident members. The inner life of the BUF foreshadowed the purges of dis- illusioned sycophants, the staged ‘court martials’, and the very public scenes of humiliation that might have been practised at the national level had the movement ever come to power.16 However, as is well known, British new fascist manhood was denied its ultimate expres- sion by the reality of marginality and political failure. In the British case then, how does such an intrusive and chauvinist masculinism respond to political and personal bankruptcy? This chapter will examine the extent to which the discourse on the British fascist new man acknowledged unconquerable political opposition first and foremost in the form of a stable parliamentary system and, on a daily basis, in the form of communist and socialist hecklers. Fur- ther, it will be seen how Mosley’s men were impotent in the face of cultural resistance as it manifested itself in literary parodies of their Leader, in journalistic mockery of their political and sexual immatu- rity, and in a healthy dose of British humour. In terms of energizing the fascist manly stereotype in Britain, there was a great gulf between aspiration and political consequence. New Men for a New Party The masculine body and the trope of the male-identified body politic drove the first movement of Mosleyite dissent. Founded in 1930 and folding in 1932 before the launch of the BUF, Mosley’s New Party called for the country to ‘brace itself as a man to face new thoughts, BRITAIN’S NEW FASCIST MEN 87 new sacrifices and new adventures.’17 The New Party also marked the boundaries of the generational conflict that was to be so prominent in BUF discourse, and on the eve of the 1931 General Election Mosley called upon his supporters to provide some youthful contrast to ‘the scene of an old men’s battle.’18 The New Party established its own youth organization, the NUPA (New Party youth movement), whose members wore a uniform of grey shirts with black trimming – signifi- cantly only the trim was black, and it would not be until the formation of the BUF that the whole uniform was stained black with the fascist spirit and colour. In the NUPA the benefits of the political uniform were explained as follows: A uniform has a leveling effect. It will also make every member, and particularly the new recruit, feel that he is in the ranks of an army in which all classes are combined with but one purpose: the achievement of a great ideal – the greatest ideal that has been offered the people of our country since August 4, 1914.19 As a further inducement to this great ideal, the NUPA organized its own boxing classes, cricket teams and fencing demonstrations and classes, and were in force to steward the New Party’s meetings. While New Party membership was open on the same terms to both men and women, the NUPA was an exclusively male affair. NUPA’s internal organ, the New Times, exposed the male-obsessed attitudes of a group of restless youth as they sought to entrench homosocial relations and reassert male supremacy in government. As E. Hamilton Piercy wrote to the editor: Mr Editor, if you have any power at all in presenting opinions, I beseech you always to cry with hefty lungs and a mighty pen against this move [of allowing women to join NUPA]. I firmly believe that a youth move- ment, such as ours, will lose its manhood the day the first woman enters as a member ... We know that, to the woe of this country, women have the vote but any thinking man knows that it is not a woman’s job to have anything to do with the running of the country.20 The Political Technology of Virility The same fixation on male camaraderie and male-defined spaces was transported into the BUF.21 While the Women’s Section was formed in March 1933, half a year after the foundation of the movement in Octo- ber 1932, the BUF was designed in the image of a private army (or storm troop division), with the aim to re-enliven the esprit de corps of the trenches, and complete with military ranks and hierarchies, bar- racks, organized physical activities and drilling and camps. Masculine fascism reached its apotheosis in the summer of 1933 with the conver- sion of the former Whitelands Teacher Training College in Chelsea into the Black House. (The BUF ran the Black House from 1933 to 88 THE CULTURE OF FASCISM 1935). Indeed, the formation of the Women’s Section, and the estab- lishment of its separate headquarters at 12 Lower Grosvenor Place, was necessitated as much by the politically expedient motivation to attract women to the movement, as by the homosocial desire that the Black House retain its exclusively masculine character. This was exemplified by a directive in the Fascist Headquarters Bulletin of 1933 which stipulated that ‘l