British Fascists


British Fascists

The British Fascists were the first avowedly fascist organisation in the United Kingdom. William Joyce and Arnold Leese were amongst those to have passed through the movement as members.

Early years

They were formed in 1923 by Miss Rotha Lintorn-Orman in the aftermath of Benito Mussolini's March on Rome, and originally operated under the Italian-sounding name "British Fascisti". In the very beginning, they viewed themselves as simply an adult version of the Scout movement, and had few policies beyond admiration for Mussolini and anti-communism.

Containing many former army officers and other veterans of the Great War, the party confined itself to stewarding Conservative Party meetings, and canvassing for the party (a policy which saw some of the more radical members split to form the National Fascisti). One of their few policies was a call for a reduction in income tax so that the well off could hire more servants and so reduce unemployment. Towards the end of the life the BF advocated a corporate state.

The 1926 strike

The "British Fascists" name was subsequently taken by the movement in an attempt to Anglicise their aspect, and underline their patriotic credentials. It had been roundly criticized and accused of being in the pay of a foreign leader, Mussolini, largely because of their name. Along with the change of name, the British Fascists also began to become politically more mature, particularly after the General Strike of 1926, which they saw as a first step towards Communism in Britain.

They were not however permitted to join the government's official Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (set up to mobilise a non-striking workforce) without first relinquishing Fascism. As a result a further split occurred as a number of members, calling themselves the "British Loyalists", did just that.

Decline

The movement developed a programme that called for a strengthening of the House of Lords, a cut down on those eligible to vote, and a raft of anti-trade union legislation. In 1927 the followers of the movement adopted a blue uniform, in the form of a military tunic and peaked cap.

After 1931, they abandoned their attempts to form a distinctly British version of Fascism, and instead adopted the full programme of Mussolini and his National Fascist Party. The emergence of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) severely damaged the fortunes of the British Fascists, as did the passing of a series of public order laws in the 1930s that banned uniforms and curtailed the right to demonstrate. The BUF claimed the bulk of the old movement's membership in 1932, when Neil Francis Hawkins split from Lintorn-Orman and moved towards Oswald Mosley, with the few remaining struggling on until the death of Lintorn-Orman in 1935 when the movement was wound up.

Bibliography

* R. Benewick, "Political Violence and Public Order", London: Allan Lane, 1969

ee also

*List of British fascist parties


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