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British Fascism

British Fascism is the form of fascism promoted by political parties and movements in Britain.[1] British fascism was based on British nationalism.[2] Historical examples of fascist movements in Britain include the British Fascists (1923–1934), the Imperial Fascist League (1929–1939), and the British Union of Fascists (1932–1940). More recent examples of British fascist groups include the British Movement (1968–1983), National Front (1967–present), Britain First (2011–present)[3][4][5] and National Action (2013–2017).

Ideological origins

Italy's Duce Benito Mussolini (left) with Oswald Mosley (right) during Mosley's visit to Italy in 1936.
A flowchart showing the history of the early British fascist movement

British Fascism acknowledges itself being based upon the inspiration and legacy of Italian Fascism but also states that it is not a mere application of a foreign ideology, but that British Fascism is rooted within British traditions.[1]

British Fascism claims that both its economic and its political agenda intends to embody that of Tudor England.[1] It claims that its advocacy of a centralized national authoritarian state is based upon the Tudor state's hostility to party factions and self-interested sectional interests, and its goal of national integration through a centralised authoritarian state.[1] They claim that the Tudor state was a prototype fascist state.[1] British Fascist A.L. Glasfurd praised Henry VIII's subjugation of "lawless barons who had brought about the War of the Roses" and praised the "Tudor dictatorship" for its enacting of national policies, restricting the export of English capital by self-serving private speculators.[1] Glasford also praised the Tudor state for instituting a planned economy that he claimed was a predecessor of the "scientific" national economic planning of fascism.[1]

British Fascism also claims the legacy of Oliver Cromwell; Oswald Mosley claimed Cromwell brought about "the first fascist age in England".[6]

English political theorist Thomas Hobbes in his work Leviathan (1651) created the ideology of absolutism that advocated an all-powerful absolute monarchy to maintain order within a state, Hobbes' theory of absolutism was highly influential in fascist theory.[7]

British Fascism claims that its corporatist economic policy is based upon England's historical medieval guild system, with its enlightened regulation of wages, prices and conditions of labour as being the ideal precedents for a British Fascist corporatist economic system.[1]

Tenets

The flash and circle, the symbol of British Fascism.

Nationalism and racialism

British Fascism is based upon British nationalism.

The BUF sought to unify the British nation by healing sectarian divide between Protestant and Catholic Britons, and in particular it sought to appeal to Catholic Irish living in Britain.[8] The BUF declared support for complete religious toleration.[9] BUF Leader Oswald Mosley emphasised the "Irish Connection" and the BUF held both Protestant and Catholic religious branches.[10] Mosley condemned the Liberal government of David Lloyd George for being responsible for allowing reprisals between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. [11] As a result of the BUF's conciliatory approach to Catholics, it gained a substantial support amongst Catholics, and several BUF leaders in Hull, Blackburn, and Bolton, were Catholics.[12] Support by Catholic Irish in Stepney for the BUF increased after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War that involved clerical traditionalist and fascist forces fighting against an anti-clerical government.[13] On racial issues, the various British Fascist movements held different policies. The British Fascism of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) believed that culture created national and racial differences - a policy closer to the views on race by Italian Fascism rather than Nazism.[14] Initially the BUF was not explicitly anti-Semitic and was in fact based upon the views on race of Austrian Jewish sociologist Ludwig Gumplowicz and Scottish anthropologist Arthur Keith who defined race formation as the result of dynamic historical and political processes established within the confines of the nation state and that the defining characteristics of a people were determined by the interaction of heredity, environment, culture, and evolution over a historical period of time.[14] However Mosley later prominently asserted anti-Semitism invoking the theory of German philosopher Oswald Spengler who described that Magian Jews and Faustian Europeans were bound to live in friction with each other.[15] The British Fascism of Arnold Leese's Imperial Fascist League promoted pro-Nazi racial policy including anti-Semitism.[16]

There were small, short-lived Fascist groups at several universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Armstrong College in Newcastle, Birmingham, Liverpool and Reading. Sir Oswald Mosley arranged a series of public meetings of his British Union of Fascists (formed in 1932) in university towns, which often ended in conflict between supporters and opposition, followed by violence.[17]

Foreign policies

British Fascism was non-interventionist and argued against war when it was not in defence of Britain or the British Empire. It was believed the only threat to the British Empire was from the Soviet Union.[18] In defence of this policy Mosley pointed to Benjamin Disraeli who opposed going to war with Turkey over its mistreatment of Armenians.[19]

Corporatist policies would also be spread to the empire.[20] It was seen as natural that the Dominions would accept these policies as it would be beneficial to them.[21] The spread of corporatist policies would have also led to an increased hold on India and with that have working conditions improved.[22]

Totalitarianism

As a fascist movement, British Fascism is totalitarian. The BUF declared support for a totalitarian state with Mosley describing it in relation to the BUF's support of corporatism as "a nation emerges organised in the divine parallel of the human body as the name implies. Every organ plays a part in relation to the whole and in harmony with the whole".[23]

Corporatist economy

In economics, British Fascism opposes laissez-faire economics for being an outmoded system and promotes it to be replaced by a corporatist economic system.[1]

The BUF denounced capitalism, with Mosley declaring: "Capitalism is a system by which capital uses the nation for its own purposes. Fascism is a system by which the nation uses capital for its own purposes".[24] He went on to say "private enterprise is not permitted when it conflicts with national interests".[25]

Traditionalism and modernism

The BUF declared support for the British monarchy, regarding the monarchy for its role in bringing Britain to preeminence in the world, and as such a symbol of Britain's imperial splendour.[26] Its support went as far as "Absolute loyalty to the Crown" and aimed to "in every way maintain its dignity".[27]

The BUF declared its support for complete religious toleration though also declared that it sought to merge both religious and secular spheres of the nation into a "higher harmony" between church and state, by supporting political representation for leading clerics in the House of Lords and state maintenance for religious schools for those who demanded them.[28] The BUF declared its support for Christianity and its opposition to atheism, saying "atheism will perish under British Union; Christianity will find encouragement and security, in which it may prosper to the glory of its Creator".[29]

The BUF stressed the need for Britain to be linked to modernity especially in economics, Mosley had declared such in 1931 in addressing the action needed in response to the onset of the Great Depression: "we have to face modern problems with modern minds, we should then be able to lift this great economic problem and national emergency far above the turmoil of party clamour and with national unity could achieve a solution adequate to the problem and worthy of the modern mind".[30] They found "the money spent on both scientific and technical research [was] absurdly inadequate".[31]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thomas P. Linehan. British fascism, 1918-39: parties, ideology and culture. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 2000. p. 14.
  2. ^ Richard C. Thurlow. Fascism in Britain: from Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front. 2nd edition. New York: I. B. Taurus, 2006. p. 133-134.
  3. ^ Bienkov, Adam (19 June 2014). "Britain First: The violent new face of British fascism". Politics.co.uk. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  4. ^ Foxton, Willard (4 November 2014). "The loathsome Britain First are trying to hijack the poppy – don't let them". The Telegraph. 
  5. ^ Sabin, Lamiat (25 October 2014). "'Fascist' group Britain First to start 'direct action' on Mail and Sun journalists over Lynda Bellingham post". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Julie V. Gottlieb, Thomas P. Linehan. The culture of fascism: visions of the Far Right in Britain. New York: I. B. Taurus, 2004. p. 152.
  7. ^ Contemporary Political Theory: New Dimensions, Basic Concepts and Major Trends. 12th Edition. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2007. p. 705.
  8. ^ Thomas Linehan. British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture. Pp. 166.
  9. ^ David Stephen Lewis. Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism, and British Society, 1931-81. P. 51.
  10. ^ Ken Lunn, Richard C. Thurlow, Kenneth Lunn. British Fascism: Essays on the Radical Right in Inter-War Britain. Pp. 162.
  11. ^ Ken Lunn, Richard C. Thurlow, Kenneth Lunn. British Fascism: Essays on the Radical Right in Inter-War Britain. Pp. 162.
  12. ^ Ken Lunn, Richard C. Thurlow, Kenneth Lunn. British Fascism: Essays on the Radical Right in Inter-War Britain. Pp. 161.
  13. ^ Thomas Linehan. British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture. Pp. 166.
  14. ^ a b Julie V. Gottlieb, Thomas P. Linehan. The culture of fascism: visions of the Far Right in Britain. New York, New York, USA: I. B. Taurus & Co. Ltd., 2004. Pp. 66-67.
  15. ^ Richard Thurlow. Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1945. Revised paperback edition. I. B. Taurus & Co. Ltd., 2006. Pp. 28.
  16. ^ Julie V. Gottlieb, Thomas P. Linehan. The culture of fascism: visions of the Far Right in Britain. New York, New York, USA: I. B. Taurus & Co. Ltd., 2004. Pp. 67.
  17. ^ Brewis, Georgina (20 October 2015). "Student solidarity across borders: Students, universities and refugee crises past and present". History & Policy. History & Policy. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 88
  19. ^ Mosley, Oswald (15 November 1967). "David Frost Interviews Sir Oswald Mosley". The Frost Programme (Interview). Interviewed by David Frost. 
  20. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 83
  21. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 80
  22. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 84
  23. ^ Roger Griffin. Fascism, Totalitarianism And Political Religion. Oxon, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: Routledge, 2005. P. 110.
  24. ^ Moyra Grant. Key Ideas in Politics. P. 63.
  25. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 35
  26. ^ David Stephen Lewis. Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism, and British Society, 1931-81. P. 51.
  27. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 1
  28. ^ David Stephen Lewis. Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism, and British Society, 1931-81. P. 51.
  29. ^ David Stephen Lewis. Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism, and British Society, 1931-81. P. 51.
  30. ^ David Stephen Lewis. Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism, and British Society, 1931-81. P. 51.
  31. ^ Oswald Mosley. Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered. Question 33