When Mosley launched his ‘New Party,’ the precursor of the British Union of Fascists, it was active in Scotland virtually from the outset. A series of public meetings were held in Glasgow and even in 1931 the red rabble showed the same commitment to ‘free speech’ as their present day counterparts. Rather than try to engage Mosley in rational debate they set out instead to smash up his meetings. What they did not reckon on was Mosley’s charisma and fearless courage, as this report from the Daily Record illustrates.
‘For five minutes yesterday I thought that Shettleston would be Sir Oswald Mosley’s burial place. Shettleston Town Hall, Glasgow, was packed. The voice of the people was loud and angry. “Bring us Mosley” they chanted, and when the leader of the New Party arrived they swarmed around him breathing into his face the promise... “We’ll hand Mosley by the neck in the Gallowgate.”
‘The most articulate of the acrimonious jumped up on Mosley’s platform and threw out the challenge... “There’s fifty polis (police) hidden here... What chance do we have against them?” “Fifty polis,” repeated a woman in the front row as her friend cried “Traitor” at Sir Oswald. Then someone settled the issue. “Send away your polis. Come outside an’ see what’ll happen.” Even to my innocent ears this did not seem the most pleasing invitation.
‘But Britain’s all round champion smiled. “I never asked for police protection,” he declared. “I never asked for police protection in my life.”
‘Quite definitely there were fifty ‘polis’ who nobody wanted so Mosley went outside amd sat on a chair while the proletariat surged towards him. “Hey Oswald” they cried “Is it true you pay super-tax? Hey Oswald ye dirty dog!”
‘Mosley dealt with all the questions his hostile audience threw at him and slowly the mood of the crowd turned. “Aye that’s right, speak up Oswald. You’re gemme (game) anyway, we’ll say that for you.” That finished any prospect of bloodshed. A hundred voices chanted “Hey Oswald” and then they swept him forward to his car.’
Sir Oswald left Shettleston smiling. Behind him, men who had sworn deep oaths to let Mosley see what Glasgow thought of him stood speechless and amazed. What had happened? Why did they let him go?
Support for Mosley came from all sections of Scottish society. In the same month as the Shettleston Town Hall meeting he was nominated for the rectorship of Glasgow University. Although Mosley failed to win the contest his candidature was supported by the well-known writer George Bernard Shaw. Indeed, Shaw’s view of the contest shows that even in the 1930’s, Glasgow University was inhabited by the same kind of creatures which prowl its corridors in the present day. He wrote, “They only show that our seats of learning and culture are the only places where representatives of learning and culture are invariably at the bottom of the poll, and the vulgarist available party careerist at the top.”
The red scum were not prepared to allow Mosley’s popularity to continue to spread in the face of their campaign of lies and hatred. A new way of stopping Mosley in Scotland was needed and this they hoped could be achieved by recruiting among the Jewish-dominated razor gangs of Glasgow’s Gorbals for allies in a new anti-Mosley alliance.
After a giant open air rally on Glasgow Green (the Times newspaper estimated the crowd at 40,000), Mosley and his leading officers were attacked by a 500-strong gang of razor-wielding Communists who went on to fight pitched battles with the police.
It was this event more than any other which was to precipitate the major change in Mosley’s political life.
On his return to London the New Party executive was hurriedly summoned. Mosley was brief: “We need no longer hesitate to create our trained and disciplined force. From today we are Fascist.”
From issue 2 of Highlander, PO Box 85, Glasgow, G51 2DS
On the 1st of October 1932, thirty two founder members of the British Union of Fascists donned the Blackshirt and attended the inaugural meeting of the BUF in Great George Street, London. There Sir Oswald Mosley, the Leader of the new movement, unfolded a black banner emblazoned with silver fasces – a motif symbolizing strength through unity.
Totally disillusioned with the old parties’ inability to deal with the economic and social problems which gripped the country, he formed the short-lived New Party. Vicious physical attacks and smears launched by the Communists and their fellow travellers quickly forced him to the conclusion that a more radical and robust movement was needed. In Fascism he found the ideal which he could build the Greater Britain.
The driving force behind British Fascism was that it stood for values and policies directly opposed to the old order’s philosophy; for patriotism against Communism; order and discipline against chaos and anarchy; social justice against exploitation; Britain First against internationalism; national unity against class conflict; individual effort and creative toil against high finance. Central to the fascist philosophy was the need for a higher form of civilisation, built by a new type of man; the Greater Britain built by the Blackshirt.
From its very foundation, the BUF was a movement of the streets. BUF branches were formed all over the British Isles as thousands of people heeded Mosley’s call for a New World Order of politics. British Union recaptured the spirit of the trenches; the spirit of comradeship and unity, with many World War veterans joining the movement. Night after night, throughout the country, Blackshirts would stand on street corners selling their publications, or hold open-air meetings in the face of vicious Red intimidation. The spirit of the BUF would take them marching into areas of Britain regarded by the Communists or Jewish immigrants as their own. Blackshirts of all ages and all walks of life stood shoulder to shoulder, united in their belief in Mosley and the crusade for Britain reborn
The message was taken all over the country, from the cotton in Lancashire in a campaign against cheap foreign imports, to small villages in East Anglia in support of British agriculture and against the hated church tithe tax. Thousands flocked to hear the Fascist message at giant meetings. Fifteen thousand people attended an indoor rally at Olympia in 1934, which is best remembered for the Communist-orchestrated violence which the press blamed on the Blackshirts. At a rally in Hyde Park three months later, a crowd of 100,000 listened to Mosley’s call for Britain to awake to their destiny of greatness. In the first couple of years, BUF membership soared to 70,000, with 400 active branches. The British Union initially received the support of press baron Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail and the Evening News. On January 8th, 1934, the Mail carried the front page headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”
The spirit of the dynamic new movement was summoned up by their Leader in a speech to eight thousand people in the Albert Hall on a March evening in 1934:
‘Hold high the head of Britain, lift strong the voice of Empire. Let us to Europe and the World proclaim that the heart of this great people is undaunted and invincible. This flag still challenges the winds of destiny. This flame still burns. This glory shall not die. The soul of Empire is alive, and Britain again dares to be great.’
Such resurgent nationalism rapidly attracted the virulent hostility of organised Jewry. By 1935 Lord Rothermere had withdrawn his support due to Jewish pressure and threats to his advertising revenue. In the East End of London, the BUF began to campaign against the problems caused by the presence of 150,000 East European Jewish immigrants in an area which suffered from housing shortages, high unemployment and widespread poverty. It was in the East End that the BUF developed a truly mass following. Many East-Enders saw Mosley as the saviour of Britain.
The movement abstained from the 1935 general election, although it ran a vigorous campaign around the slogan “Fascism Next Time.” The following year during the Abdication Crisis, the BUF mounted a “Stand by the King” campaign in support of Edward VIII, who had not only displayed great sympathy with the plight of the unemployed but was also a great personal friend of Mosley, and a supporter of his ideas.
The year 1936 also saw the Battle of Cable Street, where a huge mob of Jews and Communists, brought from all round the country, fought with the police to prevent Mosley and his men from marching through the East End. When the police asked Mosley to cancel his parade in order to prevent further trouble, he agreed. Thus, in spite of the Communist mythology associated with the event, the alien-inspired mob never had to face, let alone fight with the tough and disciplined column of Blackshirts. Also conveniently forgotten is the fact that East London units of the BUF marched down Cable Street the following weekend.
The BUF entered electoral politics in London in 1937, fighting six London County Council seats, where they averaged 19% of the vote. This was particularly impressive because only householders were entitled to vote in the LCC elections, which ruled out the BUF’s many younger supporters. An even better result was the victory of a British Union candidate in the heart of rural Suffolk. Emphasising the BUF’s plans to revive agriculture, Ronald Creasey was elected to Eye District Council.
As war clouds gathered again over Europe, the BUF stepped up its campaign for British non-intervention in any future conflict. On 16th July 1939, at the world’s largest indoor meeting, 30,000 people packed London’s Earl’s Court to hear Mosley demand that “Britons must fight for Britain only.”
After Britain’s declaration of war on 1st September 1939, Mosley ordered BUF members to do nothing to injure their country or help any foreign power.
Throughout the rest of the year and early 1940, the BUF campaigned for a negotiated peace with Germany to end a war which had nothing to do with Britain and which, it was already obvious, would end with national bankruptcy if it continued. The message fell on increasingly receptive ears.
Then, on the evening of May 22nd 1940, the new coalition government introduced Regulation 18b which provided for the arrest of dissidents without charge or trial. The voice of the British Union of Fascists was finally silenced. Mosley and over 750 of his “boys” were thrown into prison cells previously deemed as unfit for the worst criminals, and then into concentration camps at Ascot and on the Isle of Man. Many were ex-servicemen who had already proved their loyalty to their country in the bloody fields of Flanders. These men were now imprisoned on the orders of the Home Secretary Herbert Morrison, who had spent that conflict in the safety of an orchard as a conscientious objector.
While their Leader and comrades rotted in concentration camps, many younger rank-and-file Blackshirts gave their lives in a war which they had striven to prevent. The first British casualties of the entire war were two volunteer gunners, George Brocking and Kenneth Day, who were killed in action bombing the German fleet in the Keil Canal in the second day of the war. Brocking, aged 22, has no known grave, while his 20 year old Blackshirt comrade was buried with full military honours by the Luftwaffe.
Perhaps more ironic still was the treatment of several BUF members who volunteered to take their small pleasure boats to Dunkirk to help evacuate the remnants of the British army following its defeat in France. Having saved dozens of soldiers on repeated crossings through German bombing and gunfire, they finally staggered exhausted onto dry land only to be thrown into prison as potential traitors.
Today, nearly a lifetime after the birth of the BUF, the young nationalists of a new generation, on the same streets those brave men walked, carry on the same fight for a Greater Britain; confronted by the same Red and Jewish violence and the same media lies which the Blackshirts faced in the 1930’s. As we carry on the struggle which they began, we repeat the words of their Leader to make the brave men who donned the Blackshirt this promise:
‘To the dead heroes of Britain, in sacred union, we say: like you, we give ourselves to Britain – across the ages that divide us, across the glories of Britain that unite us – we gaze into your eyes and give this holy vow: we will be true -Today, Tomorrow and Forever – Britain lives!’