The WCML has a collection of fascist and anti-fascist pamphlets and leaflets, spanning a broad range of organisations and campaigns - from the birth of domestic and continental fascism to the present day.
Early fascist groups
A number of items of interest stand out in relation to pre-war British Fascism. There is a small number of leaflets of Britain's first fascist party, the British Fascisti (1925-34) revealing the organisation's anti-Bolshevist fears of Communist Sunday Schools and other 'subversive' native political developments. Well represented are pamphlets of Oswald Mosley's 'pre-fascist' New Party (1931-32). These include contributions from soon-to-be defectors, such as the period intellectual CEM Joad and the future chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee for Anti-Fascist Activities, John Strachey, as well as pamphlets written by subsequent leading British Union of Fascists (BUF) members, such as John Beckett.
Beckett, former Independent Labour Party councillor and Labour MP for Gateshead, was one of a small but significant number of ex-socialists drawn into Mosley's BUF following the collapse of the second Labour Government in 1931. As director of BUF publicity and editor of Blackshirt and Action, Beckett proved useful to Mosley in his largely vain attempt to recruit amongst workers in the depressed trades of shipping, textiles and cotton in the mid 1930's. His pamphlets Fascism and Trade Unions (1935) and The Private Trader and Co-operator, written with Alexander Raven Thompson, (1935), reveal how the BUF vitriolically attacked the British socialist movement while posing as the 'workers friend'.
Anti fascist activity
A well-known consequence of the growth of domestic and international fascism was that it pushed the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) away from its sectarian, 'class against class' mode of operation. The CPGB's impassioned dialogue with the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress, in its unsuccessful attempt to build a 'united front' against the fascist menace, is also documented in this collection. Rajani Palme Dutt's Fascism and Democracy (1934), Walter Citrine's United Against Fascism (1934), and other material produced by the National Council of Labour and the Labour Research Department, convey the British left's internal struggle over anti-fascist tactics and strategy. In the post-war period, material records the splintering of British fascism and its re-emergence in the 1970's with the birth of the National Front and its successful rival, the Anti-Nazi League.
An index of some of the British fascist material held by the Library (opens as a pdf)
Related Objects of the Month
January 2015: Holocaust Memorial Day
April 2010: History Lesson
April's object was chosen by Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager - ‘The Library is full not only of dramatic words, but also of dramatic images', she said. ‘I chose these images as I felt their eloquence spoke for itself'