Although Fascism in the United Kingdom never reached the heights of many of its European counterparts, British politics after the First World War saw the emergence of a number of fascist movements, none of which ever came to power.
A number of fascist movements emerged before the Second World War. Even before the March on Rome, Italian fascism gained praise in sections of the press, with articles appearing in both the Saturday Review and Pall Mall Gazette in 1921 and in The Times in 1922 praising the fascists for their strike-breaking and general anti-trade union activities. On 4 November 1922 a group of black-shirted admirers of Benito Mussolini held a remembrance service at Westminster Abbey which the Workers' Socialist Federation protested, both for the group being allowed to march to the Abbey and for the fact that they were permitted to use a building as significant as Westminster Abbey in the first place. However it would be 1923 before any formal group seeking to connect itself to fascism would be formed. Whilst none of these gained any parliamentary representation some of them enjoyed wider notability. Amongst the more important groups that were founded were:
Alongside these several more minor groups that adhered to fascism were also established. Amongst those identified were:
After the Second World War a handful of groups emerged which looked directly to fascism and Nazism for their inspiration. Those who have openly done so (in contrast with parties which merely describe themselves as aligned with nationalism) are:
Adam Marshall Diston (1893–1956; born in Scotland) was a journalist for the Sunday Dispatch and ghostwriter for Winston Churchill. He had 'close affinities' to Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. He had a military background, serving in a Scottish regiment from 1914-1918.British Fascists
The British Fascists were the first political organisation in the United Kingdom to claim the label of fascist. While the group had more in common with conservatism for much of its existence, it nonetheless was the first to self-describe as fascist in Britain. William Joyce, Neil Francis Hawkins, Maxwell Knight and Arnold Leese were amongst those to have passed through the movement as members and activists.British Union of Fascists
The British Union of Fascists, or BUF, was a fascist political party in the United Kingdom formed in 1932 by Oswald Mosley. It changed its name to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists in 1936 and, in 1937, to British Union. It was finally disbanded in 1940, after it was proscribed by the British government following the start of the Second World War.
The BUF emerged in 1932 from the British far-right, following the electoral defeat of its antecedent, the New Party, in the 1931 general election. The BUF's foundation was initially met with popular support, and it attracted a sizeable following. The press baron Lord Rothermere was a notable early supporter. As the party became increasingly radical, however, support declined. The Olympia Rally of 1934, in which a number of anti-Fascist protestors were attacked by the paramilitary wing of the BUF, the Fascist Defence Force, isolated the party from much of its following. The party's embrace of Nazi-style anti-semitism in 1936 led to increasingly violent clashes with opponents, notably the 1936 Battle of Cable Street in London's East End. The Public Order Act 1936, which banned political uniforms and responded to increasing political violence, had a particularly strong effect on the BUF whose supporters were known as "Blackshirts" after the uniforms they wore.
Growing British hostility towards Nazi Germany, with which the British press persistently associated the BUF, further contributed to the decline of the movement's membership. It was finally banned by the British government in 1940 after the start of the Second World War, amid suspicion that its remaining supporters might form a pro-Nazi "fifth column". A number of prominent BUF members were arrested and interned under Defence Regulation 18B.English Defence League
The English Defence League (EDL) is a far-right, Islamophobic organisation in the United Kingdom. A social movement and pressure group that employs street demonstrations as its main tactic, the EDL presents itself as a single-issue movement opposed to Islamism and Islamic extremism, although its rhetoric and actions target Islam and Muslims more widely. Founded in 2009, its heyday lasted until 2011, after which it entered a decline. It is presently chaired by Tim Ablitt.
Established in London, the EDL coalesced around several football hooligan firms protesting the public presence of the small Salafi Islamist group Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah in Luton, Bedfordshire. Tommy Robinson, a former member of the British National Party (BNP), soon became its de facto leader. The organisation grew swiftly, holding demonstrations across England and often clashing with anti-fascist protesters from Unite Against Fascism and other groups, who deemed it a racist organisation victimising British Muslims. The EDL also established a strong social media presence on Facebook and YouTube. Moving towards electoral politics, it established formal links with the far-right British Freedom Party, a breakaway from the BNP. The EDL's reputation was damaged in 2011 after supporters were convicted of plotting to bomb mosques and links were revealed with Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik. In 2013 Robinson—supported by the Quilliam think tank—left the group; he claimed it had become too extreme, and established the rival Pegida UK. The group's membership declined significantly following Robinson's departure and various branches declared independence.
Ideologically on the extreme-right or far-right of British politics, the EDL is part of the international counter-jihad movement. Officially, it presents itself as being opposed to Islamism, Islamic extremism, and jihadism, although its rhetoric repeatedly conflates these with Islam and Muslims more broadly. Rejecting the idea that Muslims can truly be English, the EDL presents Islam as an intolerant, primitive threat seeking to take over Western society. Political scientists and other commentators have characterised this Islamophobic stance as culturally racist. Both online and at its events, EDL members have incited violence against Muslims, with supporters carrying out violent acts both at demonstrations and independently. The EDL's broader ideology features nationalism and populism, blaming a perceived decline in English culture on high immigration rates and an uncaring political elite. It distinguished itself from Britain's traditional far-right by rejecting biological racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. Although several of its leaders were previously involved in fascist organisations and some neo-Nazis and other fascists attended EDL events, commentators differ on whether the EDL itself is ideologically fascist or not.
Headed by a small leadership team, the EDL sub-divided into over 90 local and thematic divisions, each with considerable autonomy. Its support base consisted primarily of young, working-class white British men, some from established far-right and football hooligan subcultures. Polls indicated that most UK citizens opposed the EDL, and the group was repeatedly challenged by anti-fascist groups. Many local councils and police forces discouraged EDL marches, citing the high financial cost of policing them, the disruptive influence on community harmony, and the damage caused to counter-terrorism operations.Football Lads Alliance
The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) is a movement in the United Kingdom founded by John Meighan in 2017. According to The Times, "the movement was set up as a self-proclaimed 'anti-extremist' movement" but has increasingly become associated with far-right politics and far-right activists.The Premier League has warned clubs that "the group is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda". Concern has also been expressed that the Alliance is "giving cover to the far right" and "uses a secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts".Imperial Fascist League
The Imperial Fascist League (IFL) was a British fascist political movement founded by Arnold Leese in 1929 after he broke away from the British Fascists. It included a blackshirted paramilitary arm called the Fascists Legion, modeled after the Italian Fascisti. The group espoused anti-Semitism and the dominance of the 'Aryan race' in a 'Racial Fascist Corporate State', especially after Leese met Nazi Party propagandist Julius Streicher, the virulently racist publisher of Der Stürmer; the group later indirectly received funding from the Nazis. Although it had only between 150 and 500 members at maximum, its public profile was higher than its membership numbers would indicate.
After the IFL turned down a merger with the British Union of Fascists in 1932, due to policy differences, the BUF mounted a campaign against the IFL, physically breaking up its meetings and fabricating phony plans that showed the IFL planning to attack the BUF's headquarters, which were passed on to the British government.
The Imperial Fascist League went into a steep decline upon the outbreak of World War II, after Leese declared his allegiance to "King and country", to the displeasure of pro-German members. Nevertheless, Leese was interned under wartime security regulations, and the IFL was not reformed after the war.National Fascisti
The National Fascisti were a splinter group from the British Fascisti formed in 1924. In the early days of the British Fascisti the movement lacked any real policy or direction and so this group split away with the intention of pursuing a more definite path towards a fascist state.National Socialist League
The National Socialist League was a short-lived Nazi political movement in the United Kingdom immediately before the Second World War.Sharon Ebanks
Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks (born 1967 or 1968) is a former member of the British National Party and one of the founder members of the New Nationalist Party. In 2006, she was wrongly declared elected to Birmingham City Council.The Link (UK organization)
The Link was established in July 1937 as an 'independent non-party organisation to promote Anglo-German friendship'. It generally operated as a cultural organisation, although its journal, the Anglo-German Review, reflected the pro-Nazi views of Barry Domvile, and particularly in London it attracted a number of anti-semites and pro-Nazis. At its height the membership numbered around 4,300.
The Link was opposed to war between Britain and Germany, and because of this attracted the support of some British pacifists. When The Link and the Anglo-German Review were included among a number of peace organisations across the political spectrum in the Peace Service Handbook (a publication put out by the Peace Pledge Union), the Daily Telegraph and The News Chronicle published articles accusing the PPU of supporting Nazism. In response, PPU member Stuart Morris wrote to the papers stating there was no connection between the PPU and The Link, and that the former organisation did not support the German demand for colonies or peace at the expense of smaller nations. The PPU also sent a letter to its group leaders dissociating The Link from the PPU, and ceased publishing the Peace Service Handbook.The organisation was investigated by Maxwell Knight, head of counter-subversion in MI5 and future role model for James Bond's boss M. The organisation closed shortly after the start of World War II in 1939.
Barry Domvile was interned in 1940 as someone who might "endanger the safety of the realm".According to Anthony Masters, the Link was allegedly resurrected in 1940 by Ian Fleming, then working in the Department of Naval Intelligence, in order to successfully lure Rudolf Hess (deputy party leader and third in leadership of Germany, after Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring) to Britain in May 1941.