Fascism and Antifascism. Part three. Populist fascism: perpetual counter-revolution.

From ‘The Authority of the Boot-maker’ by Mal Content.

“What is this liberal rubbish?
Are you some kind of mug?
Don’t talk to me of ‘free speech’
For murdering fascist thugs

We remember Mosley
And how Cable Street folk fought him
When we see the fash
We let the boots do the talking”

– Oi Polloi

Now I started writing this chapter in 2012, then I paused it to see what would happen, and quite a lot has happened since. Ten years on, Britain has the most explicitly right-wing authoritarian government in its history, suppressing dissent by any means at its disposal. It is supported by computerised surveillance and detection, a police force as brutal, sexist and racist as ever, tamed media and a judiciary who mostly went to the same schools as the executive. The entire island is in counter-insurgency mode.

We’ve seen the rise and fall of the English Defence League and the United Kingdom Independence Party, the election of far-right governments around the world. The United States elected a reactionary-comic television presenter as its 45th President, who clowned around for five years making his office even more of a laughing stock while we wondered if anyone had the sense to disconnect the nuclear button.

In 1945, after six years of war against Nazism, a British labour government permitted the fascists detained under Regulation 18b to resume their activities, and gave them a police escort wherever they went, as unsurprisingly they had no popular constituency whatsoever. They were joined by Axis prisoners of war who were supposedly being rehabilitated. Some of those returned to Germany and maintaining their British contacts, plotted a fourth Reich, under cover of a crank spiritualist group called Ostara. Recently demobbed British Jews reacted with disbelief:

“I had been in the merchant navy, survived two torpedo attacks on the Atlantic convoys, and I came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my dad said, The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts

– Morris Beckman, antifascist: to ‘The Guardian’ 2009.

Apart from Spain and Portugal, which retained fascist governments, the only country in Europe where it was legal to glorify Hitler and the holocaust was Britain. Mosley took advantage of this to publish a German-language paper and antisemitic propaganda for distribution by right-wing British service personnel in the occupation zone. After three years of that, Mosley again combined the splinters into the Union Movement, and embarked on an electoral campaign.

“Going from a cinema showing newsreel of piles of Jewish men, women and children being bulldozed into lime pits in the concentration camps, and then passing an outdoor fascist meeting or seeing swastikas whitewashed on the walls of Jewish homes and synagogues affected these ex-servicemen with emotion ranging from choleric anger to a cold hard desire to kill the perpetrators.”

– Morris Beckman: ‘The 43 Group’

The conflict in the British Working Class was inflamed on the one hand, by newsreels of the holocaust, and on the other, by the civil war in Palestine that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel.

“Above all, it was the unfolding extent of the concentration camp horrors that really unhinged us all. It imbued every ex servicemen with a sick sense of shame that no action had ever been taken to try to save the camp inmates. Air crews had no doubt that specialised attacks could have taken out gas chambers, furnaces and SS barracks. Ex-paratroopers and Special Forces veterans argued that drops into and around the camps could have saved many, but nothing was ever attempted, …”

                (ibid.)

You have to keep in mind that Churchill had been an anti-Semite when Hitler was still in short trousers, and so was post-war foreign secretary Ernest Bevin. Bevin was an enthusiast of the ‘Truman Doctrine’ against Soviet influence, so the pre-war squabble between socialist and Communist internationals was still playing into fascist hands. A dedicated imperialist, Bevin opposed Indian independence and set about re-establishing Dutch control in Indonesia, using British, Indian and even Japanese troops to wrest the islands from the indigenous people who had recently liberated them. He was also concerned to limit Jewish emigration to Palestine, declaring to the press on 1st March 1946: “Jews must not try to get to the head of the queue”, sparking riots in Tel Aviv that left six civilians dead, shot by British troops. Some Jewish soldiers refused to clash with their co-religionists and were quietly posted elsewhere.

“Watching the Royal Navy stop Greek and Turkish bucket ships crammed with the sick and broken survivors of the camps and the Pathé Gazette and Movietone films of these same derelicts being incarcerated behind barbed wire in Cyprus, seemed to plumb the very depths of inhumanity.”

(ibid.)

Just as they had been before the war, the fascists were driven off the streets by autonomous direct action. The ‘43 Group’,

Read the rest of it.

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