Anti-fascism in Britain, 1997–2012
Anti-fascism is along with anti-militarism one of the most successful
campaigns with which the left in Britain has been associated: key moments,
such as the Battles of Olympia (1934), Cable Street (1936) or Lewisham
(1977) were events at which the activities of the left forced themselves into
the news, and through which whole generations of activists came into the
movement. They played a key part in limiting the ability of British fascists
to grow. That is not to say, however, that anti-fascism has always been
This study seeks to delve beyond the familiar image of Ellen Wilkinson as the leader of the Jarrow Crusade. It has attempted to unearth new evidence to provide a richer understanding of this figure who is remarkable in terms of her achievements, her acquaintances and her witnessing of history’s great turning points. From a humble background, she ascended to the rank of Minister in the 1945 Labour government. Yet she was much more than a conventional Labour politician. She wrote journalism, political theory and novels. She was both a socialist and a feminist; at times, she described herself as a revolutionary. She met Lenin, Trotsky and Gandhi. She visited Soviet Russia, the GM sit-down strikes, the Indian civil disobedience campaign, the Spanish Civil War and the Third Reich. While viewed in the collective imagination as ‘Red Ellen’, whose politics were as red as her hair, her ideas were not static and present a series of puzzles. This study seeks to use transnational and social movement theory perspectives to grabble with the complex itinerary of ideas and her relationship with the movements for social transformation. This research is timely because interest in her life remains. This is in part because her principal concerns—working-class representation, the status of women, capitalist crisis, war, anti-fascism—remain central to contentious politics today.
This book explores the role of the far left in British history from the mid-1950s until the present. It highlights the impact made by the far left on British politics and society. The book first looks at particular strands of the far left in Britain since the 1950s. It then looks at various issues and social movements such as Trotskyism, anti-revisionism and anarchism, that the left engaged (or did not engage) with, such as women's liberation, gay liberation, anti-colonialism, anti-racism and anti-fascism. The book focuses on how the wider British left, in the Labour Party and amongst the intelligentsia, encountered Trotskyism between the 1930s and 1960s. The Socialist Party (SP) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) traditions have proven to be the most durable and high profile of all of Britain's competing Trotskyist tendencies. Their opponents in the International Marxist Group and the Socialist Labour League/Workers' Revolutionary Party (SLL/WRP) each met limited success and influence in the labour movement and wider social movements. The SWP and Militant/SP outlived the 'official' Communist Party of Great Britain and from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the present day have continued to influence labour movement and wider politics, albeit episodically. The book is concerned with providing an overview of their development, dating from the end of the Second World War to the onset of the 2009 economic crisis.
Adrian Scott and the Politics of Anti-Fascism in Cornered
Drawing on internal studio correspondence, multiple screenplay drafts and the final
film, this essay reconstructs the production history of Cornered to explore the ways
in which Scott both compromised with and challenged the studios expectations and
interventions. I argue that although Ceplair and Englund are correct in their
assessment that studio meddling shaped the films political content in significant
ways, Scotts complex negotiations during the films production ensured that Cornered
remained a powerfully anti-fascist film.
historical precedents which informed their thinking? The left agreed on certain
fundamental characteristics of fascism, yet their interpretations differed in some
respects. Why did these differences come about and what role did they play in
the often fractious relations between the left parties?
Then there is the question of anti-fascism.The left had to decide how fascism
was actually to be opposed, both internationally and domestically. These issues
became acute in the early 1920s, with Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy and,
shortly afterwards, with the
to be addressed. The left parties
in each country attempted to fight fascism in ways which accorded with their
own political ethos and which they judged to be suitable at the time. They each
framed their opposition in the light of the threat as they perceived it. The
extensive study of anti-fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain has tended to
overshadow the struggle in Britain. Yet it can be argued that the British left
utilised tactics which complemented the strategies of the various parties, which
were appropriate to the nature of the fascist threat, and were
during the backlash. At this time, Wilkinson was
playing to different audiences, addressing different social movements,
with alternate registers. Thus, in her writing for Plebs or New Dawn, or
on topics such as anti-fascism or unemployment, her writing was much
more framed within categories of class, capitalism and exploitation.
She acknowledged the radicalisation in her gender politics by way of
an apology to ‘determined feminists’ whom she had abandoned in the
late 1920s. She realised the error of her belief at that time that the battle
was won in 1918 and that 1928
Issues around the policing of public order and political expression are as topical today as in the past. This book explores the origins of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) that emerged in 1934 in protest at the policing of political extremes. It discusses the police attempts to discredit the NCCL and the use of Special Branch intelligence to perpetuate a view of the organisation as a front for the Communist Party. The book analyses the vital role played by the press and the prominent, well-connected backing for the organisation and provides a detailed discussion on the formation of the NCCL. The use of plain clothes police officers was a particularly sensitive matter and the introduction of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and subsequently Special Branch was controversial. The book examines the nature of the support for a civil liberties pressure group, the political orientation of the organisation, its place in non-party ideology and its role in a political culture. Liberal Internationalism, pacifist groups and women's organisations are also considered. The book then discusses the NCCL's networks, methods and associations through which it was able to bring complaints about legislation and police behaviour to public attention and into the parliamentary arena. Public, press, police and ministerial responses to the NCCL's activities form a focal point. Finally, it reviews the ongoing role and changing political relationships of the NCCL following Ronald Kidd's death in 1942, alongside the response of the police and Home Office to the emerging new regime.
This book tells the story of the political and intellectual adventures of Edward Palmer Thompson, one of Britain's foremost twentieth-century thinkers. It shows that all of Thompson's work, from his acclaimed histories to his voluminous political writings to his little-noticed poetry, was inspired by the same passionate and idiosyncratic vision of the world. The book demonstrates the connection between Thompson's famously ferocious attack on the ‘Stalinism in theory’ of Louis Althusser and his assaults on positivist social science in such books as The making of the English working class, and produces evidence to show that Thompson's hostility to both left- and right-wing forms of authoritarianism was rooted in first-hand experience of violent political repression.
In the years between the two world wars, fascism triumphed in Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere, coming to power after intense struggles with the labour movements of those countries. This book analyses the way in which the British left responded to this new challenge. How did socialists and communists in Britain explain what fascism was? What did they do to oppose it, and how successful were they? In examining the theories and actions of the Labour Party, the TUC, the Communist Party and other, smaller, left-wing groups, the book explains their different approaches, while at the same time highlighting the common thread that ran through all their interpretations of fascism. The author argues that the British left has largely been overlooked in the few specific studies of anti-fascism which exist, with the focus being disproportionately applied to its European counterparts. He also takes issue with recent developments in the study of fascism, and argues that the views of the left, often derided by modern historians, are still relevant today.