This book provides a clear and accessible guide to the essential features of interwar British fascism. It focuses on the various fascist parties, fascist personalities and fascist ideologies. The book also looks at British culture and develops the knowledge of undergraduate students by providing a solid source of background material on this important area of interwar British history. The focus on fascist culture throws new light on the character of native fascism and suggests a potentially rich vein of new enquiry for scholars of British fascism. The book considers the membership strength of Britain's interwar fascist parties. The ideas of racial Social-Darwinism influenced British fascism in a number of ways. To begin with, hereditarian ideas and biological determinist models contributed to the emergence of racial theories of anti-semitism. The anti-semitism of the Imperial Fascist League was of a very different order from that of the British fascism. Moreover, to Britain's fascists, artistic modernism, with its creative use of distortion, disintegrative images and general disdain for the traditional discipline of the art form, made a virtue of deformity. The search to uncover the anti-liberal and anti-capitalist pre-fascist lineage would become a highly subjective exercise in invention and take the fascists on an imaginative journey deep into the British past.
flowed from a profound sense of loss and regret at the passing of an earlier way of life, which was genuinely felt. The BUF tapped into this rich vein of traditional rural nostalgia. Consistent with its fascistideology, however, its views on the countryside were of an even more extreme kind.
In fascistideology, particularly that of the ‘mature’ Mosleyite variety, ‘true’ culture was indelibly bound up with the countryside and the soil. 35 The land or countryside, as a timeless place expressing something eternal and enduring, was perceived to be a vital repository
respects, though, the ‘anti-’ model of fascism, with its overemphasis on fascism’s reactionary and negative dimension, has analytical drawbacks. 18 It does not give due account to the ‘positive’, even revolutionary, content of much of fascism’s ideology and programme. We are grateful to the observations of A. James Gregor and Eugen Weber, amongst others, for uncovering this aspect of fascistideology. 19 Nonetheless, the ‘anti-’ model of fascism at least serves as a useful analytical device to probe the reactionary, negative and imprecisely formulated pronouncements
military point of view is
therefore both interesting for understanding the dynamics of Fascistideology
and its centrality to the development of Fascist foreign policy. In order to assess
it, it is particularly interesting to analyse the reports of Italian military attachés
in London, mid-ranking officers who enjoyed a direct contact with British military culture. As we will see, they also had a remarkable influence on the higher
ranks of Italian military and political elite.
Before the Great War, British martial aptitude was widely admired. The Italian attaché in London
Steffek and Francesca Antonini underlined:
the biennium 1935–1936 represented a crucial watershed in the history of
Italian Fascistideology [. . .]. Corporativism turned from being seen as the
basis of a new and potentially universal economic system to being simply
a ‘crutch’ of Italy’s policy of autarky, while the universalistic references
closely related to this doctrine now became mere propaganda tools.64
The sincerity of the regime’s support for corporatist ideas abroad has been
debated. However, the firm belief that the Fascist model was superior, and that
characterised Futurist aesthetics and reflected the (real or hoped for) mechanisation of contemporary society.46 Yet, the exaggerated scale of the figure, a
modern-day warrior-Pantocrator, standing pillar-like to the west of Europe
and emerging from the Atlantic Ocean, whilst striving to convey ideas of
resolve, restless energy and irrepressible force, which formed the underlying rhetorical structure of so many images of the Duce, results in an empty
The syncretism which characterised Fascistideology is mirrored in the different faces
Reflections on institutional culture, working conditions and welfare
tasks, career treatment and professional quality of personnel.84
Although often imbued with fascistideology, his and other articles in
the journal quietly indicted fascism for failing to create better working
conditions. While, as illustrated in Chapter 2, several of Saracini’s
articles pointed to the alleged lack of a fascist conscience among
policemen, many focused more specifically on professional hardships
and poor career prospects. Hence, an article of July 1932 argued
that if not all officials had opted to pay insurance contributions, this
was an indication of
was accused of failing to respect the rules of harmony in art. Again, it is tempting to detect a sub-text of fascistideology here and interpret this as a yearning for an ordered and harmonious social structure purged of the alleged discord created by class conflict. The modernists’ apparently calculated disdain of form and harmony, as with their radical attempts to create a new aesthetic for art outside the classical Renaissance tradition, appalled the fascists. Oscar Boulton was convinced that a ‘clique’ of ‘moderns’ was definitely in the business of cultivating
Chapter 4 focuses on the months when the British and Irish governments each campaigned fiercely for America’s friendship and for the Roosevelt administration’s aid and sympathetic understanding of their nations’ competing wartime imperatives, as Winston Churchill and Eamon de Valera each defined them. Roosevelt, whose November 1940 re-election had boosted his political confidence, increased his administration’s moral and material support for Britain, although still not at the levels Churchill requested. Roosevelt proposed a program of “Lend-Lease” military aid to any nation that was defined as “vital to the defense of the United States” to the U.S. Congress, and, after much debate, Congress approved the Lend-Lease bill in March 1941. Roosevelt also sent a succession of personal emissaries to meet with Churchill and report back to him on Britain’s chances of surviving, if not destroying, the formidable German Wehrmacht and annihilating the Axis Powers’ fascist ideologies and imperial visions. With positive reports from Harry Hopkins, Wendell Willkie, and Colonel William Donovan, his new ambassador to Great Britain John Winant, and from David Gray, Roosevelt’s pro-British predispositions were strengthened and his willingness to put critical pressure on neutral Ireland increased. During this period, de Valera, Walshe, and especially Aiken, who was sent to the United States to meet with Roosevelt in April 1941, all engaged in propaganda campaigns in league with Irish Minister in Washington Robert Brennan. They tried to mobilize Irish American public opinion in support of Eire’s neutrality, but they only succeeded in alienating Roosevelt and David Gray.
Anglophobia in Fascist Italy traces the roots of Fascist Anglophobia from the Great War and through the subsequent peace treaties and its development during the twenty years of Mussolini’s regime. Initially, Britain was seen by many Italians as a ‘false friend’ who was also the main obstacle to Italy’s foreign policy aspirations, a view embraced by Mussolini and his movement. While at times dormant, this Anglophobic sentiment did not disappear in the years that followed, and was later rekindled during the Ethiopian War. The peculiarly Fascist contribution to the assessment of Britain was ideological. From the mid-1920s, the regime’s intellectuals saw Fascism as the answer to a crisis in the Western world and as irredeemably opposed to Western civilisation of the sort exemplified by Britain. Britain was described as having failed the ‘problem of labour’, and Fascism framed as a salvation ideology, which nations would either embrace or face decay. The perception of Britain as a decaying and feeble nation increased after the Great Depression. The consequence of this was a consistent underrating of British power and resolve to resist Italian ambitions. An analysis of popular reception of the Fascist discourse shows that the tendency to underrate Britain had permeated large sectors of the Italian people, and that public opinion was more hostile to Britain than previously thought. Indeed, in some quarters hatred towards the British lasted until the end of the Second World War, in both occupied and liberated Italy.