The Security Service, the Communist Party of Great Britain and British Fascism, 1932–51
In the often dramatic story of the confrontations between the labour movement and British fascism from the 1930s until the early Cold War, there is a tendency to forget the role played by a third player in the proceedings, the state authorities, particularly the security service and the various police forces around the country. Yet although the state saw its role as being that of an impartial umpire between the combatants, there was a significant difference in the attitude adopted towards the two parties: the labour movement was seen as a tool to further the alleged sinister motives of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), whilst the British Union of Fascists (BUF) was perceived as a contradictory mixture of disillusioned right-wing patriotic Conservatives and revolutionary nationalists to whom Mosley inclined. The growth of civil unrest and what was perceived by the state as extremism in the interwar period, led to political surveillance of the CPGB and the BUF, by the secret agencies of government. The function of the police and the security authorities was to maintain public order and to investigate presumed linkages with foreign powers, particularly with regard to financing political activity, the dissemination of propaganda and the organisation of espionage and subversion. British security after 1921 was particularly concerned that the CPGB was controlled and directed by the Comintern, the Communist International, with its stated objective of organising the revolutionary overthrow of the British Empire and furthering the interests of the Soviet Union.
KeywordsCommunist Party Labour Movement Public Order National Archive Interwar Period
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