‘A plague on both their houses’: Fascism, Anti-fascism and the Police in the 1940s

  • Graham Macklin

Abstract

The issue of British fascism and the police is again in the news. In November 2003 the Daily Express exposed the ‘Scandal of Nazi Police’, detailing how approximately a dozen serving police officers in the West Midlands were members of the fascist British National Party (BNP).1 These revelations were universally condemned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), backed by the Home Secretary David Blunkett, who stated categorically that any police officers who joined the BNP would ‘render themselves subject of a misconduct investigation and their behaviour treated with the utmost seriousness.’2 Whilst the furore quickly dissipated, a handful of observers may perhaps have drawn a historical parallel with the experiences of another Labour government half a century earlier.

Keywords

Nism Dial Alan Malone Mete 

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Notes

  1. 4.
    David Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism and Britain in the 1940s (London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 101–29 and David Renton, ‘An Unbiased Watch? The Police and Fascist/Anti-fascist Street Conflict in Britain, 1945–1951’, Lobster, Summer, 1998, pp. 12–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 5.
    Stephen Cullen, ‘Political Violence: The Case of the British Union of Fascists’, Journal of Contemporary History, 28, 2, 1993, pp. 245–68. Cullen also wrote two articles for Comrade, journal of the Friends of Oswald Mosley (FOM).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 11.
    D. N. Pritt, The Autobiography of D. N. Pritt: Part Two, Brasshats and Bureaucrats (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1965), p. 52.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    For more on varieties of anti-fascism see David Renton, Fascism, Anti-Fascism, pp. 71–100 and Nigel Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain (London: Macmillan, 2000), pp. 81–115.Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    Morris Beckman, The 43 Group (London: Centreprise, 1992), pp. 32 and 95.Google Scholar
  6. 37.
    Sir Harold Scott, Scotland Yard (London: Mayflower, 1970), p. 143.Google Scholar
  7. 38.
    Gerald D. Anderson, Fascists, Communists and the National Government: Civil Liberties in Great Britain, 1931–1937 (Columbia: Missouri University Press, 1983), p. 203 andGoogle Scholar
  8. Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1987), pp. 114–15.Google Scholar
  9. 39.
    In her Evening Standard columns whilst West attacked fascist anti-Semitism she also accused the Communists of cynically fomenting street fights with the fascists in order to further their own propaganda and gain the Jewish vote. According to her biographer her unpopularity on both sides of the ideological divide was boundless and, extremely unlikely as it sounds, ‘at the mention of her name the Fascists and the Communists would stop fighting and boo and hiss her.’ See, Carl Rollyson, Rebecca West (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995), pp. 221–2 andGoogle Scholar
  10. Professor Hyman Levy, An Open Letter from Professor Hyman Levy: Rebecca West and the Resurgence of Fascism (London: Our Time Publications, 1947).Google Scholar
  11. 41.
    D. S. Lewis, Illusions of Grandeur: Mosley, Fascism and British Society, 1931–1981 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), pp. 116–17.Google Scholar
  12. 42.
    Frederic Mullally, Fascism Inside England (London: Claude Morris, 1946), p. 51.Google Scholar
  13. 45.
    Leonard Burt, Commander Burt of Scotland Yard (London: Pan Books, 1959), pp. 109–10.Google Scholar
  14. 49.
    Union Movement, Political Commentary, No. 14, September 1950.Google Scholar
  15. 50.
    John Bean, Many Shades of Black: Inside Britain’s Far Right (London: New Millennium, 1999), pp. 69–77.Google Scholar
  16. 55.
    Mrs Nunn, Home Office minute, 24 May 1945 in TNA HO 45/25465. This view informed the decision of novelist E. M. Foster, first President of the NCCL to resign in 1948; see Mark Lilly, The National Council for Civil Liberties: The First Fifty Years (London: Macmillan, 1984), p. 73.Google Scholar
  17. 79.
    TNA B 9/1447. Piratin remained a Communist, working first as a ‘political organizer’ and then ‘circulation manager’ for the Daily Worker, but ‘was never a public figure again’. He later became ‘the director of a merchant bank in the City’. See Henry Felix Srebrnik, London Jews and British Communism, 1935–1945 (London: Valentine Mitchell, 1995), p. 217.Google Scholar
  18. 80.
    Sir Ronald Howe, The Pursuit of Crime (London: Arthur Baker, 1961), p. 40.Google Scholar
  19. 85.
    Lionel Rose, Survey of Open-Air Meetings held by pro-Fascist Organisations, April–October 1947 (Factual Survey 2: February 1948).Google Scholar
  20. 86.
    Nigel West (Rupert Allason), The Branch: A History of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, 1883–1983 (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983), pp. 117–18.Google Scholar
  21. 104.
    For evidence of the everyday anti-Semitism of PPF officers see Colin Imray Policeman in Palestine: Memories of the Early Years (Devon: Edward Gaskell, 1995) andGoogle Scholar
  22. Michael Lang (ed.), One Man in his Time: The Diary of a Palestine Policeman, 1946–1948 (Sussex: The Book Guild, 1997).Google Scholar
  23. 105.
    Arthur Koestler, Promise and Fulfilment: Palestine, 1917–1949 (London: Macmillan, 1983), pp. 15 and 148.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Macklin

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