Guarding the Barricades: Working-class Anti-fascism 1974–79

  • David Renton


The 1970s campaign against fascism was one of the largest protest movements that Britain has ever seen.1 It took place during the fall of the 1974–79 Labour government. The far-right National Front then claimed up to 20,000 members. The party put up 413 candidates in local elections in 1977 and threatened to achieve further breakthroughs in the 1979 general election.2 National Front slogans against immigration resulted in violence against immigrants and black Britons. Where Front candidates polled well, the number of anti-racist attacks rose. Anti-fascists responded with a wide range of initiatives. The single largest campaign, the Anti-Nazi League (ANL), distributed around nine million leaflets between 1977 and 1979, warning of the danger posed by the far right. Around 250 ANL branches mobilised some 40,000 to 50,000 members. Through individual donations, the League raised £600,000 between 1977 and 1980. Other groups including Rock Against Racism (RAR) also took part in the campaign.3 Probably around half a million people were involved in anti-racist activity, joining demonstrations, giving out leaflets or painting out graffiti. By the end of the decade, the National Front had been forced into retreat.


Trade Union Communist Party Labour Movement Local Election Labour Government 
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© David Renton 2005

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  • David Renton

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