British Fascists

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The British Fascists (also known originally as British Fascisti) was a conservative anti-communist group in the United Kingdom, who adopted the aesthetics of Fascism. The organization existed from 1923 to 1935. They were roughly the equivelent of the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts) in Ireland, but some members did go on to become genuine fascists (broad sense), many leaving to join the British Union of Fascists and a smaller group the Imperial Fascist League. William Joyce, Arnold Leese and Nesta Webster were amongst those to have passed through the movement as members and activists. Uniquely, the leadership largely consisted of women, including the most prominent figure, Rotha Lintorn-Orman.

Early years

They were formed on May 6, 1923 by Miss Rotha Lintorn-Orman in the aftermath of Benito Mussolini's March on Rome. Containing many former army officers and other veterans of the Great War, the party confined itself to stewarding Conservative Party meetings, and canvassing for the party (a policy which saw some of the more radical members split to form the National Fascisti). One of their few policies was a call for a reduction in income tax. Towards the end of the life the BF advocated a corporate state. The organization adopted the blue shirt as their uniform.[1]

The 1926 strike

The British Fascists name was subsequently taken by the movement in an attempt to Anglicise their aspect, and underline their patriotic credentials. It had been roundly criticized and accused of being in the pay of a foreign leader, Mussolini, largely because of their name. Along with the change of name, the British Fascists also began to become politically more mature, particularly after the General Strike of 1926, which they saw as a first step towards Communism in Britain.

They were not however permitted to join the government's official Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies (set up to mobilise a non-striking workforce) without first relinquishing Fascism. As a result a further split occurred as a number of members, calling themselves the British Loyalists, did just that.

The strike severely damaged the party as it failed to precipitate the "Bolshevik Revolution" that Lintorn-Orman had set the party up to fight. In fact the strike was largely peaceful and restrained, and following it the BF lacked purpose and direction.


The movement developed a programme that called for a strengthening of the House of Lords, a cut down on those eligible to vote, and a raft of anti-trade union legislation. In 1927 the followers of the movement adopted a blue uniform, in the form of a military tunic and peaked cap.

After 1931, they abandoned their attempts to form a distinctly British version of Fascism, and instead adopted the full programme of Mussolini and his National Fascist Party. The emergence of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) severely damaged the fortunes of the British Fascists, as did the passing of a series of public order laws in the 1930s that banned uniforms and curtailed the right to demonstrate. Lintorn-Orman and the main leadership rejected any merger although the BUF claimed the bulk of the old movement's membership in 1932, when Neil Francis Hawkins split from Lintorn-Orman and moved towards Oswald Mosley along with two other members of the Headquarters Committee, Lieutenant-Colonel H.W. Johnson and E.G. Mandeville Roe.[2]

In a bid to reverse their decline the British Fascists adopted a strongly anti-semitic platform and became outspoken supporters of Hitler's Germany. However, the loss of members to the BUF had was too great a blow to recover from. The few remaining members struggled on until the death of Lintorn-Orman in May 1935. The party ended October 1935.

See also

External links


  1. Fascism in Britain: from Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front, by Richard C. Thurlow, page 34
  2. Benewick, p. 36