The British Union of Fascists: the international dimension


By Stephen M Cullen, published 1st December 2003

Fascism failed in Britain in the 1930s – Europe’s decade of the ‘Brown plague’. Unlike in many European countries, fascists in Britain were never a serious threat to the democratic order. This was not for want of trying, especially on the part of Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists (BUF), which he founded in October 1932. The BUF was a vibrant fascist movement, at the centre of political unrest throughout the 1930s, so much so that the National Government passed the Public Order Act of 1936 in order to check both the spread of the BUF, and the violence and disorder that was associated with its activities. And it was fear of possible fascist Fifth Column activity that led the wartime coalition government to ban the BUF, and intern over 800 of its leaders, in the desperate spring of 1940. Why did such an active, and apparently threatening, movement fail, when many similar movements across Europe helped cast the political fates of their respective nations? There were a variety of factors...

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