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British Union of Fascists

British Union of Fascists. The BUF was founded in 1932 between Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party and various small British fascist groups. The BUF was partly funded by Mussolini and given valuable publicity in the papers of Lord Rothermere (Harmsworth). The fascist salute was adopted and Black House established in Chelsea as an organizational and social centre. The Blackshirts, a paramilitary organization, were formed in self-defence against attacks from militant Jewish youths and communists.

However, the crisis in British society, which Mosley expected to capitalize on, failed to materialize in the 1930s. The factors which fed fascism on the continent—chronic unemployment, the threat of communism, and national grievances—were not as extreme in Britain. The BUF failed to create a nation-wide, mass movement. It suffered a set-back after the Olympia meeting in June 1934 when unnecessarily strong action was taken by the Blackshirts to silence hecklers. Its link with political violence and its increasingly anti-Semitic stance alienated moderate opinion, including Rothermere.

When on 4 October 1936 1,900 fascist marchers were turned back by 100,000 opponents at the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in the East End of London, the government feared for public order and decided to take action. The Public Order Act (1936) prohibited political uniforms and gave the police powers to ban marches.

Many BUF members were interned in 1940 but in reality the movement had always been marginal and was never a threat to the stability of government.

Richard A. Smith

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Fascists, British Union of

Fascists, British Union of. See British Union of Fascists.

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