IT HAPPENED HERE

Following Amazon Prime’s recent dramatisation of Philip K Dick’s “Man in the High Castle”, and BBC’s current drama called SS GB, there is clearly a vogue for alternative history imagining a Nazi victory over Britain in World War Two.

It is worth rembering the compelling and controversial “It Happened Here”, a 1960s semi-amateur feature by Kevin Brownlow of what Britain would have been like under Nazi occupation.

Here is a review I wrote of it in 2008

The premise of the film is that Britain was conquered in 1940, and the film is set in 1944 when military resistance to the occupation has began to resurface. What makes the film so remarkable is that it is centred around the experience of collaborators, in the fictitious but all too believable, Immediate Action movement, some of whom are British fascists, some of whom are pragmatic people just seeking to work within the existing political framework, and some are ordinary people misguidedly pushed towards supporting the Nazis through having been caught in the crossfire of anti-fascist partisan violence.

Because of course the political lesson of saying “it happened here” is not that Britain could lose a war and be occupied; but that there would have been willing British hands to participate in pogroms of the Jews, persecution of trade unionists and communists, and murder of the sick and infirm. The genius of the film is the mundanity and domestic familiarity of the British collaborators.

In some places the acting is a little creaky, and the film starts a little slow by modern standards, but is has a great deal of verisimilitude, and is actually thoroughly gripping. Indeed, the film had a little too much verisimilitude and was very controversial because it used real fascists to play key roles, and even included a six minute section where Colin Jordan, leader of Britain’s fascists in the 1960s plays the role of a collaborator being questioned about his anti-semitic beliefs. This section was removed from the original cinema release but is restored to the DVD version.

This of course raises the question of under what circumstances it is permissible to provide fascists with a platform to put forward their views. There is no doubt that the six minute section with Colin Jordan makes very uncomfortable viewing. But the overall context of the film is deeply anti-fascist, and exposing the strong sympathy that the then contemporary fascists had for Hitler’s Germany, and the fact that the British fascists in the 1960s were prepared to boast that they would indeed have been collaborators in an occupation, did more to discredit the fascists than build support for them.

127 comments on “IT HAPPENED HERE

  1. rote kapelle on said:

    I have not seen this but it would be fascinating to watch.

    I think a successful Nazi invasion of the UK would have produced a response a bit like in the Channel Islands – a fair amount of collaboration and fraternisation. Given that the UK is bigger and there is more room to hide, there might have been a significant guerrilla movement.

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  2. Alan Ji on said:

    I’ve just returned from a trip to Amsterdam. Anne Frank Huis is closed for
    works, but I can highly recommend the Dutch Resistance Museum. Who could
    imagine a Queen in exile calling upon railway workers to strike? She did!
    The difficulty of armed resistance if Nazis has occupied Britain would have
    been the lack of a base for external supplies. That was a crucial role that
    the unconquered UK played for resistance in all countries within flying
    range.

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  3. Apart from fascists, one group that also played a big role in helping this movie get made was science fiction fandom, with a lot of extras and such being played by well known (well…) science fiction fans of the time.

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  4. Jellytot on said:

    I recall seeing this donkeys years ago.

    There is a good bit at the end when some British Partisans (they may even be communist….although B&W I think there is what is supposed to be a Red flag flying from their jeep) machine gun a load of English Waffen SS soldiers in a field….from the fictional “Black Prince” divison no less !

    I only found out a few years back that there was an actual small unit of British POW’s who volunteered to serve in the Waffen SS. The so-called ‘British Freecorps’. No more than about 50 and they saw no action. There were a few former Blackshirts amoung them but most did it to escape the rigours of the POW camps.

    Fascinating stuff.

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  5. Andy Newman on said:

    Jellytot: I only found out a few years back that there was an actual small unit of British POW’s who volunteered to serve in the Waffen SS

    Truth being stranger than fiction, the unit was originally raised by John Amery, hanged in 1945 for treason, whose father Leo Amery served in Churchill’s war cabinet, and his brother Julian was in the SOE. A prominent role in John Amery’s capture was played by Captain Alan Whicker, later of Whicker’s World on TV

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  6. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman,

    A lot of criminals and lumpen elements joined the Freecorps as well as some out and out psychopaths.

    The most notorious was Thomas Haller Cooper who was caught in Germany at the outbreak of WW2 and joined the SS. He boasted about taking part in anti Jewish massacres as part of the Einsatzgruppen and was later seconded to the Freecorps due to his British nationality. Like most of the Freecorps he escaped any real justice after the war. All were interviewed by MI5 but most either served very short sentences or were simply not charged and released. Cooper went onto live in Japan.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Haller_Cooper

    Another interesting character was Eric Pleasants. A pre war Blackshirt, amateur boxer and Freecorps member. He deserted and went looking for a girlfriend in Berlin in April 1945 (great timing !!) and was eventually captured by the Soviets and spent time in a gulag before returning to Britain. There is an interview with him on Youtube.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Pleasants

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  7. Jellytot on said:

    I read that the proposed invasion of Britain was a huge bluff and basically the Germans would never have been able to build the massive invasion fleet necessary to defeat the powerful Royal Navy and make it through to the English coast, regardless of what happened in the Battle of Britain.

    Their feared parachute divisions (which had performed well in Belgium) wouldn’t have been up to the job either. While ultimately successful during the Invasion of the island of Crete a year later, they were hammered by thee allies with horrendous losses.

    After this experience Hitler vowed never to use parachute troops in an airborne role on any large scale again and they went onto be deployed as basically light infantry….most famously at Monte Cassino in Italy.

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  8. Jellytot: most either served very short sentences or were simply not charged and released.

    I’ve never understood why. Was William Joyce any worse than them?

    Then again, I’ve never understood why Edward Windsor was untouched and then given a state funeral.

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  9. Jellytot on said:

    Evan P: I’ve never understood why. Was William Joyce any worse than them?

    Then again, I’ve never understood why Edward Windsor was untouched and then given a state funeral.

    Most were very small fry and not actually fascists.

    A lot were very young and many were coerced and blackmailed into joining. The Freecorps was a propaganda unit and was purposely kept away from any combat. Its members spent the war behind the lines living “high on the hog” with the local women. MI5/MI6 actually sent agents, that they already had in the POW camps, into the freecorps to spy on them and collect names. At the end of the war they knew exactly who to pick up.

    However, there were some active fascists (most ex BUF) who certainly did get off lightly. Some of this may have been to do with the onset of the Cold War in the late 40’s when chasing fascists would not have been a priority.

    There is a good History Channel documentary on them here:

    https://youtu.be/bhwfIkoRjMw

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  10. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: However, there were some active fascists (most ex BUF) who certainly did get off lightly. Some of this may have been to do with the onset of the Cold War in the late 40’s when chasing fascists would not have been a priority.

    Obviously. Operation Paper Clip for example. Whilst I might not agree with the RAF’s views on terrorism part of their beef was the instituteonlisation of fascists after the end of the war because of the priority of defeating the Soviets.

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  11. Jellytot: I read that the proposed invasion of Britain was a huge bluff and basically the Germans would never have been able to build the massive invasion fleet necessary to defeat the powerful Royal Navy and make it through to the English coast, regardless of what happened in the Battle of Britain.

    Their feared parachute divisions (which had performed well in Belgium) wouldn’t have been up to the job either. While ultimately successful during the Invasion of the island of Crete a year later, they were hammered by thee allies with horrendous losses.

    After this experience Hitler vowed never to use parachute troops in an airborne role on any large scale again and they went onto be deployed as basically light infantry….most famously at Monte Cassino in Italy.

    Yeah, I’ve always been rather sceptical of the possibility of Nazi Germany actually being able to conquer and occupy Britain. Hitler certainly seemed more interested in simply pounding Britain into withdrawing from the war (hence the Blitz).

    I think a much more likely and interesting alternative history would be to question what would have happened if the British appeasers who wanted either neutrality or even collaboration with Nazi Germany actually got their way. There were various points before and after the outbreak of war when this was a very real possibility.

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  12. Andy Newman on said:

    Evan P: Was William Joyce any worse than them?

    I have never understood how an American citizen could be guilty of treason against the crown.

    The converse is the bizarre decision of the Americans not to try and execute Ezra Pound

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  13. Andy Newman,

    I agree about Pound.

    And wasn’t Joyce Irish? Didn’t know he was American. You’re not confusing that with the decision not to execute De Valera in 1916?

    Anyway being Irish should have been enough for him not to be executed as a traitor.

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  14. Evan P: Didn’t know he was American.

    My understading is that he was an American citizen, and he argued this as his defence at the trial. I believe that the prosecution prevailed with the novel argument that he purported to be a British subject in his broadcasts and this gave him a duty to the crown.

    Evan P: I agree about Pound.

    Even more extraordinry is that my Penguin edition of Milton’s Paradise lost, published in the 1970s includes a critical intorduction by Pound ranting about Milton’s “Hebraic” influences.

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  15. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: I have never understood how an American citizen could be guilty of treason against the crown.

    The converse is the bizarre decision of the Americans not to try and execute Ezra Pound

    The Joyce execution was a legally incorrect decision. A half decent defence attorney would have gotten him off.

    However, at that time there was zero public sympathy for him and indeed a clamour to see him swing.

    I read that his old scar (courtsey of an anti fascist cutthroat razor at a meeting in the 20’s when he was in the British Fascisti group) burst open when he dropped….. bless !

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  16. Jellytot: However, at that time there was zero public sympathy for him and indeed a clamour to see him swing.

    I don’t have any firm grasp of the context, but I imagine that hanging Joyce may have assuaged an understandable public need for retribution, and may have allowed the non-prosecution of PG Wodehouse to slip by

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  17. The case of Tintin creator Herge is also interesting. The Tintin cartoons started in a right wing Catholic publication, aligned with the Rexists. And I understand that Herge was a friend of Degrelle’s.

    Personally, as a child I loved Tintin. But “The Shooting Star” in particular is clearly a pro-German allegory, written during the occupation, and includes specifically anti-Semitic content.

    And while “King Ottakar’s Sceptre” is superficially anti-militarist, in the context that the Belgian fascist movement believed in absolute monarchy has a darker sub-text about the dangers of populist anti-monarchism.

    Herge faced no sanction after the war, though the political sensitivity of his know collaborationism did apparently mean that he had less editorial control after the war

    another interesting bit of trivia is that Tintin was drawn as a portrait of Herge’s brother, an army officer. The character of Colonel Sponsz, the monocle-wearing Chief of Police of Szohôd, was also based on the same brother a few years later, so that is what Tintin would have looked like as he grew older

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  18. Tim N: the British appeasers who wanted either neutrality or even collaboration with Nazi Germany

    A little known bit of trivia about me, is that I went to the same school as Lord Halifax, though not at the same time obviously!

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  19. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: A little known bit of trivia about me, is that I went to the same school as Lord Halifax, though not at the same time obviously!

    I went to the same school as the drummer in the 90’s Britpop sensations “Dodgy”….although not at the same time sadly.

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  20. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: I don’t have any firm grasp of the context…..

    The context is outlined in a very good book called “Hitler’s Englishman: Crime of Lord Haw-Haw (Crimes of the century)” by Francis Selwyn published in 1987.

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  21. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: The converse is the bizarre decision of the Americans not to try and execute Ezra Pound

    The very active, present day, Fascist cultural youth group in Rome “Casa Pound” is named after him.

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  22. George W on said:

    Bit disappointed at the start to see a mark IV spitfire with d-day invasion stripe markings in something that is supposed to be set in 1941.

    Wish it explained more about how the Nazis won the Battle of Britain. I don’t mind alternative histories but they need to be plausible and back it up with a credible sounding version of events.

    Also I found the idea of Hitler conquering Britain together with the soviets and then waiting 14 months still without invading Russia is a bit far fetched.

    But then again I suppose it’s a story line to be enjoyed not a historical documentary.

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  23. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: Did I see that it had the Polish squadron insignia on it as well?

    (We are *officially* geeks here!)

    The dashing toff pilots in their Spitfires get all the Kudos in the Battle of Britain but a lot of the spadework was done by working class Flight Sergeants in their Hurricanes and the Polish squadrons out of airfields like Northolt.

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  24. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: I believe that the prosecution prevailed with the novel argument that he purported to be a British subject in his broadcasts.

    Joyce had fraudulently obtained a British passport that he was not entitled to (such things were easy to do in the 30’s) and this was found on him when he was arrested.

    The Crown used this against him at the trial and this was a further black mark against Joyce. They seemed determined to hang him.

    He was a truly vile character. He left the BUF after Mosely scaled back spending on the Party in 1937 and started his own little group. His excuse was that the BUF wasn’t anti-Semitic enough calling them “Kosher Fascists”. As a young man in Ireland his family were Catholic unionists and he worked as a teenage errand boy for the Black and Tans, ironic considering Mosleys long time support for a united Ireland.

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  25. Jellytot on said:

    Ted:
    Mosley opposed the Black and Tans because their brutality undermined British imperialism’s legitimacy. He didn’t support the IRA or Sinn Fein.

    The BUF published a pamphlet “Ireland’s Right to Unite”.

    Mosley too spoke in glowing terms about Michael Collins and a Mosleyite splinter group “The League of St. George” featured Collins on their list of fascist heros on their website in the late 90’s.

    In 1970, Mosley said ‘ The division of Ireland is wrong . It should end as soon as possible…It is bad for Catholics in the north as they are denied full civil rights and social justice by the controlling Protestants ‘.

    I’ll grant that he did not fully support the IRA but his was the only strain of British fascism that clearly supported a united Ireland in the context of a pan-Europe. The only qualification is the the small BUF branches in Scotland were loyalist….but that was to do with the peculiarities of Scotland on this issue.

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  26. Tim N: Eton?!

    King Edwards in Bath.

    I see that Wikipedia has him being educated at Eton, which I am sure is correct. However, my history of King Edward School by former headmaster, John Wroughton, lists him as a former old boy of King Edwards.

    I always took that as good coin, not having any way to check.

    Although a rather middle of the road direct grant school back when I went there (for people who don’t remember Direct Grant schools, I recommend The great comic novel, the Rotters Club by Jonathan Coe), but because Bath had previously been very fashionable, it was not unusual for some very famous people to have stayed there just for a year or so, so the list of old Boys of King Edwards was disproportionately illustrious, Shelley, Byron, Oliver Goldsmith, Admiral Perry, and others. Typically they had only been tat the school for a few weeks.

    In the modern world, the most high profile “Old Edwardians” are probably me, a lack lustre Tory backbench MP whose name I forget, the shyster who started the scare about alleged links between inoculations and autism, and the comedian Bill Bailey (who was in the year below me). I left at 16, and have had no connection with the place the last 40 years.

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  27. Jellytot: He left the BUF after Mosely scaled back spending on the Party in 1937 and started his own little group.

    This was because after Cable Street, Mussolini decided that the BUF were dilletantes for not fighting their way through. Of course the reason that the BUF didn’t fight on the day was the rather prosaic one that Mosley could not risk being arrested as he was due to get married the day after in Berlin.

    Mussolini put Mosley on notice that the subsidies from Rome (that were huge) would be in the balance if the BUf didn’t make substantial gains in the London County Council election in 1937.

    The BUF flopped in those elections,and Mussolini was good to his word and slashed the subsidy.

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  28. Jellytot: Never read it but it was supposedly very anti-Communist unsurprisingly.

    It is poor, in the rather one dimensional slapstick way that Tintin in the Congo, and Tintin in America are, without the ensemble of supporting characters. The politics are laddled on in a very unsubtle way, but Herge was at that time a rather impressionable young man, under the sway of the Rexists.

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  29. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: This was because after Cable Street, Mussolini decided that the BUF were dilletantes for not fighting their way through. Of course the reason that the BUF didn’t fight on the day was the rather prosaic one that Mosley could not risk being arrested as he was due to get married the day after in Berlin.

    Was it true that Hitler and Goebbels took the piss out of Mosley at his wedding reception in Berlin over Cable Street?

    Supposedly they said their SA would have simply smashed their way through, killing police and protestors if necessary, and they regarded the BUF as a joke for not doing so.

    This was featured in a scene in that terrible Mosley ITV biography 20 years ago.

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  30. Jellytot: Supposedly they said their SA would have simply smashed their way through, killing police and protestors if necessary, and they regarded the BUF as a joke for not doing so.

    I may be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing of the Brownshirts or Mussolini’s Blackshirts ever having to deal with a situation quite like Cable Street.

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  31. Jellytot: Supposedly they said their SA would have simply smashed their way through, killing police and protestors if necessary, and they regarded the BUF as a joke for not doing so.

    I am sure this is an accurate assessment.

    Jellytot: Was it true that Hitler and Goebbels took the piss out of Mosley at his wedding reception in Berlin over Cable Street?

    Hadn’t heard that. In some ways Mosley was the most talented of the European fascist leaders, but his patrician background meant he wasn’t a real scrapper

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  32. Tim N: I may be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing of the Brownshirts or Mussolini’s Blackshirts ever having to deal with a situation quite like Cable Street.

    You mean an anti-fascist mobilisation on the eve of their leader’s wedding day? no I think that that situation was unique. Or rather, the anti-fascist mobilisation in Berlin on the eve of Hitler’s wedding was rather more determined that the Cable street protestors.

    🙂

    I would have though that, on the contrary, the squadristi and SA dealt with a Cable street type occasion as their day job.

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  33. Jellytot: A very early TinTin book was called “TinTin in the land of the Soviets” I think.

    BTW, although Tintin is always referred to as the “boy reporter”, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the only work where Tintin is ever shown submitting copy.

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  34. Andy Newman: I would have though that, on the contrary, the squadristi and SA dealt with a Cable street type occasion as their day job.

    I don’t know about that. The SA had to deal with regular punch ups and fire fights with the SPD and KPD, but I don’t know if they had to deal with a countermarch of that size (again, not at all certain about that)

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  35. Jellytot on said:

    Tim N: I may be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing of the Brownshirts or Mussolini’s Blackshirts ever having to deal with a situation quite like Cable Street.

    The funeral procession of Horst Wessel (pimp and Nazi martyr) was deliberately routed through a communist area of east Berlin (may have been Wedding) to provoke violence. Goebells advised Hitler not to attend on the day because of the anticipated violence. They buried Wessel under a hail of rocks thrown by Communist youth who were outside the cemetery walls.

    Cable Street would have been considered a playground dust up compared to the battles between the SA, Red Front Fighters League, the Reichsbanner (the SPD’s paramilitary wing) and the Police. Scores died. I can recall not one single death in Britain as a result of political voilence in the 30’s.

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  36. Jellytot on said:

    Tim N:
    Jellytot,

    Granted, in terms of the nature and level of the violence, I was talking about the mass nature of the demonstration at Cable Street

    Don’t buy into Trot myth making on this subject.

    There were mass demonstrations involving fascists and anti fascists all over Germany prior to 1933.

    A little known fact is that the fascists successfully marched through Bethnal Green the weekend following Cable Street and had large demonstrations and street meetings in East and South London right up until the eve of war.

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  37. Andy newmanl on said:

    Tim N: I was talking about the mass nature of the demonstration at Cable Street

    They did manage to defeat the entire armed forces of the French third republic, so they were able to handle some rough stuff against big groups

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  38. Andy newmanl: They did manage to defeat the entire armed forces of the French third republic, so they were able to handle some rough stuff against big groups

    Small fry compared to the East London YCL!

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  39. Jellytot on said:

    Tim N: Small fry compared to the East London YCL!

    I am not diminishing at all the good political role of the CP at Cable Street and after or the role of the local community who were suffering anti-Semitic attacks * but so many counter factual myths have been built up around this event.

    * It should be recognised that the East End Jews gave as good as they got in terms of violence under characters like Jack Spot.

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  40. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman: I am sure this is an accurate assessment.

    Hadn’t heard that. In some ways Mosley was the most talented of the European fascist leaders, but his patrician background meant he wasn’t a real scrapper

    Hitler was more interested in Mosley’s aristocratic connections and links with the British Establishment as an individual rather than the BUF as an organisation which he had a low opinion of.

    The only other interesting continental fascist leader was Corneliu Codreanu of the Romanian Iron Guard. A fantastically violent group which mixed extreme Catholicism and quite maniacal anti-Semitism (it criticised the Nazis for not being anti-Jewish enough).

    Ultimately It was caught up in Hitler’s desire to keep the Antonescu dictatorship on board and actually had some of its members put in German concentration camps to be used as leverage against the Romainian military dictatorship.

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  41. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    Joe Jacobs (who was repeatedly a member of the CP) gives a somewhat different account of what happened in 1936 compared to Phil Pirayatin in ” Our Flag Stays Red”.

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  42. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: was Corneliu Codreanu of the Romanian Iron Guard

    And then there was that bit which I still find hard to believe. Where they slaughtered Jews and then put them through an actual slaughterhouse without their limbs and stamped them as if they were food. You can’t fuck around with fascists. They need to be got rid of. By any means necessary.

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  43. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: Gore Road?

    There is an interesting article on Cable Street in History Today online magazine:

    This is from a Special Branch report on Fascist activity in the East End for October 1936:

    In the week after Cable Street the BUF ‘conducted the most successful series of meetings since the beginning of the movement’, attracting crowds of thousands and little opposition. Mosley made an ‘enthusiastically received’ address to an audience of 12,000 at Victoria Park Square, which was followed by a peaceful march to nearby Limehouse. By contrast the Communists’ efforts to consolidate their victory had ‘met with a very poor response’. ‘A definite pro-Fascist feeling has manifested itself’, the Special Branch report concluded: ‘The alleged Fascist defeat is in reality a Fascist advance.’

    http://www.historytoday.com/daniel-tilles/myth-cable-street

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  44. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: And then there was that bit which I still find hard to believe. Where they slaughtered Jews and then put them through an actual slaughterhouse without their limbs and stamped them as if they were food. You can’t fuck around with fascists. They need to be got rid of. By any means necessary.

    Yes…I read about that. From the Bucharest pogrom of 1941. Having researched the Iron Guard I find that behaviour quite believable.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legionnaires'_rebellion_and_Bucharest_pogrom

    What was unusual is that the Iron Guard encouraged its female members to particpate in this action where they sexually assaulted male Jews. Another mark of this organisation’s uniqueness.

    The locally based German Nazi’s were even shocked and sent damning reports back to Berlin. They prefered their genocide to be more orderly and less wild. To quote Himmler at the Ponzan speech on Jews:

    “We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude to animals, will also adopt a decent attitude to these human animals”

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  45. Evan P on said:

    Jellytot: A fantastically violent group which mixed extreme Catholicism and quite maniacal anti-Semitism (it criticised the Nazis for not being anti-Jewish enough).

    Correct other than the Catholicism bit. They were Orthodox, in keeping with the dominant brand of Christianity in Romania.

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  46. Evan P on said:

    Jellytot: There were mass demonstrations involving fascists and anti fascists all over Germany prior to 1933.

    Not just prior.

    Read Christopher Isherwood’s account of the mass mobilisation in Berlin against the Nazi march against Karl Liebknecht House, the KPD’s HQ on the eve of the Hitler coming to power. What was particularly moving was the united character of the people who attended, the majority not being KPD people.

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  47. Jellytot on said:

    Evan P: Correct other than the Catholicism bit. They were Orthodox, in keeping with the dominant brand of Christianity in Romania.

    Yep….my bad. They were orthodox.

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  48. Stephen Low on said:

    Tim N,

    Tim N: Yeah, I’ve always been rather sceptical of the possibility of Nazi Germany actually being able to conquer and occupy Britain. Hitler certainly seemed more interested in simply pounding Britain into withdrawing from the war (hence the Blitz).

    I think a much more likely and interesting alternative history would be to question what would have happened if the British appeasers who wanted either neutrality or even collaboration with Nazi Germany actually got their way. There were various points before and after the outbreak of war when this was a very real possibility.

    That is precisely the scenario sketched in “Dominion” By CJ Sansom – It’s set in the mid fifties with Beaverbrook as PM and Mosley as Home Secretary.. but it’s the smaller details of day to day life that are most unsettling.

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  49. John Grimshaw: Gore Road?

    http://socialistunity.com/the-real-lessons-of-cable-street/

    within the two weeks following Cable Street, the BUF staged a number of very big and uncontested meetings in Stepney, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and Limehouse, and on 14th October, just ten days after the Battle of Cable Street Mosley addressed a crowd of 12000 fascists in Bethnal Green, and then led them in a march to Limehouse. Indeed on the Sunday of 11th October a gang of 200 BUF thugs rampaged down Mile End Road, smashing the windows of Jewish owned shops, and throwing a hairdresser and a four year old girl through a plate glass window.

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  50. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman,

    A good article and worth re-reading in full. It makes some strong points including this:

    Forget the cod-sociology and under-graduate Marxism about fascism being a “petit-bourgeois” movement of the middle classes. In Stepney in 1937 and in Barking in 2006 the BUF voters and BNP voters have been and are the most disadvantaged parts of the working class, and they have been attracted to vote for the far-right on the basis of anti-Semitism then, and anti-immigrant racism and Islamophobia now.

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  51. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Thanks for this. The reason I said Gore Road is that I know Moseley campaigned on that side of Victoria Park in 1947. I wondered if the same was true ten years earlier. Actually Gore Road is in South Hackney but hey there’s not much in it.

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  52. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: Forget the cod-sociology and under-graduate Marxism about fascism being a “petit-bourgeois” movement of the middle classes

    Explain the reason why both of you feel the need to make this point?

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  53. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: Explain the reason why both of you feel the need to make this point?

    Because the idea that fascism, especially in Britain, is the preserve of the middle classes is nonsense.

    One of the structural weaknesses of fascism in Britain is its inability to extend its appeal into the middle classes. The lack of a middle ranking educated cadre has always held back them organizationally.

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  54. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw:
    Andy Newman,

    Thanks for this. The reason I said Gore Road is that I know Moseley campaigned on that side of Victoria Park in 1947. I wondered if the same was true ten years earlier. Actually Gore Road is in South Hackney but hey there’s not much in it.

    Ridley Road market in Hackney was a traditional fascist pitch both for the BUF and especially in the late 40’s with the UM.

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  55. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: Because the idea that fascism, especially in Britain, is the preserve of the middle classes is nonsense.

    There is a difference between the working class being involved in fascism and it actually belonging to them.

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  56. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: There is a difference between the working class being involved in fascism and it actually belonging to them.

    How can a social class belong to a political tradition? It suggests ownership.

    Reminds me of a conversion I once had with a central committee member of the SWP who stated that the IS tradition represented, in embryo, the multi billion strong world working class.

    When I responded that the world working class isn’t even aware of the existence of the IS tradition….nor probably never would be, he said that was a minor detail.

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  57. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: It’s a religious thing is it?

    Well, maybe it is.

    Many of these groups have similarities with religious cults.

    I.E. “Love Bombing” upon inital recruitment, fostering a hothouse atmosphere with an “us against the world” attitude, intolerance of criticism of the leadership, lack of any real internal democracy, guilt tripping, articles of faith, dogma, even sexual exploitation (Delta, Healey)

    Andy did an article on this phenomenon at the time of the Delta affair.

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  58. Omar on said:

    Jellytot: Because the idea that fascism, especially in Britain, is the preserve of the middle classes is nonsense.

    One of the structural weaknesses of fascism in Britain is its inability to extend its appeal into the middle classes. The lack of a middle ranking educated cadre has always held back them organizationally.

    Marx actually made the same observation about the French “lumpenproletariat”, before Fascism as a label was actually coined, in his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

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  59. Jellytot on said:

    Omar: Marx actually made the same observation about the French “lumpenproletariat”, before Fascism as a label was actually coined, in his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

    BNP voting support in Essex and in the North could hardly be desribed as Lumpenproletariat.

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  60. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    I was being a bit sneaky. I assumed like me that you’re not a very good typist and that you really meant conversation. Sorry. 🙂 As to your point. Yes there is some truth in what you say, actually more than some truth. But is this because this is intrinsic in these types of organisations or because they become this way when the level of class struggle is low?

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  61. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: How can a social class belong to a political tradition? It suggests ownership.

    What I meant was that yes of course there are working class people who get involved in fascism. To be honest I know some, not active now I don’t think. But that the push for fascism comes from the insecurity of the petit-bourgeois when they are in a unhappy economic situation. That was certainly true in Germany in the 20s and 30s. When the fascist movement becomes secure it can then seek to co-opt the ruling classes. Fascism is specific. It originated in the twentieth century and it’s motivation was anti-communist and anti-trades union (as well as often being very racist). The Daily Mail and it’s readers were a case in point. You don’t buy the Mail and put it in your back pocket if you’re on a building site. The virulent nationalism that is central to fascism is then used to in effect defeat working class independence and rights, either by force, propaganda or infection. As to the UK en ce moment as there is no real communist threat and hasn’t been since the 1950s maybe therefore there is no oxygen for fascism?

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  62. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot: BNP voting support in Essex and in the North could hardly be desribed as Lumpenproletariat.

    I was in a local pub the other day near York Hall (boxing night) and they were all Essex boys in there. Not lumpen but definitely working class and no real obvious fascism on display obviously not conclusive of course.

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  63. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: Yes but also the Dundee Arms which is now somewhat gentrified. .:)

    I sometimes go to the Salmon before West Ham games. Definitely not gentrified when I go there.

    It was an old Blackshirt pub in the 30’s. Mosley did street meetings outside.

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  64. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    It’s a West Ham pub for the most part. Although there is a smattering of Arsenal and Tottenham. But were are running out of “normal” pubs round here. It’s like working class males (mostly) are circling the wagons and staring defensively. The Bohola House has closed and the Cornwallis has been done up. May I recommend the Hare further up Cambridge Heath Road as my friend who is the landlord would not forgive me if I didn’t put in a punt for him.

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  65. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    What happened to The Sun and The Blade Bone on the Bethnal Green Road?

    The latter was always a fascist pub going back to the 30’s and continuing through the NF, to the BNP in the 90’s.

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  66. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    The Sun has become gentrified to some degree and the Bladebone (which you are right about before the BNP got kicked off the top of Brick Lane was their preferred watering hole) turned into a Chinese noodle bar and I believe is now being turned into flats.

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  67. Jellytot on said:

    Do you go to pubs in Mile End?

    The Coborn Arms off Tredegar Square is incredibly gentrified. Hipsters playing f*ckin’ board games last time I was in. By contrast, the Wentworth behind Mile End station is still working class. Good old knees up there most weekend nights.

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  68. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    Used to go in the Coburn years ago. Haven’t for a while. I occasionally go in the Lord Tredegar but that is usually on a Sunday when there are still a few locals around. The Wentworth I know but have never been in there but keep thinking about it.

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  69. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: The Wentworth I know but have never been in there but keep thinking about it.

    Go. The Irish landlord is great and the twins behind the bar are fun. Lots of characters go in and out throughout the evening. Spend any time in there and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Good jukebox too.

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  70. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: the BNP got kicked off the top of Brick Lane

    Militant (and a few anarchos) did that…..with the ANL lollipop brigade (stuck behind police barriers as is usual) providing a good (if unintended) diversion for the cops.

    Militant’s “Away Team” did the business that day. Fair play to them.

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  71. John Grimshaw on said:

    Jellytot,

    I was there. I wasn’t on message. I seem to rember a demo just before the final one when some of us ended outside the old Bethnal Green police station (now an estate agents) because some comrades were arrested and the fascists were drinking in the Camdens Head and I had to get an old friend of mine who happened to have a van to come and rescue us.

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  72. John Grimshaw on said:

    Also I rember having a good “away day” run around Waterloo station and the bridge in whatever year that was. 1995 maybe?

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  73. Evan P on said:

    #101 I see your point and certainly it occurred to me about the discussion about pubs.

    On the other hand I should point out that some of the people I know who were at that scrap at Waterloo and a number of such events were female.

    As was the person in Manchester who knocked Moseley over with a brick in her handbag (with reference to that post about Moseley coming a cropper 🙂 ).

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  74. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman:
    The tail end of this thread is worth contemplating for those asking why we don’t get many women commenting on SU

    Yep….fair point….it is a bit “boy-sey”. I was thinking that.

    Jellytot should perform a tactical withdrawal and I’m sure the women would flood back. 🙂

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  75. Jellytot on said:

    Evan P,

    Going back to the Horst Wessel funeral….when the cortege passed by a communist area of Berlin, women from high buildings emptied the contents of chamber pots onto the fascists below…and dinner plates and everything else that came to hand.

    There is an excellent photo of the communist crowd trying the break through police lines.

    Type into Google Images, “Horst Wessel funeral hearse” and you’ll see it. It’s on a fascist site so I won’t provide a link.

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  76. Jellytot on said:

    Evan P: On the other hand I should point out that some of the people I know who were at that scrap at Waterloo and a number of such events were female.

    And they were often the best fighters….would sidle up to unsuspecting male fascists and floor them with a sucker punch.

    Witnessed that more than once.

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  77. John Grimshaw on said:

    Evan P: I see your point and certainly it occurred to me about the discussion about pubs.

    What women don’t go to pubs? Also this thread was about fascism and whilst Jellytot and I got distracted we were also talking about pubs where fascists used to go. Weren’t we ? I don’t think that’s the reason why women don’t contribute to this site. Anyway this isn’t the thread where the initial contribution was about women is it? As Jellytot has already said when the BNP were purged from the top of Brick Lane and at Waterloo etc I seem to remember there were plenty of women there.

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  78. Evan P on said:

    John Grimshaw: What women don’t go to pubs?

    I know plenty who don’t particularly like them. Particularly the sort that (I maybe wrongly) got the impression you lot were discussing.

    But it’s the sort of discussion I have with people all the time. What are your favourites in Stockport and Manchester btw?

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  79. John Grimshaw on said:

    Evan P: know plenty who don’t particularly like them. Particularly the sort that (I maybe wrongly) got the impression you lot were discussing.

    Well I don’t know enough but anecdotally my partner prefers the more gentrified pubs in the Bethnal Green area where they serve a nice glass of wine. I prefer a more traditional working class type place, as I guess so does Jellytot whoever he is. However I refer you to my previous comments so as not to distract from the main point of this thread. This kind of reminds me of the SWPs move away from pubs in the mid 1990s. For some years we had a free meeting place in a grubby Stockport boozer but the as the SWP expanded it was decided that we had to find new places to meet that were “accessible” to women and persons who are of a non white English cultural background. Except in Stockport there weren’t any and the decision just ended up alienating some of the activists. In Bethnal Green for a while the SWP were meeting in a coffee shop on Brick Lane but since the various splits and the Delta affair etc. I haven’t seen any of them for a while.

    Evan P: What are your favourites in Stockport and Manchester btw?

    I like the Arden Arms which does have a lot of women in it because they serve food and it’s run by a male gay couple which might make it more accessible. If you like geeky real ale pubs then I recommend the Crown underneath the viaduct. Manchester I don’t know so well. The Briton’s Protection is it called?

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  80. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: This kind of reminds me of the SWPs move away from pubs in the mid 1990s.

    This debate occured in a West London SWP branch in the 90’s.

    Some wanted to drink in the Hop Poles pub in Hammersmith (a pub where ‘An Phoblacht’ was sold back in the day I recall and monies were collected for the “Wives and Children” … nudge nudge wink wink)……others wanted to drink in the Lyric Theatre coffee shop across the road….The Coffee faction won out.

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  81. Jellytot on said:

    John Grimshaw: In Bethnal Green for a while the SWP were meeting in a coffee shop on Brick Lane but since the various splits and the Delta affair etc. I haven’t seen any of them for a while.

    Mark Steel is his book relates a humorous anecdote that illustrated declining SWP membership in the early 2000’s.

    At first his branch met in a pub function room….then as numbers thinned, around the pool table in said function room….finally they barely had enough to group around the end corner pocket of the table.

    All the while he was being told that all was fine, “We’re 7000 strong !!” and “There’s never a better time to be a Socialist !!”

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  82. Andy Newman:
    The tail end of this thread is worth contemplating for those asking why we don’t get many women commenting on SU

    I suspect the damage was already done, with the Airfix models!

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  83. John Grimshaw: my partner prefers the more gentrified pubs in the Bethnal Green area where they serve a nice glass of wine.

    In SU related drinking anecdote, long term readers will recall Derek Wall of the Green Party used to contribute here. We have recently become reacquainted through both drinking in the Methuen arms in Corsham, where I live, and he regularly visits

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  84. brianthedog on said:

    Andy Newman: In SU related drinking anecdote, long term readers will recall Derek Wall of the Green Party used to contribute here. We have recently become reacquainted through both drinking in the Methuen arms in Corsham, where I live, and he regularly visits

    Has he forgiven you?

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  85. brianthedog on said:

    Maybe a good idea to do a story about the fake news that Tom Watson is disgracefully running about Unite and Momentum.

    Watson and the rump of new Labour are not only seeking to do serious damage to their own party but also interfere with Unite’s GS elections.

    Even more galling is the BBC running the story even though there is no evidence to back up the claims.

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  86. Jellytot on said:

    brianthedog,

    There is an obvious planned and coordinated political and media campaign against socialists in the Labour party. The establishment want a safe Labour party lead by the neo-Blairites. The return of Blair himself is a central part of this. He represents a double edged blade. One is the overturn Brexit….the other is to seize back Labour.

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  87. jock mctrousers on said:

    Jellytot: There is an obvious planned and coordinated political and media campaign against socialists in the Labour party

    Hey but channel 4 says exactly the same thing as the BBC so it must be true?

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  88. brianthedog on said:

    jock mctrousers: Hey but channel 4 says exactly the same thing as the BBC so it must be true?

    Don’t you love it when the liberal establishment media gets hysterical about fake news being pumped out by Trump and his supporters but happily puts out their own fake news about trade unions on a regular basis.

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