Was the BUF destined to fail from the start? Was there ever going to be any success for fascism in Britain? The BUF was founded in 1932 but by 1940 it had diminished to nothing. Its aim was gain complete control and banish democracy through its leader Sir Oswald Mosley a wealthy aristocrat, however the government through this period felt no definite threat to their power. So why did fascism come to power in other countries in Europe and not England? Fascism suffered many failures some through their own doing and others, which could not be avoided.There were many faults with the fascist idea; some of their ideology seriously narrowed their potential votes. Some of their problems came within the fascist group itself, from the entire set-up to the leader himself.
There was a saying that Mosley was an opportunist with no opportunities. Indeed Mosley could have easily have run the country if the task was appointed to him and had many attributes including such qualities that he shared with Mussolini and even Hitler.Mosley was a very powerful orator and his speaking was one of the main sources of votes. However Mosley also had some weaknesses, he was a poor judge of character, which may explain why some other leaders in fascism were so weak and failing. Mosley also lacked a clear strategy from the start and with no clear strategy the group could get divided and become unorganised. In 1934 Fascism was at its peak and rallies were organised, uniforms were worn and fascism had around 50,000 members.
However even this led to a loss of respect and indirectly many votes. One such rally was maybe one of the most substantial events in the fascists history. The Olympia rally in 1934 lost much support for the fascist party and the night of the long knives. The brutal treatment of anti-fascist hecklers by Mosley’s blacshirts, led to many people drawing a similarity with the nazi party. This was especially bad since there was still no love loss between England and Germany. The previous conflict with Germany led people to question the BUF’s patriotism.
The violent and anti-democratic ideas of the fascist party not only lost them much local support but also cause Lord Rothermere to withdraw his support and media coverage. The lost of this media attention lost the party many votes and it was not just Lord Rothermere that was pulling all the strings. There was an intended fascist radio station however this was never to materialise probably due to the lack of funds available. The added problem was that there was a media boycott of fascist propaganda that made communications incredibly difficult.The fascists should have tried to suit more people and widen their target audience however Mosley insisted on continuing to support his idea of anti-Semitism, the dislike of Jews may have pulled the votes in for Germany however there was such a crisis in England an this idea only narrowed the support. The fascist ideology was not so radical and attractive to the public. The coalition government was not struggling and many people were already happy with their choice in party.There were many old allegiances and the party of youth didn’t seem to have the attraction to pull away the public from their support for the labour and conservative parties.
The BUF struggled with support locally as well, they couldn’t turn the unemployment dissatisfaction into votes for them. The support locally was so weak that they struggled to hire out meeting halls. Many people say that the fascist party was set up just at the wrong time. After the First World War many countries suffered economic decline, this went hand in hand with a huge drop of un-employment.In Italy’s case Mussolini was able to latch onto this and use it to his advantage exclaiming the weak government in power.
Another factor that Mussolini was able to take advantage on was the mutilated victory and the treaty of Versailles. Mosley however was not able to use this as a rallying point and undermine the government. Britain’s economic decline hit its record low in 1932, the same time as the fascist party was starting up. The aim of Mosley was to use this crisis as a weapon, however from that year onwards the situation only improved.A few years earlier and the fascists could have gained much more support, as the decline worsened the fascists really could have reeled in the support. The economic condition of the party itself began to struggle as time went on, many people withdrew their financial support and even Mussolini stopped lending money to the struggling party. The money spent in local elections on candidates was lost due to enough votes for them.
One reason that the fascists in Italy were so successful was that they were overlooked because of the threat of socialism that it was combating. However in England the threat was significantly lower.Therefore the English government saw no problem in taking action against the right wing groups, this included the acts of parliament 1936. The public order act was passed which saw that no uniforms or any distinguishing marks representing a political group could be worn. Despite this the fascist membership increased from 15,000 to 22,000 between the years 136 and 1939. Mussolini was also able to build on the fact that the Italian people had no role model, no leader they could worship.
The British however of course had the monarchy that was very strong and the worship was very much focused on it.The reasons against fascism in the end meant that the task would have been close to impossible. The party was well known, as the party of youth, however was this part of its downfall? Youth brings up the images of, inexperience, rebellious, adventurous and when the current government are not particularly failing the country why would people want to switch to this new violent party? Mosley was a clear middle class man, the middle class that he could relate to were entirely happy with the current government, Mosley couldn’t relate to the people that would give him votes, the working and lower classes.In hindsight Mosley could have taken many different decisions and become more successful. What if Mosley had not pushed forward the anti-Semitism campaign, was that the key to its failure. I believe that if the party had started ten years earlier they would have been pushing for power by 1932. I believe fascism in Britain didn’t have the power to bring in he voters from other parties.
Even when people supported the party they still wished not to be labelled with it. Francis Yeats-Brown, whilst showing approval of the BUF through his writings, also wished to distance himself from fascism.He wrote in 1933: “We are not fascists. Fascism is a foreign culture. We are English.
.. The British way will be different. ” Lord Rothermere also was against using the word fascist, despite his support of the party. By the time the war came it was the end for fascism, after their close relations with Germany people were never going to give Mosley and his black shirts a chance. Mosley was thrown into prison and everything slowed down to nothing. By 1939 fascism had failed.