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THE 43 GROUP by Morris Beckman -
published by Centreprise
account of militant anti-fascist resistance in the UK in the years
following the second world war. In existence for only 5 years, the
group were mainly active in London where Mosley's British Union
of Fascists were busiest in their attempts to win favour amongst
the white working class.
Initially comprised of 43 ex-servicemen, the Group
were appalled at the xenophobic and anti-semetic ranting of the
Mosleyites, who would meet on London's street corners and berate
Many Jewish soldiers, recently returned from fighting
the fascists abroad, were shocked by the level of protection given
to the fascists at home by the police all in the name of
freedom of speech of course. Many of those who went on to join the
43 Group first encountered BUF rallies on their way home from cinemas
showing footage of the recently liberated concentration camps.
The Groups philosophy of the 3 D's
- Discuss, Decide and Do it were quickly manifested on the
streets of London, with literally thousands of fascist meetings
and rallies sent packing. Quickly gaining a reputation, The Groups
ranks swelled to hundreds, organised in 'wedges' of a dozen or so.
These wedges would attend a BUF rally and at a given signal would
storm the speakers platform, attacking BUF stewards and speaker.
The Groups military background ensured tight discipline and brutally
effective actions. This, combined with a number of spies within
the fascist ranks. Ensured the 43 Group almost always came out on
top, closing down two-thirds of all fascist activity in the UK until
it's simultaneous demise with organised fascism in Britain.
Despite the Groups ferocity when fighting the fascists,
they offered no resistance if arrested by the police. This policy
was in keeping with their goal of convincing the State to ban fascist
organisations. The Group could not then be seen to be attacking
the State. Modern anti-fascism in the shape of Anti-Fascist Action/No
Platform, has an altogether more cynical and politically radical
analysis of the role of the State, made up as it is of anarchists
and communists Beckmans' generation were not revolutionary in that
sense. Their motivations being a quite reasonable desire to see
off annoying idiots with megaphones and jackboots on their streets
. With the BUF in utter demise by 1949 the Group disbanded, job
done. Many subsequently migrated to Israel.
The 43 Group is a thrilling testament to the positive
role militancy can play in social movements. It's also the only
book I've ever read with a foreword by none other than Vidal Sassoon.