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British Union of Fascists

The British Union of Fascists (BUF) was a political party of the 1930s in the United Kingdom. The party was formed in 1932 by Oswald Mosley, and was a union comprised of several small, extreme-nationalist parties.

Mosley modelled himself on another fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. He also modeled his party on the lines of fascist movements in other countries, primarily Italy.

He instituted a black uniform, gaining the party the nickname, "blackshirts." The BUF was initially anti-Communist, protectionist, and supported strong state intervention in the economy, and the replacing of parliamentary democracy with a system of elected executives with jurisdiction over their own industries. The party claimed a membership as high as 50,000, and the Daily Mail was an early supporter, famously running the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!".

However, the BUF's parades of uniformed followers in black shirts won the party widespread derision from many quarters.

Despite considerable resistance - sometimes violent - from Jews and communists, they still found a following in the east end of London, where in the LLC elections of 1937 they obtained good results in their strongholds of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Limehouse. However the BUF never faced a General Election - in 1935 feeling unready they urged voters to abstain with a promise of "Fascism Next Time".

Towards the middle of the 1930s, the BUF's increasingly thuggish and anti-semitic image, isolated middle-class supporters who deserted the party in droves. At a rally in London, in 1934, BUF stewards became involved in a violent confrontation with communist hecklers, and this bad publicity caused the Daily Mail to withdraw support from the party.

With it's lack of electoral success, the party became more violent and strongly anti-Semitic in 1934-35, devolving into what some people have likened to little more than a bunch of thugs.

Their main activitiy was holding marches and protests that were generally perceived to be on racial themes in London (such as the famous Battle of Cable Street in October, 1936). Membership was below 8,000 by the end of 1935. The government was sufficiently concerned to pass the Public Order Act of 1936, which banned the wearing of political uniforms during marches, required police consent for political marches to go ahead, and effectively destroyed the movement. The BUF was completely banned in May 1940, and Mosley and 740 other senior fascists were interned for much of World War II.

Mosley made several unsuccessful attempts at a political comeback after the war.

See also: Fascism