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Exploring anti-fascism in Britain through autobiography from 1930 to 1936.

Smith, L., 2021. Exploring anti-fascism in Britain through autobiography from 1930 to 1936. Masters Thesis (Masters). Bournemouth University.

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Abstract

The principle aim of this thesis is to explore and examine the way anti-fascist activists in the 1930s represented themselves, the movement, and their social and political communities through autobiography. It establishes a deeper understanding of the practical outworking of their philosophy and ethos. It is hoped that this piece of work will build on and add to scholarship that already exists around the usefulness of using memory sources in historical research. This will be achieved by focusing on the retelling of stories from ordinary people who lived during this time. During the inter-war years, the anti-fascist movement achieved its peak in 1930-1936, therefore this thesis is limited to those years. In 1936 the Battle of Cable Street contributed to a decline in British Union of Fascists’ activity and support; this became a climatic event for the movement. The research stops here as following this event the anti-fascist movement became much more complex due to World War 2 and the breakdown of the Communist Party. Whilst the autobiographies studied cover many international events and activities; this thesis will be limited to what happened in Britain during this period. Primary sources in the form of autobiographies are used to research this topic, which provide a unique contribution to the history and practices of the anti-fascist movement. Five case-study autobiographies were selected, four are written by men from a strong working-class background, and one woman from a wealthy background who had a “political awakening” later in life resulting in her dedicating her time to the working - class struggle. The stories are all written with a ‘history from below’ approach and allows the reader to gain an understanding of grassroots organisations and community politics at the heart of the movement. The autobiography written by Yvonne Kapp provides a female perspective of the time and in my opinion offers a more balanced examination and interesting analysis of the movement. Chapter one provides a background to the era studied and examines historiographical discussions of memory sources, the Left and the anti-fascist movement through a comprehensive literature review. This is followed by chapter two which discusses the authors’ community activism, highlights their grassroots community politics and how they sought to improve their community. This in turn exposes their anti-fascist identity and its relevance to their lives. Chapter three assesses whether the authors considered the Labour Party, Communist Party and Jewish community to be a united front against fascism. It goes on to observe how each of the autobiographies explain their clashes with the authorities and how their campaigning worked out in practice. Finally, chapter four highlights the authors’ recollections of the Battle of Cable Street and evaluates its contribution and significance to the fall of the British Union of Fascists. The results from this research suggest there are contradictions between the opinions of and information provided by each author. However, they all emphasise that the anti- fascist movement was a success due to the skill, commitment and dedication of working-class people. This was despite the fact that the police and government appeared to side with the British Union of Fascists, and they experienced much brutality from the authorities, but this did not deter them.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Data available from BORDaR:https://doi.org/10.18746/bmth.data.00000198
Uncontrolled Keywords:Communism in Britain; The Labour Party; 1930’s Britain; anti-Semitism in Britain; fascism in Britain; anti-fascism; anti-fascism in Britain; autobiography; autobiographers; Jewish autobiography; Communist autobiography; female anti-fascists; The Battle of Cable Street; working-class culture in Britain
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:35892
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:10 Aug 2021 15:32
Last Modified:24 Sep 2021 13:25

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