Union Movement

From Academic Kids

The Union Movement was an extreme right wing political party founded in Britain by Oswald Mosley.

As the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) Mosley initially stayed out of the post-War political arena, instead turning to writing. His first work was My Answer (1946) in which he argued that he was a patriot who had been unjustly punished. In this and his 1947 follow up, The Alternative, Mosley began to argue for a much closer integration between the states of Europe, the beginning of his “Europe-a-Nation” campaign that sought a strong united Europe as a counterbalance to the growing power of the US and USSR. In Mosley’s mind it was “part of an organic process of British history” with the UK having grown from the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into England, then England and Wales, then Scotland and Ireland added and it now further expanding to form a united Europe. Government would be three tiered with an elected European government to organise defence and the corporatist economy, the continuation of national governments and a collection of local governments for the sake of independent identities . Mosley’s ideas were not as such new, as concepts of a Nation Europa and Eurafrika (the same idea only with parts of north Africa included as natural sectors of Europe’s traditional sphere of influence) were already growing in Germany’s post-War underground, whilst Mussolini’s 1944 Italian Social Republic had returned to fascism’s roots with an attempt at a corporatist economic system during its brief run. Nonetheless Mosley was the first to express the ideas in English and it came as no surprise when he returned to proper political activism in 1948. These plans were to form the basis for the policy programme of the Union Movement.

Mosley would return to the leadership of the British far right by founding the Union Movement (UM) in 1948 at a meeting in London’s Farringdon Hall, where as many as fifty one separate groups came under the new umbrella, including Jeffrey Hamm’s League of Ex-Servicemen and the Sons of St. George under Tommy Moran, both veterans of the BUF. Mosley remained a critic of liberal democracy, and the UM instead extolled a strong executive that people could endorse or reject through regular referenda, with an independent judiciary in place to appoint replacements in the event of a rejection . The party marched 1500 members through Camden that same year and went on to contest the following year’s local elections in London. However outside of Stepney and Bethnal Green, where reasonable results were secured, the UM performed very poorly at the polls and secured no representation. Disillusioned by the stern opposition that the UM faced, and with his style of street politics being exposed as somewhat passé, Mosley went into self-imposed exile in Ireland, leaving the UM to languish.

The 1948 British Nationalities Act redefined British citizenship meaning that British citizens could now also be citizens of the newly independent Commonwealth states or solely citizens of the UK and its colonies. The result of this act was a great increase in immigration, particularly from the newly independent Commonwealth states, as well as, to a lesser extent, from the colonies. In the early 1950s immigration was estimated at 8-10,000 per year, but this had grown to 35,000 per year by 1957 . Perceptions of the new migrant workers were frequently oppositional and stereotypical, although the Conservative Party, despite the private opinions of some of its members, were loathe to make a political issue out of it, for fear of being seen as gutter politicians. Minor disturbances occurred in 1958 in Notting Hill (following a Mosely rally) and Nottingham with clashes between racial groups, a new phenomenon in Britain.

The new uncertainties revitalised the UM and Mosley re-emerged to stand as a candidate in the 1959 election in North Kensington (which included Notting Hill), a first parliamentary election for him since 1931. Mosley made immigration his campaign issue, combining calls for assisted repatriation with scare stories regarding the criminality and sexual deviance of blacks, a common theme in racial scare-mongering at that time. The 8.1% share of the vote he secured was a personal humiliation for a man who still harboured designs on the Premiership, but the UM as a whole was buoyed by the immigration problem, which it saw as the next big issue in British politics.

Mosley had not forgotten “Europe-a-Nation” and in 1962 attended a conference in Venice where he helped to form a National Party of Europe along with Germany’s -Reichspartei, the Mouvement d’Action Civique and Jeune Europe of Belgium and the Movimento Sociale Italiano, although it never really advanced beyond a theoretical alliance .

Membership of the UM grew in the early 1960’s and Mosley stood again in the 1966 election, this time in the Shoreditch and Finsbury constituency. However capturing only 4.6% of the vote, Mosley lost interest thereafter and effectively departed the scene, despite still officially being UM leader until 1973 . The UM soldiered on into the 1970’s still advocating “Europe-a-Nation”, but had no real influence and failed to capture support with their fairly esoteric policy. They were renamed the Action Party in 1973, under which name they fought six seats at the Greater London Council election. In 1978 the Action Party became the Action Society which acted as a publishing house rather than a political party.

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