Posts Tagged ‘‘Anti-Alienism in England after the First World War’’

Racism and Anti-Semitism in the Conservative Party Between the Wars

May 5, 2016

Lobster 15 also reviewed a series of books and article on the British extreme Right after the First World War. One of them was ‘Anti-Alienism in England after the First World War’, by David Cesarani, in the March, 1987 issue of Immigrants and Minorities. The review describes the racism in the Conservative party, and particularly the anti-Semitic suspicion of Jews as the causes of Socialism and Communism. The anti-Semitism and the subsequent persecution and suspicion of Jews by the Conservative party and senior civil servants was so acute, that Cesarani suggests that far from being the exception, Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists were actually simply another part of this milieu. The review states

A constant feature of the Tory right-wing has been its xenophobia. Since the Monday Club’s appearance the targets have been Black and Brown people in Britain. Before the Second World War it was the Eastern Europeans in general and the Jews in particular. These were the ‘aliens’. Immediately after World War I, the Tory right found itself in the ecstatic position of being able to conflate all its hate figures: Socialism, Bolshevism and the ‘alien menace’ were all perceived to be Jewish.

Mrs Thatcher has described Socialism as ‘an alien creed’, a theme which reappeared in the Tories’ ’87 election campaign. Are these echoes of the Tories’ themes of the 1920s and 30’s deliberate? Henry Page-Croft’s National Party, the Monday Club of its day, was part of the ‘anti-alien’ agitation which Cesarani shows was much more wide-spread and politically respectable in the 20’s than most commentators have previously acknowledged.

Cesarani shows how, after the forced repatriation of Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and Russians – maybe 40,000 in all – in the decade straddling the War, ‘alien’ became virtually synonymous with Jew – and almost with left-wing Jew. The deportations of this period he describes are reminiscent of the ‘Palmer Raids’ in the United States at this time, Cesarani even has quotes from one or two people on the Right in this country who seem to have seen the ‘Palmer Raids’ as a model to be copied here.

Much of this anti-Jewish activity was encouraged by the Tory Home Secretary, Joynson-Kicks, and Cesarani produces enough evidence to justify this conclusion:

“It is almost a truism among historians of anti-Semitism in England that the state and the political parties were immune from contamination. Yet the evidence of ‘anti-alienism’ shows that the politicians openly manipulated an ‘anti-alien’ sentiment that was entirely identified with the Jews and that ministers of state and senior civil servants consciously operated policies that discriminated against Jews on the basis of racial criteria … the harsh anti-Jewish atmosphere in the post-War years prompts a re-evaluation of the 1930’s and Mosley’s movement in particular. It had been suggested that there was nothing new about Mosley’s appeal. The history of ‘anti-alienism’ reinforces this view; political parties and the state had already pre-empted much of his programme and enough of his violent language to make him seem to some extent, passé.

This may account for the limits of his success. It surely necessitates a re-reading of the relations between Mosleyism and British politics. In the light of ‘anti-alienism’, Mosley was not just a flash-in-the-pan, an aberration that serves to affirm the essential stability of the liberal state and its political system. The state was, itself, already deeply incriminated in anti-Jewish discrimination and political parties had already experimented with a national chauvinism defined largely against the Jews.”

Advertisements