Dan Horne (Northumbria) on the British Left’s response to fascism at home and in Europe

My dissertation examines the way in which the British Left contributed to the anti-fascist cause in 1930s Europe. I will observe how the British Left reacted to the rise of fascism within Germany, Austria and Italy, whilst also exploring their reaction towards Oswald Mosley and the BUF at home. This dissertation will attempt to draw attention to how key campaigners sought to gain wider support both in Britain and European states, whilst simultaneously examining the difficulties the British Left incurred when seeking to form certain alliances with various Socialist groups.

RCVGF fundraiser leaflet for Conway Hall Dance.
RCVGF fundraiser leaflet for Conway Hall Dance. Held at People’s History Museum. ID/CI/29/11

The bursary from the Society for the Study of Labour History provided me with an opportunity to go to the People’s History Museum in Manchester and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. By obtaining this bursary, I was able to conduct in-depth primary research for my undergraduate dissertation: The British Left and the Victims of Fascism, 1933-1936.

The research I was able to carry out on my two-day trip provided me with an invaluable insight into the topic. It helped me develop new lines of research that I had not thought of prior to my visit. For example, at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, I was able to delve into notable telegrams between leading figures of the Independent Labour Party, Labour Party and the Socialist League towards their international counterparts. For instance, one telegram demonstrated Ellen Wilkinson had ‘deep concerns’ regarding the situation in Germany as early as July 1932 and how numerous efforts were being made to assist the German Socialists throughout the early 1930s.

New Leader front page, February 16th 1934.
New Leader, February 16th 1934. Held at WCML.

Documents such as these have allowed my research to develop into a broader and more in-depth account of how the British Left contributed to the anti-fascist cause abroad. Further to this, collections at the Working Class Movement Library provided an insight into how the British Left contributed to domestic anti-fascism in Britain. By analysing notable pamphlets, New Leader articles and leaflets I was able to see the impact which the British Left had on Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and supporters of fascism.

Without this generous SSLH bursary, I would not have been able to conduct my research to the level which is required for an undergraduate dissertation. The bursary has also contributed to my overall understanding of anti-fascism and the British Left throughout the 1930s.

Find out more about SSLH bursary schemes.