Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Essays & Editorials
2008 - 2009
2007 - 2008
2006 - 2007
To what extent can the British Union of Fascists be considered
a ‘political religion’?
By Harriet Notley
"Religion can never disappear from the world, it can only transform itself.” 
“an organization of British Fascists…welded by a religious faith” 
“Ranking high as a secular religion and philosophy of life, Fascism was too dependant on human nature and not on the Eternal.”[ 3]
Therefore, this thesis will ask whether politics can, in St Simon's terms, 'transform' itself into a religion. Is it possible that a political movement, such as the British Union of Fascists, could inspire Nellie Driver and other Blackshirts in a similar way to a ‘conventional’ religion? In order to answer these and other questions this thesis is structured in the following way: The remainder of this introduction introduces the terms and themes that are to be explored. Chapter 1 further analyses the key terms of fascism, political religion and Christianity. It will focus in particular on the still controversial concept of political religion. Moreover, it discusses how the use of this concept might change the way historians view the British Union of Fascists (hereafter the BUF). Chapter 2 looks at the BUF as a substitute for Christianity. It asks whether the BUF was political religion. To answer this, the language of fascist publications is analysed. Did fascist rhetoric attempt to sacralise the secular? Finally, Chapter 3 concentrates on the relationship between the BUF and Christianity. There clearly was interaction between the BUF and organised religion; clergy joined as members and a debate concerning the relationship between fascism and religion took place in the fascist press. This chapter considers how such members reconciled their faith with fascist practices. Other questions considered include the possibility that the BUF saw itself as a replacement for organised religion, or whether they recognised that people might legitimately believe in something other then fascism. Furthermore, this chapter will examine the BUF view of religion, in particular Christianity and the Church of England.
Fascism started in the early 20th century, with the Italian Fascist movement, which later achieved power in the form of Mussolini‘s government. The term ‘fascism’ is applied to movements that favour a dictatorial style of government, are extremely nationalistic and suppress all perceived opposition. Roger Griffin defines fascism as “a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism.”. ‘Palingenetic’ or ‘palingenisis’ refers to the idea of rebirth and creating a new political order. The fascist yearning for a nationalist authoritarian state is well known. According to Stanley Payne, the political influence of nationalism shifted from a liberal and fraternal kind, to a far more authoritarian, aggressive and intolerant kind at the end of the nineteenth century. The consequence of this was the growth of fascist movements across Europe.
The BUF was formed in October 1932 by Sir Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), and became the largest British fascist group in the interwar years. Prior to forming the BUF; Mosley had experienced some success in the Labour party, before becoming disillusioned. He resigned as a minister in May 1930 and from the Labour party itself in February 1931, to form the abortive New Party. At its peak, in the middle of 1934, the BUF had an estimated 50 000 members, this fell to as little as 5000 before climbing back to approximately 20 000 by 1939. Other interwar British fascist groups included the British Fascists and the extremely anti-Semitic, Imperial Fascist League. World War II saw the end of the BUF when a number of high profile members, including Mosley, were interned in May 1940.
Before examining the relationship between the BUF and political religion, it is beneficial to look at the common elements that scholars associate with the concept of political religion and the different forms it can take. There are three main interactions between politics and religion: firstly, when the state and religion disagree (in some cases violently) with each other, secondly, when the state and religion coexist or, thirdly, when the secular state is imbued with ‘sacred’ powers/ideas (political/civil religion). In this situation, the state begins to expect behaviour that is often associated with a religion, for example, rituals/ceremonies and a spirit of sacrifice for a greater cause.
Before looking in detail at the relationship between the BUF and Christianity below, it is useful to examine the relationship between interwar European fascist movements (in this case Germany and Italy) and Christianity because unlike the BUF, the movements in Germany and Italy actually gained power. Furthermore, these regimes show the conflicts between faith and ideology in practice.
In Germany, Christianity and the state had a complex relationship. According to Richard Steigmann-Gall, perhaps as part of an attempt to gain acceptance from the public, the Nazis promoted the idea that Christianity was central to their movement. Although, it should be noted that this interpretation of Nazism has drawn recent criticism. There were three key ideas in which the Nazis “claimed their movement was Christian: the spiritual struggle against the Jews, the promulgation of a social ethic, and a new syncretism that would bridge Germany’s confessional divide”. The “spiritual struggle against the Jews” provided the Nazis with a license for anti-Semitism; similarly, the promotion of a “social ethic” allowed them to promote their policies. Perhaps the most original idea was the unification of the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany. This sectarian divide was viewed by the Nazis as one of the strongest impediments to national unity and it ran through the Nazi party itself. Several of the highest-ranking members were Catholic, but the party showed a greater preference for Protestantism. In mid 1933, Hitler had negotiated a Concordat with the Vatican and for the Protestants a Nazi ‘Reich Church of German Christians’ had formed in 1932. Despite this, the relationship between the Church and Nazi Sate was not without tensions, in April 1934, there was an organised revolt by a number of anti-Nazi Protestant pastors, who formed an independent Confessional Church, supported by 4000 of Germany’s 17000 ministers. Prior to the reading in Catholic churches of the papacy’s Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern), which indirectly denounced Nazi persecution (in the form of ‘so-called’ euthanasia killings), and racism, the government ad already started their backlash against the clergy. The Christian population had been subdued by many arrests of Catholic clergy and 700 pastors and priests being sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. Despite this, the Churches remained an area of German life that resisted the totalitarian aims of fascism.
Although Italian Fascism and Christianity did not have quite such a volatile relationship as that in Germany, it was nonetheless an uneasy and complicated one. In spite of his many earlier anti-clerical statements, soon after becoming dictator, Mussolini, believing that theological/religious conflict would be harmful to his cause, had stated that Fascism had a morality, not a theology.  Despite this, there were divisions within the Catholic Church.
Some clergy were hostile towards Fascism’s anti-Christian ethos, secularism and later racism. In contrast, there were many who supported the regime’s anti-bolshevism and promotion of family life. In 1929, Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts, by which, according to Stanley Payne, the Catholic Church got “an agreement that restored the status of religion” and Mussolini received a “useful compromise” that helped his government gain acceptance. By 1934, Mussolini admitted that Fascism and Catholicism could come into conflict, “the Fascist state could…intervene in religious affairs… only when (they) touch the political and moral order of the state”. As Fascism was proclaiming a total philosophy of life and increasingly making its own symbolism and ritual, such as the Cult of the Flag and the cult of the Duce, this conflict was increasingly likely to occur. The totalitarian nature of the movement was where the conflict between the Church and Fascism occurred. the Church presided over the moral and spiritual life of the nation but under a totalitarian regime, there was increasing pressure in this area from the state because wanted control over these areas of life too. According to Stanley Payne, there was a tendency for Fascist leaders to argue that Catholicism was not sacred or true but should be respected because it was an Italian institution. After the papal encyclical Non abbiamo bisogno had denounced Fascism’s ‘pagan idolatry of the state’, new restrictions on Catholic activities were enforced. Schoolchildren were forced to enrol in Fascist youth organisations and ultra-Catholic Fascists were forced from the party.
Nazism, Fascism and, as shall be shown later, the BUF, were not the only fascist movements to have strong religious links. For instance, initially The Rex Movement in Belgium was closely linked to the Catholic Church. The Romanian Iron Guard had strong ties to clergy, for example, Orthodox priests joined the burial procession of Romanian Legionary leaders (Ion Mota and Vasile Marin) and legionaries formed the symbol of the cross with their bodies.  In Ireland, The Blueshirts used clergy support to give them authority.
From these brief examples, it is evident that there was significant interaction between fascist movements and religion, in this instance, Christianity. However, were fascist movements going further than merely interacting with religion? Were they trying to replace the traditional religious movements with a faith centred on the state, a political religion? Alternatively, perhaps, if not ‘trying to’ would a political religion have been the logical consequence of their ideas? Before answering these questions, in terms of the BUF, it necessary to further explore the terms, fascism, religion and political religion.
Chapter 1: Methodology
Due to the complex nature of the terms used in this thesis, it is necessary to discuss them before moving on. Therefore, this chapter will examine, in turn, the central concepts of fascism and political religion. In addition, it is appropriate to discuss what is meant by the term ‘religion’ in this thesis. Before discussing theses terms, it is appropriate to say a little about the primary sources used for this thesis.
The main primary sources used are the BUF press publications: The Fascist Week, Action, The Blackshirt and The British Union Quarterly. The Fascist Week was the first of the weekly papers and the BUF “chief propaganda vehicle” until Action took over the role from 1936. Each of these publications was aimed at a different audience, The Blackshirt catered for the working class and catered for existing members, Action was designed to “attract the uncommitted”, and the British Union Quarterly, was a journal. In 1936, Action had an estimated circulation of 26 000 and The Blackshirt 23 000. In addition to these sources, Mosley’s books, BUF pamphlets and autobiographies have also been used.
The attempts to classify fascism have attracted some of the most charged scholarly debate of any historical area. The most appropriate way to categorise fascism is to discuss the main ideological components associated with it, its demonisation of communism and liberalism, its mission of national rebirth, and the desire for a nationalist authoritarian state. Anti-communism is relatively simple to examine, Communism was hated because it was not nationalist (like fascism), it was internationalist.
Anti-liberalism is often linked to fascism. This is interesting and, in some cases contradictory, when we consider the actions of fascist movements. In A History of Fascism 1914-45, Stanley G. Payne states “Fascism has sometimes been called the product of a decaying liberal democracy, but that notion can be misleading”. According to Payne, any country that had an established liberal democratic system (i.e. in existence before World War One or for at least one generation), fascism was unable to gain control. Roger Griffin agrees with, and expands on this argument, describing how only a country without established liberal democratic traditions, such as elections, would fall victim to fascism.
How does this compare to the BUF view on liberalism? In terms of liberal democracy, the BUF said that the only way for the movement to possibly gain power, is in an “orderly, legal and constitutional manner”, furthermore, they said that they would use the present electoral system to do so. Nonetheless, this does not mean that the BUF supported liberal values such as democracy and individual freedom. Indeed, the BUF rhetoric said that democracy was failing and needed to be replaced with the Corporate State. The Corporate State was intended to improve health, education and employment. Moreover, it would bring ‘genuine’ freedom by empowering the individual. For the BUF, democracy had failed because “Democracy stands…for the self-government of the people; but if the people insist upon clinging to their individual rights and liberties, they make their own effective government impossible”. They believed that government was having to uphold the principles of individual liberty, this left it unable to have effective rule because it lacked proper control. The BUF advocated that society needed to discard liberalism and regenerate the nation.
The belief in rebirth or, as Roger Griffin terms it, the palingenetic myth, encompasses the concept of regeneration for a nation after a period of crisis. Fascist movements frequently express their desire to create a new people or nation that rises from the ashes of a declining and corrupt society. Griffin describes how this theme of ‘regeneration’ can be meant in not just social terms but economic and political ones too. The palingenetic myth evokes a sense of revolution, which gives the emotional power and dynamism that makes fascist movements attractive. Moreover, the self-transcendent emotions that are associated with this rebirth, gives followers the idea that they are fulfilling a “higher’ purpose or mission.”. This is relevant to this thesis in particular because the sacralised theme of renewal is often associated with religion, in this case Christianity.
Certainly, there was a belief in Nazi Germany that a new society would be founded that could “end all present difficulties and anxieties, social inequalities and economic crises”. Similarly, in Fascist Italy, there was a real sense of renewal and intent that future generations would be transformed. Central to this ‘transformation’ was the Cult of the Leader, which gave Mussolini almost messianic properties that were very much in keeping with the spirit of rebirth, in that he alone could save Italy. Correspondingly, the BUF also emphasised a rebirth of society from decadence, claiming that “Fascism alone is ready with an answer”.
Integral to this new society would be “Real freedom…good wages, short hours, security in employment, good houses, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends. Modern science enables us to build such a civilisation”, or so the BUF declared. Interestingly, within the BUF there was a group, identified by Raven Thomas as ’Post-Fascists’ who were concerned with what would happen, should the BUF gain power. As Philip Coupland describes, the ‘Post-Fascists’ were not alone in viewing “fascism as a cultural revolution to transcend the ‘decadent’ values of the age.”. The BUF considered that the ‘Fascist revolutionary’ would have to change their own life first, before attempting to transform society. For the BUF this new fascist man was epitomised by their depiction of the model Blackshirt, he was shown as “tall and muscular, square-jawed and straight-backed ¾signifying discipline courage and vitality”.
Fascism favoured an authoritarian style of government to combat decadence in society. Roger Eatwell attributes Mussolini’s political success to his ability to convince the conservative elites that fascism could provide a stable, authoritarian method of government. In addition, the specifically German ultranationalist and authoritarian ideas of the Nazis, held great appeal for many Germans. With regards to the BUF, they advocated a more authoritarian form of government, encompassed within their Corporate State. In The Greater Britain, Mosley spoke of how the fascist principle was “Liberty in private life. Obligation in public life”. This was very much how the BUF viewed politics, in order to ‘improve’ society, by stimulating the economy and improving social institutions, their policies would cover all aspects of public life. Doing so, in the BUF’s eyes, would allow people greater freedom in their private lives. In relation to the topic of this thesis, did this desire to have control over all aspects of public life have a deeper meaning: were the BUF trying to create a political religion?
As Roger Griffin recognises, political religion is an extremely difficult concept to define. Perhaps the simplest way of understanding political religion, is to view it, as Emilio Gentile proposes, as a ‘sacralisation of politics’. For Gentile a religion is “a system of beliefs, myths and symbols which interpret and define the meaning and the goal of human existence, making the destiny of an individual and of the community dependent on their subordination to a supreme entity”. This definition of religion does not need to rely on a divine entity to give authority or meaning. Indeed, by using this definition any cohesive and well thought out political programme that gives a ‘higher’ meaning to the state and/or nation could be thought of as a political religion.
Before examining the term ‘political religion’ further, it is necessary to attempt to define what is meant by ‘religion’ in this context, because this has serious implications for the validity of political religion as a concept. Religion can be viewed as “nothing unless it involves a belief in the supernatural and in an eternal, unchanging God or gods.”. Using this definition, the concept of political religion does not work because there is no supernatural being in the conventional sense. However, this is not the only valid interpretation of religion. Émile Durkheim’s influential theory of religion does not need a supernatural being. For Durkheim, a religion is:
An integral system of beliefs and practices referring to sacred things… (and) of beliefs and practices which unite into a moral community called the church all those who participate in them.
Whilst this definition is not without its problems, it does not rely on a God or gods as the source of its authority.
Among the first scholars to write about political religion was Eric Voegelin. He recognised that talking about ‘political religions’ is difficult because politics and religion are viewed as separate entities. According to Dietmar Herz, Voegelin broadened the concept of religion, to establish a mutual relationship, which develops the state, in the concepts of ‘religion’ and ‘state’, lending the state new significance. Within this relationship of religion and state, it is appropriate to look at the requirements for their adherents. Do they require ‘total’ devotion to their ideas or something less? A state system such as that in the examples of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy, aspired to have complete control over all areas of economic, political and cultural life. Although, as Stanley G. Payne explains neither of these movements were total in practice, they attempted to “exercise direct control over all significant aspects of all major national institutions, from the economy and the armed forces to the judicial system, the churches and culture”, it is the desire for ‘totalitarianism‘ that is the important point. For Hans Maier, this type of totalitarianism seeks to “mould the entire human life and extends to the lowest level, to the conduct and even the thinking of each individual”. Certainly, for Maier, the idea of moulding all aspects of human life is very much a replacement religion, it is here that politics starts to take on a ‘religious’ perspective.
However, it is important to realise that a political religion is an ersatz religion and is always a theoretically secular ideology, this is because the state itself is sacralised not a ‘higher being’. Indeed, Emilio Gentile describes fascism as “a modern political phenomena…with a totalitarian conception of politics and the state, with an ideology based on myth… it is sacralised in a political religion affirming the absolute primacy of the nation…”. From this, it is understood that new deity is not being invented, rather the triumph of the state is elevated to become the overriding goal for all its people.
Fascists were expected to make the sorts of sacrifices associated with devotion to a religion. For instance, they were expected to stand up to those who opposed them and defend their ‘beliefs’ in the form of addressing meetings or handing out fascist literature. Although this is similar to the methods employed by conventional political parties, it had a more heroic flavour in fascism, with its emphasis on self-transcendence. Furthermore, members acknowledged the sacrifices that were expected of them: Nellie Driver, in her unpublished autobiography, commented that many of the ‘Mosley men’ had “sacrificed all they had for the Cause to the point of heroism.”.
Finally, in agreeing that the state can be elevated to a higher plane, it is necessary to accept that a political order (particularly fascism) can be as inspiring to its followers as a religion. In addition, the symbolism, ceremonies and rhetoric had religion-like qualities. In the case of the BUF, as Driver details:
After the Leader’s meetings, he (Mosley) always addressed his supporters privately, and scenes of great enthusiasm and devotion followed. Strong, tough men wept openly, and women cried and cheered hysterically as Mosley flung wide his arms to them and urged them on to greater efforts.
Totalitarian movements, such as fascism, as Gentile makes clear, were very popular and inspirational; furthermore, they appealed to many different types of people. 
Chapter 2: The BUF as a political religion
This chapter will explore the ways in which the concept of political religion is relevant to our understanding of BUF policy. Did the BUF attempt to sacralise politics in Gentile‘s sense? In responding to such questions with regard to the BUF, it is essential to acknowledge the centrality of Oswald Mosley to BUF policy and ideology decisions. This is vital for how far it is possible to view the BUF as a political religion. Certainly, Fascism in Italy had the ‘Myth of Mussolini’ and the ‘Cult of the Duce’, which were inextricable parts of the movement. Secondly, it is important to recognise that because the BUF never gained power, it is difficult to be certain of what policies they would have implemented. However, this does not mean that an exploration of BUF policy will be meaningless because it is on the basis of a party’s policy that it is judged by those outside the movement. In addition, party policy is also indicative of the beliefs of the group itself. Whilst a number of aspects of BUF policy will be explored in more detail, it makes sense to look at briefly at the main themes. According to Stephen Cullen, the main ‘pillars around which BUF policy had been built were the economy, patriotism, pacifism, anti-Semitism (predominately after 1936) and the precursor of the ‘coming civilisation’, the spirit of the ex-servicemen and youth. This is one method of looking at BUF policy and some areas are relevant to political religion. Similarly, Durkheim thought that a religion joined individuals together through shared beliefs and practices. In terms of political religion, this is also an appropriate method of studying the BUF, with regards to their meetings and marches.
As stated by Stanley Payne, the BUF was one of “the most thoroughly programmatic of all fascist movements, with elaborate corporatist economic proposals”. The crux of this new economic policy would be to establish a ‘Corporate State’. This would enable the BUF to “control and direct the entire industrial and financial organization of the country” and replace the present, chaotic economic system with an “organized and planned economy”. This would allow the government to solve the twin problems of unemployment and under-consumption, by protecting the home markets from foreign goods that could be made in Britain. This economic self-sufficiency would also extend to trade within the British Empire. The BUF desire to control the entire financial and industrial organisation of the country, can be seen as an example of state control extending into all areas of public life. This is consistent with Maier’s idea that political moulding all aspects of life, leads to politics taking on a religious perspective, as it starts to encroach on areas traditionally dealt with by religion. Furthermore, in common with all interwar fascist movements, the BUF sought to create a new civilisation. Mosley envisaged his Corporate State organised as a human body, with each part of the organisation operating separately but contributing to the welfare of the nation as a whole. The new Corporate State promised “full employment in a high-wage economy and a guarantee of not only the essential means of life but also enhanced facilities for health, education, and so forth”. The BUF believed that the Corporate State embodied all the essential British virtues of the past, as well as having all the necessary qualities for the future. This new Corporate State is a clear example of the fascist characteristic of rebirth and regeneration, with its emphasis on creating a new society.
A common feature within the wealth of publications produced by the BUF is the idea of the ‘spirit’ of the fascist. The fascist spirit is one of sacrifice to the cause, that is to say the fight against decadence, a purpose that the Blackshirts devoted themselves to. This idea was clearly understood by A.K. Chesterton, who wrote an entire pamphlet on the subject, entitled Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary, which was serialised in The Blackshirt in 1934. A.K. Chesterton saw decadence or the decline of society as “the international rampage of usury and the international crowning of decay.“. In terms of sacralising the secular, from cover to cover, the pamphlet is an excellent source of evidence. Even the cover, a re-print of the original 1935 one, is loaded with quasi-religious imagery, “Here the Roman fasces hurls a lightening bolt to destroy the communist hammer and sickle as well as the Zionist star.”. Indeed, A.K. Chesterton was apparently attracted to the BUF by “Mosley’s vision of the “Thought-Deed New Man” who would elevate society be placing the community as a whole above that of the special interest groups.”. The key phrase here is “elevate society”, this is crucial to seeing the BUF as a political religion. If we take Maier’s view of what constitutes a political religion (outlined in the previous chapter), elevation of the state/society is a key aspect of a political religion. Furthermore, in a section about ‘The Fight Against Decay’, Chesterton describes that for the fascist, the building up of the Corporate State will be “…the cardinal purpose of their lives…Their work never at any stage will be easy…”, encompassing the idea of sacrifice. A particularly interesting paragraph towards the end of the pamphlet, describes how the soldiers of the First World War, ‘sanctified’ the future of fascism, and the nation, on the “…blood-caked agony of the fields of France…”, illustrating the idea of sacrifice for the nation. The quasi-religious tone is even more apparent in Capt. R. Gordon-Canning, MC’s pamphlet, The Inward Strength of a National Socialist. Gordon-Canning compares fascism to religion, in this case Christianity:
it is for the voice of National Socialism with its militant and mystic forces to unseal the ears and unveil the eyes of the British people, until the basic principles of religion return to their hearts- service and love; the militant service and the mystical love, from which there is no material and selfish reward, but only an inward light of infinite radiance.
This extract clearly shows the BUF presenting fascism as an ersatz-religion. Certainly, the ideals of service and love are common to most, if not all, religions, definitely extending to Christianity. Whilst the ideas of ‘militant service’ and ‘mystical love’ are more obviously fascist precepts, they will still result in an ‘inward’ glow that is reminiscent of the inner faith of most religious followers. Undoubtedly, the spirit of the fascist or fascist ‘spritualisation’ is central to understanding the BUF as a political religion, but it is not the only aspect of their rhetoric that leads to this conclusion.
The BUF did not only use the Empire in an economic sense but also as part of their “emotional appeal”. For fascist movements, the nation or nationalism is key to their identity, it is the beginning and end of fascism and the BUF were no exception. In Fascism for the Million, Oswald Mosley stated that in their brand of fascism at least, the ‘Golden Rule of Fascism’ was “Britain First” and after Britain, the Empire. The BUF were able to use their economic plans to justify the their Imperial preference and, in doing so, made it possible to support (for the first time in Britain) a party that was “economically revolutionary yet patriotic”. The Empire also featured strongly in the BUF press, doubtless because of the esteem in which it was held in Britain. The Blackshirt ran a large article about Mosley’s plans for the Empire, declaring at the end of the piece that it would be “an example and an inspiration to mankind”. In addition, the monarchy, as an inextricable part of British nationalism, was often supported in the BUF press. An excellent example, was the abdication crisis in 1936. The BUF launched a campaign, which included a special paper, called ‘Stand by The King’, in an effort to prevent Edward VIII’s removal from the throne. The BUF were keen to point out that they had no intention of removing the Royal family and used Italy as an example of a fascist state that retained its monarchy. Partly, this is due to the fascist concept of nationalism, which was individual to each country, but also must have reflected attitudes in Britain at the time; removing the monarchy would not have been popular with many people. As with the monarchy, getting rid of the British Empire would have been extremely unpopular. Most applicable in terms of political religion and nationalism, is the notion that the BUF saw itself as “Fighting For The Soul Of Britain”. For the BUF nationalism was a sacred cause that would rally their existing supporters and encourage patriotic citizens to join.
By the late 1930s the BUF was not pacifist in the sense that they loved peace; they simply did not want a war in Europe, at least not with Germany or Italy. In Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered, Mosley maintained that “Fascism does not approve of Britain being the one unarmed country in an armed world”. However, by 1938, Mosley’s peace campaign appeared to be reaping rewards, indeed, many ex-servicemen joined the BUF because of their anti-war policy, which made the movement so different from many other “manifestations of fascism”.Although it should be noted that the BUF anti-war stance was a product of the circumstances at the time, not an ideological maxim.
Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of BUF policy, with regards to political religion, was the development of anti-Semitic ideas. Demonization of groups that oppose, or appear to oppose, the good of the nation is an important feature in a political religion, where exaltation of the state is key. In 1933, Mosley said that he believed anti-Semitism was Hitler’s biggest mistake, however, by the autumn of 1933 Jews had been banned from BUF membership. Further to this, in September 1934, the leadership officially endorsed anti-Semitism although, this view was not held by all factions within the leadership group. Nonetheless, in spite of the fact that in the beginning the BUF’s attitude towards Jews had been ambivalent, as the 1930s progressed they became increasingly anti-Semitic. In terms of the BUF, anti-Semitism, along with communism and liberalism, was a scapegoat for the nation’s ills. This is particularly interesting in relation to political religion. Many religions have an evil supernatural being, that afflicts their followers. Is it such a leap for an earthbound political religion to perceive it has similar earthbound foe.
Although the fascist preoccupation with anti-Semitism is well known, fascist conflict with communism is well documented and a further example of the demonization of the perceived enemies of fascism. Interestingly, the choice between fascism and communism was often presented in such a way as ’fascism is good, communism is evil’. This is similar to the choice between heaven and hell in religions such as Christianity. Certainly, the BUF talked about a “life of fear under Sovietism” and that “The Communist is out to destroy.”. Although, these sentiments would have been broadly shared by liberals and conservatives too. Communism is couched in supernatural terms, demonising it even further, for example “A Spectre is Haunting Europe”, is the title of an Action article about the Soviet Union, the actual phrase being taken from the Communist Manifesto. Communism is generally portrayed as aggressive and violent throughout the BUF press and often accused for inciting unprovoked violence towards the BUF. There are even attacks on non-fascists reported, to further illustrate how irrational communists are. This was perhaps to galvanise strong fascist supporters against a common enemy or ‘demon’. Alternately, it could have been to encourage less enthusiastic supporters to rally to the fascist cause because their nation was in the peril of the ‘Red menace’.
What kind of supporters rallied to the cries of BUF propaganda? According to Cullen, many ex-Blackshirts cited the BUF’s love of their country and Empire as a deciding factor in joining the movement. Leonard Wise, who joined the BUF in 1934, thought that most who joined the BUF “believed in Christianity, the Monarchy, the British Empire and in saving Europe from… Communism.”. Furthermore, many young men and women joined the BUF to recognise the sacrifices of the war generation. This sacrifice was a major theme in BUF propaganda often in conjunction with demands for greater recognition of ex-servicemen. As has already been stated, many of the ex-servicemen that were drawn to the BUF as a reaction against war, for them fascism “stood for peace”. Thomas Linehan found in, his own investigations, that there were many members from the working class. This is supported by Martin Pugh, he states that, “In industrial towns members were drawn from unemployed working men and women, factory hands and textile workers; and they came from a Labour family background as often as from a Conservative one.” In addition, there were there were a number of clergy who supported the BUF, including some (such as Rev. H.E. Nye), who wrote regularly in BUF publications. These members of the clergy that were linked with the BUF will be discussed in the next chapter. In common with all inter-war political movements, there was a drive to recruit young people into the movement. This is very much in accordance with the fascist preoccupation with the exaltation of youth. Indeed, Mosley called for an “…organised revolt of the young manhood of Britain.”. In The Blackshirt (19-25 August, 1933), there was an article entitled “Why I became a fascist”, the author is simply given as “A School-Boy”. In it he describes how he joined the BUF two months earlier because he was concerned for the future of Britain. In terms of recruiting propaganda, it was probably very effective, the young school boy drawn to fascism in an effort to save his country from its downward spiral, is very emotive. He talks of ‘dedication’ and ‘duty’, evidently a call for other young people to join. There is some evidence that this quest for younger members worked. According to Naomi Mitchison, some of the younger male members of the movement wanted “above all to be able to worship a leader.” This concept of a charismatic leader, which Mosley definitely was, is another facet of political religion, sacralising a secular entity.
Meetings and marches also helped to sacralise the secular arena of politics, as already mentioned in the previous chapter. Leader meetings were full of symbolism and theatre, “The speaker’s dais and backdrop would be adorned with fascists symbols and what was reputed to be the largest union flag in the country.” Mosley was a great orator and appeared to have the ability to mesmerise his audience, bringing them to their feet, cheering as he ended his speeches.
An exploration of themes central to the BUF illustrates the relevance of the theory of political religion. The BUF clearly attempted to sacralise the secular entity of politics through the language they used, for example, cause, crusade, spirit, sacrifice and the way that they demonised their enemies. The difficulty, as already stated, is distinguishing between actual beliefs of the BUF and what is rhetoric.
Chapter 3: The BUF and Christianity
Critical to understanding the nature of the BUF as a political religion is the question of the relationship between the BUF and Christianity. In order to do this, firstly, it is necessary to look at Oswald Mosley’s and other BUF ideologues views of the interaction between fascism and organised religion. Then the focus will turn to the members of the clergy who wrote for the BUF press, analysing what they were writing about and how this helps our understanding of the relationship between the BUF and Christianity. Lastly, there will been an examination of examples from the fascist press that illustrate how BUF ideology had permeated some religious services, such as christenings and funerals.
The most logical place to start when looking at how the BUF viewed religion is with the writings of Oswald Mosley. In the 1936, 100 Questions Asked and Answered, there is the question “What is your attitude towards religion?”, Mosley answered:
We believe in complete religious toleration…We are concerned with the business of the Nation, not with the business of religion. None of the great religions preach the subversion of the state, and therefore they have no conflict with Fascism. On the contrary we welcome religion which inculcates a sense of service and of spiritual values, for service and the values of the spirit are the essence of Fascism.
Mosley undoubtedly recognised that the majority of the British population describe themselves as Christian, despite the increasing secularisation that was evident at the time. With this in mind, Mosley was keen to point out that the BUF are not anti-Christian/anti-religious because to do so would have alienated potential supporters. Interestingly, there was an article that appeared in The Blackshirt, approximately three years earlier, that shares a similar language and message to Mosley’s answer in 1936. In the article, entitled ‘Fascism and Religion: A harmony of ideals’, the unknown author described as a priest, is at pains to emphasise the toleration of religion under the BUF variety of fascism. Furthermore, the article made reference to the Church of England as compatible with the BUF. This is note-worthy for two reasons: firstly, there were a number of clergy involved with the BUF, who will be discussed presently. Secondly, although the influence of the Church in interwar Britain was not what it once was, “a more generalized Christianity remained an essential component” of national identity. For a nationalist movement, such as fascism, it would have been extremely risky to start attacking an institution that was an inextricable part of English identity; (that is to say,) according to Linda Colley, British identity was formed on a basis of shared Protestantism of the different nations of Great Britain in wars against Catholic states (particularly France).
The issue of fascism and Christianity came up in other BUF articles and it was not always written about by members of the clergy. On the 18th September 1937, Michael Goulding, as part of his ‘National Socialism and the British People’ series in Action, wrote an article entitled ‘Christianity’. In this, Goulding described how “even the most cursory examination of National Socialism will show how close its ideals are to those held by all Christians.”. He seemed to draw parallels with the different denominations of Christianity and the different permutations of fascism in Europe, implying that both have fundamental teachings that are expressed differently in by different groups. Goulding stated that National Socialism is similar to Christianity in its dislike of the “wretched insults to decency” and “decadence” that appear to be prevalent in society. Most remarkable was Goulding’s comparison of the Christian tenet of “Love thy neighbour” with the BUF “Love thy fellow-countryman”. He stated that in both situations, the command to love means more than to be affectionate towards your neighbour, rather it means to actively ensure their happiness in life; for the BUF, this would be achieved by means of the Corporate State. However, the BUF believed that this ideal gives them the authority to vigorously oppose those who stand in the way of their “crusade”, including Jews and communists and call for Christianity and National Socialism to unite against them. This article illustrates that members of the BUF tolerated Christianity and some saw it as a natural ally in their fight against decadence and decay in society.
Among the many articles that Michael Goulding wrote for Action, was one on ‘Religious Education’ (25th November 1937). The article is noteworthy in that it is praising religious schools. The article reiterates that “National Socialism recognises the principle of complete religious toleration…” perhaps as a measure to reassure readers that the BUF were not seeking the wholesale destruction of Christianity in Britain. Goulding argues that until the 1870 Education Act, religious bodies provided the only source of free education, after this date they “were placed in a position of grave inequality…the old religious free schools found that the maintenance, renovation and rebuilding...was a burden the State refused to bear.”. He then goes on to say that the BUF recognised that that it is the parents right to educate their children in the manner they deem appropriate, that is to say, a church school if they desire it. If this article is not just a piece of rhetoric, it provides evidence of tolerance of religion, or at least Christianity by the BUF.
This toleration of Christianity was still in evidence in 1939 in an article in The British Union Quarterly. This article, entitled ‘The Churches and the British Union’, discusses the relationship that each of the major sections of English Christianity (the Church of England, the Free Churches and the Roman Catholic Church) had with the BUF. The concern regarding the potential relationship between the churches and the state was not without good reason. Although it was not perhaps at the forefront of English Catholic minds, the Kulturkampf in Bismarkian Germany, had been a struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and state, about the control of education and church appointments, among other things. According to M.E., one of the Church of England’s own bishops said “the world is scornfully indifferent to the Church…We are not even unpopular”. To halt this indifference, the BUF believed that the path needed to be cleared for the more vigorous teaching of Church values. M.E. states that the current political climate of atheism is not conducive to a “Christian social order”. M.E. believed that fascism provided the answer because “On every count the duty as well as the interests of the Church of England lie in support the British Union.”. Whilst it is not exactly clear why M.E. thought that the BUF expressed Christian ethics beyond, fair wages and peace, they did attempt address the problem of fascism and its relationship with Christianity in other countries. They recognised the perception that Nazism persecuted the church in Germany. They resolved this by stating that fascism in Britain was different to that in Germany because it came from “the hearts and minds of a people that loves peace and justice nothing but peace and justice will come”. All of these points imply that the destruction of the Church of England was not a target of the BUF.
Allowing members of the clergy to write for BUF publications is evidence in itself of toleration of Christianity in England. However, in order to understand why these clergy had an affinity with the BUF, it is necessary to examine their articles. One of the most prolific writers from the clergy was Rev. H. E. B. Nye. Nye was the Rector of Scampton and although it is not known how he came to be a supporter of the BUF, he regularly contributed to Action. Nye appears to have been extremely worried by the threat of communism, particularly in terms of its threat to Christianity, for it is frequent theme in his writings. Nye’s fears were not unfounded, many Christians were deeply troubled by the persecution of Christianity/religion by communists in Europe; perhaps the most gruesome was his article ‘Priest’s hands cut off by Reds: Then blessed his murderers’. Nye stated that even before he was presented with accounts of Spanish priests being executed by communists in the Spanish Civil War, he realised that the “Left road led to hatred and persecution of the saints.”. This was due to Lenin’s comment “There must be not truce and no rest in the anti-God fight.”. It is perhaps this oppression of Christianity/religion by communism that, at least partially, accounts for Nye’s support of fascism, certainly it is a recurring theme.
Nye also wrote on other subjects. For instance, he published an article detailing his experiences on a visit to Germany and how much is has improved under Nazism. In September 1937, Nye had a two page spread in Action entitled ‘Most people and Blackshirts: But they are prejudiced by misrepresentation’. The content of this article is interesting in itself, Nye believed that it is the title ‘National Socialism’ that discourages people from joining the BUF, despite their apparent sympathy for their policies. What makes this article even more interesting is the two extra columns to the left of the spread ‘Attempt To Terrorise “Action” Writer: Red curs attack Rev. Nye’s house’. Nye believed that the attack was connected with the previous article discussed about Germany. It is interesting that even though there is no mention of any evidence to support his theory, Nye blameed communists in the title. However, it should be noted that many anti-fascists, were sympathetic to communist policies. Nye’s concern for the ‘Red threat’ was perhaps his major reason for writing for the BUF.
Similarly, in an examination of Rev. M. Yate Allen’s article ‘Why I Condemn Anti-Fascists’, the anti-communism theme is evident. In fact, Allen even says:
the first and foremost reason for my support of Sir Oswald Mosley and the National Socialist cause…is on religious grounds. It is because I…firmly believe in the Christian religion that I welcome and thank God for what has already been achieved by Mussolini and Hitler, and look forward to the time when Mosley may be equally successful…for in all three cases they are fighting against Communism or Bolshevism which is …actually working to destroy Christianity.
This provides decisive evidence for why Allen supported the BUF; like Nye, he believed that communism sought to destroy Christianity, which given its anti-religious activities in Europe, was understandable. Also in common with Nye, Allen cited communist atrocities against clergy in Spain as proof of the ‘Red threat’ to Christianity. Allen referred to violence from the Falange movement but declared, “I have never heard of one single atrocity of such a kind committed by General Franco’s men.”. In another parallel with Nye, Allen discussed a holiday he had taken in Germany and described its transformation. In addition; Allen briefly discussed religion in Germany. He stated that many attend church and that it is given high status in schemes such as the Hitler Youth. Interestingly, he alluded to the uneasy relationship between the churches and Nazism: “There is controversy it is true…between several church bodies, but this in no way concerns doctrines or belief in God, but is solely concerned with jurisdiction or political matters” which he believes would not happen in Britain.
The Rev. A. Palmer was writing about fascism and religion fairly early on in the BUF history in The Fascist Week. Palmer actually thought that fascism would promote tolerance of religion because “persecution can never be part of a system based on fairness as a main foundation and Fascism stands resolutely for Fair Play.”. Palmer undoubtedly saw fascism as compatible with Christianity. He believed that in fascism, followers would find “a superhuman example of sacrifice, service, loyalty and discipline” not unlike the values found in Christianity, which links to the values of sacrifice that are found in a political religion, as discussed in the previous chapter. Furthermore, he described a “Corporate State of Heavenly Unity”, which he believed should be an incentive in itself to join the movement. The most interesting of Palmer’s articles is entitled ‘Politics in the Pulpit: Christ as the Perfect Citizen’. Palmer appeared to compare Jesus’ conduct with that of a perfect fascist citizen: “He obeyed the law of the land and empire in which He was born. He recognised that earthly government was a right bestowed on man by his Maker.”. The concept of obedience to the state is important in fascism because it recognises that for the state to bring about regeneration/revolution, there need to be total conformity to its aims. In addition, Palmer viewed Jesus’ lack of recognition of class distinctions and behaviour towards the money lenders in the Temple as proof that “He incorporated all in the Corporate State of His Church.”. For Palmer, fascism was an active expression of his religious beliefs, for him it was possible to fuse the values of Christianity and fascism. He genuinely seemed to think that Jesus was a perfect example of a fascist citizen and that following the BUF was a way of satisfying his religious duty.
Some of the most interesting examples of the permeation of fascism into Christianity can be found in the small announcements in the BUF press of christenings and funerals. They are often no more then a few sentences but give us insight into fascism’s place in the cycle of life and death for its followers. In The Fascist Week (23rd February-1st March 1934), there is not only an announcement but also a photograph of the “first baby to receive a blackshirt christening.”, Robert Oswald Points. Not only was the congregation almost completely full of Blackshirts, young Robert’s parents were also wearing the BUF uniform. An example of a fascist funeral can be found in The Fascist Week (26th January-1st February 1934), the ex-soldier was given a fascist salute at the graveside as a “last tribute”. Another fascist funeral featured fascists marching in a procession and another full fascist salute at the graveside.In addition, there were other ceremonies, such as flag dedications and marches. The people involved obviously saw, like Palmer, the BUF as totally compatible with their religious beliefs. In addition, it is necessary to consider the clergy who were conducting these services. Were they sympathetic to the BUF politics or was it more a case that they just wanted to fill their pews? Regardless, it is significant that these were normal church ceremonies attended by Blackshirts, rather than specifically fascist rituals. This indicates that the fascists saw a compatibility between fascism and Christianity.
The relationship between the BUF and religion/Christianity is a complex one. The reasons for the support of some members of the clergy are not always clear. Some like Nye and Allen, seemed to have a perhaps, more understandable reason for their support, a fear of communism and anti-religiousness. For these clergy, there must have seemed little option, then to join with a movement that was determined to stamp out communism. However, why did these anti-communist clergy opt for fascism? The Conservative party at the time, was just as anti-communist as the BUF. Perhaps they, like Palmer, seemed to see fascism as an earthly expression of their religious beliefs and Christ as the first fascist citizen.
The aim of this thesis has been to answer the question “To what extent can the British Union of Fascists be considered a political religion?” On an individual level, Nellie Driver saw in Mosley’s BUF “the means of local, national and personal salvation.”, but was this what the BUF had set out to try and achieve for their supporters?
Before evaluating the extent to which the BUF can be considered a political religion, it is necessary to examine a number of caveats concerning the movement. Firstly, it is important to consider that the BUF never actually gained power; it remained a movement, not a regime. As a result, it is difficult to be certain as to exactly what relationship the BUF would have had with Christianity in Britain. If the BUF had gained power, would the established liberal traditions in Britain have diluted or changed their plans? However, the very fact that the BUF never gained power means that they never had to change their policies to accommodate the existing political and religious situation. This is in contrast to, for example, Italian Fascists, who had to take into account the considerable power of the Catholic Church. Secondly, the relative weakness of communism in Britain, had an impact on the BUF; although communism in Europe was prevalent, in Britain it was simply not as great a threat. Although, the Communist Party had thousands turning up to its anti-fascist rallies, they had “little lasting success”. Thirdly, the present post-Holocaust and Second World War setting has an effect on the examination of interwar fascist movements. As Nellie Driver describes, after the “evil memories of Belsen, Auschwitz and Buchewald, and the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, not to mention the War itself, made people look askance at National Socialism, whether German, Italian or British(sic)”, it is now difficult to look at fascism without that view being coloured by the destruction it caused.
The most appropriate way of judging the extent to which the BUF can be considered a political religion, is to assess how closely it resembles a sacralisation of politics, that is to say, in terms of beliefs, myths, symbols and a spirit of sacrifice. In addition, did it elevate the state above all else and found a secular religion? Furthermore, did this secular religion seek to replace Christianity/established religion?
The belief in rebirth/regeneration or the palingenetic myth is an essential part of fascism, as already discussed. This sense of rebirth and its self-transcendent emotions it creates are linked to political religion; in that they give followers a sense of pursuing a higher purpose. The BUF was no exception. Returning to Chesterton and his attraction to Mosley’s idea to elevate society by centralising the good of the community, it is clear that the myth of regeneration and elevation of society was key to the BUF. Indeed, The Blackshirt stated one of the aims of the BUF as “the regeneration of a nation”
Linked to this regeneration and the concept of political religion, was the BUF demonisation of its enemies. In order for the BUF to regenerate the nation, it had to cleanse society of those who were contributing to its degeneration. Like many religions, the BUF demonised those it viewed as threats, in their case, predominantly Jews and Communists. The BUF demonised Jews, as has already been discussed, in a similar vein to that in Nazi Germany. The condemnation of communists is particularly interesting from a political religion perspective. Not only were communists discussed in demonic terms, they were often the subject of clergy who wrote for the BUF. These Clergy, such as Nye, were terrified of the ‘red threat’ after the atrocities committed in the Spanish Civil war, as already mentioned. For them, fascism represented the only real method of protecting Christianity from being destroyed.
The person who would regenerate, or at least provide the plans to do so and prevent the destruction of the nation and Christianity, was Oswald Mosley. The leadership of Mosley provides compelling evidence for the BUF as a political religion. Combined with his use of symbolism, in the form of flags and motifs (e.g. The circle and flash) Mosley was the BUF for many of his followers. Furthermore, Nellie Driver was not alone in finding personal salvation in Mosley. As Driver described in meetings, members were overcome in a kind of religious fervour when in the presence of Mosley, with Blackshirts openly weeping and falling to their knees. John Charnley also found a sense of peace in the myth of Mosley saying, “my inquiring mind was eased, and my disturbed spirit was soothed.” Later Charnley described the death of Mosley as “a permanent devastation of spirit which simply defies description, and which cannot be assuaged.”. For followers, such as Charnley and Driver, the BUF meant far more then a political party, the continuation and elevation of the movement became their sole purpose in life, one that they would make significant sacrifices for.
The spirit of sacrifice is intrinsic to any religion and a political religion is no exception. As Driver described, Blackshirts were prepared to make both personal and financial sacrifices to help the movement achieve its aims. Many Blackshirts were arrested and detained for their political beliefs. As discussed earlier, the spirit of sacrifice for the greater cause was evident in many BUF publications.
Finally, although the BUF contained many elements for political religion, the question of whether the BUF was a political religion largely hinges, as Maier argued on how ‘totalising’ the movement would have been. If the BUF had gained power, would it have extended its reach into every area of human life, including religion and seek to create a secular one? Of course, the BUF never gained power, so any conclusions must be drawn from the evidence available. In The Greater Britain, Mosley stated that:
The case advanced in these pages covers not only a new political policy, but also a new conception of life. In our view, these purposes can only be achieved by the creation of a modern movement invading every sphere of national life.
The invasion of “every sphere of national life”, indicates that at some point Christianity and fascism would have come into conflict because the BUF would have become a political religion. Perhaps, clergy that saw fascism as an expression of their Christian beliefs, would have been forced to question their faith: fascism or Christianity? Certainly the evidence of the Catholic writer Rom Landau pointed to an unresolved problem. Interviewing Mosley, he raised the potential for conflict between the claims of the fascist state on the ‘whole being’ of the citizen and those of the Church. Landau noted that Mosley hesitated and that his words in reply were less definite, the “line between what is God’s and what is Caesar's is at times not easy to draw”, he finally said. . In spite of Mosley’s claim that an agreement could be reached, his interviewer thought that, “this issue had not yet been clearly thought out by the philosophers of British National Socialism.”. The evidence of Germany and Italy suggested that the situation could not be reconciled. Fascism as a political religion and Christianity were in competition for the same souls, in a struggle which, if it had reached its final conclusion, could have only one victor.
Newspapers and periodicals
Action (February 1936- June 1940)
The Blackshirt (February 1933- May 1940)
The British Union Quarterly
The Fascist Week (November 1933- May 1934)
The Tablet (1840-)
Chesterton, A.K., Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary, (Marietta, Georgia, USA: The Truth At Last, 1936)
Fascism for the Million: The new movement simplified, (Westminster: BUF Publications Ltd, 1936)
Mosley, Oswald, Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered, (London: BUF Publications Ltd., 1936
Mosley, Oswald, The Greater Britain, (London: Jeffcoats Ltd., 1934)
Raven-Thomas, A, The Corporate State, (London: BUF Publications, c 1934)
Blinkhorn, Martin, “Afterthoughts Route Maps and Landscapes: Historians, Fascist Studies and the Study of Fascism, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (winter 2004, vol.5, no.3).
Brown, Callum G., Religion and Society in Twentieth Century Britain, (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2006).
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Charnley, John, Blackshirts and Roses, (London: Brokingday Publications, 1990).
Colley, Linda, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, (London: Pimlico, 1992).
Conway, Martin, Collaboration in Belgium: Leon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement, (London; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
Coupland, Philip M., “A Politics of ‘Action’”, Socialist History, (forthcoming 2007).
Coupland, Philip M., “The Blackshirted Utopians”, The Journal of Contemporary History, pages 255-72 (vol. 33, no. 2, 1998).
Coupland, Philip M., “‘Left-Wing Fascism’ in Theory and Practice: The Case of the British Union of Fascists”, Twentieth Century British History, pages 38-61, (vol. 13, no. 1, 2002).
Cronin, Mike, “The Blueshirts and the Jesuits: Parafascists and the Clerics in 1930s Ireland”, Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006).
Cronin, Mike (ed), The Failure of British Fascism: The far right and the fight for political recognition, (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1996).
Cullen, Stephen, “The development of the Ideas and Policy of the British Union of Fascists, 1932-40”, The Journal of Contemporary History, pages 115-136, (vol. 22, 1987) .
Davis, Rob, ‘The Scampton Mystery’, Comrade: Newsletter of Friends of O.M., (November 1992, No. 36).
DeWever, Bruno, “Catholicism and Fascism in Belgium”, ‘Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006).
Driver, Nellie, From the Shadows of Exile, (unpublished, date unknown).
Durham, Martin, “Gender and the British Union of Fascists”, Journal of Contemporary History, pages 513-529 (vol. 27, 1992).
Durkheim, Émile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (translated by Cosman, Carol), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
Eatwell, Roger, Fascism: A history, (London: Vintage, 1996).
Evans, Richard J., “Nazism, Christianity and Political Religion: A Debate”, the Journal of Contemporary History special edition on Steigmann-Gall’s The Holy Reich ( 42, 1, 2007).
Gentile, Emilio, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, (translated by Botsford, Keith), (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996).
Gentile, Emilio, “Fascism, Totalitarianism and Political Religion: Definitions and Critical Reflections on Criticism of an Interpretation”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3).
Gentile, Emilio, Politics as Religion, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).
Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, (London: Little, Brown, 1993).
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, Black Sun: Aryan cults, estoeric Nazism and the politics of identity, (New York University Press: New York, 2002).
Gregor, A. James, Interpretations of Fascism, (Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press, 1974).
Griffin, Roger, The Nature of Fascism, (London: Routledge, 1993).
Griffin, Roger (ed), Fascism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
Griffin, Roger, “Fascism”, in Taylor, Bron and Kaplan, Jeffrey (eds), The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Nature (Continuum International Publishers, 2003), Griffin, Roger, “Introduction: God’s Counterfeiters? Investigating the Triad of Fascism, Totalitarianism and (Political) Religion”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3).
Grundy, Trevor, Memoir of a Fascist Childhood,(London: Random House UK Ltd, 1998).
Ioanid, Radu, “The Sacralised Politics of the Romanian Iron Guard”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3)
Jones, Nigel, Mosley, (London: Haus Publishing Limited, 2004).
Kushner, T and Lunn, K, The Politics of Marginality, (London: Frank Cass, 1990).
Landau, Rom, Love for a Country: Contemplations and Conversations (London: Nicholson and Watson, 1939).
Laybourn, Keith, Britain on the Breadline: A social and political history of Britain between the wars, (Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd: Gloucester, 1990).
Lewy, Guenter, The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1964).
Linehan, Thomas, British fascism 1918-39: Parties, ideology and culture, (Manchester University Press: Manchester, 2000).
Linehan, Thomas, “The British Union of Fascists as a Totalitarian Movement and Political Religion, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3).
Loewenthal, Kate M., The Psychology of Religion: A short introduction, (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2004).
Lunn, Kenneth and Thurlow, Richard C. (eds), British Fascism, (London: Croom Helm Limited, 1980).
Maier, Hans (ed.), Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions Volume 1: Concepts for the comparison of dictatorships, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004)., p. 107-110.
Melograni, Piero, “The Cult of the Duce in Mussolini’s Italy”, The Journal of Contemporary History, pages 221-37 (vol.11, 1976).
Moloney, Thomas, Westminster, Whitehall, and The Vatican: The Role of Cardinal Hinsley 1935-43, (Tunbridge Wells: Burns & Oates, 1985).
Mosse, George L, International Fascism: New Thoughts and New Approaches, (London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 1979).
Nichols, Beverly, News of England or A Country Without A Hero, (London: Cape, 1938).
Nugent, Neill, and King, Roger, The British Right, (Farnborough: Saxon House, 1977).
Payne, Stanley G., A History of Fascism 1914-45, (UCL Press Limited: London, 1997).
Pickering, W.S.F.(ed), Durkheim on Religion: A selection of readings with bibliographies and introductory remarks, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975).
Pugh, Martin, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, (London: Pimlico, 2006).
Sandulescu, Valentin, “Sacralised Politics in Action: The February 1937 Burial of the Romanian Legionary Leaders Ion Mota and Vasile Marin”, Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006).
Seligmann, Matthew S. and McLean, Roderick, Germany from Reich to Republic, 1871-1918, (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000).
Steigmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Steigmann-Gall, Richard, “Nazism and the Revival of Political Religion Theory, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (winter 2004, vol.5, no.3).
Stevenson, John and Cook, Chris, Britain in the Depression: Society and Politics, 1929-1939, (New York: Longman Publishing, 1994).
Thurlow, Richard, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1987).
van de Veer, Peter, and Lehmann, Hartmut (eds), Nation and Religion: Perspectives on Europe and Asia, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
Voegelin, Eric, Modernity without Restraint (ed Hennigsen, Manfred), Collected works, vol.5, (Columbia; London: University of Missouri, 2000)
Weale, Adrian, Renegades: Hitler's Englishmen, (London: Pimlico, 2002).
Wood, Sydney, Britain’s Inter-War Years, (Glasgow: Blackie& Son Limited, 1975).
Woolf, S.J(ed), The Nature of Fascism: Proceedings of a conference held by Reading University Graduate School of Contemporary European Studies, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968).
Young, John, Teach Yourself Christianity, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996).
 Saint-Simon in Gentile, Emilio, Politics as Religion, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 11.
 Nichols, Beverly, News of England or A Country Without A Hero, (London: Cape, 1938), p. 192.
 Driver, Nellie, From the Shadows of Exile, (unpublished, date unknown) , p. 43.
 Griffin, Roger, The Nature of Fascism, (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 26.
 Payne, Stanley G., A History of Fascism 1914-45, (London: UCL Press Limited, 1997), p. 35.
 Griffin, Roger (ed), 1995, p. 172 and Payne, Stanley G., p. 304.
 Thurlow, Richard, 1987, p. 35-36.
 Thurlow, Richard, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1987), p. 122-123 and Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 305.
 Pugh, Martin, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’: Fascists and Fascism in Britain between the Wars, (London: Pimlico, 2006), p. 53.
 Pugh, Martin, ‘2006, p. 302.
 Steigmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 14, and Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 200.
 See the Journal of Contemporary History special edition on Steigmann-Gall’s The Holy Reich (42:1, 2007), Steigmann-Gall‘s response to these criticisms can be found in JCH 42:2.
 Steigmann-Gall, Richard, 2003, p. 14.
 Steigmann-Gall, Richard, 2003, p. 50.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 200.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 201.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 215.
 Griffin, Roger, p. 69.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 120.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 215-216.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 216, and Gentile, Emilio, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, (translated by Botsford, Keith), (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996), p. 33.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 216.
 DeWever, Bruno, “Catholicism and Fascism in Belgium”, ‘Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006). Incidentally, ‘The Rex’ means ‘Christ the King’.
 Sandulescu, Valentin, “Sacralised Politics in Action: The February 1937 Burial of the Romanian Legionary Leaders Ion Mota and Vasile Marin”, Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006).
 Cronin, Mike, “The Blueshirts and the Jesuits: Parafascists and the Clerics in 1930s Ireland”, Clerical Fascism’ in Interwar Europe Conference, (April 2006).
 Coupland, Philip M., “A Politics of ‘Action’”, Socialist History, (forthcoming 2007)
 Pugh, Martin, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, (London: Pimlico, 2006), p. 223.
 Payne, Stanley G., A History of Fascism 1914-45, (UCL Press Limited: London, 1997), p. 490.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 490. See also Griffin, Roger, 1993, p. 211, “By contrast those European countries in the inter-war period in which civic and political culture had over time become extensively humanized and liberalized (for example Britain, France, Sweden) were not seriously challenged by fascism because parliamentary government remained generally…assumed to be the only legitimate force which could take the action necessary to deal with structural crises, no matter how severe”.
 Griffin, Roger, 1993, p. 211.
 Fascism for the Million: The new movement simplified, (London: BUF Publications Ltd, 1936), p. 7.
 Raven-Thomson, A, The Corporate State, (London: BUF Publications, c 1934), p. 3.
 See Raven-Thomson, A, c. 1934, p. 3-4.
 See Griffin, Roger, , 1993; Griffin, Roger (ed), Fascism, and Griffin, Roger, “Fascism”, in Taylor, Bron and Kaplan, Jeffrey (eds), The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Nature (Continuum International Publishers, 2003).
 Griffin, Roger, 1993, p. 33-34.
 Griffin, Roger, 1993, p. 35.
 Griffin, Roger, 1993, p. 187.
 Mosse, George L, International Fascism: New Thoughts and New Approaches, (London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 1979), p. 8.
 Gentile, Emilio, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, (translated by Botsford, Keith), (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996), p. 136.
 Chesterton, A.K., Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary, (Marietta, Georgia, USA: The Truth At Last, 1936), p. 9.
 Mosley, Oswald, Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered, (London: BUF Publications Ltd., 1936), p. 10.
 Coupland, Philip M., “The Blackshirted Utopians”, The Journal of Contemporary History, (vol. 33, no. 2, 1998), p. 255-72, p. 264.
 Chesterton, A.K., 1936, p. 17.
 Coupland, Philip M., 1998, p. 264.
 Eatwell, Roger, Fascism: A history, (London: Vintage, 1996), p. 47.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 178.
 See Fascism for the Million: The new movement simplified, 1936.
 Mosley, Oswald, The Greater Britain, (London: BUF Publications., 1934), p. 50.
 Griffin, Roger, “Introduction: God’s Counterfeiters? Investigating the Triad of Fascism, Totalitarianism and (Political) Religion”, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3), p. 301.
 Gentile, Emilio, 2004, p. 327.
 Gentile, Emilio, 2004, p. 364.
 Griffin, Roger, Winter 2004, vol.5, no.3, p. 301. See also the section entitled ‘Some conceptual problems’ in Linz, Juan J., “The religious use of politics and/or the political use of religion”, Maier, Hans (ed.), Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions Volume 1: Concepts for the comparison of dictatorships, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004)., pp. 107-125, p. 107-110.
 Evans, Richard J., “Nazism, Christianity and Political Religion: A Debate”, the Journal of Contemporary History special edition on Steigmann-Gall’s The Holy Reich (42, 1, 2007), pp. 5-7, p.6.
 Pickering, W.S.F.(ed), Durkheim on Religion: A selection of readings with bibliographies and introductory remarks, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), p. 211.
 See section entitled ‘The Problem’ in Voegelin, Eric, Modernity without Restraint (ed. Hennigsen, Manfred), Collected works, vol.5, (Columbia; London: University of Missouri, 2000).
 Herz, Dietmar, ‘”The concept of ‘political religions’ in the thought of Eric Voegelin’, pp. 158-175, p.159, “In order to understand the political religions properly, therefore, we must expand the concept of the religious in such a way that it includes not only the soteriological religions, but also those other phenomena in the development of the state that we believe to be religious; and as a result, we must also examine whether the concept of the state really entails no more than mundane, human organizational relations having no relation to the religious sphere”.
 Payne, Stanley G., A History of Fascism 1914-45, (UCL Press Limited: London, 1997), p. 206.
 Maier, Hans, “Concepts for the comparison of dictatorships: ‘Totalitarianism’ and ‘political religions’, in Maier, Hans (ed.), 2004, pp. 199-215, p. 201.
 Griffin, Roger, 2004, p. 308.
 Gentile, Emilio, 2004, p. 329.
 Driver, Nellie, p.35. Nellie Driver was the Woman District Leader of the Nelson branch of the BUF.
 Gentile, Emilio, 2004, p. 329.
 Driver, Nellie, p. 50.
 Gentile, Emilio, 2004, p. 331-332.
 Gentile, Emilio, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, (translated by Botsford, Keith), (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996), p. 133.
 Cullen, Stephen, “The development of the Ideas and Policy of the British Union of Fascists, 1932-40”, The Journal of Contemporary History, pages 115-136, (vol. 22, 1987), p. 131.
 Durkheim, # SYMBOL 201 \f "Times New Roman" \s 10#mile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (translated by Cosman, Carol), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. xx.
 Payne, Stanley G., 1997, p. 305.
 Raven-Thomas, A, The Corporate State, (London: BUF Publications, c 1934), p. 4.
 Linehan, Thomas, 2000), p. 91.
 Coupland, Philip M., ‘‘Left-Wing Fascism’ in Theory and Practice: The Case of the British Union of Fascists’, Twentieth Century British History, (Vol. 13, No. 1, 2002), pp. 38-61, p. 40.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 125.
 Coupland, Philip, 1998, p. 271.
 Griffin, Roger (ed), Fascism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 179.
 Chesterton, A. K., Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary, (Marietta, GA: The Truth At Last, reprint date unknown, originally published 1936), p. 4. This quote was added later but is an excellent description of the fascist symbolism on the cover.
 Chesterton, A. K., 1936, p. 2.
 Chesterton, A. K., 1936, p. 9. The idea of sacrifice is a recurrent one in the pamphlet, e.g. p.11, 12, 13.
 Chesterton, A. K., 1936, p. 23.
 Gordon-Canning, Capt. R., The Inward Strength of a National Socialist, (first published in 1938, Republished as part of the Historical Reprint series, Steven Books, 1991).
 Gordon-Canning, Capt. R., 1938 reprinted 1991, p. 3.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 123.
 Fascism for the Million: The new movement simplified, (Westminster: BUF Publications Ltd, 1936), p.7.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 123.
 “The fascist Empire. B.U.F. Policy re-stated”, The Blackshirt, (August 26- September 1, 1933), p. 1 and 4.
 Charnley, John, Blackshirts and Roses, (London: Brokingday Publications, 1990), p. 68.
 “Fascism and the King: We are loyal”, The Blackshirt, (July 18-14, 1933), p. 3.
 “Fascism is a Crusade”, The Blackshirt, (July 6, 1934), p.7.
 Mosley, Oswald, Fascism: 100 Questions Asked and Answered, (London: BUF Publications Ltd., 1936), Question 90.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 128. See also Pugh, Martin, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’ Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, (London: Pimlico, 2006), p. 273.
 Nugent, Neill, and King, Roger, 1977, p. 149.
 Linehan, Thomas, 2000), p. 99.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 126-127.
 Lindsey, Captain C. McDonald, ‘The Bogey of Dictatorship’, Action, (September 18, 1937, No. 83), p. 15. “The choice before you is FASCISM as represented by Italy and Germany, or COMMUNISM as represented by Russia…”, also “Lucifer of Gabriel”, Action, (March 19, 1936), p. 3.
 ‘Catholics At The Albert Hall’, Action, (October 9, 1937, No. 86), p.8 and Nye, Rev. H. E. B., ‘God or Baal?’, Action, (December 23, 1937, No. 97), p. 3.
 “A Spectre is Haunting Europe”, Action, (March 12, 1936), p. 3.
 “Who is to blame? Violent Red manifesto”, The Blackshirt, (March 18, 1933), p. 1.
 “Innocent victim of Red violence”, The Blackshirt, (May16, 1933), P. 3.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 123.
 Wise, Leonard, et al., Mosley’s Blackshirts: The Inside Story of the British Union of Fascists, 1932-1940, (London: Sanctuary Press, 1986), p. 1-8.
 Cullen, Stephen, 1987, p. 125.
 See Chesterton, A.K., Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary, (1936), p. 24, “To your memory they raised the Cenotaph, but the FUTURE of your vision they did not build”.
 Durham, Martin, ‘Gender and the British Union of Fascists’, Journal of Contemporary History, (Vol. 27, 1992), pp. 513-529, p. 527.
 Linehan, Thomas, 2000), p. 164.
 Pugh, Martin, 2006, p. 138.
 See, for example, Nye, H. E., ‘National Socialist miracle: Impressions of Astounding Change In New Germany’, Action, (No. 80, August 28, 1937), p. 6.
 For a personal account of a young persons experience of British fascism (post war) see Grundy, Trevor, Memoir of a Fascist Childhood,(London: Random House UK Ltd, 1998)
 Mosley, Oswald, The Greater Britain, (London: Jeffcoats Ltd., 1934), p. 178.
 “Why I became a fascist”, The Blackshirt (19-25 August, 1933), p. 3.
 Pugh, Martin, 2006, p. 139.
 Coupland, Philip, 2007, p. 14.
 Coupland, Philip, 2007, p. 15.
 Mosley, Oswald, 100 Questions Asked and Answered, (London: BUF Publications Limited, 1936), Q. 10.
 See Brown, Callum G., Religion and Society in Twentieth Century Britain, (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2006), p. 125: “In 1937, the Catholic Bishop of Salford said ‘that it can no longer be taken for granted in England that one is talking to a Christian’. He expressed a feeling of many clergy that the people of the nation were starting to drift from a Christian identity.”
 ‘Fascism and Religion: A harmony of ideals’, The Blackshirt, (1st June 1933), p. 2.
 van de Veer, Peter, and Lehmann, Hartmut (eds), Nation and Religion: Perspectives on Europe and Asia, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 44.
 Colley, Linda, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837, (London: Pimlico, 1992), p. 18-25.
 Goulding, Michael, ‘Christianity’, Action, (18th September 1937), p. 15.
 Ibid. “Christians, whatever their sect subscribe to the same fundamental moral code.”.
 Goulding, Michael, ‘Religious Education’, Action, (25th November 1937), p. 15.
 M. E., ‘The Churches and the British Union’, The British Union Quarterly, (Vol. 3, No. 1, January-April, 1939), pp. 19-29.
 Seligmann, Matthew S. and McLean, Roderick, Germany from Reich to Republic, 1871-1918, (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000), p. 21-23.
 M. E., (1939), p. 19.
 M. E., (1939), p. 20.
 M. E., (1939), p. 20-21.
 M. E., (1939), p. 21.
 M. E., (1939), p. 21-22.
 M. E., (1939), p. 22.
 Davis, Rob, ‘The Scampton Mystery’, Comrade: Newsletter of Friends of O.M., (November 1992, No. 36), p. 2
 Nye, Rev. H. E. B., ‘Priest’s hands cut off by Reds: Then blessed his murderers’, Action, (2nd July 1938), p. 5.
 See also by Nye, for example, ‘Fascist gnats and Red camels’, Action, (12th June 1937), p. 3 and ‘Realists and Dreamers’, Action, (16th December 1937), p. 7, ‘God or Baal?’, Action, (23rd December 1937), p. 3.
 Nye, Rev. H. E. B., ‘National Socialist Miracle’, Action, (28th August 1937), p. 6.
 Nye, Rev. H. E. B., ‘Most people and Blackshirts: But they are prejudiced by misrepresentation’, Action, (4th September 1937), p. 10-11.
 Nye, Rev. H. E. B., ‘Attempt To Terrorise “Action” Writer: Red curs attack Rev. Nye’s house’, Action, (4th September 1937), p. 10.
 Allen, Rev. M. Yate, ‘Why I condemn Anti-Fascists’, Action, (16th October 1937), p. 3.
 Palmer, Rev. A., ‘Fascism will further religious tolerance’, The Fascist Week, (19th-25th January 1934), p. 8.
 Palmer, Rev. A., ‘Christian Ideals and Fascism’, The Fascist Week, 26th January-1st February 1934), p. 7.
 Palmer, Rev. A., ‘Politics in the Pulpit: Christ as the Perfect Citizen’, The Fascist Week, (9th-15th March 1934), p. 8.
 ‘News of the Week’, The Fascist Week (23rd February-1st March 1934), p. 7.
 ‘Fascist Funeral’, The Fascist Week (26th January-1st February 1934), p. 5.
 ‘Bristol Hero’s Funeral’, The Blackshirt, (23rd August, 1935), p. 3.
 Blackshirt Drummers prior to the march for a special service at St. John’s Church, Burgess Hill, for the dedication of Fascist Flags’, The Blackshirt, (27th September 1935), p. 1.
 Kushner, T and Lunn, K, The Politics of Marginality, (London: Frank Cass, 1990), p. 37.
 Pugh, Martin, 2006, p. 158.
 Driver, Nellie, p. 117.
 ‘Fascism- A Patriotic Revolution of the Nation’, The Blackshirt, (7th December 1934), p. 4.
 Charnley, John, 1990, p. 233.
 Charnley, John, 1990, p. 237.
 Mosley, Oswald, The Greater Britain, (London: Jeffcoats Ltd, 1934), p. 178.
 Landau, Rom, Love for a Country: Contemplations and Conversations (London: Nicholson and Watson, 1939), p. 69.
Copyright: 2009 Harriet Notley & H.E.A.R.T