Skip

Discuss, Decide and Do It
April 21, 2008 1:17 AM   Subscribe

A Rage In Dalston [BBC Radio 4 documentary, 1hr, streaming RealMedia] "For four years after 1945, London and the South East witnessed vicious confrontations between the remnants of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and Jewish ex-servicemen organised in the 43 Group." Interviewees include Vidal Sassoon, by day mild-mannered teenage hairdresser of talent, by night militant anti-fascist. Documentary maker Alan Dein was unable to get any surviving Moseleyites to talk for the programme but there's contributions from Trevor Grundy, author of Memoir of a Fascist Childhood.
posted by Abiezer (34 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Review of the programme in the Daily Mail (forgive me Lord) for those disinclined to listen or put off by the wonders of RealMedia. The Hackney Independent links to an earlier (2000) 25 minute Google Video short documentary on the 43 Group, which sadly isn't available to me in to watch here.
posted by Abiezer at 1:37 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The 43 Group was dedicated to breaking up meetings of these "Mosleyites", through violent means if necessary, and a 17-year-old Sassoon was an enthusiastic street-fighter... Armed with knives and razor blades, the group fought pitched battles with Mosley supporters - many confrontations taking place in Ridley Road, Hackney, east London, which had a large Jewish community.

Armed thugs beat up armed thugs.
posted by three blind mice at 4:05 AM on April 21, 2008


Is it interesting in your world devoid of history and context, three blind mice? It certainly sounds pointless and dull whenever you choose to offer gnomic "insights" dredged up from it.
posted by Abiezer at 4:10 AM on April 21, 2008


You tell him, Abiezer! Maybe then he'll understand the credo of the ideologue: it's only bad when the other side does it.
posted by Makoto at 4:48 AM on April 21, 2008


Moseleyites are not likely to be Mosleyites. You have to be careful with the e's around here.
posted by srboisvert at 4:58 AM on April 21, 2008


I like a good street brawl as much as the next guy Abiezer, but I don't confuse the youthful lust for action for anything other than what it is. The "history and context" of Britian, from Belfast paramilitaries to football hooligans, is full of this stuff. People looking for a fight will find any excuse at all.
posted by three blind mice at 5:02 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Right, Jews fighting fascists are exactly as bad as the fascists themselves. Makes total sense.
posted by nasreddin at 5:09 AM on April 21, 2008


Interesting that the programme is being broadcast on the first Seder night when no Jew in the country will be able to listen.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 5:38 AM on April 21, 2008


If Vidal Sassoon was coming after you with a hot curling iron you'd run too.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:46 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The weird attempt here to smear the vaseline of equivalence over our lens on history has nothing to do with Jews slashing at fascists - who but a bleeding fascist would object? - and everything to do with preserving a contemporary rhetorical ground in which actors trying to effect change are no better than those trying to forestall it. That the apologetics necessitated by this feisty brand of historical relativism would extend to Nazis is initially disconcerting, but after prolonged exposure one comes to admire the intellectual consistency.
posted by dyoneo at 5:55 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


The weird attempt here to smear the vaseline of equivalence over our lens on history has nothing to do with Jews slashing at fascists - who but a bleeding fascist would object?

There is nothing weird about civility. Hope that nobody decides your political beliefs are behind the pale and worthy of a beating. Fascists do need to be opposed. They don't need to be beaten.
posted by srboisvert at 6:11 AM on April 21, 2008


the credo of the ideologue
I take it you have listened to the programme and would say the same to the women and men active in the 43 group at the time, from various political backgrounds, who knew what they knew of the rise of Hitler in Germany and had seen what they had seen of its outcome. If you'd like to offer a substantive critique of no-platform anti-fascism, fire away. Otherwise it looks like the ill-thought-out mumblings of the kind of hand-wringers who sat by in the 1930s.
tbm - do give it a listen; the militants interviewed certainly don't apologise for the use of violence, but the overwhelming sense is that they chose to use it against the background of what they'd seen fighting the Hitlerite regime.
posted by Abiezer at 6:14 AM on April 21, 2008


srboisvert - and I hope nobody decides you and your family are racially beyond the pale and organises meetings inciting violence against you or your extermination, provocatively in the very communities you live in.
posted by Abiezer at 6:20 AM on April 21, 2008


Interestingly (and somewhat entertainingly, in view of recent events) one of the people arrested during these rallies was Mosley's son Max, current head of the international motorsport association FIA.
posted by Skeptic at 6:30 AM on April 21, 2008


And tbm, the "history and context" of these "brawls" was that of a group headed by avowed Hitler and Goering fans Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford threatening Holocaust survivors in a devastated London, just months after the end of WWII. Even if lager louts have a long tradition in Britain, this pretty much crossed the batshitinsane evil line.
posted by Skeptic at 6:34 AM on April 21, 2008


offer gnomic "insights" dredged up from it.

Let's not insult the gnomes, you gnomist.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on April 21, 2008


Rosy-cheeked wee feckers, off our lawns!
posted by Abiezer at 6:49 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree wholeheartedly with three blind mice, makoto and srboisvert. If recent history had taught the European Jews anything, it was that as long as they remained civil and placed their complete faith in the government to protect them, everything would turn out just fine.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:27 AM on April 21, 2008 [8 favorites]


I like a good street brawl as much as the next guy Abiezer, but I don't confuse the youthful lust for action for anything other than what it is. The "history and context" of Britian, from Belfast paramilitaries to football hooligans, is full of this stuff. People looking for a fight will find any excuse at all.

Hrm. See, I hate violence of this sort. It makes my skin crawl, and I don't care if it's "my" side or the "other" side committing it.

If the only thing I could do in a discussion thread was APPROVE or SNARK, I'd have to choose SNARK, because gang violence sure isn't something I approve of.

Fortunately, there are other options. There's a lot to talk about here, even if you don't like fightin': plenty of individual stories here to discuss, some interesting historical coincidences (I gotta say it: Vidal Sassoon? The shampoo guy? Fighting Nazis?) and a bunch of connections to the bigger picture of WWII history and postwar British politics. Even though I found the events described here deplorable, the description itself is fascinating.

If you really wanted to discuss the content of the post, an hour of oral history ought to give you loads of material. And if you just weren't interested in the content — if you really thought all violence was the same, and boring, and none of the details mattered a bit — you'd stay out of the thread. But the oh-so-reductive, oh-so-jaded, not-technically-offensive snark you've been specializing in lately gives the impression that you're more interested in stirring up shit.

So while the your comment may be accurate (Yes! This post is about an armed confrontation. You could also have described it as "Events occur," "Huh. People talking." or "Whoa — sounds are coming out of my speakers!" and strictly speaking you'd still be telling the truth) the attitude that it conveys is goddamn obnoxious.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:28 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Armed thugs beat up armed thugs.

How about pre-emptive self-defence? Does that help you?
posted by binturong at 8:28 AM on April 21, 2008


In one of his Dilbert compilation books, Scott Adams explained a Vidal Sassoon reference by saying that he had been a street tough in his youth but didn't mention the anti-fascist angle.
posted by tommasz at 8:40 AM on April 21, 2008


(I gotta say it: Vidal Sassoon? The shampoo guy? Fighting Nazis?)

Perhaps you haven't heard of the Stonewall Riots where drag queens beat up NYC cops who were persecuting them.
posted by binturong at 8:42 AM on April 21, 2008


How about pre-emptive self-defence? Does that help you?

WAR WITH IRAN! WOO!
posted by srboisvert at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2008


srboisvert - and I hope nobody decides you and your family are racially beyond the pale and organises meetings inciting violence against you or your extermination, provocatively in the very communities you live in.

Here is another interesting account from an English Jew who lived through these events as a young man:

Before the war, the Fascists used to rant at Ridley Road, Hackney every week. If any of the audience would voice opposition, they would disappear under a hail of blows from the Blackshirts. Terror was their trade. The battle song of the Mosleyites went like this:

Scum of Aldgate
All Yiddish Boys
Up and Down White Chapel
With their Hebrew Noise
They are the Dregs my friend
That brought Old England Shame
But they can’t beat the Boys of the B.U.F. (British Union of Fascists)
That made Old England’s Name.

The sole object of the B.U.F. was to strike terror similar to the fascism being produced by their Nazi comrades in Germany.

posted by jamjam at 9:08 AM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


WAR WITH IRAN! WOO!

It was predictable that somebody was going to toss this squib. Again, a totally false equivalency devoid of all meaningful context.
1. A nation that outspends the rest of the world combined in its military versus a far-away country with no credibly demonstrated means or even desire (outside of domestic political rhetoric) to attack it.
2. Nazi sympathizers marching through a Jewish neighbourhood in bombed-out London directly after the war and giving anti-semitic speeches.

I suppose you also think the invasion of Iraq was another legitimate example of pre-emptive self-defense just because your government told you so.
posted by binturong at 9:47 AM on April 21, 2008


That was sarcasm binturong. I am a peacenik through and through and catching flack for it here because I don't think the 43 group is in any way cool.

""We're not here to kill," a former The 43 Group veteran recalls, being told on that occasion: "We're here to maim."
posted by srboisvert at 9:59 AM on April 21, 2008


srboisvert - and it's thorny political issues like this that mean I can't be a pacifist - there are times in my view where a pacifist stance can contribute to the prevalence of violence in the world. It is (or ought to be) a complex moral calculation, and there's certainly a danger of becoming what you oppose, but I'm sure you're aware of the well rehearsed arguments for and against.
Combating the appeal of racist and totalitarian doctrines like fascism of course involves far more than just going toe-to-toe in the street, but where an attempt was made to recreate the violent tactics that had seen the rise to power of fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, violent resistance was an essential part of resistance. In the documentary it is stated that the 43 Group wound up once it was perceived that they were drawing attention to a now beaten fascist movement that would fade away if left to its own devices. And so the 43 Group disbanded, job done. violence was a necessary tactic, not an end in itself or like the fascists an integral part of a totalitarian and racist doctrine.
posted by Abiezer at 10:23 AM on April 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, since we're already bringing up Nazis...

I've heard it said (though I need to do more research), that "those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising had a higher rate of survival than those who didn't" -- a cursory glance at some sites indicates (again, I take all this with a grain of salt until further research) that other uprisings also had higher survival rates.

My girlfriend is a hardcore pacifist, and I tend towards the Ward Churchill's and Derrick Jensen's of the world. This leads to some fun conversations on such topics.
posted by symbioid at 10:29 AM on April 21, 2008


Damnit, scratch those apostrophes from Churchill and Jensen. gah!
posted by symbioid at 10:29 AM on April 21, 2008


I tend towards the Ward Churchill's

you like to pretend you're an Indian?
posted by jonmc at 10:59 AM on April 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


What Abiezer and symbioid said. Notwithstanding Jesus and Ghandi, sometimes a knee to the groin is an effective way to stop a bully.

I appreciate your peaceloving proclivities srboisvert (and I'm not being sarcastic!) I hate vigilantes and lynch mobs as much as anyone. I think you just have to decide when it genuinely is a case of self-defense and act accordingly. There are degrees of violence, and in stating that they would maim but not kill, the 43 Group were actually making a principled statement. The fascists would not have returned the favour.
posted by binturong at 12:04 PM on April 21, 2008


Thanks for the post Abiezer.

I don't confuse the youthful lust for action for anything other than what it is. The "history and context" of Britian, from Belfast paramilitaries to football hooligans, is full of this stuff. People looking for a fight will find any excuse at all.

I don't confuse the ignorant lust to troll for anything other than what it is. The "history and context" of Metafiliter, from LOLXTIANS to hurfdurfOUTRAGE is full of this stuff. People looking for a fight will find any excuse at all.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:34 PM on April 21, 2008


Tribal Britain. Ugh. Always reminds me of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. 'orrible world.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on April 21, 2008


WAR WITH IRAN! WOO!

You made that equivalence because the Jews are running the world and orchestrating war with Iran, right?
posted by Krrrlson at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2008


« Older Pooh Sticks 2.0   |   From Anthropophagous Beast to Zombie Flesh Eaters Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post