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Book Notes: The 43 Group, Morris Beckman

Colin Holmes

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The 43 Group, Morris Beckman (Centerprise Publications, London, 1992) 113 PP- ?7-50 The '43 Group', so-called because of its original forty-three members, was an anti-Fascist group which functioned between 1946 and 1950. Morris Beckman was one of the members, and his book tells the story of the Group's activities through his eyes. Whereas the Defence Committee of the Board of Deputies was confined to a responsible but respectable role in combatting the postwar Fascist revival and the attendant anti-Semitism, the members of the 43 Group believed there was a role for direct action, for battles on the streets. The 43 Group offers a fast-moving narrative, indeed a somewhat Boy's Weekly account of major confrontations. In doing so it helps us recover the history of Fascism during the early postwar years, a period which has been largely neglected. Furthermore, Beckman's narrative takes us beyond 'The Leader' and brings us face-to-face with Mosley's 'soldiers' who carried on the day-to-day work, figures now largely forgotten including J. C. Preen, Victor Burgess and Alexander Raven Thomson. Through its various activities, which included intelligence work as well as phys? ical combat, the 43 Group undoubtedly exposed the postwar Fascists and helped 247</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes to keep British Fascism in check after 1945. Beckman is careful not to claim too much credit. He admits that the group failed in its aim to make incitement to racial violence an offence, and claims not to know why the Labour Government resisted the pressures to act (p. 203). He should have cast his mind back to the Rex v Leese case in 1936. I am unable to say whether Beckman's account of Group 43^ activities is wholly accurate. It should be noticed, however, that the book is littered with typographical errors (a problem which affects the names of Fascists particularly) and it should be recognized, too, that the unwary reader might leave with the impression that the BUF was founded in 1933 (rather than 1932) and that Hewlett Johnson was the Archbishop of Canterbury (he was, in fact the Dean, even though he might have behaved like an archbishop). Even so, first-hand accounts of the history of postwar British Fascism and its anti-Semitism provide a valuable addi? tion to the literature. And certainly a reading of Beckman's reminiscences, sub? stantially supplemented by extracts from On Guard, a Group 43 publication, leave no doubt that, at a time when immigration into Britain from the Caribbean was getting under way, the Fascists continued to perceive Jews as their chief enemy. Plus ga change. Colin Holmes</page></plain_text>