Analysing the far right’s reaction to immigration and the Notting Hill riots illuminates their wider attitudes to race. As with any political party one can find a spectrum of opinions on any one issue, but analysing the reactions unavoidably sheds light on the party’s wider understanding - or lack thereof - of the issue of race.
Publicly Mosley usually eschewed the determinism inherent in biologically derived definitions in favour of a primarily cultural conception of race. Thurlow portrays Mosley as a neo-Lamarckian who saw culture rather than race as the driver of evolution and the engine of historical change.133 It is also possible to portray Mosley’s call for apartheid in Africa and repatriation of non-white immigrants from Britain as a Spenglerian belief in the separation of cultures to avoid mutual decay. However, dig a little deeper and the lines between biological and cultural racism begin to blur. Oswald Mosley’s 1948 article ‘Race, The First Reality of European Union’ provides a severe challenge to those who portray his position as non-biological. The article articulates how Mosley’s conception of culture is born of the biological race:
This unique stock of men in Europe has in fact produced the culture, the values and the achievement of the west. . . . This achievement has been the result of their character which in turn was the result of their race.134
The article discusses how the Scandinavian nations are ‘near in blood to us’ and argues for a united Europe with those ‘most nearly related to us in blood and race’. The article also undermines Mosley’s regular pronouncements that he had always believed that races were different, not inferior or superior, by stating ‘Horses go further and faster than donkeys, because they are horses and not donkeys’.135 This article’s descent into the realm of biological racism is not unique among the cannon of Mosley’s postwar writings. He sometimes referenced the work of the English geneticist, biologist and eugenicist C.D. Darlington.136 Mosley was especially interested in his work on ‘wide outcrosses’, the practice of introducing unrelated or alien genetic material into a breeding line. Betraying an ignorance born of prejudice Mosley wrote of the disastrous results one would get from crossing a horse with a cow or a rose with a cabbage as evidence of the folly of miscegenation137 and how ‘we have a deep sentiment for the preservation of the purity of our race, realising that mixtures do not bring the best results’.138 In reality of course genetic diversity increases health. With all this in mind, surely it is time to question, as Macklin has already begun to do,139 those such as Sykes who argue, ‘his usually cultural conception of race avoided the determinism of biological definitions’14“ or Skidelsky, who states: ‘It would be wrong to describe his position as racialist’.141
In addition to calling for a re-evaluation of the biological versus cultural racism debate, the evidence exists that allows one to question the sincerity of the Union Movement’s public anti-immigrant stance in general. During the 1950s UM pronouncements always relentlessly denied racism, with Mosley stating, ‘It is complete nonsense to say we are trying to run a race war in this country. I have never had a quarrel with the coloured people. I have said they are getting a raw deal’.142 Taking such a position at face value has led to some historians, especially those inclined towards revising Mosley’s postwar image such as Skidelsky, to argue that ‘Mosley’s attacks on coloured immigration was more principled than his attack on Jews in the 1930s. For one thing, it was, in the main, an attack on immigration, not immigrants’. In reality the pages of Union spewed forth a veritable cornucopia of racist tropes and generalisations about the ‘Negro invasion’ of ‘dope peddlers’, pimps143 and sexual predators who ‘debauch British girls’.144 The long-time far-right activist John Bean explained the gap between the moral public declarations and the reality on the ground. When writing about the Brixton election campaign of 1952 he explained how while the official policy called for an end to immigration coupled with investment in the West Indies so as to reduce unemployment and thus the need to emigrate, ‘most of the speakers turned their meetings into a “hate the Nigger” campaign.14’ Hence, one must cast a critical eye over the public front of the Union Movement and dig beneath the veneer of respectability that they attempted to cultivate during the 1950s. What emerges is a picture of a deeply racist party, inclined to visceral outbursts of crude and base prejudice, fronted by a leader inclined towards biological racial theorising.
Not dissimilar to the understanding of race offered by Mosley were the pronouncements of Chesterton. The nature of his racism was a mixture of patronising imperial paternalism and visceral biological anti-‘coloured’ racialism. However, the source of Chestertons prejudice is easier to trace than Mosley’s. Chesterton wrote that ‘England is the land of my aspiration, and of my race, as well as most of my adult life, but by birth I belong to Africa’.146 It seems beyond doubt that Chesterton’s childhood in colonial South Africa shaped his attitudes on race. His biographer David Baker convincingly states: ‘Basically he had absorbed the patriotic jingoism, racial paternalism and fundamental conservatism of South African Uitlanders’.147 Similarly to Mosley he sometimes publicly declared: ‘The unfortunate thing is that the concept of “superiority” and “inferiority” should be imported into a situation where it need have no place’.148 However, while Chesterton may well have believed that his racial views did not surmount to white superiority, even the most sympathetic of observers would see the patent supremacist tendencies of his beliefs. While Chesterton rejected the pseudo-scientific theories of the British racialist Houston Stewart Chamberlin, whose work he described as ‘clotted nonsense’ and the ideas of the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist Alfred Rosenberg, which he called ‘racial rubbish’, Chesterton did hold a fundamental belief in the notion of racial difference.149
Convinced of the greatness and uniqueness of the British race he strongly criticised interracial breeding, arguing: ‘The one thing we must not allow them to do is to poison the bloodstream of those who are native here because no recovery of Britain’s greatness could be expected from a mulatto nation’.151' The ‘them’ he is referring to is of course the Jews, a point he makes explicitly elsewhere.
The Jewish interest in the business of nation-smashing and race mixing is manifold . . . there is a belief that if nations and races can be progressively obliterated, there will die in the Gentile spirit that survival sense which might otherwise resist Jewish world domination.151
Chesterton’s aversion to race mixing was commonplace among those in the fascist movement. Talking of his father, the prominent British fascist and sometime colleague of Chesterton’s, John Beckett, Francis explained how
He could also, partly to shock, say things so grossly racist they would make your hair stand on end. He disliked seeing mixed race couples on the streets of London. He explained to me that there were certain forlorn types, in both races, who could not find a partner of their own race, and had to find one of another race.1’2
Repulsion at race mixing - Chesterton talked of ‘a retching of the stomach’ - was by no means unique to the LEL leader.
However, while unquestionably a racist, Chesterton strongly condemned those whose prejudice spilled over into violence, stating ‘strong measures should be taken against those white thugs who have already been responsible for several ugly incidents’against those ‘they openly and discriminately call “niggers’”.15' This is partly because Chesterton’s more biologically inclined views on race, while visceral at times, were far outweighed by his inclination to racism of a patronising and paternalist nature. His descriptions of black people are littered with comments about their ‘indolence and irresponsibility’1’4 and how ‘it is a fact that the natural instinct of the African is to admire and trust the European’.155 His patronising racism can best be seen by reading his 1947 novella Juma the Great. It chronicles the misadventures of one Juma, a Ugandan Headman who left his village to drive a lorry for the British Army during the invasion of Abyssinia. All of Chesterton’s imperial prejudice is neatly portrayed through the main protagonist. He is good at and enjoys menial tasks but has bad self-discipline and is often to be found neglecting duty in favour of drink. Throughout the novel Juma takes great pride in keeping his white officer happy, who is often frustrated by the constant need to control the disorderly and ill-disciplined African soldiers. The whole novelette is deeply patronising and laced with lazy racial stereotypes. The scene when Juma is offered the job of driver is a case in point:
As the fumes stole into his brain Juma reviewed the amazing proposition put in front of him - the proposition to become a god in control of one of these miraculous chariots... and above all to move about the world surmounted by a huge, heroic askari hat. Life could have no more magnificent destiny for any man.156
The notion that no black man could dream for any more than the opportunity to drive a truck is laid on thick. So too is the constant reminder of white superiority’, which is regularly commented on by the black characters. In addition to calling them his ‘white superiors’157 Juma states: ‘These white men are indeed wonderful people’,1511 and even after being severely reprimanded he comments: ‘They can swear at us in our own language better than we can swear ourselves’.159 No attempt is made to hide the fact that Juma is an allegory for all Africans, as it is explicitly stated, ‘Juma was like most Africans - the more towering their virtues the more staggering their defects and the more inexplicable the occasion on which these defects were manifested’. The reaction to Juma’s many mistakes in the novel are the same as Chesterton’s in real life - namely, ‘what can you expect from an African?’
As with his reaction to immigration, Arnold Leese’s conception of race was far more extreme than Mosley or Chesterton. For Leese ‘Race is the basis of politics. . . . The object of Nationalism obviously must be the preservation of the race or races of the people making up the Nation’160 and that ‘No amount of propaganda can prevent the natural law “All is Race” from asserting itself’.161 It is worth quoting the following passage at some length as it explains fully his understanding of black immigration, its supposed purpose and the role and motivation of the international Jewish conspirators in encouraging it:
Seven hundred niggers from Jamaica arrived on our shores on 6th September . . . the authorities who allow this traffic, or who take no measures to end it, are guilty of worse than murder, for they are introducing an alien and unassimilatable element into Britain quite needlessly, the presence of which can only lead to bloodshed and racial mongrelisation. As Rabbi Emanuel Rabinovitch said to his fellows in 1952: “Mixing the dark with the white means the end of the white man, and our most dangerous enemy will become only a memory.” Well, who is the Jew who has greatest sway over Britain’s so called leaders? What reasonable doubt can there be that he is the man who is bringing this black plague to England?162
Unlike Chesterton, whose repulsion of race mixing was based on gut instinct, Leese’s was firmly rooted in pseudo-scientific racial theories and a belief in the fundamental inferiority of non-white races: ‘The Nigger has to be taught who is his master’.163
Leese even understood the Cold War European split through a racial lens. He felt that Europe could broadly be divided into two camps, the long-heads and the short-heads, with each race being biologically different and thus having different needs and wants. The long-heads are made up of Nordics and Mediterraneans, and the short-heads include the races of Dinaric, East Baltic, Alpine, Hither Asiatic and Mongol. While the former generally preferred disciplining themselves, the later have an inferiority complex, thus making them readier to accept communism. As Leese saw it, ‘the present political division of the world is not just a matter of East versus West, but Short-heads versus Long-heads’ and of course above all of this is the Jew, who ‘not only incites short-head against long-head and vice versa, but also governs both sides’.164 As this peculiar Cold War thesis demonstrates, Leese was immersed in the world of racial science, which influenced his interpretation of events, which in turn all sat below his fundamental obsession with antisemitism. His commitment to racial science meant he greeted UNESCO’s 1950 declaration on race with extreme hostility. UNESCO’s statement that ‘racial discrimination has no scientific foundation in biological fact; mental and temperamental characters of all races are essentially similar’165 struck at the very core of the belief systems of Leese and his fellow racialists. Leese blamed the Jews and argued that the UNESCO statement was designed ‘So the average white succumbs to the Jewish teaching that he is no better than his “black brother’”.166
With Leese dying in 1956 the mantle of Britain’s premier racist fell to his primary disciple, Colin Jordan. Jordan shared the ‘All is Race’ outlook, was also obsessed with racial science and was convinced of the undeniability of racial difference. In a 1958 article titled ‘Are Blacks as Good as Whites?’ he answered:
The blacks say “yes”. Those renegade whites who are sponsoring black settlement in our land, and the pollution of our race, say “yes”. The cranks, charlatans, and lying propagandists they have brought forward as “experts” say “yes” too and have persuaded large numbers of well-meaning but gullible British to say “yes” as well. But science and common sense emphatically say “no”.167
Much of Jordan’s analysis of black immigration and the Notting Hill riots relied heavily on the work of the academic and pseudo-academic racial theorists. Black and White News quotes many racial scientists including the English biologist Thomas Huxley. He quotes from his 1863 work Man’s Place in Nature: ‘The difference in weight of brain between the highest and lowest of men or between the white and the negro is far greater, both relatively and absolutely, than between the negro and the highest ape’.168 However, one does not have to look back to 1863 to find scientific justifications for racism and separation. In 1958 the British Eugenics Society produced a pamphlet titled H-fet Indian Immigration. The pamphlet was no doubt music to the ears of the British far right who were provided with an academic justification for their racial prejudices and their vocal condemnation of miscegenation. Written by G.C.L. Bertram, the pamphlet stated:
It is recognized that the more obvious disadvantages of race mixing are social and psychological but perhaps more amenable to correction; while the less obvious disadvantages, which are genetic, may be real, yet once they have taken place they cannot be undone.169
It continued: ‘that race-mixture in fact more commonly leads to trouble than to happiness’.170 However, while these conclusions are mirrored by those of the extreme racial nationalists, their recommendation for a solution is far removed and markedly more moderate. They conceded that race-mixing’s ‘deliberate stoppage, if desirable in principle, would require a resort to force and a removal of liberty which would not be tolerated’.171 The wider reaction to the publication of the pamphlet seems to have been generally favourable. Writing of its reception in the Eugenics Review several months later, the editor explained how
this West Indian Broadsheet does appear in general to have been widely accepted as an honest attempt to provide helpful perspective. The Times gave it a three-quarter column precis almost without comment, and “Peterborough” in the Daily Telegraph seemed to find it broadly commendable.172
This serves to reiterate the point that the far right were not extremist outliers on the issue of race, immigration and miscegenation in the immediate postwar period. While their language was often (though not always) more visceral and base, their interest more obsessive and their recommended solutions often more extreme, the British far right were echoing the views of large proportions of the wider general public. This is no doubt why, as the 50s turned into the 60s, realising that this was the case, the British far right increasingly shifted (at least in terms of public rhetoric) away from the Jewish-Bolshevik plot towards issues of race and immigration.