Even as it opposed Nazism in Europe, Great Britain was home to a number of fascist movements during the 1930s. The largest and most significant among these groups was the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Inspired by Italian fascism, the BUF rooted itself within British traditions, focusing its propaganda and symbolism on the history and culture of medieval England.1
The BUF was formed in 1932 by a former member of British parliament, Oswald Mosley. In his autobiography, Mosley explained that his party sought to "regenerate" British society and save it from economic and political crisis.2 The BUF's opposition to a supposedly oppressive ruling class reflected a common feature of European fascist movements in the 1930s.
This Daily Mail news article from August 7, 1933 highlights the party's attempts to appeal to British voters. Hit by the economic depression of the late 1920s and 1930s, British farmers faced further hardship due to a mandatory tithe—a tax of 10 percent of their earnings collected by the Church of England. Attempts to collect tithe debts were often met with aggressive resistance by farmers, aided by members of their communities.
In its coverage of opposition to the tithe, the Daily Mail article notes the BUF’s activism in support of the farmers and the cruelty of the "Tithe Blows":
Yesterday a large party of the British Union of Fascists arrived at the farm. “We have come here entirely on our own
initiative [...] for we feel that the tithe burden is crushing British agriculture out of existence and we want to prevent that..."
The Daily Mail had often offered sympathetic views of fascist movements in the 1930s. Its owner, Lord Harold Rothermere—a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler—promoted headlines that celebrated the achievements of Nazi Germany and praised the BUF and its leader, Mosley. This article points to the tithe as a cause of growing unemployment and popular discontent. The BUF's promise to combat the tithe helped win the party many followers by 1934. But support for the BUF soon dropped because of the party's emphasis on violence and the perception that it was associated with Nazi Germany. In 1940, after the start of the World War II, the British government banned the BUF.