READING Elizabeth Longford's memories of Oxford in The Sunday Telegraph, and the riot at Sir Oswald Mosley's public meeting in May 1936, during which her young husband the valiant Frank Pakenham was beaten up by the black rubber truncheons of uniformed Blackshirts, brought back memories of the famous mass rally of thousands of British fascists at Olympia in London.
There, aping Hitler, from a Nuremburg-style rostrum of banners and Union flags, Sir Oswald Mosley delivered a lengthy speech to his faithful followers which was a classic model of mob oratory.
I was there from the Catholic Worker, and the black-shirted masses kept howling for their leader to appear, chanting 'MO-S-L-E-Y" ecstatically and repeatedly.
Eventually he appeared, every inch an aristocrat, striding up the centre aisle with his bodyguard, to the rostrum as a Blackshirt "military" band crashed out the "The Rakes of Mallow." In view of Mosley's amorous reputation this was appropriate enough but not very British.
He stirred the masses of his followers to fever pitch with his appeal to the nationalism of "the British people", and the glory of the British Empire.
He played on all their emotions like an expert organist pulling out all the stops.
Tall, wickedly dark eyed, handsome, hawkfaced and with a thin black moustache, he used every cheap oratorical trick in the book.
As a former fencer of international standing, he struck every swordsman's stance to emphasize his points. He finished with a voice hoarse with emotion, but not before the whole of Olympia had errupted into bloody battles as members of the Communist Party of Britain had risen time and time again to heckle "The Leader" as part of their "Red Front" antifascist campaign.
One of our more courageous Catholic Worker representatives
wandered at will in the midst of the outbreaks of violence, keeping Blackshirt thugs at bay by saying that he was from the "Special Branch".
Unfortunately not a few Catholic young men got caught up in the British Union of Fascist movement because of their anti-communist feelings, forgetting the vicious and crude and anti-jewish nature of a movement modelled on Hitler's Brownshirts.
We used to sell the Worker at both Fascist and Communist Party Street corner public meetings, and incurred the deep suspicion and displeasure of both.
The British Union of Fascists symbol, the circle and the flash, like the Swastika, became a symbol of terror for members of the Jewish Community in Britain, particularly in the East End of London.
The Ban on Uniforms Bill helped to put an end to much of the glamour of Mosley's Blackshirts, before the winds of war scattered them into oblivion.