The impact of covert activity upon the extreme right in 1940s Britain
Graham Macklin discusses the surprising scope and wide-ranging impact of covert intelligence activities against the British extreme right both before, during and after the Second World War.
A significant body of research now exists relating to how state actors and civil society groups seek to inhibit or curtail the activities of radical political rivals through measures such counter-protest, public order policing, legislation restricting their activities or, in extremis, the banning of such groups. The impact that such external responses can have upon radical social and political movements if they lack the internal resilience to cope with or to effectively counter such activities has been highlighted (Davenport, 2014) but the impact of covert activities upon such groups’ remains in its infancy. Whilst Marx (1989) drew our attention to the importance of informers within radical social movements – their deployment against progressive and/or left wing causes being well documented – with the exception of the United States (Cunningham, 2004) little sustained empirical research has been carried out into the covert activities of state and civil society intelligence operations against extreme right-wing movements more broadly.
This paper examines the surprising scope and wide-ranging impact of covert intelligence activities against the British extreme right both before, during and after the Second World War. It also considers those covert initiatives orchestrated by non-state, anti-fascist organizations in the immediate aftermath of the war, activities that have largely escaped academic scrutiny. It will conclude by assessing the combined impact of covert state and civil society activities upon the subsequent trajectory of the extreme right in Britain after 1945.
Dr. Macklin researches historic and contemporary manifestations of fascist and extreme right-wing politics and activism in Britain, North America and Europe; as well aspects of political violence and terrorism. He works within the Centre for Fascist, Anti-Fascist and Post-Fascist Studies (CFAPS) and he is currently completing a history of the White Racial Nationalism in Britain together with another project entitled Transnational Extreme Right Networks, co-edited with Professor Fabian Virchow (Dusseldorf). Both will be published by Routledge in 2016. He also co-edits the ‘Fascism and the Far Right’ book series for Routledge.