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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 184 Contents

Linda Carruthers


Thug on the Tyne


From Socialist Review, No. 184, March 1995
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In Excited Times
Nigel Todd
Bewick Press £5.95

History is usually presented as a few historical facts, names and places with the occasional atrocity thrown in. Ordinary people rarely get a look in, let alone influence the events that took place, which is why Nigel Todd’s book In Excited Times is important. It is about a previously unrecorded episode in the fight to prevent fascism gaining influence in Tyne and Wear in the 1930s, and it exposes a well financed bid by Mosley and his British Union of Fascists to penetrate the north east of England.

Behind the fascist street gangs and thugs was a sophisticated network of bosses and big business, many of whom took a keen interest in Mussolini’s fascism in Italy and went on to fund Hitler and his notorious death camps.

A principal spokesman for the Nazis on the Tory right was Lord Londonderry, a County Durham coal owner and former cabinet minister who was on first name terms with Hitler and Goering.

Mosley’s chief objective in Tyne and Wear was to try and break the back of the labour movement. The two key lieutenants he chose for the job were Tony Moran and John Beckett. Moran was a former Labour Party councillor in Newcastle and Beckett had been an Independent Labour Party MP for Gateshead and private secretary and election agent for Clement Attlee. Both had become ‘disillusioned’ with parliament and both also admired Mussolini!

While fascism appeared attractive to the bosses, workers were beginning to realise what the BUF was really about.

Mosley’s campaign was gutted in 1934 when demonstrations of 10,000 in Newcastle and Gateshead tried to throw the Blackshirts over the Tyne bridge into the river. Not surprisingly the police protected the fascists.

Still the fascists did not give up. William Joyce, the wartime Lord Haw-Haw, was sent to inspire the troops in 1935 in South Shields. Instead he was beset by young Jewish anti-fascists and was last seen fleeing from a crowd of 800 stone throwers who were singing the Internationale and shouting, ‘Down with fascism.’

The second part of the book is dedicated to those who went to Spain to fight Franco and his fascists. Many Tynesiders fought heroically to their death with the International Brigades – those who did return were greeted with a hero’s welcome.

In Excited Times concludes with the message that fascism won’t go away if it is just ignored. It provides a comprehensive illustrated account of how fascist ambitions were thwarted in the1930s. As fascism is again raising its poisonous head across Europe it is crucial to learn the lessons of history and the difference ordinary people can make when they organise to fight back!

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