Graham Macklin, Failed Führers: A History of Britain’s Extreme Right (Routledge, 2020). Review by Spencer Sunshine
Graham Macklin’s Failed Führers is a major new study of the British fascist movement, and will likely be the central reference point for scholars of that movement for the foreseeable future. … Failed Führers is a collective biography of six British fascist leaders of both the pre- and post-war periods. While this seems like an odd, if not downright antiquated, approach, it actually works quite well in helping Macklin cover a large amount of ground. The narrative arc doesn’t get turgid as it is frequently moving from one figure to the other. This structure also helps avoid a degeneration into a sectology illustrating how This Group begat That Group which splintered into Those Groups—although there is still plenty of that for the discerning sectologist!
The first figure featured in Failed Führers is Arnold Leese, who was active starting in the 1920s and became more and more focused on antisemitism as he pivoted his allegiances from Mussolini to Hitler. He continued his fascism career postwar, as did Oswald Mosley, the most famous of the six outside of Britain. The outline of Mosley’s prewar career is generally known, including his wartime detention, but I was fascinated to learn how extensive his work was postwar and how he was somehow rehabilitated into the mainstream, appearing, for example, on William Buckley’s Firing Line. The third figure, A.K. Chesterton (not to be confused with his relation G.K. Chesterton) also straddled the war. But he was best known for founding the League of Empire Loyalists—who, as the British empire crumbled, did what it said on the tin, albeit with a fascist core. The League wound up by fusing with other groups to become the National Front, the best known of the British fascist parties—at least to fans of 1970s punk rock and two-tone ska, as well as to watchers of the National-Anarchists. Fourth is Colin Jordan, who was mentored by Leese. Jordon was an openly neo-Nazi ideologue and organizer who was a cross between his contemporaries George Lincoln Rockwell and William Pierce. Fifth and sixth are John Tyndall and Nick Griffin; both of them overlapped in both the National Front and British National Party (BNP), which each led before being deposed (Tyndall from the BNP by Griffin, no less). Today, Griffin is the only living figure of the bunch.