Gavin Bowd’s book Fascist Scotland, Caledonia and the Far Right has given succour to unionist opponents of Scottish self-determination. Allan Armstrong (RCN) provides a republican and international socialist critique.


Fascist UK, Britannia and the Far Right



1) What is a fascist organisation?

Gavin Bowd’s book, Fascist Scotland, Caledonia and the Far Right, contains a lot of useful material about far right writings, culture and organisation in Scotland since the 1920s. However, Bowd does not define what he means by fascism, nor distinguish it from other forms of reactionary or right populist politics. These often invoke similar chauvinist, ethnic or racist themes. The purpose behind Bowd’s lack of clarity over the political basis of fascism only emerges gradually.

The nearest Bowd gets to a definition of fascism is in his Prologue. Here he draws readers’ attention to “extreme racist, nationalist and authoritarian politics” (1). Extreme nationalism certainly underpins fascist thinking, whether promoted in terms of biological ‘race’, or in its more recent form, ethnicity or culture, preferred by neo-fascists (2).

However, the resort to such racial or ethnic nationalism is not sufficient in itself to make their adherents fascist (3). Yet Bowd’s definition gets no further than adding “authoritarian politics” to his list of characteristics. Authoritarianism is also something that is common to a wider range of parties and organisations on the reactionary right, and is found amongst populist and Communist parties that have held state power.

To distinguish fascists from other extreme racists, nationalists and authoritarians it is necessary to identify organisations that have their own extra-constitutional forces (e.g. street gangs, paramilitary formations). Fascists use these to enforce the supremacy of their chosen ‘nation’, either within or sometimes beyond existing state boundaries.

However, neither are extra-constitutional forces unique to fascists. Other organisations, such as the Irish Citizen Army in 1916, the Red Guards in the Russian Revolution and the post-First World War, Austrian Social Democrats’ Shutzbund, have been created by non and by anti-fascist organisations.

Therefore, for an organisation to qualify as fascist it is necessary that it be based on extreme racist or nationalist politics and that it has its own real (as opposed to fantasy) extra-constitutional forces.

There is certainly a debate to be had about whether to be fully fascist an organisation also needs to have the aim of overthrowing the existing state constitution, and to replace it with a new political order. Bowd does raise this question, in an elliptical manner, when he points out that the British Fascists (BF), “despite their admiration for Mussolini… did not promote corporatism” (4) .

Instead, the BF founded in 1923, like the Freikorps formed in Germany just four years earlier, confined its role to providing extra-constitutional forces to assist the existing government in suppressing what they saw as revolutionary challenges – the Spartacus Rising in 1919 Germany, and less plausibly, the threat of “Communist Poison and Godless Soviets” (5) in the UK, in 1923. In the case of the BF, its forces got little further than stewarding right wing Conservatives’ meetings and offering to provide strike-breakers.

Thus, some distinction can be made between those seeking to put down what were perceived as immediate threats, in order to restore the existing state in its traditional form (6), and those who wanted to replace it with a completely new order. However, whether or not one reserves the term fascist for the second type of organisation, both are motivated by the desire to crush independent working class and/or minority national challenges; both are prepared act outside the existing constitution, albeit with ‘a nod and a wink’ from sections of the existing ruling class in the first case.

Therefore, despite the differences between these two forms of organisation, the term fascism will be used to cover both. The name adopted by the BF, which had no wider political aim beyond defending the established order, shows that it considered itself part of the fascist family. Although Bowd describes other individuals and organisations, which would be more properly identified as reactionary right or populist, he also uses the term fascist for both types of organisation found in Scotland.

There is some parallel on the Left with these two forms of organisation. Communist parties were originally formed to create a completely new revolutionary social order. However, only a few were able to do this, either through their own efforts, as in the Russian or Chinese Empires; or with the backing of the Red Army and USSR in what later became the Warsaw Pact countries. The latter road, followed, for example, by Polish Communist leader, Boleslaw Bierut in 1945, mirrored the way Vidkun Quisling came to power, after the Nazi occupation of Norway in 1940.

The majority of official Communist Parties ended up exerting pressure within existing states and usually upon their Social Democratic parties. They did this to get economic and social reforms implemented and so maintain their support amongst the working class. Other Left Social Democratic and some dissident Communist organisations were also formed with similar aims. In the process they often diluted or abandoned any aim of overthrowing the existing political order.

Similarly, many fascist and neo-fascist organisations have also had more limited aims than overthrowing the existing constitutional order. They have sought to put direct pressure on right wing parties in government. They have made their extra-constitutional forces available to others, usually the employers or the existing state. Some fascists have turned towards right populism, disbanding their extra-constitutional forces in the process.


2) British fascism, its loyalist roots and the challenge of Scottish self-determination to the UK state

Bowd does get close to identifying the political aims of the dominant form of British fascism. He highlights the BF’s membership criteria – “to uphold His Most Gracious Majesty’s King George V, his heirs and successors, the established constitution of Great Britain and the British Empire” (7). The one criterion not explicitly stated by Bowd, although it could be implied in the “uphold{ing}…the established constitution”, is support for the UK’s Protestant establishment.

Bowd’s criteria have formed the political basis for most significant British fascist and neo-fascist organisations in the UK. However, although Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF), set up in 1932, matched these criteria in other respects (but giving its support to the fascist-sympathising Edward VIII), the BUF was neither anti-Catholic nor anti-Irish. The fascism of the BUF, like many other fascists, right populists and reactionaries in Europe at the time, was based on anti-Semitism. This certainly had some political purchase, particularly in London’s East End. But the BUF’s failure to back those upholding Protestant supremacy in the UK proved to be a significant weakness for the party in Scotland (and meant it had little impact in the ‘Six Counties’ of Ireland).

In Scotland, this left a political space for more fully British right unionist and loyalist organisations to fill this pro-Protestant supremacist gap in the 1930s. Bowd shows that the BUF found it far harder to organise here, where anti-Catholic Irish sentiment had much stronger appeal than anti-Semitism. Here was to be found John Cormack’s Protestant Action (PA) in Edinburgh and Alexander Ratcliffe’s Scottish Protestant League (SPL) in Glasgow.

Furthermore, the right populist PA and SPL made their own specific local flirtations with fascism. There was Kormack’s {Cormack’s} Kaledonian Klan (KKK) “whose squadrist tactics in Edinburgh …look far more fascist than anything the BUF did in Scotland” (8) . Ratcliffe was involved briefly with the Scottish Fascist Democratic Party (SFDP) (9) until it dropped its anti-Catholic policies (10). He did oppose Catholic Franco (even approving of the ‘Red Duchess’ of Atholl, who was a Scottish Unionist MP), and also supported the Spanish Republic. However, Ratcliffe then became an apologist and publicist for Hitler’s Nazis, whom he saw as sufficiently anti-Catholic for his tastes.

In 1933, PA gained 32.1% of the vote in the Edinburgh local elections, whilst the SPL gained 23% of the vote in Glasgow. These were higher percentages than the votes achieved by the BUF in any city in the UK. Whilst Bowd recognises the problem this presented to the BUF, he does not then go on to identify the most fully developed form of British fascism, which, of course, does have a Protestant supremacist characteristic – fascist loyalism (11). The more loyalist British right populism or fascism has been, the more support it has gained, when social and political conditions provided an opportunity (12).

Although right populist and fascist loyalism have their historical roots in British Ireland, and in particular Ulster (13), they also have had support elsewhere in the UK. The PA (with its associated KKK) and SPL (with its resort to Fullerton’s Billy Boys) demonstrated this in the Central Belt of Scotland.

Furthermore, support for even the fascist variant of loyalism has been found at the highest levels of the UK, when this state felt itself to be sufficiently threatened. This backing was quite open in fascism’s earliest manifestation in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) during the Third Irish Home Rule Bill crisis in 1913, and again during the Irish War of Independence after 1920. It was more clandestine during ‘The Troubles’ from the late 1960s up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (and probably beyond). In this latter phase, collusion operated mainly behind-the-scenes, through the security services, with their resort to loyalist death squads. Such activities have been cloaked by the UK state’s Crown Powers.

Thus, Bowd is wrong in identifying the BF, formed in 1923, as the earliest fascist organisation in the UK. The UVF had been created as a paramilitary group a decade earlier, with the active backing of Ulster Unionists (UU), to uphold the existing constitutional order by the use of extra-constitutional force. At the same time, the Conservative and Unionist party (which included the UU) gave its backing to those British military officers, mutinying at The Curragh in 1914, against the enforcement of the Liberal government’s Third Irish Home Rule Bill (14).

Moving on to the immediate post-First World War period, when Bowd’s book starts, he makes no reference to the revival of the UVF by the UU Council in 1920. UVF “gunmen operated almost exclusively as ethnic cleansers and revengers” (15) supplementing the role of the local official Ulster Special Constabulary (USC).

Thus, the UVF bore a stronger resemblance to the Freikorps than to the BF, in its willingness to resort to violence. Even after the immediate crisis caused by the Irish War of Independence was over and Partition had been enforced, the new northern statelet maintained various permanent paramilitary groups in reserve, especially the C Division of the USC. These Specials recruited from the UVF and other loyalist groups. However, these groups also maintained their organisational independence outside the Specials, and hence their fascist extra-constitutional potential (16).

Ulster loyalists and unionists maintained cross-Irish Channel connections with their counterparts in Scotland (17). Loyalist supporters of Protestant supremacy (and anti-Irish racism) were more influential in Scotland than the fascists of the two main organisations initially formed south of the border – the BF and later the BUF, whom Bowd concentrates on.

In the uncertain days following the First World War, Bowd draws our attention to the role of the BF in Britain, and its desire to provide extra-constitutional bodies to uphold the UK constitution. Although the BF sought support in similar established right wing quarters to the UVF to defend the UK state, the British ruling class did not require forcible partition and localised ethnic cleaning in Britain to maintain its rule. The local ‘Ulster’ components of the British ruling class, in what became Northern Ireland, did.

Bowd points to one significant reason for the BF’s relative lack of impact. The political challenge from the Left in Britain was receding by the time of the 1926 General Strike. This was a defensive not an offensive working class action. This is why the British government could refuse any BF help for its “strikebreaking Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies… unless they gave up calling themselves Fascists and dismantled their paramilitary organisation” (18). Open BF support was not necessary, especially since the TUC General Council went out of its way to deny making any political challenge to the UK state. For these reasons, the BF had considerably less official support and impact than the loyalist form of British fascism found in ‘Ulster’.

What is it that has given the loyalist form of right populism and fascism its wider influence in the UK? Their support for British imperialism, unionism, monarchism and established Protestantism is shared not only by most British fascists and the reactionary Tory right (and UKIP today), but by conservative and liberal unionists, whether amongst the Conservatives, Liberals and now Lib-Dems, or the old Labour right and the Labour Party mainstream from New Labour to One-Nation Labour (and no prizes for guessing which ‘nation’, or rather state, that would be!)

Bowd’s book does provide a good account of high level British establishment and Tory Right complicity in support for Mussolini, Franco and the rise of German Nazism (19). However, he seems unwilling to extend his exposures of fascism to the former king, Edward VIII. He would have been interned for Nazi collaboration, or hanged for treason, during World War II, if he had not been a member of the royal family (20). However, to keep him out the limelight, he was given the governorship of the Bahamas, instead of an Isle of Man internment or the gallows!

For Bowd though, once ‘Britain’ declares war on Nazi Germany in 1939, Churchill becomes the unquestioned leader of progressive forces, and henceforth the UK is to be defended against all challengers. This is the point at which the political intention of Bowd’s book, published in 2013, during the Scottish independence referendum, becomes more apparent. A defence of the UK is incompatible with any meaningful exercise of Scottish self-determination. This is why some ‘No’ campaign supporters have embraced Bowd’s book, with its accusations of Scottish nationalist-based fascism and its influence on the SNP (21).

On May 13th, 2015, former President of the Scottish Law Society and Labour activist, Ian Smart, tweeted, “Are we really going to go through the entire D-Day weekend, without anybody pointing out that the SNP were on the Nazi side” (22). Ex- and still wannabe Labour MP, George ‘Just Say Naw’ Galloway, used Bowd’s book in a You-tube interview on September 13th, 2014 to claim the SNP had wanted a German Nazi invasion (23). These, and other similar interventions, have been used not only to misrepresent the political motives behind the ‘Yes’ campaign, but also as a cover for the conservative and often reactionary nature of the dominant wing of the ‘No’ campaign defending the Union.

During the Scottish referendum campaign there was a striking mismatch, on one hand, between the Scottish national politics of the SNP-led official ‘Yes’ campaign, and the Scottish internationalist politics of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC). although both shared a civic national inclusive approach to those loving in Scotland.  On the other hand, the British chauvinist politics was frequently displayed in the official ‘No’ campaign, along with the ethnic or ethno-religious nationalism which surfaced amongst UKIP’s supporters and the loyalists.

Bowd does not identify the differences between these approaches to nation, nationalism or state. These were already well established in the run-up to the Scottish referendum campaign. Thus, one of the key characteristics of Left unionists, when they attack the SNP’s undoubted nationalism, is their disregard for the often virulent British nationalism of the ‘No’ campaign, and their failure to examine the Labour and Communist Parties’ own history of British nationalism.

RIC and other progressive pro-independence forces had a considerably greater weight in the wider ‘Yes’ campaign, and were far more publicly visible than the Red Paper Collective (RPC) (24) or Galloway’s ‘Just Say Naw’ campaign were in the ‘No’ campaign. This was highlighted in RIC’s three successive conferences from 2012-14, attended by 800, 1100 and 3000 people respectively, and by the RIC-initiated mass campaign in the Scotland’s city housing schemes which contributed to 97% voter registration. Many other autonomous groups were also involved. With 85% of the electorate actually voting on September 18th, these figures are an indication of a ‘democratic revolution’.


3) The end of the 1916-21 International Revolutionary Wave and the turn to national statist solutions on the Right and Left

In order to downplay the British roots of the most significant form of fascism, which gets its sustenance from all the reactionary features of the UK state, Bowd weaves what he considers to be Scottish nationalist based fascism, initially as a subordinate, but then as an ever more threatening, element into his account. After examining other sources for fascism in Scotland, in his first three chapters up to 1939, chapter 4 addresses The Nazis and the Nats up to the outbreak of, and then during the Second World War. This is the chapter that has been most resorted to by ‘No’ campaigners, particularly amongst the British Left unionists.

To make his case for Scottish nationalist support for fascism, and in particular for Nazi Germany, Bowd begins by examining the thinking of several members of the Scottish nationalist intelligentsia in the inter-war period.

A key example is Hugh MacDiarmid, who wrote an article, At the Sign of the Thistle, Programme for a Scottish Fascism, in 1923. In this article, MacDiarmid included “the motives that activate Scottish Labour organisations” (25) as part of what he saw as the new wider Scottish movement. This produced what Bowd characterises as the “new Nationalism {that} would incline to the left and meet Labour halfway in the interest of Scotland First” (26). In making this link, MacDiarmid saw Scotland following Mussolini who had put “Italy First” (27).

MacDiarmid was then a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). He was not alone in the ILP in seeing a positive model in Mussolini’s fascism. Bowd gives the example of William Weir Gilmour, a Glasgow based ILP member who “identified Mussolini’s corporate state as the embodiment” of the “reorganisation of unions on an industry-by-industry basis” (28). Gilmour stood for the New Party in Coatbridge during the 1931 General Election, before going to the SFDP in 1933.

Another ILP member, and former Labour government minister, Oswald Mosley formed the New Party in 1931. This party put a great deal of emphasis on the role of the state in the UK economy. Six Labour MPs, including the later Labour Popular Front advocate, John Strachey, signed up. However, for Mosley (as for Gilmour) the New Party proved to be not authoritarian enough. Mosley took a further step and formed the British Union of Fascists in 1932. Few of his earlier ILP/Labour sympathisers followed him on this next stage of his political journey.

Therefore, neither the ILP nor the Labour Party could be characterised as fascist sympathising (29), despite sharing some ideological common ground in regard to state-led national economic development; and despite producing individuals who themselves went on to be fascists. If Bowd applied the same criteria to Labour (and indeed to the official Communist parties), as he uses to imply that the SNP supported fascism, then both these parties would have to join his fascist pantheon in “Caledonia”, and indeed elsewhere.

Mosley’s political trajectory from Labour to fascist was not unique in Europe. It was paralleled in the career of Henri de Man, President of the Belgian Labour Party (BLP). Whilst in the BLP, de Man put forward a similar statist programme, the Plan de Man, in 1933, to that of Mosley’s New Party. Later he  went on to actively collaborate as Prime Minister under the German Nazi occupation of Belgium.

This post-First World War turn by some on the Left towards a degree of sympathy for fascism as a national and statist economic reform movement is best explained by the retreat of the 1916-21 International Revolutionary Wave. This revolutionary wave had its epicentre in the former Russian Empire, and led to the creation of the Bolshevik-led Third International  (30). The Third International began as the organising centre for international revolution. When the revolutionary wave stalled and fell back on itself, revolutionary internationalism increasingly gave way to projects of national statist development.

If, over the next decade, political retreat pushed some from a Labour/Social Democratic background towards cross-class statist organisations like the New Party; it also led to a distinct National Bolshevik tendency within the Third International. National Bolshevik thinking assessed the world in terms of the USSR’s state interests. It went through a number of phases. Domestically it first led to the New Economic Policy (NEP) and internationally to seeking pragmatic accommodations with other states.

National Bolshevik thinking transmitted itself to other national sections of the Third International. How far this political retreat could lead to can be shown by the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) in 1922. During the Rand Rebellion of white gold miners, the CPSA raised the slogan, “Workers of the world unite and fight for a white South Africa” (31)!

In 1923, Karl Radek, then Secretary of the Third International, courted the infant German Nazi movement, which was then challenging the French and British imperially imposed Versailles Treaty. He made a speech dedicated to Leo Schlagater, who became a Nazi hero after he was killed in the French-occupied Ruhr. This is a bit like a praising Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik today!

In 1924, Josef Stalin put forward the theory of ‘socialism in one country’, which contributed to the ratcheting up of national statism, and the further marginalisation of genuine internationalism. When Stalin adopted the First Five Year Plan, in 1928, he moved well beyond its national state-led NEP predecessor, by eliminating most non-state sectors of the USSR economy.

This phase of National Bolshevism was accompanied by Stalin’s new ‘Third Period’ politics. He described the Social Democrats in Germany as ‘social fascists’, who represented a greater danger to the working class than the fascists of the Nazi Party. On Stalin’s orders, the German Communist Party cooperated with the Nazis in a new Red-Brown alliance. They marched together and pushed for a referendum trying to overthrow the Prussian lander (32) Social Democrat-led government in 1931.

It was also in this period that Charles Forrester, a boilermaker and former Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) member from Glasgow, became a member of the SPL. This provides another example showing how national statist (or National Bolshevik type) thinking could provide a conduit for some individuals into far right politics in the UK too (33) .

Bowd highlights MacDiarmid’s praise for Hitler in a review written as late as 1931 (34). However, it was the CPGB that MacDiarmid joined in 1934, “submitting himself to the new anti-Fascist line {Popular Front} of the Comintern” (35) . Yet, as Bowd shows, MacDiarmid did not entirely abandon his earlier fascist flirtations, still looking favourably upon Il Duce, or Mussolini in his First Hymn to Lenin (36).

Once the Comintern had switched from the ‘Third Period’ to support for cross-class Popular Fronts, the CPGB began to look to the movement for greater Scottish self-determination, the better to woo Scottish ILP Home Rulers and some Scottish nationalists.

As a recent National Party of Scotland (37) member, and now new CPGB, member, MacDiarmid saw the possibility of pushing a form of Scottish nationalism further within the party. He did this by reinventing John Maclean’s Scottish internationalism as a form of anti-English Scottish nationalism, making common cause with Irish nationalism in a pan-Celtic alliance (38). However, the CPGB leadership, keen to maintain the unity of the UK state, albeit on a new liberal devolved unionist basis, took a dim view of MacDiarmid’s Scottish nationalism. Hence he was “twice expelled by 1939” (39).

During the early stages of the Second World War, at the time the CPGB was dutifully following the Hitler-Stalin Pact (August 1931-June 1941), MacDiarmid wrote On the Imminent Destruction of London, June 1940, to which prospect he responded by writing, “That I hardly care… For London is the centre of all reaction” (40). Here MacDiarmid, who later listed Anglophobia as one of his hobbies in Who’s Who, displays a callous anti-English Scottish nationalism in dismissing the horrors of the Blitz. This is in marked contrast to Hamish Henderson’s Scottish internationalism. Henderson, whilst viewing the war against the Nazis as absolutely necessary, was still able to show sympathy, in his Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica, for a young German soldier lying dead in the North African desert.

MacDiarmid’s fascist flirtations are instructive because they are influenced by both the national statism found in Labour/Social Democracy and National Bolshevism. However, in contrast to MacDiarmid’s massive cultural significance in Scotland, he had little direct political influence.

In 1930, MacDiarmid had claimed to be a member of a fascist Clann Albain (41). This was a fantasy organisation. MacDiarmid’s claim should be considered as part of his proudly adopted ‘carnaptious’ or argumentative role, “To erupt like a volcano emitting not only flame but a lot of rubbish,” and “I’ll hae no haufway hoose, but aye be where extremes meet – it’s the only way I ken to dodge the curst conceit of bein’ richt”.

MacDiarmid built no Scottish fascist organisation. Nor did German agents seek him out during the period of the Stalin-Hitler Pact as a possible future collaborator, in their plans following a Nazi German invasion of the UK. MacDiarmid ended up working for the British war effort in a Glasgow factory.

Bowd also cites Scottish folklorist and poet Lewis Spence, a founder member of the SNP, an early Vice-President, and its first parliamentary candidate in 1929. Disillusioned, he left the party and continued his folklore studies, whilst remaining an individual Scottish nationalist. Bowd shows that Spence’s underlying theories were based upon racial categories. In 1936, Spence also stated that, “An enormous number of foreign Jewish students are invading Edinburgh”  (42).

Sadly, such racial thinking and anti-Semitism were bog-standard across a very wide political spectrum throughout Scotland, the UK, Europe and the USA at the time. Spence became decidedly pro-British, when the Second World War started, dismissing Hitler because he was “satanic” (43). In doing this, Spencer resorted to another mode of thinking – occultism. Occultism too had its Nazi supporters, but had adherents over a much wider political and non-political spectrum.


4) Bowd attempts to smear the SNP as fascist sympathisers

As Bowd’s chapter, The Nazis and the Nats, develops, it is clear that he also wants to tar the SNP, and not just selected Scottish cultural nationalist figures, with the fascist brush. He begins by quoting an article in the SNP-supporting Scots Independent, “referring favourably to Il Duce’s land reclamation scheme in 1928” (44) and builds up to an article in 1936, welcoming “Germany’s national spirit and unity of purpose”, which could contribute in Scotland to the planning of “road bridges and other essential communications… fishing and agriculture, {a} ‘Plan’ for the Highlands” (45).

These aims of promoting national state economic development are very similar to those which attracted some earlier ILP/Labour/Social Democratic figures to Mussolini. Bowd is right to alert us to the danger in invoking “national spirit and unity of purpose”. However, other political forces, including those of a strongly British nationalist character, often resorted to the same sort of language. As with the use of racial categorisation, such thinking was far from confined to fascists.

As the military threat from Nazi Germany grew, more Labour and SNP figures abandoned any faith in the League of Nations’ ability to prevent war. This took some time. It was only in 1937, that the British Labour leadership finally opposed the appeasement of Hitler. Prior to this, they had done little to support Spanish Republicans fighting against Franco and his German and Italian fascist allies. Up until then, prominent Labour leaders, Ernest Bevin and Hugh Dalton, had opposed the Labour Left and the Popular Front, who backed the Spanish Republicans, and their commitment to struggle against fascism.

The process of supporting war against Nazi Germany took longer in the SNP. Bowd quotes SNP member, Archie Lamont. “Scotland can not afford to go into war with {meaning alongside} England” (46). Far from welcoming a fascist victory, though, war would mean the “submersion of everything democratic and distinctly Scottish” (47). This thinking still had more in common with the pacifist views that remained strong in the ILP.

In 1938, the Scottish Independent editorial response to Chamberlain’s sacrifice of Czechoslovakia at Munich was to “resist all propagandist efforts to march our people to an imperialist war” (48). Many beyond the SNP shared these deep-seated suspicions of the UK government’s motives for preparing for war. This was a result of the experience of the First World War and the British imperial take-over of many of the former German colonies and parts of the Ottoman Empire. In the SNP, pacifist and anti-imperialist views sustained anti-war sentiment, just they continued to do with some ILP members.

However, once the British Labour leadership had become committed to war against Hitler, Bowd becomes increasingly irritated at the SNP’s slowness in following them. In particular, he dismisses those anti-imperialist objections in the SNP, as if they had no foundation.

The problem with this is that the section of the British ruling class, represented by Winston Churchill, which did finally push the UK into war against Hitler’s Germany in 1939, did not do so out of any principled opposition to fascism or Nazism. War was declared precisely because Hitler had become an increasing threat to British imperial interests, especially in south-east Europe. Virtually every section of the British ruling class, Churchill included, had welcomed the rise of Mussolini; urged ‘neutrality’ when Franco launched his armed rebellion against the elected Spanish Republican government; and were happy enough with Nazi Germany when it appeared that the main target of Hitler’s aggression would be the USSR.

The wretched history of British imperialism (often referred to by Scottish nationalists as “English imperialism” to downplay Scottish participation) and the Unionist record in Scotland (including Scottish-born and bred unionists), especially in the Highlands and Islands and on Clydeside (and for some Scottish nationalists, in Ireland too), provided a real basis for those in the SNP who continued to challenge the British government’s war aims and domestic policies.

Within the lifetimes of many living in 1939, people had witnessed Churchill, acting as Minister for War in 1919, presiding over the massacre of 379 unarmed demonstrators at Amritsar in India and the launching of the brutal Black and Tans in Ireland. In 1920, in response to the Iraqi Rebellion, Churchill said that, “I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes” (49). Meanwhile, between 1936-9, as the Second World War was drawing nearer, British forces killed more than 5000 Palestinian Arabs and wounded at least a further 15,000, during a rising in British occupied Palestine (50) .

Thus, despite the German Nazi crimes which occurred in this pre-war period, including the bombing of Guernica in Euskadi (an estimated 800 deaths) and Kristallnacht in Germany (with its estimated hundreds of Jewish deaths), both in 1938; these were not yet in the new league of imperial barbarism later brought about after the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 and the Final Solution in 1942.

Before this truly horrific turn, and following Kristallnacht, about 30,000 German Jews had been forced into the Nazis’ brutal concentration (but not yet extermination) camps. However, neither was this a new historical development. There were still people in the UK, who had lived at the time of the deaths of an estimated 26,000 Boer women and children held in British concentration camps in South Africa from 1900-2 (51).

The Labour leadership, under Clement Attlee, entered Churchill’s wartime coalition in May 1940. Churchill was notoriously anti-working class and pro-British imperialist. In return for their acceptance of Churchill’s active pursuit of British ruling class imperialist aims, this Labour leadership confined its demands to increased state intervention during the war for the benefit the working class.

As soon as Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister, he very publicly announced his war aims, in a famous speech at Westminster. “Victory, victory at all costs…for without victory there is no survival…for the British Empire” (52). In giving their support to Churchill’s overall war aims, and despite seeking better conditions for the working class in the UK, the Labour leadership made no effort to challenge the consequences of Churchill’s imperial priorities. These included the sacrifice of the lives of between 1.5 and 3 million Bengalis, who died in famines during the war. These were caused by the government’s decision to divert food and transport in India to troops defending the British Empire (53) .

Despite opposition to imperialism being an active factor in SNP politics, in a way that was not the case for right Labour leaders, the SNP had dropped its opposition to conscription for the war, by May 1939; although its support for this new policy was only to be for “the defence of Britain” (54). By October they went further and declared “Scotland’s willingness to fight alongside England and the Commonwealth for ideals appealing to the Scottish people” (55) .

Indeed, Bowd has to concede (56) that the SNP leadership had by now become strongly anti-Nazi and pro-war. However, he shows some continued annoyance because the SNP was still pushing the issue of “raising a Scottish Defence Army, and the rapid transfer to Scotland of sufficient arms making equipment, planes and personnel” (57). Bowd still sees SNP policies as being, “virulently pacifist {!} (58) and anti-English” (59).

Now anti-English feeling existed even amongst some more mainstream SNP members; just as anti-Irish feeling was strong amongst many unionists of all parties in Scotland (60), and had been very influential in major UK-supporting institutions like the Church of Scotland. Furthermore, anti-German (as opposed to anti-fascist) feeling contributed to a lot of the opposition to Nazi Germany across a wide spectrum of British unionism from the Conservatives to some in the CPGB.

However, just as there was also a genuine anti-fascism to be found on the British Left, so this was also found amongst Scottish nationalists. This was based not on anti-English sentiment but on the democratic principle of self-determination, particularly for small nations.


5) The opposition in the SNP, its attitude to the UK state, Scottish Labour and to fascism

With the SNP leadership committed to the war, Bowd has to turn to the SNP opposition to argue for the party’s continuing ‘fascist’ credentials. A section of the party, including Douglas Young, Arthur Donaldson and Roland Muirhead, opposed the SNP leadership’s newfound enthusiasm for the war. They remained convinced that the war was being fought, not for anti-fascist reasons, but for British imperial interests, with total disregard for Scottish self-determination and with little regard for Scotland’s economic developmental concerns.

These Scottish nationalists became involved in the Scottish Neutrality League and the National Aid Society (61). Because, by this stage, the imminent threat from Nazi Germany was considerably greater, Bowd sees this Scottish nationalist opposition to Churchill’s war-time coalition as being pro-Nazi.

However, even the Labour leadership had demanded its own conditions for participating in Churchill’s coalition (whilst not challenging his imperial war aims). Bowd seems to consider it illegitimate for Scottish nationalists to raise demands, which could either enhance the possibilities for a greater exercise of Scottish self-determination, or contribute to longer term economic development. This in a country which had been ravaged by the Depression, partly as a consequence of Churchill’s return of the UK to the Gold Standard, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1925.

Bowd’s own approach to the Scottish nationalist opposition is unable to understand the political dynamics behind what was happening. The challenge to the SNP leadership mainly came from the left, not the right. The right wing Andrew Dewar Gibb had been SNP leader from 1936-40. He came from a Scottish Unionist background. However, in 1940 Gibb resigned the party leadership over what he saw as the SNP’s lurch to the left, at a time when leadership was still dominated by liberal nationalists.

The SNP had stood a candidate against the Conservatives in Argyll in a by-election in May of that year. Prominent SNP member, John MacCormick, liberal nationalist and war supporter, approved this electoral challenge. William Power, who shared MacCormick’s politics, was endorsed as the party’s candidate. He polled 7000 votes despite the war. Power’s campaign was backed not only by the SNP but also won the support of many Liberal and Labour electors too, as shown by the size of his vote. This was a by-election held under the conditions agreed by the parties in the Churchill-led Conservative/Labour/Liberal war-time coalition. This meant these parties did not stand against each other. The SNP candidate, however, gave Liberal and Labour and supporters a chance to vote against a Tory.

Indeed, the behind-the-scenes links between Labour and the SNP were quite developed. The ILP’s Emrys Hughes, son-in-law of Keir Hardie, and editor of the ILP supporting Forward, had initially asked for the SNP to adopt left nationalist Oliver Brown as their candidate (62). In September 1940, John Taylor, Scottish Secretary of the Labour Party, declared his support for Scottish Home Rule to be implemented after the war. He was careful, though, only to make deals with Scottish nationalists behind-the-scenes (63). However, others in the Labour Party cooperated more enthusiastically with SNP members.

Therefore, the SNP was very much part of a more general anti-Tory challenge in these early stages of the war. Many SNP members would find themselves working alongside pro-Scottish Home Rule ILP members. Prominent SNP and former ILP member, Roland Muirhead, continued to hold more pacifist views. The CPGB leadership also opposed the war, dismissing it as a product of British/French imperialism, following the Comintern-supported Hitler/Stalin Pact (64). However, the CPGB also made Popular Frontist-style liberal overtures to pacifist and Scottish nationalist opinion, by helping to organise a well-attended Scottish Peace Convention in Glasgow in April 1940.

Nazi Germany’s invasion of Norway, in May 1940, buttressed pro-war feeling in the right section of the SNP leadership. In June, the SNP expelled Donaldson, who had acted as a bridge between liberal thinking MacCormick and the left and populist nationalist elements, both within and outside the party. Donaldson had already been arrested by the British government and interned in May, because he “assist{ed} conscientious objectors on Scottish Nationalist grounds to go into hiding” (65).

Prior to this, in response to the December 1939 SNP conference decision to give wholehearted support to the war, the left nationalist Douglas Young had disaffiliated the party’s Aberdeen branch. Young held dual membership of the Labour Party and SNP. He refused conscription on nationalist grounds, and served two jail sentences.

It was Young who became the focus for a left nationalist challenge to the SNP’s liberal and remnant right wing at the party conference in May 1942. He was elected as SNP leader, beating the liberal nationalist incumbent, Power. Prominent liberal nationalist leader, MacCormick left the SNP, continuing to seek allies amongst Scottish Liberals and the ILP, for Home Rule after the war.

By this time, the wider anti-war and pacifist alliance, in both Scotland and the rest of the UK, initially supported by many Liberals and ILP members, had largely broken down. The CPGB had also made a dramatic political U-turn, following Hitler’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941. Urged on by Stalin, this led to a distinctly pro-British unionist and imperialist stance by the CPGB leadership. It began to cooperate with the British authorities in suppressing any opposition to the government’s policies (66).

Nevertheless, there still remained a milieu in which both the left nationalists of the SNP and the then Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), as well as populist nationalists, and some ILP members, could work.

Tom Johnston, founder of the prestigious Forward, and Commissioner for Civil Defence from 1939, then Scottish Secretary of State in Churchill’s coalition government from February 1941, cultivated these political circles. In July 1941, Johnston “gave strong indications that he was prepared to support devolution” (67). He was a key figure in making overtures to Scottish nationalists. Some were employed in his war-time Scottish administrative bodies and quangos (68).

It was such developments that had contributed to leading liberal nationalist MacCormick’s decision to leave the SNP, after the election of the left nationalist Young as party leader, believing he could win wider support for Scottish Home Rule outside the SNP. However, Johnston, now a key member in Churchill’s coalition, was already quietly abandoning the prospect of Scottish self-government, offering himself instead as the Scottish “strong man in the cabinet” (69). Unlike MacCormick, neither Young nor other left nationalists were taken in by Johnston. They saw their role as challenging Labour unionism as well as Tory and Liberal unionism.

Nevertheless, Johnston was largely responsible for Donaldson’s early release from prison. This is not something he would have done if he believed that Donaldson was the potential Scottish quisling that MI5 tried to set him up as. Bowd attempts to justify this using the unattributed ‘evidence’ they provided (70).

Bowd also attempts to portray the left nationalist Young as a potential quisling, quoting a letter, written in August 1940, where he states, “The Germans will look around for aborigines to run Scotland, and that it is hoped that the eventual administration consists of people who have shown themselves to care for the interests of Scotland” (71). The obvious clue that he is not referring to himself in his doomsday scenario is the word “aborigines”.

It is interesting to compare this private letter, though, with the public statement written by Churchill for  The Strand magazine in November 1935. “One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations”.

Even as late as April 1942, after the break-up of the earlier more broadly-based anti-Tory alliance, and when the outcome of the war was still far from certain, Scottish nationalists could still attract some Labour support. Alexander Sloan (72), former Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers in Scotland, and then Labour MP for South Ayrshire, spoke at the public demonstration in Glasgow organised by Brown, Muirhead and Donaldson, “to commemorate the 622nd anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath” (73). His contribution (74) was as enthusiastically anti-imperialist and pro-Scottish nationalist in tone as those of Hugh MacDiarmid and Oliver Brown, and Harry Miller of the SSP.


6) The SNP and the Labour Party in the later phase of, and follow-up to, the Second World War.

Bowd’s lack of political understanding of what was happening in Scotland, and the nature of the SNP response, is demonstrated by his coverage of the last phase of the Second World War. With Young securely ensconced as SNP leader, Bowd portrays him as “half-hearted at most about the struggle against fascism” (75). This is probably what Young also thought about the Churchill government. It became even clearer at the end of the war, that as far as the British ruling class and the UK government were concerned, fighting against fascism and fighting against Germany, Italy and Japan were not the same thing.

However, there is an objective test of how the electorate in Scotland actually perceived Young and the SNP at the time. The SNP decided to stand in the Kirkcaldy by-election in February 1944. Any candidate thought to be a German Nazi sympathiser would have been publicly hounded and faced a severe electoral drubbing. Young gained a spectacular 41.3% of the vote, standing against Labour. His political ally, Dr. Robert McIntyre, followed this by winning the Motherwell seat from Labour in the April 1945 by-election!

Clearly, now that the likelihood of victory was increasing daily, the electorate was looking forward to the post-war world they wanted to create. The Labour Party was still hamstrung by its war-time electoral pact with Churchill. Despite all the state managed and BBC propaganda, he was still remembered for his viciously anti-working class record. The SNP, however, was putting forward the sort of economic reforms, which many, especially Labour supporters, were eagerly looking forward to (76); with the additional bonus of a clear commitment to Scottish self-determination at a time when the Labour Party leadership was becoming more ambiguous over the issue.

In many ways, the SNP was filling the political niche in Scotland occupied by the left wing Common Wealth Party (CWP) in England. Between 1943 and 1945, the CWP took three seats from the Conservatives in by-elections, when Labour and Liberals did not stand against the sitting party. However, when it came to the 1945 General Election, just as all but one of the CWP MPs were defeated (77), so McIntyre lost his seat to Labour. Bowd puts this down to “returning soldiers who played a decisive role” (78) .

There was, however, a far bigger contributory factor to Labour’s General Election victory. The Labour Party had broken from its wartime coalition and was now actively challenging the Conservatives in virtually every seat across Britain. People turned in their droves to Labour (79). It also had a much wider organisational base than either the CWP or SNP, including the powerful trade unions.

Furthermore, Bowd ignores anther factor in MacIntyre’s defeat. Just before the earlier Motherwell by-election, when MacIntyre was elected for the SNP, Scottish Labour Secretary, Taylor, had written to the local press stating that, “the correct name for the SNP should be the ‘Scottish Nazi Party'” (80). In making this political smear, Taylor was attempting to provide some cover for Labour’s retreat from support for greater Scottish self-determination in the style that many of his counterparts today have mimicked – but with even less success in Taylor’s case, as the by-election result demonstrated!

The failed Labour Motherwell candidate had also made no mention of democratic reform for Scotland, in the run-up to the by-election. However, after his spectacular by-election defeat, he changed his mind for the July General Election. He promised to do “the utmost to see that Scotland gets more control over its own affairs” (81). Making empty promises worked better than fascist name-calling. More recently, Gordon Brown has also learned something from Scottish Labour history!

Bowd celebrates the “Labour landslide and overwhelming identification with ‘Britishness’ and in Europe the high water mark of anti-Fascism and Communism” (82). Taking these features in reverse order, the Red Army had reached Berlin in May 1945. Between Berlin and Moscow lay the most thoroughly devastated area of Europe. It had been brutalised from 1941, first by the invading Nazi armies. They brought the horrific massacres of Jews, e.g. at Babi Yar outside Kyiv; the setting up of extermination camps, e.g. at Auschwitz; impoverishment and starvation throughout the occupied territories, as food and resources were diverted for the use of the Nazi war machine; the deaths of many Slavs as they were ruthlessly exploited for their labour; accompanied by other mass killings, including by the Nazis’ allies, especially in Croatia and Hungary.

However, when the tide of war turned, the now advancing Red Army rampaged its own way across the same area, relentlessly shelling or bombing some cities to ensure minimum civilian opposition to their occupation, looting on a massive scale, and raping large numbers of German women. The Germans were made to accept their ‘collective guilt’ for the role of the Nazis. Knowing that many in eastern and central Europe feared a Russian occupation, Stalin attempted to woo some nationalist support in Poland and Czechoslovakia by the ethnic cleansing of Germans and others to create more ethnically homogeneous states.

The British wartime coalition government’s principled ‘opposition’ to fascism was shown, first by Churchill’s attempt to maintain war criminal Marshal Badoglio in power to counter the Italian Partisans after the downfall of Mussolini; secondly by Churchill sending the British army to takeover Athens, and rearming Greek fascist collaborators to prevent the Greek Resistance taking power. Not to be outdone, Attlee’s incoming Labour government sent British troops to Saigon, arming Japanese prisoners to help reinstate French imperial rule, rather than hand over control to Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnamese resistance forces.

The Labour government inherited the unholy mess in India, left as result of successive colonial administration’s attempts, urged on by Churchill, to maintain British imperial control by promoting Hindu/Muslim divide-and-rule. This was followed by the mass famines during the war, and finally as India slipped out of imperial control, by attempts to further balkanise India by encouraging Indian princes to undermine national unity by seceding.

With no independent anti-imperial strategy to offer, Attlee sent Lord Mountbatten (83) to supervise affairs. In 1947, he presided over the deaths of several hundred thousand people when implementing a policy of Partition and withdrawal. This seemed to be motivated by the creation of utter mayhem, now that direct British imperial control could no longer be maintained. It was to be followed by an equally hamfisted Labour government organised withdrawal from Palestine in 1948. Three decades of British imperialist divide-and-rule tactics had prepared the ground for the Zionist imposed Naqba, or mass ethnic cleansing, which led to the new Jewish supremacist state of Israel.

Elsewhere, in a still very extensive post-war British Empire, the Labour government acted to maintain imperial control, whenever local challenges arose. The Labour government’s quick resort to military and police actions highlighted the threadbare nature of its policy, which, at best, amounted to little more than liberal imperialism.

Finally, it is necessary to see how Labour delivered on the ‘promise’ of greater Scottish self-determination. Taking note of the recent rise of the SNP vote, Labour had again given the appearance of giving support in the immediate run-up to the 1945 General Election.

However, following the political lead taken by Johnston, the now safely elected Labour government completely abandoned any idea of political devolution for Scotland. It confined itself, in classic conservative unionist style, to a limited number of administrative devolutionary measures, such as creating a Scottish region for the newly nationalised British Rail in 1948.

Whilst support for Labour in Scotland remained strong under the new Attlee government, there can be little doubt that its failure to deliver on greater Scottish self-determination disappointed many. By 1951, MacCormick’s new National Covenant Association had collected two million signatures for a petition calling for a measure of Scottish devolution within the UK.

MacCormick’s political naivety, in believing that Labour would ever deliver, was understood by the SNP leadership, but they were now powerless to counter this, as they became increasingly marginalised. The post-war expansion of the economy and the creation of the Welfare State providing jobs and security “from the cradle to the grave” proved enough to see off the Home Rule challenge, and to marginalise the SNP until the 1960s.


7) The SNP since the 1960s

In his last chapter, entitled The Third Reich No More, Bowd returns to his attack on Scottish cultural figures, Scottish nationalists and the SNP. In fighting against Nazi Germany, the UK state and its supporters have finally passed Bowd’s test which, as his own accounts shows, so many of them failed in the lead up to the Second World War. But after Churchill takes the UK into war, for Bowd “anti-fascism” and “Britishness” have become inextricably linked and opposition to fascism an almost genetic feature of being British. So, from then on fascism must be a nasty foreign import, usually German, as the title of this last chapter suggests. Or else, for Bowd,  the other source of fascist-leaning politics comes from those who challenge the British state. This is why he can state that, “Back in Scotland the most virulent ultra-nationalism was of the Caledonian kind” (84).

Wanting to lay particular blame for any evidence of a ‘Far Right Caledonia’ today at the feet of the SNP, Bowd states that Alex Salmond endorsed the “violently anti-English and homophobic” Braveheart (85) . The Scottish chauvinist nature of this film is undeniable (86), but then Bowd just ignores the fact that the “anti-English” Salmond is a Privy Councillor and an admirer of the queen who, despite her family’s German past, is the very epitome of British establishment ‘Englishness’!

Bowd also uses the SNP’s adoption, in the early 1990s, of a symbol (soon dropped), which unwittingly looked like “the neo-Nazi Odal rune”  (87), in his attempt to accuse the SNP of having fascist sympathies. Strangely, there is no mention of New Labour’s use of the fascist bulldog symbol in the 1997 General Election campaign; nor of Scottish-British Gordon Brown’s resort to the old fascist “British jobs for British workers”, and his denial of the need to “apologise for the empire”.

Now Bowd is right to bring our attention to the dubious political basis of those who promoted a ‘racially’ or ethnically based anti-English Celtic politics before the Second World War. Such politics did indeed inspire far right and ultra-nationalist individuals and organisations. True to form, Hugh MacDiarmid, who had rejoined the CPGB in 1956, also became involved in another ultra-nationalist (although this time not self-declared fascist) organisation, with a fantasy military wing – the 1320 Club (88) .

And, after MacDiarmid’s death, the 1320 Club merged with Soil nan Gaidheal (SnG) (89) a proto neo-fascist organisation, which organised its own paramilitary group. It confined its public activity to uniformed appearances at particular nationalist events. In turn, SnG inspired the virulently anti-English, Scottish Watch and Settler Watch. However, Bowd has to acknowledge that the SNP leadership made sure that any SnG members were expelled from the party in 1980 (90).

Since then, the SNP has moved away from any ethnic underpinning for its politics, promoting ‘Scottishness’ in a civic nation. This nation is open to all those, whatever their ethnic or religious background, who choose to live here. In contrast, Labour, which in the 1970s did make some progress towards widening the basis for ‘Britishness’ for black people and women, has since increasingly accepted the growing right wing pressure to reverse this (91). Blair’s ‘War on Terror’ very much contributed to an Islamophobia, which has exerted considerable pressure to exclude Muslims from ‘Britishness’

Furthermore, Labour has just accepted the Tories’ exclusion of EU migrants who live in the UK from the forthcoming Euro-referendum, whilst giving the vote to British who have made their home abroad. This is in marked contrast to the electorate successfully argued for by SNP government for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. This was open to all EU residents living in Scotland. It also excluded those Scottish-born, who have chosen to make their homes abroad. This highlighted the SNP government’s emphasis on residency rather than ethnicity in its civic national approach.

These differences in approach can be explained by the attempts by unionists’ of all parties to maintain their imperial, unionist and constitutional monarchist state with its anti-democratic Crown Powers, House of Lords and privileged position for the City of London, wedded to extreme neo-liberal economics to preserve its position in the current globalised economy. Their slide to the right has been accentuated by the ongoing economic crisis since the 2008 Financial Crash.  This has also contributed to the growing influence of a far right ‘Britishness’.

Throughout the post-war period, which Bowd addresses in his last chapter, it would be far more accurate to state, “Back in Scotland the most virulent ultra-nationalism was of the Britannic kind”. The most virulent form of British nationalism is loyalism – both right populist and fascist or neo-fascist.  If we take the killing of perceived political enemies as one characteristic of developed fascist organisations, then British loyalist paramilitary organisations, particularly in Northern Ireland, have a considerably darker record than even the BUF, NF and BNP (92). There is no such record amongst the small Scottish nationalist far right.

Bowd makes no mention of Brian Hosie, a member of both the NF and the Ulster Defence Army, who murdered the Jamaican-born Hector Smith in Glasgow in 1975. There is also no mention of Jason Campbell, from a strongly Loyalist background, who publicly slashed the throat of, and killed 16 year old, Celtic supporter, Mark Scott, in 1996, for wearing a club scarf in Glasgow’s Bridgeton.

And even amongst those Scottish-British fascists, where loyalism is not a motivating factor, their racism has been enough to prompt a resort to killing. Terence Reilly and Francis Glancy, both supporters of the NF, murdered Somalian-born Axmed Abuukar Sheekh in Edinburgh in 1989.


8) Conclusion

In the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the SNP, Labour Party, Liberals and Conservatives all had members who resorted to the use of racial categorisation and national chauvinism. Such thinking was very widely held. Individuals from all these parties turned to or flirted with fascism. However, none of these parties was fascist, despite the fact that Churchill has admirers in the BNP because of his racism, British chauvinism and imperialism.

It was Oswald Mosley, an ex-Labour MP and Minister, who formed the BUF, the largest fascist party in the UK between the wars. In Scotland it was the pro-union loyalists Alexander Radcliffe and John Cormack, who organised the most significant far right organisations. Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, Tory MP for Peebles and South Midlothian, had to be interned for the duration of the war because of his strong Nazi links. The British aristocracy was riddled with Nazi sympathisers. This is why Rudolf Hess made his flight to Scotland in an attempt to see the Duke of Hamilton (93). It was the CPGB leadership which approved of the Hitler/Stalin Pact.

Many of the comments, which Bowd quotes from prominent Scottish nationalists, should indeed be the subject of criticism. However, the now common populist resort to fascist name-calling to cut off meaningful debate about what is really at stake, just panders to those who have their own unsavoury politics or alliances to hide. Attacking Scottish ‘fascism’ can not be done from a position which ignores or downplays the role of British imperialism and British unionism; nor by ignoring the major form of far right politics – whether right populist or fascist, found in these islands – loyalism.

British fascism began with the UVF in 1913. The UVF, and various other ‘Ulster’-based loyalist organisations, have the bloodiest record of any fascist organisations within the UK. On the current UVF, the Wikipedia entry clearly states, “Since the ceasefire, the UVF has been involved in rioting, organized crime, vigilantism and feuds with other loyalist groups. Some members have also been orchestrating a series of racist attacks” (94).  They haven’t gone away you know!

British imperialism has continued its decline relative to that of other powers. Its defence is now focused on maintaining the City of London’s influence in a world order dominated by finance capital. The negative effects of this have become increasingly refracted back through the political crisis of the UK state. This has brought all aspects of the UK’s make-up into question, particularly its unionism. Unionism was originally designed to unite the constituent elements of a British ruling class-in-the-making in an ‘internationalism from above’ alliance to profit from empire. The British ruling class is now facing increased opposition to its attempts to maintain itself in the manner to which it has become accustomed, despite its declining economic and political position in the world.

At present this opposition comes first from the SNP leadership, who represent a wannabe Scottish ruling class, able to cut its own deals with the remainder of the UK (rUK), and to find their own place within the current the global imperial order. However, Scotland’s ‘democratic revolution’ showed that there is potentially a much wider base of social and political opposition, which the SNP leadership might find hard to contain.

Furthermore, the post-2008 Financial Crisis has pushed the British ruling class further to the right, and dragged all the unionist parties, including Labour with it. They are all vehemently opposed to the SNP government’s proposed ‘Independence- Lite’ accommodation, despite its preservation of the rUK, the monarchy, sterling and Scottish participation under the British High Command and NATO. The British unionist parties are now almost as strongly opposed to significant further devolution within the UK, which the SNP government hoped, as their second best option, would be backed by Miliband’s Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. This hope was stymied by the unexpected Tory victory in the Westminster General Election in May.

The reality is a Tory government moving even further right. Having used Miliband and Clegg as disposable dupes during the conservative unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign, in the lead up to the Scottish independence referendum, these two soon found that unionist ‘togetherness’ did not even extend to them! Cameron fought the election around the issue of the threat from Scotland, once more ensnaring Miliband and Clegg into accepting his terms of conducting the debate. Having seen them off, Cameron is now making far greater concessions to a reactionary unionist alliance, headed by UKIP, but which also includes many on the Tory right, as well as Ulster unionists and loyalists.

But it is not only Cameron’ Conservatives who are being dragged further right by unionist reaction. On September 19th, 2014, the day after the Scottish referendum ‘No’ result, the UVF’s Scottish loyalist sympathisers joined forces with other fascists to go on a rampage through Glasgow’s George Square. This was their attempt to erase the memory of Glasgow’s ‘Freedom Square’ raised during the ‘Yes’ campaign. After losing its Glasgow heartland to the SNP in the General Election on May 8th, the city Labour Party has been making overtures to loyalist supporters. Glasgow City Council held a civic reception for the Orange Order on June 1st and sanctioned an Orangefest, in George Square on June 6th, for a joint Scottish/’Ulster’ celebration of Protestant triumphalism and supremacism.

Bowd’s Pro-British politics just can not explain the primary source of far right politics in Scotland, or elsewhere in the UK for that matter.

Endnotes and References

[1]           G. Bowd, Fascist Scotland, Caledonia and the Far Right (FS), p.9.

[2]           One possible exception to this would be if the term fascism were to be extended to cover organisations like Daesh (behind the establishment of the ISIS). This would be a theocratic fascism where an equally narrow glorification of a particular religion – in this case a form of Sunni Islam – substitutes for the glorification of a particular ‘nation’ in the types of fascism that have been found in most other states. Both of these, though, want to re/create a revived/new state based on the supremacism of their chosen ‘nation’ or religion.

[3]           Social Darwinian racist theories were widely held, including by some Social Democrats, from late Victorian times up to the Second World War. Today, ethnicist or cultural theories are also widely held, with writers like Samuel Huntingdon being particularly influential in promoting such thinking.

[4]           Bowd, FS, p.12

[5]           Bowd, FS, p.12

[6]           These could include the Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1865, which helped to end the revolutionary post-American Civil War Reconstruction and reassert white supremacy in the South; whilst the Freikorps were just one of several post-First World War counter-revolutionary groups, including the White Russians and as will be shown, the revived Ulster Volunteer Force.

[7]            Bowd, FS, p.

[8]           Bowd, FS, p.37.

[9]           The SFDP was inspired by Mussolini’s corporate state. However, it was short-lived and never created its own street fighting forces. The ‘D’ for democracy in the SFDP’s initials did not show support for even the limited democracy associated with the British Westminster parliament, but for the forceful assertion of the majority rule of Protestants in Scotland. Today, the overtly pro-Nazi National Democratic Party in Germany has the word ‘Democratic’ in its title for similar reasons.

[10]           Ratcliffe depended upon William Fullerton’s notorious Billy Boys to protect his meetings. He also broke with the SFDP, because “Von Papen {who paved the way for the Nazis in Germany}, Mussolini and Oswald Mosley have received the papal blessing” (Bowd, FS, p.34).

[11]           Loyalism also comes in reactionary conservative (e.g. some in the Orange Order leadership) and right populist (DUP) as well as fascist forms.

[12]           This does not rule out the possibility of British neo-fascists, including ‘Ulster’ loyalists, adopting other ethnic supremacist attitudes. The EDL/SDL/WDL and Britain First have added Islamophobia to British loyalism, recognising that such sentiments are actively tolerated by the dominant Westminster Parties, and particularly by the DUP at Stormont.

[13]           The pre-Partition Ulster Unionists and UVF drew their forces from the 9 county Ulster province of Ireland. Post-Partition Ireland also involved the partition of Ulster into 3 counties awarded to the Irish Free State, and 6 counties to the new Northern Ireland statelet, or ‘Ulster’. The Ulster Unionists and UVF truncated their earlier all-Ulster organisations accordingly.

[14]           To many Conservative leaders, as well as to UVF members, the Catholic Irish were seen to be members of a lesser race.

[15]           Peter Hart in The Irish Revolution, edited by Joost Augusteijn, p.25

[16]           However, the Stormont regime, with its ‘Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People’ and its 1922 Special Powers Act, was repressive enough for most purposes. It placed Northern Ireland amongst other ‘apartheid-type’ regimes, as found in the pre-Civil Rights American South, pre-apartheid South Africa and Israel today.

[17]           Ratcliffe’s links with Northern Ireland are shown in Tom Gallagher’s Glasgow – The Uneasy Peace, p.155; whilst Cormack’s links are shown in Gallagher’s Edinburgh Divided, pp.179-80.

[18]           Bowd, FS, p.14

[19]           Hitler long sought a German alliance with the UK state, and cultivated members of the British aristocracy and Edward VIII, especially after his abdication.


[21]           There has long been a parallel campaign by Welsh Labour to tar leading Welsh intellectuals, such as Saunders Lewis and Plaid Cymru, with the fascist brush. Richard Wyn Jones has effectively countered this in his The Fascist Party in Wales? Plaid Cymru, Welsh Nationalism and the Accusation of Fascism. As is the case with the SNP, recognising the non- and indeed anti-fascist nature of Plaid Cymru, does not mean that its nationalism can not be criticised.

[22]           Labour Party members and others have often viewed the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Swedish state as the most advanced representative of Social Democracy in the world. The Swedish Social Democratic government remained neutral during the Second World War, whilst supplying Nazi Germany with the vital iron ore needed for armaments to conduct that war.

[23]           George Galloway condemns the ‘Nazi-supporting’ SNP whilst ignoring the fact the former USSR, which he has always admired, was in an alliance with Nazi Germany for 22 months of the war!

[24]           The Red Paper Collective consists of some on the Labour Left, led by Neil Findlay MSP, and the Communist Party of Britain.

[25]           Bowd, FS, p.131

[26]           Bowd, FS, p.132

[27]           Bowd, FS, p.131

[28]           Bowd, FS, p.32

[29]           Although this was the logic of Stalin’s USSR controlled Comintern’s ‘Third Period’.

[30]           The Second International had already succumbed to national statism. This was highlighted by the collapse of most of its affiliated parties into support for their respective national governments during the First World War. The British Socialist Party was one such party. Some of its members, led by former party leader, Henry Hyndman, later left to form the National Socialist Party in 1916. This was later absorbed into the Labour Party. Another SDF breakaway, the further right National Democratic and Labour Party, has been seen as a proto-fascist organisation. It stood on the pro-war Conservative-Liberal led Coalition Coupon in the 1918 General election, finally petering out in the 1920’s as the Empire Citizen League.


[32]           Landers were provinces or states first set up under the German Weimar Republic constitution in 1919. Prior to this, Prussia had been the dominant state in the German Empire.

[33]           Tom Gallagher, Glasgow The Uneasy Peace, p.152.

[34]           Bowd, FS, p.134

[35]           Bowd, FS, p.135

[36]           Bowd, FS, p.135

[37]           The NPS was one of the organisations that went on to form the Scottish National Party in 1934, by which time MacDiarmid had already been expelled for supporting the Communists.

[38]           Such thinking has formed the basis for various pan-Celtic and ultra-nationalist-inspired ‘Third Way’ organisations and putative or actual Red-Brown alliances in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, from the 1920’s to the present day. This author has written about one such example, Scottish Watch. It emerged in the 1990’s (see ‘White Settlers’ or Jockbrits’, in the collection of essays. with the same title, published by the Scottish Republican Forum in 1995). This and other ultra nationalist organisations like Soil nan Gaidheal, were on the fringes of the Scottish national movement. The inclusive civic nationalism promoted by the SNP leadership played an important role in this marginalisation.

[39]           Bowd, FS, p.135

[40]           Bowd, FS, p.160

[41]           Bowd, FS, p.133

[42]           Bowd, FS, p.143

[43]           Bowd, FS, p.154

[44]           Bowd, FS, p.144

[45]           Bowd, FS, p.144

[46]           Bowd, FS, p.145

[47]           Bowd, FS, p.145

[48]           Bowd, FS, p.145


[50] –39_Arab_revolt_in_Palestine



[53]           Madhusree Mukerjee, The British Empire and the Ravages of Famine During the Second World War.

[54]           Bowd, FS, p.160

[55]           Bowd, FS, p.160

[56]           Bowd, FS, pp. 150-4

[57]           Bowd, FS, p.154

[58]           “Virulently pacifist” is an interesting concept, perhaps mirrored by ‘gently belligerent’!

[59]           Bowd, FS, p.146.

[50]           The Scottish Party (SP) took this anti-Irish, anti-Catholic strand into the SNP. The SP was founded by Scottish Unionists in 1932, and merged into the new SNP in 1934. This right wing element looked to the Northern Ireland’s Stormont as model for devolved government in Scotland!

[61]           Bowd, FS, p.170

[62]           Richard J. Finlay, Independent and Free – Scottish Politics and the Origins of the Scottish National Party, 1918-45 (IaF), p.215

[63]           Finlay, IaF, pp.218-9

[64]           There was an undoubted cynicism in this, since the USSR used this third and most venal version of the Red/Brown alliance, to reoccupy the western territories held under Tsarist imperialism.

[65]           Bowd, FS, p.169-70

[66]           Bowd provides an example of this collaboration between Abe Moffatt, CPGB and Chair of the Scottish Miners Association, and Labour Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, in their attempt to suppress, Militant Scottish Miner (Bowd, FS, p.176).

[67]           Finlay, IaF, p.222

[68]           Finlay, IaF, p.221

[69]           Finlay, IaF, p.226

[70]           Bowd, FS, pp.170-2

[71]           Bowd, FS, p.160

[72]           Alexander Sloan was also the great, great grandfather of Katy Clark, Left Labour, and until May 8th this year, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran.

[73]           Bowd, FS, p.173

[74]           Bowd, FS, p.174

[75]           Bowd, FS, p.177

[76]           Finlay, IaF, pp.237-8 and 240

[77]           Labour did not oppose Ernest Millington, CWP MP for Chelmsford in the 1945 General Election. He joined the Labour parliamentary group in 1946.

[78]           Bowd, FS, p.177

[79]           We have just witnessed a similar landslide swing in Scotland, when the SNP ousted all but one Labour MP on May 8th. This happened whether the Labour candidates were right, left or centre; hard-working, well-known, or time-serving nonentities.

[80]           Paula Somerville, Through the Maelstrom – A History of the Scottish National Party, 1945-1967, (TtM) p.5

[81]           Somerville, TtM, p.5

[82]           Bowd, FS, p.177

[83]           Mountbatten was another member of the extended British royal family who enjoyed links with the far right and security services. He even became the focus of possible right wing coup against a Labour government in the 1970’s.

[84]           Bowd, FS, p. 252

[85]           Bowd, FS, p. 267

[86]           Scottish nationalists did not make Braveheart. Holywood produced this film. It is pure hokum, made mainly for the benefit an American audience. The film opens in the ‘glens’ of Renfrewshire, William Wallace’s birthplace. It stars the Australian, Mel Gibson, who managed to avoid being upstaged by the pantomime villain, King Edward I, played by the English actor, Patrick McGoohan. However, whatever, the historical liberties taken in Braveheart, its emotional pull is undoubtedly accentuated by its portrayal of the very real historical brutal torture and killing of Wallace, albeit not by some unhinged English nationalist, but by the feudal King of England and Wales, overlord of Ireland and Gascony, holding court where French was the official language.

[87]           Bowd, FS, p. 266

[88]           Bowd, FS, p. 253

[89]           Bowd, FS, p. 255

[90]           In a politically calculated move, the SNP leadership ‘balanced’ this expulsion of the Right, with the expulsion of the Left 79 Group at the same time. However, their political talents were still required, particularly in the party’s attempt to make a significant and sustainable breakthrough in Labour’s urban heartlands, so members like Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill were readmitted as individuals.

[91]           Allan Armstrong, ‘Britishness’, the UK state, Unionism and the ‘Outsider’

[92]            Unlike the BUF, both the NF and BNP have tried to court Ulster loyalism, recognising it as the strongest far right force in these islands. Furthermore, Loyalists see in apartheid Jewish supremacist Israel a model of the ‘Ulster’-British, Protestant supremacist statelet they would like to bring back in Northern Ireland. Furthermore,unlike the BUF, which did rejected anti-Catholicism for anti-Semitism, Ulster Loyalists and the BNP have been able to combine anti-Irish/Catholicism with Islamophobia.

[93]           Hitler and the Nazis also had an admiration for British imperialism and the British ruling class. German Nazis were initially keen to cultivate such links. They were eagerly reciprocated right up to the highest levels of the British Establishment. This pro-British imperial aspect of Hitler’s politics is explored in Manuel Sarkisyanz, Hitler’s English Inspirers.




(extended and updated version on a talk first given at the

Racism: From the Labour Movement to the Far Right

conference, held at the University of Glasgow on 5.9.15)


also see:-

Allan Armstrong – Labour and Left Unionism in the Scottish independence Debate, talk for Conference of Socialist Economists on 21.6.14 in Edinburgh, also sent to Left Unity Party Glasgow South branch for debate with Sandy McBurney on 13.12.14

Allan Armstrong – Scottish self-determination and the actually existing Labour movement, A response to the Red Paper Collective’s ‘Power to the People – a labour movement view’, 5.10.12

Chris Ford, British Nationalism and the Rise of Fascism at:-


  • The following comments have been submitted by Rayner O’Connor Lysaght

    I would state generally that I would consider a Fascist movement to require only one of two characteristics: it must declare itself as a successor of the movements of Hitler & Mussolini and/or it must be actively hostile to the independent organisations of the working class. (I do not think you stress the latter enough.) UKIP is not yet fascist, tho’ if the TUs pull out their fingers and try seriously to organise immigrant workers, it is possible to see it crossing the line against them. On the other hand Loyalism showed its fascist credentials in 1920, if not previously by its attack on organised workers. It is significant that the attacks began just as new demands for a minimum wage and a shorter week were about to be negotiated; of course, they never were. It could be argued that the pogroms did not actually destroy the Belfast unions as the Black & Brown Shirts would do in Italy and Germany, but the Loyalists were pioneers, acting before the more consistent Fascisms of Hitler (the Beerhall putsch was still in the future) or Mussolini (who would take state power in 1922). If the SNP tries to use force to make people join Scottish unions and ban British based ones, then it would be right to call it Fascist. Until then, no.

    Additional points

    p.2. The Freikorps (like the Black and Tans) were in cahoots with the Government (Social Democratic in Germany)

    p.7. Mosley’s final conversion to Fascism is often ascribed to the aftermath of the Ashton-underLyne bye-election when his New Party split the left vote and let in the Tory. Looking at the Labour protestors, he said; “That is the crowd that has been holding Britain back.”

    p.8. “Workers of the World Unite and keep South Africa White’- a rhyming slogan.

    p.11. Churchill’s official tile 1919-21: Secretary of State for War and Air. It is true that up until the very last months of the Spanish Civil War he supported Franco; see the collection of articles ‘Step by Step‘.

    pp.11-12. Equating Brit & Nazi imperialism a respectable anti-war argument, 1939-45. Used by the pioneering Trotskyist Patrick Trench.