We Fight Fascists: The 43 Group And Their Forgotten Battle For Post War Britain

Daniel Sonabend’s book “We Fight Fascists” tells the story of the 43 Group and discusses the early days of organised resistance to fascism that emerged in the crucible of Post War London. The 43 group were a motley crew of jewish ex servicemen and women who, upon returning home to Britain after World War 2 soon realised that the threat of fascism had not been entirely crushed with the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. Despite the outcome of World War 2 a year or so earlier, the British fascists that hid out during conflict crawled out of the woodwork and were soon blatant in their xenophobic and anti Semitic street level proselytising. Oswald Mosley and his assorted cronies and rabble rousers were putting in the graft to gain some traction amongst the white working class by whipping up hostility against Jews and other immigrants, all sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it? It should come as no surprise that the authorities and their cronies in the constabulary and even organised Jewry did nothing to oppose Mosley whilst ignoring the warning signs creating a situation not unlike that of Germany in 1933.

The 43 group (named after the number of members present at the first meeting) pulled together to confront Mosley’s Blackshirts in the streets and alleyways of East End London. Frustrated by the lack of decisive action and apathy from the authorities, they formed as a response and using their philosophy of Discuss, Decide, Do It very quickly demonstrated that the extreme right were not going to be allowed to stroll around without a fight.

There’s plenty of bare knuckle, street level conflict and chaos for readers seeking action and thrills. Sonabend’s text deals with the brutal realities and terrifying consequences of standing up and opposing the hard face of the extreme right and it ain’t pretty. Beyond that there’s the personal trajectories of the key characters (some surprising names you may recognise) and the impact that all this conflict had on their personal lives. You’ll find a close study of the methods and networks of espionage and surveillance employed by the group alongside the battle tactics. The author never downplays the massive sacrifice and risks the undercover members of the group were taking and there’s some real sphincter tightening moments straight out of a John Le Carre novel.

Sonnabend’s style of writing is easy and readable without forsaking academic rigour or detail. He never loses sight of the human characters behind this struggle, indeed it’s this very personable approach that provides a sharp contrast with the difficult questions that this story raises. Let’s be right, this is the kind of history that working class people need to know about, even more so given the times in which we are living. We Fight Fascists is an urgent cry from the past that echoes into the visceral present at deafening volume.

And whilst it’s clear that the 43 Group were not as politically motivated in their resistance as their communist and anarchist allies, the message of this book essentially boils down to the old adage of ‘”if not us, then who?” The 43 Group did their bit…what will you do?

Daniel Sonabend’s “We Fight Fascists” is available now from Verso Books at the link below

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