Activism in the Archives: Anti-Fascism

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The MML holds a wealth of resources that tell stories of struggles against fascism in Britain and across the world. They show how, through the course of the twentieth century, fascism has been opposed collectively, and demonstrate the links between fascism as the ultimate expression of capitalism, and militarism as a necessary component of this. 

Our Spanish Collection is an internationally significant resource on the British response to the fascist threat in Europe in the 1930s.

In 1936 a military coup led by General Franco attempted to overthrow Spain’s elected Popular Front government. There ensued a bloody civil war which, against the backdrop of the rise of fascism in Europe, is widely considered a precursor to the Second World War. The International Brigades were part of a broader Aid Spain Movement in Britain, a grass roots campaign in support of the Spanish Republic. 

Papers of the International Brigade Association including their newsletters and correspondence, in addition to the archives of individual volunteers make up the bulk of this collection. 

One such volunteer is Charlie Hutchison (1918–1993), a communist activist and soldier, and the only British member of the International Brigades who was of mixed heritage. He also fought in the Second World War and was involved in many anti-fascist activities including the Battle of Cable Street.  MML holds a questionnaire he completed about his experience in Spain.

There is also a unique collection of Photographs taken in Spain during the Civil War which document life on the front line, bomb damage in Guernica and the experience of refugees fleeing fascist aggression. Our stunning collection of banners includes those made by Hammersmith Aid Spain, which can be seen in our online exhibition, Banners for Spain

Pamphlets, such as this one, and other ephemera relating to the International Aid Spain movement are another rich resouce.

Another pamphlet, “A Negro nurse in republican Spain” documents Salaria Kee's experience volunteering in Spain, and includes details of other African American volunteers. MML also holds many stunning photographs taken by some of the British nurses who volunteered in Spain, such as these from the personal collection of Joan Purser from Worcestershire: 

A nurse tends to soldiers in the "lightly wounded ward" of a hospital near Madrid.

Title Text: 
Joan Purser nurse at work

Joan Purser

Title Text: 
Joan Purser


Furthermore, our collection of communist pamphlets include gems like this one, produced by The Young Communist League in 1934 in response to a similarly named publication from Mosely's British Union of Fascists, "10 Points Against Fascism". 

Young Communist League pamphlet Ten Points Against Fascism

Another example from our rare pamphlet collection includes this Labour Monthly pamphlet against Oswald Mosley, "Mosley in Lancashire."

Our archives relating to the fight against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Second World War include a phenomenal collection of anti-fascist posters produced by the Soviet Union, such as this striking example. Many celebrate the victory of the Red Army. Other posters in our collections ilustrate the global fight against fascism, including the struggle against General Pinochet's regime in Chile. This pamphlet from the World Peace Council sets out the "repulse of the Chilean people to the tyranny" of that regime: 

Chile Yes! Pinochet No!

Title Text: 
Chile Yes! Pinochet No!

The MML's photo library of the Daily Worker/Morning Star newspapers include images of struggles against fascism and Nazism in Britain, such as the Battle of Cable Street and Brick Lane and Rock Against Racism.

Our trade union records evidence solidarity action with anti-fascist activities, including Print Workers' campaigns for the freeing of political prisoners in Spain like Julian Grimau in the early 1960s.

Other archival collections show how fascism was opposed into the late twentieth century. The Robert Williamson collection of posters, pamphlets and other ephemera from anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns dates from 1950-1980, and includes documents relating to police handling of a National Front demo and counter-demo in Glasgow in 1975.