I was drawn to the book because of watching a programme on TV about Captain Ramsay. The book goes into more detail and readers might be interested at the extent of anti-Semitic feeling around 1938 -41. Also the deep belief that there was a Jewish plot to take over the world. The names of people who were either anti Semitic or "fellow travellers" are given only with care and backed by facts. A fascinating read.
Captain Ramsay was a Scottish aristocrat who was educated at Eton and Sandhurst before serving in France during the First World War. He sustained a serious head wound, was invalided out and served in the War Office before retiring from the Army in 1920. In 1931 he was elected as a Conservative M.P seemingly destined to serve as lobby fodder for the National Government led by MacDonald and later by Baldwin. During the 1930s Ramsay established a reputation as an anti-Semite and opponent of the Communist Third International which he believed was a front for International Jewry whose objective was to overthrow Christianity.
The Spanish Civil War provided Ramsay with a public platform. He supported Franco's Nationalist movement against the Republican government's anti-clericalism and its links with the Soviet Union. He accused the BBC of bias in its coverage of the War. In 1937 he formed the "United Christian Front" to combat Moscow's attacks on Christianity. The following year he successfully introduced a Private Member's Bill into Parliament designed to prevent aliens from attending a conference of freethinkers in London. Although the Bill did not get beyond its first reading it showed Parliament's strength of feeling on the issue.
Ramsay became sympathetic towards the Hitler regime claiming the dictator's antipathy towards the Jews was based on his knowledge that "the real power behind the Third International is a group of revolutionary Jews." He defended the Sutetenland's right to self-determination and received First Reading support for a Bill to prevent shares in news agencies and newspapers from being held by nominees, a practice he claimed enabled New York based "international financiers" to push the country into war against Germany. He accused the Conservative Party of relying on "Jew Money". His constituency party resented the negative publicity but gave him support as long as he continued to back Chamberlain's government.
While Ramsay's anti-Semitism was expressed as a conspiracy theory (a role occupied in recent times by David Icke's Babylonian Brotherhood) he was able to draw on latent anti-semtisim which existed in Britain. Between the wars many Jews joined the Communist Party in preference to the Labour Party. This alienated those who regarded the Jewish community as clannish. Problems came into sharper focus with the influx of Jewish refugees from Germany and the question of Palestine. Although the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 proved distateful to British public opinion, there was a feeling the Jews had brought it on themselves and were trying to push Germany and Britain into war for their own ends. Ultimately, it was the Holocaust which served as "the catalyst, in almost every nation in Europe, for a revolution in discourse and behaviour" towards Jews.
Right wing groups emulated their counterparts on the Left by frequently splitting over matters of dogma and tactics. By 1937 Mosley's British Union of Fascists had peaked and ran into financial difficulties. William Joyce and John Beckett were sacked and promptly founded the National Socialist League. The Anglo-German Fellowship was based on "names" rather than numbers and became increasingly pro-Nazi. There were over-lapping memberships with organisations such as The Link, The Anglo German Brotherhood, the most violently anti-Semitic group - The Imperial Fascist League, The White Knights of Britain and the Nordic League. Most tended to have a middle-class, or upper middle class membership with the lesser aristocracy providing support and resources.
In order to spread his anti-Semitic message Ramsay formed The Right Club with a membership of just over 200, most of whom were also members of other pro-Nazi groups. The Club itself was quickly penetrated by Special Branch agents. The names of the Club's members are characterised by their historical unimportance. They imagined their views (which included returning Germany's former colonies to her, castigating the Confessing Church for alleged interference in politics and blaming international Jewry for creating the conditions for war between Britain and Germany) represented a significant shade of public opinion.
Whereas the far Left's attitude to war was determined by Moscow, the "patriotic societies" pledged their allegiance to Britain and returned to active service once war was declared. There were exceptions. William Joyce, Frances Eckersley and Margaret Bothamley travelled to Germany. Joyce had always stated that, "if war breaks out, I will fight for Hitler since such a war would be against Jewry." When hostilities ceased he was hanged as a traitor. Eckersley received one year's hard labour while Bothamley served the same period but without the hard labour. She claimed to have remained loyal while she was working for the Germans by keeping pictures of the King and Queen in her apartment!!!!
Joyce fled to avoid being detained under Defence Regulation 18B, a draconian measure to limit the activities of pro-Nazi sympathisers. Mosley was detained for three years complaining his loyalty to Britain was never in doubt. Ramsay had the dubious honour of being the only MP to be detained under 18B following the arrest of Tyler Kent, an American diplomat in London, in 1940 to whom Ramsay had entrusted the Right Club membership list. The United States waived Kent's diplomatic immunity, he was tried in camera and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The following year Ramsay was accused by the New York Times of passing secrets to Germany via Dublin. He sued for libel, won his case and was awarded one farthing in damages. He was released in 1944, resumed his seat in the House of Commons but, having been disowned by his local Party, did not fight the 1945 election.
Ramsay was a product of his time and place. Both have changed and there are now new targets for prejudice. However, conspiracy theories remain as vibrant and ludicrous as ever. Such is life. I suspect Griffiths could have written a much shorter book without losing the plot. Four stars.
A great account of a nasty little corner of Thirties life. Many of the characters in Ramsay's Right Club are immediately recognisable today - the race hate targets may be different (thought antisemitism lives on in British society) but Ramsay's principles are still very much in evidence.