British Anti-Semitists (2): A. K. Chesterton

A. K. Chesterton, cousin of G. K. Chesterton, was an author and political activist and sometime Director of Publicity for the British Union of Fascists. It is fair to say that he was one of the chief ideological forebears of today’s far-right in Britain. Unlike his contemporary Anthony Ludovici, who packaged anti-Semitism as a pseudo-scientific thesis based on questions of miscegenation and racial purity, Chesterton favoured the tabloid approach, with a seasoning of literary flourish. His pamphlet ‘Apotheosis of the Jew: From Ghetto to Park Lane’, written and published for the BUF in the Thirties, is typical of a style that was not to change significantly over the decades:

“The Jew arrives in his promised land poverty-stricken and bedraggled. He lives for a time on the smell of an oil-rag while he brings his age-old instincts of the bazaar to bear upon the peddling of old clothes, old bottles, old sacks or whatever it may be until he finds some kind of footing. Thereafter, by means which need not be quoted here, though often they invite closer inspection than the police are able to give them, he is able to replace his rags with a wardrobe of flashy suits and his shuffling gait with a Rolls-Royce car. This is the stage in which he shouts at a British Blackshirt in a British street: “Vy don’t you go to Germany? Ve don’t want you here!”

After the war, Chesterton set up the League of Empire Loyalists and continued to be regarded as an elder statesman of the right-wing cause. He remained an inspiration, and a unifying spirit, for organizations such as John Bean’s British National Party, the Racial Preservation Society and John Tyndall’s Greater Britain Movement – and Arnold Spencer Leese’s heir and ideological successor, Colin Jordan. Chesterton’s final significant act on the British political scene was the foundation of the National Front in 1967 (this was the final incarnation of the NF which had exysted in various amalgamated forms since the war). By the seventies,Chesterton’s anti-Semite views were seen as outmoded and in need of modification. By then, other targets had appeared on the scene, blacks and Pakistanis, to displace Jews in the demonology of the right; Enoch Powell’s oratory had stimulated a fresh wave anti-immigrant feeling; the time had come for Chesterton to back down. Nevertheless, he plugged away, as far afield as South Africa, Australia and America, finding and encouraging small pockets of right-wing enthusiasm via his magazine Candour.

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