The National Front was formed in 1967 as a result of the merger of three far right groups - the League of Empire Loyalists, the British National Party and the Racial Preservation Society. It was subsequently joined by the more explicitly neo-Nazi Greater Britain Movement, whose leadership came to dominate the NF. The party used the issue of immigration to rapidly increase its membership during the 1970s (from an initial membership of 1500 in 1967 to 17,500 in 1972 1 ). The rise of a populist and explicitly racist anti-immigration group resulted in a corresponding rise in anti-fascist and anti-racist campaign groups during the 1970s, some of which (for example the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism) were initially formed by Trotskyist groups such as the Socialist Workers Party.
The Modern Records Centre's collections include a large amount of material, particularly publications and ephemera, relating to the National Front and some of the organisations formed to oppose it. An outline of some of the more significant collections is given below. Additional material can be found through keyword searches in our online catalogue (for example for 'National Front', 'Anti Nazi League', 'Against Racism', 'Against Nazis' or 'anti-racist'). All of the material listed below is in copyright, so in most cases we are unable to publish digital copies online. Researchers are welcome to look at the original documents in the MRC reading room.
Papers of Wayne Ashcroft, former National Front regional organiser
Although the majority of Ashcroft's papers date from the 1990s, when he was active in the National Front and British National Party, the collection does include publications from the 1970s. These include issues of the newspapers 'National Front News', 1977-1989, and 'Spearhead', 1975-1992.
This collection contains material collected by Stan Taylor during his research for the 1982 book 'The National Front in English Politics'. It includes newspapers, pamphlets and leaflets produced both by the National Front and by organisations opposing them (including the Anti Nazi League and the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism). The collection also contains press cuttings on the National Front and its relationship with other political groups.
Rock Against Racism, 1977-1979
The MRC has various documents (mostly publications and ephemera) connected with Rock Against Racism, a campaign group formed in response to pro-fascist or anti-immigration remarks made by David Bowie and Eric Clapton. These include publications collected by the Socialist Workers Party activist Alistair Mutch (including issues 1-9 of the RAR newspaper 'Temporary Hoarding', 1977-79) and a draft of the book 'Beating Time: Riots n' Race n' Rock n' Roll', written in 1985/6 by David Widgery, one of the co-founders of RAR. Ephemera relating to anti-racist carnivals in the late 1970s (including those organised by RAR) is also available.
Leamington Anti-Racist, Anti-Fascist Committee (LARAFC) was formed in 1977. The archive collection includes minutes, newsletters, press releases, circulars, press cuttings and photographs, as well as some examples of far right publications. Leamington Spa hit the national headlines in 1976, when the far right activist Robert Relf was imprisoned for contempt of court after refusing to take down a racist sign advertising the sale of his house. The sentence resulted in protests and counter-demonstrations, particularly in the Midlands.
Part of a larger collection of political ephemera collected by Les Prince, a designer and illustrator in the printing trade, this series includes publications on the National Front and racial discrimination from the Anti-Nazi League, the Institute of Race Relations, AFFOR and Young Jews Against Racialism.
Back issues of the University of Warwick's student newspaper for the 1960s-1980s have digitised and are searchable by keyword. The publication includes articles on the National Front and its anti-fascist opposition within the student community during the 1970s.
Replies to a circular sent by the Trades Union Congress to local trades councils, asking for information on local progress and activities in relation to the 'Campaign Against Racialism'. Many of the responses have included leaflets, bulletins and other local ephemera (some far-right publications, as well as anti-racist material, are included).
The case of Kevin Gately, 1974
On 15 June 1974 a demonstration in London against the National Front led to disorder in Red Lion Square, during which a University of Warwick student, Kevin Gately, sustained injuries of which he later died. The coroner's inquest into Gately's death returned a verdict of death by misadventure. A public inquiry was conducted by Lord Justice Scarman (who would also later head the inquiry into the 1981 Brixton riots) to review the events that led to the disorder and to consider whether any lesson might be learned for the better maintenance of public order during demonstrations. The MRC has various documents relating to the aftermath of Kevin Gately's death. These include:
The company represented the National Union of Students and the University of Warwick Students' Union at the public inquiry. The collection includes minutes of proceedings, witness statements and photographs of the demonstration.
Minutes, reports and circulars of the University of Warwick Students' Union committee.
Small collection which includes copies of the government inquiry's report and the 1975 book 'Only One Died - An investigation into police behaviour in Red Lion Square' by Tony Gilbert.
Digitised copies of the student newspaper and handbooks given to University of Warwick students, including references to the case of Kevin Gately.
1 Data from 'Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations', Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley (Pinter, 2000)