Arnold Spencer Leese
Arnold Spencer Leese (16 November 1878 – 18 January 1956) was a British fascist politician. He led his own fascist movement, the Imperial Fascist League, and was a prolific author and publisher of polemics both before and after the Second World War. Leese was born on 16 November 1878 in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England, the son of Spencer Leese, a manufacturer and artist. He was a nephew of Sir Joseph Francis Leese, 1st Baronet (1845–1914), and a second cousin of Sir Oliver Reese, 3rd Baronet (1894–1978).
Leese was educated at Giggleswick School. An only child, his childhood was characterised by loneliness. The death of his father when he was a teenager let the family with financial difficulties, forcing Leese to leave boarding school. He nonetheless attended the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons with the financial support of his grandfather.
In the early 1920s, Leese became interested in Italian fascism and developed a fascination for the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. In April 1923 he wrote a short pamphlet, Fascism for Old England, praising the Duce and highlighting the "significance of fascism for Britain". He joined the British Fascists (BF) soon after its creation in May 1923, establishing his own branch in Stamford in March 1924, which soon gained 80 members.
Leese despised however the BF policy of allowing former socialists and Jews in the party, contending that it was "honeycombed" with communist infiltrators. He further wrote that the BF "did not understand Fascism at all", the true nature of which was to Leese a "revolt against democracy and a return to statesmanship".
Leese was also a staunch defender of animals. He protested the inhumane killing of animals for religious reasons. He authored an article on this subject called: The Legalized Cruelty of Shechita: The Jewish Method of Cattle-Slaughter. Leese joined the Centre International d'Études sur la Fascisme (CINEF), an international 'think tank' based in Switzerland whose aim was the promotion of fascism, and served as its British correspondent. He also became close to one of his neighbours, the economist Arthur Kitson, a member of The Britons. Their friendship lasted until Kitson's death in 1937.
The latter persuaded Leese that control of money was the key to power and that money was ultimately controlled by the Jews. Kitson supplied him with a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, on which Leese wrote, "Everything in this little book rang true, I simply could not put it down until I had finished it." Leese also revered The Britons' founder Henry Hamilton Beamish as an anti-Jewish "pioneer". In 1924, he was elected a councillor to Stamford Town Council along with fellow fascist Harry Simpson, becoming the first elected fascist councillors in Britain.
The British Fascists had generally chosen not to intervene in "the despised democratic system", and Leese's own contempt for democracy seems to have been paradoxically reinforced by the election. He wrote, "Many people I knew voted for me because I had cured their pigs or pets and without the slightest idea what I stood for". Leese was generally unsatisfied with the policies of the British Fascists, dismissing them as "conservatism with knobs on”.
In 1925, he and Simpson joined a splinter group of the BF, the National Fascisti (NF), renamed in July 1926 the British National Fascists (BNF). Leese took the Stamford BF branch over to the BNF and, following the collapse of the BNF in May 1927, founded the 'Fascist League' from the remnants of the Stamford BNF. In October 1927, he stepped down as a councillor after having served a single term, and retired in June 1928, at 50, before moving to Guildford, Surrey.
In 1929, Leese established his own organisation, the Imperial Fascist League (IFL). The movement was initially modelled more along the lines of Italian fascism but, under the influence of Henry Hamilton Beamish, it began to focus on anti-semitism. The IFL and its extensive publishing interests were funded out of Leese's own pocket.
In 1932, Oswald Mosley approached Leese with the aim of absorbing the IFL into his own British Union of Fascists and, while relations between the two men were initially cordial (Leese had addressed a New Party meeting on 27 April 1932 on the theme of "The Blindness of British Politics under the Jew Money-Power" that was chaired by Mosley), Leese soon attacked Mosley for his failure to deal with the "Jewish question", and he eventually labelled Mosley's group "kosher fascists".
Leese's awareness of Jews had become his defining political characteristic by that point and it came to take on an increasingly conspiratorial and hysterical tone. This increased after Leese visited Germany and met Julius Streicher, and he subsequently remodelled the IFL newspaper The Fascist along the lines of Der Stürmer. His writings took on the theme of the Aryan race as the creator of civilisation and culture and he claimed that the Aryan was in a permanent struggle with the Jew, the outcome of which would determine the future completely.
His views, which extended to proposing as early as 1935 the mass murder of Jews by the use of gas chambers, punished him a prison sentence in 1936 when he was indicted along with fellow IFL member, printer Walter Whitehead, on six counts related to two articles published in the July issue of The Fascist entitled "Jewish Ritual Murder", which later appeared as a pamphlet. He was convicted and jailed for six months in lieu of a fine for causing a public mischief. On his release, he edited another pamphlet entitled My Irrelevant Defence, a lengthy diatribe in defence of his earlier claim that Jewish Passover celebrations included the sacrifice of Christian children. He also used materials distributed by the Welt-Dienst news service headed by Ulrich Fleischhauer and wrote for it.
He was one of the last leaders of the fascist movement to be interned in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the Second World War under the Defence Regulation 18B. Leese, who claimed that his primary loyalty was to Britain, had been somewhat critical of Adolf Hitler since the start of the war and he reacted with bitter anger when an internment order was issued for him in June 1940. Having set up a series of hideouts from which he published several pamphlets that were critical of the war, he evaded capture until 9 November 1940. Still enraged by what he saw as a slur on his patriotism, Leese violently resisted arrest and smashed up his holding cell.
Leese saw the war as a "Jew's War" but he strongly repudiated the Hitler-Stalin Pact and castigated the NSDAP for their invasion of Norway. (Leese labelled his political creed "Racial Fascism" because he disliked the term "National Socialism" which was used by the NSDAP, although he and other members of the IFL supported NSDAP policy). He was released from detention in 1944 on health grounds following a major operation. At the close of the War he offered to testify at William Joyce's trial. Along with Beamish he was prepared to give evidence on the "Jewish issue" at Nuremberg in defence of the NSDAP. Leese described the Nuremberg Trials as a "Jewish and Masonic affair, like the procedure in this country under '18.B'; it is an act of Revenge".
Soon after the end of the Second World War, Leese set up his own "Jewish Information Bureau" and began publishing his own journal, Gothic Ripples, which was largely concerned with attacking the Jews. Together with H.H. Beamish of the Britons Society Leese began to re-build a network of those individuals he called the 'Jew-wise'. He believed that there were 2.5m Jews in Britain at the time, seven times the actual number. The magazine also contained a strongly anti-black racist bent, with a regular column entitled "Nigger Notes" appearing.
Gothic Ripples was an early proponent of what would come to be known as Holocaust denial, noting in 1953 that "The fable of the slaughter of six million Jews by Hitler has never been tackled by Gothic Ripples because we take the view that we would have liked Hitler even better if the figure had been larger; we are so 'obsessed with anti-semitism' that we believe that as long as the destruction was done in a humane manner, it was to the advantage of everyone ... if it had been true. However, it wasn't”.
Leese returned to prison in 1947 when, along with seven other former members of the IFL, he was given a one-year sentence for helping escaped German prisoners of war, who had been members of the Waffen SS. In 1948, Leese formed the National Workers Movement in London. In December 1950 he stood trial for criminal libel on Harold Scott, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but was acquitted. In 1951, he published his autobiography Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor.
Leese acted as mentor to Colin Jordan and John Tyndall, the "most significant figures on the extreme right since the 1960s". After his death, his widow, May Winifred Leese (died 1974), helped fund far-right groups. His London house in Holland Park, was left to Jordan, and became known as 'Arnold Leese House'. The property became Jordan's base of operations, housing the White Defence League, the National Socialist Movement amongts other related operations.
Known published works by Arnold Spencer Leese...
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