Historian digs up evidence of allegedly fascist movement in Diss
A local historian has unearthed evidence to suggest that fascism had briefly taken root in Diss, little less than a century ago.
Trawling through archives of the Diss Express dating back to the turn of the 20th century, Paul Womack discovered how a small action group in Diss had grown to the point whereby it had seven members nominated to the local council.
The records show that in 1920, there was an innaugural meeting of the Diss branch of the Middle Classes Union – which would shortly after rename itself as the National Citizens Union (NCU).
The group was primarily dedicated to protecting the interests of the professional classes and the opposition of socialism – a growing concern for some in South Norfolk when Labour took the constituency that year.
The following year, seven members of the NCU were nominated to Diss Urban District Council – the local authority in the town from 1836 up until 1974, when it was replaced by Diss Town Council.
The group also aligned itself with facist politics, eugenics, anti-semitism and hardline anti-immigration policies.
“They were rogue right-wing groups,” said Diss museum manager Basil Abbott, who was one of the first to be alerted to Mr Womack’s findings earlier this month.
“It was in response to post-war social upheavals and Labour winning south Norfolk for the first time.
“What began as opposition to socialism and strikes grew into policies of eugenics and sterilisation. Links with the British Fascists were strong.
“Leading NCU figures were members of the British Fascists.
“The group was also associated with the Militant Christian Patriots, who were anti-semitic and fascist.”
The reign of the NCU was short-lived, however. In 1930, when Dr J C Pearce, a former chairman of the NCU, was appointed as a magistrate, his former group was no longer “a factor in the local life of the town”, added Mr Abbott.