The first fascists – and the first anti-fascists – in London 100 years ago

Historian ALFIO BERNABEI tells the remarkable story of how Sylvia Pankhurst and Silvio Corio railed against the fascist ‘camorra’ in Clerkenwell’s Little Italy in the aftermath of Mussolini’s seizure of power

Image thanks to Morning Star

IT WAS from their office near the British Museum at 98 Great Russell Street that 100 years ago the newly born branch of the Italian Fascist Party issued an invitation to a ball in the heart of London, the first such event in Britain.

The “Black Shirt Gala Ball” was to be held at the luxurious Cecil Hotel in the Strand on February 25 1923 “in aid of the fund for the fascista home in London.”

The eyecatching announcement in the Italian fascist weekly L’Eco d’Italia listed: DANCING from 8.30 P.M. (Evening Dress, Black Shirts for members of the Fascista Party), SUPPER at 10.30 P.M. and more DANCING TILL 3 A.M.

The wording made clear that the event was an official one organised “under the patronage of the Italian ambassador to the Court of St James, Marquis Della Torretta of the Princes of Lampedusa” with the Italian military and naval attaches in attendance.

Everything was going well for the fascists — except for a pioneering movement of opposition born in London that was using language equivalent to a call to arms.

This movement was formed by a group of Italian anti-fascists centred around Soho who had launched their own publication, a weekly called Il Comento.

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