BUF theoretician Alexander Raven Thomson’s 1935 essay on fascist economic theory
The following essay, ‘Corporate Economics’ by Alexander Raven Thomson, was first published in Fascist Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1935. The Fascist Quarterly (renamed British Union Quarterly in 1936) was the theoretical journal of the British Union of Fascists, intended to act as a kind of counterbalance to the Left Book Club by providing a platform in Britain for the dissemination of the intellectual voices of European fascism. Raven Thomson was one of these voices – a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, he had joined the BUF in April 1933 and swiftly became the movement’s primary ideologist. A captivating speaker, an engaging writer, and deeply influenced by Spenglerian philosophy and political syndicalism, Thomson was a revolutionary, a radical opponent of laissez-faire capitalism who saw in the corporate state the key to social justice and the salvation of Western civilization. His writings, such as the essay excerpted below, provided the BUF with much of its theoretical foundations.
A great problem has been created for the modern world by the collapse of the present economic system. We can no longer tolerate a system which condemns most of us to poverty in the midst of the greatest plenty mankind has ever known, which deprives millions of people of the right to earn their own living, and brings ever nearer the danger of war in the international struggle for contracting world markets. What is the cause of this universal breakdown. Where have we gone wrong?
Before we can fully appreciate the cause of the trouble, we must consider the threefold nature of organized society as follows:
- A Central Government vested with authority to plan and direct the national life.
- A Number of Social Groups with various purposes and interests.
- A Mass of Individuals endowed with powers of initiative and enterprise.
The classical economic theory of the nineteenth century concerned itself almost entirely with the third and least organized aspect of society, resenting either state or group interference with economic affairs. In earlier times of comparative scarcity there may have been some justification for this view, as the initiative and enterprise of the individual was then of vital importance in developing latent powers of production and advancing technical invention. Obviously the individual would develop his powers of initiative and enterprise to the best effect, if granted the largest possible measure of economic liberty, and this is precisely what the economists of the Manchester School demanded, when they advocated “laissez faire” and free trade.
Whatever the advantages of economic liberty in solving the problem of scarcity, however, it has become a positive menace to social welfare in a dawning age of plenty. There is no need to condemn classical economic theory as such, but we must realize that there can be no absolute “laws” of economics independent of social organization. No doubt the individualist system was very necessary in an age of scarcity, and we have to thank the Manchester School for solving the problem of production, but the time has now come for a new economic system in keeping with the needs of a new age. Individual enterprise encouraged by complete liberty of exploitation has put an end to scarcity, but is completely incapable of distributing the plenty it has created to the people as a whole. Production is in its very nature an individual or at most a group process; distribution, on the other hand, is based upon the needs of the whole community, and obviously cannot succeed without a large measure of conscious social planning.
Socialism and the Class War
As individualism has now passed its period of usefulness and has become an actual danger to economic progress, the time has come to turn the focus of economic interest to the social group, if not to the nation as a whole. Hitherto those who have most vigorously attacked the present system, and have adopted such collective terms as “Socialist” or “Communist,” have never really risen above group considerations. Despite their grandiloquent claim to “nationalize” the means of production, the very basis of Socialist and Communist appeal lies in the exaggeration of class differentiation and insistence upon the “class war.” Clearly such a class-conscious doctrine belongs to the realm of the social group, and fails to rise to any appreciation of the whole community as a living organic entity. Indeed the stress laid by the Socialist upon internationalism, and his denial of patriotism, confirm his inability to grasp the full implications of social organization, which should rise far above class considerations to a realization of national purpose. The ultimate “reductio ad absurdum” is reached, when the Soviet regime in Russia claims that it is the “dictatorship of the proletariat” for this would imply the permanent and conscious ascendancy of a group over the national life. Continue reading