William Joyce’s 1937 critique of British parliamentarism, and his suggested replacement: a representative National Socialist guild system
This fourth part in the ‘Visions of National Socialist Democracy’ series constitutes a slight diversion away from German National Socialism and towards the NS of the British Isles – specifically towards the ideas of William Joyce, the British fascist who later became notorious under the sobriquet ‘Lord Haw Haw’. The piece below is an excerpt (slightly truncated for purposes of brevity) from the second chapter of Joyce’s 1937 pamphlet National Socialism Now, the primary ideological treatise for the National Socialist League which Joyce set up that same year after leaving Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. The contents of the document makes both its differences and its similarities with German National Socialism clear. The same basic ideological worldview is there, with its contempt for the plutocratic elements of liberal parliamentarism and the party system, but the solutions Joyce proposes have their own particularly British idiosyncrasies: Joyce’s inspiration for an alternative, illiberal form of representative government derives from the ideas of the earlier guild socialists, who themselves had drawn upon the form and content of the English guild system of the Middle Ages. While there is a distinctly British flavor to Joyce’s prescriptions, the resemblance of his ideas to the ‘council National Socialism’ proposed by early German National Socialists like Rudolf Jung is telling. Grappling with the problem of representation within an authoritarian system, and looking to earlier, pre-capitalist models for inspiration to resolve that problem, was an exercise which all fascists and National Socialists eventually seemed to find unavoidable.
While the political system remains unaltered, it will be impossible to change radically the economic situation. First, the existing order of Parliamentary incumbents is too closely linked to High Finance to desire revolutionary change; so much is even true of the Labour Party, which has expelled more than one valuable member for having dared to expect Socialism within his own lifetime.
Secondly, this democratic Party System is not intended to be an instrument of fundamental change; on the contrary, it is obviously intended to keep things as they are.
The Leader of the Opposition is paid £2,000 a year to prevent the Government from doing what it pretends to think right. So much for the moral sincerity of the politicians. Even the Sermon on the Mount does not require us to pay our enemies. The answer may be: “But there is no enmity in the House of Commons.”
This answer may be taken as true; but it does not explain why the best of friends should pretend to engage in Homeric struggle and Hibernian vituperation in order to win elections.
From beginning to end, the keynote of the whole performance is callous hypocrisy. The sham fights of Westminster are meant to make the people think that somebody is caring for their interests; otherwise there might be hell to pay; it is more economical to pay the Leader of the Opposition…
…It is now clear that the National Socialist has no apology to make for his decision to end the Parliamentary farce. Constitutionally, and in perfect loyalty to the Crown as the symbol of Britain’s continuous majesty, the National Socialist proposes to make such changes in the system of Government as are necessary to produce the required changes in our system of living.
Government divorced from economic facts is useless; such gigantic developments have occurred in the last century that it is presumptuous to defend a form of government which crystallised more than a hundred years ago and was even then quite unfitted to cope with the economic problems of the day, trivial as they were in comparison with those of our own time.
The present system, apart from its archaic incompetence, lacks the essential characteristics of all true government, namely effective leadership and genuine representation of the people. The first is missing because the political leader is but the slave of international money interests, paying his antagonist to preserve deadlock. The second is missing because if the voice of the people were heard, it would say “Move on there!” But no move is made.
Leadership is of immeasurable importance; it makes much of the difference between a body of men and a flock of sheep; sheep, indeed, have certain insignificant tendencies which, combined with providential lack of intelligence, make them happier than a leaderless flock of human beings.
In all human affairs, from the management of a fish and chip shop to the navigation of an ocean liner, from the playing of football to the conduct of a railway system, authority and discipline are necessary.
How foolish it is, then, to maintain that in the conduct of the state alone, authority and discipline are needless: Further, most men are concerned to obtain what freedom they can, and in the process are most apt to deny a fair share of freedom to others; thus it comes about that by discipline and discipline alone can a fair share of freedom be guaranteed to the mass of people.
Robinson Crusoe lost a considerable portion of his freedom as soon as Friday landed on his island; and the great congestion of population in certain parts of this globe to-day makes disciplined regulation the only alternative to anarchic stampede.
Time was when the tenth rate philosophical hacks of the Industrial Revolution taught that government should have no part whatever in the direction of economic affairs. This doctrine of “Laissez Faire” has given place to the public conviction that the duty of a government is to supply, so far as it can, the needs of the people. The conviction is right; but it also implies that the rulers of a nation must have the authority to act.
The National Socialist principle is that those who are to lead should be chosen by the people and answerable to the people, but that, having been appointed, they should have the fullest authority to lead and to discharge their duty to the nation. To impose on a leader or leaders the burden of the Party System is farcical; as well have no leaders at all.
At this point, it may be objected that National Socialism strives to set up a dictatorship. There is no use in playing with words. National Socialism will certainly smash the crumbling edifice of social democracy; and if dictatorship is the principle that a people should arm its chosen leaders with absolute power to express its will, it is a principle which must be upheld.
If, on the other hand, dictatorship is identified with tyranny or with the government of the people against their will, it is condemned on the ground that it violates the first principle of national unity. Likewise, it is well to beware of that secret kind of dictatorship, whereby a servant of the Crown can get rid of the monarch in a weekend without consulting anybody but a few niddering old prelates and a group of newspaper merchants.
More damnable still is the dictatorship of international and Jewish finance which despotically regulates what is and is not to appear on the breakfast table. Let those who rail at National Socialist leadership first rid themselves of the real tyrannies that oppress them, and we may have a little more belief in the devotion to liberty which they profess…
…The chief clamour against authority to-day is raised by those who have it and abuse it; the one thing that they most fear is the establishment of an authority over them that will prevent them from exploiting the people who suffer from their economic tyranny.
In British National Socialism there is no principle that leadership must be confined to one person. The formal symbol of unity in a single person can best be represented by the Crown freed from its entourage of nagging bishops and intriguing partymen. In this respect England differs from Germany, deserted by the Hohenzollern and enabled to find her formal expression in the singularly great personality of Adolf Hitler.
In Italy the Royal House had nothing like the tradition or symbolic strength of our own. Weakened as our monarchy has recently been, it is strong enough to stand in a new and healthy environment, which National Socialism can provide.
Therefore the National Socialist is interested in authoritative leadership rather than in the production of one sole leader. The men,who bring National Socialism to the electors of Britain will have their leaders; and when the people have approved of the policy these leaders will be required to assume responsibility not only for National Socialist organisation, but, in the ordinary constitutional way, for the country.
Having been appointed, they must have power to act; periodically the people as a whole must pass judgement on them by vote, and if they be found unsatisfactory, the responsibility of appointing new ministers rests constitutionally not with any political group, but with the King himself.
Should the National Socialist system be approved but the leaders disapproved, it would obviously be the obligation of the Crown to select the new Ministers from the National Socialist ranks. National Socialism has no duty to make provision for its own demise. We recommend what we think right and want it to be permanent; but we do make every provision that could be made to prevent leadership from degenerating into tyranny. More there is no right to expect. Unlike the democrat, we are not anxious to explain how a system can be demolished even before it is constructed; but it is vital that the people shall be able to get rid of leaders and representatives in whom they have lost confidence, because the great work which National Socialism proposes cannot be done without without mutual trust, an example of which prevails in Germany between Adolf Hitler and the greatest majority of German citizens ever to have voted.
To judge entirely by our own experience, it is better to give leadership open legitimate authority than to have Party leaders intriguing round every corner in the hope of keeping their wretched parties together by all the devices of chicanery, bribery, intimidation, and make-believe known to the grammar of democracy.
The second essential of government, genuine representation of the people, demands the abolition of the corrupt and mischievous party system, the eternal cockfight in which the cocks do not fight and – spectacle sublime – agree to differ. To be represented, the people do not need a mob of professional contradicters who agree only as to the danger of doing anything. The function of representatives is to say what the people want, and subject to mature informed judgement, to see that they get it, where it can be got.
The principles of good representation are simple in the extreme, and they have nothing to do with the present system, in which no member for an agricultural area dare ask for the exclusion of foreign foodstuffs and no member for Lancashire dare ask for the repeal of the disastrous India Act.
The very nature of representation is that it should be well informed and that the representatives who have to take decisions should take them in the light of personal experience.
Knowledge is the indispensable guide to sound judgement, and experience is the most reliable guide to the kind of knowledge which concerns the affairs of everyday life. We mainly ask, then, that when a representative of the people arises to talk, he should represent somebody in particular and not seek to perform the impossible feat of representing everybody in general. This consideration leads to the demand for the representation in the national assembly of each trade and profession by those of its own choice.
Some will at once say that here at any rate is quite perceptible the cloven hoof of Mussolini, though, in fact, the Corporate State has received an almost affectionate welcome from all sorts of people who know little of National Socialism and like it less. Certain of our portentous Mayfair snobs have even toyed with the gruesome idea of a democratic Corporate State. Let them proceed. The concept of functional representation, the notion that men should know before they talk, is found firmly expressed in the Guild System which held sway in the Middle Ages in Britain. Then was a trade or craft seen as something worthy of art, as something to be held in trust with price, and as an element given its due and honoured place in the life and counsels of the nation.
As a nation we have a love of maxims which scarcely rise above the level of platitudes. They infuriate the foreigner but serve to console us for all our imperfections. One of them, far juster than most is “Give a man a job to do and let him do it.” Strangely enough it has never occurred to the moralisers to say: “Give a man a job to do, let him do it, and then let him talk about it.” Yet herein lies the meaning of representation, if it is to have any meaning at all. This, at least, is the code of National Socialism.
Therefore Guild Representation in the National Socialist State will rest upon the following general bases:
I. Each trade or profession shall have its own elected Guild Council to discuss and settle its own problems, subject to the limits imposed by the National welfare, of which the government is the guardian.
II. All who work shall be registered within the Guild proper to their calling and shall be empowered to elect to the House of Commons members of their own Guild whose merit as workers and whose character render them faithful and capable representatives.
III. In those Guilds concerned with industry, employers and employed shall have equal representation; and the same principle shall govern the election of members to Parliament.
It is appropriate here to refer to the position to the Trades Unions in the National Socialist State. National Socialism, so far from being opposed to the Trade Union principle, is determined not only to preserve Trade Unions, but to give them a status in government which will enable them to serve the employed effectively without restorting to the weapon of the strike, which, like that of the lock-out, is a form of instrument which nobody except the Communist agitator would regard as something in itself desirable. Strikes and lockouts have more often than not proved wasteful and destructive, though without strikes the condition of many workers would have been inhuman. No solution of an industrial problem should ever decrease production of needed goods; otherwise the people must suffer.
Instead, however, of writing an essay on a subject thoroughly explored by Trade Unionists, let us steer straight to the point. In the Guild System, the Trades Unions shall be responsible for the elections to the Guilds and to Parliament of those who are to represent the employed. Thus, at one stroke, the Trade Unions acquire in the counsels of the nation equal legal and constitutional, economic, and political influence with the employers. Each worker is registered in the appropriate Guild; and membership of his Trade Union is compulsory. Since the state, by regulation to be described later, must assure high purchasing power and good conditions of labour to the employed, it becomes quite needless for the Trade Unions to fight the battle that they have been fighting for a century.
Their prime objective is attained. It is still, however, necessary for them to speak and act for the employed within the Guild Structure, and the employers, of course, will have to form suitable organisations of their own for a similar purpose.
No clearer recognition could be given to the Trades Unions than their legal and parliamentary right to represent the employed. This very consideration renders it all the more necessary that they should rid themselves or be rid of opportunists who batten on their membership in order to gain political honours and to carve out a notorious career at the expense of those who contribute to their success and are forgotten the moment it is gained. In the new Trades Unionism, portentous humbugs must play no part. Every Trade Unionist will know what is here meant; and every decent Trade Unionist is sick and tired of being deceived by carpet-bag politicians and fellows who forget that they have been engine drivers as soon as they become members of Parliament.
The Trade Union shall be no institution for the kindly upbringing of would-be politicians; it shall be the authoritative body concerned with the conditions and desires of the employed, whom it represents from day to day in the Guild, and on terms of fearless equality in Parliament.
The House of Commons will thus be an assembly of men who know their work and have power to legislate on all matters affecting the professions, trades, and vocations of the people, subject to the right of the people’s government to intervene where general interests are in danger of being sacrificed to particular interests and to make laws, by Order in Council, for the welfare of the people as a whole. Without these necessary powers a government of the people could not govern; nor could it guarantee that action should not be prejudiced by lengthy discussion.
To appreciate the representative character of this National Socialist House of Commons, it is only necessary to quote the following astounding report from the Morning Post of June 4th 1937:
On a point of honour, Old Harrovian will rally round the Government in the House of Commons to-day… It is the Fourth of June at Eton, and the Government, anticipating a general exodus of old Etonian members, numbering over 100, have included in their Whip a reminder to this effect, and earnestly requesting non-Etonians to fill the breach. The Whips, I understand, are confident that the Harrow School motto, “Stet fortuna domes”, will stand between them and defeat on a division. In party circles last night this had been freely translated “The Government must not be let down.” In any event there is little cause for alarm.
Stet Fortuna domus might also be freely translated: “Long live the Stock Exchange.”
The celebration could not, we presume, be deferred till Saturday, lest some of the Old Boys might find it embarrassing to bring their prayer-shawls to sunny Windsor. Should any Old Etonian ever read this book, he may be annoyed; but he should bethink himself that nothing is more injurious to his “Alma Mater” than the type of emetic rubbish that we have quoted, rubbish, however, which shows clearly enough what a very representative place St. Stephen’s is.
Reverting to the question of real representation, we must deny the old and groundless charge that National Socialism would crush women’s representation. Where women work in industry, they shall have the same rights as men in the election of Guild and Parliamentary representatives.
It is necessary also to recognise frankly that the task of bearing and bringing up a family is no less important to the race than any other, and that therefore a truly representative system must give expression and power to the mother, who, if like most women, can be represented neither by a blue-stocking nor by a Transatlantic noblewoman clinging to the principle vice which the American people renounced through fear of poison.
A Guild will therefore be formed to express nationally the importance and the rights of those who are responsible for the home, which, after all, is the very basis of the greater part of our conduct. Women will so be given the legal power to deal with scandals of racial importance such as maternal and infant mortality.
Effect must be given to the principle that the great discoveries and achievements of science should be open to every mother, regardless of her economic circumstances. Where the nation demands strong healthy citizens, there can be no discrimination between rich and poor; but the application of wealth and science to this particular, though tremendous, problem is eminently one for women themselves, who, after all the excesses and sacrifices of the suffragettes, have now a vote just as useless to them as to the menfolk. Women may sometimes condescend to discuss subjects that they do not understand; but they always seem glad to discuss what they do understand. Here is their opportunity, offered by National Socialism alone.
National Socialism demands that all should live in the service of the nation; and National Socialism must therefore secure, so far as it can, that all are fit to give this service. It follows that the care of mother and child is a responsibility superior to every consideration of economy, for to stint here is the classic example of false economy.
During this examination of the need for constitutional reform, nothing has so far been said about the House of Lords. It is time to speak in no uncertain terms. The National Socialist League has no use for such an anachronism. In 1911, this noble assembly died; Lord Rosebery, the only decent Liberal politician within living memory, said that rather than embarrass His Majesty’s Government, he would vote for the Parliament Act, leave the House, and never again darken their Lordships’ portals with his shadow. The epitaph was wisely pronounced; for never since that time has the House of Peers done aught but set the final seal of respectability on the most heinous crimes of the House of Commons, as for example, the India Act. An assembly that initiates naught and forbids naught, but nevertheless discusses, can have no effect beyond that of wasting time that must be valuable to somebody, if not to Their Lordships.
It is not to be inferred that National Socialism is opposed to the granting of titles for merit. There is something in the genius of the British people which appreciates such a practice, though millions of workers would like to know how Citrine and Mond earned their inclusion in the ranks of the noble. Let honours be paid where they are due; but let a legislative assembly be fit in character and in ability to do its work. Of course, what democracy never can realise is that the work of government should always be viewed as a harsh responsibility and never as a source of emolument or elevation in the scale of privileged snobbery.
Therefore the House of Lords will be reconstituted as a Second Chamber, giving representation to all those aspects of the National life which cannot be classed as economic. For those aspects which are economic, ample provision is made in the House of Commons. Imperial and foreign affairs, the Services, the Universities, and various Christian religious denominations, art, science, general culture are all subjects which should come within the scope of an enlightened and hygienic Second Chamber.
The hereditary element may well be lost, though if the son of a senator shows as much capability as his father, his inclusion in the House would be a National advantage. In plain language, we admit that much is to be said for the principle of hereditary; but unless it justifies itself in the issue, it is science that is being insulted and not heredity. The House will be appointed by the Crown on the advice of the elected leaders of the people in consultation with the House of Commons, and will consist of technicians whose interests are too specific and whose specialisation is too detailed to render them as representatives of mankind in the mass, and of men whose experience fits them to judge upon matters of imperial and foreign importance, and upon questions affecting all those very many national activities which may not properly be called commercial.
This second Chamber will very rarely sit as a whole, but from the wealth of knowledge and experience which it contains, it will be able to provide select bodies of men to advise the Government and enable the leaders of the people to decide wisely and act promptly in all those matters not appropriate to the business of the House of Commons, which will be entirely free from any interference on the part of the Second Chamber. This assembly, without being able to impose its will on the nation, can be of supreme value in providing for the people’s leaders the knowledge and experience essential to sound judgement.
Its functions supply the answer to the common criticism that a legislature of experts is apt to degenerate into a committee of pedants.
It will now be seen that the National Socialist idea of representation is, like the ideal nation, organic, embracing every kind of activity profitable to the people. The heaviest insistence is laid throughout on the fitness of men to speak for those whose interests they have in keeping. Ended is the silly spectacle of a number of professors of nothing in particular rushing for a brief but hurricane stay into some constituency, to be forgotten by all so soon as the most playsible is elected.
Much more could be written on the subject of representation, including a detailed account of the manner in which the country must be zoned and the trades categorised in order that Guild and Parliamentary elections may give the electors the opportunity of personally knowing their representatives; but this is a matter for a detailed treatise and not for a general survey intended only to outline the main principles on which the whole system is to depend.
In our opinion, there is no purpose to be served by elaborating details until the general nature of the system is accepted; moreover, in working out the particulars, it will be the aim of the National Socialist League to obtain all possible help from those who are to operate the plan itself. If the advice of experts is valuable at any stage, it is valuable in the beginning; and we are not going to make the initial mistake of proposing to teach experts their business.
We have given the data for the creation of a system in which every craftsman can use his skill and knowledge to the full. Consider these data carefully, note their superiority to the outworn bases of the present Parliamentary farce, and if you have any useful contribution to make in the nature of detailed administration, make it to us, and do not afterwards accuse National Socialism of having produced a complete and intricate machine of government without having stopped to ask the people for good advice.
Instead of dallying now with the niceties of Constitution making, it is better to show how National Socialism will, through this improved system of government, benefit the people, on whom it relies and in whose destiny it believes.