An early pamphlet by British Union of Fascists leader Sir Oswald Mosley, outlining the fascist creed and its application to British conditions
The pamphlet transcribed below provides an interesting example of some of the early propaganda writing produced by the British Union of Fascists. The version I have is undated, but there are some indications within the text which offer hints as to its publication history – the explicit description of the fasces rather than the “flash and circle” as the BUF’s party symbol, for example, suggests a publication date before 1935, which is when the latter was adopted by the Mosley Movement as its new logo. The mention of “the grey shirt of our ordinary members” likewise indicates an early publication period, probably sometime between 1932 and 1933, when probationary BUF members were still wearing a grey rather than black uniform; the grey shirt was later adopted specifically by the Cadets, the BUF youth movement. Regardless of the date, the pamphlet is a fairly thorough summation of the BUF’s political aims, covering the various key issues with which Mosley was concerned (economic breakdown, the domestic market, trade, peace, Empire, and the Corporate State) in his usual accessible style. Particularly noteworthy are some of the comments Mosley makes expressing his strong affinity for Europe (“We are proud also of our European civilisation… Rome [is] the mother of European civilisation…”) and his desire for a united Europe of peaceful, allied fascist states. A cynic might regard this stance as a by-product of Mussolini’s covert funding of and influence over the BUF, particularly as the Duce had begun explicitly supporting the concept of a “universal fascism” in 1930, a strategy which culminated in the founding of the ‘fascist internationale’ CAUR (Comitati d’azione per l’Universalità di Roma, the “Action Committees for the Universality of Rome”) in 1933. Someone more generous might see this position instead as an early indication of Mosley’s prototypical Pan-European inclinations, which would later emerge in full during his wartime imprisonment and would thoroughly define the entirety of his political thought and activity throughout the rest of his life. Regardless, his position on this topic sets the ideology of the BUF apart from völkisch movements like German National Socialism, which viewed its ideals as intrinsically and inseparably bound up with the blood origins of its adherents.
FASCISM IN BRITAIN
Sir Oswald Mosley
Leader, British Union of FascistsFascism in Britain
Fascism has come to Great Britain. It comes to each great nation in turn as it reaches the crisis which is inevitable in the modern age. That crisis is inevitable because an epoch of civilisation has come to an end. It is our task to bring to birth a new civilisation, and to organise its system.
Fascism in Britain is the faith of those who, ever since the War, have realised that the old system was dead and that a new system must be created. We have tried in turn all of the established Parties, in an effort to secure from them a policy of action to meet the new facts of the new age. None of the old Parties or the old Leaders realised those facts, or devised a policy to meet them. They have consistently misled and deceived the public. Nevertheless, it was only right to give the established system and the old Parties the opportunity to meet the new situation. We Fascists make no apology for having tried to secure a policy of action from each of the old Parties in turn before embarking on the drastic course of forming a new movement.1 It was only at a last resort that we threw down our challenge to the existing system. If we had failed to make that challenge, we should have failed in our duty to our country. All Parties since the War have betrayed us and have betrayed the nation. We now embody and formulate the principles for which we have fought since the War: the modern creed of organised fascism. It is the new faith, born of the post-war period in the last decade. It is not a product of Italy, nor of any foreign country. Like all the other political faiths, such as Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism, it is common to all countries. Far quicker, however, than those creeds of the past, it has found an organised form in Britain within a few years of its birth. That organisation is necessary before the old civilisation crumbles to collapse, and we can lose no time in the building of the new.
Fascism is the system of the next stage of civilisation. The epoch of civilisation which has come to an end is that of nineteenth century individualism. It was the period of “each for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.” With many abuses and much suffering to the masses, it worked in the early days of industrialism. It has now ceased to work in the twentieth century because of the development of science and of industry, for reasons which will be examined in the next section. The nineteenth century created the parties of the great vested interests, such as Conservatism and Liberalism, which were organisations to assist those interests to do what they liked at the expense of the nation. In answer to those Parties, the nineteenth century also produced Socialism, which was a blind revolt against inhuman conditions, and expressed the determination of yet another class also to do what it liked at the expense of the nation.
The war of these nineteenth century interests and parties has reduced the nation to a condition bordering upon collapse. Fascism, the creed of the twentieth century, comes to subordinate the interests of Party and of class to the interest of the nation as a whole. The mission of Fascism is to create in Britain the twentieth-century State
The Causes of the Breakdown
The crisis is due to the new facts of the modern age.
(1) The power of science and of industrial technique to produce goods has recently increased at an extraordinary rate. Every day the rationalisation of industry increases the power to produce goods. But we have no rationalisation of the State to enable those goods to be consumed. As a result, we are able to produce the same amount of goods with less labour than before, and unemployment increases because the demand for goods does not increase at the same rate as the power to produce goods. The labour displaced by rationalisation is not re-absorbed in industry. This great outstripping of demand by production is piling up a world unemployment problem. The more unemployment is created, the less is the purchasing power of the people, and the less is the market for the goods which industry produces. A vicious circle has been set up: rationalisation, unemployment, lower purchasing power, more unemployment. The old system by which we are governed has proved quite unable in the last decade to prevent this country and the world being ruined by the abundance which science can now supply.
(2) In addition to the world problem of production exceeding effective demand, we in Great Britain have a particular problem of our own. More than any other nation, we live by export trade. We still sell some 30 per cent. of our manufactured goods in the markets of the world. Those markets are rapidly closing against us. Whether we like it or not, we have to face the fact that every nation is striving to produce as large a proportion as possible of the goods which it consumes. To do this they are building new industries behind artificial barriers erected against our goods. We have not merely to surmount the old tariff barriers; in the last year or two other nations have invented new devices, such as quotas, embargoes, vetoes in dealings on foreign exchange, etc., which makes it impossible for our goods to enter their markets. Our goods are no longer just discouraged and taxed; they are definitely and designedly excluded. It is idle to believe these barriers will be removed. Employment has been afforded and capital has been expended in the creation of new industries within these countries on the strength of guarantees from the Governments concerned that these barriers will be maintained against us. It is folly to imagine that foreign nations will ruin their own people in order to do us as favour, just because a few of our older statesmen make persuasive speeches to them at international conferences. If we are realists, we have to face the fact that the old basis of British trade has gone for ever, and that a new basis must be found.
The Fascist Remedy:
The Corporate State
We believe that a new organisation of industry and of the State is necessary to meet that situation. Our policy is the establishment of the Corporate State. As the name implies, this means a State organised like the human body. Every member of that body acts in harmony with the purpose of the whole under the guidance and driving brain of Fascist Government. This does not mean that industry will be conducted or interfered with from Whitehall, as in Socialist organisations. But it does mean that the limits within which interests may operate will be laid down by Government, and that those limits will be the welfare of the nation as a whole. To that interest of the nation as a whole, all lesser interests are subordinate, whether of Right or of Left, whether they be employers’ federation, trade union, banking, or professional interests. All such interests are woven into the permanently functioning machinery of Corporate government. Within the Corporate structure, interests such as trade unions and employers’ federations will no longer be the general staffs of opposing armies, but the joint directors of national enterprise. Class war will give place to national cooperation. All who pursue a sectional and anti-national policy will be opposed by the might of the organised State. Profit can be made provided that the activity enriches the nation as well as the individual. Profit may not be made at the expense of the nation and of the working class. The Corporate System will secure that the nation and the workers – who are part of the nation – will share fully in the benefits and rewards of industry.
Building the Home Market
The first function of Corporate organisation will be to build up the Home Market. If it be true that our export markets are bound to diminish rather than to increase, the Home Market is the only outlet; yet that Home Market is continually curtailed by the reduction of wages and salaries in order to reduce costs in the effort to recapture foreign markets. In fact, we ruin the home market in the effort to capture illusory foreign markets which are now closed against us, whatever our cost of production. It must be the business of Corporate organisation to reverse this tendency and to build up the Home Market.
To do this we must establish Corporations or self-governing areas of industry. Within the Corporations will be represented employers’, workers’, and consumers’ interests, which will operate under the guidance of Corporate Government.
They will be charged with the task of raising wages and salaries and the standard of life over the whole area of industry as science increases the capacity to produce goods. At present, no employer can raise wages without some rival who pays lower wages putting him out of business in an unregulated competitive system. Consequently, wages are forced down continually by this anarchy of competition, and when wages are reduced the market also is reduced for which industry is producing. We must substitute the regulated order of the Corporate system, operating over the whole field of industry, for the unregulated system of industrial chaos which prevails to-day. We must provide the market that which industry lacks by giving greater purchasing power to the people. This can only be secured by organisation of the Corporate system.
The Export Trade
At the same time that we build up the Home Market, the Corporate system will do much to assist our export trade. Instead of the pious persuasion of present statesmanship at interminable international conferences, we shall be armed with real power to secure the entry of our goods into foreign markets. The Corporate system will lead, naturally, to the consolidation of both our buying and selling organisations abroad. We are the biggest buyers of foodstuffs and raw materials in the world. Under the Corporate system, we shall be organised to use as a seller our power as a buyer. We shall make our trade slogan, “Britain buys from those who buy from Britain.”
The power to transfer our purchases in bulk elsewhere will compel the sellers of foodstuffs and raw materials to lower the barriers against our manufactured goods.
Corporate organisation will be of the greatest service in the development of the Empire which is already our best market. The Dominions and colonies are natural producers of foodstuffs and raw materials, and the Mother Country is highly organised to produce manufactured goods. Here exists a natural balance of trade which should be exploited. The Dominions are already well organised in their farmers’ co-operative systems, etc., to take advantage of this situation. So far, no corresponding organisation as been created on our side. The Corporate system will create that organisation. As we consolidate our external buying and selling arrangements, it will become possible to enter directly into relations with the farmers’ organisations of the Dominions. By the elimination of unnecessary middlemen we shall greatly reduce the price of foodstuffs to our own people. At the same time, we shall provide a greater market for Dominion produce, and will thus be in a strong position to demand a market for British manufactured goods on far more favourable terms than have yet been conceded.
Corporate organisation in Britain will lead inevitably to the development of a Corporate Empire, which will be the mightiest material and moral force the world has yet seen.
Fascism and World Peace
It is sometimes said that the powerful economic organisation of Fascism will lead to war. Exactly the reverse is the case. To-day, the chaotic struggle of private interests for raw materials and for markets often involves their Governments in war. This struggle, in fact, is one of the prime causes of war. In place of that struggle the Corporate system will establish a system of buying and a system if selling abroad which is subject to some supervision and regulation by the State. When the inevitable occurs, and the most civilised States of Europe are governed by Fascism, we shall thus take a long step towards peace. In place of the private struggle of predatory interests, we shall have rational discussion and settlement among organised and competent governments of the subjects which are now the prime causes of war. It is muddle, not organisation which leads to war. Chaos is more dangerous than thought and method. Fascist organisation is the method of world peace among nations bound together by the universal Fascism of the twentieth century.
The Old Parties
The National Government and the Conservatives
What answer do the old parties provide to the chaos of to-day? The Conservatives say Protection, and they have tried it. In the result, unemployment increased and the national situation has deteriorated. The reason is that organisation as well as Protection is necessary. It is useless to Protect chaos. The same confusion operates behind the protective barrier of Conservatism that formerly operated without it. Industry is protected in some degree from the competition of foreign employers who pay low wages; it is in no degree protected from the competition of British employers who pay low wages. The wage cutting dog-fight goes on; wages, salaries, and standards fall, the Home Market steadily diminishes, and foreign markets close against us. Conservatism, in its final paralysis, clings feebly to the policies of thirty years ago. Joseph Chamberlain gave them the idea of Protection, and they have never done any thinking since he died.
The Socialists and Communists
The Socialists say that their remedy is Socialism. To reach Socialism by evolution, they admit, will take several generations, while even the “Socialism in our time” of the I.L.P.2 is calculated by its leaders to take twenty-five years to achieve. Meanwhile, the country crumbles and all are threatened with destruction by the collapse of the system. So Socialists are condemned either to complete futility, or to the adoption of revolutionary methods in place of the evolutionary ideals they have long pursued. They shrink from revolution, so in practice they make bold promises in Opposition and run away from them in office. They know that the application of Socialist measures within the present system will precipitate the collapse which is now proceeding more slowly. They dread that collapse because it means the revolutionary situation from which they shrink, and which they are not organised to meet. So in practice they squat impotent in front of the problems of the day like a hypnotised rabbit in front of a snake. Any movement, they know, will create the revolutionary situation which their Communist opponents await. The situation of to-day moves too quickly for the Socialism of the Labour Party and the I.L.P. It moves towards the Communists, who are organised for revolution and who desire to promote it. They cannot achieve that position until the “Old Gangs” of present parliamentarianism have muddled us yet further towards catastrophe. The chance of the Communists to complete their work of destruction only arises when the “Old Gangs” of politics have completed their task of universal muddle. Their effort to maintain a system which is obsolete and cannot be maintained must end in the universal confusion which leads to anarchy.
Parliament and Revolution
If Fascism does not come to power before collapse, a revolutionary situation may arise. In a state of collapse, the organised force of Fascism alone will stand between the State and the anarchy which a Communist struggle must produce in this highly developed and civilised country. Against that contingency we must organise, although we do not seek a situation of violence. Dictatorship has arisen from such situations on the Continent, and other similar phenomena of violent struggle and revolution. In the collapse of society such things are inevitable and are the only means by which the country can be saved. But they are incidents of collapse, and not of Fascism. It is quite possible for Fascism to come peacefully through the transformation of the Parliamentary system to executive purposes, and we desire Fascism to power in that way, by peaceful, legal, and constitutional means. We aim at the capture of Parliament by the existing electoral machinery; and then, at the transformation of the Parliamentary system to more effective methods. In brief, we would confer on the Government of the day absolute power of action, subject to the power of Parliament to dismiss it by vote of censure.
Thus, the ultimate control of an elected Parliament would be retained to prevent the abuse of power by Government. On the other hand, we would take away the power of daily obstruction by minorities which is the frustration of the people’s will to action and achievement in Government. Further, we would make Parliament effective in a technical age by elections on an occupational franchise which would enable the voter to give well-informed votes within his own industry. A Parliament thus elected would be an assistance, and not a hindrance, to Government, and would be further assisted by a National Corporation or Parliament of Industry to replace the present House of Lords.
While we ardently desire such a peaceful transformation of the existing system to the more effective purposes of Fascism, we warn the country that it is only possible if action is taken before things have gone too far. If we drift to collapse, violent struggle will come to this country, as it has come already to other countries. From that struggle will emerge inevitably dictatorship, and all the instruments of revolution and violence which we in Britain desire to avoid. Because we desire to avert these events, we beg our countrymen to take action while there is time, by assisting Fascism to come to power in a situation of peace and normality. Nevertheless, if that action is not taken in time, and the country is allowed to become a helpless prey to the forces which seek to destroy it, we shall be organised to stand between our country and destruction. We shall meet with force the enemies of Britain who seek by force to destroy her.
The Organisation of Fascism
Thus Fascism has to be organised to meet two possible events. The first contingency which we greatly desire is the peaceful acceptance of Fascism through the transformation of the Parliamentary system. The second contingency, which we desire to avoid but must yet prepare to meet, is that Fascism will come to power after a violent struggle following the collapse of the system. We must, in fact, be organised in two ways.
(1) We must organise on a normal political basis for the ultimate capture of Parliamentary power. Our organisation must differ in this respect from the ordinary political parties in that all our members, men and women, must be active. They are introducing a new creed to this country and to the world, and are expected to live as crusaders for that creed. They are in our movement to give, and not take; to give their lives and energies to a cause, not to take favours from vote-catching political machines.
(2) We must organise to some extent on a military basis in case we are called upon to save the nation in a condition of anarchy when the normal measures of Government have broken down. Our Fascist Defence Force will certainly not be used against the forces of the Crown, to which we are loyal. It will only be used against the forces of anarchy if and when they begin to operate in that collapse of the system to which the muddle is heading. The purpose of our Fascist Defence Force is, in fact, entirely defensive. Prior to any such contingency, it will be organised to protect our meetings and propaganda from the organised violence of the Reds, who seek to prevent free speech in Britain and have been largely successful in that purpose.
The Brotherhood of Fascism
Forms of Discipline: Black Shirts, Salutes, etc.
We are often asked why we wear the grey shirt of our ordinary members, or the black shirt which is accorded to those who are selected for special training and service. “Why,” we are asked, “do you use these foreign emblems and forms – the black shirt, the salute, etc.?”
These gibes at foreign symbols do not come very well from Socialists, who got their creed from nineteenth-century Germany, from Liberals, who borrowed their faith from eighteenth century France, or from Conservatives, who picked up their principles from the Stone Age International! Nevertheless, we can give a quite simple explanation of our use of these symbols. The shirt is an essential part of Fascist organisation, and for good reason. It breaks down all barriers of class, and that is one of the first purposes of Fascism. We substitute for the class the Corporate purpose of the nation; in the grey shirt or in the black, all men are the same, whether they are millionaires or on the dole.
Broken down and banished are the barriers of class in the national purpose of Fascism’s greater loyalties.
There is another purpose in the shirt: it takes a little courage to wear it; in these early days of Fascism in England it picks out the fighters from the shirkers. We want those who have the courage of a great faith. Then the salute; it is the oldest salute of European civilisation, which we believe Fascism alone can preserve from the menace of disruption.
We are proud also of our European civilisation, and are determined to preserve it, even though our motto is “Britain First” and we put our Nation before all others. The Fasces is the emblem which founded Imperial Rome, the mother of European civilisation, culture, and progress during the last 2,000 years. That fact is recognised on many British monuments which are often to be seen displaying, in the heart of London, the Fascist emblem as a symbol of greatness.
What more appropriate emblem can we have to-day?
The bundle of sticks symbolises the strength of unity; the axe cuts away the dead and rotten wood of the past, and cleaves a path clear to the greater destiny of the future.
Are these symbols from which Britain need shrink? They are part of our heritage, emblems of our own national greatness. Above all they represent the determination of those who renounce the soft surrender of the last decade, and summon Britain to a stern effort of the mind and of the will. We have had enough talk: we will act!
The New Faith
The Fascist Revolution
Any creed of action is bitterly assailed in Britain by the Parties and the interests who have muddled us to disaster. Fascism is attacked in the name of liberty by those who have made liberty the negation of action. We reply that the liberty of the nation to live is a greater right than the liberty of a few old men to talk. Sometimes men must choose between the right to live and the right to blether. The rebuilding of the nation has not come, and will not come from the Parliament of talk. We live in an age of revolution; science has brought that revolution. In the past few years science has transformed industry and every condition of modern life. The same revolution must come to Government that has come already to industry. The State must be adapted to the facts of modern life. Therefore, Fascism is a revolutionary creed.
We hope to secure: our Fascist revolution by peaceful and constitutional means. But we must be prepared to carry through our Fascist revolution by other means if they be necessary to save our country. By one road or another we are determined that Fascism shall come to Britain. It shall bring science and modern technique to rebuild our broken economic system. It shall bring, also, new values and a new morality to rebuild the broken faith of a nation. Public service and private liberty shall be the twin pillars of the Fascist State. All shall serve the interests of the nation in their public life. All shall receive from the nation in return real liberty in private life. We will substitute for the restrictions of childhood the obligations of manhood. Above every interest and every section shall be established the dominant interest of the Corporate nation. Within that all shall work to enrich their country and themselves. Privilege shall be abolished, but, opportunity shall be provided for all to rise to the greatest positions in the land. Reward and great position shall be accorded only to those who win them by talent and by service. Britain shall be governed by those who have proved themselves to be worthy of that high responsibility.
In fact, we seek to introduce a new civilisation to the land we love.
We fight not only for the material salvation of our country.
We fight also for a rebirth of the spirit.
Fascism is the creed and the morality of British manhood. It is the creed of men who have determined that Britain shall live and shall again be great.
1. Mosley began his political career as a Conservative MP in 1918, before subsequently leaving the Conservatives over their Irish Policy and standing instead as an independent in the 1922 and 1923 general elections. In April 1924 Mosley then joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which he stayed a member of until leaving to form his own New Party in 1931, which in turn evolved into the BUF by 1932. The early BUF hierarchy likewise was fairly diverse, comprising former members of the New Party, ILP, Labour, Unionists, Conservatives, and pre-BUF fascist parties. Alexander Raven Thomson, who joined the BUF in 1933 and ended up its ideologist and Director of Policy, was a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
2. Independent Labour Party. The ILP was technically separate from the Labour Party – originally the Labour Party was not an actual, incorporated party, but instead a label under which several cooperating trade unions and political groups (among them the ILP) stood candidates for election. After the Labour Party was officially organized in 1918, the ILP remained in existence as an affiliated party, technically independent (and more left-leaning than the Labour Party – it endorsed guild socialism at its 1922 conference) while effectively working in tandem with the larger party. The ILP remained in existence until the ’70s, although its dwindling size after WWII reduced it to little more than a political pressure group. The last vestiges of the ILP were absorbed by the Labour Party in 1975.