Fascism in Britain

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. Continue reading

The Christian Socialist Ahlen Program

“The capitalist economic system has failed…” The 1947 ‘Ahlen Program’ of the center-right Christian Democratic Union

CDU_GemeinwirtschaftThe collapse of the ‘Hitler-regime’ and Germany’s total defeat over the course of the War led many Germans to seek a clean break with the past. The ‘fresh start’ which they longed for was not just conceptualized in terms of a rejection of National Socialism and militarism, but also in terms of a desire to cast aside the capitalist economic system, to use the opportunity offered by the need to rebuild a shattered nation to construct a new economic system which would be eminently fairer and less prone to cronyism and abuse. This sentiment was not just confined to those on the Left; the conservative movement (particularly those formerly associated with the Catholic Zentrum) had a long history of Christian Socialism in their ranks, and these ideas came to the fore once more during the harsh winters and troubled economic times which immediately followed the end of the War. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had been founded in June 1945 as a catch-all movement for moderate conservatives and Christians of all denominations, and Christian Socialism became particularly popular among CDU members within the British Zone of occupation, an area which encompassed the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland. On 3 February, 1947, CDU members within the British Zone formalized the party’s commitment to Christian Socialist principles (while diplomatically choosing to avoid direct use of the term) by adopting the famous ‘Ahlen Program’, translated below. The Ahlen Program, which openly calls for the socialization of certain industries, the democratization of workplaces, and the forced break-up of companies above a certain size, was largely the work of local CDU leaders Johannes Albers and Konrad Adenauer. Adenauer would turn out to be more economically conservative than other members of the North-Rhine Westphalia branch, which explains why he later took both the CDU and Germany (as Chancellor) in a direction which ended up casting aside many of the more radical socialist ideals set out in this early founding document. 

The Ahlen Program
CDU Zone Committee for the British Zone, Ahlen / Westphalia,
3rd February 1947CDU

The CDU Zone Committee for the British Occupation Zone issued the following programmatic declaration at its conference of 1-3 February, 1947, in Ahlen:

The capitalist economic system has failed to do justice to the vital state and social interests of the German people. After the terrible political, economic, and social collapse which resulted from criminal power politics, only a new order built from the ground up can follow.

The content and goal of this new social and economic order can no longer be the capitalist pursuit of profit and power, but instead must be only the welfare of our people. A cooperative economic order should provide the German people with an economic and social constitution which accords with the rights and dignity of man, which serves the spiritual and material development of our people, and which secures peace both at home and abroad.

In recognition of this, the CDU party program of March 1946 sets forth the following principles:

The Goal of All Economic Activity is to Satisfy the Needs of the People

The economy has to serve the development of the creative forces of the people and the community. The starting-point for all economic activity is the recognition of the individual. Personal freedom in the economic sphere is closely linked to freedom in the political sphere. The shaping and management of the economy must not deprive the individual of his freedom. Therefore, it is necessary to: Continue reading

Goebbels on the German Revolution

Joseph Goebbels’s article on the German Revolution, the “most bloodless in world history” – i.e. the 1933 National Socialist seizure of power

mjolnir_posterAn accusation commonly leveled against National Socialism (particularly by those on the Left, both during the inter-War era and today) is that it was a “reactionary” movement and ideology. Some of the critiques made in this regard – i.e that it sought a restoration of the Hohenzollerns – are rather silly. Others – such as it being in favor of the financial status quo, rather than being truly anti-capitalist – require a more nuanced examination and produce less clear-cut answers. Whatever the reality, the National Socialists in Germany certainly regarded themselves as a revolutionary movement and took this claim seriously. Hitler in 1923 had created dissension early on within the inter-state National Socialist movement through his insistence on armed revolution as the only legitimate means of achieving power. Even after he dropped this position following the failure of his subsequent Beer Hall Putsch, a revolutionary idealism remained within the NSDAP and increasingly came to dominate the older National Socialist parties across the border. Hitler’s newfound commitment to legality after 1923 was tactical, not ideological, borne partly from necessity and partly from a desire to build up popular support. Violence as an option was still maintained quietly in reserve, as he made clear in Mein Kampf: “…we will not shun illegal means if the oppressor also applies them.” Either way, legal or illegal, the result of the Party’s tactics was still also intended to be the same: the complete, revolutionary transformation of German society. In Hitler’s famous September 1930 speech at the ‘Ulm Reichswehr Trial’, he claimed that the NSDAP’s aim was the “spiritual revolutionizing of the German Volk” in order that the German people might “construct a completely new state” upon the Party’s attaining power. Very similar sentiments are expressed by Goebbels in a short June 1933 essay from the Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, translated below. He paints Hitler’s ascension to the Chancellorship and the formation of the ‘National Government’ as part of a revolutionary process – the culmination of years of struggle producing “the most bloodless [revolution] in world history” (a popular Nazi claim) and, consequently, a new state driven by a revolutionary Idea which will “conquer all areas of public life in order to integrate them with and subordinate them to its spirit.” Goebbels’s article was published in the same edition of the NS-Monatshefte as this piece on the German Revolution by Röhm. The two complement each other, although Röhm’s is in some ways even more explicitly radical.

The German Revolution
Joseph Goebbels, Reichsminister
for Public Enlightement and Propaganda

NS_Swastika

First published in Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte, vol. 4, no. 39, June 1933

The conditions of that world-historical January night,1 whose course of events seized the entirety of a suffering, tormented Volk down to their utmost depths and filled them with new faith and new hope, did not come about by coincidence. Within and behind them lies the great, dynamic principle of a political movement whose countenance bears revolutionary features. A movement which – like all truly creative forces in history – is gradually outgrowing the confinement of the smallest of anonymous beginnings, is rising to the daunting tasks which it seeks to fulfill, and, refined through hard years of persecution and the terror of its opponents, is organically, inexorably, and irrevocably interposing its influence in the great matters of public life. At the end of its path, the breadth and impact of which is determined by the revolutionary drive of its adherents, lies that time when it now seizes the heavy responsibility of state authorities, the time of new powers and new men who provide the structure of the political system with that form which corresponds to its own internal legitimacy.

Revolutions are spiritual acts. They take place initially within people themselves, and then within the manifestations of art, politics, and economy. The upheaval which we can witness today first occurred within the spirit of this movement. Out of its new stylistic sensibility, its creative power, grew the legitimacy of the German Revolution. With its victory it matured to the state principle. Continue reading

Otto Rühle on “Red Fascism”

Radical German communist Otto Rühle’s 1939 essay on the shared characteristics between Bolshevism and Fascism

The following article first appeared anonymously in the September 1939 edition of American communist journal Living Marxism. Its author, Otto Rühle, was living in Mexico at the time, having fled there by way of Czechoslovakia during the early ’30s to escape the rise of National Socialism (Rühle’s wife, Alice Rühle-Gerstel, was Jewish). Rühle had good reason for his writing to be published anonymously – factionalism was as much a feature of left-wing politics then as it is now, and Rühle was concerned that his reputation as a vociferous critic of Stalinism and the Soviet Union would lead communists to boycott the publication. Rühle had plenty of experience in this regard. In 1916 he had been expelled from the Social-Democratic Party over his opposition to the party’s position on the War, and in April 1920 he had left the nascent Communist Party of Germany in frustration at the growing Leninist authoritarianism within its leadership, tactics, and organizational structure. Rühle’s active involvement in revolutionary Marxist politics made him a first-hand witness to the growing stranglehold which the Russian Bolsheviks were beginning to assert over the international communist movement, and as fascism begin to rise in Europe and particularly within Germany he began to see parallels between the authoritarianism he had experienced on the Left and that developing on the Right. Authoritarianism, deference to supreme leadership, ruthless militancy, iron discipline, rigid centralism, thoughtless conformity, party before people – in Rühle’s eyes these were as much features of Leninism as they were of fascism, and he believed it indisputable that the state form of the Soviet Union had served as a direct template for those in Germany and Italy. The conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 was confirmation for Rühle that his assessment of Bolshevism as a form of “red fascism” was correct, and the essay below appeared a month later in direct response.

The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the
Struggle Against Bolshevism

by Otto Rühle

council_communism

I.

Russia must be placed first among the new totalitarian states. It was the first to adopt the new state principle. It went furthest in its application. It was the first to establish a constitutional dictatorship, together with the political and administrative terror system which goes with it. Adopting all the features of the total state, it thus became the model for those other countries which were forced to do away with the democratic state system and to change to dictatorial rule. Russia was the example for fascism.

No accident is here involved, nor a bad joke of history. The duplication of systems here is not apparent but real. Everything points to the fact that we have to deal here with expressions and consequences of identical principles applied to different levels of historical and political development. Whether party “communists” like it or not, the fact remains that the state order and rule in Russia are indistinguishable from those in Italy and Germany. Essentially they are alike. One may speak of a red, black, or brown “soviet state”, as well as of red, black or brown fascism. Though certain ideological differences exist between these countries, ideology is never of primary importance. Ideologies, furthermore, are changeable and such changes do not necessarily reflect the character and the functions of the state apparatus. Furthermore, the fact that private property still exists in Germany and Italy is only a modification of secondary importance. The abolition of private property alone does not guarantee socialism. Private property within capitalism also can be abolished. What actually determines a socialist society is, besides the doing away with private property in the means of production, the control of the workers over the products of their labour and the end of the wage system. Both of these achievements are unfulfilled in Russia, as well as in Italy and Germany. Though some may assume that Russia is one step nearer to socialism than the other countries, it does not follow that its “soviet state” has helped the international proletariat come in any way nearer to its class struggle goals. On the contrary, because Russia calls itself a socialist state, it misleads and deludes the workers of the world. The thinking worker knows what fascism is and fights it, but as regards Russia, he is only too often inclined to accept the myth of its socialistic nature. This delusion hinders a complete and determined break with fascism, because it hinders the principle struggle against the reasons, preconditions, and circumstances which in Russia, as in Germany and Italy, have led to an identical state and governmental system. Thus the Russian myth turns into an ideological weapon of counter-revolution. Continue reading