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

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

Miss Mitford Makes the Case for Hitler

Unity Mitford argues the case for Anglo-German fellowship and for Hitler – a 1939 article published in London tabloid ‘The Daily Mirror’

Unity_Mitford

The article below, written by famous socialite and Peer’s daughter Unity Valkyrie Mitford, was first published in London tabloid The Daily Mirror in early 1939, only six months before the onset of the Second World War. War-clouds had been growing over Europe for some time when the article was first put into print, which is why Unity wrote it in the first place. An ardent Germanophile and fanatical Hitlerite, there was nothing the young woman dreaded more than the possibility of war between two countries she loved, which is doubtless why she felt compelled to put her feelings into print and to make the case for Hitler and for Anglo-German fellowship in the British tabloids. Admittedly, Unity’s argument is not particularly remarkable. It is essentially a repetition of German foreign policy orthodoxy, and although presented from a supportive, British perspective, there are others who have done the same with a little more panache (William Joyce, aka ‘Lord Haw Haw’, being an obvious example). What makes this piece important, in my opinion, is that it gives us some insight into a person whose voice is not often heard or taken seriously in works on the period. Unity’s typical depiction in popular history or in biographies on the ‘Mitford Sisters’ is as some combination of foppish nitwit and hysterical goosestepping villain. In reality she was beautiful, as quick-witted and funny as any of her siblings, and so naturally charming that she remained the favorite of her communist sister Jessica despite their divergent destinies pulling them into enemy camps. She was also undoubtedly eccentric, loved to shock and offend, and could at times be cruel or unfeeling in her monomaniacal, obsessive loyalty to Hitler and to the Reich government. Unity was, in essence, human, and did not fit the ‘airhead-aristocrat Mata Hari’ caricature which has been draped around her since. The tone and quality of her writing is evidence of this, and serves as something of a contrast to the editorial commentary the Mirror chose to insert alongside it, which I have reproduced in bold along with the full article. 

What Miss Mitford Would Like To See
-Unity Mitford

First published in The Daily Mirror, 18 March 1939

WE don’t agree with her. And the Editor asks what you think!

The Daily Mirror opens this page to-day to Unity Mitford. Miss Mitford is a daughter of Lord Redesdale and a personal friend of Hitler. She has been strongly criticised for her pro-German activities and views. Last year she was attacked by a mob in Hyde Park. The “Daily Mirror” has given her a free hand to express her views to-day. Would she get the same freedom for unpopular views in Germany? We say NO!

In 1935 the Naval Pact between Germany and England was signed, limiting Germany’s naval power to 35 per cent, of that of Great Britain.

The pact was an outward and visible sign that Germany never wished to go to war with England again.

And yet, ever since, a ceaseless flood of propaganda has tried to persuade English people that Nazi Germany intends to attack England. What is the truth about Germany’s intentions towards England?

***

Hitler has often been called a dreamer. He was called a dreamer by his enemies in Germany before he came to power, who laughed at him and said that his dreams could never come true.

What they did not realise was that, as well as being a dreamer, Hitler was a realist, and that he only dreamed dreams whose fulfilment he knew to be possible, taking into account his genius for achieving the apparently impossible. Continue reading

Mussolini on the Corporate State

Benito Mussolini’s resolution and speech of 13-14 November, 1933, outlining the shortcomings of capitalism and presenting the corporatist alternative

The_DuceDespite the Corporate State being the centerpiece of fascist economic ideology, its implementation in Italy occurred gradually, in piecemeal fashion over more than a decade. Mussolini’s primary concern upon attaining the Prime Ministership in 1922 was, much like Hitler’s over a decade later, the maintenance of economic and political stability. He had little time or inclination for radical economic or political experimentation during his early years in power, and until 1925 the government maintained a policy of minimal state intervention that some historians have classified as “laissez-faire”. The murder of Matteotti in late 1924 and the regime’s subsequent embrace of dictatorship and totalitarianism led to a change in emphasis, a shift towards making real the corporatist promises of fascist theory & propaganda in a fashion that was measured and would not alarm industry or the “productive bourgeoisie”. The Palazzo Vidoni Pact of 1925 and ‘Rocco’s Law’ of 1926 helped cement the official status of the various workers’ and employers’ syndicates, while the Legge Sindacale of the same period formally established the Corporate State in principle, if not in actual fact. Further impetus towards corporatism was provided through the promulgation of the 1927 Labour Charter (which, while not legally binding, set out the principles by which the government aimed to establish equal relations between workers, management, and state) and the creation in 1930 of the National Council of Corporations, intended as a consultative body representing the voices of both labor and producer. It wasn’t until the 1933-34 period, however, that the Corporate State became solid reality rather than a series of inspiring articles and decrees. The resolution and speech given by Mussolini to the National Council of Corporations in November 1933, transcribed in full below, finally provided Italian lawmakers with an official definition of the envisioned corporations and their actual functions (as well as an interesting critique of capitalism from the Duce). The machinery of the Corporate State was at last set in motion the following year, when the ‘Act of February 5th 1934 (N.163)’ legally established the 22 Corporations which henceforth were intended to direct every sector of Italy’s economic life.

ON THE CORPORATE STATE
Resolution and Speech by Benito Mussolini before the
National Council of Corporations,
November 13-14, 1933

fasci_crossed

Resolution on the Definition and Attribution of Corporations
November 13, 1933

This resolution drafted by the Head of the Italian Government and read by him on November 13th 1933, before the Assembly of the National Council of Corporations, on the eve of his great speech:

The National Council of Corporations:

  • define Corporations as the instrument which, under the aegis of the State, carries out the complete organic and unitarian regulation of production with a view to the expansion of the wealth, political power, and well-being of the Italian people;
  • declare that the number of Corporations to be formed for the main branches of production should, on principle, be adequate to meet the real needs of national economy;
  • establish that the general staff of each Corporation shall include representatives of State administration, of the Fascist Party, of capital, of labour, and of experts;
  • assign to the Corporations as their specific tasks: conciliation, consultations (compulsory on problems of major importance), and the promulgation, through the National Council of Corporations, of laws regulating the economic activities of the country;
  • leave to the Grand Council of Fascism the decision on the further developments, of a constitutional and political order, which should result from the effective formation and practical working of the Corporations.

fasci_crossed

Speech on the Corporate State to the National Council of Corporations
November 14, 1933

The applause with which the reading of my resolution was received yesterday evening, made me wonder this morning whether it was worth while to make a speech in order to illustrate the document which had gone straight to your intelligence, had interpreted your own convictions, and had appealed to your revolutionary spirit. Continue reading