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

Why Mosley Left the Labour Government

Extracts from Oswald Mosley’s 1930 speech on his resignation from the MacDonald government, published as a British Union pamphlet

Mosley_Punch_CartoonThe text I have transcribed below is taken from a British Union pamphlet titled Why Mosley Left the Labour Government, published sometime around 1938 (the actual pamphlet is undated, but an advert in it for Mosley’s Tomorrow We Live provides some hint as to the time of origin). The pamphlet actually consists of extracts of the speech Sir Oswald gave on 28 May, 1930, explaining his decision to resign from the MacDonald Labour government over the way his efforts to deliver policy recommendations on resolving the unemployment crisis (something he had been given responsibility for, as a Minister without portfolio) had been frustrated by his superiors and scuppered by the hesitancy of his own government. I debated with myself over whether to post the entire speech or just the truncated version in the pamphlet (the speech can be read in full on Hansard); in most circumstances I prefer to post the entirety of an article or speech where possible, as I dislike having content filtered for me by someone else’s conception of which parts they consider “important”. In this instance, however, because the entire speech can already be read for free if one has the energy to navigate the Hansard website, I decided that just posting the pamphlet version was enough. For one thing, it shows which sections of the speech British Union still found relevant enough to reproduce 8+ years after the event, something that is interesting in itself (Mosley’s worldview from Tory to Fabian to Fascist to Pan-European remained remarkably consistent). The speech when first delivered was met by wild cheering from the House of Commons, was hailed by newspapers as a “triumph”, and made Mosley a hero not only among the Labour backbenchers but with the younger generation even in the Liberal and Conservative parties. Under the circumstances it is perhaps understandable why Mosley tried to use the momentum of this growing notoriety as the springboard for a new political movement and career – his New Party (later to evolve into the BUF) would be founded in February 1931, with a reworked version of the memorandum Mosley had produced while in government as its programme.  

SIR OSWALD MOSLEY’S RESIGNATION SPEECH
on Relinquishing his Office in the Labour GovernmentLion_Unicorn

These extracts from Mosley’s famous speech contain the whole of his economic proposals. As all these suggestions are embodied in British Union policy to-day, this document entirely refutes the widely circulated charge of inconsistency against him. Administrative and financial details alone have been omitted, as these are now largely out of date, owing to changed circumstances. 

The complete text can be read in Hansard, Vol. 239, cols. 1348 to 1372

House of Commons, May 28th, 1930

Sir OSWALD MOSLEY: In the earlier stages of this debate to-day, to which I will return with the leave of the Committee, we have had from the Prime Minister an exposition of Government policy, and also some of the customary exchanges of debate from two great masters of that art. I do not propose to indulge in any form of dialectics, because I believe the purpose which this Committee desires can best be served if, as directly as possible, I proceed to the actual facts of the great administrative and economic issues which are involved.

The Prime Minister, in his speech, pointed out that a fact which none can deny, that world conditions have been vastly aggravated since the arrival in power of the present Government, and that no one can suggest that the Government are responsible for those conditions. None can deny that fact, but this I do submit, that the more serious the situation the greater the necessity for action by Government.

We must, above all, beware, as the world situation degenerates, that we do not make that situation an excuse for doing less rather than a spur for doing more. That is the only comment on the general situation that I would permit myself before coming to the actual issues involved.

General surveys of unemployment I have always distrusted, because they are liable to degenerate into generalities which lead us nowhere. If we are to discuss this matter with any relation to realities, we must master the actual, hard details of the administrative problem, and to that problem I desire immediately to proceed. Continue reading

BUF Economic Policy: Housing, Unemployment, Empire, Agriculture

‘The Letters of Lucifer’: Mosleyite economic policy in 1933, as described by ‘The Blackshirt’ contributor William Allen

Blackshirt_Trumpeters

The four articles transcribed below were first published in various 1933 editions of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) newspaper The Blackshirt, either anonymously or under the pen-name ‘Lucifer’. Each article discusses in turn one of the important socio-economic issues facing Great Britain and its Empire at the time, along with a Mosleyite analysis and proposed solution. I was first introduced to these articles through the 1933 published collection  The Letters of Lucifer, assured by the person who provided it that the pseudonymous ‘Lucifer’ was in fact William Joyce, later and more infamously known as ‘Lord Haw Haw’. I was thus somewhat surprised to discover years later that Joyce was not the author after all – ‘Lucifer’, in fact, was instead William ‘Bill’ Allen, a man who was almost as fascinating a character as Joyce. Born wealthy, Eton-educated, fluent in Russian and Turkish, widely-travelled and a respected historian, Allen was a Member of Parliament for the Ulster Unionist Party before he defected to Oswald Mosley’s New Party in 1931. Allen followed Mosley into fascism in 1932, although he never held any kind of official leadership position in the BUF. Instead his importance lay behind the scenes, acting as an early, prolific propagandist for the Mosleyites as well as a key source of donations. Allen not only helped fund the organization from his own pockets, he was also instrumental in setting up the payment channels between Mosley and Mussolini, and additionally was involved in the complex, clandestine effort by Mosley and second wife Diana to organize a commercial radio station in Europe which could serve as a source of income. Most intriguing are Allen’s intelligence connections – there were rumors in the late ’30s that he had been ‘turned’ and was providing information to British Intelligence, rumors which have recently been substantiated. Bizarrely, Mosley was well aware of the MI6 connection at the time and seemed to view no threat in it; he kept close to Allen until the two fell out over money matters in 1940, and was happy to see his old compatriot when the two met again by chance after the end of the War. 

BUF_Fasces

HOUSING

First published in The Blackshirt, August 12-18, 1933

In the next four articles we shall show how Fascism can build within the British Empire a civilisation far higher than the world has yet known. That high standard of life will provide our people with a purchasing power sufficient for them to buy the products which modern industry can produce, and consequently to employ the labour of men now unemployed.

We shall show, at the same time, how this national, or Empire, organisation will lead to safer and more peaceful relations with the rest of the world. In this first article, however, we will take an instance of the methods by which Fascism will rebuild our own land of Britain.

The first task which there arises is the housing problem. It is unnecessary for us to stress the disgraceful housing conditions in which masses of our people have lived since the war.

Constructive Remedy

It is the habit of Socialists and others of their breed to spend hours in discussing these disgraceful conditions, and thus to avoid advancing their constructive remedy. For Fascists, it is unnecessary to stress the conditions because we and everyone else know they exist. What England expects of a revolutionary movement is a constructive remedy. We believe that the housing problem has not been tackled and will not be tackled under the present system, because the methods employed cannot possibly lead to any results. It is useless for our old politicians to talk about a great “crusade against the slums” in a palpitating peroration unless they are prepared to adopt the executive instruments by which the slums can be wiped out. Continue reading