In Great Britain during the past ten years there have never been less than a million unemployed, and at present unemployment approaches the three million figure. In 1929 – a year which is now regarded as the peak of industrial prosperity – British trade was slack, large industrial areas were almost derelict, and only the stock markets enjoyed a semblance of boom conditions.
We have tragic proof that economic life has outgrown our political institutions. Britain has failed to recover from the war period; and this result, however complicated by special causes, is largely due to a system of Government designed by, and for, the nineteenth century.
Setting aside any complaint of the conduct or capacity of individual Governments, I believe that, under the existing system, Government cannot be efficiently conducted.
The object of this book is to prove, by analysis of the present situation and by constructive policy, that the necessity for a fundamental change exists. Our political system dates substantially from 1832. The intervening century has seen the invention and development of telegraph, telephone and wireless. At the beginning of the period, railways were a novelty, and a journey of a dozen miles was a serious undertaking.
Since then, railway transport has risen and prospered, only to yield place to the still greater revolution of motor transport on modern roads. The whole question of power production is less than a century old, and electricity is a recent development. The modern processes of mass production and rationalisation date only from the War period [editor’s note: i.e. 1914-1918]. Within the last century science has multiplied by many times the power of man to produce. Banking, as we know it today, did not exist in 1832; even the Charter of the Bank of England and the modern Gold Standard are less than a century old. Social opinion has developed almost as rapidly as economic possibilities. Well within the last century children worked twelve hours daily in mines and workshops. Men were transported for picking pockets, and hanged for stealing sheep. Leisure and education have enormously widened the public interest in matters of Government concern. The huge expansion of commerce has made us depend more and more on one another; the building-up of popular newspapers has organised and formulated popular opinion.
From the standpoint of a century ago, all these changes are revolutionary. The sphere of government has widened and the complications of government have increased. It is hardly surprising that the political system of 1832 is wholly out of date today. “The worst danger of the modern world,” writes Sir Arthur Salter [editor’s note: a well-known judge and public servant in the 1920s] in his brilliant book Recovery, “is that the specialised activities of man will outrun his capacity for regulative wisdom.” Our problem is to reconcile the revolutionary changes of science with our own system of government, and to harmonise individual initiative with the wider interests of the nation. Most men desire to work for themselves; laws are oppressive if they prevent people from doing so. But there is no room for interests which are not the State’s interests; laws are futile if they allow such things to be. Wise laws, and wise institutions, are those which harness without restricting; which allow human activity full play, but guide it into channels which serve the nation’s ends.
Hence the need for a New Movement, not only in politics, but in the whole of our national life. The movement is Fascist,
(i) because it is based on a high conception of citizenship – ideals as lofty as those which inspired the reformers of a hundred years ago;
(ii) because it recognises the necessity for an authoritative state, above party and sectional interests.
Some may be prejudiced by the use of the word Fascist, because that word has so far been completely misunderstood in this country. It would be easy for us to avoid that prejudice by using another word, but it would not be honest to do so. We seek to organise the Modern Movement in this country by British methods in a form which is suitable to and characteristic of Great Britain. We are essentially a national movement, and if our policy could be summarised in two words, they would be Britain First. Nevertheless, the Modern Movement is by no means confined to Great Britain; it comes to all the great countries in turn as their hour of crisis approaches, and in each country it naturally assumes a form and a character suited to that nation. As a wordldwide movement, it has come to be known as Fascism, and it is therefore right to use that name. If our crisis had been among the first, instead of among the last, Fascism would have been a British invention. As it is, our task is not to invent Fascism, but to find for it in Britain its highest expression and development.
Fascism does not differ from the older political movements in being a worldwide creed. Each of the great political faiths in its turn has been a universal movement: Conservatism, Liberalism and Socialism are common to nearly every country. An Englishman who calls himself a Conservative or a Liberal is not thereby adopting a foreign creed merely because foreign political parties bear the same name. He is seeking to advance, by English method and in English forms, a political philosophy which can be found in an organised form in all nations.
In this respect the Fascist occupies precisely the same position: his creed is also a worldwide faith. However, by very reason of the national nature of his policy, he must seek in the method and form of his organisation a character which is more distinctively British than the older political movements. Quite independently, we originally devised a policy for British needs of a very national character. In the development of that policy, and of a permanent political philosophy, we have reached conclusions which can only be properly described as Fascism.
All new movements are misunderstood. Our British Union of Fascists will without a doubt be misrepresented by politicians of the older schools. The Movement did not begin with the wiseacres and the theorists. It was born from a surging discontent with a regime where nothing can be achieved. The Old Gang hold the stage; and, to them, misrepresentation is the path of their own salvation.
Such tactics may delay, but they cannot prevent, the advance of the Movement. Nevertheless, every incident in every brutal struggle, in countries of completely different temperament and character, will be used against us. We are also faced by the fact that a few people have misused the name Fascism in this country, and from ignorance or in perversion have represented it as the “White Guard of reaction.”
This is indeed a strange perversion of a creed of dynamic change and progress. In all countries, Fascism has been led by men who came from the Left, and the rank and file has combined the Conservative and patriotic elements of the nation with ex-Socialists, ex-Communists and revolutionaries who have forsaken their various illusions of progress for the new and orderly reality of progress. In our new organisation we now combine within our ranks all those elements in this country who have long studied and understood the great constructive mission of Fascism; but we have no place for those who have sought to make Fascism the lackey of reaction, and have thereby misrepresented its policy and dissipated its strength. In fact Fascism is the greatest constructive and revolutionary creed in the world. It seeks to achieve its aim legally and constitutionally, by methods of law and order; but in objective it is revolutionary or it is nothing. It challenges the existing order and advances the constructive alternative of the Corporate State. To many of us this creed represents the thing which we have sought throughout our political lives. It combines the dynamic urge to change and progress with the authority, the discipline and the order without which nothing great can be achieved.
This conception we have sought through many vicissitudes of parties and of men; we have found it in the Movement which we now strive to introduce to Great Britain. That pilgrimage in search of this idea has exposed me, in particular, to many charges of inconsistency. I have no apology to offer on the score of inconsistency. If anything, I am disturbed by the fact that through fourteen years of political life, and more than one change of Party, I have pursued broadly the same ideals. For what in fact does a man claim who says that he has always been consistent? He says that he has lived a lifetime without learning anything; he claims to be a fool. In a world of changing fact and situation, a man is a fool who does not learn enough to change some of his original opinions.
The essence of Fascism is the power of adaptation to fresh facts. Above all, it is a realist creed. It has no use for immortal principles in relation to the facts of bread-and-butter; and it despises the windy rhetoric which ascribes importance to mere formula. The steel creed of an iron age, it cuts through the verbiage of illusion to the achievement of a new reality.
In the ranks of Conservatism there are many who are attracted there by the Party’s tradition of loyalty, order and stability – but who are, none the less, repelled by its lethargy and stagnation. In the ranks of Labour there are many who follow the Party’s humane ideals, and are attracted by its vital urge to remedy social and economic evils – but who are, none the less, repelled by its endless and inconclusive debates, its cowardice, its lack of leadership and decision.
These elements comprise the best of both Parties: and to both Fascism appeals. The two essentials of government are stability and progress; and the tragedy of politics is that the two, essentially coincident, are organised as contradictions. Stability implies order and authority, without which nothing can be done. It is regarded as belonging to the Right. Progress implies the urge to reform without which society cannot survive. It is regarded as belonging to the Left. Stability is confused with reaction and a stand-pat resistance to change: progress with ill-considered changes, or with the futile and paralytic discussions so characteristic of a timorous democracy. As a result, neither of theseessentials is achieved. This is a dynamic age. Stability cannot exist without progress, for it implies the recognition of changes in the world which no political system can alter. Nor can progress exist without stability, for it implies a balanced and orderly view of the changes which have taken place. The Right seeks stability, but denies the power of adaptation whichmakes stability an active force. The Left seeks progress, but rejects al effective instruments and robs authority of the power to make decisions. The result of both systems of the two great organised Parties of the State is in the end the same. Stability confused with reaction and a resistance to change, together with progress confused with obstructive debate and committee irresponsibility, end alike in chaos. Both are instruments for preventing things being done, and the first requisite of the modern age is that things should be done.
The final caricature of our present system may be found in the events of 1931. The country, wearied by five years of parliamentary stagnation, had rebelled from the Conservative slogan of Safety First, and installed a Labour Government in office. For eighteen months, progress, such as it was, came under the Ã¦gis of dissentient committees and the dictation of discordant interests. As time passed, the Government fell under the spell of trade depression which it had done little to create, but which it was powerless to remedy. In the absence of any constructive policy, the Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary to reduce unemployment benefit, but was too weak to do this without elaborate publicity. The country – most of all, the Unemployed – had to be frightened: and the May committee soon produced a report fit to alarm the nation. The economies called for were duly realised, even though the achievement demanded a regrouping of political complexions. The Labour Government might have successfully purchased a little respite at the expense of its supporters, had it not been that foreign financiers had read the May report and taken it in deadly earnest. The report had been circulated to secure public approval for action which was “necessary to save the pound.” But it exposed our weakness, and thus started the stream of foreign withdrawals from our banks which, in spite of Â£130 millions of money borrowed in support, forced us off the Gold Standard in September. A Government with a constructive policy would have averted the whole situation; a Government with authority would have reformed without apology: had even this been done, it is more than possible that the crisis might have been avoided.
We are faced today with the results of government by indecision, compromise and blether. Both political Parties, and the remnants of Liberalism as well, stand bound by the great vested interests of Right and Left which created them. In Opposition, there is the same profusion of promise; in office the same apathy and inertia. In post-War England, their creeds have become platitudes; they consistently fail to grapple with the problems of the time. Their rule has led, with tragic inevitability, to the present chaos. Therefore our Fascist Movement seeks on the one hand Stability, which envisages order and authority as the basis of all solid achievement; we seek, on the other hand, Progress, which can be achieved only by the executive instrument that order, authority and decision alone can give.
Fascism, as we understand it, is not a creed of personal Dictatorship in the continental manner. The dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy is merely dictatorship of the revolutionary machine, consequent on the changes having been effected by a violent revolution owing to the collapse and surrender of Government. Neither is Fascism a creed of governmental tyranny. But it is definitely a creed of effective government. Parliament is, or should be, the mouthpiece of the will of the people; but, as things stand at present, its time is mainly taken up with matters of which the nation neither knows nor cares. It is absurd to suppose that anybody is the better for interminable discussion of the host of minor measures which the Departments and local interests bring before Parliament to the exclusion of major issues. Such matters, in which the public interest is small, take up far too much parliamentary time. The discussion, too, is usually futile; most of the Bills before Parliament demand technical knowledge; but they are discussed, voted on, and their fate decided, by men and women chosen for their assiduity in opening local charity bazaars, or for their lung power at street corners. This is by no means an over-statement; when a young man asks his Party Executive for a constituency, they do not ask “Will he be a good Member?” but “Will he be a good candidate?”
In a practical system of government our political philosophy comes to these conclusions. Whatever movement or party be entrusted with government must be given absolute power to act. Let the people preserve, through an elected Parliament, the power to dismiss and to change the Government of the day. While such power is retained, the charge of Dictatorship has no reality. On the other hand, the power of obstruction, the interminable debate of small points which today frustrate the nation’s will to action, must be abolished. The present Parliamentary system is not the expression, but the negation, of the people’s will. Government must have power to legislate by Order, subject to the power of Parliament to dismiss it by vote of censure. We must eliminate the solemn humbug of six hundred men and women indulging in detailed debate of every technical measure handled by a non-technical assembly in a vastly technical age. Thus only shall we clear the way to the real fulfilment of the nation’s desire, which is to get things done in modern conditions.
When we propose an effective system of Government we are, of course, charged with the negation of liberty by those who have erected liberty into the negation of action. Liberty, by the definition of the old Parliamentarians, becomes the last entrenchment of obstruction.
We hear so much glib talk of liberty, and so little understanding of its meaning. Surely nobody can imagine that the British, as a race, are free. The essence of liberty if freedom to enjoy some of the fruits of life, a reasonable standard of life, a decent house, good wages, reasonable hours of leisure after hours of work short enough not to leave a man exhausted, unmolested private happiness with wife, children and friends and, finally, the hope of material success to set the seal on private ambition: these are the realities of liberty to the ordinary man. How many possess this liberty today? How can the mass possess such freedom in a period of economic chaos? Many unemployed, the remainder living in the shadow of unemployment, low wages, long hours of exhausting labour, bad houses, shrinking social amenities, the uncertainty of industrial collapse and universal confusion: these are the lot of the average man today. What humbug, then, to talk of liberty! The beginning of liberty is the end of economic chaos. Yet how can economic chaos be overcome without the power to act?
By our very insistence on liberty, and the jealous rules with which we guard it, we have reached a point at which it has ceased to be liberty at all. We must preserve the nation’s right to decide how, and by whom, it shall be governed; we must provide safeguards to ensure that the powers of government are not abused. But that is far from necessitating that every act of government must be subjected to detailed and obstructive debate, and that in an assembly with little experience or knowledge of administrative problems. This fantastic system, begun in good faith as the origin of freedom, has ended by blinding the citizen in a host of petty restrictions, and tying the hands of each successive government. Even in debate, the orators of Parliament no longer hope to convert one another, as they did in the days of Sheridan. The Party Whips are in attendance; a Member who disobeys will soon find himself cut off from the Party – which, incidentally, paid the expenses of his election – and his chances of keeping his seat willl be of the smallest. The only useful purpose of debate is to advertise each Member in his constituency.
It is quite obvious that this system creates bad government and hampers the individual citizen. Constitutional freedom must be preserved; but that freedom is expressed in the people’s power, through an elected Parliament, to choose the form and leadership of its government. Beyond this it cannot go. In complicated affairs of this kind, somebody must be trusted, or nothing will ever be done. The Government, once in power, must have power to legislate by order; and Parliament must have power to dismiss the Government by vote of censure.
This is the kernel of our Parliamentary proposals. To some it may seem to imply the suppression of liberty, but we prefer to believe that it will mean the suppression of chaos.
The same principles which are essential to Government apply, with even greater force, to a political movement of modern and Fascist structure. Here we are dealing, not with the mass, but with the men who believe in the cause, and are devoting their energy to its aims.
We have seen the political parties of the old democracy collapse into futility through the sterility of committee government and the cowardice and irresponsibility of their leadership. Voluntary discipline is the essence of the Modern Movement. Its leadership may be an individual, or preferably, in the case of the British character, a team with clearly allocated functions and responsibility. In either case, the only effective instrument of revolutionary change is absolute authority. We are organised, therefore, as a disciplined army, not as a bewildered mob with every member bellowing orders. Fascist leadership must lead, and its discipline must be respected. By these priniciples, both in the structure of our own movement and in the suggested structure of Government, we preserve the essentials of true democracy and combine them with the power of rapid decision without which all semblance of democracy will ultimately be lost in chaos.
The immediate task is the firm establishment of the Modern Movement in the life of the British nation. Ultimately, nations are saved from chaos, not by Parliaments, however elected; not by civil servants, however instructed: but by the steady will of an organised movement to victory.
A whole people may be raised for a time to the enthusiasm of a great and decisive effort, as they were in the election of the National Government. That enthusiasm and effort may be sustained for a long period, as it was in the War, by the external pressure of a foreign threat to our existence. History, however, provides few cases in which the enthusiasm and unity of a whole people have been so sustained through a long struggle to emerge from disintegration and collapse.
For such purpose is needed the grip of an organised and disciplined movement, grasping and permeating every aspect of national life. In every town and village, in every institution of daily life, the will of the organised and determined minority must be struggling for sustained effort. In moments of difficulty, dissolution and despair it must be the hard core round which the weak and the dismayed may rally. The Modern Movement, in struggle and in victory, must be ineradicably interwoven with the life of the nation. No ordinary party of the past, resting on organisations of old women, tea fights and committees, can survive in such a struggle. Our hope is centred in vital and determined youth, dedicated to the resurrection of a nation’s greatness and shrinking from no effort and from no sacrifice to secure that mighty end. We need the sublime enthusiasm of a nation, and the devoted energies of its servants.
The main object of a modern and Fascist movement is to establish the Corporate State. In our belief, it is the greatest constructive conception yet devised by the mind of man. It is almost unknown in Britain; yet it is, by nature, better adapted to the British temperament than to that of any other nation. In psychology it is based on teamwork; in organisation it is the rationalised State. We have rationalised industry and most other aspects of life, but we have not rationalised the State. Yet the former makes the other the more needful, lest the economic power of man should pass beyond the power of his control.
Sir Arthur Salter has said that “private society has developed no machinery which enables industry as a whole to contribute to the formation of a general economic policy, and secure its application when adopted.” It is this machinery of central direction which the Corporate State is designed to supply – and that, not as a sporadic effort in time of crisis, but as a continuous part of the machinery of government. It is essentially adaptable; no rigid system can hope to survive in a world of quickly changing conditions. It envisages, as its name implies, a nation organised as the human body. Every part fulfils its function as a member of the whole, performing its separate task, and yet, by performing it, contributing to the welfare of the whole. The whole body is generally directed by the central driving brain of government without which no body and system of society can operate.
This does not mean control from Whitehall, or constant interference by Government with the business of industry. But it does mean that Government, or rather the Corporate system, will lay down the limits within which individuals and interests may operate. Those limits are the welfare of the nation – not, when all is said, a very unreasonable criterion. Within these limits, all activity is encouraged; individual enterprise, and the making of a profit, are not only permitted, but encouraged so long as that enterprise enriches rather than damages by its activity the nation as a whole.
But so soon as anybody, whether an individual or an organised interest, steps outside those limits, so that his activity becomes sectional and anti-social, the mechanism of the Corporate system descends upon him. This implies that every interest, whether Right or Left, industrial, financial, trade union or banking system, is subordinated to the welfare of the community as a whole, and to the over-riding authority of the organised State. No State within the State can be admitted. All within the State; none outside the State; none against the State.
The producer, whether by hand or brain or capital, will be the basis of the nation. The forces which assist him in his work of rebuilding the nation will be encouraged; the forces which thwart and destroy productive enterprise will be met with the force of national authority. The incalculable powers of finance will be harnessed in the service of national production. They will not be fettered; but they will be guided into the channels – which are now the channels of opportunity rather than of habit – which serve the nation’s ends. This is the true function of finance, intended, as Sir Basil Blackett has insisted, to be “the handmaid of industry.” There will be no room, in our financial organisation, for the unorganised operations which have led to such enormous complexities, and have rocked the structure of British industry to its foundations. In our labour organisation there will be no place for the trade union leader who, from sectional or political motives, impedes the development of a vital service. But there will be an honoured place for the financial organisation which joins in the work of British reconstruction, and for trade unions which co-operate with such reconstruction in the interests of members who are also members of the international community.
Class war will be eliminated by permanent machinery of government for reconciling the clash of class interests in an equitable distribution of the proceeds of industry. Wage questions will not be left to the dog-fight of class war, but will be settled by the impartial arbitration of State machinery; existing organisations such as trade unions and employers’ federations will be woven into the fabric of the Corporate State, and will there find with official standing not a lesser but a greater sphere of activity. Instead of being the general staff of opposing armies, they will be joint directors of national enterprises under the general guidance of corporative government.
The task of such industrial organisations will certainly not be confined merely to the settlement of questions of wages and of hours. They will be called upon to assist, by regular consultation, in the general economic policy of the nation. The syndicates of employers’ and of workers’ organisations in particular industries will be dovetailed into the corporations covering larger and interlocking spheres of industry. These corporations in their turn will be represented in a national corporation or council of industry, which will be a permanent feature in co-operating with the Government for the direction of economic policy.
The idea of a National Council was, I believe, first advanced in my speech on resignation from the Labour Government in May 1930. The idea has since been developed by Sir Arthur Salter and other writers. A body of this kind stands or falls by the effectiveness of the underlying organisation. It must not consist of casual delegates from unconnected bodies, meeting occasionally for ad hoc consultation. The machinery must be permanently functioning and interwoven with the whole industrial and commercial fabric of the nation. The machinery must not be haphazard, but systematic, and continually applied. Sir Arthur Salter envisages such machinery in the following passage:
“In industry and trade, banking and finance, in the professions, there are institutions which are capable of representing more than merely sectional interests. They may have been formed primarily for defence of a common interest against an opposing organisation or against competitors or the public; but they have, or may have, another aspect: that of preserving and raising the standard of competence and the development of traditions which are in the general public interest.”
This latter is precisely the aspect which the Corporate system develops into a smoothly working structure of industrial government. To this end, no other concrete policy has yet been developed.
The first principle is to absorb, and use, the elements which are useful and beneficial. In this respect Fascism differs profoundly from its opponent, Communism, which pursues class warfare to the destruction of all science, skill and managerial ability; until, when it begins to find its feet, it has to buy these same qualities at enormous cost from foreign nations. This precisely describes the course of events in Russia. The first task of Leninism was to destroy, to root up every tree in the garden – whether good or bad – merely because it had been planted by the enemy. Then, when destruction had brought chaos on the heels of famine, there came a five-year plan of American conception, implemented by a nucleus of German and American technicians hired at immense expense.
Such is not the method of Fascism. Its achievement is revolution, but not destruction. Its aim is to accept and use the useful elements within the State, and so to weave them into the intricate mechanism of the Corporate system.
Whatever is good in the past we both respect and venerate. This is why, throughout the policy of the movement, we respect and venerate the Crown. Here, at least, is an institution, worn smooth with the frictions of long ago; which in difficult experience has been proven effective and has averted from this Empire many a calamity. We believe that, under the same impartial dispensation, the greatest constitutional change in British history may yet be peacefully achieved.
The same, however, cannot be said of the House of Lords, which is one of the unworkable anachronisms of the present system. In days gone by the Members of the Upper Chamber were in some ways exceptionally endowed with the qualities of Government. Their position had secured them education and their wealth had enabled them to travel – in these, and a mutltitude of other, ways they had the advantage of their contemporaries. They were hereditary landowners on a large scale, in days when the ownership of land was the only serious industrial responsibility which economic circumstance had created. Thus they spoke with authority in many matters with which others were less fitted to deal; and, so long as this went on, they were a fitting and indispensable branch of the law-giving body.
Their position was derived from the social inequalities of the period; and there is no social factor which time has more radically changed. As individuals, the Members of the House of Lords are neither better nor worse, richer nor poorer, wiser nor more foolish, than their colleagues in the Commons. Their only function is interference without responsibility. They have become hereditary automata, whose powers successive governments have found it necessary to truncate.
In the Corporate State, the House of Lords would be automatically superseded by the National Corporation, which would function as an effective Parliament of Industry. Thus we should abolish one form of legislative obstruction, and replace it with a pool of the country’s industrial and commercial experience.
Further, in the main body of Parliament industrial elements would receive a more direct and systematic recognition by the adoption of an occupational franchise. As things stand at present, there is nothing to prevent the electorate, supposedly all-wise, from electing a Parliament composed entirely of sugar brokers. Each might be an excellent candidate for whatever Party he chose to represent. He might well be affluent, genial and docile; a firm supporter of charity bazaars, a pillar of local football elevens, a regular contributor to the Party funds of his constituency. If, with all this, he kisses babies with a pretty grace, and promises reforms enough to impress the electors, he may well find himself in Parliament. If enough sugar brokers did it, there is no reason at all why the whole of Parliament should not be sugar brokers: but this would scarcely fit them for the task of discussing a Bill dealing with the complexities of unemployment administration in a northern industrial town. In fact, the unemployed might expect to fare rather badly.
This is an exaggeration; but the like of it, in miniature, happens at every election. Electors vote on general considerations of policy, which they cannot understand, since the facts are not fully before them. This is no fault in the newspapers, and it implies no secrecy in the government of the day. The truth is, simply, that the issues behind every political decision are far too complicated to set before the public. The result is that elections are fought in a welter of journalistic catchwords – Three Acres and a Cow, Tax Fortunes, not Food, Safety First, and even Hang the Kaiser.
This is a travesty of democratic law-giving. The first essential is a well-informed electorate; and a man is better informed in his own job than he is in the complicated issues of politics. For this reason, the majority of Members of Parliament will be elected on an occupational, rather than a residential, basis. An engineer shall vote as an engineer; and thus bring into play, not an amateur knowledge of foreign and domestic politics, but a life-long experience of the trade in which he is engaged. He will vote in common with others of similar experience, and will give the reasoned decision of a technician in his particular trade in a choice between members of that trade.
It would always be necessary to elect a proportion of Members of Parliament on general grounds of national policy by the exercise of a general franchise; but the relative smallness of their number, and the greater size of their constituencies, would lift such national membership from the parochial to the national sphere. In such conditions, candidates could only expect to be elected by reason of conspicuous gifts, and not on the grounds of mere parochial appeal. The number of nationally elected MPs would be reduced, but their quality would be raised. Such electoral principles are designed, not to limit the powers of electors, but rather to increase their real power by enabling them to give a well-informed vote.
The danger of our present system is the fact that it brings itself too easily into contempt. Nobody, nowadays, expects election promises to be fulfilled. Governments are elected on the strength of their appeal to passion or to sentiment. Once in office they promptly resign their effective power in favour of the great interests within the State, but yet superior to the State, who exercise their power in secret. The increasingly technical nature of all problems in an economic age has made it difficult or impossible to explain the real issues to the electorate as a whole. The division between daily politics and the reality of Government has become ever greater. The technician has become ever more enchained by the passion, the prejudice and the folly of uninstructed politics.
By such a system as we advocate, the technician, who is the architect of our industrial future, is freed for his task. He is given the mandate for that task by the informed franchise of his colleagues in his own industry. A vote so cast will be the result of experience and information. Is not this in fact rationalised democracy? Is not this system preferable to the solemn humbug of present elections, which assumes that the most technical problems of modern government, ranging from currency management to the evolution of a scientific protective system, can be settled by a few days’ loose discussion in the turmoil of a General Election?
The ordinary man would greatly resent such treatment of the facts of his daily industry and life. If someone strolled into an engineering shop and, after five minutes’ cursory examination of an intricate process which the engineer had studied all his life, proceeded to tell him how to do it, the engineer would quickly tell the intruder he was a presumptuous ass. Yet these are the methods which our present electoral system applies to that most intricate and technical of processes, the government of a civilised State.
Rationalised democracy, as well as rationalised industry, has become an imperative necessity. The Corporate State provides the only known solution to the problem. Our electoral system has become a farce, worse even than in the days of bribed elections and pocket boroughs. As it is organised at present, our system of government lacks the calibre to carry us out of trade depression and set Britain again on top of the world. As time goes on, the world crisis may possibly diminish; but even in that event we are not organised to emerge in a position comparable with our former prosperity. After the crisis of 1921 – a crisis far less severe than that of 1932 – we did not recover even the semblance of our old prosperity; government must be rationalised, if we are to avoid a repetition of the last decade of unhappy history. On the other hand, if the clouds of depression do not lift, and the State remains unrationalised, there is a very real danger that the farce will be recognised as such, and that the country will turn – and turn violently – to the catastrophic remedies of Communism.
The moral and social law and convention of Britain provide the most startling of all contrasts with the Briton’s strange illusion that he is free. The plain fact is that the country is hag-ridden. In no other civilised country, except perhaps in the United States, has the individual so little freedom of action.
We live on public anarchy and private repression: we should have public organisation and private liberty. We are taught that it is an outrage to interfere with the individual in his public capacity as producer, financier or distributor – though, if he uses his powers badly, his anti-social conduct may damage tens of thousands of his fellow-citizens. But we are taught to interfere with every detail of his private life, in which sphere he can damage no one but himself, or at most his immediate surroundings. A man may be sent to prison for having a shilling bet on a horse race. But he can have a tremendous bet on the stock market, and live honoured and respected as a pillar of industrial finance. He may damage the whole life of the nation in the capacity of capitalist or trade union leader, but he may not even risk the slightest damage to himself by obtaining a drink after the appointed hour!
We are treated as a nation of children; every item of social legislation is designed, not to enable the normal person to live a normal life, but to prevent the decadent from hurting himself. At every point the private liberty of the individual is invaded by busybody politicians who have grossly mismanaged their real business – which is the public life of an organised nation.
It is, of course, a simpler task for limited intelligences to keep public houses closed than to keep factories open. The politician, conscious perhaps of his own limitations, turns naturally to a sphere with which he is more familiar. The result is the creation of a political system which is precisely the reverse of what a political system should be. In the public affairs of national life we have disorder and anarchy: in the private affairs of individual life we have interference and repression.
It is scarcely even anarchy; it is a laughable form of organised humbug, which has made us the mock of every civilised country. The whole system is the child of that same mentality which has transformed Parliament into a bleating of ineffective sheep; which blundered into the War, the Peace, the Debt-Settlement, and the Financial Crisis. It is the by-product of age, struggling with a problem for which it feels itself unequal; and, as such, it is a supreme challenge to youth and realism.
The Fascist principle is Liberty in private, Obligation in public life. In his public capacity a man must behave as befits a citizen and a member of the State; his actions must conform to the interests of the State, which protects and governs him and guarantees his personal freedom. In private he may behave as he likes. Provided he does not interfere with the freedom and enjoyment of others, his conduct is a matter between himself and his own conscience.
But there is one condition. The State has no room for the drone and the decadent, who use their leisure to destroy their capacity for public usefulness. In our morality it is necessary to “live like athletes” to fit ourselves for the career of service which is the Fascist idea of citizenship. To all moral questions the acid test is first social and secondly scientific. If an action does not harm the State, or other citizens of the State, and is it leaves the doer sound in mind and body, it cannot then be morally wrong. This test over-rides all considerations of religion, prejudice and inherited doctrines which, at present, obscure the mind of man.
We detest the decadence of excess as much as we despise the decadence of repression. An ordered athleticism of mind and body is the furthest aim of justly enforceable morality. And even for the enforcement of this we would rely on the new social sense, born of a modern renaissance, rather than upon legislation. The law arrests the occasional drunkard; but it does not touch the tippler, the weakling and the degenerate.
In our ordered athleticism of life we seek, in fact, a morality of the Spartan pattern. But this must be more than tempered with the Elizabethan atmosphere of Merrie England. The days before the victory of Puritan repression coincided with the highest achievements of British virility and constructive adventure. The men who carried the British flag to the furthest seas were far from hag-ridden in their private lives. The companions of their leisure hours were neither D.O.R.A. nor Mrs Grundy
We know that happiness, no less than fitness, is a social and political asset. The more gaiety and happiness in the ranks of those who grapple with the tasks of today, the better is it for the achievement of their mission. But all our gaiety of life and happiness in private things must contribute to, and not diminish, our power to serve the State. In practice we are glad to see a man on race course, on football stand, in theatre or in cinema during well-earned hours of leisure; and we do not mind in the least seeing him in a public house or club, provided that he is not there to excess, and does not there squander his health or his resources. In many things the distinction is between relaxation and indulgence. The latter becomes decadence, but the former contributes to healthy enjoyment, which in its turn contributes to efficiency and to service.
Therefore in asking our members to “live like athletes” we do not advocate the sterility of Puritanism and repression. We want men, not eunuchs, in our ranks, but men with a singleness of purpose which they order their lives to serve. Such morality is already accepted within our Movement, and its implications find an organised form. We expect our members to keep fit, not only in mind, but also in body, and for that reason have often been attacked as organising for physical violence. We shall certainly meet force with force; but this is not the motive of these activities. No man can be far sunk in degeneration so long as he excels, or even performs competently, in some branch of athletics. It is a part of the dedicated life of a new movement to maintain that constant training in mind and body which is readiness to serve when the time comes. In our own movement, in fact, we seek to create in advance a microcosm of a national manhood reborn.
Such is our morality, which we claim is the natural morality of British manhood; and from it follows hostility to the social repression and legislation of today, and to every achievement of our hag-ridden politics which is summarised in D.O.R.A. We seek to create a nationwide movement which will replace the legislation of old women by the social sense and the will to serve of young men. Every man shall be a member of the State, giving his public life to the State, but claiming in return his private life and liberty from the State, and enjoying it within the Corporate purpose of the State.
It has been suggested that hitherto, in our organisation, too little attention has been paid to the position of women. It is true that in our political organisation we have hitherto concentrated on the organisation of men. This was not because we under-rate the importance of women in the world; but because our political experiences have led us to the conclusion that the early stages of such organisation are a man’s job. We have, in fact, too much regard for women to expose them to the genialities of broken bottles and of razor blades with which our Communist opponents have conducted the argument. The part of women in our future organisation will be important, but different from that of the men; we want men who are men and women who are women.
In the political organisation of the Corporate State we envisage, however, a highly important part for women. Professional women and those engaged in industry would, of course, find their natural representation in the corporations which cover their industry and their profession. The greater question remains of the representation and organisation of the great majority of women who seek the important career of motherhood, and who have never yet been represented as such in any organisation.
To many the idea may seem fantastic, but the logic of the situation seems to demand some Corporate organisation and representation of motherhood. It is a truism to say that motherhood is one of the highest callings, and of the utmost importance to the State; why, therefore, should women not be accorded representation and organisation as mothers? Normal women have hitherto suffered greatly from the absence of representative organisation. Their representation has drifted into the hands of professional women politicians, irreverently described as the “Members for No Man’s Land”. Such women are perhaps adequately qualified to represent certain aspects of women’s life, but few of them have any claim to represent the mothers of the nation. Why should not the representation of motherhood be an organised force in the counsels of the State? The care of mother and of child is an integral part of the Fascist State, which regards itself, not only as the custodian of the present, but also, in far greater degree than the old Parties, as the custodian of the future.
There are many questions which are of primary interest to women, and which an organisation of this kind would go far to solve. Questions of housing, health and education in their widest application, come naturally within its sphere. And there remain matters of still wider political and social significance – on which the counsels of normal womanhood must be of the first importance.
The great majority of women do not seek, and have no time for, a career of politics. Their interests are consequently neglected, and their nominal representation is accorded to women whose one idea is to escape from the normal sphere of women and to translate themselves into men. That process in the end is never very effective, and the attempt makes such women even less qualified than the average man to deal with the normal questions of home and of children.
Consequently, the representation and organisation for the first time of normal women, on whom the future of the race depends, are a practical political necessity. Fascism, in fact, would treat the normal woman and mother as one of the main pillars of the State, and would rely upon her for the organisation and development of one of the most important aspects of national life.
Our foreign policy should also be the subject of a book in itself, but the main principles may here be stated very briefly.
The measures of national recosntruction already described involve automatically a change in our foreign policy. We should be less prone to anxious interference in everybody else’s affairs, and more concentrated on the resources of our own country and Empire. Wherever opportunity arose for furthering the interests of British trade, we should seize that chance, and to that end would reorganise the diplomatic and consular service. Henceforth their activities would be more directed to practical commercial questions, and less to the tangled skein of European politics and animosities. The mere fact of our internal concentration would tend to relieve us from some of our anxiety over, and participation in, the troubles and turmoils of the Continent.
This does not by any means imply that we would withdraw from the world scene and not exert ourselves in the cause of world peace. We would certainly use all existing machinery to that end, including the machinery of the League of Nations. We do not believe that this machinery, as at present constituted, is effective. But the Fascist method is not to destroy, but to use and transform existing machinery for different ends.
It must never be forgotten that the League of Nations is a piece of machinery, and not a human entity. Like other machines, it is subject to the will of those who operate it. Hitherto the drivers of that machine have driven it in a direction, and worked it in a way, which we consider to be usually futile and often dangerous; but, as realists, we are not prepared on that account to seek the destruction of the machine. Rather we seek, by different methods and direction, to use it for different purposes. Above all, in the deliberations of that body and in other international affairs, we should call a halt to the flabby surrender of every British interest which has characterised the past decade, and has reduced this nation to the position of a meddlesome old lady holding the baby for the world. We should seek peace and conciliation with every nation, but we do not believe that every bad debt of mankind should be liquidated with a cheque signed by Britain.
In matters of armaments, we should be prepared to take the lead in disarmament proposals, provided they were universal, and not confined to this country. We would not consent to a unilateral reduction which would render Britain helpless in the menacing dangers of the present world.
On the other hand, with the best possible expert advice we would radically overhaul our present system of defence. It is a strange mind which meticulously contends for exact parity in every naval category with a friendly power like America, which is more than three thousand miles away, but is willing to accept a two-and-a-half to one inferiority in the air from another friendly power which is only twenty miles away. We would submit to the analysis of scientific examination, rather than to sentiment, the whole question of Imperial defence, which we believe today to be guided by vested interests and tradition as much as by the ascertained requirements of defence in modern conditions.
The arrival of the air factor has altered fundamentally the position of these islands, and the consequences of that factor have never yet been realised by the older generation of politicians. In the same realistic spirit we would examine the defence of our trade routes. Is it, for instance, a fact that the Mediterranean, and consequently the Suez Canal, can be closed against us by a combination of air and submarine attack on the narrow seas? If so, our main route to India can be closed. If it be a fact – and here I cannot claim to speak as an expert – that the canal route can thus be closed, we should not be creating political complications for ourselves in Egypt, but should rather be engaged in fortifying islands on the Cape route to India.
These are not questions which can be determined by the amateur: but they are questions which we suspect are today being settled by tradtiion rather than by scientifice inquiry into modern facts.
In such a study as this, covering much ground that is entirely novel, and demanding space for that purpose, it is impossible to deal with foreign policy in terms other than the general.
In general, we should seek peace and conciliation, and are prepared to take the lead in these subjects. Too long has Britain, even in this sphere, been a hesitant attendant on other nations.
Our main policy, quite frankly, is a policy of Britain First, but our very preoccupation with internal reconstruction is some guarantee that at least we shall never pursue the folly of an aggressive Imperialism. It will never be necessary to stimulate the steady temper of Britain in the task of rebuilding our own country by appeals to flamboyant national sentiment in foreign affairs. We shall mind our own business, but we will help in the organisation of world peace as part of that business.
The case advanced in these pages covers, not only a new political policy, but also a new conception of life. In our view, these purposes can only be achieved by the creation of a modern movement invading every sphere of national life. To succeed, such a movement must represent the organised revolt of the young manhood of Britain against things as they are. The enemy is the “Old Gang” of our present political system. No matter what their Party label, the old parliamentarians have proved themselves to be all the same; no matter what policy they are elected to carry out, their policy when elected is invariably the same. That policy is a policy of subservience to sectional interests and of national lethargy.
At the end of the War, they found Britain raised by the efforts of the young generation to a pinnacle of power and of greatness. Their rule of fourteen years has surrendered that position, and has reduced this country, at home and abroad, to a low and dangerous condition. Again we raise the standard of youth and challenge that betrayal. The first attempt was the formation of the New Party in 1931, which attracted a powerful body of adherents throughout the country. From the outset, the New Party met with a concentrated attack of organised misrepresentation and ridicule from the old Parliamentarians and the Press of the great vested interests by which they are served. As a result, its policy and aims were never known or discussed by the public.
It was temporarily overwhelmed in the General Election of October 1931 by the last great bluff of the Old Gangs in the formation of a National Government. A blank cheque was given by the electorate to a government of “united muttons”, which openly combined, for the first time, every failure of post-war politics. Every Old Gang politician deserted his particular variety of sinking ship, and scrambled aboard the new lifeboat. Only the rump of Labour leadership was left behind – a collection of men whose intellectual calibre was deemed by their late colleagues unworthy of inclusion in the new combination.
The National Government had no programme when they started, and they have no programme today. Their leaders had not foreseen the crisis of 1931 until it overwhelmed them, and indeed derided its possibility; but the public was assured that our troubles would automatically be overcome by the mere fact of the new combination of the old forces. The crisis, as well as the heart of the electorate, was to melt before the sudden embraces of a few old gentlemen who had spent the previous half-century in abusing each other.
Unfortunately, facts are sterner than the emotions of democracy. They have soon proved that some further action was required than has emerged as yet from the Old Gang honeymoon.
In such an atmosphere, every appeal to though, to reason, to effort and to action was naturally defeated. Our constructive programme was derided and dismissed, only later to be adopted in part by the National Government – but in so small a degree, so tardily and in such muddled fashion as to render it entirely ineffective.
For all this we make no complaint whatsoever; such experience is merely the classic first phase of a Modern Movement. Actually we fared far better at our first attempt than any of the modern movements which have been founded and which have come to power in other countries since the War. The Italian Fascists were more utterly defeated in the election of 1919, about three years before they came into power. Their leader polled only 5,000 votes against the 100,000 of his Old Gang opponent – a result only some 20%, as good as that which I was afforded by the people of Stoke-on-Trent in the election of 1931.
If we turn to the case of the German Nazis, we find that they were routed again and again by national combinations of the Old Gang before they approached power.
It is only natural that nations in crisis should seek the easy and the normal way of escape. It is only natural that they should trust the well-known and venerable figures in politics until these are found unworthy of trust and unsuitable to a dynamic age. Only then, with the new determination born of despair, great nations turn to new forces and to new men.
The first result of crisis in every nation has always been a national combination of “the united muttons”. Only after their failure, the modern movement begins its inevitable advance. The aim of such a movement must be revolutionary in the fundamental changes which it seeks to secure. But all these changes can be achieved by legal and by peaceful means, and it is our ardent desire so to secure them. Whether they will be thus achieved depends, chiefly, upon the rapidity with which new ideas are accepted in this country.
To drift much longer, to muddle through much further, is to run the risk of collapse. In such a situation, new ideas will not come peacefully; they will come violently, as they have come elsewhere. In the final economic crisis to which neglect may lead, argument, reason, persuasion, vanish – and organised force alone prevails. In such a situation, the eternal protagonists in the history of all modern crises must struggle for the mastery of the State. Either Fascism or Communism emerges victorious; if it be the latter, the story of Britain is told.
Anyone who argues that in such a situation the normal instruments of government, such as police and army, can be used effectively, has studied neither the European history of his own time nor the realities of the present situation. In the highly technical struggle for the modern State in crisis, only the technical organisations of Fascism and of Communism have ever prevailed, or, in the nature of the case, can ever prevail. Governments and Parties which have relied on the normal instruments of government (which are not constituted for such purposes) have fallen easy and ignoble victims to the forces of anarchy. If, therefore, such a situation arises in Britain, we shall prepare to meet the anarchy of Communism with the organised force of Fascism; but we do not seek that struggle, and for the sake of the nation we desire to avert it. Only when we see the feeble surrender to menacing problems, the fatuous optimism which again and again has been disproved, the spineless drift towards disaster, do we feel it necessary to organise for such a contingency.
Action, even now, might avert it; but can anyone, after an experience of post-war politics, hope for such action from existing political parties, from the men who lead them, or, indeed, from the existing political system? The whole constitution, composition, tradition, psychology and outlook of the older political parties inhibit them from facing the problems of the modern age. Nothing has yet overcome the modern problem in other countries, or in our view can overcome it in this country, except that phenomenon of the modern period, which is the modern movement of organised Fascism.
It is often urged strongly upon me that I could find acceptance for many of the ideas set out in this book within one of the existing parties, and that it is folly to attempt the great labour of creating new machinery for purposes which could be achieved by existing machinery.
Such an argument betrays a complete misunderstanding of the problem and the history of this period. It would have been equally futile to tell an Italian Fascist that he could achieve the renaissance of Italy through the Parliament of Giolitti, or a German Nazi that he should cease his struggle and should seek to persuade the opponents whose failure created the necessity for his organisation. New ideas have never come, in the modern world, except from the new and organised reality.
In Great Britain, salvation has not come, in fourteen years, from the old parties, and it will not come. They are not alive to crisis; they are not organised to meet it; and their mind and psychology are unsuited to it. We cannot compromise with them, for “their ways are not our ways and their gods are not our gods.”
It is true that within the old parties and even within the old Parliament are many young men whose real place is with us, and who sympathise with our ideas. The real political division of the past decade has not been a division of parties, but a division of generations. At any time in the past few years it would have been possible to form a government of broadly homogeneous ideas from the men over 50 years of age, and a corresponding government from the men under 50 years of age. It was left to the older generation to demonstrate the truth of this view in the formation of the National Government.
In the case of the younger generation, the machinery of Party Government, which is controlled by the old, has made any such development impossible. The power of that party machine has crushed all attempts to secure a natural alignment in British politics. Nevertheless, within all political parties potential Fascists are to be found – among young men who are well known in party politics, and still more among the rank and file.
Before we can draw such support, which would mean the collapse of the old political system and the achievement of a new national unity, we have to advance much further on the road to victory. We have to discover, as we have already discovered, new men, and we have to create a new force from nothing except the will of the mass of the people to victory.
It is thus that every Fascist movement has arrived at power – not by combinations of men drawn from the old political system, but by the discovery of new men who come from nowhere, and by the creation of a new force which is free from the trammels of the past. Except for a few leading figures who broke from the old political system and staked all on the creation of the new, the makers of Fascism in all countries had never been heard of before the arrival of that movement.
For our purposes, therefore, we cannot rely on well-known names and figures. Few of them will take the risks of so great an adventure as the creation of a modern movement, and we cannot expect them to take those risks. If we are to be true to our faith, we must ourselves take risks which most men will not take, and must stake our all on a mission which in its early stages must be lonely.
In the coming struggle, we shall have the imposing things of the world against us, and much of its material strength. The great names of politics, the power of party machinery and Press, will oppose us with a concentrated barrage of misrepresentation, or with a well-organised boycott, as they have opposed us in the past and as they opposed all such movements as this in every country. But we have on our side forces which have carried such movements to victory throughout the world. We have in unison in our cause the economic facts and the spiritual tendencies of our age. These are the forces which in so many countries in recent history have smashed all the pomp and panoply of the old political systems and have enthroned new creeds in power.
Britain is different, we are told (and certainly we invite Britain to do things in a different way). Germany was different from Italy, they said a short time ago, and they were right in that the gulf between the Latin and the Teuton is greater than the gulf which separates either of them from the Englishman. But in the hour of crisis that phenomenon of the modern age, which is an organised Fascist movement, leapt the gulf between Latin and Teuton and reappeared in an almost identical form.
Fascism today has become a worldwide movement, invading every country in the hour of crisis as the only alternative to a destructive Communism. We must remember that, in the long course of history, all great movements which swept the Continent have come in the end to these shores. They have come, but in very different form and character. We, too, seek to create the Modern Movement in Britain in a form very different from Continental forms, with characteristics which are peculiarly British and in a manner which will strive to avoid the excesses and the horrors of Continental struggle.
Whether these aims can be realised depends upon whether Britain will wake soon or late. Can we again show the political genius which translated the great movement that ravaged the Continent at the end of the eighteenth century into the sanity and the balance of the forces which later carried the Reform Bill in Britain, and which no other country could have conceived or have produced? The new order, which was born on the Continent amid a welter of blood, was then brought to birth in Britain by a method and by a policy which were characteristic of our ordered greatness. Why then, we ask, should the arrival – and the inevitable arrival – of the great forces of the new age in Britain be heralded by violence? Has Britain still the political wisdom and the national determination to avert it? Is the appeal to reason to be all in vain? Must we drift helplessly to the arbitrament of force?
For our part, we appeal to our countrymen to take action while there is time, and to carry the changes which are necessary by the legal and constitutional methods which are available. If, on the other hand, every appeal to reason is futile in the future, as it has been in the immediate past, and this Empire is allowed to drift until collapse and anarchy supervene, we shall not shrink from that final conclusion, and will organise to stand between the State and ruin.
We are accused of organising to promote violence. That accusation is untrue. It is true that we are organised to protect our meetings as far as possible from violence; and very necessary that organisation has proved in practice. Already in this country we have a condition in which free speech is a thing of the past. The leaders of the old political parties creep in by back doors, under police protection, to well-ticketed meetings which would otherwise be broken up by the organised violence of Socialist and Communist extremists. We have thrown open our meetings to the public, and after the meetings we have exercised the Englishman’s right to walk through the streets of our great cities. When we have been attacked, we have hit back, and as a result I have been subject to the farce of being summoned to a police court for assault by Reds who came to break up our meetings by force; and who ran howling, when counter-force was employed, for the protection of the police and the law which they had previously derided.
The great majority of our meetings, even in the early days, were peaceful. In fact, although little else appeared in the Press, only two out of some hundred meetings which I addressed at the Election ended in a fight; and the return visit, even to Glasgow, was strangely peaceful. Nevertheless, when we are confronted by red terror, we are certainly organised to meet force by force, and will always do our utmost to smash it. The bully of the streets has gone too long unchallenged. We shall continue to exercise the right of free speech, and will do our utmost to defend it.
Emphatically, this does not mean that we seek violence. On the contrary, we seek our aims by methods which are both legal and constitutional, and we appeal to our country, by taking action in time, to avert the possibility of violence. If the situation of violence is to be averted, the Old Gang Government must be overthrown and effective measures must be adopted before the situation has gone too far. The enemy today is the Old Gang of present parliamentarianism. The enemy of tomorrow, if their rule persists much longer, will be the Communist Party. The Old Gangs are the architects of disaster, the Communists only its executors. Not until the Old Gangs have muddled us to catastrophe can Communists really operate; so, in the first place, the enemy is the Old Gang, and the objective is the overthrow of their power. To achieve this by constitutional means will entail at a later stage a bid for parliamentary power. In a superficial paradox, it will be necessary for a modern movement which does not believe in Parliament, as at present constituted, to seek to capture Parliament. To us, Parliament will never be an end in itself, but only a means to an end; our object is not political place-holding, but the achievement of national reconstruction.
However, the time for elections and for Parliament has not yet come. First it is necessary to build a movement invading every phase of national life and carrying everywhere the Corporate conception. In the first instance, we probably made a mistake in contesting parliamentary elections before we had created such a machine. It is a mistake which we have made in common with all new movements which have come to power in Europe since the War. In all cases the phase of ridicule and defeat has to be passed; indeed, it is the test of a movement’s vitality. In the beginning the Old Gangs carry the day – as light-heartedly as Remus leapt over the half-built walls of Rome.
Whether our British Union of Fascist Parties will arrive at power through our parliamentary system, or whether it will reach power in a situation far beyond the control of Parliament, no one can tell. The solution of that question will depend on two incalculable factors:
If the situation develops rapidly, and the public mind develops slowly, something like collapse may occur before any new movement has captured parliamentary power.
In that case, other and sterner measures must be adopted for the saving of the State in a situation approaching anarchy. Such a situation will be none of our seeking. In no case shall we resort to violence against the forces of the Crown; but only against the forces of anarchy if, and when, the machinery of state has been allowed to drift into powerlessness. Strangely enough, such an eventuality is probably a lesser menace, when the character of the British people is considered, than the possibility of a long, slow decline which is so imperceptible that the national will to action is not aroused. In crisis the British are at their best; when the necessity for action is not clear, they are at their worst. It is possible that we may not come to any clearly marked crisis: and here arises a still greater danger. The industrial machine is running on two cylinders instead of six. A complete breakdown would be a stronger incentive to action than the movement, however cumbrous, of a crippled machine. So long as there is movement of any kind, however inadequate, there is always a lazy hope of better things. The supreme danger is that Britain may sink, almost in her sleep, to the position of a Spain – alive, in a sense, but dead to all sensee of greatness and to her mission in the world.
In a situation of so many and such diverse contingencies nobody can dogmatise upon the future. We cannot say with certainty when catastrophe will come, nor whether it will take the form of a sharp crisis or of a steady decline to the status of a second rate Power. All that we can say with certainty is that Britain cannot muddle on much longer without catastrophe, or the loss of her position in the world. Against either contingency it is our duty to arouse the nation. To meet either the normal situation of political action, or the abnormal situation of catastrophe, it is our duty to organise. Therefore, while the principles for which we fight can be clearly described in a comprehensive system of politics, of economics and of life, it would be folly to describe precisely in advance the road by which we shall attain them. A great man of action once observed: “No man goes very far who knows exactly where he is going,” and the same observation applies with some force to modern movements of reality in the changing situations of today.
We ask those who join us to march with us in a great and hazardous adventure. We ask them to be prepared to sacrifice all, but to do so for no small and unworthy ends. We ask them to dedicate their lives to building in this country a movement of the modern age, which by its British expression shall transcend, as often before in our history, every precursor of the Continent in conception and in constructive achievement.
We ask them to rewrite the greatest pages of British history by finding for the spirit of their age its highest mission in these islands. Neither to our friends nor to the country do we make any promises; not without struggle and ordeal will the future be won. Those who march with us will certainly face abuse, misunderstanding, bitter animosity, and possibly the ferocity of struggle and of danger. In return, we can only offer to them the deep belief that they are fighting that a great land may live.
Tags: Oswald Mosley