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Oswald Mosley, My Life

MosleyMyLife [1]2,216 words

Oswald Mosley
My Life [2]
London: Black House Publishing Ltd., 2012

Black House Publishing [3] is a new venture among a growing number of Anglophone publishers of high quality material of interest to Rightists. Many of the books at the moment are from the pre and post-war Mosley movements. However, there is a growing catalogue, with intentions to publish material from a variety of sources.

Thomas Nelson and Sons first published Sir Oswald Mosley’s autobiography My Life in 1968. As a fourteen year old in 1970 I read the book with much interest insofar as here were the varied and long life experiences and thoughts of a man who had formed a movement in Britain, emulating Mussolini’s Fascism, which Mosley termed “the modern movement.” Having a couple of years previously, while still at primary school, read Roy MacGregor-Hastie’s biography of Mussolini, The Day of the Lion: The Life and Death of Fascist Italy 1922-1945 [4], in which the author alluded to his discussions on Fascism with Mosley, William Dudley Pelley et al., I was fascinated to read how an up-and-coming young English politician with a hereditary title had become a “Fascist.”

Black House Publishing’s new edition is of added interest, having included illustrations most of which are different from the 1968 edition. BHP’s edition has been printed with the support of the Friends of Oswald Mosley and The Mosley Estate.

Mosley does not attempt to whitewash, repudiate, or excuse his pre-war Fascism. Despite what has been called by one television documentary as A Fall like Lucifer (1975) the man that political commentators and historians agree could have become the greatest Prime Minister of Britain for Labour, Conservative, or Liberal parties, does not show the slightest regret for abandoning the Establishment to which he was so well-connected and born into, and eventually making himself a pariah among many (but not all) in High Society, and finally spending the war years in jail under Defence Regulation 18B along with about 800 other “Mosleyites,” including his wife Diana.

For Mosley, as a man of principle, there was no choice. He believed in the patriotism supposedly represented by the Conservative Party and Socialism supposedly represented by the Labour Party. Hence, he regarded himself as a patriotic socialist, and above all, like masses of servicemen in many lands, returned from the war expecting a “land fit for heroes,” and seeing instead Slump and Depression. Mosley was most influenced by the British economist John M. Keynes and believed in the efficacy of great public works and state investment to get the economy going. As a junior Minister for unemployment, after his “Birmingham Proposals” developed through 1920-1930, had been rejected (pp. 186-200) Mosley resigned from Labour in 1930 (pp. 258-274) and formed the New Party in March 1931, which included some Labour stalwarts such as John Strachey, C. E. M. Joad and Harold Nicolson (pp. 294-97). The experiences with the New Party brought Mosley to Fascism. He was regarded as a traitor to the Labour movement, and his meetings faced violent Red opposition. Already he had decided to defend his meetings from violent disruption with the British way: fists (as distinct form the Leftist way of razor blades and coshes). The Jewish boxing champion Kid Lewis trained young men in boxing.

From the New Party experiences Mosley’s evolution towards Fascism becomes understandable. “Patriotic socialism” combined with fists in the face of Red opposition is something that Mussolini himself had experienced, albeit in more violent form. Like Mussolini and Fascists in other states, Mosley had also been deeply and lastingly affected by World War I, and was to refer to the “socialism of the trenches.” He, like Fascists elsewhere, believed that if citizens of a nation could be united across class lines in a great national effort for war, then the same could be done during peace for a great national effort to cure unemployment and other maladies and return one’s nation to greatness.

Mosley explains that he became a Fascist (pp. 298-332, “British Union of Fascists”) because the New Party had been crushed, and a National Government came to power which comprised men whom Mosley “knew from bitter experience would do nothing except hasten the gradual decline of our country” (p. 298). He saw that while Fascism took entirely different forms in different countries, the conditions were the same, and that he had already discovered these experiences leading to Fascism, in the New Party. The Black Shirt was the answer to the Red violence that the New Party had encountered (pp. 299, 301). The police had been unwilling to keep order (p. 305).

As for the program of British Fascism, it had already been created during Mosley’s time as a Labour Member of Parliament (p. 305). Hence, Mosley raised the Fascist banner (originally a Fasces, but soon supplanted by a lightning-bolt within a circle, signifying “unity and action”) and founded the BUF in 1932. A large headquarters and barracks were set up in London, and mobile squads could be dispatched within short notice in armored vans.

The BUF possibly reached a high point of 50,000 in its first year with the backing of the Rothermere Press, according to some estimates, and this is said to have fallen very quickly to as low as 5,000 after the Press Baron, who regarded the BUF as the militant wing of the Conservative Party, withdrew support. Mosley however insists that the movement continued to grow, right up until 1939, and support was not greatly affected by the banning of the Black Shirt by the Public Order Act in 1936, intended to handicap the movement in keeping order in the face of Leftist thuggery. The lack of a uniform did, however, impact the hitherto impressive discipline among the Fascist ranks (p. 329), which in turn fed the myth of Fascist violence. (A picture of Communist weapons used on Black Shirts appears on page 309. It might be recalled here that William Joyce had already been deeply scarred across the face with a razor blade at a meeting of the pre-BUF British Fascisti during the 1920s.) Indeed, the myth that the Mosley movement was steadily declining from the year of its conception is repudiated by the votes the BUF candidates achieved in the London County Council Elections of 1937, although the restricted franchise excluded many potential BUF voters (p. 330). Another evidence of the growth rather than decline of support for Mosley was the continuing numbers at his meetings, the last before the outbreak of the war in 1939 being the biggest indoor rally in the world, held at Earls Court.

Chapter 17 comprises a discussion on “The Ideology of Fascism.” Mosley was influenced by Spengler’s concept of Caesarism explained in The Decline of the West as the last stage of a Civilization before it declines. Mosley believed that the “new facts of science,” combined with a revival of authority to act could not only interrupt the decline and death of a Civilization, as per Spengler, but reverse the decline and redirect the Civilization to new heights of greatness. “The Union of a Caesarian movement with science seemed to me at once the prime requirement of the modern age and the answer to the ultimate fatality predicted by Spengler” (p. 342). However, “modern Caesarism” should not rely on one individual, as “Modern organisation is too vast and too complex to rest on any individual alone, however gifted. Modern Caesarism, like all things modern is collective.” What Mosley explains is an organic state, where each individual fulfils a function for the benefit of the whole (p. 343).

His thinking on this was augmented by his meeting the Scottish economist and philosopher Alexander Raven Thomson (p. 351), who stayed with the Mosley movement until his premature death in the 1950s. Thomson, educated at Scottish and German universities, was the leading advocate of the Corporate state in Britain, according to Mosley. Thomson authored the primary policy document of the BUF on the subject, The Coming Corporate State, which is also available from Black House Publishing. Mosley explains the Corporate State, which he saw having its rudimentary precursor in his own Labour proposal in 1930 for a National Council (p. 353).

Mosley continues with chapters on anti-Semitism and Jewish opposition to the BUF, his meetings with Hitler and Mussolini, and why he opposed the war, chief among which was a war veteran’s determination to prevent Europeans slaughtering each other again, a major motivation for English author Henry Williamson’s support for Mosley which never wavered. Mosley’s campaign until he was jailed featured the slogans “Mind Britain’s business, “Britons fight for Britain only,” and “Live to fight, not fight to live.” Hence, in this respect his doctrine was fundamentally different from the glorification of war that premised some forms of Fascism elsewhere. The moral revival born of struggle, Mosley held, could be channelled into a new pioneering, heroic spirit within the development of the British Empire.

After being imprisoned for most of the war, he and Diana were allowed passports in 1949. During his imprisonment Mosley had spent his time reading and contemplating. What fermented was a post-Fascist, pan-European doctrine summarised in the slogan “Europe a Nation.” They traveled to France, Gibraltar, Italy, and Spain, the latter visit motivated by his desire to pay respects before the tomb of martyred Falangist leader José Antonio Primo de Rivera, whom he had met once at BUF HQ and who had “made a deep impression on me, and his assassination seemed to me to be one of the saddest tragedies of Europe” (p. 445). They returned to England to farm in Wiltshire, and after a few years moved to live in Ireland.

Mosley sought to immerse himself in Europe and to become a “European.” He regarded the chauvinistic orientation of pre-war and wartime Fascism as a tragedy that had helped lead to war. He believed that had there really been a “Fascist International,” as some had alleged, war might have been averted. In the British context the Empire had been set on a course for scuttle, and “Europe a Nation,” together with a doctrine of developing Africa, worked out with Oswald Pirow, former defense minister of South Africa, offered young Europeans the prospect of directing the spirit of adventure, heroism, and sacrifice into building a new and greater European civilization that would harness sub-Saharan Africa, while maintaining amiable relations with North Africa.

This was the “Faustian” spirit that Spengler had spoken of and that had profoundly impressed Mosley while reading Goethe’s Faust in German while in prison. Mosley published an English translation after the war, for which he wrote the Introduction. Mosley during and after war the developed the theory of “Higher Forms,” the continued evolution of European Man, not through eugenics, but through a synthesis of the Faustian of Goethe and Spengler, a will-to-power that combined Shaw with Nietzsche and Lamarck. Mosley explains this concept of “Higher Forms” in other books, in particular Europe: Faith and Plan [5], also available from BHP.

Immediately after the war, Mosleyites began forming groups and in particular “Mosley Reading Clubs.” A small, four page Mosley Newsletter was issued. In February 1948, these groups came together and Union Movement was formed around the “Post-War European Idea” (chapter 23). While the uniforms were gone, the old lightning-flash insignia and the pre-war banners reappeared on the streets of England, with drums announcing the return of Mosley, who had lost none of his old fire.

Mosley did not only not reject his pre-war associations, but actively cultivated them anew, stating that the young SS veterans were now among the most passionate devotees of “Europe a Nation” (p. 465). In 1962 a conference was held in Venice, where the “Europe Declaration” was drafted by delegates of various European movements, establishing a National Party of Europe (p. 459). The Ten Point program is included in the book. On page 461 there is a photograph of Mosley seated at a round table with delegates Jean Thiriart of Belgium, Adolf von Thadden of the Deutsche Reichspartei, and Lanfree of the Italian Social Movement, named after Mussolini’s redoubt, the Italian Social Republic (1943-1945), the movement having been formed by Republic veterans soon after the war. Other notable contacts included the German air ace Hans Rudel, whose autobiography, Stuka Pilot, Mosley published, with a Foreword by Douglas Bader, and the Foreword to the French edition written by French air ace Clostermann (p. 465).

While the rallies, street marches, and town hall meetings resumed, so did the Communist and Jewish thuggery, and one picture shows the 65-year-old Sir Oswald and Lady Diana outside court in 1962 with their son Max, after he had been acquitted for “threatening behaviour” when he had gone to the assistance of his father who was being beaten on the ground by a mob at the “battle of Ridley Road, East London” (pp. 482-83).

Here the book ends. During the 1970s Mosley retired to France while continuing to write and give interviews on the European idea. The Union Movement was maintained by a Directorate, continuing to put out Action under the editorship of Jeffrey Hamm (whose entertaining autobiography, Action Replay [6], is also available from BHP) and the Mosley Broadsheet, penned by Sir Oswald from France, each issue dealing with a single subject (reprinted as a book by BHP, covering the years 1970-1980). The hope endured that the system would collapse, and Mosley would be called upon to lead Britain within a united Europe. The Friends of Oswald Mosley, and the long-running League of Saint George, with Black House Publishing being a significant new endeavour, keep Mosley’s memory alive today.