I had a conversation the other day regarding the futility of trying to fit political stances into a neat left-right-centre scheme. Fascism provides a good example, in that although its ultimate outcome and over-all message is just about as right-wing as you can get, much of its rhetoric is couched in left-leaning, often socialist, terms. Trying to fit conservatism, which by definition wishes to preserve tradition, and fascism, which is revolutionary, into the same box by labelling them both "right wing" seems to me an exercise in label-obsessed pigeon-holing rather than accurate or useful description. (Libertarianism is another good example, though it's often a little unfairly tainted by an assumption that the version predominant in the US—fiscally conservative, anti-taxation, pro-capitalism—provides the only definition.)
That's part of the reason I wanted to post, by way of illustration, the pamphlet below, originally published by Oswald Mosley's British Union Of Fascists in 1933. Then Robert Nielsen at Whistling In The Wind put up a good article, How Fascism Takes Over, which I urge you to read, and which, by good fortune, this pamphlet provides a good illustration for.
Two birds, Gentle Reader, one illustrative stone!
Says Robert—and I agree:
Fascism begins by promising to make the country strong again, to restore pride. It wants to help, it wants to build a better country, it wants to improve your life. It wants to challenge a corrupt establishment and change a broken system. It wants to get people working again and get tough on crime. It doesn't present an image of violent thugs to you, instead it shows the face of ordinary respectable people, people just like you, who have had enough.
And the third reason I wanted to post a copy of the pamphlet; it was put up as a set of j-peg files on Hope Not Hate's site commemorating the eightieth anniversary of the Battle Of Cable Street. (Which I also heartily recommend to any who've not visited it, particularly those with an interest in the history of the fascist and anti-fascist movements, the history of the political build-up to the Spanish civil war and World War Two, and/or the kind of extremist politics which slithers into the spotlight in times—such as those we now live in—of prolonged economic slump.) Thing is though, I have a dislike of large chunks of text presented in picture format. They're neither searchable, nor easily quotable, nor easily rescaled, and, obviously, the text cant be made to reflow for wider or narrower windows. In short, as a digital medium intended to be read, they suck. So I produced, with the exception of the cover and fly-leaves, an all-text version. Which I present below.
Oh and fourthly? Well, far too much of it is far too scarily familiar.
So anyway, here's the pamphlet in question.
Well, not quite. There's a couple of things regarding the wording I'd like to mention.
Firstly, there's a kind of blurring of meaning in the use of the word "foreign(er(s))," between "non-British" and "not of the British Empire," so that at times it's not clear which is meant. I suspect it's a deliberate attempt to provide a smoke-screen of non-xenophobic respectability. Dog-whistle politics, nineteen-thirties-style. I could be wrong though; it could be that such distinctions would have been obvious from context to contemporary readers, to whom discussion of the Empire and its various peoples would have been normal and topical.
Secondly, a friend pointed out what seemed to them a silly usage of the word "scientifically:"
… great actions can be self-contained once they are organised and scientifically protected from the shocks and dislocations of world chaos.
So for anyone who's not run across such usage before, please note that though it's an out-dated usage now, at one time the word was used in common parlance as a synonym for "meticulous," or "painstaking." The sense is that great attention to detail would be paid when making policy. Which pretty-much contradicts the contention made several times that other groups (socialists, the then-present Parliament), by talking rather than just springing straight in to action, were wasting time and effort, but ho-hum—critiquing the trivialities and contradictory claims of long-dead bigots would be an exercise in flogging a positively skeletal horse.
So anyway, this time for real, here's the pamphlet in question. I'm not going to add any critique or discussion after it. See skeletal horses, flogging thereof, for one, and Robert Nielson's post, linked above, wherein he does an admirable job of pointing out its modern pertinence, for two. There's no point in me writing an essay which would be little more than a paraphrase of his. Just remember to take note of the number of points which, though mired in an ultra-right, xenophobic morass, seem definitely left-leaning, even socialist, when taken in isolation. (Though Mosley claims it isn't socialism—even the bits which patently are. Hell, there's even a sentence or two here and there which, if it could be torn loose from the sucking quagmire of bigotry, I could actually agree with.) Where do you place that on the oft-peddled straight-line, left-middle-right political yardstick?
Oh, and the cover. It may be trivial of me, but seeing that beautiful art deco font being used to promote all that ugliness… Damn Mosley, damn the man to Hell, I say!
(For those who actually like pdf files—why‽—I've made a version in that format for your downloading convenience.)
[Click picture to enbiggen]
[Click picture to enbiggen]
I. Patriotism and Revolution
FASCISM is a creed of patriotism and revolution. For the first time a strong movement emerges, which on the one hand is loyal to King and Country, and on the other hand stands for far-reaching and revolutionary changes in government, in economics, and in life itself. Hitherto, patriotism has been associated with those who wish to keep things as they are; revolution has been associated with a flabby internationalism which sets the interests of foreign countries before those of Britain. The watch-word of Fascism is "Britain First." We love our country, but we are determined to build a country worthy of that love. Things cannot remain as they are: we must have great changes to adapt modern Britain to modern fact. True patriotism finds expression for the first time in the revolution of Fascism.
THE first necessity of the day is action. Again and again, the people have voted for programmes of action. Again and again they have been betrayed by the existing parties and frustrated by the present system. Conservatives have tried to keep things as they are, and to maintain what they call the stability of the State. For the purpose of resisting change, they have appealed to loyalty and patriotism. But to resist change in an age when change is necessary, is to threaten the stability and safety of the State, and is the reverse of patriotism. Socialists, on the other hand, have talked of progress, but have sought it in the endless discussions of talkative committees. They have rejected and derided the great instruments of leadership and decision by which alone things can be done and progress can be achieved. So their talk of progress has ended in chaos and in flight from responsibility. Fascism combines progress with the executive instruments of loyalty, decision and voluntary discipline, by which alone things can be done and ordered progress can be secured. The true patriotism of Fascism will carry the changes that are necessary, by principles and by methods which bring change with order and efficiency.
III. Fascist Organisation
FASCISTS bind themselves together to serve their country in a voluntary discipline, because without discipline they realise that nothing can be done. The black shirts which they wear symbolise their determination to save the nation. They are not afraid to stand out from their fellows as men dedicated to the service and revival of their country. The wearing of the black shirt by our more active members breaks down all barriers of class within our ranks, for all are dressed alike.* The salute is the recognition of a brother Fascist who is inspired by the same passionate ideal of national service. Fascism, like every political creed this country has ever known, is common to all great countries, but Fascism is more in keeping with the British character than any other political faith. For the essence of Fascism is team-work, the power to pull together and to sink individual interests in the service of the nation. This we claim has been the leading characteristic of the British people at every great moment of our history.
*The wearing of the Blackshirt is not compulsory.
IV. Unemployment and the Modern Problem
FASCISM believes that the cause of the present world trouble of unemployment is the inability of the people to buy and to consume the goods which industry produces. Every day rationalisation and new scientific development enable industry to produce more goods with less labour. The power to produce increases, but the power to consume does not increase. In addition, Britain is faced with a particular problem because she is the greatest exporting nation in the world. Foreign markets are continually closing against us for the simple reason that other nations are now determined themselves to produce the goods which they consume.
V. Fascist Policy: The Corporate State
FASCISM solves the problem of unemployment and poverty by establishing the Corporate State. Industry will be divided into National Corporations governed by representatives of employers, workers and consumers, operating under Fascist government. The State will not attempt to conduct industry as it would under Socialism. Instead, the State will lay down the limits within which industry may operate, and those limits will be the national welfare. Private ownership will be permitted and encouraged, provided such activity enriches the nation as well as the individual. All interests which operate against the nation will be rigorously suppressed. The function of the Corporations will be to raise wages and salaries over the whole field of industry as science, rationalisation and industrial technique increase the power to produce. Consumption will be adjusted to production, and a Home Market will be provided by the higher purchasing power of our own people.
VI. The Export Trade
THE export trade will be supported by the Corporate system in the unification of our buying and selling arrangements abroad, which will enable industry to speak with one voice, and government for the first time to support our export trade. Our trade motto will be "Britain Buys from Those who Buy from Britain." We shall transfer elsewhere our purchases of foodstuffs and raw materials if those from whom we buy will not buy from us in return. By these means we will force the entry of our goods into markets now closed against us, until we have built a self-contained Empire which makes us independent of foreign markets.
VII. Fascist Empire
WE seek to build a Britain as far as possible self-contained, and an Empire completely self-contained. We seek to create a great area of the earth with a far higher standard of civilisation than prevails elsewhere, which is immune to the chaos of world struggle and collapse. For this purpose, Fascism will exclude Foreign goods. Tariffs are useless, because they tax the consumer without keeping out foreign goods which are the product of cheap slave labour in foreign countries. Within the Empire we can produce all manufactured goods, food-stuffs and raw materials which we require. Modern science enables us to do it in abundance, for we have passed from the economics of poverty to the economics of plenty, and great actions can be self-contained once they are organised and scientifically protected from the shocks and dislocations of world chaos. Such organisation will help to preserve the peace of this country and the world, for the prime cause of war is the international struggle for markets and raw materials supported by international finance. A self-contained Europe will be withdrawn from that struggle, and the risks of war will be diminished. Britons will not fight again except in defence of their own homes and Empire. Fascist movements now make progress in all the great Dominions, and are federated with the British Union Of Fascists in the New Empire Union.
VIII. Agriculture: A Fascist Three-Year Plan
FASCISM stresses the importance of reviving the great agricultural industry, which has been betrayed by all parties. At present we produce £280,000,000 per annum of our total food supplies in this country, and we import £220,000,000 worth from foreign countries, and £140,000,000 worth from the Dominions. Under a three-year plan, Fascism will nearly double the production of British agriculture by the total exclusion of foreign goods. We can raise home production to £500,000,000 a year, and yet give the Dominions under Fascist government a better market than they enjoy to-day. The prices of farming produce must be fixed in advance, and the profiteering middleman ruthlessly suppressed. The higher purchasing power of the industrial worker under Fascism will afford the farmer an economic price for his product and a living wage for his worker. The higher purchasing power of the farming population when agricultural production is increased will take the place of our vanishing foreign markets in buying many of the products of our present export trade. The countryside shall be restored to prosperity, and shall contribute a healthy, virile manhood to build the Greater Britain of the future.
IX. Aliens and International Finance
FASCISM alone will deal with the alien menace, because Fascism alone puts "Britain First." Under Fascism, no alien shall enter this country to take the jobs of Britons, and aliens already here who have abused the hospitality of this nation will be sent back whence they came. Fascism will deal, not only with the poor aliens who are here seeking jobs; Fascism will deal also with the great alien financiers of the City of London who use the financial power of Britain in the interests, not of this country, but of foreign countries. These men are the real alien menace, for by their foreign investments they are using British money to finance our competitors against us all over the world. The interest on the loans they have made to foreign countries come back to them in the shape of cheap goods which undercut our standard of life and deprive our people of employment. Fascism alone will deal faithfully with the alien menace, in whatever quarter it rears its head.
FASCISM is a leadership of the nation. It is not dictatorship in the old sense of the word, which implies government against the will of the people. It is dictatorship in the modern sense of that word, which implies government armed by the people with complete power of action to overcome problems which must be solved if the nation is to live. We seek to achieve our aims by peaceful, legal and constitutional means with the willing consent of the nation declared at a General Election. Fascist Government, however, will at once take power to act by securing from the first Fascist Parliament complete power of action for the Government. Without the power to act and the will to act, nothing can be done. Fascist Government will use the power given it by the first Fascist Parliament for the reconstruction of the nation. At the end of the first Fascist Parliament, another election will be held, on an occupational and not on a geographical franchise. Men and women will vote within their own industries with a real knowledge of the persons and subjects with which they are dealing. Women who are not in industry will vote as wives and mothers, and will thus be represented for the first time by people competent to speak for the great national interest which they represent. Women will not be compelled to retire from industry, but the high wages of their husbands under the Corporate system will make it possible for them to retire if they wish, and the present competition between men and women in industry will thus be ended. In the new Parliament, every interest and aspect of national life will be represented, but every interest will be subordinate to the welfare of the nation as a whole. Thus a technical and not a political Parliament will be elected to assist Government in the problems of a technical age. Thereafter, the policy and personnel of the Government as a whole will be submitted direct to the people to judge by vote. Government will no longer depend on the intrigues and manœuvres of conflicting parties, but on the will of the nation directly expressed. Thus the people will retain full liberty to approve or reject the policy of the Government, but a Government so approved and supported will have power to act and to end economic chaos. Fascism declares that the real liberty is economic liberty, and this cannot come until the end of economic chaos. Government cannot end economic chaos without power to act, and that power to act can only come from Fascism. Good wages, short hours, good houses, opportunities for culture and recreation are the real liberty. The mass of the people are being robbed of that real liberty to-day by the false liberty of a few old men to talk for ever in the present Parliamentary system. Talk and action do not go together, and action is the necessity of to-day. We will end talk with a new system, in which the whole resources of the nation are mobilised for action. The Blackshirts of Fascism, by their struggle and sacrifice, offer the nation a new leadership on a new road of national salvation. We ask you to follow that lead through the ending of class war, reaction and chaos, to the building of a Britain worthy of our pride and of our love.
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