From: The Menace of Fascism - What it is and how to fight it
ONLY TWO years after the war allegedly fought to destroy fascism, the British fascists have commenced to regroup their forces. Throughout the country, cautiously and unobtrusively at first, but more and more boldly, the fascists have come into the open.
At first they emerged as local and separate organisations and adopted a host of names for reasons of expediency. The aim was clearly to prepare for unification at a later stage. Among the most important of these organisations were the British League of Ex-Servicemen and women; Mosley's Book Club and Discussion Group; the Union of British Freedom; the Sons of St George (Derby); the Imperial Defence League (Manchester); the British Workers' Party of National Unity (Bristol); the Corporate Club (a student group at Oxford University).
These organisations are not short of money. Before the war the British Union of Fascists (BUF) had extensive funds at its disposal. The fascists had intimate links with big business. Mosley boasted that he had spent £96,000 of his own personal fortune 'in support of my' beliefs during my political life'. On two occasions Mosley himself married into millionaire families. In 1920 he married Lady Cynthia Curzon, a daughter of the late Marquis Curzon of Kedleston and a granddaughter of Levi Zeigler Leiter, a Jewish Chicago millionaire. Lady Cynthia inherited £28,000 a year from her own family (there are two children of this marriage). After the death of his first wife a few years prior to the war, Mosley married again, this time, into the Guinness millions. His wife is the sister of the notorious Unity Mitford, friend of Hitler.
In the early days of the fascist movement, Mosley was enthusiastically backed by a number of prominent capitalist and military figures. True, later when Mosley became discredited and it was clear that the movement was not timely, many of them dropped away or fell into the background. Apart from the open members of the Fascist Party, a powerful club composed of members of the ruling class was formed to back the blackshirts. In a pamphlet entitled Who Backs Mosley published by Labour Research, some enlightening facts were revealed:
"On New Year's day 1934 was formed the January Club, whose object is to form a solid blackshirt front. The chairman Sir John Squire, editor of the London Mercury said that it was not a fascist organisation but admitted that 'the members who belonged to all political parties were for the most part in sympathy with the fascist movement'. (The Times, 22 March, 1934) The January Club held its dinners at the Savoy and the Hotel Splendide. The Tatler shows pictures of the club assemblies, distinguished by evening dress, wines, flowers and a general air of luxury. The leader is enjoying himself among his own class "
The members of this club were:
It is significant that among the early supporters of Mosley are named a number of wealthy Jews. This was before Mosley adopted anti-semitism as an indispensable means of rallying ignorant and backward supporters.
Mosley had the financial backing of fascists abroad. He received a subsidy of £60,000 a year from Mussolini. This has been confirmed by the discovery of documents in the archives in Rome dated 1935, and was revealed by Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary, in the House of Commons. Mosley paid visits to Hitler and Mussolini and was in close touch with the nazi leaders.
With the outbreak of the war, the Mosley movement declined. Like other fascist movements in Europe the BUF became an agent of German imperialism on whose victory they banked to assure their future. The British capitalists at war with German imperialism had no use for the fascists and were compelled to illegalise them as part of the ideological war against fascism. But Mosley was well protected in prison and pampered with many of the comforts to which he was accustomed, including the best foods, furniture and servants. As one of their class who had perhaps ventured too early, the British capitalists treated him solicitously with an eye to the future.
Are the British Capitalists Anti-Fascist?
The British capitalist class fought the war, not because they opposed fascism and what it represents, but in a desperate struggle against rival imperialisms for world markets, for sources of raw materials - for profit. Their victory has not brought and will not bring the end of fascism.
Throughout the world, the British ruling class has supported fascism and reaction against the progressive movements of the working class. Let us take but a few examples.
When Mussolini was subjecting the Italian working class to his castor oil 'treatments' and other bestial tortures, Churchill became deeply impressed with his 'gentle and simple bearing'. Speaking in Rome on 20 January, 1927, Churchill found only praise for the fascists:
"I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been, by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers. Secondly, anyone could see that he thought of nothing but the lasting good, as he understood it, of the Italian people, and that no lesser interest was of the slightest consequence to him. If I had been an Italian I am sure that I should have been whole-heartedly with you from the start to finish in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism. I will, however, say a word on an international aspect of fascism. Externally, your movement has rendered service to the whole world. The great fear which has always beset every democratic leader or a working class leader has been that of being undermined by someone more extreme than he. Italy has shown that there is a way of fighting the subversive forces which can rally the masses of the people, properly led, to value and wish to defend the honour and stability of civilised society. She has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism."
Here the outspoken mouthpiece of British capitalism clearly indicates that in the last resort, faced with the revolutionary working class, the 'nation' (the capitalists) will not be 'unprovided'; it will always be able to imitate Mussolini and adopt the fascist method of rule over the workers.
In the struggle of China against Japanese imperialism, the British backed Japan because they saw in her victory a bulwark against the rising struggles of the masses in Asia. Mr LS Amery, then Secretary of State for India, a position which he held right up till 1945, said on 27 February, 1933 in the House of Commons:
"I confess that I see no reason whatever why, either in act or in word, or in sympathy, we should go individually or intentionally against Japan in this matter. Japan has got a very powerful case based upon fundamental realities Who is there among us to cast the first stone and to say that Japan ought not to have acted with the object of creating peace and order in Manchuria and defending herself against the continual aggression of vigorous Chinese nationalism? Our whole policy in India, our whole policy in Egypt, stand condemned if we condemn Japan."
The nazis were aided and financed by the British ruling class. Hitler received the unqualified approval and support of British big business. Lloyd George, the 'Liberal', described Hitler as a 'bulwark' against Bolshevism. As early as February 1934, the British government published a memorandum which allowed for an immediate increase in all German arms. 'The German claim to equality of rights in the matter of arms cannot be resisted and ought not to be resisted. You will have to face rearmament of Germany,' declared the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, on 6 February, 1934. Export to Germany of unwrought nickel, cotton waste, the basis for gun cotton, aircraft and tanks rose tremendously. When asked in March, 1934 if Vickers Ltd were engaged in rearming Hitler Germany, its chairman replied:
"I cannot give you an assurance in definite terms, but I can tell you that nothing is being done without complete sanction and approval of our own government." (War is Terribly Profitable, Henry Owen.)
The big financiers and bankers openly advocated a policy of support and assistance for Hitler. A short time after he came to power, the Governor of the Bank of England declared that loans to Hitler were justified as 'an investment against Bolshevism'.
Large loans were given to Hitler. His occupation of the Rhineland, the rearmament of Germany, the anschluss with Austria, the seizure of Czechoslovakia - all were supported by British capitalism. The reason: they feared a nazi collapse and what might replace it. Just before the war, the British, through RS Hudson, then Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade, made an offer of a loan of a thousand million pounds to conciliate the nazis and prevent them from expanding at the expense of British imperialism while remaining a bastion against the German workers and against the working class throughout Europe.
Churchill looked upon the nazis with unbounded approval. In the 1939 edition of Great Contemporaries, Winston Churchill wrote about Hitler's rise to power:
"The Story of that Struggle cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance, the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome, all authorities or resistance which barred his path I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations." (The same book by Churchill contains a venomous attack on Trotsky, who earns his bitter hatred as builder of the Red Army and one of the leaders of the October revolution - EG)
Lord Beaverbrook, writing in the Daily Express on 31 October, 1938 said:
"We certainly credit Hitler with honesty and sincerity. We believe in his purpose stated over and over again, to seek an accommodation with us, and we accept to the full the implications of the Munich document."
This, of course, did not prevent him from holding ministerial office in the Coalition government in the 'war against fascism'.
In the Spanish civil war, the British capitalists were in sympathy with Franco. Under the cover of so-called 'non-intervention' they assisted him to crush the Republic.
No reactionary anti-working class movement went unsupported and unaided by British capitalism. Only when the nazis encroached on their preserves did they declare war in the name of 'anti-fascism'. But when the needs of their class are such that fascism becomes necessary, they will as readily turn to Mosley or some other fascist adventurer, just as the German capitalists turned to Hitler and the Italian to Mussolini. Today, the fascists are not necessary for the defence of their profits. But tomorrow
What is Fascism and How Does it Arise?
Most important for anti-fascists and working people is an understanding of fascism and why it arises. Without such an understanding of fascism it is not possible to effectively combat and destroy it. And unless it is viewed from the angle of the class structure of capitalist society and the class forces at work, the workers cannot prepare themselves for the future struggle against any rising fascist movement.
Capitalism as a system of society developed out of the decay of feudalism. In the period of its rise, up to the outbreak of the first world war, it was a progressive system because it resulted in the development of the forces of production, ie the power of man over nature, and consequently raised the level of culture of mankind.
Despite crises, wealth increased and in the main capitalist countries, the standards and the culture of the masses rose. With the development of technique the increased productivity of labour resulted in a further expansion of industry at the expense of the older methods of production and with this a numerical increase of the working class.
During the past 100 years, in their fight against capitalism, the working class organised their own class organisations, the trade unions and labour parties. It must always be remembered that the rights of today - the right to withhold labour - to strike, to organise, the right of free speech and press and even the right to vote, were not handed down benevolently by the capitalist class: these were won only after a bitter and ceaseless class struggle on the part of the workers. Before the first world war, the capitalists could still afford to give concessions from the enormous profits which the expansion of capitalism and imperialism brought them.
But capitalism inevitably brings in its train the concentration of capital and the growth of monopoly and of the combines. Because of the development of the world market, which is the historical function of the capitalist system, at a certain stage the capitalist nations inevitably and necessarily come into conflict with each other in the frantic endeavour to find and extend markets. The development of the productive forces expands more rapidly than the markets, outstrips the boundaries of the national state and private ownership of the means of production. It is this contradiction that led to the first world war, as it led to the second.
Capitalism in its last stages not only reduces the working class, which it cannot provide with any security in either employment or sustenance, to the state of pauperism; it ruins also the middle class - small shopkeepers and businessmen, professional people, white collar workers, small traders and all those strata of the population whose social position is lodged between the industrial working class and the capitalist class.
To combat the working class it is not possible for the capitalists to rely only on the old forces of repression embodied in the state machine. In modern conditions no state can last very long which does not, at least in its initial stages, possess a mass basis. A military police dictatorship does not serve the purpose. The capitalists find a way out in fascism which finds its mass support in the middle class on the basis of anti-capitalist demagogy. It is important to understand that fascism represents a mass movement: that of the disillusioned middle class.
The working class, in times of crisis, seek to express their aspirations and struggle through their existing organisations. Joined together by production, organised as a class in large factories and plants, the workers think in terms of a socialist solution to their problems. Their social position gives rise to a social consciousness.
The middle class, because of their position in society, wedged half-way between the capitalists and the workers, sway between these classes. If the working class cannot show a revolutionary way out for the middle class, the latter turns to the capitalist class and becomes the main pillar of support for the fascist movement.
With the increasing rivalry on the world market, unable to secure their position while the organisations of the working class exist, the capitalists seek a way out of the crisis by the destruction of these organisations, thereby depriving the workers of the weapons through which they defend their rights and conditions. As the crisis affects one country after another, the capitalists look to fascist movements to smash the working-class organisations and parties. Herein lies the function of fascism.
The difference between capitalist democracy and fascism is explained thus by Leon Trotsky:
"After fascism is victorious finance capital gathers into its bands as in a vice of steel, directly and immediately all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist it does not only mean that the forms and methods of government are changed in accordance with the patterns set by Mussolini - the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role but it means first of all for the most part, that the workers' organisations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallisation of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism." (What Next? The Key Question for Germany, 1932)
Mosley Before the War and the Anti-fascist Struggles of the Workers
The laws of the decline of the capitalist system are the same in Britain as in other capitalist countries. The legend, assiduously cultivated, in particular by the leaders of the labour movement, that Britain is 'different' has no basis in fact. This has been demonstrated on many occasions in the history of capitalist Britain. Fascism, as an expression of the decline of capitalist society can become under certain conditions as real a menace in Britain as it became in capitalist Germany and Italy.
The world slump of 1929-33 saw the emergence of the Mosley-fascist movement as a serious force for the first time in this country. The capitalist class of Britain recognised in the Mosley movement a militant and extra parliamentary weapon which they could utilise against the working class in a period of social upheaval, in times of crisis and slump. Only the fact that the British capitalists succeeded in emerging from those critical years without the need for direct action against the workers determined their limited use of fascists at that time. Nevertheless, they kept the fascist movement in being as an 'insurance' against the future.
The myth, propagated by the capitalist class, that all issues can and will be settled through parliament is exploded by the very preparations undertaken by the capitalists themselves when it seemed possible that the working class would take to the road of struggle. With the threat of an economic slump looming before the war, the British capitalists were preparing extra-parliamentary steps against the working class.
In the few years before the war of 1939-45, army manoeuvres in Britain were conducted on the basis of civil war tactics. Strategic government buildings were prepared for defence. The civil guard was created as a special strike-breaking force, composed of recruits from the ranks of the ruling and upper middle class and trained in the use of machine-guns, rifles and tanks. They were taught to drive locomotives, heavy transport lorries and to do ground staff work at aerodromes. The civil guard was to constitute the backbone of any strike-breaking force in the event of serious troubles with the workers.
A significant portent was the fact that the big insurance companies which, together with the big banks, are the decisive rulers of Britain, refused to insure against the risk of civil disturbances and civil war. The capitalists understood that Britain, no more than Italy, France, Germany or Spain, could escape the social upheavals of the sick and decaying capitalist system. If the second world war had not intervened, the impending economic slump would have struck the country with far greater effect than even in 1929.
At this time the fascists were receiving support from numerous influential British industrialists. Towards the end of 1936 Mosley boasted in an interview with the Italian fascist paper Giornale d'Italia, that he was 'receiving support from British industrialists'. And that 'a number of industrialists in the north who hitherto had given his movement secret support, fearing commercial boycott, are now stating openly that they are on the fascist side'. (News Chronicle, 19 October, 1936) Mosley received the backing of the powerful newspapers, the Daily Mail, Evening News and the Sunday Dispatch.
Then as now, the blackshirt movement carried out its anti-working-class and anti-semitic provocations under the protection of the state. The British fascists were soon to prove that in brutality and method there was little to choose between them and Hitler's stormtroops or Mussolini's squadri. At a mass rally of British fascists at Olympia on 7June 1934, the British working class were given an idea of what to expect if fascism triumphed. The savage and calculated brutalities inflicted by the specially trained fascist thugs upon any of the audience who dared to voice even the mildest opposition to Mosley's speech by interjections, outraged all sections of the population. Organised bands of fascists set upon hecklers, men and women alike, beating them unconscious, kicking them while on the ground.
Nurtured and aided by the authorities and the police, the fascists insolently organised provocative marches in working-class and Jewish districts, imitating the tactics of the nazis at the dawn of their movement in Germany. The British working class gave the blackshirts their answer. Every demonstration called by the fascists was answered by a great counter-demonstration of workers and anti-fascists. At Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, in Liverpool, Merthyr, Newcastle - all over the country - the workers rallied against the fascists. In red Glasgow, the fascists were unable to hold meetings. In the working-class district of Bermondsey, London, barricades put up and manned by tens of thousands of workers successfully prevented the Mosley-fascists from marching through Long Lane.
Outstanding in these struggles of the workers against the fascists was the defeat of Mosley's projected march through the East End of London in 1936. Despite appeals from all sections of the working-class movement, including even the labour leaders, the then Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, refused to ban the march. On the contrary, he sought to facilitate it in every way. Ten thousand foot and mounted police drawn from all over London and the provinces were mobilised to protect Mosley and his 2500 fascists to ensure their march through the East End. This police protection was thoroughly organised even to the extent of wireless equipment and an autogiro hovering overhead. The weight of the state was brought to bear to protect the blackshirts in the teeth of the opposition of the London working class. The police authorities planned for Mosley's protection as though it were a military project.
Despite these measures of the state, the fascist march was defeated. Half a million workers turned out on the streets. Rallying around the slogan, 'They Shall Not Pass', the workers formed a wall of bodies on the route through which Mosley was to march. From early morning, baton charges were made by the mounted police against the workers to clear a path for the fascists. But the determined opposition of the workers made it impossible. The police tried to create a diversion by clearing Cable Street. But here again, the workers of London threw up fresh barricades of furniture, timber, railings, doors torn from houses nearby, and anything that would help to bar the path of the hated fascists. This magnificent mass action, including and representing all shades of working-class opinion and organisations, Labour, Communist Party, ILP, Trotskyist, League of Youth and Youth Communist League (YCL) - forced the then Commissioner of Police, Sir Philip Game, to order Mosley and his thugs to abandon the route. United action of the workers had defeated Mosley!
The defeat at Cable Street in 1936 dealt a severe blow to Mosley. Afraid of the organised might of the working class so militantly demonstrated, the East End fascist movement declined. The spectacle of the workers in action gave the fascists reason to pause. It induced widespread despondency and demoralisation in their ranks; their victory over the fascists imbued the working class with confidence. This united action of the workers at Cable Street demonstrated anew the lesson: only vigorous counter-action hinders the growth of the menace of fascism.
At that time the Communist Party was mainly responsible for calling militant workers to counter-demonstrations against the fascists. The YCL played a magnificent role. But after 1936 this militant policy of the Communist Party changed and they now avoided any counter-action against the fascists on the wide and militant scale witnessed before. With the coming of Hitler to power the Communist Parties throughout the world had degenerated into nothing but instruments of Russian foreign policy, and their activities reflected this. When Stalin found it impossible to arrive at an agreement with Hitler at that time there was a right about-turn on the part of the then Communist International.
From a refusal to offer a united front with the social democratic workers against fascism, the Communist International embarked on a policy of popular frontism. In line with Stalin's efforts to make agreements and gain alliances with the 'democratic' capitalist classes, they advocated class-collaboration between the workers and the 'good' capitalists. This foreign policy of the Stalinists was reflected in the British Communist Party which even went to the extent of advocating a 'National government' of Churchill, Attlee and Sinclair. Having branded the united front of workers' parties against fascism as 'counter-revolutionary', the Stalinists now rejected the Marxist class analysis of capitalist society and advocated a united front with Tories and Liberals.
In their efforts to placate those Tories and Liberals who favoured an alliance with Stalin, the Communist Party made every endeavour to paint itself as just another party of respectable and law-abiding citizens. To that end the hammer and sickle emblem of working-class unity was withdrawn from the masthead of the Daily Worker; the language of Marxism was replaced by that of middle-class suburbia. More importantly, the policy of militant class struggle went by the board and this was reflected in the new 'ostrich' attitude towards the fascist movement. To take militant action against the fascists would offend the new-found Tory and Liberal 'friends' of the Stalinist party. The activities and provocations of the fascists now went unheeded; counter-demonstrations and actions of the workers against fascism were no longer organised. The former policy of militant action was replaced by appeals and pleadings to the state to take measures against the fascists. From a reliance upon the working class to deal with fascism, the Stalinists turned towards a policy of relying on the very state apparatus which had in the so-recent past demonstrated its partiality towards the blackshirts!
How this new policy of the Stalinist leaders worked in practice was indicated by one instance of many similar examples that could be given. Just prior to the war, a monster rally of blackshirts, imported from all over the country into London for the purpose, gathered at Earl's Court to hear Mosley. On that day the Young Communist League of London organised a ramble in the countryside!
Demonstrating against the blackshirt rally outside Earl's Court were only the Trotskyists and a small number of anti-fascist militants. Of the Communist Party there was no sign. This new policy of the Stalinist party served to foster apathy in the ranks of the working class in the struggle against the fascists and emboldened and encouraged the blackshirts. It seemed that the fascist movement would gain new strength in face of the lack of organised and militant action on the part of the workers' organisations. But the war cut across these developments and gave them a new direction.
Today, in Britain, the signs of a fascist revival are unmistakable. Having tested the reaction of public opinion to the emergence of the various fascist groups, aided and encouraged by police protection, Mosley has launched his new party, the 'Union Movement'. The new party is no different from the former BUF, the same Jew-baiting, the same promises of the destruction of the trade unions and labour organisations, the same demagogy to attract the disillusioned and despairing middle classes and backward elements.
All Mosley's publications uphold the principle of private enterprise. In one of the recent Mosley 'News Letters', he demagogically champions the 'small' man, not against the capitalist monopolies, but against the nationalisation measures of the Labour government. Mosley boasts that his 'opinions remain unchanged'. In his Greater Britain (published before the war) he wrote that: 'the making of profit will not only be permitted but encouraged'. In an Open Letter to Business Men published in the Fascist Week, in 1934, Mosley reassured the industrialists that: 'In the corporate state you will be left in possession of your businesses. To the coupon-clipping parasites who live on their dividends, Mosley promised: 'Hitherto, the holder of ordinary shares, who is the true risk-bearer in industrial enterprise, has been treated for taxation purposes as the holder of "unearned income" the whole procedure is illogical, and calculated to discourage the enterprise upon which our industrial future depends.'
Whereas before, Mosley emphasised the idea that Britain and the Empire must isolate itself for economic 'autarky', today he advocates the 'union of Western Europe'. Recognising the weakness of British capitalism and the danger of economic collapse on the continent of Europe, Mosley proposes the idea of a union of capitalist Europe based upon the enslavement and exploitation of the African peoples. In the Mosley 'plan' 'there will be no nonsense about "trusteeship for the natives",' and 'negroes are to have no parity with their white superiors'.
One of Mosley's main planks is for war on Russia. If he were in power he would 'send Russia an ultimatum that she must accept the American offer to scrap atomic weapons and submit to inspection', which, if unaccepted, would be followed by a 'preventive' war.
In the press interview which Mosley gave on 28 November 1947, to announce the imminent launching of his new party, he further elaborated on his 'programme'. The present parliament would be replaced by the corporate state modelled on Mussolini's two chambers. Instead of elections there would be plebiscites where the voters would have the privilege of recording 'yes' or 'no' to whatever Mosley's government did. His government would 'resign' if defeated, but this, of course, 'was most unlikely'. Mosley promises to suppress communism.
By this Mosley means that his government would suppress all working-class parties and organisations. The trade unions would be 'obsolete' if they did not 'cooperate' with the fascists.
The new party of Mosley is thus openly modelled on the fascist totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Mussolini.
Mosley has clearly revealed his calculations. He anticipates being called to power at a time of crisis in the same way as Mussolini was called to power by the Italian monarchy and the Italian capitalists. In his Greater Britain, Mosley wrote:
"If the situation develops rapidly, then the public mind develops slowly, something like collapse may come 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 Crown; but only against the forces of anarchy if, and when, the machinery of state has been allowed to drift into powerlessness
"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 communism have ever prevailed, or in the nature of the case, can 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 force 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 "
Thus, the fascists viewed the coming struggle with the forces of 'anarchy', ie the working class, as an extra-parliamentary one. In the second edition of Greater Britain, Mosley deleted the chapters dealing with this problem, for they were too outspoken. Nevertheless, this remains the basis of Mosley's ideas today. Not accidentally did he declare at the meeting launching the new party on 7 February 1948 that he and his followers were 'prepared to meet force with force'.
The anti-semitic and anti-working class activities of the fascists are on the increase and although small at present they constitute a challenge to the working class. Fascism must be defeated in its beginnings. The death camps of the nazis, in which hundreds of thousands of German workers were tortured and murdered, should act as a permanent reminder to the working class never to allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. The British fascist movement will not differ from the German or Italian fascists either in social composition, objectives or methods.
The Labour Government and the Fascist Revival
The re-emergence of Mosley and his new 'Union Movement' in Britain today is regarded with complacency on the part of the labour leaders. The bitter lessons of Germany and Italy have passed these labour leaders by. They translate into English the same false words and ideas of the German and Italian social-democratic leaders: 'It can't happen here.' The British, they claim, are 'different', a 'tolerant' people with a democratic tradition. Fascism is 'alien' to the British and so on. Famous last words! The crime of the labour leaders is not that they lull themselves with the pretence that 'it can't happen here' but they disarm the working class by sowing illusions and objectively aid the growth of the reviving fascist movement by affording them police protection.
The working class who voted Labour into power may well stand bewildered and indignant as they witness Mosley and the fascists holding provocative meetings under the protection of large numbers of police specially detailed for the job, when they witness the Labour-controlled London County Council affording facilities for Mosley and his movement to meet in schools and halls under their control. This at a time when the fascists have the utmost difficulty in booking public halls because of the pressure of public opinion. Arising out of protests Home Secretary Chuter Ede replied that he is 'considering' the banning of loudspeaker equipment at public meetings. But this would apply to 'all' parties who use loudspeakers at meetings. This, instead of striking a blow at the fascist movement, in practice would be a blow against working-class organisations who use such equipment for propaganda. This is the result of the 'impartiality' of the reformists. Their 'impartiality' consists in hamstringing the anti-fascists and allowing the fascists to carry on.
Despite the past six years of terrible war, allegedly to destroy fascism, at the present time, as if nothing had taken place the fascists have taken up from where they left off at the outbreak of the war. The familiar picture of police and courts taking strong action against anti-fascists while the fascists are treated lightly and even protected is once again presented.
All this, in the name of the liberal idea of 'democracy', of 'impartiality' and 'freedom for all'. In reality, this is the opposite of freedom as taught by the great socialist teachers. Under this guise of 'freedom' and 'impartiality' of the state the labour leaders used the police to baton pickets striking for their elementary democratic rights of trade-union organisation. No socialist worker who is not a traitor to his class will put on the same plane the freedom of a scab to break a strike and the freedom of the strikers to prevent him doing so. Yet this force of most despicable scabs, the fascist movement, is given every facility to flourish and prepare to destroy the very right to strike and every other freedom dearly won by the working class. This is neither freedom nor democracy. It is a violation of workers' democracy and the very negation of freedom.
As a crowning piece of folly the labour leaders have given facilities to Mosley to publish his propaganda.
Instead of welcoming the instinctive protests on the part of the workers against any attempted revival of fascist activity, the Labour government organises the police force to protect the fascists against the workers. Labour leaders worthy of the name would welcome workers' action against the reaction and would back it by legislative enactments. This would be a warning to the capitalists that any attempt to establish a fascist dictatorship would be ruthlessly acted on by the labour movement as a whole. In the name of 'free speech' the fascists are given every facility to put forward their propaganda, this to the very people who stand for the destruction of free speech and every vestige of democracy won by the working class. In time of war - and the class struggle is a war between the classes - the enemy is not given points of vantage by means of which he can better attack and massacre your own ranks at a later stage.
The election of the majority Labour government after the second world war expressed the aspirations of the British workers to establish a new social system. The masses swung left and in this swing drew behind them large sections of the middle class, whose position had been undermined during the war. The war had placed heavy burdens upon the backs of sections of the middle class, the rise in the cost of living having affected those with fixed incomes most severely. Large numbers of small shopkeepers have been driven out of business by the competition of the big capitalist combines and the measures of concentration encouraged by the state in the interests of 'more efficient' big business. Of a total number of 10,000 firms in certain trades in London alone during the war, including furriers, dry cleaners, repairers etc there was a cut of about 40 per cent. As a consequence, the middle class looked to the Labour Party for a solution.
A Gallup Poll revealed that, in the first months of the rule of the Labour government, their popularity increased enormously as a result of the social reforms they introduced. Had the labour leaders introduced wide measures aimed at destroying the privileges and vested interests of the capitalist class, had they taken over all large scale industrial and financial enterprises without compensation and operated the economic life of Britain on the basis of an overall economic plan under the democratic control of the working class, there could have been little effective resistance from the capitalist class. This would have been the socialist solution to the ills which capitalism inflicts not only upon the working class but the middle class as well.
But what is the reality today? Under the Labour government capitalism remains intact. Lavish compensation is given to the previous owners of nationalised industries, which continue to be run on purely 'business lines' and largely by the same capitalist managers who were in control before. The overwhelming sector of the economy remains under the control of private enterprise and the nationalised sectors are geared to and serve the interests of private ownership.
Even in the nationalised industries there is not a trace of genuine democratic control by the workers. While the labour leaders talk a great deal about the sacredness of democracy, there is no democratic control extended to the miners or the workers in the industries which are supposedly owned by 'the people'.
In Britain elements of workers' democracy exist in the form of the trade unions, the workers' parties, factory organisations and the rights which they have won. But the effective control is in the hands of the capitalist class. They control the economic life of the country through their ownership of the means of production; they have the decisive means of influencing public opinion through the control of the press, radio, cinema, schools and church and all other instruments necessary for the purpose. This is the reality of capitalist democracy. Bourgeois democracy, said Trotsky, means that everyone has the right to say what he likes as long as finance capital decides what is done. But once the workers reach out to take real democratic control, then the capitalists decide that the time has come to abolish democracy altogether.
If the labour leaders' chief concern was democracy, they would have introduced real workers' control and democracy. The elements of democracy which are already there would have been brought to full fruition.
Real democracy for the majority and not for the capitalist few, that is, workers' democracy, would mean not only the complete destruction of the economic stranglehold of big business, but the ending of their control of the means of influencing public opinion through their economic control. The Labour government should have immediately taken the press, cinema and radio out of the hands of monopoly capital and placed them at the disposal of the people. Every workers' tendency would be given the fullest free access to the means of propaganda to advocate their point of view. All political parties, including even the Tories and Liberals, who are willing to accept the democratic will of the majority, would have freedom of speech and press. But the fascists would be suppressed outright.
Having organised soviets or workers' committees in the plants and districts and established for the first time a democratic participation of all strata of the population in governing and running the country, the superiority of such a workers' state would be so obvious that any counter-revolution on the part of the capitalist class would be rendered impotent.
Instead of a revolutionary socialist solution, Labour leaders are tinkering with capitalism. The half-and-half measures of the Labour government have resulted in a swing away from Labour, particularly among the middle class and more backward sections of the workers. In the municipal elections of 1947 and in the parliamentary elections of the same year, there was a marked increase in the Tory vote.
And as a symptom of the rightward trend, the fascists re-entered the political arena.
This has taken place in a period of full employment and capitalist boom. British capitalism has lost the advantages she possessed in the past. Despite the efforts of the working class which have resulted in a 20 per cent increase in production over pre-war, there has not been a proportionate increase in the standard of living. Britain is far more dependent on the world market than in the past. With increasing competition the standards of life will not be raised but, on the contrary, the capitalist class will be forced to cut wages.
Already, the Labour government is waging an offensive to persuade the workers to accept a freezing of wages as the exhaustion of the sellers' market looms in sight. With the vociferous applause of the capitalist class and its press, the Labour leaders are exhorting the workers to make more sacrifices in the frenzied drive to increase production and accept a wage freeze and speed-up in the interests of reducing costs in the competitive struggle for world trade.
Cripps explains to the workers that if they do not voluntarily accept the yoke of capital, the British workers will he faced with the iron yoke of totalitarian dictatorship. In his own words:
"It is, therefore, essential that we should get a general agreement amongst our people to act upon sound economic lines: the alternative is likely to prove to he some form of totalitarian government."
The proposals on 'sound economic' lines advocated by the labour leaders are, of course, sound capitalist lines.
Here are the symptoms of decline, of impending economic slump, of over-production. Even if the labour leaders should succeed in their objective of increasing production to further record heights, this cannot solve the problem. On the contrary, it can only prepare catastrophe for the Labour government and the British working class.
Under the impact of the radicalisation in 1945, the capitalists were compelled to retreat. But they have not been overthrown by the Labour government. Today they are biding their time. But they are systematically whipping up the discontent of the middle class and backward sections of the workers in preparation for an offensive in the future.
Under the capitalist system, with the crisis of over-production, slump will follow boom as night follows day. And if already the middle class are discontented, how will they react when the slump comes? The workers will be impelled in a revolutionary direction but unless they show the Marxist road, the middle class will be drawn into the orbit of the fascist movement. The capitalists will declare the 'Marxists' and the labour movement responsible for the crisis of their system and gain the support of the middle class for action against the workers.
In the grip of economic crisis, the capitalist class will be forced to launch savage attacks on the standards of the workers. They will find the pressure of the workers' organisations irksome, especially the trade unions. Mosley's programme of annihilation of the trade unions and workers' organisations, his defence of private property, are designed to appeal to big business precisely in such a crisis. To eliminate the unions and terrorise the workers into submission, the capitalists will need fascist bands and will look towards a totalitarian state as the means of their salvation. Then they will really commence to subsidise Mosley or some other fascist less discredited among the population.
There could be no greater danger today than to sit back and content ourselves with the idea that the fascists have little political weight in Britain. While capitalist society exists, the weapon of fascism also exists as a potential menace to the working class. Events may prove that Mosley's 'Union Movement' will not be the leading fascist movement in this country. Mosley and his followers were greatly discredited during the war. Nevertheless, some new form of fascist organisation can well arise, an organisation not overtly fascist but of a character similar to de Gaulle's 'Rally of the French People' movement which, while it disavows fascism, is, in fundamental policy and aims, designed to serve the same purpose.
As a germ of the disease already present even today in Britain, WJ Brown, Independent MP for Rugby, formerly a leader of Mosley's 'New Party' in 1931, has tentatively advocated a 'Rally of the British People'. Even more indicative is the fact that the Statist, in an article Can Our System be Modified?, on 29 November 1947, writes approvingly on General de Gaulle and says:
"General de Gaulle, naturally alarmed by the chaotic state of politics and economics as exemplified in France at present, has asked the people to give him power to form what he calls a national rally. At the same time he warns us that our system is so unstable that it may lead us at a date not indefinitely remote to serious trouble. It should not he wise to ignore such a warning."
Unless the working class can offer some alternative in the form of a bold programme and above all, daring action, the misguided middle-class youth who today support Toryism will be drawn into a fascist movement, whether it be a 'Union Movement' or some sort of 'Rally of the British People', or 'British Royalist Empire Saviours Society'.
How to Fight Fascism - the Policy of the RCP
With the re-emergence of the fascists, the main task of the labour movement is to educate and explain to the workers the class nature of fascism and its function as a combat force against the working-class organisations. But to explain the class roots and function of fascism is not enough. The working class must participate in actively combatting the fascists wherever they raise their heads. For this it is necessary that the organisations of the working class rally the militants around a militant programme of struggle against the anti-semitic, anti-labour propaganda meetings, against the press and other menacing activities of the fascists.
Trade unionists must refuse to print, handle or transport fascist propaganda of any description and demand that their executives make this a rule. All who violate such a rule must be blacklisted.
The first step in mobilising the workers is to unite all sections of the movement - Labour, trade union, Communist Party, Trotskyist, Cooperatives - in a common working-class united front. This is the key to a successful struggle against the menace of fascism. Fundamental differences separate these organisations from each other, but on this question of fascism it is, it must be, possible to have common agreement in forms of struggle. Retaining the right to criticise each other, it is a necessary task to organise joint counter-demonstrations, joint meetings, and joint anti-fascist propaganda campaigns. Fascism is no respecter of working-class opinions and democracy. It seeks to destroy all opposition workers' parties whether they be Labour, Communist, or Revolutionary Communist. To defend and protect working-class meetings and premises, Jewish and other minorities against fascist provocations and attacks, a Workers' Defence Corps must be established based on the trade-union, cultural and political organisations of the working class.
Mosley once boasted that he had a detachment which is joined by 'nearly every man who is physically strong They are highly disciplined in a semi-militaristic manner.' Organised detachments of blackshirts can only be combatted by organised detachments of militant proletarians.
In campaigning for the Labour government to 'ban the fascists' the workers must bear in mind that history has taught that the enforcement of laws by a capitalist state inevitably acts to the disadvantage of the working class. The state rests upon the army, the police and the courts. And these are riddled from top to bottom with elements sympathetic to the aims of fascism, especially at the top. Even if the pressure of the workers succeeded in enforcing the passage of anti-fascist legislation, clearly it could only be put into effect by the enforcement of the workers. This means that the demand on the Labour government can only be effective when backed by the activities of the organised workers.
This does not mean that we do not strive to bring pressure on the Labour government to take action against the fascists. But it does mean that our demands can only be effective if backed by determined and organised activity on the part of the workers.
We must demand of the Labour government that it immediately:
Today it is true that the fascist movement is only a small factor in British political life. But from a scratch comes the danger of gangrene! We must not repeat the same mistakes as the German working class.
Historical experience has shown that it is not possible to legislate fascism out of existence. The very nature of the capitalist state precludes that, for fascism in the nature of things is the naked weapon of capitalist class rule. Only the mass of the organised working class, understanding the nature of fascism and with a militant policy of struggle against it, will be capable of dealing effectively with the menace of fascism. In the final analysis the destruction of the capitalist system, which needs and breeds fascism with all its attendant horrors and repressions against the working class and racial and religious minorities, is the only means of ensuring the decisive defeat of fascism.
Go back to contents page or go on to next section, Britain in Crisis
 Leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties respectively.