HEROES OF THE WEST: THE MARTYR OF FATE
PUBLISHED: 4th October, 2019 | By MATT MARSHALL
Every so often in history, there comes a man who causes a brief stir and then disappears. A man who has very much the innate qualities for greatness but because of a few bad mistakes or the pure whim of circumstance he finds himself doomed to a life of normalcy. While there is no shame in the simple life, as Tolkien states, such men were arguably made for something much more. They strive against the tide at times when it is hard, only to find themselves swept in a direction they didn’t expect. What are we to make of such men? Should we honour them or lament their failings? It is a difficult question, but I believe at least one of these men is worth highlighting here: Sir Oswald Mosley.
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley of Ancoats, 6th Baronet was born in 1896 in Westminster. He was the oldest of three boys, being born into a noble family that traced its roots back to the rule of King John. Mosley grew up an aristocratic young lad who excelled in fencing and eagerly joined to serve his country when WWI broke out. He served in the Flying Corps and the Royal Lancers. This experience forever changed him, he spoke through the rest of his life about his desire to avoid another European war at all costs. In 1918 he joined a life of politics and became a Conservative MP for the district of Harrow. In 1924 he left the Conservatives to join the Labour Party, and from 1926-1930, he served as a Labour MP for Smethwick.
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 influenced Mosley’s increasingly radical economic ideals. While Mosley would always remain an aristocrat and was certainly no agitator for class warfare, he felt a strong sense of noblesse oblige towards the working class. After all, rich and poor had died together in the trenches of the Great War. Mosley also railed against British dependence on the European and American markets. The British Empire should pursue a policy of autarky he said, free trade was no longer working. In many ways Mosley’s economic theories would reflect those of John Maynard Keynes and indeed the two knew each other briefly. Mosley’s ideas did not sit well in the neat Conservative/Labour split of British politics, and for his entire life he straddled the left-right divide. He was a strong imperialist and British patriot, yet highly critical of British policy in Ireland and sympathized with some Irish republican elements. He was a champion of the workingman who detested Marxist-Leninism. He defended classical liberal values of freedom of speech and assembly and yet believed that only a more authoritarian government could preserve these freedoms. He would have haunted Dinesh D’Souza’s nightmares.
Fed up with the Labour Party, Mosley left and formed “The New Party” in 1930. Mosley’s ideas were well liked and he attracted a number of former Labour supporters but he lacked a lot of support amongst career politicians. Indeed “thugs” loyal to Labour, would often attack New Party meetings, seeking to drive out a competitor. Mosley was growing increasingly desperate as he felt his former comrades were purposely silencing his message. In 1932 Mosley toured Fascist Italy and even met with Mussolini himself, becoming enthralled with the Italian political model and how it worked. Part of his attraction to fascism was based on the violence his own meetings had met from self-declared socialists and Marxists. When he returned, he created the British Union of Fascists (BUF).
The BUF was not the first British fascist party and indeed one of it’s first opponents was the much more radical Imperial Fascist Party, but it was the only one in Britain that got any “mainstream support” and it was certainly the largest and most successful. In fact, from 1932-1934 the party was supported by many as a working class alternative to Marxism and the mainstream conservative newspaper The Daily Mail wrote articles praising the blackshirts. The blackshirts were the BUF’s paramilitary squads, who protected their meetings from outside interference. However in 1934, everything changed with the Olympia Meeting. The Olympia Meeting was a large indoor BUF rally at the Olympia concert hall. During this time, Marxist infiltrators tried to cause trouble at the meeting by loudly heckling Mosley, before they were ejected by blackshirt stewards. Some Marxists tried to resist and were in turn beaten up. It was unfortunate for Mosley and the BUF that the (completely blown out of proportion) violence at the Olympia Hall came just three weeks before the Rhöm purge in Germany. While before the BUF had been viewed as a bemusing eccentrics, now they were viewed as potentially murderous thugs.
Relations with the Jews in Britain also kept getting worse. While the BUF was explicitly not an anti-Semitic party and was always closer to Italian Fascism than National Socialism, many Jews simply saw “fascist=anti-Semite” and regularly harassed BUF members and their meetings. Also it must be pointed out that while Mosley never had any particular prejudice towards anyone, some high-ranking members of the BUF did (e.g. William Joyce). Mosley’s critique of Jewish interests and Jewish groups was simple; he thought they had disproportionate power and were dragging Britain into unwanted conflict with Nazi Germany. From 1935-1938, the BUF was engaged with a bitter political contest with much of British Jewry. Mosley criticized Jewish power and influence (and specifically appealed to native English displaced in East London), and Jewish groups (usually of a more left wing nature) attacked his meetings and picked fights with blackshirts. Naturally, some blackshirts were only too happy to oblige them. This is also the period where Mosley visited Nazi Germany several times and met Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. This is also when the infamous “Battle of Cable Street” occurred, when an attempted BUF march through East London was stopped after a leftist mob attacked the police trying to guard the march.
Leftists like to brag that this event is what killed British Fascism, but in reality it had far more to do with the BUF itself and the federal government. First of all in response to Cable Street, the government banned political uniforms (hampering blackshirt recruitment and organization) and infiltrated the movement. Meanwhile Mosley was having more and more trouble keeping the BUF’s coffers full and the organization was suffering financially, as different chapter bosses in different cities became corrupt and complacent. Mosley was forced to purge a number of his more radical followers in 1938, and spent the years from 1938-1940 moderating his message and preaching fervently for peace. The last thing Mosley wanted was another European war. Watching it unfold must have been horrifying for him. Mosley and a number of his closest followers were arrested and imprisoned as a potential 5th column. Despite this many ex-BUF members served in the armed forces during WW2 and Mosley himself commanded his men to “rise up” if the Germans tried to invade Great Britain. After the war, Mosley pledged his political career to limiting immigration to Britain and creating a more unified Europe. He died peacefully in 1980.
Mosley was a man who never lost sense of the belief that he had a great purpose to achieve, even in the final years of his life. And yet he died a pariah and in some circles a laughing stock. His economic ideas have been widely praised, even by his opponents, but they have only ever been adopted in bastardized form. Likewise his idea of “Europe a Nation” later became a grotesque parody with the European Union. His attempts to avoid another European war were dashed upon the cold rocks of the time he lived in. I’ve listened to some of Mosley’s speeches (which can be easily found online) and he is a fantastic orator. Indeed this was the tragedy of Oswald Mosley, he had ambition, drive and idealism; but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Mosley was a brilliant orator and political theorist, he was a less capable organizer of a movement and party that became more and more unpopular as time went on due to events beyond his control. Mosley’s British Union of Fascists was very much a victim of the success of Nazi Germany abroad, as unwelcome comparisons were drawn between the two.
Alternate History writers love to use Mosley as the stock villain in sinister dystopian versions of a Nazi-controlled Britain. In reality, I believe a Fascist Britain would have been isolationist and autarkist, looking to itself and its colonial empire without much regard for the continent. It would have probably had friendly relations with the Third Reich and Fascist Italy no doubt, but I see the role of it much similarly to Francoist Spain in out own timeline. Whether this would be a better or worse world I cannot say, but it is clear that Mosley could have been a towering political titan if circumstances had been different. Much lesser men have done it; therefore it seems incredulous that he would not have. Is that why we should consider him a Hero of the West? Is the potential to become a great leader of men more important than the actual result? I don’t think that is necessarily true. The reason I award Mosley the title of “Hero of the West” is not that he was a great man, but because of his affection for the common man. From an army officer, to a Tory MP, to a Labour MP, to a fascist, and to an immigration critic, the aristocratic Mosley never turned his back on the workingmen of England. The same workingmen politicians since him have so shamefully and cynically betrayed.
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