Fascism: What Is It? F A Ridley 1941

IV: Fascism in England

Everyone knows the celebrated description of snakes in Ireland: ‘There are no snakes in Ireland.’ The same is broadly true of Fascism in Britain, at least, if and when considered as a serious political force. Indeed, it is obvious from our preliminary definition that this must be so. For, if Fascism is correctly described as, in its origins, ‘the politics of frustrated Imperialism’, then Britain, the most successful imperialist country in the entire course of (modern) history is the least likely country of all to go Fascist: the fact that this has been actually so lends additional weight to our definition and strikingly confirms its truth.

Indeed, the record of Fascism in Britain has been one of dismal futility embodied in a number of powerless groups, only one of which, Sir Oswald Mosley and his (self-styled) ‘British Union of Fascists’ (founded in 1932) is even known by name to the general public: the successive election polls of the BUF served to reveal its farcical weakness, and as soon as the British government struck, under war conditions, it simply petered out.

We have already seen what was the fundamental reason for this, viz, the tremendous strength of the British Empire and the still immense political and economic power enjoyed by the British ruling class as a result of the world power of British Capital. Whilst the property-owners are massed in serried ranks in the Tory Party around the financial oligarchy which rules the Empire from the ‘City’, and equally, whilst the forces of Labour are ranked just as firmly behind a reformist party, the sole real purpose of which is to fight the party of Capital for a bigger share of the profits derived (ultimately) from the ruthless exploitation of Britain’s still ubiquitous world empire: whilst such basic conditions dominate British economy, we need not expect the appearance of any considerable Fascist Party. For the indispensable preliminary conditions for Fascism as traced by us above, viz, political and economic frustration and loss of confidence by both Capital and labour – are simply non-existent. Until wholly different conditions appear, it can be confidently predicted that Fascism in Britain will resemble the snakes in Ireland!

(NB: This, of course, is the fundamental cause for the hitherto complete failure of Fascism to spread in this country. We need not trouble to enumerate all the secondary causes; merely remarking that Mosley is far from being a great demagogue; a Mussolini or a Hitler, perhaps because an aristocrat born in the purple, as Mosley is, cannot ‘get over’ to the masses in their own language, like his continental masters. The best demagogues spring from the masses to whom they appeal. A still more serious handicap is to be found in the fact that British Fascism, a vehemently nationalist movement by definition, is yet allied in the popular imagination at least, with the present national enemies, that is, Germany and Italy, those ‘frustrated Imperialisms’ which can only obtain their ‘living space’ at the expense of the British Empire. This fact alone would probably be enough to damn Mosley and his movement. The other Fascist groups are simply not worth talking about.)

The Past of Fascism in Great Britain is then represented by a nought. Will this also apply to its Future? It will be obvious from what has been said above, that this depends entirely on one thing: the duration of the British Empire; of the World Power of British Capital taken in its ultimate sense. The only real bullet-proof safeguard against the rise in Britain of Fascist movements – that is, of movements that are Fascist in fact if not in name – would be the immortality and eternity of the British Empire.

What are the chances of such an immortality, let alone eternity? In actual fact, such a supposition is precarious in the extreme just at present, almost farcically so. It would indeed be distinctly hazardous to wager that the duration of the Empire will survive this century – or, perhaps, even this decade. The current tides of history now run as strongly against the British Empire, and the British World Power as a century ago, they ran with it.

Assuming then that the British Empire will decline, perhaps even fall, in the proximate future, what then would be the chances of Fascism in Britain? Obviously, excellent! (I speak of course of the thing, not the name – to be sure, in their own imperialist interests, the British ruling class is, at present, throwing so much mud at the name of Fascism that enough of it will stick to damn it for some time to come: but ‘names are not things ‘ – the City of London knows this as well as anyone else. The philosophy of the British ruling-class has always been ‘nominalist’ to the core!)

Why ‘excellent’ it may be asked? Obviously because the collapse of British World Power would be the greatest frustration of all; and from this most frustrated of all imperialisms would come the most vicious of Fascisms. To be sure, we cannot tell how vicious, until the hordes of Britain’s thugs and Imperialist ‘strong-armed heroes’ are dumped back on her shores by the collapse of her Empire and with it, of her ‘colonial’ Fascism abroad.

But all this, even if eventually probable to the point of certainty, belongs to the Future. And the Future is not in a position to correct our proofs! It cannot, in any case, be mapped with certainty. We will therefore refrain from plunging into the Future, and will content ourselves with observing that an effective British Fascist Party is not yet in sight: to turn one of our existing (bourgeois) democratic parties into such would be impossible: ‘the leopard does not change his spots’ – democracy and fascism, products respectively of capitalist maturity and decay, are absolutely distinct and sui generis: one cannot conceivably ‘evolve’ into the other. Fascism, at all times and places, is simply – Fascist!

Finally we may note that a learned astrologer in the course of his stellar survey has stumbled – in a remote corner of the heavens? – upon what may well prove an important sociological truth relating to this earth, and to the British Empire, in particular. In reference to Mr Bevin, the British Labour Party’s ‘last hope’ he recently assured us that this eminent reformist would surely be ‘Labour’s next – and last? – Prime Minister’. And, so he goes on to assure us, would be immediately succeeded by ‘The Man of Destiny’.

We do not know whether the stars have enlightened Mr Naylor [6] as to the exact connotation of this term ill the current sociology of the counter-revolution. But we are duly grateful to Mars – or was it Minerva? – for this only too likely prognosis. For it is not at all impossible that the fall of the World Power of British Capital, and, concurrently, of its parasitic Labour Party – ‘the junior partner of British Imperialism’ as I have elsewhere termed it – may indeed prove the harbinger of a real British Fascism. If so, the British reformists, of whom Bevin is the outstanding current example, will have done as much as did their Italian and German brethren to hand over the workers politically blind, gagged and mentally doped, to be crushed under the juggernaut car of the Man of Destiny and his fascist hordes.

However, we can console ourselves in this connection with the old medieval aphorism – itself doubtless the fruit of much bitter experience – ‘The stars cannot, indeed, lie, but the astrologers can.’ The same general sociological causes that can bring about Fascism quicker and fiercer in a declining Britain than anywhere else, can equally bring its antithesis – Revolution! – also quicker and fiercer than anywhere else, transforming Britain herself in the process from the least to the most revolutionary country in the world. Certainly, the decline of the British Empire particularly, if catastrophic, will posit sharply before the workers the only remaining alternative: Fascism or the Social Revolution.