Jorian Jenks, when he was appointed British Union Parliamentary Candidate for Horsham and Worthing in 1936, was already well known to readers of “Action”. The author of many brilliant articles on agriculture, sometimes as “Vergilius”, was a working Sussex farmer and understood only too well the iniquity of a government policy that imported cheap food from overseas while British producers faced bankruptcy.
Graduating from Oxford and serving in World War 1, Jenks later held many important farming appointments in England and New Zealand. It was an experience he put at the disposal of British Union as Agricultural Advisor and active campaigner on the behalf of British farmers and farm workers.
In an illuminating wartime article in “Action” before Mosley was interned, he turned from his usual subject to show the true depths of his convictions as an ex-serviceman under the headline “The British Socialism of British Union”. He wrote “The Union is for peace, because it believes that war is a wicked waste of life and wealth, because it knows that war obstructs the advance of socialism. But British Union is also revolutionary because it is pledged to break the power of International Finance over Britain. Thus Britain can achieve true freedom and real democracy through British Union”. Such words in 1940 earned ex-soldiers a place in a British concentration camp, and the slur of treason. So Jenks followed some 800 other patriots of British Union behind the barbed wire.
The aftermath of war brought acute food shortages to Europe and Jenks turned his attention to this formidable problem. Answering Mosley’s call for a new beginning for Europe, he helped establish the Union Movement Agricultural Council with former farm worker, and later editor of “Action” Robert Row and Dorset farmer Robert Saunders. This culminated in the production of the remarkable Union Movement publication “None Need Starve” which set out a masterly plan for increased production and prosperity on the land.
But Jenks was now working to influence a wider sphere. With Derek Stuckley and other former British Union members, he joined the Rural Reconstruction Association to research, develop and propagate the principles of good husbandry. He was also a founder member of the Soil Association and was editor of its journal, “Mother Earth”, which pioneered the organic movement. (It was at about this time when he met Walter Darre, the German ex food and farming minister who did much work on the same lines during the Hitler years in the 1930’s.)
Here, in the latter years of his life’s work, he found a cause which probably equalled the intensity of his political ideas. In his book “The Stuff Man’s Made Of” he anticipated the current organic food “explosion” by a quarter of a century. He maintained that between 1901 and 1956 heart disease had increased by 84%, cancer by 155%, nervous diseases by 150%, and he believed it was no coincidence that the use of chemical fertilisers had increased by a third between the wars. In addition it had nearly trebled between 1939 and 1954 to further increase the quantity of the yield. Equally he blamed the “civilised” food of commercial farming as highly processed, low in fibre, and depleted of vitamins.
When he wrote “Crusaders have always been cranks in the eyes of their critics, arguments for reform have always been misunderstood, or misrepresented” he could equally have been speaking of his politics as his nutritional beliefs.
His “Green” views were not all fully shared by all his old comrades, understandably perhaps, at a time after the war when the pressing need was for food in greater quantities. The Editor of “Union” and Secretary of Union Movement once told him wittily “people can forgive one eccentricity, but not two “.
With his death in 1974 agriculture lost a sincere and revolutionary thinker. perhaps Jorian’s message today would be that in a new age when farming surpluses have become the problem, the time is right to give the nutritional quality of organic farming a chance.
” But there was never a spring without some wild weather, without a bitter north-Easter, as winter slackens its grip. And no more than these rearguards of winter can stop the bursting of the bud and the uprush of the young leaf-blades can the rearguards of reaction stop the renewal of national life. British Union marches on. Spring comes again” – Jorian Jenks 1939