In the ranks of Conservatism there are many who are attracted there by the Party’s tradition of loyalty, order and stability – but who are, none the less, repelled by its lethargy and stagnation. In the ranks of Labour there are many who follow the Party’s humane ideals, and are attracted by its vital urge to remedy social and economic evils – but who are, none the less, repelled by its endless and inconclusive debates, its cowardice, its lack of leadership and decision.
These elements comprise the best of both Parties: and to both Fascism appeals. The two essentials of government are stability and progress; and the tragedy of politics is that the two, essentially coincident, are organised as contradictions. Stability implies order and authority, without which nothing can be done. It is regarded as belonging to the Right. Progress implies the urge to reform without which society cannot survive. It is regarded as belonging to the Left. Stability is confused with reaction and a stand-pat resistance to change: progress with ill-considered changes, or with the futile and paralytic discussions so characteristic of a timorous democracy. As a result, neither of these essentials is achieved.
This is a dynamic age. Stability cannot exist without progress, for it implies the recognition of changes in the world which no political system can alter. Nor can progress exist without stability, for it implies a balanced and orderly view of the changes which have taken place. The Right seeks stability, but denies the power of adaptation which makes stability an active force. The Left seeks progress, but rejects al effective instruments and robs authority of the power to make decisions. The result of both systems of the two great organised Parties of the State is in the end the same. Stability confused with reaction and a resistance to change, together with progress confused with obstructive debate and committee irresponsibility, end alike in chaos. Both are instruments for preventing things being done, and the first requisite of the modern age is that things should be done.
The Farce of 1931 The final caricature of our present system may be found in the events of 1931. The country, wearied by five years of parliamentary stagnation, had rebelled from the Conservative slogan of Safety First, and installed a Labour Government in office. For eighteen months, progress, such as it was, came under the ægis of dissentient committees and the dictation of discordant interests. As time passed, the Government fell under the spell of trade depression which it had done little to create, but which it was powerless to remedy. In the absence of any constructive policy, the Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary to reduce unemployment benefit, but was too weak to do this without elaborate publicity.
The country – most of all, the Unemployed – had to be frightened: and the May committee soon produced a report fit to alarm the nation. The economies called for were duly realised, even though the achievement demanded a regrouping of political complexions. The Labour Government might have successfully purchased a little respite at the expense of its supporters, had it not been that foreign financiers had read the May report and taken it in deadly earnest. The report had been circulated to secure public approval for action which was “necessary to save the pound.” But it exposed our weakness, and thus started the stream of foreign withdrawals from our banks which, in spite of £130 millions of money borrowed in support, forced us off the Gold Standard in September. A Government with a constructive policy would have averted the whole situation; a Government with authority would have reformed without apology: had even this been done, it is more than possible that the crisis might have been avoided.
We are faced today with the results of government by indecision, compromise and blether. Both political Parties, and the remnants of Liberalism as well, stand bound by the great vested interests of Right and Left which created them. In Opposition, there is the same profusion of promise; in office the same apathy and inertia. In post-War England, their creeds have become platitudes; they consistently fail to grapple with the problems of the time. Their rule has led, with tragic inevitability, to the present chaos. Therefore our Fascist Movement seeks on the one hand Stability, which envisages order and authority as the basis of all solid achievement; we seek, on the other hand, Progress, which can be achieved only by the executive instrument that order, authority and decision alone can give.
Parliament Fascism, as we understand it, is not a creed of personal Dictatorship in the continental manner. The dictatorship of Mussolini in Italy is merely dictatorship of the revolutionary machine, consequent on the changes having been effected by a violent revolution owing to the collapse and surrender of Government. Neither is Fascism a creed of governmental tyranny. But it is definitely a creed of effective government. Parliament is, or should be, the mouthpiece of the will of the people; but, as things stand at present, its time is mainly taken up with matters of which the nation neither knows nor cares. It is absurd to suppose that anybody is the better for interminable discussion of the host of minor measures which the Departments and local interests bring before Parliament to the exclusion of major issues. Such matters, in which the public interest is small, take up far too much parliamentary time. The discussion, too, is usually futile; most of the Bills before Parliament demand technical knowledge; but they are discussed, voted on, and their fate decided, by men and women chosen for their assiduity in opening local charity bazaars, or for their lung power at street corners. This is by no means an over-statement; when a young man asks his Party Executive for a constituency, they do not ask “Will he be a good Member?” but “Will he be a good candidate?”
In a practical system of government our political philosophy comes to these conclusions. Whatever movement or party be entrusted with government must be given absolute power to act. Let the people preserve, through an elected Parliament, the power to dismiss and to change the Government of the day. While such power is retained, the charge of Dictatorship has no reality. On the other hand, the power of obstruction, the interminable debate of small points which today frustrate the nation’s will to action, must be abolished. The present Parliamentary system is not the expression, but the negation, of the people’s will. Government must have power to legislate by Order, subject to the power of Parliament to dismiss it by vote of censure. We must eliminate the solemn humbug of six hundred men and women indulging in detailed debate of every technical measure handled by a non-technical assembly in a vastly technical age. Thus only shall we clear the way to the real fulfilment of the nation’s desire, which is to get things done in modern conditions.
Liberty When we propose an effective system of Government we are, of course, charged with the negation of liberty by those who have erected liberty into the negation of action. Liberty, by the definition of the old Parliamentarians, becomes the last entrenchment of obstruction.
We hear so much glib talk of liberty, and so little understanding of its meaning. Surely nobody can imagine that the British, as a race, are free. The essence of liberty if freedom to enjoy some of the fruits of life, a reasonable standard of life, a decent house, good wages, reasonable hours of leisure after hours of work short enough not to leave a man exhausted, unmolested private happiness with wife, children and friends and, finally, the hope of material success to set the seal on private ambition: these are the realities of liberty to the ordinary man. How many possess this liberty today? How can the mass possess such freedom in a period of economic chaos? Many unemployed, the remainder living in the shadow of unemployment, low wages, long hours of exhausting labour, bad houses, shrinking social amenities, the uncertainty of industrial collapse and universal confusion: these are the lot of the average man today. What humbug, then, to talk of liberty! The beginning of liberty is the end of economic chaos. Yet how can economic chaos be overcome without the power to act?
By our very insistence on liberty, and the jealous rules with which we guard it, we have reached a point at which it has ceased to be liberty at all. We must preserve the nation’s right to decide how, and by whom, it shall be governed; we must provide safeguards to ensure that the powers of government are not abused. But that is far from necessitating that every act of government must be subjected to detailed and obstructive debate, and that in an assembly with little experience or knowledge of administrative problems. This fantastic system, begun in good faith as the origin of freedom, has ended by blinding the citizen in a host of petty restrictions, and tying the hands of each successive government. Even in debate, the orators of Parliament no longer hope to convert one another, as they did in the days of Sheridan. The Party Whips are in attendance; a Member who disobeys will soon find himself cut off from the Party – which, incidentally, paid the expenses of his election – and his chances of keeping his seat will be of the smallest. The only useful purpose of debate is to advertise each Member in his constituency.
It is quite obvious that this system creates bad government and hampers the individual citizen. Constitutional freedom must be preserved; but that freedom is expressed in the people’s power, through an elected Parliament, to choose the form and leadership of its government. Beyond this it cannot go. In complicated affairs of this kind, somebody must be trusted, or nothing will ever be done. The Government, once in power, must have power to legislate by order; and Parliament must have power to dismiss the Government by vote of censure.
This is the kernel of our Parliamentary proposals. To some it may seem to imply the suppression of liberty, but we prefer to believe that it will mean the suppression of chaos.
Organisation of the Modern Movement The same principles which are essential to Government apply, with even greater force, to a political movement of modern and Fascist structure. Here we are dealing, not with the mass, but with the men who believe in the cause, and are devoting their energy to its aims.
We have seen the political parties of the old democracy collapse into futility through the sterility of committee government and the cowardice and irresponsibility of their leadership. Voluntary discipline is the essence of the Modern Movement. Its leadership may be an individual, or preferably, in the case of the British character, a team with clearly allocated functions and responsibility. In either case, the only effective instrument of revolutionary change is absolute authority. We are organised, therefore, as a disciplined army, not as a bewildered mob with every member bellowing orders. Fascist leadership must lead, and its discipline must be respected. By these principles, both in the structure of our own movement and in the suggested structure of Government, we preserve the essentials of true democracy and combine them with the power of rapid decision without which all semblance of democracy will ultimately be lost in chaos.
The immediate task is the firm establishment of the Modern Movement in the life of the British nation. Ultimately, nations are saved from chaos, not by Parliaments, however elected; not by civil servants, however instructed: but by the steady will of an organised movement to victory.
A whole people may be raised for a time to the enthusiasm of a great and decisive effort, as they were in the election of the National Government. That enthusiasm and effort may be sustained for a long period, as it was in the War, by the external pressure of a foreign threat to our existence. History, however, provides few cases in which the enthusiasm and unity of a whole people have been so sustained through a long struggle to emerge from disintegration and collapse.
For such purpose is needed the grip of an organised and disciplined movement, grasping and permeating every aspect of national life. In every town and village, in every institution of daily life, the will of the organised and determined minority must be struggling for sustained effort. In moments of difficulty, dissolution and despair it must be the hard core round which the weak and the dismayed may rally. The Modern Movement, in struggle and in victory, must be ineradicably interwoven with the life of the nation. No ordinary party of the past, resting on organisations of old women, tea fights and committees, can survive in such a struggle. Our hope is centred in vital and determined youth, dedicated to the resurrection of a nation’s greatness and shrinking from no effort and from no sacrifice to secure that mighty end. We need the sublime enthusiasm of a nation, and the devoted energies of its servants.