The moral and social law and convention of Britain provide the most startling of all contrasts with the Briton’s strange illusion that he is free. The plain fact is that the country is hag-ridden. In no other civilised country, except perhaps in the United States, has the individual so little freedom of action.
We live on public anarchy and private repression: we should have public organisation and private liberty. We are taught that it is an outrage to interfere with the individual in his public capacity as producer, financier or distributor – though, if he uses his powers badly, his anti-social conduct may damage tens of thousands of his fellow-citizens. But we are taught to interfere with every detail of his private life, in which sphere he can damage no one but himself, or at most his immediate surroundings. A man may be sent to prison for having a shilling bet on a horse race. But he can have a tremendous bet on the stock market, and live honoured and respected as a pillar of industrial finance. He may damage the whole life of the nation in the capacity of capitalist or trade union leader, but he may not even risk the slightest damage to himself by obtaining a drink after the appointed hour!
We are treated as a nation of children; every item of social legislation is designed, not to enable the normal person to live a normal life, but to prevent the decadent from hurting himself. At every point the private liberty of the individual is invaded by busybody politicians who have grossly mismanaged their real business – which is the public life of an organised nation.
It is, of course, a simpler task for limited intelligences to keep public houses closed than to keep factories open. The politician, conscious perhaps of his own limitations, turns naturally to a sphere with which he is more familiar. The result is the creation of a political system which is precisely the reverse of what a political system should be. In the public affairs of national life we have disorder and anarchy: in the private affairs of individual life we have interference and repression.
It is scarcely even anarchy; it is a laughable form of organised humbug, which has made us the mock of every civilised country. The whole system is the child of that same mentality which has transformed Parliament into a bleating of ineffective sheep; which blundered into the War, the Peace, the Debt-Settlement, and the Financial Crisis. It is the by-product of age, struggling with a problem for which it feels itself unequal; and, as such, it is a supreme challenge to youth and realism.
Public Service – Private Liberty The Fascist principle is Liberty in private, Obligation in public life. In his public capacity a man must behave as befits a citizen and a member of the State; his actions must conform to the interests of the State, which protects and governs him and guarantees his personal freedom. In private he may behave as he likes. Provided he does not interfere with the freedom and enjoyment of others, his conduct is a matter between himself and his own conscience.
But there is one condition. The State has no room for the drone and the decadent, who use their leisure to destroy their capacity for public usefulness. In our morality it is necessary to “live like athletes” to fit ourselves for the career of service which is the Fascist idea of citizenship. To all moral questions the acid test is first social and secondly scientific. If an action does not harm the State, or other citizens of the State, and is it leaves the doer sound in mind and body, it cannot then be morally wrong. This test over-rides all considerations of religion, prejudice and inherited doctrines which, at present, obscure the mind of man.
We detest the decadence of excess as much as we despise the decadence of repression. An ordered athleticism of mind and body is the furthest aim of justly enforceable morality. And even for the enforcement of this we would rely on the new social sense, born of a modern renaissance, rather than upon legislation. The law arrests the occasional drunkard; but it does not touch the tippler, the weakling and the degenerate.
In our ordered athleticism of life we seek, in fact, a morality of the Spartan pattern. But this must be more than tempered with the Elizabethan atmosphere of Merrie England. The days before the victory of Puritan repression coincided with the highest achievements of British virility and constructive adventure. The men who carried the British flag to the furthest seas were far from hag-ridden in their private lives. The companions of their leisure hours were neither D.O.R.A. nor Mrs Grundy
Fitness and Happiness We know that happiness, no less than fitness, is a social and political asset. The more gaiety and happiness in the ranks of those who grapple with the tasks of today, the better is it for the achievement of their mission. But all our gaiety of life and happiness in private things must contribute to, and not diminish, our power to serve the State. In practice we are glad to see a man on race course, on football stand, in theatre or in cinema during well-earned hours of leisure; and we do not mind in the least seeing him in a public house or club, provided that he is not there to excess, and does not there squander his health or his resources. In many things the distinction is between relaxation and indulgence. The latter becomes decadence, but the former contributes to healthy enjoyment, which in its turn contributes to efficiency and to service.
Therefore in asking our members to “live like athletes” we do not advocate the sterility of Puritanism and repression. We want men, not eunuchs, in our ranks, but men with a singleness of purpose which they order their lives to serve. Such morality is already accepted within our Movement, and its implications find an organised form. We expect our members to keep fit, not only in mind, but also in body, and for that reason have often been attacked as organising for physical violence. We shall certainly meet force with force; but this is not the motive of these activities. No man can be far sunk in degeneration so long as he excels, or even performs competently, in some branch of athletics. It is a part of the dedicated life of a new movement to maintain that constant training in mind and body which is readiness to serve when the time comes. In our own movement, in fact, we seek to create in advance a microcosm of a national manhood reborn.
Such is our morality, which we claim is the natural morality of British manhood; and from it follows hostility to the social repression and legislation of today, and to every achievement of our hag-ridden politics which is summarised in D.O.R.A. We seek to create a nationwide movement which will replace the legislation of old women by the social sense and the will to serve of young men. Every man shall be a member of the State, giving his public life to the State, but claiming in return his private life and liberty from the State, and enjoying it within the Corporate purpose of the State.