Echoes of A New Tomorrow: Life after Revolution in the Commonwealth of Britain

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Oh, had not realised that, I had situated the point of divergence of the AAR later. Even more interesting though in a sense if it the first Labour government ever.

Aye, I don't think I ever properly mentioned. Things aren't wildly divergent from OTL from 1920–1927 so it's mainly cosmetic differences, but I'll point them out when they crop up.

––––––––––––––––

Next update coming up this evening!
 
The Broken Olive Branch: Ramsay MacDonald and the Counter-Revolution (Feb –Jun 1928)

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THE BROKEN OLIVE BRANCH
RAMSAY MACDONALD AND THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION

JOAN WYATT
1954



Ramsay MacDonald entered office at the end of February, 1928, as the leader of the first Labour government in the history of the United Kingdom. By extension, his was the first government in Britain that could be described as “Leftist”. Owing to the circumstances in which it took power, in the midst of the most powerful and sustained demonstration of working-class organisation ever witnessed in Britain, the election of this notionally socialist ministry was met with little open enthusiasm by the worker’s movement. Rather, the mood amongst the working class after MacDonald’s assumption of the premiership was one of caution; whereas the trade unions might have been able to expect more sympathetic terms of engagement in entering talks with the government, having opposed the strike from its outset MacDonald could not be guaranteed to affect the inherently counter-revolutionary nature of the British state. His was a committed programme of reformist socialism, and in the first months of his premiership it would be called upon again and again to answer questions about its ultimate utility to the movement for the emancipation of the working class.


The Labour government started its tenure with a series of positive moves aimed to establish the fact of its operating in good faith. Instructions were given for the blanket release of all workers arrested in the aftermath of the Riverside Massacre, and MacDonald also reversed the sequestration of the TUC’s assets within the first two weeks of March. This was in many ways a token move by the government; funds for the strike movement had long since been transferred to the care of numerous other organisations, in particular those under the aegis of the National Minority Movement, which had taken over the vast proportion of dealings with Comintern, amongst others donors. Rather, MacDonald hoped by releasing the union money to bring the movement back out from under the influence of the Soviets. He feared the possibility of revolution so long as the strike movement was backed by outside agents, writing that “every rouble that makes its way into this country is a hammer blow against the integrity of the British state.” In any event, the extent to which the strike effort was bankrolled by Comintern was largely over-exaggerated by government bodies, wishing perhaps to play up fears of the arrival of international Communism in Britain. Most money was diverted to strike hardship relief funds, contributing to the maintenance of workers’ welfare whilst they remained on the picket.


More material was MacDonald’s announcement at the end of March of an amnesty for all strikers who returned to work. One of the key fears of the striking working class was the threat of reprisals by bosses against those who made the decision to abandon union action, or in the event that the strike was defeated. The previous Conservative government had adopted a hard-line stance against interfering with employer–employee relations, in other words turning a blind eye to instances of discrimination against workers on the basis of political affiliation. This fear had been a key, though largely unspoken factor in upholding strike discipline, with workers convinced that only total victory would ensure their livelihoods after the end of hostilities. MacDonald hoped that in offering some degree of assurance against this fear, he could begin to erode worker solidarity and tempt a proportion of the strikers back to work.



LABOUR%20POSTER%201928.jpg

Election poster, 1928. The formation of the first Labour government after the 1928 election was cause for optimism amongst the petit-bourgeoisie, though soon lost the goodwill of its working-class base.


Initially, he met with some success. The number of workers on strike had peaked after Christmas 1927 at about 4 million workers, though this was only a temporary display of solidarity and the number quickly resettled to about 2,750,000 by the time of the election. By the middle of April, something like a quarter of a million people had been tempted back to work by MacDonald’s announcement of an amnesty, which the Labour government took as a sign of the success of its counter-revolutionary strategy. “Reports now confirm what employers have been suggesting for the past week”, MacDonald boasted in the House of Commons on April 12th, 1928, “the strike effort is waning and the working men of this country are gradually being drawn back to work by the promise of the protection of a Labour government.” This self-congratulation proved premature, however, and the drift away from the picket stalled in the middle of the month as anecdotal evidence began to emerge that the amnesty was useless; bosses across the country were finding ways to circumvent MacDonald’s assurance, in many cases simply ignoring it outright and claiming that the government had no right to interfere with industry so directly. MacDonald, still convinced above all of the need for the Labour Party to remain “sensible” in government, declined to force the issue and tried to let the amnesty die as quiet a death as possible. The ultimate failure of the tactic was masked at the end of April by the announcement that the state unemployment benefit would be increased slightly, a move met with little more than outright indifference by the unions. Alonzo Swales, the veteran left-wing unionist by then chairman of the TUC’s Special Committee on Industrial Action, denounced the Labour government’s plan to help the workers in memorable terms: “it is not with scraps of paper but through organised struggle that the workers of Britain will win assurances of their dignity.”


The vital question remained of a negotiated settlement to the problem of the coal industry. Working relations between the government and the trade unions started poorly when MacDonald announced the commissioning of a new report into the state of the mines, for the duration of which he asked TUC general secretary George Hardy to suspend strike action as a show of good faith. Hardy, backed by A. J. Cook, did not assent to MacDonald’s request, informing the Labour cabinet that he would not betray his workers by “sending them back to work one second before victory has been won.” Thus the pickets remained in force. The report commission was chaired by J. H. “Jimmy” Thomas, MacDonald’s Lord Privy Seal and a former railway union boss. It was an inauspicious appointment; Thomas, while a union man by background, had long been considered by the workers he represented to have taken the side of the Capitalist cause. He was assisted by the young Oswald Mosley, then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.


Mosley had been concerned for several years by the need for Britain to modernise, and had set out his stall three years earlier when he stood as Labour candidate in Birmingham Duddeston, advocating for a particular form of socialism expressed as “the conscious control and direction of human resources for human needs”. He presented himself as a man primarily concerned with action, and as a backbench MP in opposition had developed a precocious programme of monetary and economic reform, in his own words always inclined more to the guild socialism of G. D. H. Cole and others than the state socialism favoured by the Webbs and the Fabian Society. Through a desire to keep unity within the Labour ranks, although a member of the party’s Left Mosley maintained a good relationship with MacDonald and as such had been given a junior position within the ministry. As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster he was, in effect, Jimmy Thomas’s deputy, both men having been assigned responsibility for the general problem of employment. Now engaged in the drafting of the Thomas Report, Mosley was able to put into practice economic ideas which he had been developing over the last five years.



MOSLEY%20DOWNING%20STREET.jpg

Oswald Mosley watches Ramsay MacDonald leaving 10 Downing Street, spring 1928.


The report was delivered to the government on May 17th, 1928, just over a week before the first anniversary of the declaration of the General Strike. Thomas and Mosley suffered from a strained working relationship, and as such the younger man’s contribution was generally sidelined in favour of Thomas’s own inclination for a more orthodox settlement. Nevertheless, the report outlined two possible scenarios for the reform of the coal industry: the first, a broad re-stating of that offered by the Samuel Report of 1926, but with a provision for government subsidies to prop up miners’ wages; the second, influenced by Mosley, recommended an innovative programme of worker ownership of the mines largely in line with the syndicalist doctrine held by A. J. Cook and the Miners’ Federation’s left-wing leadership.


Neither MacDonald nor his Gladstonian chancellor Philip Snowden had any appetite to address the question of ownership in the coal industry, thus Mosley’s recommendation was rejected outright by a vote in cabinet. The government announced that it would push ahead with a programme of subsidies, much to the derision of the opposition. Conservative leader Winston Churchill was damning in his assessment of the government, comparing the strategy to an unscrupulous pub-owner “serving up last week’s unappetising leftovers, only now liberally coated in a pleasant dressing to try and dupe the palates of his helpless patrons.” The TUC was equally unreceptive, opposing the plan as “neither practical nor helpful” and castigating MacDonald’s willingness to accept the Thomas Report as “an insult to the working class”. Emboldened by the more radical elements of the report, those advocating for syndicalist models of ownership, A. J. Cook impressed upon George Hardy the possibility of now setting the terms for a resolution to the strike as full worker ownership of the coal industry. Hardy agreed, framing the point in no uncertain terms at an extraordinary conference of the TUC in late May: “After successive failures by the parliamentary class to confront the problem of the coal industry, the time has come for the mineworkers of Britain to take full charge of the management of their own labour.” MacDonald, enraged, thundered against the declaration in cabinet and likened the TUC to the Bolsheviks.


Mosley, meanwhile, was emboldened by Hardy’s escalation. At the start of summer, he entered into secret talks with the leaderships of the TUC and the NMM to devise a strategy for increasing the support for his programme within the parliamentary Labour Party. He commanded a large degree of influence amongst the Labour backbenchers, viewed as a figure of extraordinary self-confidence and not inconsiderable talent. Mosley was supported by allies in the Independent Labour Party such as group leader James Maxton, another deeply charismatic figure, and John Wheatley, described approvingly by Mosley as possessing a “Lenin quality”. The pair were soon converted to Mosley’s mission in gaining the wide support of the PLP for his programme.


By the start of June, Britain had been in the grip of strike action for over a year. Where the formal economy was not propped up by ad-hoc volunteer forces, an informal network of worker control, co-ordinated nationally by the unions to some degree but also improvised, had manifested itself across the country. Yet the issue of employment could not be side-stepped; the amnesty hard singularly failed, lacking the vital support of the mine-owners, and a large bloc of the working class, numbering perhaps 400 thousand, was now left in an unenviable position: unemployed by circumstance, having tried to return to work. Rather than condemn these workers as would-be blacklegs, the union leadership took up their cause. At the behest of the Minority Movement leadership, an effort was made to organise the unemployed – existing and victims of the false amnesty – within the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement, a Communist Party–affiliated body led by Wal Hannington. Hannington was a charismatic figure within the revolutionary trade union movement and one of the youngest organisers to achieve national prominence during the general strike. Through him, the unemployed had the support of a powerful advocate. At a time when unemployment remained at about 10 per-cent, nearly 1.5 million people in real terms, Hannington’s NUWM had organised over 700 thousand members of the working class. Their official engagement in strike proceedings from summer 1928 offered a considerable buffer against fears that the workers’ movement could fall apart having been fighting for so long a period.


In Parliament, Mosley was expanding his efforts to deal with the problem of coal and began to talk more widely of a programme to alleviate the unemployment issue also. To this end, in mid-June he published a memorandum outlining a radical programme of economic re-structuring in order to carry Britain out of depression. Inspired by a trip Mosley had taken around industrial America in the winter of 1925, the “Mosley Memorandum” contained at its heart not only an argument for the scientific management of credit, but outlined a methodology for the implementation of such a system. The goal was significantly increased production and a “buoyant” home market insulated from cheap, foreign competition. It was a radical prescription for a British economy struggling under the burden of chronic problems, and would require an enormous effort of infrastructure, both material and political, in order to achieve its realisation. Presented in cabinet on June 19th, it was immediately vetoed by chancellor Philip Snowden. His efforts to achieve systemic reform all but defeated, Mosley took his memorandum’s cool reception as evidence that he did not hold the confidence of his colleagues in cabinet. He resigned his ministerial post the following morning and returned to the backbenches.


In pursuing its programme of reformist socialism, Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government showed itself to be too wedded to the idea of improving Capitalism to effectively address the problems against which the workers’ movement was fighting. Too often willing to put the interests of political posturing ahead of the interests of the working class, MacDonald governed at all times with one ahead on the ballot box. His inability to look past the entrenched system of government within which the Labour Party were forced to conduct their business rendered him incapable of bringing true, radical change to the working class. Along with his chancellor Snowden, a man who had once argued so passionately against the unethical system of Capitalist production, in government MacDonald assumed the rôle of liberal fellow-traveller, entirely lacking the resolve needed to put the power of the British state to work in transforming the lives of those who had pinned their hopes on the parliamentary Labour movement. The experiment in Labour Party government demonstrated the ease with which attempts at piecemeal reform were absorbed and countered by the British state. The shortcomings of the reformist strategy having been exposed for all to see, the radical militancy of the workers’ movement had been vindicated; the strikers saw now, clearly, that only they had the power to bring about true change. From here, the fight began in earnest to secure this promised future.




Joan Wyatt (b. 1912) is a British writer and historian. She is a member of the PLUA’s National Committee for Action, Policy and Research.
 
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loup99

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While Mosley himself no longer sits within the cabinet it would seem like his ideas are getting increasingly influent across the country. So far it seems like his trajectory is not that different from the historical one, although a bit earlier since Labour got in power in 1928 rather than 1929. At the same time the Communist part of the labour movement is also organising itself and gaining in strength, and MacDonald has to navigate carefully between his own backbenches and the TUC.
 

stnylan

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I had the forums up in one tab, news of the reshuffle in another… :p



Blackadder as a conniving shop steward forced to deal with the idiocy of his union leadership? Baldrick as a hapless TUC dispatch driver, revolutionised as a private soldier in the trenches? George as an Oxbridge Communist? Melchett and Darling as Labour reformists? Flasheart as Oswald Mosley?

Writes itself, really. :p
What about Bob, Queenie, and Nursie - not to mention Percy? :D

Never trust a Labour government :D
 

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While Mosley himself no longer sits within the cabinet it would seem like his ideas are getting increasingly influent across the country. So far it seems like his trajectory is not that different from the historical one, although a bit earlier since Labour got in power in 1928 rather than 1929. At the same time the Communist part of the labour movement is also organising itself and gaining in strength, and MacDonald has to navigate carefully between his own backbenches and the TUC.

Needless to say, Mosley is one to watch. But you’re quite right not to forget about the Communists. A small force in Parliament, but as you might imagine they’ll have their turn to really influence things soon enough.

What about Bob, Queenie, and Nursie - not to mention Percy? :D

Hmm… Bob I think is the easiest of those: she would be an ex-suffragette turned CPGB member who makes a big thing of being one of the boys. Queenie maybe as an old hand in the CPGB who’s a little too besotted with Stalin, which I guess makes Nursie an intellectually incurious apparatchik who spends her days making strange pronouncements about the Third International. Percy is probably some sort of Webb-type Fabian with a romantic love of the working class.

As soon as we hit the actual formation of the Commonwealth, I’ll do a special episode from the perspective of the extended Blackadder universe. :p

Never trust a Labour government :D

Oh this is only the half of it! :D

_________________________

I’m thinking next update maybe tomorrow? I still have a handful in the bank and, including what I’ve already written, I reckon we’re about six updates away from syndicalist Britain. After that the source material gets a bit thinner, but I’m hoping that will sort of force me to get a bit inventive with update topics and styles and so on. As ever, if there’s any aspect of the New World anyone would like to hear about, don’t hesitate to mention and I’ll compile something.

Until then!
 
Revolution by Reason: The Origins of Mosleyism, 1925–1928 (May 1925 – October 1928)

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REVOLUTION BY REASON
THE ORIGINS OF MOSLEYISM, 1925–1928

FROM MOSLEY: A POLITICAL LIFE
A. J. P. TAYLOR

1969

It is hard to qualify the arrival of the ideas of Oswald Mosley into the British political arena in the period surrounding the General Strike without descending into crude panegyric; so remarkable was the programme being espoused by this singular figure within the Labour Party that it is hard to resist the myth, perpetuated by countless articles in periodicals such as Action and the like, that Mosley appeared fully formed, ‘as if with the express intention of having created a man designed in every way to lead the charge against the troubles of that grave moment.’ Assessment of this sort, evidently, tends towards hyperbole. Yet reviewing my own recent work, English History, 1914–1929, one finds echoed a similar sentiment, if dressed up in less extravagant prose:


‘Mosley’s proposals were more creative than those of Lloyd George and offered a blueprint for most of the constructive advances in economic policy to the present day. It was impossible to say where he got his ideas from. Perhaps he devised them himself. If so, they were an astonishing achievement … evidence of a superlative talent.’


Much of this tendency for commentators to reach for the superlative when assessing Mosley may be explained by a lingering sense of that initial shock which did verifiably accompany the original public articulation of his ideas in 1925. Mosley’s programme represented a total break with both the political and economic orthodoxy that had held sway over both mainstream left– and right-wing opinion in this country since the time of Gladstone, and its enthusiastic adoption by the workers’ movement after 1928 – especially that section of the movement under the influence of Arthur Cook – demonstrates as much its own novel ingenuity as it does the wholly uninventive character of the mainstream Labour movement’s own response to the crisis. (This is to say nothing of the Conservatives, stuck hopelessly in 1914.)


In the last decade, coinciding roughly with the period surrounding Mosley’s exit from power, it has become fashionable to promote revised opinion of the scale of his originality, or indeed the utility of his ideas. This revisionism is not unwelcome, and I offer little resistance to the idea that some sobering up of the discourse that surrounds the Mosleyite political economy would be beneficial to the state of historiography in the Commonwealth as a whole. Yet necessary to bear in mind is the nature of this criticism, which comes most powerfully and with the greatest intellectual backing from the revisionist Marxist tendency, who seek to recast the Mosleyite phenomenon within strictly Marxian terms. A telling example may be found in the work of E. P. Thompson, who soon after Mosley’s resignation in 1961 wrote that:


‘any serious analysis of his policy brings up little real evidence of an opposition to Capitalism per se, beyond an enduring sense of working-class solidarity. Indeed, it might be reasonably said that “Mosleyism” seeks less the abolition of Capital than its total subjugation to the needs of the working class.’


I have no quarrel with Mr. Thompson – quite the opposite, I welcome his commitment towards the cause of a truly popular history: a history of the people. But where we perhaps differ is in our willingness to throw the baby out with the bathwater (or, perhaps more accurately, the chairman out with the chair.) The litany of world history tends in character towards an ever-increasing exposé of the mistakes of “great men”. Mosley, alongside perhaps Lenin and Lloyd George, stands as a rare exception to this assessment. Irrespective of the degree to which his principles or his programme accorded with the fine points of Marxian doctrine – and I shall save a great deal of time and intellectual energy by stating now, bluntly: they do not – it is hard not to recognise the singular talent Mosley demonstrated in power for not only navigating, but navigating with no small measure of success, the numerous trials faced by his various administrations. Mosley was a statesman par excellence, unusual as a representative of the stupefied landed classes in his insight, and in his genuine capacity for action. His programme rescued Britain from ruin in the rocky aftermath of the fall of the United Kingdom, and as a statesman over three decades his direction secured the position of the Commonwealth at the top table of world affairs. However future fashions may change, the substance of his record in power is, on the whole, secure.


MOSLEY%20SMETHWICK%201926.jpg

Cynthia and Oswald Mosley campaigning in Duddeston, 1925.


The story of “Mosleyism” in the public imagination begins in inner-city Birmingham in 1925. Having defected from the Conservative Party to Labour the previous year, Mosley was adopted as the Labour candidate in the Birmingham Duddeston constituency at the general election in May of that year. He had sat for the Conservatives as the MP for Harrow, and had retained this seat when he crossed the floor, but moved to Birmingham out of a quaint desire not to upset the remaining Tory apparatus in the constituency. Privately, he also doubted the likelihood that charisma alone would carry him to victory in the safely Conservative seat. The decision to contest a seat in Birmingham was not, however, the result of a purely rational sequence of thought. The political home of “Chamberlainism” for over sixty years, Birmingham Duddeston was bounded by the constituencies of both Austen and Neville Chamberlain, until months earlier the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mosley calculated that a sortie against the Conservative Party “Establishment” in favour of his new programme for the Labour Party would be highly beneficial in his push for national significance. In the Birmingham Aston constituency to the north of Duddeston, Mosley was bolstered in his own campaign by the candidacy of staunch ally John Strachey, one of the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of the so-called “Birmingham Programme”. Mosley, who had personally recommended Strachey for adoption by the Aston constituency, described his comrade as “my chief assistant in working out the Birmingham proposals, and … one of the best analytical and critical intelligences I have ever known”.


Together, assisted also by men such as Allan Young and S. B. Potter (who would later come to hold positions within Mosley’s governments of the 1940s and ‘50s), the programme they worked out called for a radical re-orientation of the British economy, away from an emphasis on trade and foreign exports and towards a system of credit-backed production that necessitated a twin restructuring of monetary policy. It leant on work by Keynes and others in its formulations, but was unquestionably a work of original synthesis – and in some cases original insight – on the part of Mosley himself. Aligned to the Left of the Labour Party, particularly the Independent group that centred around firebrand Clydesiders like James Maxton and John Wheatley, Mosley’s programme was a challenge to the Fabian-inspired “state socialism” of MacDonald and the party leadership. It called instead for a socialism built upon “the conscious control and direction of human resources for human needs”, overseen not by wholesale state apparatus but through a developed system of worker control that harked back to the guild socialism of Morris and the thinkers of the Arts and Crafts movement seventy years before. The intellectual make-up of the programme was supplemented by some Marxian analysis – Strachey’s contribution – and Mosley’s own varied reading during a period of convalescent in an R. A. F. hospital in 1918. As a result, it benefitted from a flexibility that allowed for its practical application to the contemporary problems of the economy, as demonstrated by Mosley himself in a campaign speech in Birmingham:


‘Mr. Churchill's effort to base this gold standard upon pre-war parity with the dollar … has involved the policy of drastic deflation which since the war has immensely increased the burden of the National Debt, and has proportionately benefited every idle rentier at the expense of the worker by hand or brain in productive industry. … Faced with the alternative of saying good-bye to the gold standard and therefore to his own employment, or good-bye to other people's employment, Mr. Churchill characteristically selected the latter course. A further dose of deflation followed, and the result is faithfully reflected in the unemployment figures, precisely as we foretold.’


Thus Mosley established himself as a noteworthy national figure, both for the strength with which he attacked the Conservative Party and the innovative character of his economic ideas.


Although Strachey had to wait until 1928 to achieve victory in Aston, Mosley succeeded in his coup in Duddeston and entered the House of Commons backed for the first time by a mandate of Labour voters. Having cultivated cordial relations with Ramsay MacDonald, he quickly parlayed his national notoriety into political responsibility and, in spite of his willingness to remain on the backbenches with allies Maxton and Wheatey, soon found himself called upon to wind up frontbench debates on issues like coal and unemployment. In the winter of 1925–6, he travelled to the United States to undertake a tour of the country’s industrial infrastructure, and was hosted at one point by F. D. Roosevelt. He was pre-occupied by the success had by the United States in maintaining a strong economy with limited reliance on overseas trade, and became convinced of the need for an “island economy”, i.e. the economy of Great Britain, to be self-sustaining. This was to be a crucial influence on the development of the Birmingham Programme into the wider-reaching “Mosley Memorandum” in 1928.


MOSLEY%20FDR%201926.png

The Mosleys with F. D. Roosevelt, some time during Mosley's tour of the United States in the winter of 1925–26.


When the problem of the coal industry finally erupted into the General Strike in May 1927, Mosley was one of the few people within the Labour Party who had seen it coming long before the vain attempts of the Conservative Baldwin government to postpone action. He was also in the minority of figures who retained some measure of influence on the Labour leadership for his willingness to support industrial action. Mosley was a good friend of Arthur Cook, the revolutionary leader of the Miners’ Federation who had for some years been pushing for a system of syndicated industry ownership. Later on, this warm rapport would prove invaluable to both men, though for now Mosley remained far from holding any influence on policy and was thus less immediately useful to the trade unionist movement as anything other than a parliamentary agitator. When the Baldwin government fell in the New Year, however, the ensuing election carried Mosley to a new level of influence. He was given a cabinet post in MacDonald’s Labour government as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with an additional responsibility for managing the mounting crisis of employment held jointly with J. H. Thomas as Lord Privy Seal. This was Mosley’s chance to implement his ideas, and assisted finally by John Strachey as his private secretary he was well-placed to bring Mosleyism into cabinet deliberations.


The first opportunity for the implementation of a Mosleyite programme was the Thomas Report on the state of the mining industry, delivered to the cabinet in May after the conclusion of a royal commission in which Mosley had been given a leading role. The report offered two programme’s for the amelioration of the state of the coal industry, aimed to put an end to the dispute with the trade unions. The principal set of recommendations did not veer too greatly from those already outlined two years before by Herbert Samuel: a series of economising measures whose parsimony would be countered by an extension of the wage subsidy used as a delaying tactic by Baldwin. In opposition to this programme was a second, the result of Mosley’s influence on the drafting of the report. While by no means a full manifestation of the Birmingham Programme as applied to the problem of coal, Mosley’s advocacy of a system of worker control found itself articulated as a recommendation that the mines be syndicated. Embraced enthusiastically by Arthur Cook, this radical programme was opposed wholesale by Philip Snowden, who led the cabinet as Chancellor in giving its backing to Thomas’s liberal measures of massaged austerity. Mosley’s cabinet allies were in the minority; India Secretary William Benn, Home Secretary J. R. Clynes, First Commissioner of Works George Lansbury, War Secretary Tom Shaw, President of the Board of Education C. P. Trevelyan, and Colonial Secretary Sidney Webb, ironically a founder of the Fabian Movement to which Mosley was generally opposed. Together they rallied a great level of energy in pushing the case for syndication, though could not break down the Gladstonian resolve of Snowden’s defence of austerity. Snowden, who in earlier years had declared Capitalism “unethical” had by this point emerged as a committed defender of the classical liberal economic orthodoxy, acceptance of Capital and all. The situation being as it was and Mosley having been defeated, he offered MacDonald his resignation from the cabinet and returned to Maxton and Wheatley on the backbenches. He was followed almost immediately by Clynes, Lansbury and Trevelyan. Benn, Shaw and Webb followed with their resignations in the days after.


Out of cabinet, Mosley used the summer to take his programme to the country, speaking on the platform of “Revolution by Reason”. It was a testament to his relationship with the trade unions that he was able to tour the country unhindered at a time when the workers’ movement was beginning to consolidate the control it exercised over parts of the country through practical occupation. In areas of South Wales, the East End, Clydeside and the industrialised North, summer 1928 marks an important moment when working-class organisation manifests itself for the first time as self-government, either alternatively to an existing power structure or as the dominant power structure itself. In South Wales, Mosley was hosted by Nye Bevan, then a young organiser with the Miners’ Federation who had come to the attention of the national leadership as the secretary of the newly-constituted Workers’ Council of Ebbw Vale. Bevan cemented his new-found prominence in early August when he was one of two-dozen signatories of the “Mosley Memorandum”, published in full in the Daily Herald and circulated to a readership of over 2 million. The Memorandum re-stated and developed upon earlier calls for increased production, large-scale campaigns of public works and the adoption of an insulating fiscal policy. It went further than previous declarations, however, in calling for a radical programme of political reform, advocating for the formation of a streamlined emergency cabinet, invested with a greater degree of executive power to combat the problem of unemployment. At a moment when the unemployment rate had just hit 12 per-cent – about 1.8 million people all told – it was a timely declaration of intent. As a show of strength, the TUC had led 100 thousand workers into occupation at Parliament Square at the end of August, a week before parliament was due to reconvene. The Metropolitan Police were unable to disperse the gathering, thus at the invitation of a particularly hysterical Lady Astor parliament was relocated to Cliveden. Mosley arrived in Buckinghamshire in September as the leader of a very small minority of MPs backed by the support of the working class.


BEVAN%201960.jpg

Aneurin "Nye" Bevan in 1960 addressing a crowd of miners in his birthplace of Tredegar. By this point President of the Commonwealth and Director of the Bureau of Coal, Bevan was one of Mosley's closest and longest-standing allies.


MacDonald was less than enamoured of Mosley’s populism and, in a show of defiance, promoted former TUC General Secretary Walter Citrine to replace him as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This time, in a pointed barb at Mosley, the role would come with an official responsibility for the solution of the unemployment question. As much as he was beset by Mosley on the Left, Churchill was leading his Conservatives in increasingly vocal attacks upon the government’s “feeble-minded” attempts to mitigate the strike action. MacDonald was less worried by Churchill’s indictments, considering them as little more than an annoying distraction, though privately obsessed as he was prone to over the possibility that the attacks might stick in the popular imagination. At this point in the history of the strike, it is hard to imagine the reputation of the MacDonald government as anything other than singularly unfavourable. Nevertheless, it speaks volumes of the Labour leader’s perennial concern for the longue durée of history that, even after having presided over the eviction of parliament from Westminster, he continued to fret about looking capable of government. Philip Snowden was similarly taxed by the question of “moral, responsible government" when preparing his autumn statement, ear-marking £38 million to put partly towards the reduction of duties on food, and partly towards an increase in old-age pensions. His admittedly noble commitment to the Liberal dream of the free breakfast table was one of the few redeeming moments of his custodianship of the exchequer, though by this point the aspiration was 70 years old and hardly radical in the contemporary climate. Meanwhile, his insistence on prioritising pensions over, for example, unemployment subsidies was taken as a deliberate snub by the TUC and the National Unemployed Workers’ Committee. When the budget was put to a vote on October 25th, Mosley mobilised his allies against it; despite the government’s majority of 32, it passed by only four votes. The following morning, MacDonald issued Mosley with an ultimatum: quit the party or face expulsion. The message, in Mosley’s ears, was quite clear: he had gone as far as he could within the Labour Party; the implementation of his programme would require a vehicle more accommodating of the scale of his ambition.


Between 1925 and 1928, Oswald Mosley emerged as one of the most insightful and imaginative critics of economic orthodoxy in Britain. He was challenged by the mainstream tendencies in both the Labour and Conservative parties, nevertheless crafting a position for himself as a national figure and building a broad, popular front of support for his policies amongst the workers’ movement. If he had wished, it is likely that he would have been able to stage a coup within the Labour Party, backed by his powerful friends in the trade unions who retained a significant influence at the Labour conference. Yet by 1928 he had grown impatient, convinced that the traditional Labour movement was too wedded to old ideas of utopian socialism, and even orthodox liberalism, to function properly as a vehicle for the solution of the problems faced by modern Britain at the dawn of the 1930s. The final word on the matter can be given to Mosley himself, who offered the following assessment in his political memoirs, published in 1965:


‘There was an element of farce in the tragedy. Spokesmen of the late Labour Government saw in the crisis [of the coal industry] that collapse of capitalism which they had prophesied with religious fervour. The crisis came in a lucky moment for them. Labour was in office, and had every resource of the State at its command. What happened? The great day dawned, and Labour resigned; cleared out just when they had the realisation of their greatest wish. What must we think of a Salvation Army which takes to its heels on the Day of Judgment?’


The urgency of Mosleyism had outgrown its nursery. Its next steps would prove pivotal in the shaping of Britain for decades to come.



Alan John Percivale Taylor (b. 1906) is an English historian, writer and broadcaster. His seminal work of political biography, Mosley: A Political Life, was published in 1969 at a time when public opinion had begun to turn against Mosley’s legacy. Taylor remains one of the former chairman’s staunchest defenders in the public sphere .
 
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loup99

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This confirms the crucial role Mosley will play in the upcoming revolution, for better or worse. He is ready to leave Labour with his allies, and MacDonald is certainly greatly weakened. Interesting to see Roosevelt hosting Mosley, I wonder if things will diverge economically on the other side of the Atlantic or otherwise what impact the Wall Street Crash of 1929 will have.
 

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This confirms the crucial role Mosley will play in the upcoming revolution, for better or worse. He is ready to leave Labour with his allies, and MacDonald is certainly greatly weakened. Interesting to see Roosevelt hosting Mosley, I wonder if things will diverge economically on the other side of the Atlantic or otherwise what impact the Wall Street Crash of 1929 will have.

I too was interested to learn that Mosley had met FDR. Potentially makes for some easier conversations with the US after they’re confronted with the prospect of an anti-Capitalist Britain.

I haven’t thought much about the exact repercussions of the Crash beyond in Britain or Europe, but indirectly it absolutely has an effect on politics in the Commonwealth. As hopefully we shall see quite soon. :)
 
The Labour Years, 1924–1928 (Part One) (March 1924 – February 1928)

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THE LABOUR YEARS, 1924–1928
PART ONE

FROM MY LIFE
OSWALD MOSLEY[1]

1965


My path now led inevitably to the Labour Party. ‘Through and beyond the failure of men and of parties, we of the war generation are marching on,’ and the only hope of implementing any of the pledges now lay in the party which had been thrown up by the mass of the people to right their wrongs. It is true that Lloyd George was my original leader on the Left, until he fell in 1922 and formed his own Liberal Party, but he was then in isolation and in no position to do anything creative. At that time I did not know him personally and it seemed more practical to ally myself with the party that had a mass revolutionary following. A surprise was the remarkably favourable reaction of the Labour Party when I joined them. The more I was attacked by the Conservative press, the greater the enthusiasm of the Left.


Doctrinaire socialism of the old school made only slight appeal to me, but socialism as I defined it a year later in the Birmingham proposals as ‘the conscious control and direction of human resources for human needs’, I could accept. This definition would still be acceptable to me with a slight change of emphasis: more reliance on general direction of the state rather than detailed control, and the substitution of purposes for needs in order to recognise that all achievement is the result only of intensive effort. The conscious direction of human resources for human purposes I should still regard as a good general principle.


It may well be an error to use the term socialism because it is an emotive word which repulses many people, and is capable of so many different interpretations that in the end it has come to mean almost nothing except a mild shock to complacent guardians of the status quo. Certainly, for decades my own adoption of the term has caused no small degree of private consternation amongst the ranks of the Communist Party, both those in the old school of Comrade Pollitt and those in the new school of Comrade Ramelson. Perhaps this view is too much the converse of Dr. Dalton's observation to his young admirers in some interval of discussing one of his forthcoming budgets with lobby correspondents: there may not be much in socialism, but a lot of people seem to want it. The just mean is surely to approach economic problems which are the subject of religious emotion with a method more practical and realistic; pragmatic, if the word were not now devalued by contemporary reduction of the language of action to the uses of absurdity.


My inclination in British politics was always toward the guild socialists – then represented by such thinkers and writers as G. D. H. Cole, J. A. Hobson and A. R. Orage – rather than to state socialism, whose exponents were the Webbs and the Fabians. The tradition of the medieval guilds in England, of the Hanseatic League and the syndicalism of the Latin countries was much nearer to my thinking when I joined the Labour movement, and I returned to it time and again during my stewardship of the Office for Economic Planning, when I oversaw the implementation of a workers' ownership of key industries, as called for by Arthur Cook and many others. In the event of their success, the extension of the principle to other fully developed industries was possible was possible; measures accompanied both by vigorous encouragement of a completely emancipated worker enterprise in all remaining industries and also by a reversion to national ownership in cases where workers' ownership failed; a pragmatic method implementing the test of practical results. When I joined the Labour Party, and later, I was not closely in tune with the mandarin attitude of state-control which reached its summit in the thinking of the Webbs, although it is worth mentioning that the Webbs later came over to my cause.


It was the dynamism of the Labour Party at that time which really attracted me, and this came mostly from the rank and file. The Clydeside M.P.s represented the drive to reform, and they soon became some of my closest parliamentary associates. Before I joined Labour they had invited me to Glasgow and together we had seen the slums whose abolition had been promised in 1918 but which still existed in 1924. Similar visits to Liverpool with Jack Hayes, the ex-policeman and Labour Whip, and later intimate knowledge of Birmingham gave vivid proof in these execrable housing conditions that all the pledges given to the war generation had been betrayed. This perhaps more than any other single factor was the motive power which took me into the Labour Party. There were many intellectual arguments which I had already myself developed frequently in parliamentary debate, but here was the real impulse of vital feeling.


Joining Labour in March 1924 at once brought invitations to address mass meetings in Glasgow and throughout the Clydeside area. I was accompanied by Cimmie, who by then had become a very effective speaker, one of the best women I have ever heard on the platform, and the fact that she was Curzon's daughter further inflamed the fury of the Conservative press. Invitations poured in from all over the country to address mass meetings, and very soon I was invited to stand for Parliament by more than seventy local Labour constituency organisations. However, I took no immediate decision where to stand at the next election, although it could not be long delayed, and concentrated on getting my bearings and taking the best advice on that subject and other questions of procedure in my new party.


WEBBS.jpg

Beatrice and Sidney Webb, founders of the gradualist Fabian Society whose brand of socialism Mosley opposed. The Webbs came over to Mosley's cause after he broke with the Labour Party, though were never amongst his closest allies.


Membership of the main Labour Party and the Independent Labour Party was then permitted at the same time, so I joined them both. I was rapidly elected to the National Administrative Council of the Independent Labour Party, and at a later date was also elected to the National Executive of the Labour Party. MacDonald and Snowden by this time had fallen out badly with the I. L. P., which they had originally planned as a combined factory of ideas and of revolutionary spirit for the mass of the Labour Party with its dominant Trade Union influence. When MacDonald succeeded to the Labour leadership and developed an appropriately bourgeois outlook the effective leadership of the I. L. P. soon reverted to James Maxton and the Clydeside group.


The colourful personality of Maxton has been described too often to require repetition. He was a most genuine person in all things, except in his French revolutionary make-up; I am always inclined to distrust men who require make-up in politics, whether it be the sansculotte self-consciously posturing in the shadow of a papier-mache guillotine on the Left, or the bucolic pig fancier, too honest to be true stuff, of the Baldwin school on the Right. John Wheatley, the most remarkable man among the Clydesiders is not so well known to a later generation; he was then Minister of Health and the only member of that group to hold Cabinet office.


Wheatley was the only man of Lenin quality the English Left ever produced. He had made a small fortune in business and sat for a Glasgow constituency. His method in debate was cold, incisive, steely, and contrasted completely with the emotionalism of his colleagues, particularly with Maxton, who was an orator of the John Bright school. Wheatley was a master of fact and figure, and far more than any other member of the Labour Party impressed me as a man who might get things done; it followed naturally that MacDonald detested him. Wheatley and I had an esteem for each other, and he remained a solid ally well throughout the first period of politics in the Commonwealth, but he did not survive the troubles of 1934, and with him the last memory of effective action from the original Labour Party probably went to its grave.


Much of my early period in the Labour Party was spent in acting as intermediary between MacDonald and the Left wing, then represented chiefly by the I. L. P.; I must have been almost the only man on speaking terms with both except for the shadowy and sickly figure of Clifford Allen, who succeeded Wheatley in my Second Executive Council, but had to go in March 1936 along with Lloyd George after it became apparent that their estimations of Herr Hitler were sincere. Later legend attached to me the reputation of being a difficult colleague, presumably because I found it difficult to condone the betrayal of every pledge given to the electorate. In fact, I am a loyal colleague as a member of a team, and when I find it impossible to be loyal I do not stay in the team to intrigue against colleagues, but leave it and challenge them openly. It is a simple principle, which in these days especially may be regarded as simpliste, but it seems to me the only honourable course. Before you leave, you should put up with much, and I certainly did in the Labour Party, with everything except the complete betrayal of the mass of the people who had trusted us.


It seemed to be my duty in the Labour Party to do what I could to keep the party together, as the only hope at that time of getting anything done in Britain, and to that end I associated with MacDonald while remaining an active member of the I. L. P. executive. However, my position in the party was in no way dependent on MacDonald. I had four sources of independent strength. The first was my election to the National Executive of the Labour Party in September 1927 by vote both of the constituency parties and of the trade unions. The second was my simultaneous membership of the National Administrative Council of the I. L. P. by election of its members; I believe I was the only member of both governing bodies. The third was my territorial strength in Birmingham, which I found a Conservative stronghold and which in four years under my leadership was turned into a Labour fortress throughout the central area. The fourth was my capacity as a parliamentary debater, combined with my ability to draw the largest platform audiences in the country. These four attributes in conjunction made me a power in the party independent of MacDonald or anyone else.


I was still too young to play a leading role myself, and was therefore constrained to work through established personalities and institutions. This was the only effective way of implementing the ideas which moved me, and to this end it was certainly necessary in some degree to accept the philosopher's advice: ‘Harness to your chariot a conspicuous donkey, a most conspicuous donkey’. Yet the primary reason for my close association with MacDonald was party unity rather than any considerable hope that he personally would act as an executive instrument. He was an agreeable person but, as I found later in government, quite incapable of decision and action.


ZINOVIEV.jpg

The Zinoviev Letter was a fraudulent document published in the Daily Mail in October 1924, purporting to be from the head of Comintern Grigory Zinoviev, that implicated the Labour Party in an alleged plot to engage the CPGB in activity against the British state. Although denounced at the time by both Zinoviev (publicly) and MI5 (privately), it was taken as genuine by the Chamberlain government and thus is considered to have contributed to Labour's defeat in 1925.


Striking evidence of this weakness in MacDonald was already provided in a conversation I had with him in the summer of 1924, which I well remember. He had recently had a considerable success in defeating Austen Chamberlain on a matter of government policy, and the Labour Party was on the crest of a little wave which might have carried it to a majority. I urged him to call for a vote of no-confidence in the ministry and an immediate election. ‘No, my boy,’ he replied, ‘that is what Lloyd George would do, much too opportunist. I know a trick worth two of that; we will carry on and show them what we can do with a long spell of steady work.’ He carried on, and six months later the steady old moke in his proudly worn official uniform of blue and gold harness, pulling his little cart of minor meddling in administrative muddles, without a thought even of a larger opportunism, and certainly without even a smoke dream of creative action, caught the harsh lash of a fate contemptuous of easy complacency, right in his tenderest part, from the Zinoviev letter which the Tories were much too innocent to know anything about. At that moment I was reminded of one of the most tedious of his seemingly terminable anecdotes. It was an account of riding donkeys up the Himalayas, which wandered to some kind of conclusion with the words: ‘So on they went, on and on and up and up, indefatigable beasts’. It is not always the most patient donkey which wins the race, though admittedly, as we in Britain sometimes know to our cost, it can happen.


Six weeks before the election in May 1925 I entered the fight in Birmingham. It seemed to me unfair to some of my old associates to fight in Harrow, though with my firm roots in that constituency I might have had a better chance of winning than in Birmingham. Also, I wanted to give some striking service to the party which had so well received me. The Chamberlains and their machine had ruled Birmingham for sixty years, first as Liberal–Radicals and then as Conservative–Unionists. Their party machine was at that time probably the strongest in the country. We had six weeks in which to smash it. I chose to fight the Conservative–Unionist M. P. John Burman in the constituency of Duddeston. Neville Chamberlain, who sat for the working-class constituency of Ladywood in the centre of the city, was my neighbour; his brother Austen was the M.P. one constituency over again, and their names and abilities made them a formidable combination. Our own organisation had a paying membership of some two hundred, but when we started the canvass only three elderly women and two young men would accompany us. They were fine people, typical of the English workers, and closely resembling the other pioneers later attached to our new Movement. They were all manual workers, and against them were the serried ranks of some of the ablest businessmen in the country who with the aid of the massed middle class and of many Conservative working men constituted the powerful machine of our opponents.


My colleagues among the candidates we found on the spot were a rather simple lot. A grand old pioneer of religious bent called Frank Smith was fighting the neighbouring constituency against Austen Chamberlain. We held a meeting together with Frank Smith in the chair, packed with our working-class constituents, but with the front row occupied by prominent businessmen who had come to see the new freak. The chairman began with what seemed an interminable oration about his own peculiar brand of metaphysics, and just as I was entertaining some transient hope of its conclusion, pulled out a football referee's whistle, blew it and shouted ‘Half-time’. He then called for prayers, flopped down on his knees and said them. Soon he got up, blew his whistle again, said ‘Half-time is over’ and continued his speech. After another thirty minutes of the best, he called on me. It was an inauspicious start. I had more luck to my north in the constituency of Aston, where my neighbour was John Strachey, a firm supporter and ally once he finally got in in 1928. Later he would serve with great skill and ability as the leader of our Movement in Parliament.


In spite of these unlikely beginnings, my raging speaking campaign, both indoor and outdoor, and the superb work done by Cimmie in leading the canvassing team, eventually turned the scales. It was a joyous day when in the courtyards running back from the streets in the Birmingham slums we saw the blue window cards coming down and the red going up. The court leaders of some hundred people were usually dominant old women, and when mother turned they all turned. Mrs. Burman worked magnificently on the other side in street canvass, but when it came to demagogy John was not in the ring. This was true of most of the followers of the Chamberlain dynasty in that city, and even if Balfour’s damning summation of Austen’s lack of character is perhaps exceedingly harsh, it captures something of the lack of vigour in the Conservative–Unionist leadership. Neville too was an able enough administrator – despite F. E. Smith’s jibe that he was an adequate Mayor of Birmingham in a lean year – yet he had no great appeal to the masses. During the count Burman sat huddled in a corner, either exercising an iron self-control or in a state of near collapse; his agents did everything and he never moved.


The count was a drama: there were two re-counts. First I was in by seven, then Burman was in by two, and finally I was in by seventy-seven. It was alleged by some of their people that votes had disappeared, and uproar broke out with men fighting in the crowded public gallery and people pointing to the floor as they bellowed—‘That one's got 'em in his pocket’. It appeared from all enquiry that their allegations could not be sustained. I was declared the winner, and we left the Town Hall at six o'clock in the morning to find an enormous crowd in the square outside which had waited up all night to hear the result; they were singing the Red Flag. They seized me and carried me around with an enthusiasm which deeply moved me. I decided to remain in Birmingham, and soon after the election turned down an invitation to stand in a by-election for a safe Labour seat at Forest of Dean. A splendid team of young men joined me in Birmingham as candidates and we built our organisation with the aid of a new organiser from the Clyde, Allan Young. Three years later Neville Chamberlain had deserted Ladywood for the safety of a middle-class stronghold in outlying Edgbaston, as the advance we had achieved in face of the wave of Conservative victory in the 1925 election made his position precarious. At the election of 1928 we took half the city from the Conservatives, and the tradition of sixty years was at an end. Labour had its chance.



1: Author's Note – This update incorporates text, either edited or in original form, from Oswald Mosley's My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), accessed via Archive.org, July 2019.
 
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stnylan

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Well Moseley certainly knows how to portray himself to posterity.
 

SibCDC

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He was a most genuine person in all things, except in his French revolutionary make-up; I am always inclined to distrust men who require make-up in politics, whether it be the sansculotte self-consciously posturing in the shadow of a papier-mache guillotine on the Left
I had to chuckle at that bit, Mosley using a lot of French words in one sentence to call out someone on their French revolutionary make-up :p
 

loup99

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A lot which is only being hinted and foreshadowed in this update, from Hitler to Lloyd George and beyond to those troubles in 1934. Mosley does certainly build a certain legacy with that text, which can already be somewhat contrasted with other pieces shared in earlier updates, making it all much interesting.
 

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Well Moseley certainly knows how to portray himself to posterity.

He's the most frustrating writer – every word you're second guessing whether he's being entirely disingenuous, or whether he's actually being sincere for once. It's not hard reading his autobiography to see how people got swept up by him.

I had to chuckle at that bit, Mosley using a lot of French words in one sentence to call out someone on their French revolutionary make-up :p

In some ways he seems to have been reasonably self aware. In ways.... not in the slightest. :p

A lot which is only being hinted and foreshadowed in this update, from Hitler to Lloyd George and beyond to those troubles in 1934. Mosley does certainly build a certain legacy with that text, which can already be somewhat contrasted with other pieces shared in earlier updates, making it all much interesting.

Finding his memoirs was a gold mine; I've had good fun editing and interpolating bits to fit with how he develops in this timeline. I've been glad as well for some of his (many, extended) insights into his colleagues and contemporaries. They give me a lot to work with for politics during his time in government.

________________________________

Thanks as always to everyone for commenting. It's appreciated immensely. I will buy with some work over the next week but I have some more updates – some from Chairman Mosley – ready to go. Hopefully I'll get a moment mid-week to put something up.

Until then!
 

Wraith11B

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(...) The influence of Mrs. Joy Williams, a writer to whom I am related by the accident of marriage, (...)

Just about burst out laughing at this snide comment.

Also, speaking as someone who doesn't know terribly much of the internal political history of the British Isles aside from a chapter concerning the Jarrow Crusade in the book Between Two Fires by David Clay Large and what I picked up from my "Europe in the Age of Total War: 1914 - 1945" class back at VCU, I've got to say that this has been a master class in both maintaining focus and creating a realistic approach to the history of a Britain that goes down the path set before her in your time line. Which, since this strike went on for a year in your story, is there even going to be a Jarrow Crusade? I'd imagine not, but I'm wondering if that's something that feeds into the final descent into Syndicalism.
 

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Just about burst out laughing at this snide comment.

It's lifted directly from The Making of the English Working Class. I think it's probably meant to be affectionate in a progressive sort of way but, yeah – strange choice of phrasing.

Also, speaking as someone who doesn't know terribly much of the internal political history of the British Isles aside from a chapter concerning the Jarrow Crusade in the book Between Two Fires by David Clay Large and what I picked up from my "Europe in the Age of Total War: 1914 - 1945" class back at VCU, I've got to say that this has been a master class in both maintaining focus and creating a realistic approach to the history of a Britain that goes down the path set before her in your time line. Which, since this strike went on for a year in your story, is there even going to be a Jarrow Crusade? I'd imagine not, but I'm wondering if that's something that feeds into the final descent into Syndicalism.

Thanks a lot! I spent a good deal of time working through the details of the timeline so I'm glad it at least holds together to some extent. I'm looking forward to being able to expand upon the alternate future suggested by the strike.

As for Jarrow, as you correctly guess it will not appear reproduced exactly as happened historical. But there is plenty more working class action to come up and down the country, and in many respects – as you might imagine – it's even more significant than the Crusade.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Apologies for the relative silence this week. It's been a busy one. Nevertheless, next update is inbound. Hope you're all up for more Mosley! :D
 
The Labour Years, 1924–1928 (Part Two) (March 1928 – October 1928)

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg


THE LABOUR YEARS, 1924–1928
PART TWO

FROM MY LIFE[1]
OSWALD MOSLEY

1965


There had been fears that my decision to resign from cabinet would prove a hindrance to the ambitions of our movement, but I had banked correctly on both the firm support of my friends in Parliament in the I. L. P., and the popular backing I had galvanised amongst the public that summer on my tour of the country. MacDonald, in reacting to my departure, made a rash judgement that demonstrated the depths of his willingness to present a churlish front to the trade unionists. In my place as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, the prime minister appointed the old T. U. C. general secretary Walter Citrine, a figure popular within the conservative tendency for his promotion of the idea of collaboration between the unions and the apparatus of the State, a principle sound in theory but lacklustre in practice.


I never met Mr. Citrine, but he had a reputation as a highly effective administrator, who harboured a deep resentment against the radical Left after he was ousted from the T. U. C., but who nevertheless retained a great sympathy for Lenin and the Soviet Union. His downfall was his belief that division amongst the ranks of the communists would pave the way for a brutal suppression of the trade unions, as later happened in Germany, and in this regard he was well-matched by MacDonald. But he was never able to overcome this paranoia, even after the Commonwealth proved itself to be a stable polity, and his perception of it was always coloured by his ultimate faith in the possibility of a market capitalism whose effect on the working class was mitigated by the unions and the State. He retained a romantic belief that good relations between private ownership and its workers was possible, and this held him back. Were he more imaginative, I have little doubt that he would have proven a political organiser of great tact and ability. Alas, he left Britain for Australia in late 1930 and his talents eluded the Commonwealth project.


With the Labour leadership thus entrenched, I turned back to the backbenches. Our movement found great sympathy, not only amongst my old allies in the I. L. P., but now more broadly within elements of the Labour Party previously happy to pay lip service to the conservatism promoted by MacDonald and Snowden. Our first test as a group was the upcoming autumn statement, which was to be delivered to Parliament by the chancellor at the end of October. Snowden had been animated throughout his career by various orthodoxies of the Gladstonian Liberal tradition. His chief concern was the idea of the ‘free breakfast table’, a noble goal but one belonging wholly to the previous century. Snowden’s outlook was on the whole parsimonious, and his methods were Victorian; as he had demonstrated in opposing our movement in cabinet, he had little time for economic thinking that did not comply with his own strict morality.


CITRINE%20DOWNING%20ST%201926.jpg

Walter Citrine, right, leaving 10 Downing Street in May 1926 after meeting with Stanley Baldwin in negotiations over the future of the coal industry.


A truly gritty Yorkshireman, he lived completely in the economics of the previous century, not of Marx or even Owen, but of Adam Smith and Marshall. He said to me quite simply when we were struggling with the haunting problem of unemployment: ‘One day Chinamen will wear their shirts an inch or two longer, and then there will be no unemployment in Lancashire’. Events moved faster than changes of fashion in China, and our government is still finding difficulty in persuading Chairman Mao to wear his shirt longer for the benefit of Lancashire. Despite having in earlier years declared capitalism to have been unethical, his answer to this problem was not to overthrow the market system, but rather to ensure that it had as little a toll on the public purse as possible. Moscow had been damning of the Labour leadership since the start of the decade, and I believe that the Comintern had got it right in 1920 in a letter to the I. L. P. where they wrote that ‘it seemed to them that because the capitalists treated [Labour] as equals, as partners in their transactions, the working class had secured equal rights with capital. Their own social standing secure and material position improved, they looked upon the world through the rose-coloured spectacles of a peaceful middle-class life.’ Snowden was typical of this characterisation.


At the dispatch box, Snowden carried himself much as an heir to the old Liberal tradition. In this sense even his appearance was interesting, because he had an impressive, splendid face, much cleaner cut and more determined than that of MacDonald. He had an intellectual contempt for MacDonald, since within his Gladstonian limits he had a lucid intellect and was a powerful debater. In politics he was completely imprisoned in the dichotomy of his type: there is heaven where we want to go, but this is the earth and this is what we have to do; heaven being a vague dream called socialism and the earth being the Treasury view of capitalism in the narrowest sense. It remains a common phenomenon within the Labour Party; the complete division of mind and spirit between some ideal world and the practical thing which has to be done tomorrow. Yet by reason of the precision and clarity of his mind, Snowden in practical affairs was always separated from MacDonald, who by then had become hopelessly woolly.


Snowden before my arrival had nothing more serious to knock over than the living wage policy of the I. L. P. He did not find this difficult because a minimum wage considerably in excess of prevailing wages in industries competing for world markets could easily be shown to cost us out of those markets, and to produce an instantaneous economic crash. The dilemma of attempting to move towards socialism in one small island entirely dependent on world markets was quickly exposed. My arrival confronted him with a completely new animal in the Labour Party, the pragmatic man. I was interested neither in the I. L. P.'s dreamy vision of a socialist world nor in nineteenth-century capitalism which was breaking down before our eyes.


SNOWDEN%20DOWNING%20ST%201930.jpg

Philip and Ethel Snowden on the steps of 11 Downing Street, the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, photographed shortly before the autumn statement of 1928.


The Birmingham proposals for all their complexities said in effect: let us meet the unemployment problem, which is the crux of the whole matter, here and now; nothing matters immediately except that. We can meet it by a series of measures some of which are socialist while others are not, but which all mean the active, dynamic intervention of the State under government leadership. To Snowden and his advisers in the Treasury this view became anathema. In the living-wage policy he had a dummy to knock down, a pushover for any dialectician, but now he found a serious argument in a sphere of which he was entirely ignorant. He was familiar with Montagu Norman and the Treasury thinking of that time, but the thinking of Keynes, or the comparable thinking of the Federal Reserve Board economists, was a closed book to him. When I won the argument within the I. L. P. for the Birmingham policy he had a serious case to answer, and he did not like the author of his trouble. I was not just the young man in a hurry, as they tried to pretend, or the advocate of ‘wild-cat finance’, in the phrase of Snowden. My plans were based on the new orthodoxy, of which they understood nothing, and had the backing not only of the dynamic genius of the older generation, Lloyd George – with all the immense authority of his peacetime achievement in office and of his wartime administration – but of the master of the new economic thinking himself, J. Maynard Keynes.


On the day of the budget presentation, I was sat with Maxton and Wheatley towards the back of the government benches packed in with the rest of the I. L. P. lot. Cimmie was with Robert Forgan, a physician from Renfrewshire whose socialism was moulded almost entirely by the Kirk, and who later would become a close friend to us both and godfather to our son Michael. There was a buzz about the Commons, as was usual on budget day, though heightened by the fact of some rumours of the statement having leaked already. It was understood that Snowden was going to present a typically miserly fare, hardly touching the welfare of the workers, save for piecemeal alterations of certain duties here and there. In the event, we were proven right; Snowden spoke for some time, hardly the four and three-quarter hours of Gladstone’s infamous effort, but somehow extending his meagre programme over two and a half hours. He spoke as ever with intellectual lucidity but little charisma, and protected the consulate image of the dutiful accountant protecting the Treasury pot.


Once Snowden had drawn his speech to a close, Churchill rose to make some remarks stating some opposition or other to the government’s policy – I need not reproduce the specifics of the argument here – yet he was of course hindered in his course by the fact that by this point he and Snowden were in many ways at one over the issue of the economy. The two men held to what was often called the Treasury view, that any money loans raised by the Government must be taken from other industrial activities and will put out of employment as many men as are put in employment. Hence Snowden’s provisions not for a radical fund to address the matter of unemployment, but merely token measures to support the pensioners – worthy no doubt, yet not the cause under whose banner millions had taken to the pickets for the previous seventeen months.


When the time came, I was called upon to make some comment on my own. I stood on behalf of those of us in the I. L. P. ranks and put my questions to the Chancellor, making it perfectly clear what I thought of the Treasury view and denouncing in no uncertain terms the apparent lack of will to address the twin problems of unemployment, all but absent from the statement, and of the coal industry, which MacDonald undoubtedly thought a closed matter after the Thomas Report affair and was now merely waiting for the unions to fall into line.


MOSLEY%20RESIGNATION%20CARTOON.jpg

A cartoon from summer 1928 showing Mosley, having newly resigned, joining the ranks of the unemployed. MacDonald looks out aghast from a window in 10 Downing Street ("Heartbreak House").


‘I admit that there is some force in that view in a period of acute deflation. If you are pursuing a deflationary policy, restricting the whole basis of credit, it is difficult to raise large loans for such purposes as this. … Given, however, a financial policy of stabilisation, that Treasury point of view cannot hold water. It would mean that every single new enterprise is going to put as many men out of employment as it will employ. That is a complete absurdity if you pursue that argument to its logical conclusion. If it is true, it means that nothing can ever be done by the Government or by Parliament. It means that no Government has any function or any purpose; it is a policy of complete surrender. It has been said rather curiously, in view of the modesty of my programme, that it is the policy of the “red flag”. I might reply that what is known as the Treasury view is the policy of the “white flag”. It is a policy of surrender, of negation, by which any policy can be frustrated and blocked in this country.’


The argument I advanced would now be almost universally accepted, but it was then rejected by both front benches and opposed by the whole weight of the party machines. The time-lag between the acceptance of new thinking, or even of new facts, is indeed disturbing in an age when facts continue to move so much faster than the minds of men.


I clinched this argument with a reference to the Government's faulty method of seeking conversion which included a quotation from the President of the Board of Trade speaking a few days earlier – ‘During the past fortnight alone £16,000,000 of new capital has been authorised or raised for overseas investment, and so I trust the process will continue’ – and commented ‘Why? Why is it so right and proper and desirable that capital should go overseas to equip factories to compete against us, to build roads and railways in the Argentine or in Timbuctoo, to provide employment for people in those countries, while it is supposed to shake the whole basis of our financial strength if anyone dares to suggest the raising of money by the Government of this country to provide employment?’


PLUA%20(FORGAN%20CIMMIE%20MOSLEY%20STRACHEY)%201928.jpg

Mosley's allies in the Independent Labour Party, photographed at Mosley's house in late 1928. From left to right: John Wheatley[2], Robert Forgan, Cimmie and Oswald Mosley, and John Strachey.


The front bench were of course furious and voiced their various protestations. Churchill too found the whole affair quite entertaining and was unsparing in his exploitation of so public a display of revolt against MacDonald and his allies. Nonetheless, it was clear to all in our movement that the Labour government had ceased to be useful in the drive to solve the problem of unemployment, therefore it would have been a failing on our part to have gone along for sentimentality’s sake with sustaining the whole affair. MacDonald had a majority of 32; our ranks numbered perhaps two dozen. In the event, the budget passed by a margin of only four, and the calls on MacDonald to quit office grew louder from across the aisle.


Having made our point in voting against the budget, we felt it unnecessary to go through the charade of denouncing MacDonald and his allies any further in public, thus we did not join with Churchill in his attacks. MacDonald, however, was moved to a rare temper by our rebellion, and later on he delivered an ultimatum to those who supported our cause: fall in line or get out. He singled me out for particular condemnation, I think as a result of having counted upon me as an old ally, and even after my resignation from the cabinet supposing that he had no reason to believe our cordial public relationship had soured. Still he called me a ‘Bolshevist fellow-traveller’, being uncharacteristically direct in his speech, and accusing me and my friends in the trade unions of all sorts of underhand intentions.


The day after the budget statement, I took my seat in Parliament as an independent member for the second time in my career. After four years, my association with the Labour Party had come to an end. I was joined first by Cimmie and Robert Forgan, then with a great deal of sadness on their parts by Strachey, Maxton and Wheatley, who had privately worried about their attachment to the Labour Party when called upon to sever the tie. I reminded them only that it was the Labour Party that had failed us, and that if we were serious about the implementation of our programme then no amount of political romanticism should be allowed to cloud our actions. After this, much of the I. L. P. hard-core came over to my side en bloc. I was heartened also by the defections of a number of former cabinet colleagues, who had defended my part of the Thomas Report and who were now sufficiently put out by MacDonald’s course to switch their allegiances. Amongst this number were Clynes, Lansbury and Trevelyan; later we were joined by the young William Benn, veteran Tom Shaw, and the idiosyncratic figure of Sidney Webb, whose Fabianism had little in common with my own ideas but who I suspect was moved in his turn against Labour by his fierce loyalty to the Soviet Union, and carried along on his raft of intellectual security from which he was hardly able to notice intrigues of party. This was the unlikely core of the group intent on re-forming the apparatus of the British state into an organ fit for the modern world.



1: Author's Note – This update incorporates text, either edited or in original form, from Oswald Mosley's My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), accessed via Archive.org, July 2019.

2: Rather than John Wheatley, that is in fact Conservative MP W. E. Allen, who joined Mosley's New Party in our timeline. For reasons which will become apparent, I have taken the liberty of switching Allen out for Wheatley.
 
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loup99

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A new grouping has been formed out of the old Labour Party, now it remains to be seen the role this group will play and how long MacDonald will be able to survive with such a small majority in these turbulent times.
 

stnylan

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I find it very hard to believe in his sincerity
 

DensleyBlair

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A new grouping has been formed out of the old Labour Party, now it remains to be seen the role this group will play and how long MacDonald will be able to survive with such a small majority in these turbulent times.

Absolutely. MacDonald's days are numbered, and all that really remains for him to do short of reversing course and attacking the crisis is to manage a smooth exit from power. Of course, in revolution nothing can be quite so simple.

I find it very hard to believe in his sincerity

He is a superlatively unguent writer. It makes capturing his voice relatively easy work, but man do you have to make sure not to get sucked in. That said, a lot of Mosley's friends in the ILP are fascinating people in their own rights. I'm looking forward to being able to bring them into the story more.

_________________________________

Thanks both for your continued support. I'll be away without wifi from Thursday to next Monday, so at the moment I'm thinking I'll put up the next update on Wednesday and leave you all something for the weekend. That said, I've got back into the swing of writing lately so I've built up a little cushion of updates again. Which is a nice place to be in. All being well, we'll be out of the UK and into the Commonwealth very soon indeed.

Until then! :)
 
Building the Alliance, 1928–1929 (November 1928 – January 1929)

DensleyBlair

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ECHOES%20HEADER.jpg



BUILDING THE ALLIANCE, 1928–1929

FROM MY LIFE[1]
OSWALD MOSLEY

1965

At the time of my resignation I believed that the reconstruction of industry and the solution of the problem of unemployment could only be done by a national consensus of the most vital elements in the country. In the hope of building a coalition which might bring about immediate action, I sought to forge links with friends in addition to my allies in the Labour Party, and so I entered into close relations with Lloyd George and a number of the younger and abler men of all parties.


I was confident of the success of our movement for two reasons: the first, we led a national consensus to secure action; the second, we were backed by a grass-roots movement of the people. It is right always to try with the utmost patience to secure action by the gentle, English method of national agreement. More drastic action which bitterly divides the nation should only be undertaken if without it the nation may die. This became necessary in my view in the late twenties because the danger was immediate, and were it not for the ingenuity of the trade unions and the workers in organising themselves in spite of such a gross lack of initiative as exhibited by the government might at any time have become very grave indeed. At a certain point it became inevitable that some new political force was required to fill this vacuum of leadership.


My attempt to secure a national consensus after my resignation from cabinet in 1928 was successful in no small part thanks to the close friendship I enjoyed with A. J. Cook and the miners. It was not generally known that Cook was born the son of an English private soldier in a barracks in York, because he rose to fame through the Miners' Federation in Wales, by the simple process, as he so often told me, of turning up at miners' meetings and denouncing the existing and highly popular leader ‘old Mabon’ as a crook; his proudest exhibits were the scars on his head caused by the windows through which over a considerable period the miners used to throw him. Will, endurance and at least the partial justice of his complaints triumphed in the end; he was a living symbol of the peculiar process by which alone a reality achieves the final acceptance of the British people.


Arthur Cook was regarded as the most dangerous revolutionary in the country. In reality, he had one of the coolest and best heads among the Labour leaders. His methods, however, suggested the contrary. I got to know him well when we were elected to speak together by the miners at their immense meetings like the Durham Gala, he from the trade union side and I from the political side. On such occasions he appeared as the acme of demagogy. After the long march past of the miners with bands blaring and banners flaunting – which may have first suggested to an errant young man that colourful methods were not so inappropriate to British politics as some supposed – we repaired to a large field below the castle where A. J. put up his classic performances. Sometimes stripped to the waist on a hot August afternoon, he dealt in rhythmic slogans rather than in normal speech. Once, after a little recent trouble between unemployed miners and the police, a few of the familiar helmets appeared on the edge of the orderly crowd of some 100,000. A. J. started a chant of furious monotony like the beating of tom-toms – ‘Bloody Bluebottles, Bloody Bluebottles’ – and it echoed back from the vast audience like the roar of the sea. No one was any the worse, and two hours later we were sitting calmly with other miners’ leaders in the local pub with A. J. Cook discussing economics, of which he had a remarkable grasp. We became firm friends, and it was his patronage that protected our movement in the early days from the suspicions of the Communists, who did not presume me a ‘fellow-traveller’ and thus could never fully accept my pre-eminence among the leaders of the action against the government. Cook enjoyed an all too brief career during which he was both Chairman and President but ended up a victim of the putsch in 1934, ambushed by some cowardly louts who attacked him on a railway station platform soon after I had been elected to the chairmanship. I had in mind a central role for him in my government and felt his loss very keenly; in his maturity he might have combined mind and will and acquired an equilibrium which would have made his dynamism truly effective.


AJ%20COOK%201928.jpg

Arthur Cook arrives at a conference of the Miners' Federation in London at the height of the general strike, summer 1928. Cook was perhaps the principle leader of the strike movement, and the only major leader to go over explicitly to Mosley's cause. He helped to shape the Commonwealth in its infancy before falling victim to counter-revolutionary violence in 1934.


Initially my efforts at building a coalition did not intrude into the Houses of Parliament beyond the benches of the I. L. P. Out of the Labour Party, secure in the knowledge that I was backed by the working class, I launched into a new offensive in the Commons. From that House it would have been possible to form not only an adequate but a brilliant administration. There were some absurd and many ineffectual characters in Parliament during the twenties and thirties, but there was also a considerable number of serious and able men drawn from all parties, who sensed the national danger and were in sufficient agreement, at least on the immediate emergency, to work effectively together. We were fortunate in that the gravity of the economic crisis was sufficient to break the power of the ruling politicians who commanded the party machines.


The natural instinct is to seek the easy way out in a combination of well-known figures who control the prevailing parties, and only to turn to more drastic measures and dynamic personalities when this fails to work, and it is seen that zero multiplied by zero is zero. In any really serious crisis a still vital and determined people turns to new men and new forms, and once the necessity is plain, no people is more capable of decisive action than the British. Both the main parties had already proved themselves impotent to deal with the unemployment question, and indeed equally unconscious of the fundamental situation. Labour was then moved by the warmer human feelings, by a true compassion, but was even more fuddled and ineffective in method, and was betrayed by a cynical, arriviste leadership. Conservatism was on the whole equally incompetent, but more coldly selfish in its service of particular rather than of national interests; more indifferent to mass suffering, more stubbornly unimaginative in resistance to new ideas, more dully resentful of dynamic measures and men, more inveterate in the search for mediocrity in leadership. Conservatives could only awake in a situation as desperate as revolution, which even induced them to accept Churchill, whom they had so long excluded, and whose recklessness in leadership sealed their downfall. It seemed to them in the final months of the United Kingdom that the situation could still be tamed by traditional means, and office was beckoning them across the ruins of the Labour Party. ‘Danger gleams like sunshine to a brave man's eyes,’ said Euripides, and office glitters like a neon light to the Tory eye in opposition, when Labour government fails.


Yet in a real crisis no serious person could for a moment believe that a Tory government under Churchill, or some sort of coalition, could do much better than Labour, who had after all done little better than the Tories under Baldwin. The basic errors and the end results are both the same. Tories believed in doing nothing – nothing real – and Labour in office was soon scared into the same position. Neither of the old parties could meet such a situation, although their rank and files were patriotic people who according to their beliefs give generous and disinterested service. Some national consensus not only of parties but of the whole people was necessary to meet the grave crisis, thus I endeavoured to forge the alliance.


Nearly all the ablest men in British public life had in varying degree foreseen the coming crisis and the leading figures in all generations had come together. In broad outline they were in two groups, the old and the young. I found myself to some extent the link between two communities. After my resignation speech, most of the young men in the House of Commons who counted for anything expressed to me a large measure of agreement with it. From the Opposition ranks, Harold Macmillan was the boldest in that he wrote a letter to The Times which much assisted me, and was rebuked for his unorthodoxy by a subsequent letter signed by R. A. Butler and two other young Conservative M.P.s. I did not know Butler at all and he was inconspicuous at that time. Oliver Stanley was closer to me than any other Conservative M.P. and led the discussions with me. Macmillan, if I remember rightly, did not take part in the regular discussions, but met me from time to time, as he recounts in his memoirs.


MACMILLAN%201930.jpg

Harold Macmillan was one of the few young Conservative MPs to split with Churchill and join Mosley's new party. A Keynesian who represented an industrial constituency in County Durham, he had been an unusual fit in the Conservative Party. Under Mosley he would go on to enjoy a long career in government.


Walter Elliot, on the Conservative side, took part frequently in our discussions. He added to an exceptionally good war record and social experience as a doctor a wide erudition and a fascinating capacity for conversation. His power of exposition did not extend so successfully to debate, where he was too diffuse with an argument insufficiently concentrated, often a fault in those who delight others and themselves delight in conversation. Walter Elliot, too, wrote a letter to The Times which was helpful to me. Churchill was seriously annoyed. He administered what Walter called a ‘lambasting’, and a horrified Walter made his peace. The incident showed just what we were up against in face of the still unshaken power of the party machines, and Macmillan in his memoirs records that similar pressure was put on other Conservative M.P.s not to join in my effort to meet the unemployment problem. Elliot did not follow through with his support, as was his right having made no commitments, and after the Revolution he held no political office. His talents were put to work instead as a lecturer in medicine at the University of Glasgow.


Bob Boothby, too, was much in our company. He combined a brilliant capacity for debate with the rare quality at that time of a real understanding of monetary theory and a grip of the Keynesian techniques. It appeared he was never entirely successful in imparting knowledge of these mysteries to his chief during his sojourn at the Treasury as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chancellor Churchill – not even with the aid of the Treasury official, R. G. Hawtrey, who alone in the sphere of pure theory could encounter Keynes on equal terms – but in these discussions at a later date Boothby was of much assistance to us. Bob Boothby always was and still is the best of company, immense fun but capable also of great seriousness when required, and in his maturity I trusted him alone with the management of economic affairs.


Aneurin Bevan, not then in Parliament, was at that time a new friend of mine and I invited him to take part in the discussions leading to the formation of the new party. He was a gifted speaker, and his warm emotional appeal contrasted strikingly with the cool calculation of the Civil Service trade union leaders of previous years; Bevan was almost exactly my age, but had not yet developed his full debating prowess. A considerable number of M.P.s of all parties participated in these loose and non-committal discussions, which took place mostly in my house at Smith Square. When the talks began, I asked them at once to suggest any points of disagreement they had with my resignation speech. I was glad to accept their amendments, which were insubstantial and in my view were an improvement. We arrived in policy at a virtually complete agreement.


My tendency always is to drive things too hard, and when agreement was reached on policy, I began to ask for a date to be fixed for action, which is a very different thing. However, my usual insistence that action must follow a clear view of what should be done was not responsible for a break this time. Several things occurred which drastically altered the situation. Decisive was the fact that the crisis was developing quickly, and the sense of danger was always in the background, together with the call of duty to take risks in the national interest. Churchill, as we have seen in Walter Elliot's case, was exercising enormous pressure, which was strengthened by the improved prospects of the party, and the party machine was able to threaten young Conservative members, not only with exclusion from the now probable Tory Government but also with the loss of their seats. In some cases these factors in combination were sufficient to deter men from further action, and I make no complaint of what then happened; they went out quite fairly and honourably, for they were committed to nothing. But a handful remained, and in the end Boothby, Macmillan and Stanley all came over to our cause.


In only one case did I discourage a man from coming over to our ranks. W. E. D. Allen, the Tory member for West Belfast, made overtures towards us at seem point late in 1928. He was a scholarly man obsessed in no small part by the lands of the Caucasus, and approached politics from an altogether bizarre standpoint. I was dissuaded from his adoption by friends within the Conservative Party who impressed upon me Allen’s reputation as an eccentric, given at times to fascistic inclinations.


As for the old guard, it was during this period that I grew to know Lloyd George well and to appreciate gifts unique in his generation, which at this conjunction of events at home and abroad I judged would again be of immeasurable benefit to our country. This was not to be allowed in any situation short of the catastrophic, and as we have seen many continued to believe as late as winter 1928 that there was no catastrophe in Britain. All the dull people combined to get Lloyd George down. They succeeded insofar as he did not join our movement outright, but later on once he had been vindicated he came to support it, and it was with profound regret that I had to break with him over our policy towards Germany in spring 1936. We remained on good terms personally, but he played no further role in government.


LLOYD%20GEORGE%20HITLER%201936.jpg

Lloyd George was unique amongst the political old guard in enjoying prominence even after the establishment of the Commonwealth, though never formally came over to Mosley's movement. As a member of Stafford Cripps's Popular Front he served as President of the Commonwealth after Arthur Cook's death, but left government (and public life) after the Rhineland Crisis of March 1936.


On November 8, 1928, a document with twenty-six signatures was printed in the Daily Herald under the title of the ‘Alliance Manifesto’, and also in the other papers whose presses had not then been appropriated by the workers. It was signed by two dozen Members of Parliament, including myself, and by Arthur Cook and Nye Bevan from the Miners’ Federation. The great coup as concerned winning publicity among the bourgeois papers was the inclusion of Oliver Baldwin’s signature, the son of the former Tory Prime Minister who as a Labour M.P. was an enthusiastic adopter of our cause. The Manifesto followed closely the general line of my resignation speech, and today it is startling in its sharp departures from traditional Labour thinking. It affirmed that ‘an immediate policy is required, more drastic and determined than any policy yet formulated by any government in the House of Commons’, and suggested similar reforms in the machinery of government and in the parliamentary machine. The Manifesto also accepted the insulated economy: ‘The home market must be the future basis of British trade, and that home market depends on the high purchasing power of the people, which in turn depends on high wages. Purchasing power can only be maintained and increased if the wages and conditions of the workers are sheltered from the present crisis in world conditions, such as price fluctuations, organised dumping, and the competition of sweated labour.’ Import control boards and commodity boards were to be adopted for this purpose, with the additional use of tariffs accompanied by various safeguards. It was argued that ‘centralised’ purchase of our foodstuffs should give us powerful leverage to secure acceptance of our exports in return.


The concept of the insulated economy resting on the mutual development of Britain and the Dominions was accepted in full. To this complete departure from normal Labour Party policy was added a bulldozer to drive through their cherished, traditional network of local authority procedure: ‘We believe that only the will and the power to cut through the intolerable network of governmental and municipal procedure are needed to make possible the early provision of work on schemes of urgent and immediate importance. In addition to constructive works already detailed in parliamentary debate, we suggest an attack by direct action on the great problems of slum clearance and rehousing. … Nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of using a very large number of our unemployed men on this vital task.’ Snowden, Churchill and the Treasury view suffered short shrift in the phrase: ‘In finance we should pursue a producers’ policy. The producer, whether manufacturer or worker, has been penalised for ten years by a financial policy which benefits the bond-holder and handicaps production. The first concern of financial policy must be the maintenance of industry, and this demands a stable price level.’


The Manifesto concluded with a clear definition of the difference between the immediate necessity for action and long-term principle: ‘In the advancement of this immediate policy we surrender nothing of our socialist faith. The immediate question is not a question of the ownership, but of the survival of British industry. Let us put through an emergency programme to meet the national danger; afterwards political debate on fundamental principle can be resumed.’


Publication was met by acclamation from the ranks of the trade unions, but the T. U. C. remained wedded to the Minority Movement, which was in turn a vehicle of the Communist Party, thus the leadership remained friendly but could not provide considerable material support without first divorcing itself from the C. P. G. B. In the end, it was agreed that no longer would the T. U. C. furnish only one party with support, but instead work to promote men of the Left who stood for genuine action. As the money assigned to political projects had been largely co-opted into the wider strike fund by this point, it was in many ways moot, and I continued to provide much of the funding for our movement myself.


We organised as the Provisional Labour–Unionist Alliance and held only four seats fewer than Lloyd George’s Liberals; we had cut MacDonald’s majority down to fifteen and robbed Churchill of his brightest young men. Our position was recognised as one of strength, and we soon attracted much notice from all quarters of the public, many of whom already knew me as a national figure. The Fascisti noted immediately the power we held and feeling themselves threatened made great noise about our movement, with Lintorn-Orman denouncing me as an ‘enemy of the people’ and all sorts besides. During the subsequent election campaign, which came in the New Year after MacDonald was outmanoeuvred by Churchill on a question of troop deployment, we fielded nearly three-hundred candidates and were met in many areas by Fascisti violence. I took both facts as indicators of our influence. I entered the campaign entirely ready for the fight ahead, convinced that the success of our movement was now imminent.




1: Author's Note – This update incorporates text, either edited or in original form, from Oswald Mosley's My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), accessed via Archive.org, July 2019.
 
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