Debate with Fascist pt.2
Second Speech for the S.P.G.B.
In his second speech, Comrade Hardy pointed out that several ideas incorporated in the Fascist programme were suggested in the first place by the writings of Bishop Berkely 200 years ago. They were borrowed from Berkely by Mr. Strachey who helped Mosley to form the New Party. There is a close parallel between Mosley’s admiration for the public works schemes of Mussolini’s government and Berkely’s writings, with, however, one interesting omission. Berkely advocated slave labour or ” temporary servitude ” for the unemployed. The resemblance to the Fascist Labour camps is obvious, but Mosley was no doubt squeamish about advocating slavery here. Sir Oswald Mosley spends much time denouncing the Parliamentary machine. Yet there is abundant evidence that when the majority really wants something Parliament can get measures passed, from first stage to last, in 24 hours.
Regarding Mosley’s promise that under Fascism the electors would be allowed to vote periodically for and against the continuance of Mosley in office, would Mr. Probyn tell the audience when and where the rank and file of the B.U.F. had ever voted for and against Mosley as their leader? The B.U.F. undertook to “eliminate” party politics. Did this mean that there would be no debates allowed?
Mr. Probyn had stated that Fascists despise Lord Rothermere. That does not get over the obvious fact that the latter, as well as other big business interests, look with approval on the B.U.F. Rothermere does not give free publicity to the S.P.G.B. It was obvious, too, that Mosley has been able in the Fascist movement, as in the New Party, to obtain funds from wealthy men. He had himself spoken of big business sympathy with his movement.
Mr. Probyn had said that Fascists recognise the existence of the class struggle. The struggle is a fact arising from the existence of a propertied and a property less class. What is the Fascist remedy for this ? Writing in the Daily Mail (March 23rd, 1934) Sir Oswald answered this question as follows: “Our object is to remove barriers of class by removing differences in dress.” Fancy trying to remove the differences between millionaires and paupers by putting them in shirts of the same colour !
The Fascist speaker had claimed that governments should govern in the interest of the whole community. As, however, he had admitted that classes exist, how can a government govern in the interests of an exploiting and an exploited class simultaneously?
The Fascists say they cannot wait for Socialism; they want something now. All the reformist parties have used this as an argument against Socialism. Mussolini has been in power for 13 years and Mosley in his “Greater Britain” explains that Mussolini has so far failed to carry out a programme to solve the problems of capitalism. The B.U.F. could not get a majority at the coming General Election. Suppose for the sake of argument that they got one in 1941. On the experience of Mussolini’s slowness it would be another 13 years, 1954, before they began to do something.
Comrade Hardy drew attention to the statement that governments are only tools of international financiers. How was it, then, that Mosley, after being an M.P. since 1918, took a post in the Labour Government in 1929? He must on that showing either be a tool or be very stupid. Regarding the Fascist promise that workers would vote occupationally, did this mean that the small number of employers and the large number of workers would have “equal” representation? If so, it would mean in effect disfranchising the workers.
It was absurd to say that J. R. MacDonald is or was a Socialist. The S.P.G.B. had always denounced him and his policy. Almost all the points in Sir Oswald Mosley’s “Greater Britain” could be found in “Where Socialism Stands Today,” written by a number of Labour Party “intellectuals,” but neither of the two books has any bearing on Socialism. They are merely two statements of reforms of capitalism.
The Fascists, like the older reformist parties, talked about developing the Home market. Yet we have seen that when they get in power they carry on the struggle for foreign markets as before. Mussolini is pressing for the development of Italy’s foreign trade in Africa and elsewhere, and Schacht, the economic dictator of Germany, is now reported to be planning subsidies for German exports in order to gain more markets.
The Fascists talked of helping the little man to resist the encroachments of big business. Mr. Probyn had said that Fascism will not attack private property. How, then, would the Fascist movement, with its big business backers, carry out their promises to the little man? Would they not break their pledges as had Fascists abroad ?
Mr. Probyn. 2nd Speech.
The opposition has again made a wonderful speech and said nothing, and now I want to know what Socialism is. Opponent talked vaguely of common ownership and democratic control – of capitalist owning everything and worker nothing. Dan Griffiths has compiled a. book of definitions of Socialism drawn from reliable sources and he finds there are 263 different definitions. Some said it was a scientific attitude, others that it was a religious attitude. Some said it was just an attitude to life, others that it was a principle, and others again that it was an idea. One definition said it was sunlight opposed to darkness and so on.
It is generally agreed, however, that Karl Marx is the basis of all views and K. Marx appeals to all that is base in humanity. One favourite rant is the theory of surplus value, but many people, including Dr. Lindsay, have shown from Marx himself that the case is wrong. It is useless to declaim against Ramsay MacDonald and Dr. Lindsay. They represent the view of seven or eight million people. Professor Laski and Bertrand Russell have made similar criticisms of Marx’s theories. Marxist economics cannot stand up to facts and they are just the meanderings of a disordered mind. The S.P.G.B. have not made much progress since 1904. The movement represented by MacDonald and Lindsay has made much more. Levelling down is the Socialist’s idea. If a man has any property he is going to take it away. There have been some practical attempts at Socialism during the past 200 years and all have failed. The earlier attempts were made where there was plenty of undeveloped land and there was the best chance of success but everybody in the communities fell out. They could not work agreeably together. In the middle of last century Louis Blanc opened national workshops in France, but the only result was to land the people in debt and make them worse off. It has been the same since. The fact is human nature won’t face Socialism. In Icaria community all people were the same, they wore the same clothes, etc. It all finished up by them starving as they were too infernally lazy to do anything.
These experiments, including Russia, have cost the lives of millions of people already.
With reference to Fascism abroad, Mussolini did not come into power to introduce the corporate state, but to get the people out of the morass they were in. The corporate state idea grew up later. We, here, start out with the idea. We don’t care what happens abroad, we are concerned with what is happening here and dealing with it and not indulging in pipe dreams of Socialism. The British capitalists who exploit all over the world are worse than the foreigner, but there are also Socialist employers who exploit fellow Socialist workers.
My opponent has taken what I have said out of its context. What I said was that we would not seek foreign markets with the aid of the British army and navy. Wherever we go it will be on the basis of an equitable exchange.
We are not concerned with whether big firms or little men give us financial support. Anyone who wants to subsidise us can do so, I am willing to take away a cheque to-night. It does not matter where the money comes from. Fascism, however, is financed by its members and we are up against it, and have just as much difficulty in carrying on from a financial point of view as others.
We are opposed to economic advantages reaped by big firms. People who invest in multiple shops, owing to their capacity to buy in large quantities, get cheap goods from abroad – that is where little men fail. We are going to stop this and compel all to buy at same price. The Corporation will set a price for all. The small man will have his rights and his voice will be heard on the council.
My opponent asks when Sir Oswald Mosley ever takes a vote on the continuance of his leadership. He does not take a vote because we do not believe in taking a vote. Counting of noses is not an effective method, it includes the village idiots. The voice of members of the Fascist party is heard daily in shaping our policy and supporting the continued leadership of Sir Oswald Mosley. What we say to you is, here is a policy, are you prepared to accept it?
Final Speech for the S.P.G.B.
Comrade Hardy pointed out that he had described Socialism in his first speech, and the S.P.G.B.’s principles are published in every issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD. Socialism is a system of society based on common ownership. Mr. Dan Griffiths’ list of definitions contained all sorts of things but he believed it did not contain anything from the S.P.G.B. He was not here this evening to discuss Marx. He would, however, say this, that if disordered minds were being discussed, what about Hitler’s Frankfurt Institute of biological mumbo-jumbo and witchcraft where records are kept of the racial history of a man’s father and mother, grandfather and great-grandfather, and so on? Bertrand Russell, Laski, and Lindsay, had been quoted as to the unsoundness of Marx’s economics. Not one of these is an economist and not one of them is competent to express views on Marx’s economic theories. Laski had admitted as much regarding himself.
Mr. Probyn, ignoring the fact that Socialism the fact that Socialism is a system of society, instanced a number of Utopian communities as if they had some bearing on Socialism. In one case he said that the Utopians were so keen about uniformity that they made all suits of clothes the same size. This is, of course, not Socialism, but capitalism gone mad, but talking of uniformity, what about the Fascist aim of compelling us all to wear shirts of the same colour?
Comrade Hardy repeated that he was there to defend the principles and policy of the S.P.G.B., not the reformism of the Labour Party. Not only had Professor Hearnshaw recently written to The Times pointing out that State capitalism is not Socialism, but at least three of Mosley’s sometime associates, the late Mr. A. J. Cook, Mr. W. J. Brown and Mr. Maxton, had declared that the Labour programme is not Socialism but State capitalism. If, however, Mr. Probyn denied the right of the S.P.G.B. to speak for Socialism, he might retort by denying the right of the B.U.F. to speak for Fascism. The late Miss Lynton-Orman, founder of an older Fascist party, had denied Sir Oswald membership as not being a fit and proper person to speak for Fascism.
Mr. Probyn had referred to the slow progress of the S.P.G.B. We had had much of our time taken up combating the errors of all the political parties of which Mosley had been a member. It was from all these parties that Mr. Dan Griffiths’ so-called definitions of Socialism were obtained.
Marx had been accused of advocating banditry. His advocacy of common ownership was an act of restitution. As for banditry, what of the German Nazi’s theft of trade union funds?
Mr. Probyn had said that the receipts of funds from big business men would not make, any difference to the principles of the B.U.F. Why, then, was it that Mosley is dropping the black-shirt idea and recruiting members who are just ordinary political members without uniform?
If, as is claimed, the B.U.F. is now hard-up for funds, that would only mean that Mosley had added still another to the list of his political failures.
Mr. Probyn. Final Speech,
He said he was only concerned with the B.U.F. He would ask the audience if there was anything wrong in a person changing his view. Is it suggested that no one should change? Sir Oswald Mosley did right to go into the other parties as they were the only ones existing. When he found them rotten he left, just as a workman discards a bad tool and shapes a better one. Fascism is too strong in this country for anything to stop its march to power. It will succeed just as day follows night.
In Italy in 1920 the trade unions had no funds to seize as several strikes had already broken them, and the same was true in Germany. The fact was that trade union leaders had been getting rich and palatial offices which were built out of trade union funds. What has to be recognised, however, is that different nations have a different mentality, and what would be looked upon with horror by one country is quite alright in another. Germans as a race do queer things and so do others. In Japan, for instance, prostitution is looked upon as an honourable profession. What we do is alien to the mind of the Hottentot.
Ramsay MacDonald has the support of ten or twelve million people and we will no doubt see a pure Socialist racket at the next election.
To take away people’s property is pure banditry. And how can you restore property to those who have never had it?
When the British Union of Fascists came into existence they could have called themselves anything they liked. The British Fascists, represented by Miss Lynton-Orman, was only a sub-committee of the Conservative party with a party bias, they were also strike breakers. The B.U.F. stood for a classless organisation.
As far as the division in the party is concerned, which was referred to by his opponent, all it amounted to was a division between uniformed and un-uniformed men. The uniformed men were the active supporters of the movement. The objection raised was only a quibble.
His opponent had not made out a case against Fascism. He himself had the SOCIALIST STANDARD every month, but he could not see anything constructive in the little panel referred to – it was all beautifully vague.
We can’t get away from the fact that the S.P.G.B. supports all the rottenness of Marx. Pure Marxism was tried in Russia and only succeeded in killing millions. Matters were only improved when Stalin put it aside.
The class war has no economic basis and is only the figment and meanderings of a disordered mind.
The S.P.G.B. simply proposes to continue on its longest way for the next 666 years as it has in the last 31 years.
(Socialist Standard, April and May 1935)