1970s >> 1977 >> no-875-july-1977

History’s Loss?

It is easy for those people who cherish the idea that great men are the makers of history to accept that what is lacking in the present crisis is the quality of great leadership. Such people will no doubt stamp their feet and gnash their teeth in rage and frustration to discover that a whole period of history missed its chance simply because greatness was brushed aside. The late Winston Churchill’s fan-club will be furious, after all those years of revering him as “the greatest living Englishman”, that he is posthumously to be eclipsed by a man he detained in prison during World War II under Order 18B. You will have guessed that we are referring to none other than Sir Oswald Mosley.The New Statesman for 27th May 1977 carried a large advertisement for Mosley’s new book My Life. A whole host of household names are listed paying tribute to their fellow mediocrity. Here are some examples.

By general assent he could have become the leader of either the Conservative or the Labour Party . . . political genius.


Michael Foot.

With or without his black shirt, Mr. Foot? It really says a lot for the alleged differences between the Labour and Conservative Parties that the man who founded the British Union of Fascists could have been leader of either. Without going into pure conjecture, it is obvious that Mosley himself would have changed as all leaders do to ride the tempest and survive in the turmoil of capitalism. The system would still have produced war. It is no consolation to offer the millions slaughtered that they are dying under the leadership of a “political genius”. That is what was said about Churchill, what the Russians said about Stalin and the Germans about Hitler. In any event capitalism had its war; the Conservatives and Labourites managed to muddle through without Mosley, and the millions still died for nothing.

Easy to show that Mosley must have become Prime Minister.

How he “must have” but did not, we can leave to Lord Hailsham’s knowledge of English. Whom did he plump for — Churchill or Mosley? While the majority of the working class remain politically ignorant, one demagogue is as bad as another. What is needed is an attitude of self-reliance based on Socialist understanding. We shall then have no use for Prime Ministers because society will be changed and the political power of one class over another will have ceased.

A superb political thinker, the best of our age.

Well, what would you expect? Politically, Mosley has been nothing more than a reformist and a nationalist. His “thinking” has never penetrated beyond the system of wage-slavery known as capitalism. Neither has that of A. J. P. Taylor or any of the others who now pay tribute to the Jew-baiter whose “superb” thinking crystallized in the slogans “Britain First” and “Britain for the British”.

In eloquence, will power, courage and organizing ability he had in his entire person more to offer than recent entire Cabinets.

Which is not really saying very much. But it might explain the anti-strike policy pursued by the Daily Mirror particularly while King was in control.

Mosley was spurned by . . . every party leader, simply and solely because he was right.

Strange how this “political genius” has only lately been discovered by people who no doubt thought it best to imprison him during the war because of his Nazi sympathies, and who did not have a kind word to say about him during the days of the Black-shirt rallies, when his talent for being “right” in both senses of the word was most in evidence. Similar sickly comments to those quoted are made by Malcolm Muggeridge and Lord Boothby, then from the New York Herald Tribune comes:

Dominated the TV screen . . . a spellbinder.

Just like Fred Flintstone and David Frost, no doubt. When the workers waken from the spell of the spellbinders they are still suffering from poverty, unemployment and war. The final comment comes from Harold MacMillan:

Great talents and great strength of character.

MacMillan did become Prime Minister. Although like all leaders before and since, he was unable to control the chaotic workings of capitalism, he did earn himself the nickname “unflappable Mac” for managing to remain outwardly calm while the hell of capitalism raged about him. He also managed to delude some workers that they had “never been had so good” (or words to that effect). If those are the qualities he believes to constitute “great talents”, the standard by which he admires Mosley is not a very commendable one. The working class would do well to ignore all purveyors of such nonsense, and organize consciously for Socialism.

Harry Baldwin