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AND IN THE REAL WORLD ...

Obviously the establishment of a Fascist government envisaged by Mosley through social collapse and confrontation with the Communists did not happen in Britain. But it could still be argued that the transition from classical economics to Keynesian economics did require a suspension of democracy - the suspension that took place during the war and virtual dictatorship of Ernest Bevin.

Skidelsky says that at the time of the Mosley Memorandum, despite an obvious similarity in political outlook, Bevin kept his distance. A comparison between them would be interesting. Bevin too could be said to have been the commander of an extra-parliamentary force - the TGWU, vastly more effective than the BUF. And vastly more effective in countering Communism - as Skidelsky points out, the confrontational methods of the BUF were well calculated to strengthen the Communists.

Mosley had argued that the reorganisation of the economy required wartime measures which he hoped could be applied in peace time. The irony was not lost on Williamson:

'Rural England, outside the desolate areas of airfields under construction, was becoming arable England again. Grass fields were ploughed up by orders of Agricultural Committees. Bad farmers - the obdurate "C" men - were dispossessed at fourteen days notice. Businesses were closed down if they were considered "unnecessary to the war effort". The Government at last controlled Money. A British subject who had money in America and failed to sell his dollars to the British Government was liable to face a fine of thrice the value of the dollars and the original sum confiscated.

'Young men in the Forces looked well and fit ... Village boys no longer had factory-made trash toys. They were beginning to carve and model their own - generally aircraft - out of odd bits of wood ... Evacuee boys from London who at first had given trouble in the school, and helped in the spreading of obscene words and attitudes among the children, were changing ... It was pathetic to see how, after a few words of praise - as it were in confidence to equals - a "bad" boy would become alert and eager, anxious to be of use. The aimless kick-about-in-the-streets expression went from their faces. Phillip, after a few days, could almost see them reverting to type: the type of their rosy-faced forefathers, before the industrial revolution drew so many from the fields to the pallor of sweat-shops and factories. These things were ony indications pf the incipient community spirit; but all of them were du to the precipitating agency, to use a term in chemistry, of the modern Lucifer.' (Lucifer before sunrise, pp.74-5)

'Lucifer' being Williamson's code word for Hitler.

But Mosley was imprisoned during the war together with other leaders of the BUF. He was released in November 1943 owing to ill health - the ruling class looks after its own. He was examined by the King's doctor, Lord Dawson of Penn - but his release had been opposed by Bevin 'behind him was the general council of the TUC which according to Beaverbrook mistook itself for a committee of public safety. Enmities on the Labour side went back a long way: Labour leaders, too, were genuinely worried about the effect of Mosley's release on industrial relations, particularly on the handle it would give to communist agitation inside the trade union movement.' (Skidelsky p.461)

In his major publication after the war, The Alternative, he (Mosley) expresses little sympathy for the change that had taken place in British politics, in particular attaching no importance to nationalisation. He believed that for initiating industrial projects individual entrepreneurs were necessary but that once they were well established they should pass over to workers' control. The key role for government in his eyes was not management of production but control of finance: 'His basic idea was still that the system of finance capitalism set up a chronic tendency for demand to fall short of productive capacity, and thus for the system to collapse into depression  ... Labour's policy was simply to reinstate nineteenth century capitalism with America replacing Britain as the world's chief money lender.' (ibid p.489)

There is a certain grim relevance in all this to our present situation. Once again, as in 1929 and through the 1930s, mainstream politics is in the grip of the idea that 'classical' economics is scientific fact. Once again we are part of a globalised economy, more or less equivalent to what Lenin identified as 'Imperialism', in which British industry and agriculture have both been gutted by cheaper imports. And since the deregulation of the 1980s (did Skidelsky as Conservative spokesman on treasury affairs support this?), the financial sector has been liberated from any concern it may have had about fulfilling social need. One great difference is that Britain no longer has the possibility of exploiting the resources of Empire - a major concern of Mosley's, transferred in his immediate post-war vision to Africa as a hinterland for the whole of Europe , an idea that seems now to have been taken up by China. The challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn is to bring about a change equivalent to the one Mosley envisaged, or the one Bevin achieved. But Mosley's tactic of establishing a Fascist dictatorship in conflict with militant Communism is not available to him. Nor, hopefully, is Bevin's war. So can it be done in a "democracy"?