The Forgotten Fascist

A British fascist with style

Mwanikii
4 min readFeb 25, 2021
Sir Oswald Mosley courtesy of Encyclopaedia Britannica

WWhen we think of fascism, it is easy to associate it with the Second World War's Axis regimes. We can easily associate Hitler and Mussolini with fascism because of all the harm that they directly caused.

The case might not be the same for pre-war Britain as fascism eventually emerged as an opposing ideology to the Allied powers. But there was one Fascist party in Britain that was radical and vocal enough to stir trouble.

At the head of this party was a man just as flashy and as bold as the fascist dictators of mainland Europe. His name was Sir Oswald Mosley.

Early life

Oswald Mosley was born on 16 November 1896 in London. Unlike many other fascists, he was actually a member of the British nobility. His father, who went by the same name, was the fifth baronet of the bloodline.

Since the position of baronet was hereditary, Oswald Mosley became the sixth baronet in line with tradition.

Like his contemporary fascist leaders in Europe, he served in the military during the First World War. He got a nasty injury that left him with a limp for the rest of his life in a plane accident. For this reason, he got moved to do office jobs in the Ministry of Munitions and the Foreign Office.

Politics

I will restrict the scope of this article to his political career and ambitions. After the first world war, the young Mosley tried his hand at politics, and many notable characteristics of his oratory skills appealed to people. In the 1918 General Election, he won and became the youngest member of the House of Commons.

He made it a practice to couple self-confidence with a sharp wit as he presented many of his speeches in the House of Commons without any notes.

His manner of speech was so mesmerizing that a newspaper article described listening to him as a lesson in the “English language.” Mosley was clearly a brilliant man, and he was not afraid to display this.

The turning point of his career into a fascist was when he got increasingly dissatisfied with the Labor Party's policies. He thus founded the New Party in 1931 to counter the influence, but his efforts fell apart.

By 1932, his party had failed to secure seats and lost all others that they previously had. Such a failure would lead many to give up, but Mosley took a step back and started to reassess the options that he had on the table.

Fascism

Mosley traveled to Italy and saw the conceptions of fascism that he had earlier gained an interest in. In 1932, he founded the British Union of Fascists with the singular goal of uniting the fascists of Britain, and he was successful in doing so.

His fascist party had a flag, a paramilitary called the Blackshirts, and even used the salute that Hitler and Mussolini used. Mosley was fiery and determined to have anti-communist and anti-semitic policies as a staple in Britain.

Oswald Mosley in Uniform courtesy of General History

Mosley became increasingly hostile, and violence was used in a few of his rallies. Among the many tactics he used were provocation and intimidation to strike fear into the people he was against. One such instance was a riot in an area with many Jews where he planned a march with his blackshirts.

That infamous incident became known as the Battle of Cable Street. The residents were not too keen on infringing their freedoms, and they fought the fascists walking down their street.

Even with such crude tools of political intimidation, Mosley still moved the crowds. In one instance, he held the largest indoor rally in July 1939 that had almost 30,000 attendees. Such staggering figures show how people were drawn to him.

Earl’s court rally image courtesy of Abelard.org

The government was worried about this man. His advocacy for the British to accept Hitler’s peace treaty led the public to be discontented. In 1940, Mosley was taken prisoner as his very presence in public seemed too difficult to tolerate. There was a real danger that his actions would have significantly changed Britain’s entire course of history.

The flashy Oswald Mosley proceeded with his political career after the war, but it was not as glorious or better than before. He easily got sidelined as a relic of the past every time he tried his political games. This serves as a lesson to remember that the men who often can change the course of things do not necessarily always have everyone's best interests at heart.

Sources

[1] “Oswald Mosley.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed February 20, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Oswald-Mosley.

[2] “Sir Oswald Mosley and the Jews — Communist Scuffle With Police”. The Times. London. 15 April 1935. p. 8.

[3] Sanders, David (2019). Authoritarian Populism and Liberal Democracy. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International. pp. 17–18. ISBN 9783030179977.

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Mwanikii

Writer. Techie. History buff. If it changes the world I’m on its case. Open for gigs… freddynjagi@gmail.com! Published by the Writing Cooperative.