Oswald Mosley

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Oswald Mosley

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet (November 16, 1896 – December 3, 1980) was a British politician principally known as the founder of the British Union of Fascists.


  • That consecrated combination of private interests and public plunders.
    • Mosley on the banking system, Annual Report (1925) of the Independent Labour Party, quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), p. 142.
  • Faced with the alternative of saying goodbye to the gold standard, and therefore to his own employment, and goodbye to other people's employment, Mr. Churchill characteristically selected the latter course.
    • Winston Churchill, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, had returned Britain to the gold standard and Mosley believed this would lead to unemployment, quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), p. 143.
  • We propose first to expand credit in order to create demand. That new and greater demand must, of course, be met by a new and greater supply of goods, or all the evils of inflation and price rise will result. Here our Socialist planning must enter in. We must see that more goods are forthcoming to meet the new demand.
    • Revolution by Reason, p. 31, quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), p. 145.
  • The ranks of the City are now divided. The advanced section, headed by Mr McKenna and Mr Keynes, face the orthodox and reactionary ranks which are led by Mr Montagu Norman and the heads of the Treasury. To the uninitiated it...seems a little unfortunate that the ex-Labour chancellor should appear...to be an ardent supporter of Mr Montagu Norman. It will be little less than a disaster if in this struggle Labour support is accorded to the reactionary elements in the City.
    • Socialist Review (September 1927), quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), p. 152.
  • If you love our country you are national, and if you love our people you are a socialist.
    • Fascists, Michael Mann, Cambridge University Press (2006) p. 7.
  • The declared object of deflation was the restoration of the gold standard at pre-war parity. Its actual effect has been to create unemployment by the restriction of industrial credit. By the lever of unemployment it has forced down wages and has thus facilitated the return to gold through the reduction of prices. An incidental effect has been to transfer purchasing power from the workers, whose wages have been reduced, to the bondholders, whose interest has remained the same. It has also doubled the real burden of Debt since 1920, and was largely responsible for the mining lock-out last year, by the reduction in terms of sterling of the money which we receive for coal sold abroad. Deflation, in fact, has been responsible for a sinister catalogue of disasters which can be substantiated in detailed argument that has never yet been rebutted.
    • New Leader (20 September 1927), quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), pp. 152-153.
  • We have lost the good old British spirit. Instead we have American journalism and black-shirted buffoons making a cheap imitation of ice-cream sellers.
    • In 1927 after his Labour Party meeting in Cambridge was broken-up by pro-Fascist undergraduates. The mention of "ice-cream sellers" was a reference to Italian immigrants who had opened ice-cream parlours.
  • Feudalism worked in its crude and inequitable fashion until the coming of the Industrial Age. Today the Feudal tradition and its adherents are broken as a political power and in most cases are ignobly lending their prestige and their abilities to the support of the predatory plutocracy which has gained complete control of the Conservative Party. In modern times the old regime is confronted with two alternatives. The first is to serve the new world in a great attempt to bring order out of chaos and beauty out of squalor. The other alternative is to become flunkeys of the bourgeoisie. It is a matter of constant surprise and regret that many of my class have chosen the latter course.
    • Letter to The Morning Post (27 July 1928), quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley (Papermacs, 1981), p. 134.
  • Together in Britain we have lit a flame that the ages shall not extinguish. Guard that sacred flame, my brother Blackshirts, until it illuminates Britain and lights again the paths of mankind.
    • 'Comrades in Struggle' (June 1938).
  • A fight between several parties of the British people: Nothing of the kind! A fight between two or three big money combines, that and nothing else. Without the weight of money behind the party machines, in an electoral battle today determined purely by principle and by the number of active workers...British Union could fight and beat today the old parties over the whole electoral field. But you know and I know, the battle is nothing of the kind. The battle is between big money combines who spend a thousand pounds or more on every constituency they fight. Or when they speak democracy, they don't mean government by the people...they mean financial democracy, in which money counts and nothing but money.
    • Speech in Earls Court (July 1939).[1]
  • Living financially and economically on American charity, selling up the house to the Yanks when he won't pay any more charity out. Are you content to be occupied and protected by American aeroplanes? Are you content to be in the position of an old woman, jipped by her young relations? You who were the greatest power on earth fifty years ago, and still can be! Why do I say, 'you still can be'? Because, my friends, I know you, I know the British people! I know that twice in my lifetime in the world war I fought in, in the world war the younger men fought in. We the British have put our effort, our energy of valor, of heroism, unequalled in the history of mankind.
    • Speech on 21 Novembver, 1960.[2]
  • [Fascism] was an explosion against intolerable conditions, against remediable wrongs which the old world failed to remedy. It was a movement to secure national renaissance by people who felt themselves threatened with decline into decadence and death and were determined to live, and live greatly.
    • Excerpt from My Life by Oswald Mosley (1968), Ch.16.
  • ...the old axiom that 'all power corrupts' has doubtful validity, because it derives from our neglect of Plato's advice to find men carefully and train them by methods which make them fit for heroes.
    • Excerpt from Beyond the Pale by Nicholas Mosley.
  • Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.
    • My Life (1968), Ch.12.
  • A prophet or an achiever must never mind an occasional absurdity; it is an occupational risk.
    • My Life, ch.12.

Quotes about Mosley[edit]

  • Tom Mosley is a cad and a wrong 'un and they will find it out.
    • Stanley Baldwin's remarks to Thomas Jones, as recorded in Jones' diary (21 June 1929), quoted in Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diary, Volume II (1969), p. 195. "They" were the Labour Party which had recently won the general election.
  • Mosley is the only man I have ever known who could have been the leader of either the Conservative or Labour party...he might have been a very great Prime Minister.
    • Robert Boothby in a BBC broadcast (10 November 1965), quoted in Oswald Mosley, My Life (1968), p. 373, n. 1
  • Capable of becoming either Conservative or Labour Prime Minister.
  • No rising star in the political firmament ever shone more brightly than Oswald Mosley, none promised more surely to soar to the heavens – and none fell to earth with so deadening a thud. Never were such rich talents so wretchedly squandered. Never did success turn to failure so inscrutably.
    • Michael Foot, 'Mosley: the rise and fall of a would-be Caesar', Evening Standard (22 October 1968)
  • Did he not appear to you to be a public man of no little courage, no little candour and no little ability.
  • He is too 'logical' and if he had his way would attempt to presently 'Russianize'...our government.
    • Thomas Jones' diary entry (22 May 1930), quoted in Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diary, Volume II, ed. Keith Middlemas (1969), p. 250
  • It was a very able document and illuminating.
    • John Maynard Keynes to Hubert Henderson on the Mosley Memorandum (January 1930), quoted in Robert Skidelsky, Politicians and the Slump: The Labour Government of 1929–1931 (1994), p. 170
  • I like the spirit which informs the document. A scheme of national economic planning to achieve a right, or at least a better, balance of our industries between the old and the new, between agriculture and manufacture, between home development and foreign investment; and wide executive powers to carry out the details of such a scheme. That is what it amounts to. ... [The] manifesto offers us a starting point for thought and action. ... It will shock—it must do so—the many good citizens of this country...who have laissez-faire in their craniums, their consciences, and their bones ... But how anyone professing and calling himself a socialist can keep away from the manifesto is a more obscure matter.
    • John Maynard Keynes, 'Sir Oswald Mosley's Manifesto', The Nation and Athenaeum (13 December 1930), quoted in J. M. Keynes, The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Activities, 1929–1931, Rethinking Employment and Unemployment Policies (1971), pp. 473-475
  • [David Lloyd George] said that Mosley was one of the worst tragedies he knew. If Mosley had stuck it, he was just the type that was needed at the moment. He was just the sort of fellow who could talk to this crowd. You needed a fellow today like Mosley, who could have cheeked them.
    • David Lloyd George's remarks at dinner, as recorded in A. J. Sylvester's diary (22 February 1938), quoted in A. J. Sylvester, Life with Lloyd George. The Diary of A. J. Sylvester 1931–45, ed. Colin Cross (1975), p. 197
  • I had many conversations with him during the next few months [in 1930], and was struck both by his acute intelligence and his energy. There was a moment later in the year when I was myself tempted to work with his New Party, for there were many points of his programme which seemed to me at once reasonable and constructive. ... I deeply regretted the course that Sir Oswald Mosley later took. Even his loyal friends...left him when they saw his movement beginning to develop into a form of Fascism, with everything which that implied. This whole story was something of a tragedy. Great talents and great strengths of character were thrown away in vain.
  • He is the only living Englishman who could perfectly well have been either Conservative or Labour Prime Minister.
  • He was the only English politician who might easily have become Prime Minister as Conservative, Liberal or Socialist.
  • I heard Mosley speak here on Sunday. It sickens one to see how easily a man of that type can win over and bamboozle a working class audience.
    • George Orwell to Jack Common (17 March 1936), quoted in George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Volume I: An Age Like This, 1920–1940, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (1968), p. 169
  • One would have had to look a long time to find a man more barren of ideas than Sir Oswald Mosley. He was as hollow as a jug. Even the elementary fact that Fascism must not offend national sentiment had escaped him. His entire movement was imitated slavishly from abroad, the uniform and the party programme from Italy and the salute from Germany, with the Jew-baiting tacked on as an afterthought, Mosley having actually started his movement with Jews among his most prominent followers.
    • George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius. Part I: England Your England (1941), quoted in George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Volume II: My Country Right or Left, 1940–1943, eds. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus (1968), pp. 92–93
  • Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists was one of the most interesting failures, not least because Mosley probably had the greatest intellectual gifts and the strongest social connections of all the fascist chiefs. As a promising junior minister of the Labour government of 1929, he put forward a bold plan in early 1930 to combat the Depression by making the empire a closed economic zone and by spending (into deficit, if need be) for job-creating public works and consumer credit. When the leaders of the Labour Party rebuffed these unorthodox proposals, Mosley resigned and formed his own New Party in 1931, taking a few left-wing Labour MPs with him. The New Party won no seats, however, in the parliamentary election of October 1931. A visit to Mussolini persuaded the frustrated Mosley that fascism was the wave of the future, and his own personal way forward.
  • Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (October 1932) won some important early converts, like Lord Rothermere, publisher of the mass-circulation London Daily Mail. Mosley’s movement aroused revulsion, however, when his black-shirted guards spotlighted and beat up opponents at a large public meeting at the Olympia expedition hall in London in June 1934. Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives, at the end of the same month, provoked the departure of 90 percent of the BUF’s fifty thousand members, including Lord Rothermere. At the end of 1934, Mosley took an actively anti-Semitic track and sent his Blackshirts to swagger through London’s East End, where they fought with Jews and Communists, building a new clientele among unskilled workers and struggling shopkeepers there. The Public Order Act, passed soon after the “Battle of Cable Street” with antifascists on October 4, 1936, outlawed political uniforms and deprived the BUF of its public spectacles, but it grew again to twenty thousand with a campaign against war in 1939. Mosley’s black shirts, violence, and overt sympathy for Mussolini and Hitler (he was married to Diana Mitford in Hitler’s presence at Munich in 1936) seemed alien to most people in Britain, and gradual economic revival after 1931 under the broadly accepted National Government, a coalition dominated by conservatives, left him little political space.
  • Mosley was a disciple of Keynes in the 1920s; and Keynesianism was his great contribution to Fascism. It was Keynesianism which in the last resort made Mosley's Fascism distinctively English, though it was not an Englishness which most English pundits were then prepared to recognise, being as remote from the Keynesian thinking as they were from the problems which gave birth to it.
  • The resignation of Sir Oswald Mosley did not come as a surprise... I doubt, indeed, if anybody would be able to work with Mosley unless he were prepared to meekly follow him... I never had any faith in the sincerity of Mosley's professions of Socialism. I was always suspicious of a rich man who came into the Socialist Movement and at once became more socialist than the Socialists... My views of Mosley's sincerity were very generally shared by the Labour members... It was felt that he was a man on the make, and was using the Labour Movement as an instrument for satisfying his ambition... If ever Mosley had the powers of a Hitler or a Mussolini he would be more ruthless and merciless, because weaker and vainer, than those two dictators.
    • Philip Snowden, An Autobiography. Volume Two, 1919–1934 (1934), pp. 875-877
  • The greatest comet of British politics in the twentieth century...an orator of the highest rank. He produced, almost unaided, a programme of economic reconstruction which surpassed anything offered by Lloyd George or, in the United States, by F. D. Roosevelt...He has continued fertile in ideas...A superb political thinker, the best of our age.

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