Oswald Mosley

ROME - 1933

Mosley’s return to Rome at the end of April 1933 was a far grander affair than his visit in early 1932, the time of his first impressions of Italian fascism and his conversion to the Corporate State.

The occasion, this time, was Mussolini’s International Fascist Exhibition with Mosley being met at Rome railway station by a reception of senior Italian fascists.

His first wife, Cynthia, accompanied him and publicly supported him. This was one of the few occasions when she displayed some sympathy for fascism but she was to die of peritonitis only weeks later on her return to Britain.

According to Harold Nicholson, his former New Party colleague, Mosley was so devastated by his wife’s death that, “He now regards his movement [British Union] as a memorial to Cimmie and is prepared willingly to die for it”.

In Rome, Mosley was presented with a specially designed standard from the Secretary of the Italian Fascist Party which was displayed by his supporters at a march past of fascist militia and other contingents of the state.

The Secretary of the Italian Fascist Party ensured that the British Union delegation were given the VIP treatment with all the attention reserved for honoured guests.

During the visit, Mosley was invited to join Mussolini on the balcony in the Palazzo Venezia for yet another march past.

That British Union was influenced by Italian fascism more than by German National Socialism at this time is significant. The theory of the Corporate State became the core of its ideology, modelled very closely on the Italian theory of state management. Anti-Semitism was entirely absent in both British Union and Italian fascism … as distinguished from Hitler’s movement in Germany, then in its infancy as the rulers of the Third Reich.

Even with the black shirt and the fasces emblem, taken directly from Rome, Mosley insisted that his fascism was an entirely English affair and its antecedents rooted deeply in the English past.

Both Mosley and Mussolini came from the Left of politics, both former socialist firebrands whose war experiences determined their opposition to the system that nurtured and encouraged the talking shop culture of the liberal democracies. They were both concerned primarily with economic solutions in their respective national homelands. The instrument to carry this out was fascist state action, after the failure of the “old parties”.

A year before, Mosley had written in the Daily Mail, “The great Italian [Mussolini] represents the first emergence of the modern man to power; it is an interesting and instructive phenomenon. Englishmen who have long suffered from statesmanship in skirts can pay him no less, and need pay him no more, tribute than to say, ‘Here at last is a man’ …”.

To call oneself a fascist in those pre-war days did not carry the stigma it has acquired today when the word has become a well-worn and debased term of abuse for those who espouse racist and reactionary views.

Neither Mosley nor Mussolini were reactionary.

Robert Edwards

©2002   'Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists by Robert Edwards'

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oswaldmosley.net - 2008