Letter to the Editors from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard
Assuming Sir Oswald Mosley and his supporters (a fantastic assumption I admit) were to attempt to take political power by force, thus emulating Mussolini, Franco, etc., what would be the attitude of the S.P.G.B. in such a case.
Would the S.P.G.B. remain neutral, as you maintain that the S.P.G.B. has no concern in capitalistic affairs or would the S.P.G.B. take up arms in defence of the Government and democracy ?
Our correspondent must forgive us if we are unwilling to say exactly what the S.P.G.B. would do in a hypothetical case which he himself describes as “a fantastic assumption.”
We can, however, clear the air somewhat by dealing with some actual events, which will help to bring the fantastic assumption nearer to earth.
Mussolini did not take power by force. That is one of the myths created by him, and believed by his more stupid admirers at home and abroad. The Government which was in office at the time, a democratic, constitutional Government, together with the King of Italy, wanted Mussolini in office, and arrangements to this end were all made before the farcical “March on Rome,” which Mussolini made in a sleeping-car, accompanied by nothing more forcible than his customary bowler hat and a silk topper. (See “Mussolini’s Italy,” by H. Finer, Gollancz, 1935, p. 157.) His first Cabinet included a number of non-Fascists, and Parliament in November, 1922, voted him the emergency powers, which he used for his further actions.
Outside Parliament the Fascists were a rapidly growing force, skilfully exploiting the workers’ dissatisfaction with the discredited Trade Unions and so-called Socialist Party to win over the workers to their side.
Now let us put our correspondent’s question in a real background.
“Would the S.P.G.B. take up arms in defence of a capitalist Government such as that existing in Italy before Mussolini was made Premier?”
In the first place, that Government expressly declined to use arms against Mussolini, as it was already very busy using them against workers and workers' organisations.
In the second place, large numbers, perhaps a majority of Italian workers, were pro-Fascist.
The answer, therefore, is that the S.P.G.B. now, as always, considers it utterly useless for a minority to take up arms against the capitalist State plus the masses of workers who, in their ignorance, support capitalism and oppose Socialism. The only policy deserving of support is that of gaining control of the State machinery, including the armed forces.
If Mosley is able to rally enough working class support to make him a political force in this country the ruling class may take him into the Cabinet, as Mussolini was taken in. In those circumstances in England, as in Italy, the working class (including the members of the S.P.G.B.) will have to pay for the blindness which causes workers to support capitalism. Neither the S.P.G.B. nor any other minority could prevent those consequences by armed force or by any other method.
The only thing to do is to carry on, in whatever way it is possible, Socialist propaganda, in order to win the workers away from Mosleyism and from every other brand of capitalist-reformism, including Labourism, Liberalism, Popular Frontism, etc.
To talk of armed resistance in those circumstances would be as fantastic as it would have been for the S.P.G.B.—itself repudiated and opposed by the great mass of the workers—to have taken up arms against the decision to prolong the life of Parliament, and thus avoid a General Election during the war.