181. The clinging (III)
Oswald Mosley is an unfortunate figure, a relatively obscure figure—though nonetheless an instructive figure. He led the small British Union of Fascists and after the war had an influence on neo-fascist ideas in Europe; his influence, as with the influence of the British Communists, was small—the British were never much attracted to Soviet Marxism or to fascism. Yet Mosley is still an important anti-lesson today; he is an example of how not to be, not in moral terms but in terms of a full life.
Mosley, born to the aristocracy, was an ambitious man who initially threw his support behind Labour and socialism; indeed, he was tipped by many people as a future Prime Minister. His economic ideas during the Great Depression anticipated many measures that would later become standard practice; but, frustrated by the slow pace of mainstream change, he sought to create his own party; and eventually this became the British Union of Fascists. In this, he resembles Churchill: an ambitious man who changed political parties in a quest for greatness.
Mosley’s great error was to consciously model himself and his party on Hitler—whose rhetorical style he imitated. Hitler and Churchill achieved their holds over their respective populations by speaking from the heart; both men loved history, and history, as Twain observed, rhymes: Churchill and Hitler were myth makers, poetic men who worked in the medium of history. They made beautiful images; and they thought in millennia, of a thousand-year British Empire and a thousand-year Reich. This took the artistic type: moody, depressive, sensitive—both were painters.
These two men lived up to the ancient and aristocratic admonition: be yourself. This advice has become cliché in the contemporary world, the Boomers are mocked when they tell youngsters: “Just be yourself.” It is sometimes said to evade responsibility for the young person’s decisions; better to tell them to follow their own light rather than give specific advice, only for them to blame you when it goes wrong. The advice, if implemented, is sound—though few have the courage to do so. The man who decides to “just be himself” takes on a large responsibility; his responsibility is to listen to his inner voice of command—his heart—against all opposition.
It cannot be denied that Churchill and Hitler had an impact; and there are many people who say they were “bad” men—yet nobody can say they were hypocrites, in a certain sense they were beyond good and evil. This is because the poetic sensibility is deeper than morality; it is loyalty to the cosmic reality, primal reality. Morality is the husk of faith; the kernel is loyalty to the inner voice of command—uninfluenced by attempts to “look good” or “be good”; and this is what Joseph Campbell meant by “follow your bliss”—follow the inner voice of command and awareness, follow joy. Churchill and Hitler suffered, but they followed their bliss; they were integrated: the results were awesome, inhuman, and supernatural. Indeed, Jesus was the most complete man—millions have died and killed in his name—and yet we worship him, because he was not a Pharisee; he was just being himself.
Mosley, though an aristocrat, copied Hitler to try to get ahead; he made no organic connection with the British—he was another politician with an act. For the most part, the British found him ridiculous or an oddity; and many of his closest followers were Irish, an indication that he was estranged from Britain. Today, the British left has forgotten Mosley—more or less—but they still hate Churchill; and they hate him because they know he was the real “English Hitler”, the real myth maker who governed poetically—a mode of political engagement that the left cannot stand, even if it is deployed for “anti-fascist” purposes, because it is non-moral and divine. The left is the Puritan nag, it cannot stand the divine beauty of reality; it looks, like the Pharisees, for social approval and not integrity.