Thanks to the scandal at the Olympia Hall conclave of the British Black Shirts, Sir Oswald Mosley, the aspiring Duce of England’s Fascists, is at last basking in the spotlight of public attention.
Heretofore, despite striking majestic poses and deluge after deluge of oratory, England somehow managed to get along without taking Mosley and his henchmen seriously.
Even the astute Lord Rothermere, who turned his influential Daily Mail into a Black Shirt organ, failed to shatter public indifference. But the newspaper magnate is notorious for his lack of a sense of humor. Do you remember the time he attempted to strike a deal with Hungarian monarchists to have the Crown of St. Stephen make its nest on his head?
Equally bad taste is displayed by Rothermere in the advertising campaign designed to “sell” Mosley, who is characterized by the Daily Mail as the greatest statesman Great Britain has ever seen. What effect this type of promotion will have in a country where the mythical “man in the street” is equipped with elementary facts of history and not a little common sense, remains to be seen,
Small disturbances at previous meetings also failed to make an impression on the British public. What with Hyde Park, industrial unrest, and so on, the country was rather used to them. But the outbreak at Olympia Hall was exciting enough to suit anybody. Members of Parliament began to annoy government representatives with embarrassing queries. Very distinctly, Mosley was the talk of the town.
In their most boisterous days England’s suffragettes failed to provide a Battle of the Century of the Olympia calibre. Those present were beaten into utter unconsciousness. One of the victims of the Fascist treatment was playfully tossed from the gallery to the orchestra, to begin with.
Women and old people were not exempt from Black Shirt brutality. Of course, due to the fact that Communists patronize the gatherings of Fascists, the latter did not escape the consequences of the Olympia fireworks and not a few of them were listed among the casualties.
Now a controversy is raging about who is to blame for the affair. Some charge the police with negligence, but the government appears to have taken the position that the police had no right to enter the private hall without invitation from the sponsors. Eyewitnesses are rushing indignant letters to the press, some blaming the Black Shirts for precipitating trouble, others criticising the anti-Fascist element in the audience. A similar cleavage developed in the House of Commons. And so it goes.
What is shocking about the whole scandal, so far as a socially-minded observer is concerned, is that no one, or hardly anyone, among the many who have entered the post-mortem controversy, is showing any alarm about the evidence of the ugly and alarming growth of the Fascist movement. Time and again in recent years the “red” and other “menaces” were at suitable times dangled before the gaping populace.
But the most distressing element discovered to date by the heated debaters in England is what one of them terms “the militarization of politics.” Exception is taken to political factions maintaining “armies” in uniform, with rigid discipline, application of the latest methods of “warfare,” and all the trimmings.
The attitude appears to be that Fascism is a “jolly” respectable business if only blackjacks refrain from public appearances, if the goosestep does not resound on London pavements. The ideological poison seems to be overlooked entirely for the time being, anyway.