Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on June 30, 1991 · Page 261
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · Page 261

Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 30, 1991
Page 261
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4 I Aristocratic fascist The life of Sir Oswald Mosley, Great Britain's would-be Mussolini Nonfict'ton Rule of the Game Beyond the Pale: Memoirs ot Str Oswald Moslay and FamBy Dy Nicholas Mosley Dalkey Arcfllw, 5 pages 177 M Rertewad by Jon Manchlp WWW An author wrvosa mamoir, "The Journeying Doy.' will Da pubfefcltod In August In the 1930s, that "low dishonest decade" as W.H. Audcn called it, (in many had Adoir Hitler, Italy had Mussolini and Britain had Sir Oswald Mosley, rounder and leader of the British Union of Fascists. If Germany had won World War II, it is more than lively that Mosley would have been installed as Britain's dictator, its Gauleiter. Britain's local fascist aspirant, unlike Hitler or Mussolini, was an aristocrat, the heir to a barony. He was the scion of one of those violently eccentric noble families that were a feature of British life in late-Victorian and Edwardian times. It was from this upbringing that he largely derived what his latest biographer, his son Nicholas Mosley, describes as his arrogance and haughtiness. As the heir to a title, and later as Baron Kavensdale, lie was shielded by his wealth, his social status and his social connections from the full consequences of his follies and misdeeds. He was a coarse and overbearing man, and it is doubtful whether he ever realized the repulsive nature of those follies and misdeeds, or even suspected that he might have been guilty of them. He possessed a certain undeniable flair and magnetism, and his political career had begun promisingly enough wiien he entered Parliament at age 22 in 1919. But it became apparent that he could neither brook nor comprehend the necessity for loyalty or discipline, and within two years he had become an Independent, then, in two years more, after flirting with the Liberals, a member of the Labor Party. Ramsay MacDonald, the Labor prime minister, darkled by Mosley's youth, wealth and title, made him a junior minister, and lor 12 months he served as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Soon, however, he was expelled iKX)KS Dianna Donovan Boot editor Larry Kart Assocuui togr 1 Joseph Ceatea. Booh critic Linda Geohardl. Art director Oavid Jonas. Copiclesign editor j TiiDun Books Mgkxxiws common: aru j criteXh-n tvnw to Tiioofn) Dooftt The ClwOrfgo TiiOoimj. 436b N bfcctity4i A,. Cuuigo. HI 6061 1 Co.uf aubbabon bi tWiOy trior, t.-cxn trw j puotot of Ctf& hi Uv GfaAl' , from the l-abor Party for "gross disloyalty," and, determined to Ik the Ixiss of his own show, he first founded an ephemeral New Party and then, in 1932, the British Union of Fascists. He had found his true vocation. Tall, muscular, articulate, inordinately vain and handsome, a natural bully, he was soon swaggering alvout in an SS-stylc uniform, complete with jackboots, giving the Hitler salute and being guarded by a phalanx of brutal louts euphemistically known as "stewards," "the Youth Section" or the "Fascist Defence Force." To shouts of "Hail Mosley!" and to the strains of Hitler's "Horst Wcssel Lied" and Mussolini's "Giovincza," he led his slormtroopcrs through the streets of London's Fast Fnd to their familiar series of punch-ups, free-for-alls and rowdy meetings. In the early '30s, when the world was distracted by economic depression, it must have appeared that the authoritarian regimes, Fascist or Communist, constituted the wave of the future. Mosley believed that he was backing the right horse. In fact, he was backing the wrong one, particularly in Britain. The British dislike dictators. They disliked Cromwell, and when they concluded that even that staunch egalitarian Margaret Thatcher might be becoming a touch loo dictatorial, they came to dislike her, too. 'Hie specialty of dictators is to offer deceptive short-cuts and easy solutions to social dilemmas, and Mosley could never understand or have patience with parliamentary democracy the slow and admittedly slovenly mode of government, based on compromise and respect for the other fellow's point of view , that is so dear to the hearts of the British. Mosley was exasperated by the British fondness for muddling through, instead of seeking to end their troubles by sharp and sudden action. He should have remembered the wise words ot H.L. Mencken: "To every complicated question there is a simple answer and it's wrong." In the words of his son, Mosley was a "willful dreamer." His family, his friends and his fascist cronies conspired to call him brilliant, but in fact his political and philosophical ideas would seem to have been a feeble mishmash of Nietzsche and Spengler, Sorel and Pareto. There is no way of knowing whether, if he bad achieved supreme power with ihe backing of Hitler and his special friend Mussolini (who provided some of the initial funding for the British Union of Fascists), he would have been especially cruel. But it is best not to give such men the benefit of the doubt. Probably he would have performed the detestable role of a fascist camp follower, a Quisling, a DegreUe. i Mussert, a Dcat. He was essentially, like Mus- Sir Oswald Mosley solini, a poseur, a vulgar spouter. He never seems to have divined, cither before the war or after it, when he resumed his antics alter being released from preventive detention, why his anti-semitic and racist rantings struck his fellow-countrymen as distasteful. To the British he was never more than a minor irritant, even a joke if a bad one. At the peak of his fortunes, in 1934, his organization never attracted much more than 30,000 followers, less than one in a thousand of the British population. He may even have done the British an odd sort of favor, in that like his enemies and fellow-brawlers, the Communists, he gave them a preview of what it would be like to live under a die- "BULLY FOR" THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER "hvwucattvt a 1 ucUjMdK discursive Godd is ont ol the iiwsi spirited cssav isb of but time. " -JnhaNnWcWilfuid. Xtw tori rati Book Rexu 'AVtiO Ariirttj No a! booisloiti NORTON r: Sot1 Viciiiit, Si York NY 11'! I'J tntorship, thus inoculating them and preparing them for a conflict that was becoming increasingly imminent. Nicholas Mosley's task in recording the life and catecr of his father is no easy one. One can imagine wliat it must have been like as a small bov growing up as the son of Britain's future Fuhrcr, or afterwards, when his father spent the remainder of his days in disgrace. Fortunately he seems to have inherited little more from his father than the Ravcnsdale barony. Nicholas Mosley fought in the Rifle Brigade as a young officer in World War II, was wounded, and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Subsequently he became a distinguished novelist ("Accident") and biographer. His account of his father is frank, judicious, temperate, and deeply discerning and compassionate. It is a brilliant and a painful book, fascinating on both the emotional and the intellectual level. Without prurience or false pleading, he presents his difficult parent as he w as: a man w ho bellowed at the servants and bawled Burke is in Andrew Vachss' new ACRIFICE trapped in the criminal netherworld he's a second chance. Back in New York, quickly on the hunt, Burke unearths a satanic cult one that turns kids into killers... By the author of Flood, Strega, Blue Belle, Hard Candy, and Blossom Just published by Knopf JT. at his wive and children, who i was given to frightening rages j and was almost as unpleasant in his private life as he was in his Kublic one. Among other things, c was a callous and compulsive womanizer, with a special appeal for a certain type of woman. On one occasion, he presented his first wife, whom he continually abused and humiliated, with a would have called them. It seems 1 to have amounted to several' ' dozen women, many of them hcl close friends, and when a fas- ' cinated male friend to whom he i showed the list asked him if he i had left anyone out, he said, ; "Only her sister and her step- 1 mother." Nicholas Mosley discusses, with 1 a moving and wholly admirable 1 detachment, why his father failed I to observe "the rules of the j game" and in consequence became "beyond the pale." The , book is a magnificent achieve- i mem, immeasurably transcending 1 the essential shallowness of its I subject. It will take its place among the finest and most absorbing biographies of recent years. back novel He's a renegade ex -con, an expert on the dangerous and the degenerate, but for children I

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