Writing in 1940, the Catholic Herald columnist Douglas Jerrold describes the ways in which he thinks the English left misrepresented the Right. Jerrold has been described as a “romantic anticapitalist” in the style of Hilaire Belloc, with doubts about democracy and sympathies for Franco and (like George Bernard Shaw) Mussolini. He believed himself to be a true Tory as opposed to the plutocratic Conservatism of the Tory establishment. He was the influential editor of The English Review and later The New English Review.
The article, titled “The Sword of the Spirit: The Fatal Division of Camps,” appeared in the issue of 2 August 1940. Cardinal Hinsley, the archbishop of Westminster, founded the group Sword of the Spirit that year to draw British Christians together to oppose totalitarianism. The whole article can be read here. It includes a note that the editor asked Jerrold to give “his own independent views” in his “Week by Week” column, adding “which are not necessarily those of the Catholic Herald.”
The intellectual position of those individuals, groups and parties generally spoken of as “The Right” is deliberately confused by the propagandists of ” The Left,” a fact which is in itself revealing. The men of the Left are proud of being on the Left. Their famous and foolish slogan: ” No enemies to the Left,” is sufficient proof.
But no man ever admits to being a Right-wing extremist. The reactionary himself pays lip-service to the general feeling that the men of the Left are somehow on the side of the angels by calling himself a Counter-Revolutionary.
In the last decade, this habit has been exploited with extreme skill by the revolutionary junta in Germany, who have carried the Army, most of ” big business,” and almost the whole of the small bourgeoisie along the primrose path of a revolution headed directly and clearly towards Communism, by announcing themselves to be Counter-Revolutionaries, i.e., men of the Right irrevocably opposed to Communism but animated by a firm purpose to reform and improve out of all recognition the old and worn-out capitalist system.
This trick, for trick it has been proved to be by the Russo-German Agreement, has not been exposed in this country because our own Left-wingers are only too anxious to tar with the Nazi or Fascist brush everyone who does not see, in the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange, the short-cut to Utopia. Anti-Socialists have retaliated by accusing everyone guilty of uttering mildly liberal sentiments of being a revolutionary Communist.
Jerrold argues that men of the Right can’t be fascist or communist. The essence of their position is the belief “that a healthy society is something which, in their judgment, cannot be dissociated from economic independence, from private ownership, and from a rough and ready, but still wide, distribution of property.” It’s a diverse group — he mentions Burke, Belloc, and Pius XII by name — but the left slanders all of them.
All these different groups have been accused at one time or another of being Fascists, because the men of the Left have taken Hitler so confidently at his own valuation as an anti-Communist. All other anti-Communists must, it was argued, be in secret sympathy with so powerful a champion of their cause. Actually, in every European country, the leaders of Fascism are recruited, where they have been recruited from the political classes, almost exclusively from the men of the Left.
The cleavage between the Fascist and the Communist is not ideological at all. It is purely social. The revolutionary of the working-class dreads the dictatorship of the proletariat. Both the working-class and the lower middle-class (which is the revolutionary section of the middle-class), being propertyless and considerably stifled by the operation of finance-capitalism, are liable, in any revolutionary situation, to rapid, almost instantaneous, changes of allegiance from one camp to another.
Mussolini carried with him almost all the old Socialist party in Italy. Hitler converted the overwhelming majority of the German Communists, who are now his most ardent supporters. General Franco had no difficulty in securing for his much more liberal, but still dictatorial regime, the support of Spanish labourers and peasants.
The dynamic of the Left wing movement is a genuine idealism which is inevitably absent from the men of the Right. This idealism does not, it is evident, survive the access of any revolutionary movements to power. It is, however, a very potent force in carrying them to power.
To announce that you will go all lengths to remedy an injustice, that you will sacrifice all your traditions and comforts and complacencies to right the wrongs of the under-dog, naturally appeals strongly to the under-dog. To say, as the men of the Right must, that while you sympathise deeply, no immediate and revolutionary action will provide the desired result is extraordinarily refreshing news to everyone except the under-dog.
Photo credits: Women marching in 1935 holding anti-facist signs (Keystone/Getty Images); picture of Edmund Burke, from about 1780 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images); photo of Benito Mussolini (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images).