OSWALD MOSLEY by Robert Skidelsky
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Reviews of this dense biography of the British fascist leader by a Johns Hopkins professor may tend to emphasize the author's enthusiasm for his subject which gives rise to such statements as, ""A Jewish malaise at this time [the 1930's] was to be obsessed by fascism."" However, the book is extremely valuable because it lays out certain aspects of fascist thought and organization which are often obscured in histories of Mussolini and Hitler -- for example, Mosley's approach to the Depression, which was actually implemented by the Nazi Finance Minister, Hjalmar Schacht. More familiar, of course, to students of fascism is the way Mosley's New Party (which he built in between his spell as a left-wing Labourite and his founding of the British Union of Fascists) contained both homosexual intellectuals like Harold Nicolson and young thugs. After an internment, with his wife Diana Mitford, during WW II, Mosley adopted the pro-U.S. ""united Europe"" position of Franz-Josef Strauss and hung around with such characters as Otto Skorzeny, a top Nazi incorporated into Western intelligence work. The author's tone is generally one of injured admiration for a great man squashed by mediocrities. If after reading Aldous Huxley's Point Counterpoint one expects Sir Oswald, the prototype of Everard Webley, to have been a blond beast, the photos -- which omit any black shirts -- are disappointing. Skidelsky also reminds us that much of the British upper class was not only anti-Semitic but pro-fascist until the war, however pained by the blackshirts' brawling. The book contains Nietzschean flourishes -- ""energy and imagination are amoral,"" the author insists -- but it makes an indispensable contribution in showing Mosby to have been very much a part of his period and his social group, not simply a comic aberration.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1975
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston