16.3.36

Last night to hear Mosley speak at the Public Hall, which is in structure a theatre. It was quite full – about 700 people I should say. About 100 Blackshirts on duty, with two or three exceptions weedy-looking specimens, and girls selling Action [1] etc. Mosley spoke for an hour and a half and to my dismay seemed to have the meeting mainly with him. He was booed at the start but loudly clapped at the end. Several men who tried at the beginning to interject questions were thrown out, one of them – who as far as I could see was only trying to get a question answered – with quite unnecessary violence, several Blackshirts throwing themselves upon him and raining blows on him while he was still sitting down and had not attempted any violence. M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual claptrap – Empire free trade, down with the Jew and the foreigner, higher wages and shorter hours all round etc. etc. After the preliminary booing the (mainly) working-class audience was easily bamboozled by M. speaking from as it were a Socialist angle, condemning the treachery of successive governments towards the workers. The blame for everything was put upon mysterious international gangs of Jews who are said to be financing, among other things, the British Labour Party and the Soviet. M.’s statement re. the international situation: “we fought Germany before in a British quarrel; we are not going to fight them now in a Jewish one” [2] was received with loud applause. Afterwards there were questions as usual, and it struck me how easy it is to bamboozle an un-educated audience if you have prepared beforehand a set of repartees with which to evade awkward questions eg. M. kept extolling Italy and Germany, but when questioned about concentration camps etc. always replied “We have no foreign models; what happens in Germany need not happen here.” To the question, “How do you know that your own money is not used to finance cheap foreign labour?” (M having denounced the Jewish financiers who are supposed to do this) M. replied, “All my money is invested in England,” and I suppose comparatively few of the audience realised that this means nothing.

At the beginning M. said that anyone ejected would be charged under the public meetings act. I don’t know whether this was actually done, but presumably the power to do so exists. In connection with this the fact that there are no police on duty inside the building is of great importance. Anyone who interrupts can be assaulted and thrown out and then charged into the bargain, and of course the stewards, ie. M. himself, are the judges of what constitutes an interruption. Therefore one is liable to get both a hammering and a fine for asking a question which M. finds it difficult to answer.

At the end of the meeting a great crowd collected outside, as there was some public indignation about the men who had been thrown out. I waited for a long time in the crowd to see what would happen, but M. and party did not emerge. Then the police managed to split the crowd and I found myself at the front, whereupon a policeman ordered me away, but quite civilly. I went round to the back of the crowd and waited again, but still M. did not appear and I concluded he had been sneaked out by a back door, so went home. In the morning at the Chronicle office, however, I was told there had been some stone-throwing and two men had been arrested and remanded.

G. changed this morning onto the early morning shift. He gets up at 3.45 a.m. and has to be at work, ie. At the coal face, at 6. He gets home about 2.30 p.m. His wife does not get up to get his breakfast and he says few miners will allow their wives to do so. Also that there are still some miners who if they meet a woman on their way to work will turn back and go home. It is considered bad luck to see a woman before going to work. I presume this only applies to the early morning shift.

[1] Action: journal of the British Union of Fascists. On 9 July 1936 Orwell was asked by Mrs Hastings Bonara if she could quote from the Trafalgar Square scene of A Clergyman’s Daughter in a review she was writing for Action. She wrote that she hoped he was not violently anti-Fascist and would ‘consequently say CERTAINLY NOT’. Evidently Orwell did. In later correspondence she claimed that at least the BUF had a programme ‘for ameliorating the lot of our “Misérables”.’

[2] in a Jewish one: seven months later, in October, Mosley attempted to force the BUF through the East End of London in an anti-Jewish protest march. The ensuing violent opposition led to what became known as the Battle of Cable Street.

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One Response to 16.3.36

  1. Pingback: 18.3.36 | The Road to Wigan Pier

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