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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 


Sebastian Haffner
Haus Publishing

Twenty years later it became Churchill's destiny and his historic role to annihilate European fascism in a life-or-death struggle. But anyone who had predicted this in the 1920s would have been rightly laughed to scorn. It seemed much more likely that the Churchill of those years would become European fascism's international figurehead and lead it to sanguinary victory. He was far better suited to the role than Mussolini the socialist renegade or Hitler the plebeian snob. It is no exaggeration or unjust imputation to say that the Churchill of the 1920s was really a fascist; only his nation­ality precluded him from becoming one in name as well.

Churchill expected the Conservatives to conduct a victorious class struggle and halt the Labour Party's menacing rise as effectively as Italy's Fascists had neutralized the social democrats, albeit by employing the civilized methods of British parliamentary politics. But his party had something else in mind: concilia­tion, accommodation, pacification. Their response to the social upheavals of wartime and the post-war period differed diametri­cally from that of the Continental bourgeoisie: it was one of reflection rather than shock. They were determined to play fair with the new political forces and in that way bring them to heel. The Conservatives became appeasers, not fascists - initially in domestic politics.

They outflanked Churchill in a way he found sinister and impal­pable, continually shirking the fight he sought. Their objective -never openly proclaimed, but subtly and steadfastly pursued - was not to destroy the new Labour Party, but to adapt and adjust it to the British system: to assimilate, conciliate, and compromise with it until, in the end, the old two-party system would be simply re-established with Labour taking the Liberals' former place. We now know that this objective was triumphantly attained - whether or not to Britain's best advantage is another matter.