Monday, October 15, 2012
Monarchist Profile: English Mistery
In many ways, English Mistery was as reactionary an organization as one could ever hope to find. However, it still had a revolutionary taint to it, starting with the man who founded it; a disillusioned Freemason named William Sanderson, a writer of moderate note and member of the Imperial Fascist League. Perhaps because of his background, it was always a close-knit and secretive organization and continued to regard Freemasonry as a bulwark of civilization (a rather absurd attitude to take given Masonic involvement in virtually every revolution in the western world). Sanderson founded English Mistery in 1930 to promote his view of leadership through what he called a “Masculine Renaissance”. At its inception it was predominately a discussion group and never really moved much beyond that. Areas of discussion included national politics, economics, the Anglo-Saxon race and the role of women in society. It is easy to see the drive for a “Masculine Renaissance” as a reaction to the new feminist movement, seen in Britain with the suffragettes who campaigned for the right to vote in the 1910’s and 20’s. The racial angle was tied in many ways to the economic situation as (rather ridiculously) everything from the pitfalls of capitalism to the spread of communism was blamed on the Jewish minority. They also tended to favor eugenics, which is often pointed to today as something to be ashamed of, often by people on the left, even though at the time support for eugenics was widely accepted around the world by those who put their faith in science or what passed for it at any given moment.
That is an idea of the many things English Mistery was against, but what were they for? They favored, essentially, a return to a feudal sort of society. Their rejection of egalitarianism and belief in the superiority of good, long-term breeding meant that they placed a great deal of emphasis on the aristocracy and advocated a return to a very aristocratic society in which the hereditary lords would possess much (even very much) more power and authority. This was sometimes rendered as a form of national syndicalism, but for the most part such efforts seemed to be merely an effort to put a more modernistic gloss on what was essentially the old medieval guild system-based economy. And, of course, their championing of a strong aristocracy extended to the monarchy as well and they were, officially at least, extremely royalist, advocating a restoration of the monarchy to actual power and authority in the government of the country. In that, of course, I would sympathize with them completely, though as with other such groups, I cannot help but be somewhat suspicious. I say that only because, reading their own words, I cannot help but wonder if they meant them to apply to the monarch actually on the throne.
This is my problem with many monarchists who embrace any political ideology. They talk a good game about loyalty to the king or restoring the authority of the king but often apply it only to a non-existent, imaginary king who they expect to place on the throne who will be in total agreement with them and their worldview. They may be perfectly willing to submit to a king they agree with, but not one they disagree with. Therefore, when you get down to it, they actually do not believe in loyalty at all but really place themselves above the Crown itself. However, I cannot say that is what English Mistery was all about, merely that I could not help but get that impression from them at times. They were though, in what they advocated, very aristocratic, very royalist, anti-modernity, anti-anyone or anything foreign and anti-American (and to be fair, even after getting into World War II, the U.S. was not exactly pro-British Empire either). They romanticized rural life, the English countryside, farms and lordly estates. They were also very much for maintaining the British Empire, come what may. All of which are good things in my book though they do nothing to cancel out the negative aspects of the group.
The only thing English Mistery seemed to have in common with fascist groups was their nationalism and perhaps their ideal economic model (if we are going to call that national syndicalism) but I can really see little else. Most would say they had racism in common but not all fascists were racists (shocking, but true). Another thing most would probably say that had in common was a love of cruelty but, though I wish it were not so, certain members of English Mistery espoused a greater love for cruelty than most fascists. There were one or two who wrote not only in defense of but actually glorifying slaughter just for the sake of slaughter really. Some may think that goes hand-in-hand with fascism but, to be fair, neither Franco, Salazar, Dollfuss in Austria or even Mussolini operated death camps or had extermination squads. The Nazis certainly did but even the Nazis, as far as I know, dealt with this as a duty and something to be carried out with emotionless, machine-like efficiency and not something to be celebrated for its own sake. It may surprise some people to know that even the infamous SS tried to weed out from their ranks men who were sadists because they tended to view such individuals as unstable. However, it should also be said that not all members of English Mistery were alike nor did the actions of every member match the words of every other member. Some members served heroically in defending the lives of various peoples in the empire during World War II. Some were even celebrated for their work in the artistic fields and in journalism.
In fact, some members of the group considered the biggest fault of English Mistery to be that it was simple a discussion circle that never actively attempted to do very much. One such man was conservative MP Gerard Wallop, later Earl of Portsmouth, who eventually left English Mistery to form, with other former members, the “more pro-Nazi” group “English Array” so, obviously, English Mistery was not altogether as terrible as some seem to think. It was after this split-off in 1936 that English Mistery effectively died a slow and quiet death as most members drifted off to other, more radical and, usually, more revolutionary (as opposed to counter-revolutionary) organizations such as English Array or the British Union of Fascists. There is plenty to criticize English Mistery on and certainly there is a great deal to criticize about many of its most prominent members. However, in regards to some of their views, such as their desire for a more rural, aristocratic society, their opposition to Marxism in all its forms, their push-back against the feminization of society and their professed ardently royalist skepticism of democracy; I cannot but agree with them. Still, the hostility of certain members toward Christianity and their support for Freemasonry are just two non-negotiable items that would not allow me to sympathize with such a group.