Thursday, 28 February 2008

REVIEW OF 'THE EVIL GOOD MEN DO'

Published in issue no 13 of European Action

Reviewed by Colin Wilson in the Hampstead and Highgate Express, January 20th 1989

(This was Jeffrey Hamm’s second book, following on from his autobiography, Action Replay. Hamm was a founding member of Mosley’s Union Movement and Oswald Mosley’s private secretary up until the Leader’s death in 1980. The Evil Good Men Do was published in 1988, nearly 20 years ago.)

In the late 1950s I was a famous Nazi - at least according to some of the leftists of that period, such as Kenneth Tynan, Bernard Levin and Philip Toynbee. What they meant was that I had spoken out in support of Sir Oswald Mosley, particularly his idea of a European Common Market. I could deny the ‘fascist’ allegation until I was black in the face; since they commanded more newspaper space than I did, a great many people believed them.
Now, eight years after Mosley’s death, it is becoming possible to discuss him without being accused of wanting to re-open Buchenwald. And anyone who is willing to take the trouble can find out that he was one of the most far-sighted politicians of the 20th century. As a simple and painless way of doing this, I can thoroughly recommend Jeffrey Hamm’s The Evil Good Men Do.
I am not too keen on the title; it sounds like one of those all-purpose soporifics from Shakespeare. In fact, a better title would have been Blunders. For that is precisely what it is about; the appalling blunders made by well-meaning politicians between the First World War and the present day - blunders in immigration policy, in housing, in education, the use of North Sea oil. And a dozen other delicate subjects including Northern Ireland. Hamm writes calmly, almost primly, yet a great deal of what he is saying is dynamite.
Hamm is a Welshman who, like many decent and intelligent people, joined Mosley’s Movement in the 1930s because he saw that Mosley provided a real alternative to the bumbling and incompetence of politicians such as Ramsay MacDonald and Neville Chamberlain - the incompetence that led us into the Second World War.
Although he was school-teaching in the Falklands in 1940, he was arrested and interned. On his release he joined the army and fought Hitler. But he is still understandably bitter about the stupidities that labelled him a kind of Nazi, and about the mud that continued to stick even after the war, when Mosley’s most important idea was a European Common Market. Hamm’s autobiography, Action Replay, was a sincere, intelligent and exciting book, and I recommend it to everyone who would like to hear the other side of the story.
Having said which, I have to admit that the second chapter of his new book will give most people apoplexy. It is entitled The Disastrous War and it argues that Britain made a tremendous mistake in going to war with Hitler. It asks the question: Did Hitler regard England as an enemy? - and answers No. Which is undoubtedly true. Hitler had an almost sentimental regard for the British.
It then goes on to point out that Hitler’s designs lay all to the East, in Russia and suggests that it would have been no bad thing if he had smashed Stalinism, and we had sat back and let him do it.
If you can accept this, then you will certainly read the rest of Hamm’s book with admiration. But even if you can’t, it should be no obstacle to admiring Hamm’s acute political intelligence as he retells the political history of our time and points out that British post-war governments have been just as incompetent as those of the ’30s.
You may well gasp with astonishment and outrage at a comment such as: “The war had inadvertently enabled Labour to achieve one of its pre-war objectives: the destruction of the British Empire”. But anyone who thinks this is rightist rhetoric should then read the next page in which Hamm totally justifies his opinion by quoting Attlee, Stafford Cripps and Hugh Gaitskell.
During the last 20 years of his life, Mosley knew he had lost the battle; that even if he grew wings and a halo, he would never succeed in persuading people that he was not a Nazi thug and that his political ideas were intelligent and reasonable.
As I read Hamm’s scathing and witty book, I was saddened by the thought that he is basically in the same position. Yet even if he can only reach a hundred readers who understand the importance of what he has to say, he will have justified the courageous optimism that made him write it.
Colin Wilson

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