Funding the Revolution: Money and the New Britain Movement

In 1932 Dimitrije Mitrinović decided that the moment had arrived to “build a New Britain”, and launched the New Britain Movement. The Movement was centred around support for Guild Socialism, monetary reform, and a political system combining principles of devolution and world federation. It adopted the idea of the Threefold State, developed by Rudolf Steiner, in which parliament would be divided into separate houses for culture, economics and politics. A successful publicity campaign kicked off the Movement, which evidently struck a chord with a swathe of the British public. Over 60 local branches were established across the country, and the Movement’s weekly magazine was at times selling up to 32 000 copies. Contributors included Bertrand Russell, Harold Macmillan, Frederick Soddy, Prof. J. Macmurray, Patrick Geddes and S.G. Hobson.

NAF 1-8-1-211 Letter from Bill Duff, p.1, excerpt

Some in Mitrinović’s network realised that to achieve its aims, the New Britain Movement would need a sound financial footing. Bill Duff was one such friend, although his money making schemes may strike some as walking an interesting line between the inspired and the ridiculous. Duff wrote to Mitrinović with a list of suggestions ranging from the prosaic, such as charging subscription fees and for admission to lectures, to the creation of a New Britain Theatrical Review! Duff also suggested creating New Britain ties – leading to possibly my favourite comment in the Collection, “…even Communists love uniforms at heart”!

NAF 1-8-1-211 Letter from Bill Duff, Excerpt re Uniforms

In the end it seems that the Movement was financed by sales of their magazines, The New Britain Quarterly and New Britain Weekly, perhaps subscriptions and membership fees, and donations from sympathetic friends and acquaintances. The situation was always rather precarious. Mitrinović’s biographer Andrew Rigby paints a vivid picture of D.R. Davies and others dashing across the country to solicit donations to keep the presses running and get the magazine produced.

The New Britain Movement collapsed amidst intense disagreement over its direction, and power struggles, in 1934. A remarkable letter from A.R. Hearn records his response to the financial difficulties he suffered when New Britain finally collapsed.  A loan he had given the organisation was left unpaid, causing an “avalanche” in his words that left him in debt. Despite what he termed his “gamble” spectacularly failing to pay off, Hearn remained committed to the cause.

NAF 1-10-18-24 Letter from Hearn, p.1, excerpt 'disaster'The New Britain Movement may not have lasted long, but those responsible for its brief existence certainly organised a flurry of activities in that time. The Archive has records relating to lectures, conferences, luncheons, and other events. There are manifestos, constitutions and statements of belief. New Britain produced various journals: New Albion, New Atlantic, The Eleventh Hour Bulletin, New Britain Quarterly  and New Britain Weekly magazines were published between 1933 – 1935. All of this is a testament to the determination, generosity and belief in the cause show by Mitrinović and those he inspired.

NAF 1-10-18-24 Letter from Hearn, p.2, excerpt New Britain's future

P.S. If anyone does ever find a New Britain tie (if they ever were produced), we’d love to know! After all, everyone loves a uniform…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Funding the Revolution: Money and the New Britain Movement

  1. David Page

    Great post! Fascinating and really helpful! Where, I wonder, did you find the letter from Duff? I would have expected it to be in the Winifred Gordon Fraser correspondence, 1932-53 file (which was numbered 3-2-1-19), but I did not see it there and have never before see any mention of even the idea of NBM ties! (For various ideological and practical reasons, though, I highly doubt they were ever produced.) The details of the Duff letter for purposes of citation would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

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    • Thank you! I’m often asked how Mitrinović and the various organisations he established supported themselves, so I thought there might be some interest in these letters. The letter from Duff was amongst Mitrinović’s personal correspondence, in a large file of letters currently numbered NAF 1/8/1. Actually the fact that you hadn’t come across the letter in your research shows how the catalogue I’m working on will be really useful! I’m making sure to include lots of relevant search terms, like “New Britain”, to ensure that researchers will find it easier to identify relevant material.

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