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.
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”!
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.
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.
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…