Ken Livingstone on How Nazism Discredited Post-War European Conservatives

‘Red’ Ken Livingstone in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, also has some very interesting things to say about how the capitalist classes’ deep involvement with Nazism and Fascism so discredited Germany and Italian Conservatism, that they presented themselves in a pseudo-Socialist guise after the War.

As regards the parties of the right, the creation of stable political structures was more complicated than merely rebuilding the economy and creating military alliances. The right-wing parties, and in a number of countries the bulk of capital, was deeply compromised by collaboration with Fascism and Nazi occupation. In the initial post-war period fight-wing parties had to pretend they were on the left – or at least not of the right. The West German Christian Democrats, in their 1947 programme, stated that the ‘capitalist economic system’ had not served the interests of the German people, and called for ‘a new order built right from the ground’ based on ‘an economic system of collective ownership’. Alcide de Gasperi defined the Italian Christian Democrats as ‘a party of the centre moving towards the left’. the Belgian Social Christian Party proclaimed itself as ‘an inter-class party, whose main objective was to achieve social and economic justice in a united, democratic Belgium’. (P. 175).

Both the Italian and German Christian Democrats were partly formed from the remains of the pre-War Roman Catholic parties, such as the Catholic Centre Party in Germany. These had been originally founded to protect Roman Catholics in the new countries which emerged after the campaigns of Bismarck, Garibaldi and Cavour. Wilhelmine Germany was the creation of Protestant Prussia, which fought a political battle with the Church – the Kulturkampf – over control of education, while liberal Italy was secular, often aggressively so. The Catholic Centre party had adopted some of the attitudes of Christian Socialism, while rejecting the class struggle and the abolition of private property. Clerics and activists for the party founded Christian trade unions and co-operatives. It was this, leftward element in these parties’ constitutions that they chose to stress to avoid condemnation as collaborators with Nazism and Fascism after the War.

And just as early post-War Conservatism tried to distance itself from Nazism and Fascism, so British Conservatives are very quiet about the support they also gave Hitler’s Germany and Franco’s Spain. Winston Churchill hailed Mussolini as ‘the Italian lawgiver’ in his History of the Second World War. Orwell in one of his books talks about the British stock exchange cheering General Franco, and ‘Gracchus’, the author of Your MP, lists the various Tory MPs, who voted against the welfare state and actively supported Nazi Germany.

This has nearly all been written out of history. The official hagiographies of Churchill present him as a fierce opponent of Fascism, even though he wasn’t. He merely objected to the Fascist countries threat to British power. And Thatcher’s 1987 party political broadcast for the elections featured images of zooming Spitfires and the rest of what the satirist Alan Coren dubbed ‘the Royal Conservative Air Force’ to hammer home the message of how patriotic and anti-totalitarian the Tories were.

Thatcher’s own assault on the trade unions and the working class, and the continued campaign by her successors, Major and Cameron, show that this is far from true. Cameron in particular is deeply authoritarian, and in favour of a pervasive government secrecy, in which the upper classes rule without restraint and the working class have to obey unquestioningly. And they were deeply concerned with the totalitarian project of controlling the past. Michael Gove, when he was education minister, wanted an official, pro-Tory view taught, and ranted about how misleading Black Adder Goes Forth Was, despite the fact that it was comedy, not fact. The totalitarian desire to control absolutely is still deeply ingrained in modern Conservatism.

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One Response to “Ken Livingstone on How Nazism Discredited Post-War European Conservatives”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    Reblogged this on vondreassen and commented:
    politically, not a lot has changed since 1066, we are still tipping our caps to the ruling robber barons;

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