While the rest of the UK on Tuesday was remembering the dead of the Great War, Nigel Farage was giving a speech stating his opinion that it should have gone on for longer. Even if this meant that a further 100,000 lives were lost. Farage made this bizarre and offensive claim speaking at the annual Tom Olsen lecture at St Bride’s Church.
His comments have been reported by a number of news agencies, including the MSN news. The anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate has an article on it, Armistice was the biggest mistake of the 20th century claims Nigel Farage, at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/armistice-was-the-biggest-mistake-of-the-20th-century-claims-nigel-farage-4120.
Hope Not Hate quote Farage as saying, “I believe we should have continued with the advance We should have pursued the war for a further six weeks, and gone for an unconditional surrender. Yes the last six weeks of the war cost us 100,000 casualties, and I’m prepared to accept that a further six weeks of war might have cost us another 100,000.”
He goes on to say that this would have stopped the rise of the Nazis, as it would have forced Germany to surrender unconditionally, rather than negotiate the Treaty of Versailles.
The Treaty of Versailles and the ‘Stab in the Back’ Conspiracy Theory
This is an extraordinary claim, and shows that Fuehrer Farage has quite a bonkers grasp of history. He has a point in that one of the reasons the ‘Stab in the Back’ conspiracy became so widespread, was because British and Allied troops did not enter Germany. This added credibility the conspiracy theory that Germany had lost the War due to the Jews betraying their country. The theory itself is total nonsense. Jews had been patriotic citizens of the Reich since the Kaiser had granted them full citizenship, including lifting the restriction against them serving in the armed forces. There had been a wave of Jewish enlistment in the German forces as a response, and German Jews fought with pride and honour alongside their gentile compatriots. It is one of the savage ironies of history that the captain, who recommended Corporal A. Hitler for the Iron Cross, was Jewish.
Conspiracy Theory due to News Blackouts on German Defeats
Just as influential in spreading the malicious theory was the fact that there was a total news blackout on German defeats. The German people were kept under the impression that the War was going well. It therefore came as a complete shock that Germany and Austria had been defeated. Even the Kaiser was ignorant of the true nature of German defeat. The general were taught that you didn’t tell the Kaiser about military defeats either. You only gave him good news. This may partly have been because Wilhelm II would fly into rage. I read somewhere that he had a habit of rolling them in the snow, or taking their trousers down and having them spanked. If nothing else, it shows you how absolutely mad and unfit for rule he was.
Ethnic Tensions, Not Treaty, Cause of Rise of Nazis
Arguably the problem was not the Treaty of Versailles itself, but the crippling reparations and conditions that it set. Germany was saddled with a massive war debt, though the Weimar politicians succeeded in having it considerably reduced later in the 1920s. The Reich itself lost territories at home and its colonies, such as Cameroon and Togo in Africa. The Poles, Czechs and Slovaks became free peoples with independent countries, along with the other Slav nations of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The result was that ethnic Germans became a minority in some of the new states, like Czechoslovakia. There had been ethnic tension between Czechs and Germans since Germans were invited to colonise and develop their marginal parts of the country by the Czech crown in the Middle Ages. Hence the Nazis’ claims of the persecution of ethnic Germans in order to provide a pretext for the annexation of the Sudetenland. Polish independence was bitterly resented by the German nationalist Right. When Hitler later invaded eastern Europe, he justified it not by citing the Treaty of Versailles, but by arguing it was a continuation of the Drang Nach Osten, the German eastwards migration that had begun in the Middle Ages. He also claimed that Germany had a right to the territory of the Slav nations of eastern Europe, like the Poles, based on the argument that these areas had originally been occupied by the eastern Germanic tribes, the Goths, Burgundians and Vandals, before they were colonised by the Slavs sometime around the 8th-9th centuries. Modern scholarship has rejected this claim. The Vandals and Goths were indeed present in these areas, but they were just one element in vast tribal confederations that included many different ethnic groups. The main point, however, is that Hitler based his claim eastern Europe on spurious history, not the Treaty of Versailles.
Democracy Resented by Nazis as Imposed by Foreign Powers
The Nazis were also able to overthrow German democracy, because it was seen as a foreign imposition, alien to German nature. The political parties that signed the Treaty, the Social Democrats, Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties, were denounced as ‘November criminals’ because they had done so. But it was democracy itself, as imposed by Britain and her allies, that was the true target of resentment. In one of his speeches, Hitler denounced democracy as a Jewish device to enslave the Aryan man. Utter nonsense, but it gained a kind of spurious validity because democracy had been created through the allied victory. This had forced the Kaiser and the Austrian emperor to abdicate.
The Occupation of the Rhineland and German Nationalist Resentment
Finally, the western powers did occupy parts of Germany militarily when they considered that the Germans were not meeting their obligations under the Treaty. The Rhineland contained Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr. They were occupied by the French in 1924, after they believed that Germany was not paying its full share of reparations to La Patrie. Again, the presence of foreign troops in Germany could hardly have been welcome to the Germans themselves. I doubt very much that Allied troops would have been any more welcome to German nationalists, and indeed could have been a source of resentment, if the War had continued until the invasion and absolute collapse of Germany itself.
The Nazis arose not merely because of the Treaty of Versailles, but because of the sheer humiliation of defeat. Farage is therefore talking utter nonsense with the suggestion that the War should have continued and the Armistice not signed.
Further Fighting in War Unnecessary, Siegfried Sassoon
And let’s have no illusions about just how callous, and unnecessary further fighting would have been. I’ve blogged on here before about how Siegfried Sassoon came to his anti-War stance from his conviction that the War had been won in 1917, and that further fighting was simply unnecessary slaughter. As it stands, thousands died unnecessarily in the last few hours of the Armistice. The Treaty had been signed hours before, yet it set the time for the cease fire as 11 O’clock for symbolic reasons. The soldiers continued to fight right up to the very last minutes, useless deaths in order to win a peace that had already been achieved.
Farage states that he would have had the War continue, even if it cost a further 100,000 dead. That’s a colossal number in itself, but it’s only a fraction of the total number who were killed in the conflict: 14 million.
Farage Chickenhawk: Talks, but never Fought, in War
Conservative critics of Bush’s invasion of Iraq called Dubya and his fellow warmongers ‘chickenhawks’. They were men and women, who had never served in the armed forces themselves, and had no experience or understanding of the brutal reality of combat. They were perfectly happy to mouth off about war, and send others to their deaths in pursuit of American power and corporate profit, but had never, ever, risked their own lives for their country in combat.
Farage has the same attitude. It’s the mentality of someone, who sees himself as a commander, above the bloody, messy business of actually fighting in the trenches, in foxholes and mud and filth himself. It’s the same attitude of the out-of-touch generals, politicians and princes, who sent their citizens to die in pain, fear and misery, for military glory. It’s the attitude of a man, who seems to feel that victory for Britain was certain from the outset. All that was needed is to throw more men at it, and hang the consequences.
The Stupid Officer and the Sergeant Major
It reminds me of a story I heard from a re-enactor friend of mine. I used to do Dark Age re-enactment years ago. It was great fun, and I met some really interesting, great people. Several of them were former soldiers. I was talking to an ex-squaddie one day, who told me about the sheer, bloodthirsty stupidity of one of the officers he’d come across. The man came out on parade one morning, and declaring that his father had had a medal. He also wanted one, and blithely told his troops that he didn’t care how many of them died, as long as he got it.
The RSM was mightily unimpressed. He walked up to the commander, and told him, ‘I don’t think you ought to be saying that to the men, Sir.’
The commander was indignant, ‘What, what! How dare you say that to me!’
‘See me later about it, Sir’, said the Sergeant Major.
Later on the Sergeant Major explained, ‘I really don’t think you should say that to the men, Sir. If you say that again, they’re likely to shoot you. And if they don’t, I certainly will!’
Farage Vainglorious, Waster of Human Life
Farage has the same attitude as the officer in this tale. It’s one of the reasons why he should never, ever, be given power. Remember, if he becomes Prime Minister, he becomes Commander in Chief of the armed forces. And then God help us all.