Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Rosenberg’

Review of Book on New Atheist Myths Now Up on Magonia Review Blog

November 1, 2019

The Magonia Review of Books blog is one of the online successors to the small press UFO journal, Magonia, published from the 1980s to the early part of this century. The Magonians took the psycho-social view of encounters with alien entities. This holds that they are essentially internal, psychological events which draw on folklore and the imagery of space and Science Fiction. Following the ideas of the French astronomer and computer scientist, Jacques Vallee, and the American journalist, John Keel, they also believed that UFO and other entity encounters were also part of the same phenomenon that had created fairies and other supernatural beings and events in the past. The magazine thus examined other, contemporary forms of vision and belief, such as the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s. It also reviewed books dealing with wide range of religious and paranormal topics. These included not just UFOs, but also the rise of apocalyptic religious faith in America, conspiracy theories, ghosts and vampires, cryptozoology and the Near Death Experience, for example. Although the magazine is no longer in print, the Magonia Review of Books continues reviewing books, and sometimes films, on the paranormal and is part of a group of other blogs, which archive articles from the magazine and its predecessor, the Merseyside UFO Bulletin (MUFOB), as well as news of other books on the subject.

I’ve had a number of articles published in Magonia and reviews on the Review of Books. The blog has just put my review of Nathan Johnstone’s The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion (Palgrave MacMillan 2018).  The book is a critical attack on the abuse of history by New Atheist polemicists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and so on to attack religion. He shows that the retail extremely inaccurate accounts of historical atrocities like the witch hunts and persecution of heretics by the Christian church and the savage anti-religious campaign in the Soviet Union in order to condemn religion on the one hand, and try to show that atheism was not responsible for the atrocities committed in its name on the other. At the same time he is alarmed by the extremely vitriolic language used by Dawkins and co. about the religious. He draws comparisons between it and the language used to justify persecution in the past to warn that it too could have brutal consequences despite its authors’ commitment to humanity and free speech.

The article is at: http://pelicanist.blogspot.com/2019/10/believing-in-not-believing-new-atheists.html if you wish to read it at the Magonia Review site. I’ve also been asked to reblog it below. Here it is.

Nathan Johnstone. The New Atheism, Myth and History: The Black Legends of Contemporary Anti-Religion. Palgrave Macmillan 2018.

The New Atheists is a term coined to described the group of militant atheists that emerged after the shock of 9/11. Comprising the biologist Richard Dawkins, the journalist Christopher Hitchens, the philosophers Daniel C. Dennett and A.C. Grayling, the neuroscientist Sam Harris, the astronomer Victor Stenger, and others, they are known for their particularly bitter invective against all forms of religion. The above claim to stand for reason and science against irrationality and unreason. But while they are especially protective of science, and who gets to speak for it or use its findings, they are cavalier regarding theology and the humanities, including history.
Johnstone is appalled by this attitude. Instead of respecting history and its scholarship, he compares Dawkins, Harris et al to hunter-gatherers. They are not interested in exploring history, but rather using it as a grab-bag of examples of atrocities committed by the religious. In so doing they ignore what historians really say about the events and periods they cite, and retail myth as history. These he regards as a kind of ‘Black Legend’ of theism, using the term invented in the early twentieth century by the Spanish historian Julian Juderas to describe a type of anti-Spanish, anti-Roman Catholic polemic. He states his book is intended to be just a defence of history, and takes no stance on the issue of the existence of God. From his use of ‘we’ in certain points to describe atheists and Humanists, it could be concluded that Johnstone is one of the many of the latter, who are appalled by the New Atheists’ venom.
One such religious doubter was the broadcaster John Humphries,  the author of the defence of agnosticism, In God We Doubt. Humphries stated in the blurb for the book that he considered himself an agnostic before moving to atheism. Then he read one of the New Atheist texts and was so shocked by it he went back to being an agnostic. The group first made its debut several years ago now, and although New Atheism has lost some of its initial interest and support, they’re still around.
Hence Johnstone’s decision to publish this book. While Dawkins’ The God Delusion was published almost a decade ago, the New Atheists are still very much around. They and their followers are still on the internet, and their books on the shelves at Waterstones. Dawkins published his recent work of atheist polemics, Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide a few weeks ago at the beginning of October 2019. He accompanied its publication with an appearance at Cheltenham Literary Festival, where he was speaking about why everyone should turn atheist.
The events and the atrocities cited by the New Atheists as demonstrations of the intrinsic evil of religion are many, including the Inquisitions, the witch-hunts, anti-Semitism, the Crusades, the subjugation of women, colonialism, the slave trade and the genocide of the Indians, to which they also add human sacrifice, child abuse, censorship, sexual repression and resistance to science. These are too many to tackle in one book, and it confines itself instead to attacking and refuting New Atheist claims about the witch-hunts, the medieval persecution of heretics, and the question of whether Hitler was ever really Christian and the supposed Christian origins of Nazi anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
The book also tackles historical movements and figures, that the New Atheists have claimed as atheist heroes and forerunners – the ancient Greek Atomists and two opponents of the witch-hunts, Dietrich Flade and Friedrich Spee. It then moves on to examine Sam Harris’ endorsement of torture in the case of Islamist terrorists and atheist persecution in the former Soviet Union before considering the similarity of some New Atheist attitudes to that of religious believers. It concludes with an attack on the dangerous rhetoric of the New Atheists which vilifies and demonises religious believers, rhetoric which could easily provoke persecution, even if its authors themselves are humane men who don’t advocate it.
Johnstone traces these atheist myths back to their nineteenth and pre-nineteenth century origins, and some of the books cited by the New Atheists as the sources for their own writings. One of the most influential of these is Charles MacKay’s 1843 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In many instances he shows them to be using very dated, and now refuted texts. With some of the modern works they also draw on, examination shows that often they ignore the authors’ own conclusions, which may differ considerably, or even be the complete opposite of their own.
In the case of the witch-hunts, Johnstone traces the oft-quoted figure of over nine million victims to an early nineteenth century German author, Gottfried Christian Voigt, who extrapolated it from the murder of the thirty witches executed in his home town of Quedlinburg from 1569 to 1683. He assumed this was typical of all areas throughout the period of the witch-hunts. The figure was picked up by the radical neo-Pagan and feminist movements of the 1970s. But it’s false. The real figure, he claims, was 50,000. And its intensity varied considerably from place to place and over time. The Portuguese Inquisition, for example, only killed one witch c. 1627. In other places, the inquisitors were conscientious in giving the accused a fair trial. Convictions for witchcraft were overturned and evidence was taken to prove the accused’s innocence as well as guilt. The Roman Inquisition also demanded the accused to provide a list of their enemies, as their testimony would obviously be suspect.
In regions where the discussion of witchcraft had resulted in the mass trial and execution of the innocent, the religious authorities imposed silence about the subject. Johnstone rebuts the statement of some Christian apologists that the Church was only complicit in these atrocities, not responsible for them. But he shows that they were an anomaly. Nearly all societies have believed in the existence of witches throughout history, but the period of witch-hunting was very limited. The problem therefore is not that religion and belief in the supernatural leads inexorably to persecution, but how to explain that it doesn’t.
He shows that the Church moved from a position of initial scepticism towards full scale belief over a period of centuries. The witch-hunts arose when maleficium – black magic – became linked to heresy, and so became a kind of treason. As an example of how secular and political motives were also involved in the denunciations and trials, rather than just pure religious hatred, he cites the case of the priest Urbain Grandier. Grandier’s case was the basis for Aldous Huxley’s novel, The Devils of Loudoun, which was filmed by Ken Russell as The Devils. Here it appears the motives for the trial were political, as Grandier had been an opponent of the French minister, Cardinal Richelieu. Johnstone also considers that as secular societies have also persecuted those they consider to be politically or morally deviant there exists in humanity a need to persecute. This means finding and identifying an anti-group, directly opposed to conventional society, whose existence and opposition demonstrates the value of that society.
KEN RUSSELL’S ‘THE DEVILS’ (1971)
The medieval persecution of heretics may also have been due to a number of causes and not simply due to the malign attitudes of religious believers. There was a period of nearly 700 years between the execution of the Roman heretic, Priscillian, in the fourth century and the revival of persecution the early eleventh. This arose in the context of the emergence and development of states and the expansion of papal and royal power, which involved church and crown extending their power over local communities. At the same time, the papacy attempted reforming the church, at first in response to popular demand. However, it was then faced with the problem of clamping down on some of the popular reform movements when they threatened to run out of its control.
As the case of the Waldensians shows, the line between orthodoxy and heresy could be an extremely fine one. Johnstone also raises the question here of whether one of the most notorious medieval heretical groups, the Cathars, ever existed at all. It is possible that their existence is an illusion created by the categories of heresies the inquisitors had inherited from the Church Fathers. These were forced onto a group of local communities in the Languedoc, where popular piety centred around the Good Men and Women. These were highly respected members of the community, who were believed to live exemplary Christian lives. They were therefore due proper respect, which to the inquisitors looked like heretical veneration.
Hitler’s Christianity is also highly debatable. The little reliable testimony states that he was indeed Roman Catholic, but doesn’t provide any evidence of a deep faith. He certainly at times claimed he was a Christian and was acting in accordance with his religious beliefs. But an examination of some of these quotes shows that they were uttered as a rebuttal to others, who stated that their Christian beliefs meant that they could not support Nazism. This raises the question of whether they were anything more than a rhetorical gesture. There is evidence that Hitler was an atheist with a particular hatred of Christianity. This is mostly drawn from his Table Talk, and specifically the English edition produced by Hugh Trevor-Roper. The atheist polemicist, Richard Carrier, has shown that it is derived from a French language version, whose author significantly altered some of the quotes to insert an atheist meaning where none was present in the original. However, Carrier only identified a handful of such quotes, leaving forty requiring further investigation. Thus the question remains undecided.
Johnstone also examine the Nazi persecution of the Jews from the point of view of the theorists of political religion. These consider that humans are innately religious, but that once secularisation has broken the hold of supernatural religion, the objects of veneration changes to institutions like the state, free market capitalism, the New Man, Communism and so on. Those who follow this line differ in the extent to which they believe that the Nazis were influenced by religion. Some view it as a hydra, whose many heads stood for Christianity, but also Paganism in the case of Himmler and the SS. But underneath, the source of the real religious cult was the race, the nation and Hitler himself. If these theorists are correct, then Nazism may have been the result, not of a continued persecuting Christianity, but of secularisation.
He also considers the controversial view of the German historian, Richard Steigmann-Gall, whose The Holy Reich considered that the Nazis really were sincere in their Christianity. This has been criticised because some of the Nazis it examines as examples of Nazi Christian piety, like Rudolf Hess, were minor figures in the regime, against vehement anti-Christians like Alfred Rosenberg. He also shows how the peculiar views of the German Christians, the Nazi Christian sect demanding a new, Aryan Christianity, where Christ was blond and blue-eyed, and the Old Testament was to be expunged from the canon, were similar to certain trends within early twentieth century liberal Protestantism. But the German historian’s point in writing the book was not simply to put culpability for the Nazis’ horrors on Christianity. He wanted to attack the comfortable distance conventional society places between itself and the Nazis, in order to reassure people that they couldn’t have committed such crimes because the Nazis were different. His point was that they weren’t. They were instead uncomfortably normal.
DEMOCRITUS
The New Atheists celebrate the ancient Greek Atomists because their theories that matter is made up of tiny irreducible particles, first put forward by the philosophers Epicurus and Democritus, seem so similar to modern atomic theory. These ancient philosophers believed that these alone were responsible for the creation of a number of different worlds and the creatures that inhabited them by chance.
Some of these were forms that were incapable of surviving alone, and so died out. Thus, they appear to foreshadow Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. New Atheist writers bitterly attack Aristotle, whose own rival theories of matter and physics gained ascendancy until Atomism was revived in the seventeenth century. The natural philosophers behind its revival are credited with being atheists, even though many of them were Christians and one, Pierre Gassendi, a Roman Catholic priest. Their Christianity is thus seen as nominal. One also takes the extreme view that Galileo’s prosecution was due to his embrace of the atomic theory, rather than his argument that the Earth moved around the Sun.
But scholars have shown that the ancient atomic theory grew out of particular debates in ancient Greece about the fundamental nature of matter, and cannot be removed from that context. They were very different to modern atomic theory. At the same time, they also held beliefs that are to us nonsense as science. For example, they believed that the early creatures produced by atoms were fed by the Earth with a milk-like substance. They also believed in the fixity of species. Even where they did believe in evolution, in the case of humanity, this was more Lamarckian than Darwinian. Aristotle’s views won out over theirs not because of religious narrow-mindedness or ignorance, but because Aristotle’s had great explanatory power.
The scientists, who revived it in the seventeenth century, including Boyle and Newton, were sincere Christians. They believed that atoms created objects through divine agency because the ancient Greek explanation – it was all chance without a theory of momentum – genuinely couldn’t explain how this could occur without God. As for Galileo, the historian who first suggested this extreme and largely discredited view, believed that he was a victim of papal politics, and that there had also been a party within the Vatican and the Church, which supported his theories.
Discussing the two witch-hunters celebrated by the New Atheists as atheist, or at least, Sceptical heroes, the book shows that this was not the case. Dietrich Flade seems to have been accused because he had fallen out with an ecclesiastical rival, Zandt, for being too lenient on the accused witches. But he also appears to have been protected by the church authorities until the accusations of witchcraft by accused witches became too many to ignore.
The other Sceptical hero, Friedrich Spee, was a Jesuit priest, who became convinced of the innocence of those accused of witchcraft through attending so many to the stake. He then wrote a book condemning the trials, the Cautio Crimenalis. But he was no sceptic. He believed wholeheartedly in witchcraft, but considered it rare. The use of torture was wrong, as it was leading to false confessions and false denunciations of others, which could not be retracted for fear of further torture. Thus the souls of the innocent were damned for this sin. But while good Christians were being burned as witches, many of the witch-hunters themselves were in league with Satan. They used the hunts and baseless accusations to destroy decent Christian society and charity.
But if the New Atheists are keen to ascribe a wide number of historical atrocities to religion without recognising the presence of other, social and political factors, they deny any such crimes can be attributed to atheism. Atheism is defined as a lack of belief in God, and so cannot be responsible for inspiring horrific acts. Johnstone states that in one sense, this is true, but it is also a question about the nature of the good life and the good society that must be constructed in the absence of a belief in God. And these become positive ideologies that are responsible for horrific crimes.
Johnstone goes on from this to attack Hector Avelos’ statement that the Soviet persecution of the Church was only a form of anti-clericalism, which all societies must go through. Johnstone rebuts this by describing the process and extent of Soviet persecution, from the separation of church and state in 1917 to the imposition of atheism by force. Churches and monasteries were closed and religious objects seized and desecrated, religious believers arrested, sent to the gulags or massacred. These persecutions occurred in cycles, and there were times, such as during the War, when a rapprochement was made with the Orthodox Church. But these periods of toleration were always temporary and established for entirely pragmatic and utilitarian purposes.
The goal was always the creation of an atheist state, and they were always followed, until the fall of Communism, by renewed persecution. The wartime rapprochement with the Church was purely to gain the support of believers for the campaign against the invading Nazis. It was also to establish state control through the church on Orthodox communities that had survived, or reappeared in border areas under Nazi occupation. Finally, the attack on the clergy, church buildings and religious objects and even collectivisation itself were done with the deliberate intention of undermining religious ritual and practice, which was considered the core of Orthodox life and worship.
Sam Harris has become particularly notorious for his suggestion that atheists should be trusted to torture terrorist suspects because of their superior rationality and morality compared to theists. Harris believed it was justified in the case of al-Qaeda suspects in order to prevent further attacks. But here Johnstone shows his logic was profoundly flawed. Torture was not introduced into medieval judicial practice in the twelfth century through bloodthirsty and sadistic ignorance. Rather it was intended as a reasonable alternative to the ordeal. Human reason, and the acquisition of evidence, was going to be sufficient to prove guilt or innocence without relying on supposed divine intervention. But the standards of evidence required were very high, and in the case of a crime like witchcraft, almost impossible without a confession.
The use of torture was initially strictly limited and highly regulated, but the sense of crisis produced by witchcraft resulted in the inquisitors abandoning these restraints. Similarly, Harris’ fear of terror attacks leads him to move from reasonable suspects, who may well be guilty, to those who are simply members of terrorist organisations. They are fitting subjects for torture because although they may be innocent of a particular offence, through their membership of a terrorist organisation or adherence to Islamist beliefs, they must be guilty of something. Finally, Harris also seems to see Islamism as synonymous with Islam, so that all Muslims everywhere are seen as enemies of the secular Western order. This is exactly the same logic as that which motivated the witch-hunts, in which witches were seen as the implacable enemies of Christian society, and so exempt from the mercy and humane treatment extended to other types of criminal.
From this Johnstone then goes on to consider how the New Atheists’ image of atheism and the process of abandoning belief in God resembles religious attitudes. Their belief that atheism must be guarded against the dangers of falling back into religious belief mirrors Christian fears of the temptation to false belief, such as those of the Protestant reformers towards the persistence of Roman Catholicism. At the same time, their ideas of abandoning God and so attaining the truth resembles the Christian process of conversion and membership of the elect. And the vitriol directed at the religious for continuing to believe in God despite repeated demonstrations of His nonexistence resembles the inquisitors’ attitude to heretics. Heresy differs from error in that the heretic refuses to be corrected, and so must be compelled to recant by force.
The book also shows the dangers inherent in some New Atheist rhetoric about religious believers. This runs in contrast to much New Atheist writing, which is genuinely progressive and expresses real sympathy with the marginalised and oppressed, and which advocates trying to see the world through their eyes. But no such sympathy is granted religious believers. They are described as children, who may not sit at the same table as adults. Or else, following the logic of religion as a virus, proposed by Dawkins, they are described as diseased, who do not realise that they have been infected and even love their condition.
Bringing children up religious is condemned as child abuse. A.C. Grayling is shown to have a utilitarian attitude in his own advocacy of secularisation. He first states that he supports it for creating multiculturalism, but then contradicts himself by stating that he looks forward to it undermining religion. This was the same attitude the Soviets initially adopted towards religion. When it didn’t disappear as they expected, they resorted to force. Peter Boghossian wants atheist ‘street epistemologists’ – the atheist version of religious street preachers – to attack believers’ religious beliefs in public. They are to take every opportunity, including following them into church, in order to initiate ‘Socratic’ discussions that will lead them to questioning their faith.
Johnstone states that this is an implicit denial of theists’ right to conduct their private business in public without atheist interference. It’s in line with the New Atheist demands that religion be driven from the public sphere, into the churches, or better yet, the home. The metaphor of disease and infection suggests that what is needed is for religious believers to be rounded up against their will and forcibly cured. It’s the same metaphor the Nazis used in their persecution of their victims.
He quotes the atheist philosopher Julian Baggini, who is dismayed when he hears atheists describing religion as a mental disease from which believers should be forcibly treated. As for the statement that religious upbringing equals child abuse, the seriousness of this charge raises the question of how seriously the New Atheists actually see it. If Dawkins and co. really believe that it is, then their lack of demand for state intervention to protect children from indoctrination, as they see it, from the parents shows that they don’t treat child abuse seriously.
The New Atheist rhetoric actually breaks with their concrete recommendations for what should be done to disavow believers of their religious views, which are actually quite mild. This is what Johnstone calls the ‘cavalierism of the unfinished thought’. They may not recommend coercion and persecution, but their rhetoric implies it. Johnstone states that he has discussed only one of several competing strands in New Atheist thinking and that there are others available. He concludes with the consideration that there isn’t a single atheism but a multiplicity of atheisms, all with differing responses to religious belief. Some of them will be comparably mild, but most will involve some kind of frustration at religion’s persistence. He recommends that atheists should identify which type of atheist they are, in order to avoid the violent intolerance inherent in New Atheist rhetoric. This agrees with his statement at the beginning of the book, where he hopes it will lead to an atheist response to religion which is properly informed by history and which genuinely respects religious believers.
The book is likely to be widely attacked by the New Atheists and their followers. Some of its conclusions Johnstone admits are controversial, such as the view that the Cathars never existed, or that the persecution of heretics was an integral part of the forging of the medieval state. But historians and sociologists of religion repeatedly show that in the persecutions and atrocities in which religion has been involved, religion is largely not the only, or in some cases even the most important reason. Johnstone’s views on witchcraft is supported by much contemporary popular and academic treatments. His statement that the figure of over nine million victims of the witch-hunt is grossly exaggerated is shared by Lois Martin in her The History of Witchcraft (Harpenden: Pocket Essentials 2002). The Harvard professor, Jeffrey Burton Russell in his Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1972) also shows how Christian attitudes towards witchcraft passed from the scepticism of the Canon Episcopi to belief as the responsibility for its persecution passed from the bishops to the Holy Office.
Early law codes treated maleficium – black or harmful magic – purely as a civil offence against persons or property. It became a religious crime with the development of the belief that witches attended sabbats where they parodied the Christian Eucharist and worshiped Satan. A paper describing the scrupulous legality and legal provisions for the accused’s defence in the Roman Inquisition can be found in the Athlone History of Witchcraft and Magic In Europe IV: The Period of the Witch Trials, Bengt Ankerloo and Stuart Clarke eds., (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press 2002). Other writers on religion have noted the similarity between the late medieval and early modern witch-hunts and paranoid fears about Freemasons, Jews and Communists in later centuries, including the Holocaust, Stalin’s purges and McCarthyism. They thus see it as one manifestation of the wider ‘myth of the organised conspiracy’. See Richard Cavendish, ‘Christianity’, in Richard Cavendish, ed., Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Orbis 1980) 156-69 (168-9).
The Soviet persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church is described by Rev. Timothy Ware in his The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin 1963). Ludmilla Alexeyeva also describes the Soviet persecution of the Orthodox Church, along with other religions and national and political groups and movements in her Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious and Human Rights (Middletown, Connecticutt: Wesleyan University Press 1985). R.N. Carew Hunt’s The Theory and Practice of Communism (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1950) shows how leading Communists like Lenin believed atheism was an integral part of Communism and the Soviet state with a series of quotations from them. An example of Lenin’s demand for an aggressive atheism is his speech, ‘On the Significance of Militant Materialism’ in Lenin: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers 1968). 653-60.
It is also entirely reasonable to talk about religious elements and attitudes within certain forms of atheism and secular ideologies. Peter Rogerson in many of his well-reasoned articles in Magonia pointed out how similar some of the sceptics’ attacks on superstition and the supernatural were to narratives of religious conversion. His attitude is shared with some academic sociologists, historians and political theorists. Peter Yinger’s section on ‘Secular Alternatives to Religion’ in The Religious Quest: A Reader, edited by Whitfield Foy (London: Open University Press 1978) 537-554, has articles on the ‘Religious Aspects of Postivism’, p. 544, ‘Faith in Science’, 546, ‘Religious Aspects of Marxism’, p. 547, ‘Totalitarian Messianism’ 549, and ‘Psychoanalysis as a Modern Faith’, 551. For some scholars, the similarities of some secular ideologies to religion is so strong, that they have termed them quasi-religions.
While some atheists resent atheism being described as religion, this term is meant to avoid such objections. It is not intended to describe them literally as religions, but only as ideologies that have some of the qualities of religion. See John E. Smith’s Quasi-Religions: Humanism, Marxism and Nationalism (Macmillan 1994). New Atheism also mimics religion in that several of the New Atheists have written statements of the atheist position and edited anthologies of atheist writings. These are A.C. Grayling’s The Good Book and Christopher Hitchens’ The Portable Atheist. The title of Grayling’s book is clearly a reference to the Bible. As I recall, it caused some controversy amongst atheists when it was published, as many of them complained that atheism was too individual and sceptical to have a definitive, foundational text. In their view, Grayling’s book showed the type of mindset they wanted to escape when they left religion.
The fears of the terrible potential consequences of New Atheist rhetoric despite the avowed intentions of its authors is well founded and timely. There have been sharp complaints about some of the vitriolic rhetoric used to attack particular politicians in debates about Brexit which has resulted in assault and harassment. At the same it was reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked after the publication of Boris Johnson’s column in which he described women wearing the burqa as looking like letterboxes. Neither religion, nor secularism and atheism should be immune from criticism. But Johnstone is right in that it should be correctly historically informed and careful in the language used. Otherwise the consequences could be terrible, regardless of the authors’ own humane feelings and sympathies.

The Prussian Confessional Church’s Denunciation of Nazi Genocide

March 20, 2019

One of the scandals of the Nazi regime was that the churches, who should have led the opposition to Nazism, did far too little to resist. And quite often the resistance that was offered was simply to preserve their own freedom against the demands and attempts at coordination by the Nazi state. Nevertheless, there were many heroic Christian clergy and lay people, who did resist Nazism, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who declared Hitler the Anti-Christ. 400 Lutheran pastors paid for their opposition by being murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp. The Nazis also devised a special emblem to be worn by Christian opponents of Nazis – Bibelforscher, ‘Bible Students’, as they were dubbed. This was a purple triangle, like the pink triangle worn by gay men and the black triangle of the ‘asocial’ and ‘workshy’. Most of those interned were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to accept Hitler as a ‘secular messiah’.

In June 1936 the Confessional Church – a Lutheran organisation that had split off from the official National Church – issued the Barmen Memorandum attacking not only Nazi anti-clericalism, but also Nazi ideology, racial anti-Semitism, the perverted judicial system and the concentration camps. Some of those who signed it, including the head of the Confessional Church Friedrich Weissler, were imprisoned and executed. Seven years later, in October 1943, the Prussian Confessional Synod at Breslau denounced the Nazi extermination policy as unchristian. They declared

Concepts such as “rooting out”, “liquidation” and “unworthy life” are not known to the Divine order. The extermination of people solely because they are related to a criminal, or old or mentally disturbed or belong to an alien race is not a sword to be wielded by the state.’ This included ‘the life of the people of Israel’. Moreover, claiming that you were merely acting on orders was no defence: ‘We cannot permit superiors to relieve us of our responsibility before God.’

See: Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship (Harmondsworth: Penguin 197) 477.

D.G. Williamson, The Third Reich (Harlow: Longman 1982) 76.

James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1987) 88.

I’m putting this up because the extreme Right in America and Europe is trying to justify its demands for the persecution of Muslims and their forcible removal or mass murder as the necessary defence of Europe’s Judaeo-Christian and secular, enlightenment heritage. The Nazis despise the Enlightenment and its doctrines of tolerance, humanity and the brotherhood of nations, which should serve as a warning to anyone who believes they can adopt their policies to defend it. And while many Nazis were Christians, and were supported by anti-Semites within the churches and wider German and European society, others like Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis official ideologue, and Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, were fervently anti-Christian. Hitler himself was a pantheist. He had been raised a Catholic, but had very much turned against his upbringing. In his Table Talk he freely describes how unimpressed he was with his RE teacher at school, how since he was 12 years old he wanted to blow the Catholic mass up with dynamite, and how the Reich should found astronomical observatories all over Germany as part of a campaign to destroy Christianity. And one of the reasons the mainstream churches are uniting with Muslims to denounce the massacre in New Zealand is because of memories of the Third Reich, and the churches’ collaboration with the Nazis, as well as other atrocities committed through history in the name of religion.

The Barmen Memorandum and the 1943 condemnation of Nazism by the Breslau Confessional Church not just condemn Nazism, but also anyone else who seeks to exterminate other innocent people simply because they are of a different race or ethnicity. And that includes modern Western racial terrorists of the Nazi, Alt Right, or racial populist fringe, such as New Zealand murderer.  

Zelo Street: LBC’s James O’Brien Turns Tables on Tories over Racism and Anti-Semitism

March 7, 2019

Yesterday the good fellow at the Crewe-based Zelo Street blog put up a post discussing how LBC radio’s James O’Brien had attacked the Tories for their hypocrisy in criticising the Labour Party. for supposed anti-Semitism, while all the time allowing venomous racism to flourish in their own. This came after the blogger Racists4ReesMogg revealed a long series of tweets from internet groups set up to promote Boris Johnson and Rees Mogg as leaders of the Tory party.

The tweets were truly vile. The members of these groups discussed burning Qu’rans, throwing Muslims off bridges, bombing and closing down mosques, sterilising immigrants and the poor, debarring Muslism, and particularly Sajid Javid and Sadiq Khan from positions of government, ’cause their Muslims, along with ethnic cleansing  of such ferocity that the ‘SS Einsatzgruppen would look like a Boy Scout’s picnic’. There were racist attacks on Diane Abbott and Sayeed Warsi, along with speculation that a civil war was coming and they should all get guns and licences. And almost inevitably there were the weird conspiracy theories about the Jews. Some of them seem to believe in all that nonsense about the ‘Kalergi’ plan, a secret Jewish conspiracy to import Africans and Muslims into Europe to destroy the White race.

As a result, Tory deputy chairman James Cleverly suspended 14 members, boasting on politics live that his party takes action, unlike Labour in its handling of the anti-Semitism crisis. But Zelo Street speculates that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that Racists4ReesMogg seems to be finding more all the time.

And then James O’Brien sharply contrasted the Tory tolerance, and even encouragement of frothing racism and islamophobia, with their sharp intolerance of supposed instances of anti-Semitism. Zelo Street quoted him as saying

“Imagine if the New Statesman published an article by Owen Jones stating baldly that there is not enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What would happen? Imagine if Diane Abbott or John McDonnell came forward with comments about Jewish women being like letterboxes, or made a joke about the wigs that orthodox Jewish women wear. Made a joke that invited people to mock and condemn them”.

Imagine if John McDonnell made a joke about … the locks that Orthodox Jewish men grow, or the Yarmulkes that many, many Jewish men choose to wear. Imagine if, for example, John McDonnell said ‘Why do all these Jews walk around with frisbees on their heads?’ Explain to me how that would be substantially any different from what Boris Johnson said about Muslim womens’ sartorial choices”.

The ones that make them look like letterboxes. D’you see what I mean? That’s not even controversial, that comparison. Just imagine Owen Jones wrote an article on there not being enough anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and then how the hell Rod Liddle gets to write an article arguing that there’s not enough Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. And he’ll still get invited on to programmes and into studios, and Andrew Neil can still claim when he’s covering these issues that he’s impartial”.

And Fraser Nelson can host an event at the London Palladium with Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose fans are so vile that 14 of them have been suspended from the very party. Now just swap all of those phrases. Swap Islamophobia for anti-Semitism. Swap Rod Liddle for Owen Jones, swap Fraser Nelson for Jason Cowley … and swap Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson for John McDonnell or Tom Watson. And you tell me that we don’t live in a country that is utterly upside down”.

Zelo Street states that the Tories have got away with it for so long because the press has been actively complicit in promoting such venomous bigotry. Like the Scum, which started off whipping up hatred against the Irish, then it was Blacks, and now it’s ‘Scary Muslims’. This press is only now stopping to think about what they’re doing. But it’s too late for the Tories, as the lid is being taken off this ugly can of worms. The Tories have every reasons to try to misdirect people to the anti-Semitism allegations against Labour. Because when this stops, people will turn and see where the real racism is. And it will not end well for the Tories.

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/03/tory-islamophobia-action-not-enough.html

There always has been a section of the Tory party whose members and views have overlapped with the real, horrific Fascists of the NF and BNP. Like Paul Staines, AKA Guido Fawkes and the Libertarians links to Latin American death squads and apartheid South Africa. But the rantings of Rees Mogg’s and Boris Johnson’s supporters reminded me in particular of the weird, paranoid conspiracist views of the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg. Almost by definition all the Nazis were paranoid conspiracy theorists, as the whole party was based on the assumption that Jews control capitalism and communism and were working to destroy the Aryan race as a whole and specifically Germany. But in the case of Rosenberg the paranoia was particularly acute. Rosenberg was bitterly anti-Christian, and his book The Myth of the Twentieth Century was suppressed by Hitler because it was an embarrassment at the time the Fuhrer was trying to gain the support of Christian Germany. Apart from Jews, Rosenberg was also paranoid about Freemasons, Communists and nearly everybody else. At one point he was convinced that there was a secret Roman Catholic plot to seize control of Germany and install the old Catholic princes. In a party of murderous paranoid nutters, he was one of the most paranoid and nuttiest. But looking at the paranoia and frothing, venomous racism of Johnson’s and Rees Mogg’s supporters, he’d have fitted in very well there.

These people are genuinely frightening. During the mid-70s there was a plot by the editors  of the Times and Mirror, as well as the British intelligent agencies, to overthrow the minority Labour government. Left-wing MPs, trade unionists, activists and journos would be rounded up and interned, possibly on one of the Scottish islands. It never got off the ground, as leading members of the civil service and the staff at Sandhurst weren’t interested and told the plotters where to go.

But it shows how fragile British democracy really is. This was during the mid-70s, when the country was experiencing inflation, strikes and the energy crisis. Thanks to Thatcher, the unions have been smashed and inflation kept low, which is why there is so much poverty. But May’s botched and incompetent Brexit threatens to make the problem much, much worse. And as the case of Nazi Germany shows, in times of severe economic and political crisis, people look for scapegoats. We could see a massive expansion of bitter, murderous racism in this country too, accompanied demands for the full instruments of Fascist repression – internment, mass arrest, and death camps if people like the denizens of these sites and the threat they pose are not taken seriously.

Democratic Socialist on Liberalism, Classical Liberalism and Fascism

November 6, 2017

I’ve blogged several times about the connections between the Libertarianism of Von Mises and Von Hayek and Fascism, and the 1970s Fascist coup in Chile led by General Pinochet, which overthrew the democratically elected Communist president, Salvador Allende. I reblogged a video the other day by Democratic Socialist, in which he showed that Pinochet, contrary to the claims made by the Von Mises Institute, was indeed a brutal dictator, and that his rescue of Chilean capitalism, threatened by Allende’s entirely democratic regime, was very similar to Hitler’s seizure of power in Nazi Germany.

In the video below, Democratic Socialist explains the difference between the Liberalism of the Enlightenment, and the ‘Classical Liberalism’ of Von Mises and Von Hayek, both of whom supported Fascist regimes against Socialism and Democracy. In Von Mises case, he served in Dollfuss’ ‘Austro-Fascist’ government, while his pupil, Von Hayek, bitterly denounced democracy, supporting the regimes of the Portuguese Fascist dictator Salazar and then Pinochet’s grotty dictatorship in Chile. Von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, claimed that a planned socialist economy was also a threat to freedom, and influenced both Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher. And the latter was a good friend and admirer of Pinochet.

The video begins with Democratic Socialist drawing a distinction between Enlightenment Liberalism, and ‘Classical Liberalism’. Enlightenment Liberalism was a revolutionary force which challenged the power of the feudal aristocracy and the clergy. It championed freedom of belief, the right to free speech and assembly, freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial. It also stated that people had a right to private property.

Von Mises, the founder of ‘Austrian economics’ and ‘Classical Liberalism’, declared that the essence of his political and economic system was private property, and was hostile towards both democracy and socialism because both appeared to him to challenge the rights of the owners of the means of production. Thus he supported Dollfuss during the Austrian Civil War, when Dollfuss suppressed the socialists and Communists with army. The video includes a clip from a British newsreel showing Austrian soldiers shooting at the houses in the working class suburb of Vienna, into which the Schutzbund – the ‘Protection League’ formed by the Socialists and Communists – had retreated following Dollfuss’ attempt to suppress them by force. The voiceover describes Dollfuss as ‘diminutive’, and a still from the footage shows an extremely short man in uniform surrounded by various uniformed officers. Which seems to add him to the list of other dictators of shorter than average height – Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Franco. The Nazis themselves were profoundly hostile to the Enlightenment. After the 1933 seizure of power, Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazis’ chief ideologist, declared that the legacy of 1789 – the year of the French Revolution – had been ended by the Nazi coup.

After the War, Von Hayek’s attacks on socialist planning in The Road to Serfdom led Churchill to make a scaremongering speech about Labour in the 1945 election. Socialist planning, the great war leader declared, was abhorrent to the British people, and could only be imposed through a ‘Gestapo’, which he had no doubt, would be very humanely carried out. The video shows two senior members of the Labour party, one of which was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Callaghan, Denis Healey, describing how horrified they were by this slur against people Churchill had worked so closely with during the War.

In fact, Churchill’s lurid rhetoric had the opposite effect, and encouraged more people to vote for the Labour party so that they won with a landslide.

The video goes on to cite the texts, which document how Von Hayek declared his support for Salazar in Portugal, stating that he would preserve private property against the abuses of democracy, and how he claimed that the only totalitarian state in Latin America was that of Salvador Allende. Who was elected entirely democratically, and did not close any opposition newspapers or radio stations. Democratic Socialist also shows that Thatcher herself was a profound admirer of Pinochet, putting up a quote from her raving about his dictatorship. He also states that Thatcher, like Pinochet, also used the power of the state to suppress working class opposition. In this case, it was using the police to break up the miner’s strike.

Democratic Socialist is right in general about Enlightenment Liberalism being a revolutionary force, but many of its leaders were by no means democrats. The French Revolutionary was also keen to preserve private property, and the suffrage was based on property qualifications. Citizens were divided into ‘active’ and ‘passive’ – that is, those who possessed enough money to qualify for voting, and those who did not. This was also true of the American Founding Fathers, who were also keen to preserve the wealth and privileges of the moneyed elite against the poor masses. The fight to extend the franchise so that everyone had the vote, including women, was a long one. Britain only became a truly democratic country in the 1920s, after women had gained the vote and the property qualification for the franchise had been repealed. This last meant that all working class men had the vote, whereas previously only the wealthiest section of the working class – the aristocracy of labour – had enjoyed the franchise following Disraeli’s reforms of 1872.

The British historian of Fascism, Martin Pugh, in his book on British Fascism Between the Wars makes this point to show that, rather than having a long tradition of democracy, it was in fact only a recent political innovation, against which sections of the traditional social hierarchy were strongly opposed. This was the aristocracy and the business elites. He states that in Britain the right to vote was connected to how much tax a man paid, and that the principle that everyone had an innate right to vote was rejected as too abstract and French. This distrust of democracy, and hatred of the forces of organised labour, that now possessed it, was shown most clearly in the upper classes’ reaction to the General Strike.

As for the other constitutional liberties, such as a free press, right to a fair trial and freedom of assembly, Pugh also states that the 19th and early 20th century British ‘Liberal’ state was quite prepared to suppress these when it suited them, and could be extremely ruthless, such as when it dealt with the Suffragettes. Hence he argues that the Fascists’ own claim to represent the true nature of traditional British government and values needs to be taken seriously by historians when explaining the rise of Mosley and similar Fascist movements in the ’20s and ’30s.

Democratic Socialist is right when he states that the Classical Liberalism of Von Mises and Von Hayek is Conservative, and supports the traditional feudal hierarchy of the aristocracy and church as opposed to the revolutionary Liberalism of the new middle classes as they arose in the late 18th and 19th centuries. But I don’t think there was a clear division between the two. British political historians have pointed out that during the 19th century, the Liberal middle classes slowly joined forces with the aristocracy as the working class emerged to challenge them in turn. The modern Conservative party, with its ideology of free trade, has also been influenced by one aspect of 19th century Liberalism, just as the Labour party has been influenced by other aspects, such as popular working class activism and a concern for democracy. Von Mises’ and Von Hayek’s ‘Classical Liberalism’ can be seen as an extreme form of this process, whereby the free enterprise component of Enlightenment Liberalism is emphasised to the exclusion of any concern with personal freedom and democracy.

When Were The Tories Ever the Party of the Poor?

March 14, 2016

Since David Cameron took over the Tories, they’ve been claiming that they’re the real party of the poor and the working class. Various Tory politicos have gone around speaking behind banners saying ‘For Hardworking People’. One of the leading Tory politicos made a speech, claiming that they were the party of the poor and workers, because they stood for tax cuts, which allowed the poor to keep more of their hard-earned moolah.

It’s a risible claim. The Tory party emerged in the late 17th century as the party of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the Anglican church. Its immediate predecessor was the Country party, who were disposed royalist gentry. Throughout the 18th and 19th century the Conservatives were thoroughly aristocratic, as indeed was parliament in general. It was also quite normal for the Prime Minister to be a member of the House of Lords, something that has since been forbidden by the British constitution. The modern Conservative party has changed its class composition slightly through the entrance of business people in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who would earlier have been members of the Liberals. And there are one or two working class Tories on the green benches in parliament, such as Nadine Dorries, who apparently comes from a council estate. Working class support for the Conservatives was built up in the late 19th century by Disraeli. But despite this, the Tories still remain the party of the rich, the aristocracy and business. You can see that in the leadership of the Tory party – Cameron, Osborne and many others are pukka old Etonians.

‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymous author of the 1944 book, Your MP, also makes a point of the wealthy background of Tory MPs, listing a few. These include:

Arthur Balfour, who was among other things, director of the National Provincial bank, and who had not only his own company, but was also the chairman of two steel firms;

Lady Astor was a viscountess, and Col. J.J. Astor was given £1,400,000 in 1915 by his father. An exorbitant sum for the time. When he died, his father also left Astor and his brother a fortune of $40 million;

R.A.B. Butler married one of the Courtaulds. In 1928 the Courtauld Company gave its shareholders a bonus of £12 million, and the shares held by the family were estimated to have a market value of £11 million;

Sir Ronald Cross was a merchant banker and the grandson of the founder of the largest cotton manufacturer in Lancashire;

Brigadier-General W. Alexander (Glasgow Central), was a director of British Celanese, which had a capital of £9 million. He was also the deputy director of an oil company, and had been a director of Charles Tennant & Co. Ltd;

Irving Albery (Gravesend) was a member of the Stock Exchange, and senior partner in the family firm of I. Albery & Co. Ltd.

John Anderson (Scottish Universities) was a director of the armaments firm, Vickers, and the chemical company, ICI;

Ralph Assheton (Rushcliffe) came from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Britain. He married a daughter of Lord Hotham, also an ancient aristocratic family. Both families had been sending MPs to parliament since 1324, though Ralph Assheton had rather come down in their world, working as a member of the Stock Exchange.

Adrian Baillie (Tonbridge), was left a fortune of £140,000 by his brother. His wife was the daughter of Lord Queenborough, and heiress to an American multi-millionaire, Whitney. Lady Baillie owned Leeds castle in Kent, where Hitler’s racial ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, was a guest in 1933.

Brograve Beauchamp (Walthamstow East) married the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon. R.E.B. Beaumont was the son of Viscount Allendale, who bequeathed him £200,000. Alfred Beit (St. Pancras South East) was the director of a number of investment trusts, and was left £3,500,000 by his father. Lt.-Col. D. Boles (Wells), was an old Etonian, so obviously very rich. L.H. Boyce was chairman of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company, along with seven other firms.

R.A. Brabner (Hythe) was a merchant banker.

Major A.N. Braithwaite (Buckrose) was director of Guardian Eastern Insurance co. Ltd, as well as a number of brick companies, and a director of Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Co. Ltd.

William Brass (Clitheroe) was an estate agent, and director of the Guardian Assurance Company.

George Broadbridge (City of London) was a tin magnate and Lord Mayor of London in 1936;

Captain Bartle Bull (Enfield) was the heir of Canadian millionaire. His wife was a Miss Baur of Chicago, who herself inherited £500,000.

G.R. Hall Caine (Dorset, East) was a director of nine or ten companies.

Colonel W.H. Carver (Howdenshire) was a director of the LNER and a brewery.

R.A. Cary (Eccles) married the niece of Lord Curzon.

Somerset S. de Chair, (Norfolk South West) was the son of an admiral.

H. Channon (Southend-on-Sea) married Lady Honor Guinness, and was a friend of Ribbentrop’s.

Lt.-Col. R.S. Clarke (East Grinstead) also was the director of a couple of companies.

R. Clarry (Newport) was managing director of the Duffryn Steel and Tin Plate Works, and the director of a number of other firms.

Sir Thomas Cook (Norfolk North) was the grandson of the Thomas Cook, who founded the travel agency.

Duff Cooper is brother-in-law to the Duke of Rutland and nep0hew of the Duke of Fife.

Colonel George Courthope (Rye), belonged to another ancient aristocratic family that had owned land since 1493. He was a former chairman of the Central Landowners’ Association, and director of the Southern Railway, chairman of Ind Cooper and Alsop, the great pub chain.

Captain H.B. Trevor Cox (Stalybridge and Hyde) was another company director.

Lord C. Crichton-Stuart was the son of the Marquess of Bute. His wife was the Marchioness of Lansdowne, and inherited a cool million from his father.

J.F.E. Crowder (Finchley) was a member of Lloyds.

Against them, there were a number of Tory MPs from working class backgrounds. These were Sir Walter Womersley (Grimsby), Mr Denville (Newcastle Central) and Mr Rowlands (Flint). But, he concludes There may be another Tory MP or two who started with the advantages and disadvantages of ordinary men. Among the National Liberals, Mr Ernest Brown, part of whose job used to be to build us houses-in twos, or even in half-dozens-seems to have done so. Research fails to find any more.

This is not to say that the Tories haven’t been touchy about representing the interests of the rich and powerful. When Randolph Churchill, one of the two Tory MPs for Preston, said that the Conservatives in recent years had “had tended more and more to be identified with the propertied classes, and that those who dominated and controlled the Party had served the interests of a purse-proud, acquisitive and selfish minority”, the other Tory MP for the constituency, Captain Cobb, declared that his comment was ‘an insult to the electors’.

Well, Randolph Churchill’s comment was true then, and it’s just as true now. Winston Churchill himself declared, when he was a Liberal, that the Tories were the party of the rich against the poor. And in the century since, nothing has changed, despite the denials and slogans of Cameron, Osbo and co.

Daniel Hannan on Norris McWhirter, Supporter of Fascism

April 6, 2014

McWhirter

Norris McWhirter, Founder of the Freedom Association and probable supporter of the anti-Semitic and racist League of Empire Loyalists

The extreme Right-wing Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, amongst his other attacks on the Left and the NHS, criticised the comedian David Baddiel for his film criticising Norris McWhirter in his online Telegraph column. Baddiel had made the terrible offence of comparing the Freedom Association, which McWhirter founded, to the BNP. Guy Debord’s Cat has also posted a detailed critique of Hannan’s comments, ‘Hannan: McWhirter is a Decent Man (Because I Say So)’ at http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/hannan-mcwhirter-was-a-decent-man-because-i-say-so/.

In fact Baddiel’s comment about the Freedom Association being similar to the BNP has more than a little truth in the context of McWhirter’s extreme Right-wing political views. There is evidence that McWhirter was a member of the League of Empire Loyalists, a Fascist, anti-Semitic organisation that formed the National Front along with the BNP, the Greater Britain Movement and Racial Preservation Society. Even if he was not formally a member, McWhirter and his brothers subscribed to Candour, the League’s magazine, which attempted to spread its highly conspiracist view of the decline of British civilisation due to a global Jewish conspiracy. It was the same view as that of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, with the exception that the Nazis obviously focussed on Germany rather than Britain.

McWhirter and the Aldermaston March

The February 1989 issue of the Freedom Association’s newsletter, Freedom Today, printed a photograph of a car containing Norris McWhirter and his elder brother, Kennedy, surrounded by a crowd of angry CND protesters at the first Aldermaston March in 1958. The photograph was supposed to show the violent nature of peace marchers. According to the Times the McWhirters had appeared at the march in a car shouting at the crowd through a loudspeaker. They told the demonstrators that they were each guilty of increasing the threat of war and voting with their feet for ‘Soviet imperialist domination’. They then turned into a field, where they got out and attempted to display their own placards. They then scuffled with some of the marchers, and were forced to get back into the car. The marchers then started to rock it. The police eventually appeared, and managed to get the McWhirters and their car out of the crowd and away from the demonstration.

McWhirter and the LEL

Norris McWhirter stood as the Conservative candidate for Orpington in 1964. However, it looks very much like that if they weren’t formal members of the League of Empire Loyalists, they supported them sufficiently strongly to take part in some of their stunts. George Thayer in his book, The British Political Fringe: A Profile, published in 1965 stated that as the League supported nuclear weapons they ‘made a habit of harassing the Aldermaston marches’. Rosine D’Bouneviallel, a member of the League with custody of their records, confirmed that the incident was one of the LEL stunts. She did not state that the McWhirters were members of the League, but did say that they subscribed to candour.

See ‘Kennedy McWhirter 22/10/23 – 3/11/89’ in Stephen Dorril, ‘Gone but not Forgotten’, in Lobster 19: 10-13 (11).

A.K. Chesterton and the League of Empire Loyalists

The League of Empire Loyalists was founded in October 1954 by Arthur Keith (A.K.) Chesterton, a cousin of the writer G.K. Chesterton, and one of the ideologues of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. Its members including the future leaders of the National Front and related Fascist organisations, John Tyndall, Martin Webster, Colin Jordan and John Bean. It Strongly campaigned against any infringement of British sovereignty, including British involvement in a future EU or federated Europe, as well as the UN, NATO, SEATO and CENTO. It also demanded that Britain should not relinquish its Empire, but should continue to maintain and strengthen it. It also demanded that Non-White immigration to the UK should be stopped.

Chesterton, Anti-Semitism and Fascism

Chesterton split from Mosley and the BUF in 1938, and supported the British war effort against Nazi Germany. He was thus, unlike Mosley, never charged with treason. He was, however, extremely anti-Semitic. Apart from the BUF, he was also a member of the Nordic League, whose membership also included Serocold Skeels, a known Nazi agent, and William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw. Like the Nazis, the Nordic League also demanded the extermination of the Jews, and Chesterton fully shared their vile views. Chesterton later wrote a pamphlet attacking the leader of the BUF, complaining that Mosley had been deceived by the leader of one of the other factions within the BUF, which itself had become a parody of German Nazism. The pamphlet was published by the National Socialist League, the similarity of whose name to Hitler’s party was certainly not accidental. After the War Chesterton retreated from the genocidal implications of earlier extreme anti-Semitism, through his opposition to Nazism and friendship with individual Jews like Joseph Leftwich. He denounced the racial anti-Semitism of Houston Steward Chamberlain and the Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, and demanded that those responsible for the death camps should be hanged. Like Mosley he also strenuously denied that he was a Fascist after the War.

Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories and the LEL

Chesterton was a professional journalist. He was the deputy editor of the Fascist magazine, Truth, from 1944 to 1953. In 1953 he was also literary adviser to Lord Beaverbrook, and founded the anti-Semitic newspaper, Candour. Chesterton was strongly influenced by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Father Denis Fahey, A.N. Field, Douglas Reed, C.H. Douglas and Nesta Webster. He believed that Jewish financier and bankers, controlled by Bernard Baruch and Paul and Max Warburg, had been responsible for funding all the social unrest around the globe from the Russian Revolution onwards. The Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks agreements, along with the World Bank, Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission and United Nations were part of a plot to establish a global Jewish ‘One World’ superstate and destroy the British Empire. In his 1965 book, The New Unhappy Lords, Chesterton made it clear that he believed that global Communism was merely a subordinate branch of this international conspiracy. Moscow and Peking were, he declared, merely ‘branch offices’, while the headquarters of the conspiracy was in New York. Despite his denial that he was a Fascist, and disapproval of political violence, this is very much the same conspiratorial view as Hitler’s, except that it was updated to include the new, post-War supranational organisations.

Political Stunts

The League attempted to spread its vile ideas not by marches or demonstrations, but through a series of disruptive stunts. Amongst these were the blowing of bugle horns at Conservative party conferences. When Krushchev and Bulganin arrived at Victoria Station as part of their détente peace tours of the West, the League’s members shouted that Anthony Eden had shaken hands with a murderer. They also gatecrashed the 1958 Anglican Lambeth Conference disguised as Greek Orthodox bishops. As racist imperialists, they also disrupted meetings of the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Anti-Slavery Society.

Whatever Hannan says about McWhirter, it is clear that he had some extremely unpleasant Right-wing views, which could fairly be described as Fascistic. If he was indeed a subscriber to Candour, as claimed by the keeper of the LEL’s records, then he was clearly at least one of their fellow travellers. He may not have formally joined the League out of a desire to maintain his membership of the Tories. After their disruptive antics at the 1958 Tory party conference led to fighting between the conference’s stewards and members of the Leagues, the Conservatives took strong measures to throw out League sympathisers. The Freedom Association has also supported brutal and repressive extreme Right-wing dictatorships, so Baddiel actually was right to compare the Freedom Association to the BNP and attack the noxious views of its founder. And by his own support for McWhirter, Hannan has also shown how extreme his own political views are.

For further information on the League of Empire Loyalists, see Kevin Koogan, ‘The League of Empire Loyalists’ in Lobster 46, Winter 2003, pp. 26-9, and Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd 1987).

ATOS and the Nazi Murder of the Mentally Ill

February 18, 2014

atos-final

So many people now are struggling to support themselves after Atos has thrown them off invalidity benefit, that many see it as an organised attack on the very lives of the disabled themselves. If you read the comments to the Void’s posts about Atos, or those on Vox Political, you find the same thing said again and again: ‘I don’t think there will be any more people in a few years time, because Atos and the government will have killed us all off’. Some of the disabled people in the unemployment course I’ve been on have also said the same thing. People may phrase it differently, but the sentiment remains exactly the same: a feeling that the government is deliberately murdering the disabled as part of their welfare reforms.

The Nazi Euthanasia Order

The Nazi regime had a deliberately policy of murdering the mentally ill in its infamous ‘Euthanasia Order’. It was a secret decree passed by Hitler himself, and back dated to the 1st September 1939. It was implemented by Hitler’s personal doctor, Karl Brandt, and the Chief of the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Philipp Bouhler. The major figure in the carrying out of this mass murder was Bouhler’s deputy, Oberdienstleiter Victor Brack. Brack was head of the Central Office, which handled, amongst other things, the requests for the ‘euthanasia’ of the incurably ill. Brack’s colleague in this was a Dr Hefelmann.

Brandt, Bouhler and their staff recruited a small group of doctors, who were in favour of euthanasia. These were then given membership of the Fuhrer’s Chancellery and granted promises of immunity from prosecution for their actions through Hitler’s secret decree.

The Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals

The group and its intentions were strictly secret. They operated under the innocuous cover name of ‘Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals’. Their real job was to select the programme’s victims. Under the Reich Health Leader, the former SS doctor Leonhardt Conti, and his subordinate Dr Linden, the head of Asylums and Nursing Homes in the health division of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, questionnaires were sent out, ostensibly for the registration of the sick in the Third Reich’s asylums.

The SS and the Gassing of the Disabled

The regime also set up a cover organisation from the SS transport fleet, The Welfare Transport Company for Invalids Ltd. Their duty was to remove the programme’s victims from their normal asylums to the institutions where they would be murdered. The main institutions for this were Hadamar in Hesse, Hartheim near Linz Grafeneck in Wurttemberg and Sonnestein in Saxony, where chemists from the Institute of Criminal Technology from the Reich Criminal Police Office tried out gassing them with carbon monoxide. The operation was financed through another cover company set up by the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, the Welfare Foundation for the Benefit of Asylums. Only about fifty people knew all the details about the programme. The directors of the asylums from which the victims were taken were only told that they had been transferred for special observation and treatment. The only Reich minister, who was directly informed by Hitler about the secret authorisation of the doctors was the head of administration in the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Hans Lammers.

Opposition from Roman Catholic Churchmen

The euthanasia programme had to be abandoned in 1941 following opposition from the public, the legal system and the administration. The main opponent of the programme was the Cardinal Archbishop of Muenster, Count Clemens Galen. Galen was fiercely critical of Nazi racism, and had published a critique of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, in 1934. He publicly attacked the programme in a sermon. Regarding it as a crime, he informed the civil police. His condemnation of the programme was so effective, that it enraged Hitler and Goebbels had to advise the Fuehrer against ordering the Count’s arrest. Nevertheless, the programme had resulted in the medical murder of 70,000 people, by no means all of whom were ‘incurably insane’.

ATOS Not Physically Killing Disabled Like Nazis

However horrendous ATOS are – and they are deeply amoral and horrendous – they are clearly unlike the Nazi euthanasia programme. They do not have the ill and disabled taken away by a state operated private company and murdered in a secret institution, as was done under the Third Reich. The person assessed remains free. All that is done is that their benefits are removed. And at least in theory the most disabled individuals, who cannot work are still supported through benefits.

38,000 A Year Killed by ATOS’ and DWP’s Denial of their Benefits

Nevertheless, ATOS’ administration of the assessments has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. ATOS have been set secret targets by the DWP to have a specific percentage of claimants thrown off benefits, a quota system that has been implemented across the system to cover people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The number of people, who have died after their assessment by ATOS remains unknown. Ian Duncan Smith simply refuses to release the figures. Jaynelinney on her blog has estimated that it may be as high as 38,000 per year.

ATOS, DWP, Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVie Refuse to Take Responsibility for Deaths Caused by Benefit Reforms

This indicates that the government is well aware of the number of deaths that have resulted, and are too ashamed or afraid of the public to release the true statistics. And while the system is not set up for the organised, physical mass murder of the unemployed, the government’s welfare policies are aimed at the removal of large numbers of them from government support, fully aware that for many this will result in their death. As they are not physically murdered, however, the government, the civil servants and ATOS employees and executives involved in the policies do not see themselves as responsible and so do not care.

This is disgusting and unacceptable. Although they have not physically killed anyone, the government’s benefit reforms have nevertheless resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. In this sense ATOS, the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith, the Disabilities Minister Esther McVie, and David Cameron and George Osborne are certainly responsible, and all the more so because they know it is happening and have done nothing to change the policy.

It needs to stop. And stop now.

Let’s hope the protests against ATOS tomorrow help turn public opinion even further against the administration and its lethal policies.