Posts Tagged ‘Black and Tans’

David Rosenberg Explains Why Churchill Is Not His Hero

February 19, 2019

A few days ago I put up a piece defending John McDonnell’s characterization of Churchill as a villain because of his role in the gunning down of striking miners by the British army at Tonypandy. In fact this was only one incident amongst a series that casts a very grave shadow over Churchill as the great statesman, whom one may never, ever criticize. Such as his remarks about the Indians, who starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943. He declared that Indians were a beastly people, who had a beastly religion, and it was all their fault for having too many children. The famine was caused by the British seizing their grain for troops in Europe. We could have deployed supplies of grain to feed them, but Churchill refused to do so. Three million people were killed.

Martin Odoni, who is one of the great commenters on this blog, and a real friend of Mike’s, post a long piece commenting on this article. He argued that there was little real difference between Churchill and Hitler, and that it is only because we had a constitution limiting governmental power that he wasn’t able to commit the same atrocities as the Nazi leader. His comment began

Had some interesting arguments about this on social media myself recently. Put up a post on Facebook a couple of weeks back that got some furrow-browed responses from friends; –

“During the Second World War, one of the main powers had a brutal, militaristic, racist leader who was emotionally unstable, hyper-aggressive and completely intolerant of differing shades of opinion, and whose only real skill, despite a reputation for strategic genius, lay in delivering impressive speeches.

Meanwhile, the opposing power had a leader called Adolf Hitler, who was just as bad.

I have long maintained that the only major difference between Churchill and Hitler was that the Governmental system in the UK meant that Churchill was not allowed to wield the same degree of power, and so couldn’t get away with the same atrocities. Even so, he still had spine-chilling numbers of deaths on what passed for his ‘conscience’. He cheerfully turned the army on striking workers during the 1920s, he slaughtered French mariners in their hundreds during the war to prevent them surrendering ships to the Nazis, he caused famine in Bengal by diverting food away to ‘more deserving’ i.e. predominantly white countries, and he routinely bombed the developing world.

His comment, which is very well worth reading, concluded

My assertion that Hitler was merely “just as bad” received objections even from people who despise Churchill. Whether we want to quibble over their respective degrees of brutality, I don’t know, but I struggle to see exactly what was better about Churchill. He and Hitler were both mentally unstable, bad-tempered, violent, racist, and had little regard for the value of human life. Even if I had to qualify it, I would still say with confidence that the points of resemblance between Hitler and Churchill heavily outweigh the differences.

Please go to my article on Churchill, and then scroll down to find his comment. https://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2019/02/16/john-mcdonnell-outrages-tories-with-comments-about-churchills-villainy/

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group also support McDonnell’s assessment of Churchill in an article he posted on his blog, Rebel Notes, ‘Not My Hero’. He also discusses Churchill’s role in the Tonypandy massacre, and how it was repeated a year later at Llanelli, when the troops he sent in also fired on strikers. He also notes that, as colonial secretary, Churchill sent in the infamous Black and Tans to quell the Irish rebellion. He wanted to use poison gas against the Kurds when they revolted in Mesopotamia. In the 1930s he described the Palestinians as barbarians who did little but eat camel dung. He also saw Black Africans as barbarous, and called the Sudanese people he encountered ‘savages’.

He was also a White racial supremacist, who had little qualms about the dispossession of indigenous peoples and the seizure of their ancestral lands by White settlers. He justified the downgrading of the Palestinians’ rights in favour of European settlers with the comment

“I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

And while he was in favour of nationalist Jews dispossessing the indigenous Arabs of Palestine, he hated ‘internationalist’ and ‘atheistic’ Jews, who he believed were conspiring to destroy White, gentile civilization, following the poisonous conspiracy theory of the Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Rosenberg quotes his own book, Battle for the East End, on an article Churchill wrote in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, in which he praised the Jewish settlers in Palestine, and contrasted them with the Jews he believed were part of this entirely non-existent conspiracy. Churchill wrote

“… this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and the reconstruction of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality”. And added

“This movement amongst the Jews is not new… It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities has gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire. There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution, by these international and for the most part atheistic Jews, it is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews.”

Churchill’s article credited the notorious British anti-Semite and Fascist, Nesta Webster, who had written an article in the Morning Post claiming that Jews there really was a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy. The year before, the Morning Post had also published an article claiming that Jews controlled the Russian government.

Rosenberg also states that although people pleaded with Churchill to bomb the railway lines to the death camps during the War, he never did. Rosenberg concludes his article

My verdict on Churchill? I agree with the Shadow Chancellor.

See: https://rebellion602.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/not-my-hero/

Which agrees with Odoni’s comment in his piece about Churchill’s repulsive character

A hideous man, and it says something about the sickness of British culture that it chooses to acclaim him rather than to apologise to the world for his barbarism.

Churchill did help to win the War and thus prevent Nazi tyranny from claiming many more lives. But he only opposed Nazi Germany because he felt it would be an obstacle to British interests in the North Sea. He visited Mussolini’s Italy, although he privately regarded the Duce as ‘a perfect swine’, and as an authoritarian he actually quite like General Franco.

Now it’s a good question whether Germany was exceptional in the ascent of the Nazis to power. During the ’20s and ’30s very many other countries also had Fascist movements, and Oswald Mosley’s BUF in Britain certainly wasn’t the only far right British Fascist movement in the period. There was a slew of others, including the British Fascisti, English Mystery, National Worker Party, British Empire Fascist Party, the Britons, the Imperial Fascist League, as well as other groups like the Right Club and the Anglo-German Fellowship. Many of these organisations were extreme right-wing Conservative rather than Fascist, and their membership overlapped or had close connections to the Tory right.

One of the key factors in the rise of Nazism in Germany was its defeat by the Allies in the First World War. The German population were totally unprepared for it, as the press only printed news of German victories. The result was the growth of conspiracy theories which claimed that Germany had lost because of an insidious Jewish conspiracy. This is nonsense, as Jews had fought as hard and as patriotically for their country as well as their gentile comrades. Harder, in fact. Jewish servicemen formed a higher percentage of the fallen than any other German demographic group.

It’s a good question, therefore, whether Britain would similarly have fallen under the jackboot of an entirely British Fascist dictatorship if Germany and Austria had been successful and we had lost. And with Churchill’s brutal, bloodthirsty racial supremacism and ruthless willingness to use deadly force, would he have been the dictator sending British Jews to death camps? It’s fortunately an event that never happened, and so Britain has never had to confront seriously Churchill’s horrendous racism, his crimes and atrocities, but instead demand his worship as the great anti-Fascist and defender of democracy.

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John McDonnell Outrages Tories with Comments about Churchill’s Villainy

February 16, 2019

John McDonnell kicked up a storm of controversy this week when, in an interview with the Politico website on Wednesday, he described Winston Churchill as a villain. McDonnell was answering a series of quick-fire questions, and the one about Churchill was ‘Winston Churchill. Hero or villain?’ McDonnell replied ‘Tonypandy – villain’. This referred to the Tonypandy riots of 1910, when striking miners were shot down by the army after clashing with the police. According to the I’s article on the controversy on page 23 of Wednesday’s edition, Churchill initially refused requests to send in the troops, instead sending a squad of metropolitan police. Troops were also sent in to stand in reserve in Cardiff and Swindon. Following further rioting, Churchill sent in the 18th Hussars. He later denied it, but it was widely believed that he had given orders to use live rounds. There’s still very strong bitterness amongst Welsh working people about the massacre. The I quoted Louise Miskell, a historian at Swansea University, who said that ‘He is seen as an enemy of the miners’.

Boris Johnson, who has written a biography of Churchill, was naturally outraged, declaring ‘Winston Churchill saved this country and the whole of Europe from a barbaric fascist and racist tyranny, and our debt to him is incalculable’. He also said that McDonnell should be ashamed of his remarks and withdraw them forthwith.

McDonnell, speaking on ITV news, said that although he didn’t want to upset people, he’d give the same answer again to that question if he was honest, and said that he welcomed it if it has prompted a more rounded debate about Churchill’s role. He said that Churchill was undoubtedly a hero during the Second World War, but that this was not necessarily the case in other areas of his life. He said ‘Tonypandy was a disgrace.: sending the troops in, killing a miner, tryinig to break a strike and other incidents in his history as well.’

The I then gave a brief list of various heroic and villainous incidents. These were

* Saving Britain from the Nazis during and helping to lead the Allies to victory during the Second World War.

* Introducing the Trade Boards Bill of 1909, which established the first minimum wages system for various trades across the UK.

* Making the famous speech about an Iron Curtain coming down across Europe in 1946.

* According to his biographer, John Charmley, Churchill believed in a racial hierarchy and eugenics, and that at the top of this were White Protestant Christians.

* Saying that it was ‘alarming and nauseating’ seeing Gandhi ‘striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.’ He also said ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion’.

* Three million people died in the Bengal famine of 1943, in which Churchill refused to deploy food supplies.

It’s in the context of the Bengal famine that Churchill made his vile remarks about Indians. The Bengalis starved because their grain had been sequestered as back up supplies to fee British troops. In the end they weren’t needed, according to one video I’ve seen on YouTube. Churchill also said that the famine was their fault for having too many children.

He also supported the brief British invasion of Russia to overthrow the Communist Revolution, and the use of gas on Russian troops. Just as he also wanted to use gas to knock out, but not kill, Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia when they revolted in the 1920s against British rule.

He also said that ‘Keep Britain White’ was a good slogan for the Tories to go into the 1951 general election.

It’s clearly true that Churchill’s determined opposition to the Nazis did help lead to a free Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But according to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, he did not do so out of opposition to Fascism per se. He was afraid that Nazi Germany posed a threat to British interests in the North Sea. The Conservative journo, Peter Hitchens, is very critical of Churchill and Britain’s entry into the Second World War. He rightly points out that Churchill wasn’t interested in saving the Jews, but that we went in because of the treaties we had signed with Poland and France. As for defeating Nazism, historians have for a long time credited the Soviet Red Army with breaking the back of the Wehrmacht. In one of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs, he jokes that if Churchill hadn’t sent the troops in, then the Iron Curtain would begin about Bexhill in Kent. Churchill also went on a diplomatic visit to Mussolini’s Italy after the Duce seized power, though privately he remarked that the man was ‘a perfect swine’ after the Italian dictator declared that his Blackshirts were ‘the equivalent of your Black and Tans’. For many people, that’s an accurate comparison, given how brutal and barbaric the Black and Tans were. And as an authoritarian, Churchill also got on very well and liked General Franco. And George Orwell also didn’t take Churchill seriously as the defender of democracy. In the run-up to the outbreak of war, he remarked that strange things were occurring, one of which was ‘Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’.

Now I don’t share Hitchen’s view that we shouldn’t have gone into the Second World War. The Nazis were determined to exterminate not just Jews, Gypsies and the disabled, but also a large part of the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe. One Roman Catholic site I found had an article on Roman Catholic and Christian martyrs under the Nazis. This began with the Nazis’ attempts to destroy the Polish people, and particularly its intellectuals, including the Polish Roman Catholic Church. It quoted Hitler as saying that war with Poland would a be a war of extermination. Hitler in his Table Talk as also talks about exterminating the Czechs, saying that ‘It’s them or us.’ Churchill may have gone into the War entirely for reasons of British imperial security, but his action nevertheless saved millions of lives right across Europe. It overthrew a regime that, in Churchill’s words, threatened to send the continent back into a new Dark Age, lit only by the fire of perverted science’.

Having said that does not mean he was not a monster in other areas. The General Strike was a terrible defeat for the British working class, but if Churchill had been involved it would almost certainly have been met with further butchery on his part. Again, according to Pugh, Churchill was all set to send the army in, saying that they were ready to do their duty if called on by the civil authority. The Tory prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was all too aware of what would happen, and when another minister of civil servant suggested finding him a position in the Post Office or the department looking after the radio, he enthusiastically agreed, because it would keep Churchill out of trouble.

As for the Bengal famine, I think that still haunts Indian nationalists today. I was looking at the comments on Al-Jazeera’s video on YouTube about the UN finding severe poverty in Britain a few months ago. There was a comment left by someone with an Indian name, who was entirely unsympathetic and said he looked forward to our country being decimated by starvation. My guess is that this vicious racist was partly inspired in his hatred of Britain by the famine, as well as other aspects of our rule of his country.

I think McDonnell’s remarks, taken as a whole, are quite right. McDonnell credited him with his inspiring leadership during the War, but justifiably called him a villain because of the Tonypandy massacre. And eyewitnesses to the rioting said that the miners really were desperate. They were starving and in rags. And Churchill should not be above criticism and his other crimes and vile statements and attitudes disregarded in order to create a sanitized idol of Tory perfection, as Johnson and the other Tories would like.

Counterpunch Demolishes Some Churchillian Myths

December 8, 2017

There’s a very interesting piece by Louis Proyect over at this weekend’s Counterpunch, The Churchillian Myths of 1940, where he takes a well-observed aim at two of the recent films about the Second World War. One is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the other is the forthcoming biopic about Winston Churchill’s battle against the appeasers in the British cabinet in 1940, The Darkest Hour. This hasn’t been released yet, and is set to come out on December 21st (2017). It stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, and is directed by Joe Wright.

Dunkirk’s already attracted much criticism because of its historical inaccuracies. I think it’s been accused of racism, because it ignores the large numbers of the British forces, who were Black and Asian. But Proyect also draws on a critique of the film by Max Hastings of the Telegraph to show how the film presents a very mythical view of Dunkirk. The film has it that the British troops are under constant shooting and bombardment by the Germans, and that they are saved by the flotilla of small vessels that went over there to rescue them. In fact, according to Hastings, the Germans largely left the retreating British alone. As for being saved by the small ships, 2/3 of the troops were rescued by the fleet of big ships that were sent by the navy. There were 37 of these, but six were sunk. Proyect also criticises a scene where the sailors aboard a sinking ship discuss how they are going to get to the surface without being mown down by the Germans. He compares this unfavourably to the Poseidon Adventure, producing the quotes by the critics to show that this is actually a far superior film.

More serious is the way the film deliberately omits atrocities committed on the civilian population by the retreating British. Proyect states that at the time the British squaddies were under immense physical and psychological stress. They responded by shooting anyone that moved, including old women and nuns. This is historical fact. Proyect cites and describes one of these incidents. The trooper had been told to take no prisoners, except for interrogation, and so blazed away accordingly.

As for the Darkest Hour, Proyect draws on an article by Clive Ponting on the Churchill Myth. Older readers of this blog will remember that Ponting was the civil servant Maggie tried to prosecute under the Official Secrets Act because he leaked two documents about the sinking of the Belgrano to the Labour MP Tam Dalyell. Ponting was acquitted, because the jury weren’t about to be told what to do by Maggie.

He points out that in fact the difference of opinion between Churchill and the appeasers, like Lord Halifax and Neville Chamberlain, was actually much smaller than most people realised. At the time, Churchill was in favour of making peace with Germany, and had sent feelers out to see what their terms were. Where he differed from Halifax and Chamberlain was that they were in favour of making an immediate peace, while he wanted to fight on for a few more months.

The film does show Churchill hesitating at one point, and Proyect states that this would have been unthinkable a few years ago, as the official archives were still closed and the only source material available were Churchill’s own self-aggrandising writings. In which he portrayed himself as the resolute warrior.

But this ignores just how pro-Nazi Churchill had been, as well as anti-Semitic. What! Churchill pro-Nazi? The very idea! But he was. In 1937 Churchill wrote of Hitler

Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms,” he said, “have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism.” Despite the arming of Germany and the hounding of the Jews, “we may yet live to see Hitler a gentler figure in a happier age,” Churchill wrote. He was doubtful, though.

As for Leon Trotsky, Churchill reviled him with all manner abuse, not just because he was a Bolshevik, but also because Trotsky was Jewish. He quotes Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, a revision history attacking the notion of World War II as ‘the good war’, from which he also took the above quote about Hitler from Churchill. Baker writes

Churchill also included a short piece on Leon Trotsky, king in exile of international bolshevism. Trotsky was a usurper and tyrant, Churchill said. He was a cancer bacillus, he was a “skin of malice,” washed up on the shores of Mexico. Trotsky possessed, said Churchill, “the organizing command of a Carnot, the cold detached intelligence of a Machiavelli, the mob oratory of a Cleon, the ferocity of Jack the Ripper, the toughness of Titus Oates.”

And in the end what was Trotsky? Who was he? “He was a Jew,” wrote Churchill with finality. “He was still a Jew. Nothing could get over that.” He called his article “Leon Trotsky, Alias Bronstein.”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/08/the-churchillian-myths-of-1940/

I am not surprised by Proyect’s description of Churchill’s highly equivocal attitude to Nazi Germany. Churchill himself was very authoritarian. He had visited Mussolini’s Italy, though he had not been impressed when the Duce compared the Blackshirts to the Black and Tans, and privately remarked that Musso was ‘a swine’. But he did like General Franco. The historian Martin Pugh, in his book on British Fascism between the Wars, states that Churchill’s opposition to Nazi Germany did not come from any deep ideological view, but simply because he was bitterly suspicious of Germany and believed that it would block British interests in the North Sea. Pugh points out that he didn’t seem concerned that a bloc of Fascist states in southern Europe could do the same to British interests in the Mediterranean.

It would be interesting to know what Peter Hitchens thinks of all this. Hitchens is deeply Conservative, but he is a fierce critic of the Second World War as ‘the good war’, and has absolutely no love of Churchill. Indeed, in his book taking aim at New Atheism a few years ago, The Rage Against God, he attacked the cult of Churchill as a kind of ersatz religion, put in place of Christianity. It’s a bit of stretch, as it wasn’t quite an exercising in God-building that the Soviets tried. In the former USSR there was a brief movement after the Revolution to create a kind of atheistic religion, centred around great revolutionary heroes, to harness religious sentiments for the cause of Communism. The cult around Churchill isn’t quite like that. But nevertheless, to some Churchill is almost a sacrosanct figure, against whom you must not utter a single word. You can’t, after all, imagine Dan Snow on the One Show, striding around what remains of Churchill’s office and papers, telling the world how ‘Winnie’ at one time looked approvingly on Hitler and was very nearly ready to make peace. Or that, when it suited him, he was viciously anti-Semitic.

Radio 4 Programme on British Invasion of Russia to Overthrow Russian Revolution

October 13, 2017

Also on Radio 4 next week, on Friday, 20th October 2017 at 11.00 am., is a programme on the British invasion of Russia. This followed the Bolshevik coup of 1917, and was intended to overthrow the new Communist regime. The blurb for the programme in the Radio Times states

The story of a little-known war that took place a century ago along the frozen rivers of the Russian Arctic and transformed Russia’s relations with the West for decades to come. After the October Revolution, thousands of foreign troops under British command fought Russians on Russian soil for more than 18 months. Lucy Ash meets the 93-year-old son of General Edmund Ironside, who wrote at the time that he was in charge of “a tiny army of not very first class troops” stranded in the icy vastness of Russia “in the midst of a bitter civil war”. (Page 139).

Again, there’s a bit more information on the facing page, 138, written by Tom Goulding. This reads

The UK’s relationship with Russia has always seemed cold – coloured by by decades of menacing but empty rhetoric on both sides. so it’s often overlooked that just under 100 years ago a real and bloody conflict took place between Britain and the Bolsheviks in the frozen Arctic. Journalist Lucy Ash investigates this infamous incursion of British boots on Russian soil by speaking to the 93-year-old son of Edmund Ironside, the general who led Churchill’s crusade to put down the fledgling Bolshevik state. The intervention was a disaster, and the resulting mistrust between the two countries looms large to this day.

With 20/20 hindsight, it could be said that it’s a pity that the invasion didn’t succeed. The Bolsheviks were authoritarians from the start. They suppressed the other political parties and organisations, including left-wing and socialist groups such as the Mensheviks, Trudoviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries. Strict discipline was reintroduced, and the Bolsheviks reinstated the same proprietors and managers to manage the factories and other industrial concerns that they’d nationalised, against the desires of the anarchists, syndicalists and Left Communists, who wished to create a genuine worker’s state with worker’s control of industry. These were also suppressed, and their leaders and members arrested.

And if Bolshevik rule had been overturned, the Nazis may never have come to power as there would not have been a Communist threat that they could claim to be protecting Germany and the upper and middle classes from. And Stalin would not have come to power, to kill and imprison something like 30 million Soviet citizens – although some estimates put the death toll higher at 45 million – in the gulags and purges.

On the other hand, the Whites were also extremely brutal and oppressive. They, like the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, also held out the prospect of restoring democracy. However, the leader of one of the White counter-revolutionary bands was a maniac, who I think believed himself to be Jesus Christ or Buddha – or both. This butcher used to throw cold water over his prisoners’ naked bodies in the depths of the Russia winter so that they froze to death, and snap pieces of their bodies. Tony Greenstein in a recent blog post describes how the Zionist leaders approached another anti-Semitic White General, Petlyura, about sending Jews from Russia to Palestine. The Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov vividly describes the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence during the Civil War in the Ukraine in his classic, The White Guard, adapted from his play, The Days of the Turbins. He mentions the lynching of Jews by the peasants, and one of the characters killed by the mob in this way is a Jewish man, whose only crime was to have left his home to try to buy food and medicine for his family.

And if you read accounts of the Russian Revolution, it’s very clear why the peoples of the Russian Empire rose up, even if they mostly didn’t support Lenin and the Bolsheviks: they were pushed to the end of their tether through losing a war for which the ordinary squaddies were poorly treated and equipped, and by social conditions of horrendous poverty and near starvation in industry and the countryside. Russia was beset by strikes, and their were hundreds of peasant uprisings that occurred one after the other in the Russian countryside.

As for the British invasion, it seems to me it had two objectives. These were to keep the Russians in the War, fighting the Germans and Austrians, and to overthrow the Bolshevik state as a threat to capitalism. I dare say that it was accompanied with claims that it was about defending democracy, but as it wasn’t until the ’20s that all men got the vote regardless of property qualifications, and women finally gained the suffrage, such claims are probably rather specious.

Pat Mills, in one of the interviews I put up a few weeks ago, mentioned that he wrote a story for the First World War strip, Charlie’s War, in the comic Battle, which dealt with the British invasion of Russia. Mills is very left-wing, and says in the interview that the British officers ‘behaved like animals’. Which I don’t doubt they did, considering the stupid brutality they later unleashed in Ireland during their Revolution, though this was mostly done by the auxiliary units, the Black and Tans, rather than the regular army.

The Tories Who Voted Against the Beveridge Report and the Welfare State

March 14, 2016

‘Gracchus’, in his anti-Tory book, Your MP, has a lengthy passage on the various Conservative MPs who voted against the Beveridge Report, the document that laid the foundations for the modern welfare state. I’ve blogged about how the Report had the support of the Labour party, the Liberals and left-wing Tories. These are its opponents, whose modern ideological descendants, David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, George Osborne, and the four ‘wafflers’ who talked out a bill to ban the privatisation of the NHS, and so many others, who now want to the scrap this most precious British institution.

The anti-Beveridge Tories included:

Sir John Anderson, of the air raid shelter fame. He was Commander of the Crown of Italy, Governor of Bengal, and one of the organisers of the ‘Black and Tans’ that terrorised Ireland during their struggle for independence.

Osbert Peake, Leeds North, stated that William Beveridge, had “raised hopes which could not be fulfilled. No system of weekly payments can abolish want in a free society; so long as men are free to spend their money as they please there will be homes in which want exists.” He also said it was ‘incompatible with freedom’ and claimed that want could only be eradication by the type of regimentation found in the armed forces or internment camps.

Captain H.H. Balfour, Isle of Thanet, declared that “The ideal of those who want a planned society is the “raising of utility families in accordance with State guidance; the children, as soon as possible, being enrolled into the ever-swelling ranks of a new race of little State stooges trained to serve and look only to the State for all sustenance, security and benefit right from the days of the State crèche to the evening of life, directed to be spent in some bare-walled but beautifully sanitary institution, run, of course, under a State medical service.”

Reading through these denunciations, it’s striking how little has changed in that they’re the same arguments being made today about any kind of socialism or state intervention by the American extreme Right. Libertarians talk about how Britain’s ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare state has robbed us of our liberty and deprived us of the right to carry guns around in very much the same terms. As for the raising of children as ‘little state stooges’, something very similar was screamed a little while ago by the conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, on his Infowars website. He claimed that the child immigrants Obama had let into the country were going to be used by him as child soldiers, as in Africa, to establish his totalitarian control of America. It’s the same kind of rhetoric Sarah Palin used in her election campaign when she ranted about ‘death panels’ on the evils of Obamacare. It’s the same type of argument Ronald Reagan also used to attack Medicaid when this was being introduced by Lyndon Johnson.

The other Tories, who voted against the Beveridge Report, were:

Lt-Col. G.J. Acland-Troyte, Tiverton;
Major S.V.T. Adams, Leeds West
Lt. Com. P.G. Agnew, Camborne
Sir Irving Albery, Gravesend
Brig.-Gen Sir Wm. Alexander, Glasgow Central
Lt.-Col Wm. James Allen, Armagh
L.C.M.S. Amery, Secretary of State for India and Burma, Sparkbrook.
R. Assheton, Financial Secretary to the Exchequer, Rushcliffe.
Col. J.J. Astor, Dover
W.W. Astor, Fulham East.

Adrian Baillie, Tonbridge,
A. Beverley Baxter, Wood Green
Rear-Adm. T. Beamish, Lewes
F. Geattie, Cathcart
Sir Brograve Beauchamp, Walthamstow
Major R.E.B. Beaumont, Portsmouth Central
Sir Alfred Beit, St. Pancras South East
Sir Peter Bennett, Edgbaston
R. De La Bere, Worcester, Evesham
Sir Robert Bird, Wolverhampton West
Sir Reginald Blair, Hendon
Lt.-Col. D. Boles, Wells
R.J.G. Boothby, Aberdeen East
A.C. Bossom, Maidstone
W.W. Boulton, Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, Sheffield Central
Com. R.T. Bower, Cleveland
H. Leslie Boyce, Gloucester
Rt. Hon. B. Bracken, Minister of Information, Paddington North
Major A.N. Braithwaite, Buckrose
Captain Sir William Brass, Clitheroe
Captain R. Briscoe, Cambridgeshire
Sir George Thomas Broadbridge, City of London
Sir Edmund Brocklebank, Fairfield
H. Brooke, Lewisham West

Rt. Hon. A.E. Brown, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leith
Captain Bartle Bull, Enfield
Col. H.W., Burton, Sudbury
Rt. Hon. R.A. Butler, President Board of Education, Saffron Walden

G.R. Hall Caine, Dorset East
Sir Edward Campbell, Bromley
R.A. Cary, Eccles
Viscount Castlereagh, Down
S.S. de Chair, Norfolk, South West
Flight lieutenant C. Challen, Hampstead
H. Channon, Southend
A. Chapman, Parliamentary Under-Sec. for Scotland, Rutherglen
Sir Samuel Chapman, Edinburgh, S.
J. Christie, Norfolk South
Sir Reginald Clarry, Newport
Capt. E.C. Cobb, Preston
Arthur Colegate, the Wrekin
N.C.D. Colman, Brixton
Captain R.J.E. Conant, Bewdley
Cooke, J. Douglas, Hammersmith South
A. Duff Cooper, St George’s
Col. George Courthope, Rye.
W. Craven-Ellis, Southampton
Lord C. Crichton-Stuart, Northwich
Sir Smedley Crooke, Deritend
Capt. Harry Crookshank, Postmaster-General, Gainisborough
J.F.E. Crowder, Finchley
C.T. Culverwell, Bristol West

Viscountess Davidson, Hemel Hempstead
Sir William Davison, Kensington South
A. Denville, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Lt.-Col. G.F. Doland
P.W. Donner
Lt.-Col. Alan V.G. Dower
C. Drewe, Assistant Whip, Honiton
G.A.V. Duckworth, Shrewsbury
W.R. Duckworth, Manchester, Moss Side
major T.L. Dugdale, Richmond, York.
Captain. J.A. Duncan, Kensington North

Anthony Eden, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Warwick and leamington
Major Sir James Edmondson, Treasurer of the Household, Banbury
Sir Geoffrey Ellis, Ecclesall
Captain G.S. Elliston, Blackburn
J.F. Emery, Salford West
C.E.G.C. Emmott, Surrey, East.
P.V. Emrys-Evans, Under-Secretary for the Dominions, Derby South.
Major Cyril Entwhistle, Bolton
Eric Errington, Bootle
A.G. Erskine-Hill, Edinburgh North
Ralph Etherton, Stretford
Col. Arthur Evans, Cardiff South
W. Lindsay Everard, Melton

Edmund Findlay, Banff
Flt.-Lt Sir Gifford Fox, Henley
David Fyfe, Solicitor-General, West Derby

Com. T.D. Galbraith, Pollok
Granville Gibson, Pudsey and Otley
G. Gledhill, Halifax
L.H. Gluckstein, Nottingham East
Major Ralph Glyn, Abingdon
N.B. Goldie, Warrington
Robert Gower, Gillingham
Captain A.C. Graham, Chester, Wirral
W.P.C. Greene, Worcester
Sir Arnold Gridley, Stockport
Edward Grigg, Altrincham,
R.V. Grimston, Assistant Postmaster-General, Westbury
Col. Henry Guest, Drake
Major Derrick Gunston, Thornbury

Sir Douglas hacking, Chorley
Captain F.F.A. Heilgers, Bury St. Edmunds
M.R. Hely-Hutchinson, Hastings
J.J.C. Henderson, Leeds North East
T.H. Hewlett, Manchester Exchange
W.F. Higgs, Birmingham West
Quintin Hogg, Oxford
Miss F. Horsbrught, P.S., Ministry of Health
Dr A.B. Howitt, Reading
Austen Hudson
R.S. Hudson, Minister of Agriculture, Southport
Sqd.-Ldr N.J. Hulbert, Stockport.
George Hume, Greenwich
Percy Hurd, Devizes
Major Geoffrey Hutchinson, Ilford

Wing.-Com. A.W.H. James, Wellingborough
John Jarvis, Surrey, Guildford
R. Jennings, Hallam
George Jones, Stoke Newington
Lt. Com. L.W. Joynson-Hicks

Mrs. Cazalet Keir, Islington East
H.W. Kerr, Oldham
John Graham Kerr, Scottish Universities
Major L. Kimball, Leicester, Loughborough
Maj.-Gen. Alfred Knox, Wycombe

Joseph Lamb, Stone

J. Lees-Jones, Blackley
John Leigh, Clapham
Major B.E.P. Leighton, Oswestry
T. Levy, Elland
O. Lewis, Colchester
W.S. Liddall, Lincoln
Major E.G.R. Lloyd, Refrew East
P.C. Loftus, Lowestoft
Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas, Portsmouth South
Leonard Lyle, Bournemouth
Major A.M. Lyons, Leicester East
Captain O. Lyttelton, Aldershot

Col. Charles MacAndrew, Buteshire and Ayrshire
Major Duncan McCallum, Argyll
M.S. McCorquodale, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Sowerby
Captain P.D. Macdonald, Isle of Wight
Captain J.H.F. McEwen, Lord of the Treasury, Berwick and Haddington,
Lt.-Col. J.R.J. Macnamara, Essex, Chelmsford
T. Magnay, Gateshead,
Adam Maitland, Faversham
Brig.-Gen ernest Makins, Knutsford
Lt.-Col. John Myhew, East Ham, North
John Mellor, Tamworth
Major J.D. Mills, Ecclesiastical Commissioner, New Forest and Christchurch
Col. H.P. Mitchell, Brentford and Chiswick
George Mitcheson, St. Pancras, South West
Lt.-Col. Thomas Moore, Ayr Burghs
R.H. Morgan, Stourbridge
Major J.G. Morrison, Salisbury
W.S. Morrison, Minister for Town and Country Planning, Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Col. Joseph Nall, Hulme,
Major B.H.H. Neven-Spence, Orkney and Shetland
W. Nunn, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne West

Hugh O’Neill, Antrim
I.L. Orr-Ewing, Weston-Super-Mare

G.E.H. Palmer, Hampshire, Winchester
C.J. Peat, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Supply, Darlington
Major M. Petherick, Penryn and Falmouth
K.W.M. Pckthorn, Cambridge University
Captain R.A. Pilkington, Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Lancaster, Widnes
Col. C.E. Ponsonby, Sevenoaks
Lt.-Col. Assheton Pownall, Lewisham East
Major H.A. Procter, Accrington
R. Purbrick, Walton
L.R. Pym, Lord of the Treasury, Monmouth

E.A. Radford, Rusholme,
Flt.-Lt. H.V.A.M. Raikes, Essex, South East
Eugen Ramsden, Bradford North
Robert Rankin, Kirkdale
Stanley, Reed, Aylesbury
W.A. Reid, Derby
G.W. rickards, Skipton
D. Robertson, Streatham
J.R. Robinson, Blackbool
G. Fowlands, Flint
Admiral Percy Royds, Kingston-upon-Thomas
Alexander Russell, Tynemouth

E.W. Salt, Yardley
Frank Sanderson, Ealing
E.D. Sandys, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Supply, Norwood
William Scott, Roxburgh and Selkirk
H.R. Selley, Battersea South
Major P.S. Shaw, Liverpool, Wavertree
Captain W.T. Shaw, Forfar
O.E. Simmons, Duddeston
Major Archibald Sinclair, Caithness and Sutherland
Bracewell Smith, Dulwich
Waldron Smithers, Chislehurst
W.M. Snadden, Kinross and West Perth
Donald Somervell, Attorney-General, Crewe
Oliver Stanley, Secretary of State for the Colonies, Westmorland
S. Storey, Sunderland,
H.G. Strauss, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Town and Country Planning, Norwich
Captain W.F Strickland, Coventry
Captain H.G. Studholme, Tavistock
Rear-Admiral Murray Sueter, Hertford
Harold Sutcliffe, Royton
Major-General Frederick Sykes, Nottingham Central.

Robert Tasker, Holborn
Captain C.S. Taylor, Eastbourne
Vice-Admiral E.A. Taylor, Paddington South
J.P.L. Thomas, Financial Secretary, Admiralty, Hereford
Douglas Thomson, Aberdeen South
C.N. Thornton-Kemsley, Kincardine and Western
G.C. Touche, Reigate
A.R.L.F. Tree, Harborough
Lt.Com. R.L. Tufnell

W.W. Wakefield, Wiltshire, Swindon
Jonah Walker-Smith, Barrow-in-Furness
Col. Lambert Ward, Kingston-Upon-Hull
Miss Irene Ward, Walsend
John Wardlaw-Milne, Worcester, Kidderminster
Captain C. Waterhouse, Permanent Secretary, Board of Trade, Leicester South
F.C. Watt, Edinburgh Central
Brigadier G.S. Harvie Watt, Richmond
Harold Webbe, Abbey
J.J.S. Wedderburn, Refrew West
Richard Wells, Bedford
W. Garfield, Macclesfied
Dymoke white, Fareham
Lt.-Col. E.T.R. Wickham, Somerset, Taunton
Commander C. Williams, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Torquay
Herbert Williams, Croydon South
Lt.-Col. G. Windsor-Clive, Ludlow
Earl Winterton, Horsham and Worthing
Major A.R. Wise, Smethwick
Walter J.P. Womersley, Minister of Pensions, Grimsby
H. Wragg, Belper
Group Captain J.A.C. Wright, Erdington

Major Christopher York, Ripon
A.S.L. Young, Lord of the Treasury, Glasgow, Partick.

BBC 2 On Why Britain Voted Against Churchill after WW II

May 25, 2015

BBC 2 at 9.00 O’clock tonight is showing a documentary on how Britain rejected Churchill for the Labour party in the 1945 general election.

The blurbs for it in the Radio Times state

Surprise election results are nothing new. As this documentary explores, a few weeks after celebrating VE Day in 1945, Britons went to the polls for the first general election in a decade. The Conservatives were widely expected to win, a grateful nation rewarding Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership. Instead, Labour won by a landslide and set about creating the Socialist welfare system Churchill had warned against.

As historians relate, there were good reasons the electorate delivered a humiliating snub to their wartime hero. And we’ve forgotten how unpopular he was with sections of the public: striking footage shows crowds jeering a perplexed Churchill at Walthamstow stadium. “Most people saw him as a Boris Johnson-type figure,” claims one contributor. “A buffoon.”

And

Just weeks after VE Day, Winston Churchill went to the polls confident that the nation would reward him for his leadership through the dark days of the Second World War and re-elect him prime minister. In the event, he suffered a humiliating defeat by Labour under Clement Atlee. Historians including Max Hastings, Juliet Gardiner and Antony Beevor explore what prompted the nation to reject its great war leader in such vehement fashion.

This will no doubt annoy the Churchill family, who have been effectively living off the great man’s legacy since the War. They got very stroppy a few months ago with Paxo, for daring to state that Churchill was not some kind omniscient, super competent superman.

In fact, Churchill was and still is bitterly despised by certain sections of the working class, despite his status as the great hero of World War II. His own career in the armed forces effectively ended with the debacles of the battle of Jutland and he was widely blamed for Gallipolli. He fervently hated the trade unions and anything that smacked of socialism and the welfare state. Originally a Liberal, he crossed the floor to join the Tories when Balfour’s government introduced pensions and state medical insurance based on the model of contemporary Germany. ‘It was Socialism by the backdoor’, he spluttered.

This continued after the War, when he fiercely attacked Labour’s plan to set up the NHS and unemployment benefit. Because the latter meant that the state become involved in the payment of NI contributions by the employer, he denounced it as a ‘Gestapo for England.’

He is widely credited with sending in the army to shoot down striking miners in Newport. According to the historians I’ve read, he didn’t. Nevertheless, this is still widely believed. It’s credible, because Churchill did have an extremely aggressive and intolerant attitude towards strikes. During the 1924 General Strike he embarrassed the Tory administration by stating that the armed forces would stand ready to assist the civil authorities, if they were called to do so. This effectively meant that he was ready to send the troops in. When it was suggested that he could be found a position in the Post Office, the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, readily agreed on the grounds that it would keep him out of the way. The hope was that without Churchill’s militant intransigence, the Strike could be settled peacefully.

And despite the mythology of the country uniting under a common foe during the War years, there was still considerable working class disaffection. Indeed, according to one programme, there were more strikes during the War than hitherto. I don’t find this remotely surprising, given that the sheer requirements of running a war economy meant rationing, shortages and, I’ve no doubt, the introduction of strict labour discipline.

Nor was Churchill a particularly staunch supporter of democracy and opponent of Fascism. Orwell wrote in one of his newspaper pieces that the spectre of war was doing strange things, like making Churchill run around pretending to be a democrat. According to the historian of British Fascism, Martin Pugh, Churchill was an authoritarian, who actually quite liked Franco and his brutal suppression of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. His opposition to the Nazis came not from a desire to defend democracy from tyranny – in that respect, Eden was a far better and more convinced anti-Fascist – but from the fear that a re-armed and militarised Germany would be a danger to British power and commercial shipping in the North Sea and the Baltic. He did, however, have the decency to consider privately that Mussolini was ‘a swine’, and was not impressed when the Duce declared that his Black Shirts were ‘like your Black and Tans’ when he visited Fascist Italy.

The British working class therefore had every reason to reject Churchill and his reactionary views after the War. And scepticism towards Churchill and his legacy was not confined merely to the working class. Nearly two decades later in the 1960s Private Eye satirised him as ‘the greatest dying Englishman’, and attacked him for betraying every cause he joined. Churchill was all for a united Europe, for example, a fact that might surprise some supporters of UKIP. He just didn’t want Britain to join it.

Even now there are those on the Right, who still resent him. Peter Hitchens, the arch-Tory columnist for the Daily Mail, has frequently attacked Churchill for bringing Britain into the War. His reason for this seems to be his belief that if we hadn’t gone to War against the Axis, we’d still have an Empire by now. This is moot, at best. Writing in the 1930s about a review of Black soldiers in Algiers or Morocco, Orwell stated that what was on the mind of every one of the White officers observing them was the thought ‘How long can we go on fooling these people?’ Orwell came to Socialism through his anti-imperialism, and so represents a particularly radical point of view. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the only one. When the British authorities set up the various commercial and industrial structures to exploit Uganda and the mineral wealth of east Africa, Lord Lugard cynically stated that they now had all the infrastructure in place to pillage the country for a few decades before independence. Despite Hitchens’ nostalgia and wishful thinking for the glories of a vanished empire, my guess is that many, perhaps most of the imperial administrators and bureaucrats out there knew it was only a matter of time before the British Empire went the way of Rome and Tyre.

In his book attacking atheism, The Rage Against God, Hitchens also attacks the veneration of Churchill as a kind of ersatz, state-sponsored secular religious cult. It’s an extreme view, but he’s got a point. Sociologists of religion, like Clifford Geertz, have a identified the existence of a ‘civil religion’, alongside more normal, obvious forms of religion, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, for example. This civil religion is the complex of beliefs and values that shapes civil society as a whole. In America, this is a belief in democracy, centred around a veneration of the Constitution. In Britain, you can see this complex of beliefs centring around parliament, the Crown, and also the complex of ceremonies commemorating the First and Second World Wars. Including Churchill.

The programme looks like it could be an interesting counterargument to the myth of Churchill as the consummate politician, the great champion of British freedom and democracy. He deserves every respect for his staunch opposition to the Nazis, regardless of the precise reason for doing so, and his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is one of the main texts that have created the belief that the British are uniquely freedom-loving. Nevertheless, he was also deeply flawed with some deeply despicable authoritarian attitudes. AS the blurbs for the programme point out, the British were quite right to vote him out at the post-War elections.

George Orwell on How the Upper Classes and Tories Hindered Britain in World War 2

October 17, 2013

One of Margaret Thatcher’s electoral strategies was to hark back to the Second World War, and present herself very much in the mould of her hero, Winston Churchill. Back in the 1990s the BBC did a documentary series showing how she had taken over Churchill’s own, heroic view of British history in his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. She modelled both her own personal image and her style of politics on it, and on Churchill’s own image as the great statesman and warleader, who had kept Britain free during the Second World War. This was particularly clear – indeed, you were repeatedly hit over the head with it, metaphorically speaking, in the Conservative Party Political Broadcast for the 1987 election. This featured black and white film footage from the War of Spitfires zooming about the clouds, and ended with an enthusiastic actor’s voice declaring that ‘it’s great to be great again!’ Alan Coren on that week’s edition of the News Quiz described it as showing how Britain was saved by ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. He then reminded the nation that all the servicemen, whose courage and sacrifice Thatcher was using to promote her party, had then all come back and voted Labour in the 1946 election.

This constant presentation of herself as the incarnation of Churchillian statesmanship was not without problems. While the Second World War really was the great man’s finest hour, in many respects Churchill himself was an unpleasant figure. He started politics as a Liberal, but joined the Conservatives when they introduced old age pensions and sickness insurance for the workers, claiming that it was ‘socialism by the back door’. During the 1922 General Strike, Stanley Baldwin deliberately gave him in a job in the Telegraph Office to get him out of the way after he announced the army’s willingness to step in against the strikers. Amongst some on the Left, he is also remembered – falsely – as the man, who sent the army in against a demonstration by workers in Newport. It’s a myth, but such was his reputation for hostility towards organised labour that it’s still widely believed. Speaking on the above-mentioned BBC documentary, a former member of the Irish nationalist terrorist organisation, the INLA, stated that he found it easier to recruit members under Thatcher than under Ted Heath, because of Thatcher’s deliberate association with Churchill. Churchill might be a great hero in Britain, but to Irish nationalists he was hated for sending the brutal Black and Tans to suppress the Irish rebellion.

George Orwell was also unimpressed with Churchill and the Conservative party’s stance on Fascism. As a Socialist, he believed Churchill’s stance as the defender of democracy to be mere pretence. He also stated that the Stock Exchange had cheered Franco’s side when they rebelled against the Republican Government.

In his article, ‘England, Your England’ of 1941, Orwell attacked the political power and aims of the aristocracy, and the claim that everyone was equally making sacrifices for the war effort. He wrote

‘England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into position of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory. They could not do it, even if their material interests did not constantly trip them up. As I pointed out earlier, they have been artificially stupefied. Quite apart from anything else, the rule of money sees to it that we shall be governed largely by the old – that is, by people utterly 8unable to grasp what age they are living in or what enemy they are fighting. Nothing was more desolating at the beginning of this war than the way in which the whole of the older generation conspired to pretend that it was the war of 1914-18 over again. All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces. Ian Hay was cheering up the troops, Belloc was writing articles on strategy, Maurois doing broadcasts, Bairnsfather drawing cartoons. It was like a tea-party of ghosts. And that state of affairs has barely altered. The shock of disaster brought a few able men like Bevin to the front, but in general we are still commanded by people who managed to live through the years 1931-9 without even discovering that Hitler was dangerous. A generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like necklace of corpses.

As soon as one considers any problem of this war – and it does not matter whether it is the widest aspect of strategy or the tiniest detail of home organization – one sees that the necessary moves cannot be made while the social structure of England remains what it is. Inevitably, because of their position and upbringing, the ruling class are fighting for their own privileges, which cannot possibly be reconciled with the public interest. It is a mistake to imagine that war aims, strategy, propaganda and industrial organisation exist in watertight compartments. All are interconnected. Every strategic plan, every tactical method, even every weapon will bear the stamp of the social system that produced it. The British ruling class are fighting against Hitler, whom they have always regarded and whom some of them still regard as their protector against Bolshevism. That does not mean that they will deliberately sell out; but it does mean that at every decisive moment they are likely to falter, pull their punches, do the wrong thing.

Until the Churchill Government called some sort of halt to the process, they have done the wrong thing with an unerring instinct ever since 1931. They helped Franco to overthrow the Spanish Government, although anyone not an imbecile could have told them that a Fascist Spain would be hostile to England. They fed Italy with war materials all through the winter of 1939-40, although it was obvious to the whole world that the Italians were going to attack us in the spring. For the sake of a few hundred thousand dividend drawers they are turning India from an ally into an enemy. Moreover, so long as the moneyed classes remain in control, we cannot develop any but a defensive strategy. Every victory means a change in the status quo. How can we drive the Italians out of Abyssinia without rousing echoes among the coloured peoples of our own Empire? How can we even smash Hitler without the risk of bring the German Socialists and Communists into power? The left-wingers who wail that ‘this is a capitalist war’ and that ‘British Imperialism’ is fighting for loot have got their heads screwed on backwards. The last thing the British moneyed class wishes for is to acquire fresh territory. It would simply be an embarrassment. Their war aim (both unattainable and unmentionable) is simply to hang on to what they have got.

Internally, England is still the rich man’s Paradise. All talk of ‘equality of sacrifice’ is nonsense. At the same time as factory workers are asked to put up with longer hours, advertisements for ‘Butler, One in family, eight in staff’ are appearing in the press. The bombed-out populations of the East End go hungry and homeless while wealthier victims simply step into their cars and flee to comfortable country houses. The Home Guard swells to a million men in a few weeks, and is deliberately organised from above in such a way that only people with private incomes can hold positions of command. Even the rationing system is arrange that it hits the poor all the time, while people with over £2,000 a year are practically unaffected by it. Everywhere privilege is squandering good will. In such circumstances even propaganda becomes almost impossible. As attempts to stir up patriotic feeling, the red posters issued by the Chamberlain Government at the beginning of the war broke all depth-records. Yet they could not have been much other than they were, for how could Chamberlain and his followers take the risk of rousing strong popular feeling against Fascism? Anyone who was genuinely hostile to Fascism must also be opposed to Chamberlain himself and to all the others who had helped Hitler into power. So also with external propaganda. In all Lord Halifax’s speeches there is not one concrete proposal for which a single inhabitant of Europe would risk the top joint of his little finger. For what war-aim can Halifax, or anyone like him, conceivably have, except to put the clock back to 1933?

It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. Nor does it mean the dictatorship of a single class. The people in England who grasp what changes are needed and are capable of carrying them through are not confined to any one class, though it is true that very few people with over £2,000 a year are among them. What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old. It is not primarily a question of change of government. British governments do, broadly speaking, represent the will of the people, and if we alter our structure from below we shall get the government we need. Ambassadors, generals, officials and colonial administrators who are senile or pro-Fascist are more dangerous than Cabinet ministers whose follies are committed in public. Right through our national life we have got to fight against privilege, against the notion that a half-witted public-schoolboy is better fitted for command than an intelligent mechanic. Although there are gifted and honest individuals among them, we have got to break the grip of the moneyed class as a whole. England has got to assume its real shape. The England that is only just beneath the surface, in the factories and the newspaper offices, in the aeroplanes and the submarines, has got to take charge of the nation.’

Fortunately, the allies did win the War, and in a few instances the opposite was true. Instead of pulling our punches, we also committed war crimes. The bombing of Dresden is the classic example, though many others have also denounced the carpet bombing of civilians. One of these is the Conservative journalist, Peter Hitchens. I strongly disagree with Hitchens on most issues, but here I think he is fundamentally correct. In his opinion the bombing of Nazi Germany’s civilian population was a murderous act. It did not hinder the Nazi war machine, nor did it demoralise the German population any more than their bombing of ours reduce our determination for victory.

But Orwell, when he was writing, could not have known that we would win. Indeed, as subsequent historians have pointed out, at one point in 1942 the majority of the cabinet turned against him and demanded that we make piece with Germany. It’s to Churchill’s immense credit that he refused and managed to turn the cabinet completely around to his opinion. Orwell was right about the way many of the moneyed classes did favour Nazi Germany. Martin Pugh on his book on British Fascism between the two world wars, notes that much of the aristocracy was discreetly pro-Nazi. The upper classes also generally supported Franco during the Spanish Civil War. The one notable exception to this was the Duchess of Bute and Argyll. Known as the Red Duchess for her pamphleteering in support of the Spanish Republicans, she repeatedly attempted to point out that the Spanish government certainly wasn’t solely occupied with Anarchists and Communists, but that most of them were liberals and democrats. Pugh also points out that Churchill himself wasn’t anti-Fascist, and admired Franco. He was hostile to Nazi Germany because he feared that it would be a rival to British imperial power, ignoring the fact that a Fascist Spain could also block or impeded British imperial access to the Mediterranean. And Orwell was right that the Second World War did encourage the subject races of the British Empire to seek independence. India was the first, followed by Ghana and the others. It’s actually one of the reasons Hitchen’s believes we should not have entered the War. He appears to believe that if we had not fought Hitler, we would still possess an Empire. Well, the Empire was in decline anyway, and its loss was a fair price for keeping Europe free.

What is striking about Orwell’s piece is just how much is relevant today. We are still ruled by the moneyed class. Literally, in fact. Both Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and their associates have backgrounds in finance, rather than manufacturing. They are also public schoolboys, and if not half-witted, certainly believe absolutely that they have a better right to govern than the mechanic, no matter how intelligent. The Conservatives and their Liberal lickspittles are still claiming that everyone is suffering equally, while working conditions are made worse and people turned out of their homes. And the Tory party has repeatedly sold arms to nations that have then used them against us, like Iraq during the Gulf Wars.

Orwell was like just about every other writer and commentator in that his views weren’t always right. But they are still very much worth reading. The novelist, journalist and freedom fighter is still very relevant now, nearly sixty years after his death.

Mrs. Thatcher, Talks with the IRA and Islamist Terrorists

July 9, 2013

The opinionated, and very well-informed Yorkshireman of the Another Angry Voice website has this article http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/margaret-thatcher-legacies-revisionist.html taking apart some of the spurious right-wing claims about Premier Thatcher’s supposed achievements. One of the claims he tackles is that Margaret Thatcher did not kow tow to the IRA. AAV’s point of view is that Mrs. Thatcher, by continuing the war against the IRA, actually did more harm than good, costing innumerable lives and perpetuating the sectarian divisions and bitterness in Ulster.

There’s clearly much truth in this. Years ago the BBC did a series on how Mrs. Thatcher appropriated Winston Churchill’s heroic view of British history to provide historiographical support for her regime. One of the speakers was a former Republican terrorist. This particular individual said that they found it far easier to recruit members during Mrs. Thatcher’s premiership than under her Conservative predecessor, Ted Heath. This was partly due to her invocation of Winston Churchill. For Brits Churchill is the hero, who saved Europe and gave Britain its finest hour as we took on the might of Nazi Germany and its jackbooted allies. For Irish nationalists, however, Churchill is the monster, who unleashed the Black and Tans and their atrocities.

Apart from the force of Mrs. Thatcher’s rhetoric, I’m not actually sure how staunchly opposed to the I.R.A. she actually was. Way back in the 1990s the Financial Times reviewed a history of the Troubles and the negotiations between the British government and the IRA by a senior figure in either the IRA or Sinn Fein. The author states that after the bombing of Canary Wharf, the British government initiated secret talks with the Republicans. He recalled how very strange it was to be saluted by a British soldier, when he entered a British army base where the negotiations were being held.

Not only does this show that Mrs. Thatcher was indeed prepared to ‘kow tow’ to the IRA when it finally suited her, it also demonstrates her duplicity. Part of the Conservative’s rhetoric during Mrs. Thatcher’s administration attacked the Labour Party and the Left for its lack of patriotism in its sympathy for Irish Nationalism. Some of that criticism is perfectly valid, considering the suffering caused by the IRA. However, it also shows that even while she was attacking the Left as an unpatriotic threat to Britain, she was doing exactly the same.

Another myth that needs to be tackled is the recent that claim that Mrs. Thatcher would have stood up to the Islamist terror groups that now operate in Britain. This is doubtful, as Mrs. Thatcher’s policies towards Afghanistan are part of the reason the Islamist radicals are in Britain in the first place. Under Mrs. Thatcher, Britain offered sanctuary to members of the Mujahideen in the proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. These included some deeply repulsive individuals responsible for quite horrific atrocities. One of the individuals Mrs. Thatcher allowed to claim asylum was responsible for the bombing of a Soviet passenger aircraft. The target had been a number of Russian officers on the flight. The casualties also included tens of schoolchildren being taken back to school in Russia. Under the Blair administration the government and police certainly did not want to take action against radical Islamist preaching and terrorist activities. Those moderate Muslims, who attempted to inform the authorities were ignored. Nevertheless, this seems to represent a policy that once again, can be traced back to Mrs. Thatcher.

If would appear from this that, far from being the Iron Lady, who never gave in to terrorism, she was quite prepared to do so, or give aid and sanctuary to its perpetrators, when it suited her to do so.