Posts Tagged ‘Skidelsky’

The British Press’ Glowing Reviews of Second World War Pro-Nazi Book

February 10, 2018

Richard Griffiths, What Did You Do During the War? The Last Throes of the British pro-Nazi Right, 1940-45 (London: Routledge 2017).

I recently sent a review of the above book to the conspiracy/parapolitics website and magazine, Lobster. It’s been proofread and corrected, and hopefully will go up on the site before too long. The webmaster’s been very busy with work recently, hence the delay.

Richard Griffiths is an Emeritus Professor of King’s College London, and the author of several books on the British and European extreme Right. These include a biography of Marshal Petain (1970), the head of the collaborationist Vichy government during the Second World War, Fellow Travellers of the Right (1980), Patriotism Perverted (1998) and An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Fascism (2000).

The book is a study of how British Nazis and Nazi sympathisers reacted to the outbreak of the Second World War and internment. Some gave up their activities entirely, others carried on underground. A number also carried on as before. And some angrily denied that they had been Nazis, and blamed and attacked instead their former comrades. Another tactic was to infiltrate genuine, non-political pacifist groups, like the Peace Pledge Union, in order to influence British politics to avoid a war with Nazi Germany.

Oswald Mosley’s Lies about Not Collaborating

One chapter gives the British Fascist leader, Oswald Mosley, another well deserved kicking. Mosley claimed that when war was declared, he ordered his goose-stepping squadristi to cooperate with the authorities and obey their orders. This was in the text of a speech published in Action, the British Union of Fascists newsletter. In fact, Mosley advised only those members of squalid organisation, who were members of the armed forces, to obey orders and cooperate. In the original speech he made it clear that he expected the rest of the thugs to carry on their activities and pro-Nazi propaganda as normal. The speech was then carefully edited, published in Action to make it appear that Mosley had issued orders for comprehensive cooperation with the authorities. This was then taken up uncritically by his biographers.

This is another piece to add to the mountain of scholarship demolishing the sympathetic picture of Mosley created by Skidelsky’s biography in the 1970s. This was comprehensively refuted by Stephen Dorril in his biography of Mosley, Blackshirt, which came out a few years ago. Among other things, Dorril disproved Mosley’s claim that if the Nazis had invaded, he would never collaborate with them and serve in government ‘as another Quisling’, referring to the head of the puppet Norwegian government. In fact, he was quite prepared to do so.

Bryant’s Nazi Apologia, Unfinished Victory

But one of the most unsettling studies in the book is chapter 2, ‘The Reception of Bryant’s Unfinished Victory ‘, subtitled ‘The myth of public unanimity against Nazi Germany in early 1940’. Arthur Bryant was a writer of popular histories, such as English Saga (1940), The Years of Ednurance 1793-1802 (1942) and The Years of Victory 1802-1812 (1942). In the ’30s he had written academically respected biographies of Charles II and Samuel Pepys.

Bryant was a committed Conservative, and one of that party’s functionaries. In 1929 he became educational advisor to the Bonar Law Conservative College at Ashridge. His first book was The Spirit of Conservatism. Shortly after its publication he became editor of the college magazine, Asbbridge Journal. In 1937 he was made general editor of the National Book Association, the Tories’ answer to Gollancz’s Left Book Club. He was not only strongly in favour of appeasement, but also a supporter of Hitler and the Nazi regime. In 1934 he described Hitler as a mystic, who had enabled Germany ‘to find her soul’. From the late 30s he included in his columns in the Ashbridge Journal and The Illustrated News diatribes attacking what he saw as the libels and slanders put out by the ‘warmongers’ who were leading the country into conflict with the Nazis. In 1939 he was asked by Horace Wilson to write an article on the British point of view for the German press. This was never published, though it did form the basis for much of Unfinished Victory, and was approved by Chamberlain. In July 1939 he was unofficially authorised by Chamberlain to go to Germany to speak to a number of Nazi leaders, and Chamberlain later offered to pay his expenses from Secret Service funds.

The book’s introduction began by asserting that now we at war, Britain would fight with a unity of resolve and purpose. But it then qualified this with arguments for peace with the Nazi regime. And much of this was explicitly anti-Semitic, following Nazi propaganda. He described how Hitler’s seizure of power was greeted with joy by the German people as the new revolution.

He then went on to blame the Jews for the abortive Communist Revolution, claiming that it was led by the ‘Jew, Kurt Eisner’, and the Russian ambassador, the ‘Hebrew, Joffe’. Joffe had indeed been involved in promoting the Communist revolution, but Eisner was the leader of the workers’ soldiers and peasants’ council in Bavaria. I think he was a radical Socialist, rather than Communist, who believed that the Councils should form an addition to parliamentary government, not their replacement. It’s an attitude very different to Lenin’s idea of a bureaucratic state controlled by the Communist Party.

He then went on to accuse the Jews of exploiting the property market in the First World War, so that by 1939 after by five years of anti-Semitic legislation and persecution they still owned a third of real property in Germany. He stated that the Jews had exploited the 1929 Crash and the consequent inflation to make themselves increasingly dominant in politics, business and the learned professions. A quarter of the Social Democrat politicians in the Reichstag in 1924 were Jews, and they controlled the banks, the publishing industry, cinema and theatre, and a large part of the press ‘all the normal means in fact, by which public opinion in a civilised country was formed’.

He then claimed that there was a Jewish campaign to remove gentiles completely from politics and the privileged occupations. He wrote

Every year it became harder for a Gentile to gain or keep a foothold in any privileged occupation. At this time it was not the Aryans who exercised racial discrimination […]. By the third decade of the century it was the native Germans who were now confronted with a problem – that of rescuing their indigenous culture from an alien hand and restoring it to their own race.

Press Reaction Largely Positive

This is vile, murderous nonsense supporting a regime bent on persecuting the Jews to their deaths, even before the launch of Hitler’s infamous ‘Final Solution’. So how did the British press react to this nasty, mendacious piece of Nazi propaganda? In general, they loved it. The book received glowing praise from the Times Literary Supplement, the New English Weekly, the Fortnightly Review, the Church of England Newspaper, Peace Focus, and very many provincial newspapers, like the Sheffield Star, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the East Anglian Daily Times, and the Cardiff newspaper, Western Mail.

There were critical reviews, however, in the Spectator, which was strongly anti-appeasement, the Jewish Chronical, the Manchester Guardian, New Statesman and other newspapers of that type. Two female critics of the Nazi regime submitted highly critical reviews in the journal Time and Tide. One of these was Emily Lorimer, the author of What Hitler Wants, who stated

“All the best and biggest Nazi lies are here, presented with a garnish of scholarship and erudition […] Please God, your clever book has come too late to take any readers in. “

Rebecca West writing in the same magazine declared that the book was
“a paean to Hitler so glowing, so infatuate, that it might be have been entitled ‘Kiss Me, Corporal’.”

The great historian, A.J.P. Taylor called the book and its author what they were in the Guardian in the very title of his review ‘A Nazi Apologist’ and made the point that much of the book was based on Hitler’s speeches. And Richard Crossman in the Staggers pointed to Bryant’s connection to the Conservatives and the appeasement camp.

Bryant himself started a series of correspondence defending himself with the Spectator and the Jewish Chronicle. His publishers at MacMillan, initially enthusiastic, became progressively cool towards it, trying to find reasons to refuse publication. Bryant was still promoting and defending his book as late as May 1940. What changed his attitude was the accession of Winston Churchill as PM, and the disappearance of pro-Nazi groups like Information and Policy. Later in the month Lovat Dickinson of MacMillan’s asked Hugh Trevor-Roper to inquire whether Bryant should be interned as a Fascist. Trevor-Roper advised against this on the grounds that views change with the times. And Bryant ended up writing pieces in the Ashridge Journal describing Hitler as ‘a terrible calamity’ and referring to the ‘terrible and evil things we are fighting’.

The Myth of British anti-Nazism and Concern for the Jews

One of the great myths about the Second World War was that it was fought to defend the Jews. In fact, as the Tory journalist and polemicist, Peter Hitchens points out, Britain entered the war to honour the defence treaties we had made with France and Poland. And the historian Martin Pugh has also said that Churchill’s reasons for promoting war with Germany were hardly altruistic. They were entirely geopolitical. Churchill was afraid that German domination of the North Sea and Baltic would threaten British naval supremacy. And although in private he described Mussolini as ‘a perfect swine’, he had made trips to Fascist Italy and was an admirer of General Franco. And a friend of mine pointed out that in none of Churchill’s speeches does he ever condemn Fascism. He attacks Nazism and the Axis, but says nothing about the wider political ideology to which they belonged.

Griffiths points out that the book’s enthusiastic reception by the majority of the British press shows that large numbers of the British population were indifferent to the sufferings of the Jews. He argues that the idea that the war was fought to destroy a brutal regime was a later war aim. Most Brits at the time believed that Nazi aggression had to be countered, but there was more interest in understanding Nazi Germany than condemning the internal structure of Hitler’s vile dictatorship.

He also argues that while there was little of the visceral anti-Jewish Hatred in Britain like that, which had propelled the Nazis to power, there was considerable ‘social anti-Semitism’ in popular culture. Jews were excluded from certain social groups, jokes based on anti-Semitic caricatures, such as their supposed greed for money, ignorance of British social conventions, as well as the suspicion in popular literature that they were the leaders of subversive groups, and were cowards and profiteers in war. Griffiths writes

Though, in contrast to rabid anti-Semitism social anti-Semitism may have appeared comparatively innocuous,, its depiction of the Jew as ‘other’ could lead to apathy and lack of concern when faced with examples of racial intolerance and persecution. On the one hand, as Dan Stone has pointed out, the British public could manifest a ‘casual anti-Semitism’ which fell into the trap of accepting the ‘reasons’ for the German dislike of the Jews. […] on the other hand, while Nazi measures could shock people of all views, may people found it possible to ignore the problem altogether, while speaking only of the matters, in relation to Germany, that they believed to be ‘important’.

The Importance of Maintaining Auschwitz and Educating People about the Holocaust

This attitude clearly changed after the War when the Allies investigated and condemned its monstrous crimes against humanity, prosecuting and hanging the Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials. And an important part of this change was the revelations about the Holocaust. Which is why Holocaust Memorial Day, the preservation of Auschwitz as a museum and memorial to the innocents butchered there and the various Holocaust memorials and museum across the world are important. Its why the real Nazis, unlike Mike, are keen to minimise the Holocaust and deny it ever occurred.

Hypocrisy of British and Libels against Mike and the Left

But this also shows up the hypocrisy of the various papers, which last week published the gross libel against Mike, accusing him of being a Holocaust denier when he is certainly no such thing. Much has been published on the Net and elsewhere about the Daily Mail’s murky, pro-Nazi past, including how the father of editor Paul Dacre was a fanboy of Adolf. And the scum are still doing it. Mike has put up an article this morning about a vile piece in the Torygraph repeating the anti-Semitic tropes of the American Right about the Jewish financier and multi-millionaire, George Soros, accusing him of covertly funding anti-Brexit groups. This part of the American Right’s suspicion that Soros is responsible for all manner of anti-democratic, subversive political groups. It’s part of the anti-Semitic trope of the Jew as leader and instigator of subversion. Perhaps they’d like to go a bit further and claim that he’s also trying to enslave the White race and bring about its destruction through race mixing?

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/02/10/anti-semitic-jewish-conspiracy-story-about-soros-confirms-the-businessmans-own-fears/

Soros against Zionists Because of Collaboration with Nazis in the Murder of Hungarian Jews

Of course, this is just more politically motivated smears. The Israel lobby also hates Soros, because, as Mike points out, he is bitterly critical of Israel’s persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Soros himself is of Hungarian descent, and he despises Zionism because of the way they sold out Hungarian Jews to the Nazis. Kasztner, the leader of the Zionists in Hungary, tried to make an agreement with the Nazi authorities to allow several thousand Jews to be deported to their deaths, so long as the Nazis spared some by sending them to Israel. it’s another example of the way Zionists would collaborate with real Nazis and murderous anti-Semites to promote their own cause, even if it meant the mass murder of Jewish men, women and children.

The Hypocrisy, Smears and Anti-Semitic Tropes of the Israel Lobby, the Blairites and the Lamestream Press

This shows just how selective and hypocritical the British press’ attitude to anti-Semitism is, as well as that of the groups promoting the smears – the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Tories and the Blairites in Labour. These smears are used exclusively to isolate and marginalise the Left as a political threat to the cosy neoliberal politics and support for the racist, persecutory regime in Israel. But when it serves their purpose, they will use the same anti-Semitic tropes against those Jews, who also threaten them.

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Joe Rogan on Conspiracy Theories and Alex Jones’ Comments on Charlottesville

August 18, 2017

It seems that Alex Jones just keeps going lower and lower in his statements and mouthings about stupid and poisonous conspiracy theories.

In this clip, Joe Rogan, the host of an internet radio show in the US, and his co-presenter talk about conspiracies and conspiracy theories. They discuss the problem of credibility and the refusal of people to accept when they genuinely don’t know anything. They also contrast real conspiracies with the wild, bogus theories spouted by Alex Jones.

Rogan gives as an example of a real conspiracy the plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1960s to shoot down an American passenger aircraft and blame it on Cuba. There were also other strategies to arm Cuban friendlies to attack Guantanamo Bay, thus allowing them to blame it on Castro and start a war. These are genuine conspiracies, which have been revealed by documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

He contrasts these with the bizarre, deep conspiracies, such as Kennedy being assassinated by his driver, and the rubbish pushed by Alex Jones.

Alex Jones is the main man behind Infowars, and I’ve blogged many times about his insane and dangerous theories. Jones is a 9/11 truther, but has gone on to claim that the ‘globalists’ who run the world really are demonic entities, either literally so, or are extra-dimensional aliens. The global elite sacrifice children to Satan, and perform black magic orgies. Barak Obama was possessed by demons. So is Hillary Clinton, though she may also be a robot or cyborg. The Clintons were also involved in a paedophile ring running out of a Boston pizza parlour. Gay rights activists are a ‘transhumanist space cult intent on producing genderless humans’.

And the global elite, including Obama, are just waiting to incarcerate true, freedom-loving Americans in concentration camps. They also manufacture emergencies, including gun crime and mass shootings, in order to pass legislation to deprive Americans further of the rights and liberties. Of which, the most important is the right to carry guns.

Hence he declared that the Sandy Hook school shooting was entirely fake, and that the victims were all ‘crisis actors’. Apart from being massively wrong and offensive, this has led to the nutters, who believe this nonsense approaching the bereaved parents to challenge them about the deaths of their children.

And now it appears Jones has done something similar following the events at Charlottesville. He has claimed that the violence there was staged by ‘Jewish actors’, at least according to Rogan. If this is true, then it’s a new low. The mob marching to defend the statue definitely included real Klan members and Nazis. These stormtroopers really did try to beat up and kill the counterdemonstrators, and the anti-racists inside a meeting hall, attended an inter-racial, interfaith meeting, in which the participants included Dr. Cornell West and Rev. Traci Blackmon, two Christian ministers committed to social justice. West and Blackmon have stated that it was the anarchists and the Antifa, who rescued them when it looked like the Nazis were going to beat them to death.

And the Nazis also marched on a local synagogue, surrounded it, and chanted ‘Sieg heil’, terrorizing those gathered for the evening service. The rabbi and staff were so frightened, that they smuggled the Torah scroll out of the backdoor in case the Nazis should try to damage it.

Rogan and his fellow presenter also state that these daft conspiracy theories are a distraction from what the authorities really are covertly doing.

This is all absolutely correct. Parapolitical writers, like Robin Ramsay, the editor of Lobster, draw a distinction between real conspiracies, such as those discussed by Rogan and his fellow host, which they sometimes term ‘parapolitics’ or ‘Deep Politics’, and the bogus conspiracy theories, such as Jones’ rants about the coming one world Satanic state, the various anti-Semitic theories about the Jewish bankers, and contact with shape-changing alien lizards.

As for Jones and his nonsense about ‘Jewish actors’, this is stuff of which the Nazis would have been proud. The Nazis and fellow Fascist parties in the rest of Europe, like Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, blamed just about every misfortune on the Jews, including their own negative image. Mosley devotes an entire chapter in his autobiography, My Life, to what he calls ‘Jewish opposition’, claiming that he was unfairly maligned by his Jewish opponents. Needless to say, he wasn’t. His biographer, Skidelsky, claimed that Mosley wasn’t originally anti-Semitic, but only became so after he was attacked as such by the Jews. He supposedly ordered one of his lieutenants, who came from the Britons or another of the anti-Semitic societies, to look into it. And this officer then duly came up with the daft conspiracy theories and libels blaming everything on them. More recent studies, such as by Stephen Dorrill and his biography of Mosley, Blackshirt, have shown Mosley was anti-Semitic from the start.

Jones, and those figures on the right like him, are going down a very dangerous path when they repeat the same type of lies that the Nazis used to try and fool people into believing that they weren’t a collection of violent thugs intent on mass murder.

It’s questionable how much of this bilge Jones really believes. Jones has tried to defend himself in the court case involving custody of his children by having his lawyer release a statement that he doesn’t believe any of it, and that he just a ‘performance artist’, like a ‘rodeo clown’. If true, it means he’s consciously lying, which makes him even more similar to Goebbels in this matter.

I admit, I’ve got a lot of pleasure before now from watching Jones’ insane rants and antics. But this is rapidly coming to an end. When he starts lying about real Nazis, who act like Nazis attacking Blacks, Jews, gays and anti-racist Whites, he’s crossed a line.

Even looking at him to get a laugh out of his ravings is dangerous. Karl Dietrich Bracher, a German historian of Nazism, describes in one of his books how some Germans turned up at Hitler’s rallies and his denunciation of the Jews and others simply as a bit of fun, without taking it seriously.

After Charlottesville, a number of internet servers are refusing to host Nazi and White supremacist sites. After Jones’ comments about the violence in Charlottesville being the fault of ‘Jewish actors’, his show should be treated the same way as well.

Blackadder, Patriotism and the First World War: Michael Gove Repeats ‘The Old Lie’

January 6, 2014

Anzacs World War1

Anzacs at Passchendaele, 1917, the battle described by A.J.P. Taylor as ‘the blindest slaughter of a blind war’.

I’ve reblogged two of Mike’s articles on Vox Populi on Michael Gove’s latest attack on history and the received view of the First World War. In an interview in the Daily Mail, Gove criticised shows like Blackadder and the film, Oh, What A Lovely War!, for presenting the wrong view of the First World War and denigrating the courage, honour and patriotism of the men who fought there. It is, he said, the fault of left-wing academics, and seems particularly incensed at the cynicism and rejection of patriotism in the above TV series and film.

Now, Gove does have something of a point here. Recent scholarship within the last 30 years has criticised the old view that there was a profound gulf between the officers and the working-class men they led, and pointed out that there was more mutual comradeship, acceptance and respect between the two groups than previously considered. I was also told by a very left-wing friend, who has absolutely no time for the Tory party, that the amount of cynicism and bitterness generated by the War has been overstated. Of the men returning from the War, 1/3 bitterly hated it, 1/3 thought it was a good adventure, and 1/3 had no strong feelings about it one way or the other.

The same friend also told me that on the Western Front, the death rate was actually lower than in contemporary Edwardian factories. His comment on this was simply: ‘It’s sh*t.’ This does not exonerate the mass carnage of the First World War so much as show you how immensely cheaply life was held by the Edwardian factory masters. As for courage, George Orwell freely admitted in one of his essays that this was amply demonstrated by the numbers of the titled aristocracy, including dukes, knights and baronets, whose lives were ended in that savage conflict. He called the militaristic anti-intellectual upper classes ‘blimps’, and had nothing but scorn for their conduct of the War, but he did not doubt their courage.

The same friend, who knows far more about the First and Second World Wars than me, also told me that he felt that much of the cynicism about the First World War was a projection of the feelings of bitterness and alienation felt by many people after the Second, when the horrors of War and the Nazi regime seemed, to many, to discredit completely European culture. I dare say there is something in this, but, while the extent of such alienation after the First World War may have been exaggerated, the point remains that it was there.

Already in the 1920s there were complaints from British officers about left-wing propaganda about the War being spread by ‘acidulated radicals’. The film, Oh, What A Lovely War! is written from a left-wing perspective. It was based on the stage play, Journey’s End, which in its turn was based, I believe, on the experiences of First World War soldiers. The Fascist movements that sprang up all over Europe after the War, including Oswald Moseley’s BUF in Britain, were formed by ex-servicemen unable to adapt to civilian life, and who believed they had been betrayed by a corrupt political system. Martin Pugh in his book on Fascism in Britain 1918-1986, repeats that Moseley himself represented and kept true to the servicemen, who had fought and suffered in the War, and now had little to look forward to on their return to Blighty. I’m not so sure. Much of the conventional view about Mosely put out by Skidelsky’s biography has since been demolished. Rather than being a misguided, but at heart decent man, Moseley himself now appears very firmly as a cynical political manipulator all too eager and ready to jettison Mussolini’s ultra-nationalist, but originally non-racist Fascism, for the Nazis and Hitler. Nevertheless, the point remains: the First World created widespread bitterness, of which European Fascism was one expression.

As for Blackadder, this can be compared to the grim reality and the gallows humour with which British squaddies and their officers faced it in the pages of the Wipers Times. This was the servicemen’s newspapers, which took its name from the British mispronunciation of ‘Ypres’, where it was published. Private Eye’s editor, Ian Hislop, last year published a book and appeared on a BBC documentary about it. The Beeb also broadcast a drama about it. Hislop stated that it was full of very, very black humour, and was very much like Blackadder. You could hear the same sentiments expressed in the trooper’s songs of the period. Everyone remembers ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, but there were others with much less patriotic view of the War. A year or so ago I came across an old songbook, Songs that Won the War. Published about the time of the Second, it collected the songs sung by the troops during the First. Amongst the various patriotic ditties was ‘We Are Fred Karno’s Army’. Fred Karno, remember, was the Music Hall impresario, who launched the career of silent move stars like Charlie Chaplin and the Keystone Kops. The final verse imagines how the British army will be greeted by the Kaiser when they finally reach Berlin. It has the Kaiser looking at them in horror and saying, ‘Vot, Vot! Mein Gott! Vot a shabby lot!’ Somehow, I don’t think that one has been played much at Tory party conferences.

Civilian music hall stars also shared in the deep disillusionment felt by the troops. In a programme on the Music Hall broadcast several years ago on Radio 4, the programme’s presenter, a historian of the Music Hall, noted that after the War variety stars became much more sombre in appearance. Before the War there were stars like ‘The One-Eyed Kaffir’, a White man, who blacked up for his act except for one eye, which was kept as a white patch. After the War, such grotesque make-up vanished. The presenter felt that this was part of a general, more sombre mood throughout British culture engendered by the War. This mood was felt most bitterly by some of the Music Hall stars, who had sung patriotic, jingoistic songs to encourage young men to do their bit and join up. One such singer became very bitter indeed, and stated that he felt personally responsible for the men, who had been maimed and murdered as a result of listening to him.

The bitterness about the War has been expressed most famously, and most movingly, by the great war poets, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and others less well-known. One of the books in my old school’s sixth form library was Up the Line to Death, an anthology of poetry from the First World War. As well as poetry, Sassoon wrote a letter, ‘The Declaration against War’, in 1917, during his convalescence after being wounded in France. Rather than risk the scandal of a court martial, Owen was declared to be shell-shocked and hospitalised. His declaration is one of the piece anthologised in Colin Firth’s and Anthony Arnove’s The People Speak: Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport. Here it is:

‘I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this War should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the War, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise’.

The last line sounds very much like a condemnation of the invasion of Iraq and the Neo-Con ‘chickenhawks’ – men who had themselves never seen active service and who indeed had shirked it – that demanded it. And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that it’s applicability to this situation was one of the reasons Arnove and Firth selected it.

As for Owen, I can remember we did Owen’s poem, ‘Gassed’, in English. This describes the horrific state of squaddies left dying and blinded by mustard gas in conflict. It ends with words attacking and repudiating ‘the old lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori”, a Latin motto meaning ‘It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.

So there it is, Gove, a rejection of patriotism because of the carnage and suffering it caused, by two extremely courageous men, who fought and were injured in the War. I believe Owen was himself killed just before Armistice. Oh, you can argue that Blackadder is based on the prejudiced view of left-wing academics, but they based their views on fact – on what those who actually fought in it actually felt about it.

Yes, historians modify their views about the past all the time, as new research is done, and new arguments brought forth, new topics emerge and techniques used. And that means that some of the bitterness about the War has been revised. Yet there is no doubt that the War did result in mass bitterness amongst former combatants and the civilian population, and feelings of betrayal by the old society and elites that had sent so many to their deaths. Blackadder is fiction, and throughout its four series and numerous specials often took wild liberties with the facts. Yet Blackadder goes forth and its cynicism was based on fact, and I found, as someone who simply watched it, that the final moments of the last episode, in which Blackadder, Baldrick and their friends go over the Top to their deaths, actually a genuinely moving and respectful tribute to those who did die in the muck and trenches.

Way back in the 1980s the Observer wryly remarked that the Tories were now ‘the patriotic party’. This followed Thatcher’s vociferous trumpeting of patriotism as the great British value. ‘Don’t call them boojwah, call them British!’ screamed one headline from the Telegraph supporting her very class-based, politicised view of Britishness and patriotism.

Well, a wiser man, possibly, the great Irish wit, dear old butch Oscar (pace his description in Blackadder) once described patriotism as ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’.
In this case, it is. And so is Gove.

The Daily Mail and Milliband: Proof You Can Tell He’s Doing Something Right

October 2, 2013

The Daily Mail’s attack on Milliband’s father suggests that the leader of the Labour party must really have them rattled. They can’t, it seem, be content to attack the man’s policies, but have to launch an ad hominem attack, not just on the man, but on his father. Ralph Milliband died in 1994, and so can’t answer back, nor sue for libel. As Milliband said in his right-to-reply piece, reproduced on Kittysjones’ blog, ‘You can’t libel the dead, but you can smear them’. Now Ralph Milliband was a distinguished Marxist intellectual, and this intellectual legacy appears to threaten the Conservatives, even if his sons, as members of New Labour, don’t share his views.

Milliband states that the Mail’s article is purely based on a single entry his father made in his diary when he was an adolescent. I can well believe this. From what I understand about the experience of Jewish immigrants to Britain of Milliband’s senior generation, rather than hating Britain, many of them were extremely patriotic. The office of ‘Chief Rabbi of the British Empire’ in British Judaism was modelled on the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the Anglican Church. The motto of the Jewish equivalent of the Boy Scouts was ‘to be a good Jew and a good Englishman’. One of the paintings by the 20th century avant-garde artist, David Bomberg, shows the interior of a Jewish bath house. The colours used are red, white and blue, those of the Union flag. I have the impression, though I’m no art historian and know next to nothing about Bomberg, that this was a genuine expression of his love for his country.

What many European emigres didn’t like about Britain was its anti-intellectualism and ‘boy’s club’ atmosphere. Many of them were extremely highly educated and cultured men and women, and they disliked the philistinism they found in British society. Those raised in the Continental intellectual culture, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, have often commented on its comparative absence over this side of La Manche. One British Jewish intellectual, Steiner, compared Britain with France. In France, he said, they’d fight duels over disagreements about Hegel. In Britain the attitude is simply, ‘Oh, don’t be so silly’. I think Steiner liked the British attitude as showing far more common sense, while being aware of just how hostile British culture could be to intellectual debate. The Daily Mail, however, has over the years done its level best to keep this tradition of fierce anti-intellectualism going. Way back in the 1990s Paul Johnson, one of the Mail’s columnists, wrote a book Intellectuals. This took a number of leading intellectual figures, such as Karl Marx, Kenneth Tynan, Hans Christian Andersen and so on, and examined not their ideas, but their own personal lives. Most of them were shown to fall far below the standards of correct behaviour and bourgeois decorum demanded by the Daily Mail. As did Johnson himself, who all the while he was pontificating on British moral decline and the evils of today’s lax sexual behaviour was regularly getting a good spanking by his mistress. Private Eye wrote a mock hagiography for him in their ‘Lives of the Saints’ column, in which the great man said to his mistress ‘You must spank me on the botty and show me no mercy!’ Now it’s pretty true that many great men had feet of clay, and some of them were pretty horrible human beings. As Private Eye pointed out in its review of Johnson’s book, the shoddiness of their private lives no more invalidates their work than the second-best bed negates the beauty and value of Hamlet.

And some of the pieces written by the Daily Mail’s writers over the years are bizarre, if not absolutely bonkers. JUlie Burchill once wrote a piece in the Mail of Sunday, which, through several turns of highly convoluted, and indeed, sheer lapses of logic, attacking the sincere anti-Fascists, like Orwell and Steven Spender, who went to Spain to fight Franco in the Civil War. They were not motivated by heroism and the desire to see a Europe free of Fascist tyranny, according to Burchill. No, they were just like the tourists, who go to Spain to watch the bullfights. Burchill has said of her writing before now that she starts with a drink in front of her, which by the time she’s finished is all gone. She has also boasted of taking enough cocaine to stun the Colombian army. Reading pieces like that, I believe her. As for attacking the anti-Fascist veterans of the Civil War, this raises once again the spectre of Conservative hypocrisy. Orwell in one of his articles described how the Stock Exchanged cheered General Franco when he launched his revolt against the Republic. The leader of the National Front in the 1960s, Fountaine, was a former Tory, who had fought for Franco during the Civil War. he was thrown out of the Conservative party after making anti-Semitic comments about Jewish influence at one of the party’s meetings. He wasn’t the only Tory to admire the Spanish dictator. Martin Pugh in his book on British Fascism between the wars also notes that Winston Churchill also admired him for his authoritarian leadership. Churchill was certainly not an anti-Semite, but his opposition to Nazi Germany came from a conviction that a strong, militarised Reich threatened the British Empire, not from an opposition to Fascism per se. Hence Orwell’s comment in another of his articles that the run-up to Second World War hade produced some truly remarkable turns of events, ‘such as Winston Churchill running around pretending to be a democrat’. In the Tory party, Anthony Eden was a much stronger, and far more determined opponent of Fascism.

As for Paul Johnson, he himself is also capable of making bizarre, distorted attacks on the character of great men. A decade ago now he attack the great Russian novelist, Tolstoy, in the pages of the Spectator, for being responsible for the rise of Stalin. This is such a gross distortion of Tolstoy’s views and character that, as with Burchill, you wonder if he was drunk or on drugs when he wrote it. Tolstoy was a communist, who believed in the collective ownership of property. He was not, however, a Marxist, but Christian, as well as a vegetarian, pacifist anarchist. Unlike Marxism, which holds that society is formed and progresses through inexorable social and economic laws, Tolstoy believed that history was made not through impersonal processes, but through the actions of millions of individual people. He expressed his distinctive view of history as formed by countless individuals, rather than the actions of great men, in his masterpiece, War and Peace. He got his idea on passive resistance from the tactics used by a Chechen Sufi leader, who was captured and exiled to Russia after the Russian invaded his country. Tolstoy himself wrote pamphlets denouncing violence, and in turn influenced Gandhis own conception of the Hindu doctrine of ahimsa – nonviolence. As an anarchist, he also hated the state for its violence and oppression. In contrast to Stalin, who demanded absolute devotion, constituting a form of secular worship, Tolstoy himself lived simply. Despite being a member of the aristocracy, he wore a peasant’s smock and taught himself their skills, such as sewing boots. There is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between Tolstoy and Stalin, and the great novelist would have been repelled and revolted by everything Stalin stood for.

The vicious, mean-spirited attack on Ralph Milliband is just another demonstration of the Heil’s abysmally low standards of journalism: bizarre, ad hominem rants with little basis, or even concern, for factual accuracy.

Now both Pride’s Purge and Kittysjones have written excellent pieces, which I’ve reblogged, on how the Mail supported Mosley and Hitler. In fairness to the Daily Mail, they did run pieces critical of him after his organisation’s intolerance and thuggery became very clear. Nevertheless, there still remained some respect for the man even after he had been discredit and revealed as an anti-Semite and would-be fuhrer. One of his biographers, Skidelsky, maintained that Mosley was not actually anti-Semitic, and only became so after he encountered opposition from the Jewish organisations. skidelsky points out that Mosley’s notorious ‘biff boys’, the uniformed stewards at his rallies, were trained by the Jewish boxer, Ted Lewis. According to Skidelsky, Mosley was far more influenced by Mussolini than Hitler. This view has now been rejected by later historians. Martin Pugh points out that Mosley’s BUF contained a large number of anti-semites, and that Mosley quickly turned to Hitler and the Nazis when Mussolini’s leadership of international Fascism began to wane. After Hitler’s seizure of power, Mosley changed the BUF’s name to ‘the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists’. Mosley was indeed a Nazi, and so shares their guilt for the horrors they committed.

This has, however, only been recognised very recently. When Mosley died, the newspapers all printed sympathetic, even glowing obituaries. The BBC’s satirical sketch show, Not The Nine O’clock News sent this up at the time in their song about him. If you listen to it right to the end, you’ll find that the point of the satire isn’t so much Mosley himself, but the fact that the newspapers all wrote obituaries praising him. Here it is: