Zimbabwe: how Mugabe and ZANU rose to power

November 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm (africa, history, Human rights, liberation, Marxism, national liberation, nationalism, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", war)

Above “Comrade” Mugabe in characteristic pose

A useful and well-researched background article by Stephen O’Brien (first published in Links, 2008)

His Excellency Comrade Robert: How Mugabe’s ZANU clique rose to power

Towards the end of 1975 a movement of young radicals organised in the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) took charge of Zimbabwe’s liberation war. ZIPA’s fusion of inclusive politics, transformational vision and military aggression dealt crippling blows to the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith. However, it’s success also paved the way for a faction of conservative nationalists led by Robert Mugabe to wrest control of the liberation movement for themselves.

The fact that Mugabe, a former rural school teacher, and his cronies would become the ruling capitalist elite of Zimbabwe by crushing a movement of young Chavista-style revolutionaries doesn’t sit well with their anti-imperialist self-image.

The ZIPA cadre emerged from the wave of young people who, experiencing oppression and discrimination in Rhodesia, decided to become liberation fighters in early 1970s. Unlike many of the first generation of fighters, they volunteered to join the respective military wings of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)[i]

In 1975, key nationalist leaders — such as Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabiginini Sithole, Jason Moyo, Herbert Chitepo, Abel Muzorewa, James Chikerema and Josiah Tongogara — had become entangled in factional rivalry and long-running and fruitless peace talks with the Smith regime. The young recruits who would shortly form ZIPA sought to reinvigorate the struggle as the war stalled and as the old leaders became marginalised.

A group of ZANU officers based at training camps in Tanzania consulted widely among the liberation forces. They approached President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel, soon to be president of newly liberated and independent Mozambique, for support to restart the war against Smith. Both Machel and Nyerere had initially supported peace negotiations and the resulting ceasefire with Rhodesia, but by October 1975 had lost patience with the whole process, and listened with sympathy to the ideas of the young officers.

ZIPA formed

The ZANU officers also sought unity with ZAPU, the long-standing rival organisation from which ZANU had split in 1963. ZAPU agreed and in November 1975 ZIPA was formed with a combined High Command composed of equal numbers from both ZAPU and ZANU. The alliance with ZAPU disintegrated after a few months partly because ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo had continued to negotiate with Smith. Nevertheless, it was an important attempt at unity which defied the prevailing trend of division.

ZIPA’s nominal head was Rex Nhongo (later known as Solomon Mujuru he would become head of the Zimbabwe Army under Mugabe), but strategic and tactical leadership came to be held by his young deputy, Wilfred Mhanda.

Wilfred Mhanda

Mhanda had been a typical recruit to ZANU and its military wing, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA). He had been involved in school protests and on leaving his studies helped form a ZANU support group. Like many who were to become part of ZIPA, Mhanda had been influenced by the youth radicalisation of the 1960s. In 1971, with the special branch in pursuit, Mhanda’s group skipped the border into Botswana and joined ZANLA. He took the war name of Dzinashe Machingura. He was later sent for training in China and progressed through the ranks to became a military instructor, political commissar, commander of the Mgagao camp in Tanzania and then member of the High Command.[ii]

ZIPA theory, tactics

Theory influenced ZIPA’s tactics. Its fighters were not regarded as cannon fodder, lines of retreat and supply were secured, counter-offensives anticipated and strategic reserves made ready. Senior ZIPA commanders visited the front. ZIPA’s aims went beyond winning democracy, to the revolutionary transformation of Rhodesia’s social and economic relations. The previous conception of the old-guard nationalists had tended to regard armed struggle as a means to apply pressure for external intervention to end White minority rule.

The Zimbabwe People’s Army relocated its troops from Tanzania to Mozambique and in January 1976, 1000 guerrillas crossed into Rhodesia. The entire eastern border of Rhodesia became a war zone as the guerillas launched coordinated and well-planned attacks on mines, farms and communication routes, such as the new railway line to South Africa.

ZIPA established Wampoa College to help institute its vision and ran Marxist-inspired courses in military instruction and mass mobilisation for its fighters. It educated its cadre against the sexual abuse of women and sought to win the support of the Zimbabwean peasantry through persuasion rather than coercion.

Historian David Moore’s study of ZIPA notes: “The students made their political education directly relevant to the struggle, so that Marxism could better direct the war of liberation.’’[iii] ZIPA’s political approach lead to it becoming known as the Vashandi, a word which means worker in the Shona language, but which, according to Mhanda, took on a broader meaning as the revolutionary front of workers, students and peasants.

Smith’s regime reeled under the offensive. Repression was intensified, “psychopathic’’ counter-insurgency units such as the Selous Scouts were deployed, so called “protected villages’’ intensified control over the population and raids were launched against refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Rhodesia was forced to borrow 26 helicopters from apartheid South Africa, and in order to deploy 60% more troops, increased the military call-up for whites. In his memoirs, Ken Flower, head of the Central Intelligence Organisation under Smith (and later under Mugabe), recalls that by July 1976 “Rhodesia was beginning to lose the war.[iv] Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Were the Mensheviks a real alternative?

November 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm (democracy, Eric Lee, history, imperialism, Marxism, national liberation, posted by JD, revolution, Russia, trotskyism, USSR, war)

Eric Lee is a journalist and historian who has spent over thirty years researching independent Georgia, and has himself been active in trade union and political struggles in both the US and UK. His previous works include Saigon to Jerusalem: Conversations with Israel’s Vietnam Veterans (1993) and Operation Basalt: The British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order (2016).

Paul Vernadsky reviews The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution 1918-21 by Eric Lee; followed by a response from Eric (the review first appeared in the AWL’s paper Solidarity, which will also carry Eric’s reply)


Eric Lee’s mischievous new book, argues that the Georgian Menshevik republic was an alternative to the Bolshevik-led workers’ government, which came to power in October 1917.

This is absolute fantasy, which confuses discussion of working-class politics at the time and the importance of the Russian revolution for today’s class struggles.

Russia annexed Georgia in 1798 and the Transcaucasia region remained a largely underdeveloped part of the tsarist empire until the discovery of oil in the late nineteenth century. In 1892, Noe Zhordania founded the first Georgian Marxist circle, the “third group”. It played a key supporting role in the Gurian peasant uprising between 1902 and 1906. Lee’s book explains the origins of the revolt over grazing rights, as well as its limits (its courts dwelt heavily on punishing adultery). Zhordania’s social democrats won a wide base of support during the struggle.

In 1903, Zhordania took part in the second congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, joining the Menshevik faction against the Bolsheviks. Georgian social democrats backed the central tenet of Menshevism: that the Russian revolution would be bourgeois and the socialists’ primary task was to promote a bourgeois republic. In Georgia, the Mensheviks won landslide victories in elections to the tsarist Duma. Most of the prominent Menshevik leaders became Duma members, including Zhordania, Irakli Tsereteli and Noe Ramishvili. Zhordania led the social democratic faction in the short-lived First Duma, while Tsereteli headed the much larger united social democratic faction in the Second Duma.

Lee’s book is strangely reticent about the First World War.

He says that a number of Georgian Mensheviks including Zhordania were sympathetic to the Allied cause. However the picture was worse than that. Tsereteli and other Mensheviks took a more internationalist position — at least until the tsar was overthrown. Zhordania fought for a “defencist” position and even wanted the Menshevik Duma fraction to vote for war credits.

Lee’s book also brushes over the importance of Georgian involvement in the events of 1917. Tsereteli was freed by the February revolution and went to Petrograd, where he was the architect of Menshevik participation in the provisional government (he became a minister) and support for the war, known as “revolutionary defencism”. Carlo Chkheidze promoted the same politics as chair of the Petrograd Soviet until September. As such they were responsible for the disastrous Menshevik orientation during the revolution.

Lee reports that in Tiflis after the February revolution, the local tsarist official Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich announced that he would be leaving, but expressed confidence that Zhordania and other social democrats could be trusted with power. As he put it, they were “on the side of order”. On 16 March 1917, the Tiflis Soviet was established. Zhordania was elected chair and promoted class collaboration.

The Georgian Mensheviks were united in their opposition to the Bolshevik-led seizure of power in October 1917. It was their visceral hostility to the Russian socialist revolution that dictated their course in the years afterwards. Lee admits that Georgia’s separation from Russia was not part of socialist agitation before 1917. The rejection of separatism was so strong that Georgian social democrat speeches would end with “Down with Georgia! Long live the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party!” Nevertheless, Zhordania and the Mensheviks embraced separatism.

On 22 April 1918, Georgian, Armenia and Azerbaijan proclaimed their independence, forming the Democratic Federative Republic of Transcaucasia. It dissolved five weeks later and the National Council of Georgia, chaired by Zhordania, made its declaration of independence on 26 May 1918. Immediately faced with attacks by Turkey, the new Georgian government turned to Imperial Germany for support. Lee argues that Georgia had no choice, because “small nations can only defend themselves if they have strong allies”. But Georgia could have remained part of Soviet Russia, rather than run into the arms of the imperialist powers. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Hal Draper: an eye witness account of the Russian Revolution

November 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm (history, Lenin, Marxism, posted by JD, revolution, Russia, socialism, war)

The following discussion by the American Marxist scholar Hal Draper is of a book written by a non-Bolshevik member of the government that took power in October 1917, I N Steinberg. Steinberg was a leader of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, of the faction known as the Left S-Rs, who were in coalition with the Bolsheviks for a few months after October 1917, from soon after the establishment of the Soviet Government.

Steinberg’s book, In the Workshop of the Revolution, was published in 1954 long after he left Russia. Despite the Left S-Rs’ split from the Bolshevik-led Soviet Government, Steinberg tells the truth about the Bolshevik seizure of power and about the early months of Soviet Government.

Even when he subscribes to anti-Bolshevik propaganda about the period after the S-R-Bolshevik coalition broke up, he does it in such a way that the truth, as Hal Draper demonstrates in the following article (Labor Action, 14 and 21 June 1954), is still visible.


In the “Workshop of the Revolution”, Steinberg presents the 1917 upheaval not as a conspiracy but as a real people’s revolution. And he is very inconsiderate of the myths about the “democratic” Kerensky regime which the bad Bolsheviks overthrew, as well as the Menshevik and Right Socialist Revolutionary allies of Kerensky.

Actually Steinberg’s language about the “moderate socialist parties” (Menshevik and Right SRs) is very mild, but the outline of the picture he pains is damning enough. That picture is of an elemental revolutionary upsurge of the masses from blow, determined to throw off all oppression and equally determined to end the war, which the rights and moderates tried to oppose, and which the Bolsheviks (and left SRs) supported. This was the simple difference between the historic reality and the anti-Bolshevik myth of a “conspiracy”.

Of the right wing socialists, Steinberg writes that they believed “that the necessary conditions were not yet in evidence to realise the programme of the people. They conceived it impossible to end the war without the co-operation of the Allied powers. They thought it utopian to transfer political power to the working classes since, in their view the capitalist order in Russia was inevitable. Their interpretation of the revolution as only a democratic bourgeois succession to Tsarism, demanded, of course, a corresponding strategy — the strategy of class compromise and political compliance. This strategy put the moderate two parties (Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries) halfway between the bourgeois and the working-class programmes, gave their activities an air of vacillation and, in fact, fortified the position of the bourgeois camp.”

Now to be sure, the anti-Bolsheviks argue strenuously that anything beyond a bourgeois revolution was indeed impossible, but what Steinberg point up sharply is that this line meant that the right-wingers had to set themselves against and get ready to suppress the revolutionary dynamism of the people. It is because the anti-Bolsheviks have to get around this inconvenient fact that the myth of a “conspiracy” was born.

By the time of the new Kerensky government of 10 July, Steinberg relates, “Kerensky had lost hold of the ties of confidence which once had bound him to the people.” Discreditment rebounded not only against Kerensky but also against the Menshevik and Right SR ministers who joined his cabinet.

“The main speaker for an exponent of this rootless coalition”, writes Steinberg “was the Social-Democrat (Menshevik) Tseretelli. As minister of the interior, he dispatched a circular to the whole country designed to redouble the power of the government commissars against the active local soviets. He ordered these commissars to block the ‘illegal distribution of landed properties,’ the ‘appropriation, ploughing and sowing of other people’s lands.’ He thus sustained the policy of his predecessor, Prince Lvov. Every circular of this kind was like a match thrown into the powder keg of the revolution.”

Being highly concerned with the democratic forms of the revolution, Steinberg especially emphasises the transformation of the Kerensky regime into a “quasi-dictatorship” — with the consent and support of the very democratic Mensheviks and S-Rs who were later to issue howling blasts of anguish at every step the Soviet government took even to defend itself against armed insurrection.
Steinberg’s general sketch of the whole development, of course, contributes nothing new to historical knowledge, its main interest lying the character of the narrator. There are vignette touches here and there. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 1 Comment

The Stalin-Hitler pact debated in the Graun’s letters page

October 19, 2017 at 5:49 pm (fascism, Germany, Guardian, history, Poland, posted by JD, stalinism, USSR, war)

Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov signs the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact in Moscow, 23 August 1939. On the left is German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop

Above:  Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov signs the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact in Moscow, 23 August 1939. On the left is German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Photograph: Heinrich Hoffmann/Getty Images

An attempt, in the Guardian‘s letters page, to defend Stalin’s alliance with Hitler (aka the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), using a well-worn Stalinist line of argument:

Contrary to Tim Ottevanger’s view (Letters, 16 October) of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939, a pact that astonished the western world, I think it was one of the most significant in the last 200 years. At that time any intelligent observer, including Stalin, knew that the Nazis planned to eradicate Bolshevism and to gain Lebensraum in eastern Europe. The Soviets were engaged in a gigantic educational, agricultural and industrial transformation lasting less than a score of years, a process that took the UK over a century. They had to ensure that they were capable of defeating an onslaught from the greatest military machine ever known. The pact not only gave the USSR an extra 22 months of further industrialisation, but also allowed it to occupy eastern Poland after the Nazis attacked it on 1 September 1939. But for this extra 100+ miles of “buffer zone” the Nazis would have probably captured Moscow in 1941 and much land beyond it. Instead, as Churchill said, the Soviets “ripped the guts out of the Wehrmacht”. But for this the Nazis would have won the war in Europe with cataclysmic implications for the UK.
David Davis
Chesterfield

…and three replies:

David Davis’s claim of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939 being all about “buying time” (Letters, 18 October) is like similar claims about Chamberlain at Munich – risible historical revisionism.

If Stalin was really concerned with buying time while Soviet reforms were completed, why was he still merrily engaged in the wholesale slaughter without trial of anyone who looked at him in a funny way, from top generals to the merest peasant? Why did the Nazi Blitzkrieg on 22 June 1941 take the Soviets completely by surprise (and despite umpteen warnings from other nations)? Why in particular did the Nazis and Soviets between 12 and 14 November 1940 negotiate the Soviet Union’s entry into the axis, which only failed over disagreements over spheres of influence?

No, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was nothing more than two bullies coordinating their collective shakedown of their weaker neighbours, who, once there was nothing else left easy to despoil, began eyeing up each other to satisfy their perpetual greed, for there is no honour among thieves.
Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Reading David Davis’s astonishing defence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (and the Soviet partition of Poland with Nazi Germany), I was inevitably reminded of AP Herbert’s satirical wartime poem Less Nonsense: “In 1940, when we bore the brunt / We could have done, boys, with ‘a second front’. / A continent went down a cataract / But Russia did not think it right to act. / Not ready? No. And who shall call her wrong? / Far better not to strike till you are strong. / Better, perhaps (though this was not our fate) / To make new treaties with the man you hate.”

How depressing that, nearly 80 years later, that shabby and cynical pact still has its advocates.
Andrew Connell
Cardiff

David Davis has a rather rose-tinted view of the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact. It is true that it kept a slice of Poland (and the Baltic states) out of Hitler’s hands, at least for 22 months, but why did Stalin insist upon imposing his style of repression upon their populations, with mass deportations to Siberia and the killing of several thousand Polish officers at Katyn – or does Davis still believe Moscow’s wartime lie that the Nazis did it? Yes, the pact did buy time for Moscow, but, in that case, why did Stalin do nothing to build defences in the newly obtained land? And why did Stalin do nothing to prepare for a German invasion, and refuse to act on the numerous reports that an invasion was in the offing

That the Soviet forces were woefully unprepared for the invasion was shown by their confused and largely ineffectual conduct as the Wehrmacht stormed in on 22 June 1941. Had Stalin ordered a proper defensive strategy over the previous months, the Wehrmacht would have been stalled and repelled well before it reached, as it did, the outskirts of Moscow. Stalin squandered the temporal and territorial advantages that the pact offered. Moreover, the execution of 30,000 officers and the jailing and killing of many hundreds of thousands of civilians in Stalin’s purges a few years previously hardly helped guarantee the country’s military, industrial and administrative readiness for war – or does Davis still believe that they were “traitors”, as Moscow insisted at the time?
Dr Paul Flewers
London

Permalink 1 Comment

Juan Cole on Trump’s bizarre, stupid and dangerous UN speech

September 20, 2017 at 9:01 am (Asshole, Iran, jerk, nationalism, North Korea, perversity, plutocrats, populism, posted by JD, Saudi Arabia, Trump, UN, United States, war)

Trump blasts Iran for backing Syria, ignores Russia, praises Saudis

By (at Informed Comment) Sep. 20, 2017

Trump more or less threatened to wipe out the 25 million people of North Korea in his speech at the UN.

Then he turned to the Middle East, where he again pledged to undermine the Iranian nuclear deal.

In other words, he put forward a plan to turn Iran into North Korea as a geopolitical problem.

The speech was a weird amalgam of white nationalism and Neoconservatism. It abandoned the isolationism of the former and eschewed the idealism of the latter.

Concerning Iran, Trump said:

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.”

I swear, I thought Trump was talking about his own administration there for a second. He’s the one, not Iran, who called Nazis very fine people and blamed Heather Heyer for being run over by one of Trump’s supporters. I have been critical of the Iranian regime’s human rights record, as well, but Trump doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.

“Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.”

Hizbullah was formed to get Israel back out of Lebanon. Israel committed a naked act of aggression against little Lebanon in 1982, invading and shelling Beirut indiscriminately. The Israeli army then occupied 10% of Lebanese territory, in the south of the country. The far right Likud party has sticky fingers, and it had no intention of ever leaving. Hizbullah fought a low intensity guerrilla war to get the Israelis to withdraw, which they finally did in 1999. Israel still occupies the Shebaa Farms area that belongs to Lebanon.

The Yemen civil war wasn’t fueled by Iran but by a Saudi air campaign against the government of the north of the country. The Houthis were unwise to make their coup in early 2015 against the interim government, but it was the Saudis who bombed targets from 30,000 feet and with little local knowledge. Iran may have facilitate some training for a handful of Zaydi fighters, but it doesn’t give them very much money. The conflict is indigenous and has its origin in Yemen resentment of Saudi attempts to spread money around and convert people out of Zaydism and into the ultra-rigid Wahhabi form of Islam.

As for Hizbullah backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria, so does Trump’s buddy Vladimir Putin, to whom Trump said Syria should be turned over. In other words, Hizbullah’s position on Syria isn’t much different from that of Trump.

It is very odd that you would blame the survival of the al-Assad regime on Iran alone and not bring up Russia. Russia has spent way more in Syria than Iran and has used its Aerospace Forces for intensive bombing over 2 years, a much bigger military impact than Iran’s. And Trump himself keeps saying Arabs need strongmen to rule them.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.”

Let’s see. In the Joint Plan of Collective Action, Iran gave up:

1. –its planned heavy water reactor at Arak, concreting it in and abandoning it. Heavy water reactors can be used to gather enough fissile material over time so that you might be able to make a nuclear bomb. That pathway is gone.

2. –all but 6000 of its centrifuges, which aren’t enough to enrich enough uranium on a short timetable to make a bomb

3. –its stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.5%. It needs to be enriched to 95% for a proper bomb, but that is easier if you start part of the way there. That stockpile has been recast in a form such that it cannot be used to make a bomb.

4 — its objections to being intensively monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is now under the most stringent inspection regime in history. (Israel refused inspections and then made several hundred nuclear warheads and so did India and Pakistan and Russia and the US. Trump doesn’t condemn the actual proliferators, only Iran, which does not have a nuke).

Iran basically gave up the deterrent effect of being able to construct a nuclear weapon in time to stop an invasion. The United States has invaded 3 neighbors of Iran, so it isn’t an idle fear.

What did Iran get in return? The GOP Congress tightened sanctions, and has scared off a lot of European investors.

Iran got bupkes.

This deal is not between the US and Iran but between Iran and the UN Security Council plus Germany (representing the EU). The deal has deeply disadvantaged Iran and has not affected the US at all. In fact the US has already reneged on the spirit of it.

If what Trump is saying is that Iran was left with some elements of what is called ‘nuclear latency’– the knowledge of how to make a bomb, then that is correct. But the only way to wipe out Iranian nuclear latency would be to invade it and occupy it and put in a puppet government.

And that is what Israel’s Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin Salman want Trump to do. We have to see if he is so foolish.

Iran is 2.5 times as populous as Iran and 3 times bigger geographically, and the Iraq War did not go well for the US.

“The Iranian regime’s support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.

In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism that inspires them. ”

As or Saudi Arabia being the good guy, give me a break. They were backing anti-minority fanatics like Jaysh al-isalm who wanted to ethnically cleanse all Syrian non-Salafis (i.e. almost everyone). They had recognized the Taliban in the 1990s. They spread around an intolerant form of Islam that forbids Muslims to so much as have a friendly meal with Christians and Jews.

Trump’s remarks were apocalyptically stupid.

——–

Related video:

France 24: “Donald Trump at the UN: The Iran Deal is “an embarrassment to the United States”

Permalink 8 Comments

Trump’s North Korea threat: ‘unnecessary, scary, irresponsible’

August 10, 2017 at 2:18 pm (nationalism, North Korea, nuclear war, posted by JD, stalinism, Trump, war)

Robert E Kelly is widely recognised as one of the few genuine experts on North Korea. His reaction to Trump’s golf club tirade against North Korea on Tuesday (that any threat to the US would be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before”) was to call it “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.”

Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University (South Korea) spoke to The Washington Post about what he meant, and what could happen in the near future.

Interview conducted by Herman Wong:

POST: Let’s address Trump’s comments. Your tweet said they were “unnecessary, scary, irresponsible.” How so?

KELLY: “Unnecessary” in the sense that the North Koreans already know that we dislike them, that we want them to act differently and so on and so on. And just a few days before, Secretary Tillerson was on TV saying “we’re not your enemy” and Trump goes off and says this.

He just undercut his own secretary of state. So that’s what I meant by unnecessary.

“Scary” because what he said sounds like Old Testament-style rhetoric. “Fire and fury.” He’s like some prophet from the Old Testament talking about fire and brimstone.

And “irresponsible” because it sounds like Trump shooting his mouth off again. Maybe his national security team approved of that kind of language, but it sounds a lot like what Trump does on Twitter, which is shooting his mouth off and saying stuff and his national security people have to walk it back in the next couple of days.

POST: You’ve said before that “much of the overheated rhetoric coming from Trump administration about North Korea” is actually to pressure China. Who is the audience for Trump’s warnings?

KELLY: My sense is that there are two ways to read these things.

The optimistic one is that Trump got this cleared by his national security staff and he’s sounding a little unhinged or angry because he’s playing the madman role. And the point of this role — not that he’s actually a madman, but to pressure the Chinese into coming around.

He plays this sort of game and the Chinese are like: “Oh, my God, he might actually start a war and kill us all; let’s go pressure North Korea.”

This is a way of Trump signaling to China to get serious about North Korea — which, to defend the president, is not necessarily a bad idea because I do think China still has a lot of leverage over North Korea. The best way to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully is to get the Chinese to push the North Koreans harder. I know that’s pretty disputed today. A lot of people just don’t think the Chinese have that weight. But I do.

The negative interpretation is that Trump just shot his mouth off. And now the whole world is like: “Oh, my God, Trump is as unpredictable as Kim Jong Un, and we’re going to have nuclear conflict between these two schoolyard bullies who don’t know how to back down.”

North Koreans didn’t waste any time at all. One hour after that comment they were talking about nuking Guam.

This is just bickering. This is all rhetoric. This is not going to happen.

North Koreans are not going to nuke the Americans out of the blue. The North Koreans don’t have offensive intentions. Attacking the United States would be suicidal. The Americans would respond with so much force, North Korea would just be wiped off the map. We know this.

The North Koreans know this. They’re not apocalyptic ideologues like Osama bin Laden, willing to risk everything on some suicide gamble. The North Koreans are pretty rational. They are pretty tactical. They’ve been smart over the years. It would be very out of character for the North Koreans to suddenly launch a weapon at San Francisco. So I don’t buy that at all.

POST: Trump’s “fire and fury” statement echoes North Korea’s own threats, and some supporters have suggested that nuanced statements in the past have been ineffective and Trump is speaking in a way the North Koreans would understand. What do you make of that?

KELLY: The thing I don’t like about that though is that the United States isn’t some pesky, rogue country with a history of doing crazy stuff and dealing drugs and counterfeiting like North Korea.

North Korea has a reputation as a rogue. We don’t expect it to act any better and it’s a small part of the global economy that’s not really that relevant for global rules.

When the Americans act that way, when the Americans start talking like that, it sends signals to everybody. The center isn’t holding. The Americans are expected to be better than this. We don’t talk this way, in the same way we don’t expect the South Koreans to talk the same was as the North Koreans do. We expect more from democracies, we expect more from liberal countries.

I think it’s one of the reasons people like you and I are having this conversation, because it’s so uncharacteristic for American leaders to talk like this. Maybe it’s going to work. Honestly I haven’t thought that far. But it’s risky, it’s really risky. Because it sends a signal to everybody else out there that: Hey, you can’t trust the Americans, they might launch a nuclear war.

POST: How do you think Trump’s comments will be received in North Korea? How about in Japan or South Korea?

KELLY: We already know how North Koreans are going to take it. An hour or two later they threatened Guam. That’s how North Koreans always respond to threats. They always reach for the most outlandish rhetoric: Really aggressive, personal insults against the president of South Korea and the United States, the racism and all that.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that the North Koreans immediately went over the top by threatening a nuclear strike on American territory. That’s why we shouldn’t get into these kinds of war of words with the North Koreans. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to lead us anywhere.

The South Koreans and the Japanese will sort of roll their eyes and say “what is going on over there.” This is just Trump the unhinged. That’s what I’m really worried about — that our allies in Asia are increasingly thinking we are unreliable because the president’s kind of off his rocker.

POST: You tweeted Tuesday, in all-caps, “WE DON’T HAVE TO BOMB NORTH KOREA.” What are America’s options? How likely are China and Russia to stick to sanctions?

KELLY: Sanctions are the most likely, peaceful way to resolve this. Chinese economic pressure through sanctions, enforcement that leads to pressure on the elite bottom line in North Korea, not the popular bottom line. When you get factions in North Korea to start fighting over diminishing resources, that’s the kind of pressure we’re looking for. That can only come around if China plays ball.

If that doesn’t happen, and that hasn’t happened for 15 years, then my sense is missile defense. But you get a lot of push back on this, too. A lot of tech people say missile defense is a boondoggle, it doesn’t work, THAAD is overrated. My own sense from the briefings I’ve seen over the years about missile defense is that THAAD is at least reasonably effective. It’s a start.

POST: What next?

KELLY: I think the North Koreans will not stop the missile testing program. The Americans will slowly adapt to that in the same way it adapted to the Russia, China and Pakistani nuclear weapons. We’ve learned to adapt and live with those, and we’ll do the same with the North Korean ones as well. We will adapt even if Trump doesn’t admit it.

In the next three or four days, my guess is that the Trump national security staff will go out and clean up the remark and say we didn’t exactly mean this. We want to have talks, go to the U.N. etc.

POST: What should people who are paying attention to the North Korea situation for the first time know?

KELLY: I would say two things.

Consider that for 70 years, North Korea has had the opportunity to do major damage to South Korea, later Japan, eventually the United States, both against American forces in the region and now against the American homeland. It’s had opportunities for a long time and has never gone after them.

North Korea now has a long history of restraint, actually. It has a long history of tactical provocation. But North Korea has never gone over the edge. It has always pulled back.

And that leads a lot of us in the analyst community to believe that the North Koreans do not intend to use nuclear weapons. So all of this hysteria, this “World War III is around the corner” kind of stuff, is highly unlikely because the North Koreans have had the opportunity for a while. Look at North Korea’s past behavior as a predictor of future behavior.

The second thing I would say is that if there really is war coming, the big reveal for that would be an evacuation or call for evacuation of Americans living in South Korea. That is the big red flag. So if you see the Americans are told to get on a ship at Busan and go to Japan, you know the American airstrike is coming.

Permalink 1 Comment

100 years on: the hell that was Passchendaele

July 31, 2017 at 7:43 am (capitalism, Europe, hell, history, imperialism, posted by JD, war, workers)

More than 271,000 men from the ‘British and Dominion’ forces killed or wounded and German losses of 217,000. Many drowned in the mud or died in agony because stretcher-bearers could not reach them. The third and final battle of Ypres (Passchendael) began 100 years ago and went on for three months. The British and Dominion forces gained five miles in total.

Memorial Tablet
By Siegred Sassoon

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?

*****************

“We’ve had 70 years without major war. I hope we remember that we need to work together in Europe” – Mike Copeland, veteran’s son, yesterday.

Permalink 1 Comment

Corbyn on foreign policy: the pros and cons

May 26, 2017 at 7:58 pm (Clive Bradley, Human rights, immigration, imperialism, internationalism, iraq war, labour party, Middle East, posted by JD, Stop The War, Syria, terror, war)


Above: Corbyn’s speech today

This piece was written by Clive before Corbyn’s speech today (26/05/2017) on foreign policy. In this speech, Corbyn – whilst making it clear that the terrorist perpetrators are the ones guilty of the acts they perpetrate – seemed to reiterate the simplisticblow-back” view of foreign policy held by his friends in the pro-Taliban/Putin/Assad Stop The War Coalition. Clive – characteristically – is scrupulously fair to Corbyn: I, personally, think he’s too fair:

The limits of Labour’s multilateralism

By Clive Bradley

There has been some recent media attention on Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged past links to the IRA and the claim that he is a “pacifist” — meaning, he is opposed to any and every kind of military intervention, even around “humanitarian” issues.

Corbyn does have a record of support for the Republican movement in Ireland (that is, not the IRA as such, but the nationalists fighting for a united Ireland), and he was long involved with the Stop the War Coalition, which did indeed oppose — sometimes, in Workers’ Liberty’s view, with terrible arguments — the major military interventions involving Britain since the Iraq war (Libya; Syria); the key forces within it including Corbyn, also opposed intervention in Kosova.

But in both cases, while Corbyn’s own politics are influenced by a left-wing tradition of political “softness” towards noxious movements simply because they are at odds with “the West”, his record is probably more concretely connected to a desire to resolve conflicts through negotiation and diplomacy. (This is true, I think, even of his more controversial statements about, for instance, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement). And this commitment to diplomatic solutions comes top of the Labour manifesto promises on foreign policy. “We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis,” it states, boldly.

Referring to “ongoing wars across the Middle East, unprecedented numbers of refugees, global terrorism, climate change, the threat of nuclear conflict, a devastating food crisis across East Africa and beyond, an erratic US administration and a more combative government in Russia…” it insists that: “We [must] exhaust diplomatic solutions alongside international, regional and local partners within the framework of international law.”

Though describing the Trump administration as “erratic” seems a bit of an understatement, here Labour is at least prepared to call into question a “special relationship” that previous Labour governments (Blair, obviously, but going back long before that) have embraced. The statement goes on: “When [Trump] chooses to ignore [our shared values] whether by discriminating on the basis of religion or breaking its climate change commitments, we will not be afraid to disagree.”

On one key conflict, Syria, Labour promises to “work tirelessly to end the conflict and get the diplomatic process back on track” — which is implicitly critical of recent military actions. It is unclear what this implies regarding the ongoing, less high-profile Western military involvement in the Syrian conflict. And Corbyn personally does not have the best record on denouncing Syria’s murderous president Assad. But as far as it goes, Labour’s policy is unobjectionable. “Labour is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on a two-state solution — a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable state of Palestine.” This for sure is the only basis upon which peace can be
achieved.

The Party also promises to address other conflicts — it mentions “Kashmir, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.” Indeed on Yemen — where the Tory government has backed a brutal Saudi-led war, Labour demands “a comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigation into alleged violations of [human rights] in Yemen, including air strikes on civilians by the Saudi-led coalition. We will immediately suspend any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.” This would be a welcome change indeed in British foreign policy. A more comprehensive look at arms sales in general would have been more welcome still.

Many such conflicts pose sharply perhaps the most vital issue facing Europe and the Western world — the refugee crisis, which is driven by wars and poverty and shows no sign of abating. On this, Labour is vague: “In the first 100 days of government, we will produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis.” That is an improvement on the Tories’ utterly lamentable record.

The commitment to “conflict resolution”, if it led to anything in practice, would be a part of any meaningful solution to the crisis. But only part. Immigration is at the heart of the political debate. The issue was clearly central in fact to the Brexit vote. It is the issue which, above all others, the Corbyn leadership finds it hardest to challenge mainstream prejudices. On one level this is hardly surprising — given the toxic stream of anti-immigrant propaganda delivered daily by so much of the media (the Daily Mail being an obvious example). If Labour took an unequivocal line supporting free movement it would be savagely attacked in the press — and many of its core voters, those who voted for Brexit and so forth, would prove hard to win over in the short term (certainly before the election).

While Labour this time certainly avoids the idiotic pandering to these prejudices which marked the Miliband campaign in 2015, still it is backtracking from earlier, stronger statements. Labour is, of course, better than May’s Tories. But a general sense of good-will towards immigrants and migrants, and promises to “meet obligations”, do not equal a policy.

And on defence policy, Labour’s current commitments are a very long way to the right of what might be expected from the Corbyn team. Labour will support Trident. More: “Conservative spending cuts have put Britain’s security at risk, shrinking the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic wars”.

Labour, by contrast, commits “to spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence [to] guarantee that our Armed Forces have the necessary capabilities to fulfil the full range of [their] obligations.” No doubt this reflects compromises with Labour’s pro-NATO right wing.

There is certainly much to support in Labour’s manifesto commitments on foreign policy, but the broad sweep of it is pretty “mainstream” — multilateralist, favouring diplomacy over armed intervention, with some commitments to the rights of immigrants (whether from EU countries or refugees), but nothing hugely specific, and nothing which could be construed as particularly radical. It is, nonetheless, for sure, a step forward in comparison to the Blair years.

Permalink 20 Comments

US bombing of Syria did not begin on April 7

April 7, 2017 at 7:49 pm (Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, posted by JD, Syria, terror, Trump, war)

Chemical massacre in Syria

by Michael Karadjis, at Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis

US bombing of Syria did not begin on April 7, it began in September 2014, two and a half years ago. Nearly 8000 US air strikes have been launched, thousands of civilians have been killed, including hundreds just in recent weeks in some horrific strikes, like the slaughter of some 57 worshippers in a mosque in western Aleppo – which Trump’s Russian friends defended as aimed at “terrorists” – and the massacre soon after of dozens of displaced people in a school in Raqqa. Not to mention the mass killing of 200 civilians in Mosul in Iraq, just a few of the thousands killed in recent months in the joint US, Iranian and Iraqi regime (ie, the US-Iran joint-venture regime) offensive in that city.

No “anti”-war movement has protested all this US bombing. No “anti”-imperialists have ever cared less about any of this. Because all these years of US bombing have been of opponents of Assad, have often been in direct collaboration with Assad, and have had the tacit support of the Syrian regime.

Then in recent months, under both the late Obama administration and Trump, this US role had become even clearer. From December, the US launched a more intense bombing campaign against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in Idlib and western Aleppo, thus joining the Assadist and Russian slaughter from the skies in that region. Hundreds of JFS cadre were killed, and the bombings also hit other rebel groups at times. The US role alongside Assad, Russia and Iran in the latest reconquest of Palmyra was widely reported on. Calculating all US bombings in February from the US CentCom site (ie, the site of the US-led Coalition bombing Syria) shows that while 60 percent of US bombings were carried out in alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF, mainly the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, YPG), most of the other 40 percent was in alliance with Assad in Deir Ezzor, Palmyra and Idlib, some 195 strikes of the 548 in total (). And that was in a month when the bombing of Idlib was minimal, compared to January and March. Even in SDF-controlled Manbij, the US landed forces to patrol the region with Russian and Assad troops to block the Turkish-led FSA Euphrates Shield forces from advancing.

Despite countless assertions that Trump’s Syria policy was “unclear,” everything Trump has said was very clear: for many months, he insisted the US must ally with Russia and Assad to “fight ISIS,” as he believed Russia and Assad were doing; and that the US should cut off whatever remaining fragments of “aid” he believed were still going to some vetted Syrian rebels. Even Defence Secretary James Mattis, who many have mistakenly seen as more anti-Assad than Trump, has always opposed “no fly zone” plans and announced several years ago that “the time to support Syrian rebels against both Assad and ISIS is over,” ie, he agreed with the Obama-Kerry line that the US would only support rebels who fought ISIS and Nusra only, not the regime.

Then In the very days just before Assad’s monstrous chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, three prominent US leaders made Trump’s US policy even clearer, announcing that Assad should be allowed to stay. US UN representative Nikki Haley announced that the US was “no longer” (sic) focused on removing Assad; the Russia-connected US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, used Assad’s very words that it is up to “the Syrian people” whether Assad ruled or not – an obvious statement, of course, if one assumed Syrian people could hold a democratic election under a tyrannical dictatorship; and White House spokesman Sean Spicer talked about how “silly” it would be to not accept the “political reality” of Assad. Of course this had long been unofficial US policy; and had even become partly official under Obama and Kerry when they agreed that Assad could continue to rule in an allegedly “transitional” regime following a political process. But the Trump team made this clear.

Then Assad goes and blows it by throwing sarin in their faces! The interesting issue is why Assad was stupid enough to do this, just days after he received so much explicit US support. Presumably, he was encouraged precisely by all this US verbal and actual military support, and so he decided to test the waters, to see if this meant that even sarin could now be re-normalised. But that just highlights the arrogance of power. The US was giving him everything; Obama’s “red line” against chemical weapons in 2013, and then his withdrawal from action, in the US-Russia-Israel deal that saw Assad’s chemical weapons removed, was saying to Assad you can use everything else except chemical weapons; and thus Assad did use everything else in the four years since, in unbelievable quantities, with complete US indifference, if not support. For Assad to then go and use the very weapons that the deal supposedly removed, and show off that he still has them, was simply impossible for the US to ignore in terms of its “credibility.” Assad was reading the messages correctly from this last week, that US leaders were encouraging him; he just read it wrongly that this could include sarin. Look at Nikki Haley, fuming in the UN; she had to fume, because three days earlier the same Nikki Haley had made the official announcement about Assad being good to continue ruling. Assad should have been more gracious about being kissed like that.

The US thus had no choice but to respond in some way for the sake of its alleged “credibility.” Many are claiming Trump is “taking advantage” of Assad’s action to launch a war, just because he likes war, to show what he is made of, to show that he did what Obama didn’t have the spine to do and so on, or alternatively that the strike aims to cover up Trump’s Russia connections that are under investigation at home, by showing he can stand up to the Russians, and so on. This is all a misunderstanding. Certainly, these may well be useful by-products of “taking action” for Trump. But they do not explain the action at all. No, Trump sent a bunch of missiles against the Assadist military facility responsible for the chemical attack, going against everything he wanted to do, and that his entire team wanted to do, as seen by their declarations in the very days beforehand, because Assad’s use of sarin had put US “credibility” at stake.

That is all from the point of view of US imperialism. But from the point of view of supporters of the Syrian revolution, and of liberation and humanity in general, can I ask in all honesty, what is the big deal? Why are 8000 strikes on opponents of Assad (and not only on ISIS), killing thousands of civilians, not “intervention,” yet when you finally get one strike against the biggest, most heavily armed and most highly dangerous terrorist group in Syria, the one currently occupying Damascus, after it slaughters dozens of children with chemical weapons, only that is considered “intervention,” that is supposedly something more significant, that is something we should protest. Really, what is the difference? Surely, if we oppose all US intervention on principle, then this particular bombing is nothing worse than all the other bombings against Anyone But Assad the last two and a half years; and if the left, on the whole, has not been actively demanding the end of US bombing of Syria – far from it – then surely we can say in as much as the US is already there, at least this particular bombing hit the most appropriate target to date.

Frankly, whoever has not been protesting the US bombing of Syria all along the last two and a half years, and who now suddenly protests this US “intervention” today, cannot in any sense be considered anti-war, or anti-imperialist, but simply an apologist for the Assad genocide-regime. As Joey Husseini wrote, “For those who care, this is 7,899th US airstrikes in Syria since 2014. I don’t remember 7,898 waves of outrage or concern.”

And that is only noting the absence of protest against US bombings before this one. One might rightly criticise my post for focusing on these US crimes, terrible as they are, rather than the truly massive crimes against humanity that have been carried out by the Assadist regime, its airforce and torture chambers, and the Russian imperialist invader that backs it, the crimes that have left at least half a million dead and turned the entire country to rubble, even before this latest horrific atrocity. That is simply because I have been focusing on the issue of the inconsistency of those allegedly “opposing US imperialism,” indicating that this is entirely fake. But from the point of view of humanity, from the perspective of the part of the left that still believes in the politics of liberation, the malignancy of those “anti-imperialists” who only protest bombing now, but who have never protested the Assadist and Russian bombing, or in fact support this genocide, is far worse.

Meanwhile, while launching a singular “punishment” strike may have the potential to escalate beyond its purpose, this seems almost certainly not the intention of any wing of the Trump regime. As State Secretary Rex Tillerson explains, this punishment strike should not be confused with a US change of line on Syria:

“US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the attack showed the President “is willing to take decisive action when called for. ‘I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today’, he said. ‘There has been no change in that status. I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways’.”

Permalink 53 Comments

Falklands: “that bloody war” 35 years on

April 2, 2017 at 11:09 am (fascism, history, imperialism, nationalism, Robin Carmody, war)

Image result for picture Falklands War Belgrano

Above: The Sun cheers the deaths of 323 Argentine conscripts

By Robin Carmody

The thing about the phrase “that bloody war” – as a pejorative for a major war, which reshaped your country’s political norms and assumptions, viewed at medium distance – is that, by definition, it can only ever be used by those who have been in abeyance and who lost out as a result of it. The other side will regard it as “the good war”, their war, the war of which they, rather than the country as a whole, were the highly subjective victors.

Anyone brought up after the 1980s with little historical foreknowledge could be forgiven for thinking that there was always a universal, cross-class consensus that the Second World War was the ultimate “good war”. Not so. The working class, its great domestic victors, always viewed it that way, but landed, aristocratic and anciently-established interests – the demographic which, crucially, was extended further down to attract an only recently socially arrived, petit-bourgeois audience by David English, Nigel Dempster and Lynda Lee-Potter at a time of great perceived internal crisis for their interests, when they knew the upper class could not retake control by itself and needed new footsoldiers who didn’t have the money but did have the ambitions – viewed it for many years afterwards as “that bloody war”, cursed its impact and legacy. All the evidence that we were fighting bona fide fascism as never before in our history failed to sway them (and I’m not immune from a much smaller-scale version of the same thing; while not pretending that there would have been another Holocaust or industrial genocide, I do not dispute that the junta was objectively fascist), and not just because it exposed dark skeletons in their own family closets (and some of that was simply a mournful, melancholy wish to retain the old Anglo-German friendship, on which matter I would have sympathised with them in almost any circumstances but those) but because, even if Britain had only been on the winning side rather than the real winner, their class could not even claim that. The Second World War, its social gains for Britain’s poor neutralised, reversed and abandoned, has long since become a safe, cosy “good war” for the ruling class, but let no-one tell you that it was always such a thing.

The very fact that no-one now – except possibly Peter Hitchens (who only quite recently embraced a revisionist stance on the matter), only he’d regard the language as beneath him – calls the Second World War “that bloody war” does not, in fact, reflect well on the British politics of my lifetime. Had the position of the previous 35 years been maintained, they would have to view it as such, could not pretend that it was – as it never was in its own time – their war.

And so, inevitably, to my own usage of the term. There is, I’ll admit, scarcely a day that goes past when I don’t curse “that bloody war”, the one now 35 years away, close to the time that had lapsed then since 1945, and – as a setting up of a political consensus perceived as beyond question or dispute (this is why I cannot be as concerned about the removal of the broadcasting fig leaves insisted on by the ruling elite of 1990 as others are; it is much deeper issues that concern me) – 1945’s utter nemesis, a revenge for 1945. (I also happen to live somewhere which played a major role in both.) In that respect, at least in terms of language, I am in a similar position to the first young fogeys (not then so named; that had to wait) who raged in the 1970s about what had happened in their lifetime but scarcely, if at all, their direct recollections, and had as they saw it denied them the world they felt they deserved (of these, Auberon Waugh is by far the most defensible, mainly because he mutated after the fact into every bit as strong an opponent of ignorance and greed falsely sold in the name of “Conservatism”). That is the story of our times. Where once it was the squires in the country houses who would curse “that bloody war” of recent history, now it is the socialists, the romantics, the idealists, above all others the Europeans. Where once it was those who worshipped inequality, saw it as God’s will, who used that pejorative, now it is those who believe most passionately in equality. Where once it was the supporters of letting everything fall into place – by definition, a luxury for the already privileged – who used that phrase, now it is the supporters of logic and organisation.

I do not deny that, even if it was a much less severe and extreme version than that one, our “bloody war” of now, like their “bloody war” of then, was fought against fascism. That’s mainly what makes it so painful. But while a clearer and more direct path may begin only when Brian May stood on the roof of Buckingham Palace – in that other year, 20 years on, marked by a reactionary nationalist tide between April and June – the road to Brexit does, ultimately, begin at Goose Green. If you dispute me, consider – however much you may not regard them as “yours” – the SDP and the Tory wets, the two most pro-European factions in British politics, who stood throughout “that bloody war”, overwhelmingly stronger than the actual government immediately beforehand and waiting for a decisive victory had Britain lost. Or, as “we” will now say as assuredly as the squires and feudal lords once said of the 1939-45 war – only “we” know that we are saying it from an entirely different starting point and reasoning, as defensible as theirs was indefensible – if, in losing, it had won.

Consider that the precise equivalent today of saying, as Auberon Waugh did in 1972, that “West Countrymen never shared the general enthusiasm for World War II”, would be to say that Mancunians and Liverpudlians never shared the general enthusiasm for the Falklands War. And think on.

Permalink 4 Comments

Next page »