A Change of Heart
For much of my life, I have felt that the Second World War was one that, had I been of volunteering age at the time, I would’ve felt motivated to join ‘on the side of democracy’. It was one of the many things about which the Weekend Maoists and I disagreed when I was at University. And for years afterwards, it was something I found kept me at odds with pacifists in general.
My father volunteered for the RAF in 1938 after the Munich ‘agreement’. He’d taken out Mein Kampf from the local library, read it and decided that “this ‘itler bloke” was a brick short of a load. So when Chamberlain was hailed on his return from Berchtesgarden, Pop decided Churchill was the only one with his head screwed on the right way. He volunteered to be a pilot. My grandmother – a highly intelligent and cynical woman – hit the roof. Her husband had gone to fight the War to end all Wars, and come back a broken man whose job had disappeared.
To everyone’s great relief, Dad was turned down on the pretty understandable bases of having poor depth perception and colour blindness. If he’d been accepted, there is a 1% chance that I’d be here now. But I was always proud of my father – a ragged-arsed Salford Catholic – for reading Mein Kampf long before the Prime Minister did.
Today, my view is to honour the dead and recognise their apparent sacrifice. But not to glorify the insanity that got them killed. The Red Mist came down last year when David Cameron insisted on celebrating and going all Remembrance-teary about the start of The Great War – easily the most ridiculous act of obscene blood-letting in history. Celebrate the end of it by all means, but not the start for crying out loud.
As I get older and have more time to develop a lifelong interest in the history of politics, I have (for about ten years now) been a member of the pacifist camp. Not, I hasten to add, a Peace Camp: I don’t think I could bear the constant sound of tuneless voices warbling over battered and badly-played guitars. But I’ve come to believe that we should object to all wars, regardless of the issues or the stated intent of “my side”.
The short-term event that most convinced me of this need to switch positions was the Blair-Bush Iraq War. But actually, the calumny of that utterly destructive conflict was kicking at the already rusty hinges of a rotten door in my left cortex. And it was the study of historical outcomes that finally did for the door.
The best way to look at this, it seems to me, is to think about what folks in 1945 felt they’d achieved at the end of hostilities. They pointed to the defeat of Nazism, the end of Hitler’s reign of terror, and the United Nations sitting in constant session to ensure World Peace forever. Shortly afterwards, the optimism of the era was forever immortalised by Frank Capra’s film A Wonderful Life…in which James Stewart took on the evil lying neolib Potter, and thus kept the greedy barbarians at bay – with only his mutual savings & loan company with which to help the poor folks afford decent homes.
Now let’s survey the reality of the years since then.
To beat the Nazis, Britain bankrupted itself. The only help it got from the Yanks was brave men in the USAF, and on D-Day. The Germans who’d lost got Marshall Plan aid: we got a bill from Washington for Lend Lease. We did not go to war to defend the Jews, we did it to defend the Empire. By 1946, British soldiers were shooting Greek communists. By 1950, our Empire had largely disappeared. By 1948 – Anno Slogini – we were indirectly at war with our former Communist allies in Korea. After that came the Nuclear Arms race, the Cold War, Vietnam, and the flourishing of a USSR every bit as murderous as Nazi Germany. The UN has been in permanent standoff mode ever since.
In 1962, the World came to the brink of Nuclear War over soviet missiles in Cuba. 28 years later, the Soviet Union collapsed.
Had the Nazis won World War II, how long do we think the regime could’ve survived – 20 years? 50 years? I would argue that five things doomed the Nazi State from Day one:
1. It was hopelessly over-bureaucratic, because Hitler worked on the basis of creating two jobs for every problem in Government: the divide-and-rule principle.
2. The sheer cost of running an Empire stretching from Dublin to Vladivostok would have bankrupted Germany and left them in a state of exhausting constant rebellion control. Beyond Vladivostok lay Beijing – presumably controlled by the Japanese. Hitler, the ultimate megalomaniac, would’ve turned on them sooner rather than later.
3. Adolf’s favourite banker Hjalmar Schacht gave the Führer his image of economic miracle-worker in the 1930s by using an early form of nonsense QE that created jobs to build secret arms caches and transport networks. While these ensured the easy movement of troops and armoured vehicles, German export income floundered: without a general war, Nazi Germany would’ve been bankrupt by 1943 at the latest. In a world where poorly exploited Soviet and North African oil still couldn’t compete with Texas, American commercial victory would’ve been inevitable.
4. The German expulsion of Jewish University brainpower in the late 1930s led to a flood of immigrants, direct and indirect, into the US. A huge proportion of these enriched American technology: not just in nuclear weapons, but also in the early development of computers and digital communications. They also went into Wall Street and made it a powerhouse with which Berlin – despite Speer’s bloated designs for Nazi grandeur – could never have competed.
5. Despite his policy of divide and rule within the Nazi Party, Hitler was in very poor health from 1942 onwards. This was a result of his unhealthy lifestyle, growing mental issues, and adoration of his favourite quack, Herr Doktor Morell. Moves would’ve begun to replace him….either from the likes of Heydrich or the brown eminence Martin Bormann – perhaps even from the SS and Gestapo. His removal (or death) would most probably have generated a state of permanent civil war within the Party – and hastened the ultimate collapse of the regime.
It is, I know, a weird position to adopt; but the reality is that – had appeasement been continued to its logical conclusion – the following outcomes would’ve been highly likely:
* The Soviet Gulags recorded by Solzhenytsin would never have become the killing machines of the 1950s
* Britain today would be a republic devoid of debt
* The US would still be militarily isolationist
* Israel would not exist where it does
* The fascist version of communism would be dead and buried as an idea in contemporary politics
* Globalist neoliberalism as an idea would be rejected as neo-Nazi on the grounds of being dysfunctional
* There would be no former Soviet States in eastern and central Europe creating havoc at the core of EU finances.
Now let’s compare that (potentially flawed) alternative present with the one we have:
* A European superstate adopting the same tactics against Greece as those used by the Nazis against Czechoslovakia in 1938, and the Soviets against Hungary in 1956. That is – in whatever form, it makes no difference – MIGHT IS RIGHT.
* An interfering US Empire that has become a serial nuisance in Eastern Europe, North Africa, South America and Asia….propping up fascist dictators wherever it meddles, and leaving behind inhuman anarchy after its armies leave the Theatre of War.
* A Government in Britain introducing the same narrow ideas of individual liberty espoused by both the Nazi and Soviet apparatchiks – of which the concept of ‘non-violent extremism’ is just the latest illogical output.
* A UK and US political process completely controlled by corporates with the same values as Krupp, Thyssen and IG Farben
* A resurgence of Islamist Jihadism that would never in a million years have reached its contemporary murderous levels without the incessant muddled interference of the Texas/Pentagon/State Dept/Wall Street axis of ignorance.
* A mad banker/multinational corporation model of humanity that sees ordinary citizens as glorified robots born to consume, borrow, work for peanuts, borrow more, consume again…and then be left to fend for themselves after being hammered into a small cube on the refuse disposal site of life.
Was the Second World War worth fighting in the light of such projections and realities? No, it most certainly wasn’t. I have written many times that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. But I now doubt very much if violence is required to bring down the mania of greed and control.
To be parochial for a brief paragraph, I will ask this final question: is yelling slogans, marching with placards and burning parked vehicles likely to produce an end to the nascent corporacratic State in Great Britain? The answer is an even more emphatic no: it will simply give the hijacked Conservative Party an excuse to introduce more and more and more censorship.
What the Brits need now is new, non-violent and legal internet-led crowd-sourcing strategies to starve the Beast that is busy eating our liberal democratic constitution. The same thing, for sure, applies in the United States.
So there we are: I am become a fluffy pacifist. Were someone about to kill my children, and I had that reprobate in the sights of a high-powered rifle, I would unhesitatingly kill him. What I wouldn’t do afterwards is persuade myself via spurious arguments that I’d done the right thing. We are all human, imperfect and weak. If only the Left could grasp that obvious fact, and learn to be more pragmatic.