Sunday, May 15, 2005
A Defining Myth

Richard Drayton, Senior Lecturer in History at Cambridge University, had the opportunity in his contribution to the Guardian, of providing a thoughtful and balanced analysis of how the Second World War formed a key part in the legitimising myths that defined foreign policy actions on the parts of Great Britain and the United States. Instead, the article presents a laundry list of facts designed to promote a moral equivalence between the Allies and their opponents.

An example of this is the bald assertion that fascist ideology and tactics were deliberately copying the policies and ideas of the British Empire or the United States of America.

Our democratic imperialism prefers to forget that fascism had important Anglo-American roots. Hitler's dream was inspired, in part, by the British Empire. In eastern Europe, the Nazis hoped to make their America and Australia, where ethnic cleansing and slave labour created a frontier for settlement. In western Europe, they sought their India from which revenues, labour and soldiers might be extracted.

American imperialism in Latin America gave explicit precedents for Germany's and Japan's claims of supremacy in their neighbouring regions. The British and Americans were key theorists of eugenics and had made racial segregation respectable. The concentration camp was a British invention, and in Iraq and Afghanistan the British were the first to use air power to repress partisan resistance. The Luftwaffe - in its assault on Guernica, and later London and Coventry - paid homage to Bomber Harris's terror bombing of the Kurds in the 1920s.

This Marxist structure that allows the contextualisation of Nazi Germany within a wider development of capitalism provide the moral inversion that Drayton prefers, tracing the ills of fascism to liberal democracies and eliding the radical development of totalitarianism at a time of economic crisis. Did the Nazis learn the utility of the vanguard party, the efficiency of terror, the advantages of the confiscation and distribution of property, the dehumanisation of selected, nay even fictitious, minorities from the Mother of Parliaments or Roosevelt's Presidency?

This article presents another strand in the development of a movement on the New Left to deconstruct the myths of the Second World war and replace them with a perspective that sullies the roles of the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany. There is a case for a revisionist study of the Second World War, based on a careful weighing of the evidence and consideration of the possibilities that all actors faced in the War. Sadly, Drayton's article reflects none of these complexities and merely seeks to replace one myth with another; swapping ossified nationalism for vulgar Marxism where imperialism provides a broadbrush answer for all of these ills.

The MSM will have to raise the quality of these debates if it wishes to survive...


Post a Comment

Blog Archive