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4 November 1999 Edition

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Concealing the cause of conflict in history


The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion
By Alvin Finkel and Clement Leibovitz
Merlin Press

The Splendid Blond Beast
By Christopher Simpson
Common Courage Press

Winston Churchill called it ``our finest hour'' when Britain defeated the ``evil of Nazi Germany''.

This depiction of history as conflict between good guys and bad guys is handy for the political establishment because it hides the real cause of conflict and reinforces the legitimacy of the establishment. Without legitimacy, the establishment cannot rule over the people.

This facile version of history, however, is widely accepted, even by supposed free-thinking intellectuals.

Recently, for example, the Irish Times - a supposed bastion of the free press - published articles by Fintan O'Toole and Robert Fisk, on the 1930s and the Second World War.

O'Toole deplored the rise of Nazism as an ideology of hate (the bad guys) which grew to threaten Western liberalism (the good guys), while Fisk, in his article, described the Second World War as the ``greatest moral conflict of the 20th century (again good guys-bad guys).

This is disturbing because it shows just how limited the so-called free press really is; whenever two of its most free-thinking writers cannot conceive of any other version of history outside of the establishment's self-serving framework.

More disturbing is that the ``free press'' fails to reveal the real cause of the 20th century's major conflict in which up to 50 million mainly civilian lives were lost. This is important because if we do not understand the cause of historical conflict, then we may be condemned to repeat it.

The origin of the Second World War can be traced not to its textbook beginning in 1939, nor to Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, nor to his remilitarisation of the Rhineland in 1936, nor even to the Nuremburg rallies of 1933 which ushered him to power. Rather, the origin of the war can be traced to the Russian Revolution in October 1917, and in particular the reaction of the Western ruling classes to that event.

The revolution was a dramatic blow for democracy and human freedom. Although it was to later degenerate into Stalinist despotism, it was, however, the first time in history that ordinary working people had overthrown a capitalist elite, the Czars, and took hold of political power.

This was truly momentous and a cause for celebration by working people everywhere. For the Western ruling classes it was also momentous but for entirely negative reasons. They were petrified by the inspirational effect on their own unruly and increasingly disgruntled masses.

Despite the horrors of the First World War, Robert Lansing, the U.S. Secretary of State, had other things on his mind when he wrote in 1918: ``Bolshevism is the most hideous and monstrous thing that the human mind has ever conceived. A Bolshevik Germany or Austria is too horrible to contemplate. It is worse, far worse than a Prussianised Germany.''

The Western powers immediately attacked the newly formed workers' state to, as Winston Churchill put it, ``strangle it at birth''. The aggression against the Russian communists failed because of low morale among war-weary troops and also because it was unpopular with the Western public.

However, the Western powers would soon find a new weapon: fascism. During the 1920s and 1930s, the American and British establishment contracted fascism to do its dirty work. Between 1929 and 1939, American industrial investment grew faster in Nazi Germany than in any other country.

And the Anglo-German Naval Accord in 1935 allowed Hitler to expand his war machine in direct contravention of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations.

As historians Alvin Finkel and Clement Leibovitz point out, the Western ruling classes saw Hitler and the other European fascists, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, as a ``bulwark against communism''.

It is important to realise that the stance of the British government in particular went far beyond the appeasement of which it is sometimes accused. The policy was deliberate collusion.

When British prime minister Chamberlain held three private meetings in Germany with Hitler in early 1939 at Berchtesgaden, Godesberg and Munich, it was just months after the Kristallnacht Jewish pogroms and the Nazi annexation of Austria. And it was well established by this date that the Nazis were operating concentration camps.

Yet in Chamberlain's courteous meetings with the F├╝hrer, he was concerned with formulating a security arrangement whereby, to use his own words, ``England and Germany would be the pillars of peace in Europe and buttresses against communism''.

The arrangement would involve Hitler having a ``free hand'' in central and eastern Europe, while the British empire would be left alone. This was the real meaning of Chamberlain's proclamation of ``peace in our time'' - stability for the ruling class and to hell with Jews, Slavs, Romanies and any other undesirables, especially communists.

In the early 1930s, the British government also pursued the same policy of giving a free hand to imperialist Japan during its invasion of Manchuria, thereby facilitating the expansion of that power, despite its brutality. The geopolitical objective was straightforward: smash communism with Nazism in the west and Japanese fascism in the east. Of course, the tactic was to soon backfire when the ambitions of these two regional forces outgrew the thuggish boots designed for them.

But the crucial point is that the seeds of the 20th century's bloodiest conflict were sown by the Western powers, the British in particular.

Contrary to what our free press tells us, morals or noble principles had nothing to do with why the Western powers eventually prosecuted the war. Hitler and imperialist Jaopan became merely inconveniences that had to be killed off.

This explains why, as Christopher Simpson reports in The Splendid Blond Beast, the Americans and British recruited Nazi scientists, spies and commandos and deployed them in a terrorist campaign in Russian-occupied territories immediately after the war.

The West also reinstated Nazi financiers, industrialists and civil servants and banished German socialists who had resisted Hitler's regime.

For the Russians, who had lost up to 30 million people to Nazi terror - 60 percent of the war's total dead - these provocative moves signalled that the Western powers were resuming their long-term policy of terrorism against the Soviet Union.

In this way, the Second World War is a classic example of Clausewitz's idea of war being a ``continuation of politics by other means''. The logic behind the war was the defence not of freedom or democracy but of elite privilege under the capitalist system.

But thanks to our ``free-thinking media', the myth of a noble war is perpetuated and sustains the British establishment with undeserved legitimacy.

Sweeping awaythe myth, however, has critical implications for British-Irish relations. Uncovering Britain's real role in this century's worst conflict makes the moral high ground over IRA decommissioning look like a hill of beans.

BY FINIAN CUNNINGHAM

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland