Friday, November 23, 2012

Afghanistan, White Poppies, And That Dashing Mr. Hitler.

Starting with the latter in my Ottawa Citizen column.
"I think Hitler will be regarded as one of the great men of our time.”
That was the verdict of career pacifist George Lansbury, president of the British Peace Pledge Union, president of War Resisters’ International and chairman of the No More War Movement. It appears in his 1938 manifesto, “My Quest for Peace.” No fringe character, Lansbury was the leader of Britain’s Labour Party until his ouster in a 1935 uprising led by the party’s stoutly anti-fascist trade unionists.
. . .Lansbury’s Peace Pledge Union, which got the whole white poppy fad off the ground in 1934 by marketing the thing as the must-have Armistice Day fashion accessory, was also as fervent an apologist for Nazi terror as any organization at large in the English-speaking world during those grim days.
I regret that I didn't have more time in conversation with the brave Afghan patriot Amrullah Saleh. More on Saleh here, more here.
Further to the point about the enduring "anti-war" styles and circumlocutions pioneered by Lansbury’s white-poppy PPU, just change a couple of words around and this could be one of those "troops out" ladies we so often hear from, going on about Afghanistan and Canada, or Libya and Canada, and so on : "If Germans don't like Hitler they can get rid of him themselves. We do not need to send our sons to fight them. If ever a country wants a revolution now it's Britain."
Which progressive anti-imperialist and anti-war lady uttered that pacifist sentiment? Anne Brock Griggs, British Union of Fascists, October 23, 1939, that's who. And while George Orwell observed that the white-poppy Peace Pledge Union engaged in apologetics that were "indistinguishable" from Nazi propaganda, the Hands Off Iran crowd is compromised today by the same kind of disease that inhabited the PPU, into which the membership of the pro-Nazi Nordic League folded itself happily after 1939. 
And I mean indistinguishable: The darlings from the preposterously-named Toronto Coalition to Stop the War as special guests for a celebration of the ongoing savagery of the Khomeinist tyranny in Tehran along with all the usual Jew-haters and conspiracy theorists that can be counted on to join "pacifists" at such soirees.
Still, Orwell's legacy persists: Bravo,Yang Jisheng
In light of the pathetic "anti-war" rituals that erupted in the usual exhibitionist "demonstrations" across Canada during the recent tragedy in the Israel-Palestine imbroglio, bravo especially to those brave Arab comrades among whom Orwell's dim candle still casts its light:
"What we need now is a new resistance movement – to resist being co-opted by Islamists and nationalists whose price for belonging requires betraying core human values. Our resistance movement struggles to secure liberty of thought and to reject the false choice of barbarism or guilt. We need to set ourselves free. We have a third way: Be ourselves without fear."
More and more here.
Getting back to the opening point, highly recommended: Mark Gilbert's "Pacifist Attitudes to Nazi Germany," 1936-45 in the July, 1992 Journal of Contemporary History, and Julie V. Gottlieb, "Feminine Fascism: Women in Britain's Fascist Movement, 1923-45," I.B. Tauris, 2003.
The echoes of today's "anti-war" polemics are deafening.


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