Every word or act of Jermyn Corbyn is closely scrutinised by the British media. Recently he was criticised for a speech he gave in 2014 in which he questioned the spending of £50m to commemorate the First World War. In the article below, Pat Walsh describes the background to the War and argues that Corbyn’s position is a basically honest one.
An Honest Englishman
by Pat Walsh
From newspaper reports we learn that Jeremy Corbyn did not wish to indulge himself, or the country, in commemorating the Great War of 1914. He presumably sees that War as it actually was/is rather than what it was/is made out to be. He does not subscribe to the fantasy that has been constructed around it. He is not in denial about it. He understands it.
The requirement of commemorating the Great War seems to be all-embracing these days. That is not a product of the Great War of 1914. It has come about through the increased desire to wage wars in recent years by the British State. Britain always commemorated what happened in the Great War, of course, but now it links it up with current war fighting and the view that it is better to be a Churchill than a Chamberlain – which simply means woe to he who refuses to fight (or bomb, these days) people thousands of miles away lest they bomb and shoot us one day. The point that more of them might come and bomb and shoot us because of us bombing them does not count. It is outside the Churchillian narrative and is inadmissible.
Churchill, of course, had much to do with the making of what is now the glacis of the Middle East. He provoked the War on the Ottoman Empire by filching two Turkish battleships that were paid for and being built in British shipyards as part of a naval alliance with the Turks. The Ottoman Government were asking for a full alliance at this time to try to stay out of the War that was developing against Germany, or at least preserve their territories from the Western vultures who were gathering around and who wished to divide up the spoils of war. Churchill also put a blockade on Istanbul – an act of war – after his navy forced two German ships into the Straits in order to compromise Turkish neutrality.
Churchill also organised the ham-fisted assault at the Dardanelles and then the Gallipoli landings. That set off a chain of events that did for the Armenians and the Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire. At the end of the War, when the Turks were finally defeated, the Muslim territories were taken by England, France, Italy and Greece and Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were made to suit the Imperial interests. Puppet states and rulers were installed who were subsequently removed when Britain mismanaged its world dominance with another World War. The inhabitants of these constructs were forced to make the best they could of what they were left with and they did until further meddling destabilised them once again, into what they are today.
It all pretty much began with Churchill and his friends. So Mr. Corbyn can rest easy when it is said he is not a Churchill.
It must be said that Mr. Cameron is no Churchill either. How can he be when Churchill lost the Empire and the power that went with it for Britain to start – if not finish World Wars? Cameron can meddle to his hearts content, of course, and manoeuvre to turn world events in his favour and against Mr. Corbyn at the ballot box. But he can be no Churchill, thank God.
What was the Great War all about? Reginald Brett (Lord Esher) someone who was deeply involved in the making of that War wrote to another man, Lord Maurice Hankey, who was also a vital component of it, on the first anniversary of it. He concluded in his Remembrance Day commemoration:
“Promises and performance: or the great disillusion. What a theme for Burke or Swift!
“Even a far humbler pen would be tempted to leave on record the fact that contemporaries of our eminent statesmen were not dupes of the Peace Conference, as nearly everyone but Byron and a few of the shrewder spirits were of Vienna and Metternich.
“A war to end all wars! Open Diplomacy! No Secret Treaties! A League of Nations! Self-determination! What has happened to all these fine phrases that not one of them has been translated into the faintest semblance of actuality. From the ashes of the holocaust of youths scattered over France and Flanders, Russia and Mesopotamia – the best blood and sinew of our race – others must hereafter arise destined to that same old Moloch of aimless war.
“But why gibe or complain? We have – that is to say the comfortable survivors – absorbed every German colony, we have annexed Northern Africa, we have realised Rhodes’ mighty dream, we have created or are about to create a subject Arab Empire, we may yet become the overlords of the Holy (!) City. This is a noble record and the boys who gave their lives on sea and land and in the air have not died in vain. The Archbishops and Bishops give glory to God; and Lord Robert Cecil is only as one crying in the wilderness.
“Let us settle down and we will have a Cabinet of twenty-three, and a Defence Committee, and a War Book, as in the good old days…”
There is the honest aristocratic view of the Great War by those who planned it, not by those who supported and fought it and had to adjust their view of the War to make something positive out of it.
Up until 1914 the aristocracy had handled British affairs in the world with considerable success. From 1688 until 1914 it rarely put a foot wrong in its Empire building, aside from losing America. It had seen off France and confined Russia in its Great Game and expanded Greater Britain across the earth’s surface. It controlled one quarter of the world’s land surface, its navy controlled the vast majority of its seas and the remaining areas were penetrated by English commerce. The vast majority of the earth was therefore under British control or hegemony.
And then a disastrous policy aimed at cutting down a potential minor rival drastically misfired and produced a global catastrophe.
Out of that catastrophe Britain emerged triumphant and seemingly at the pinnacle of its power. But the victory was illusory because in attaining it England had badly wounded itself and had had to be bailed out by the U.S. in order to finish what it started. And from there things went wrong in an even more serious fashion.
The Great War produced the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, its settlement produced Mussolini; it produced Hitler and the Nazis; it brought Japan into world affairs and made an enemy of her when the U.S. prevented Britain from renewing its alliance with the Emperor. And it failed to see off Germany because England could not help itself in resurrecting it through facilitating Herr Hitler when the Balance of Power was played again in Europe. And so it led to a Second World War, which Lord Esher predicted in 1919, at the end of the First one of the 20th Century.
How was such a national, Imperial and global catastrophe to be dealt with unless through denial and fantasy? The British democracy – that emerged fully in 1918 – had joined the War in 1914 and pretended it was something else.
When Britain encouraged and then joined the European war that was taking shape in August 1914 it made it into a Great War. It was Great Britain that put the Great in the Great War. That is to say that without Great Britain’s participation in it there would have been no Great War. In entering the European war Britain stated its aims in grand universalistic terms that were idealistic in the extreme. These aims were not only idealistic and unachievable but they were fraudulent. They were fraudulent in order to salve the Liberal conscience that was confronted by a fait accompli that it could not resist. The Balance of Power/Commercial War that had been planned behind the backs of the democracy for more than a decade was dressed up in moralistic finery to justify righteous support.
The objective of what was a Great Fraud was to show to the world that Britain was fighting a good war against an evil that had to be vanquished. The war was proclaimed as being for “civilisation against the Barbarian”, for “democracy” against “Prussianism”. And it was also supposedly a “war for small nations” for “poor little Belgium” or for “gallant Servia” and for a host of other things that just about tolerate mention these days, but which dissolve when any thought is done about them.
What it really came down to was a pulverising of Germany and the taking of its trade and markets in what was a traditional Balance of Power war catastrophically invested with a great moral mission. The Fraud that was perpetuated on the world concerning the character of the War Britain proclaimed itself to be fighting was produced in order to convince any doubters, at home and abroad, about the rightfulness of it.
The Fraud was also useful in enlisting the cannon fodder necessary to see the job through. And when Britain’s Great War did not prove great enough to achieve its objectives and the United States had to be procured as an ally to complete the job the Fraud was both perpetuated and enhanced. A massive propaganda effort was launched that not only coloured the settlement of the war to the detriment of Europe and beyond but also created the myths that mystify understanding of it to this day.
The British declaration of War in August 1914 was the point of origin for the catastrophic history of Europe and its hinterlands in the twentieth century. The manner in which Britain fought that war and the peace settlements it determined at the end of it set in motion a train of events that are still working themselves out today with tragic consequences for humanity.
Jeremy Corbyn in wanting nothing to do with the perpetuating of such a Fraud is at the very least an honest man.