Thursday, March 16, 2017

The British Ruling Classes and Their 20th Century History

Dr Liam Fox, the smooth talking Tory Secretary of International Trade, apparently tweeted, and then denied he 'tweeted', that "the United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not need to bury its 20th century history".

To be fair, Dr Fox may not know what a 'tweet' is, and this is the work of an excited, unnamed social media intern. His claim that The Guardian twisted his words from an old speech, where he was talking about UK and EU, in a TV interview while the tweet itself was displayed on the screen.

However, there may be a method in this madness. The Tory politics is decidedly one of inauthenticity. Following some 20th Century masters of propaganda, like Joseph Goebbels (I am avoiding the H word) and Benito Mussolini, the strategy is to state an 'alternative fact' to energise the base, and then make all sorts of confusing noises in clarification, so that the whole discussion soon becomes meaningless. This is somewhat like Donald Trump, but not necessarily so, as Mr Trump and his team are usually blissfully ignorant of the alternative - the facts - and therefore, can stick to their version without confusion.

The Guardian offered to educate Dr Fox -  with a  list from the British 20th Century history - though this only contains the most obviously vile ones, and overlooks, for example, the British complicity in Greek-Turkish War and massacres and counter-massacres in Anatolia, or Munich 1938 and the surrender of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. However, one could expect a Brit to repeat history not through ignorance, but indifference, and apart from its politics, Dr Fox's tweets and subsequent tardiness only illustrate the special relationship between the British ruling classes and their 20th Century history.

I think the distinction I make here - British Ruling Classes as opposed to Dr Fox's 'The British - is an important one. Indeed, the British, a whole nation made of various diverse people, has nothing to apologise for, but that would apply to the Germans, the French, the Russians and every other nation. But the ruling classes, unless a clean break has been made, either through a revolution or atonement, carry the responsibility, because they enjoy the benefits of the past misdeeds.

The son of a thief may not go to jail for his parent's misdeeds, but when he enjoys the inheritance and celebrates his parent's enterprise, it becomes morally reprehensible. Mr Fox may not see it that way, but his tweet does exactly that: It celebrates the British Colonial History, and at the same time, tells that others may need to be apologetic about their history. Yes, indeed, Germans, Russians, Americans and everyone else may have a lot to apologise for, but the British may be in no position to claim the high ground.

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