Archipelagic in thought and letter

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Some archelagic poets and writers were at a convocation, a ‘gathering of voices’, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on 9th October to celebrate the launch of Clutag Press’ first volume of the literary magazine Archipelago. The Library also chose the occasion to launch their first series of BODcasts and because they did you can listen to what was said by all the speakers there. Among those speakers was Seamus Heaney – BODcast available directly here [mp3 file] – who quoted a wise man, fellow poet Czeslaw Milosz.

“What is articulated, strengthens. What is not articulated tends towards the non-being.”

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  • Dewi

    Still not quite convinced of sufficient cultural cohesion to justify a geographic identity as an archipelago….anyone want to start a poem ?

  • Pete Baker

    Dewi

    It’s neither the topic of the post, the magazine, nor the speakers – who employ a variety of languages.

    But I will point back to a couple of earlier posts.

  • Dewi

    I know – Peter – but I listened to all the stuff and not at all convinced. McNeillie’s meteorolical focus quite bizarre – myself feel much more connected to Basques, Catalans and other forgotten people than some constructed archipalegic cultural identity. But hell each to his own.

  • Frank Sinistra

    The utter arrogance, the self-congratulation, the self-appreciation:

    Couldn’t make it more stark how seperate from reality they are

    Long arms are needed to pat your own back.

  • Dewi

    The thread on Celtic identity you refer to Pete was fascinating – thank you.

  • Pete Baker

    “myself feel much more connected to Basques, Catalans and other forgotten people than some constructed archipalegic cultural identity.”

    Telling, Dewi. But not necessarily in the manner intended.

    Each to his own, indeed.

  • Dewi

    Pete – no need to be clever. If you find meaning and identity in a archipelagic sense enjoy it. For myself the dominance of the primary party will always be a fundamental issue and therefore choose to identify myself outside the Empire – but again each to his own. Nos Da.

  • Frank Sinistra

    His audience awaits,

    A willing open bride.

    Virginal, pretense with each delivery.

    Misjudged length and misplaced laughs abide,

    But he needs to look at rhythm

    And the absence of a ride.

  • Frank Sinistra

    String theory

    I came,

    I saw,

    I conkered.

  • Dewi

    I think you have something Frank…kept me out of bed for a while anyway ! Ireland’s got Talent ?

  • Frank Sinistra

    The world of poetry

    One word?
    When I could use twenty?

    Shit!

  • Harry Flashman

    *myself feel much more connected to Basques, Catalans and other forgotten people than some constructed archipalegic cultural identity.*

    You know Dewi, I simply find that extremely hard to believe.

    You’re a Welshman posting regularly on a blog about Northern Ireland yet you claim to have more affinity with minor linguistic groups in Spain, than with your fellow English speakers in these islands.

    How many Basque and Catalan blogs do you comment on? I’d love to know.

  • dewi

    No Catalan or Basque blogs – don’t speak either. And I live on these islands. I certainly feel affinity with those at the periphary of these islands but our whole history is dominated by an imperial English adventure that I really despise – and that’s not at all racist – it’s just not mine and hate the fact I left school knowing more about Alfred, Canute, Nelson et al than my country.s historical figures.

  • Harry Flashman

    *an imperial English adventure that I really despise*

    The legacy of which has bequeathed the world the most prosperous, educated, free, democratic and healthy societies on earth, yeah it’s a real bummer alright.

    So you admit your original statement about feeling more affinity with Basques and Catalans than with your fellow English speakers on these islands was pseudo smug self delusional codswallop of much the same quality as the stuff in this arty farty magazine?

  • veritas

    …..and stole their gold,diamonds and thansported them as slaves to work on sugar plantations ;- you should have gone to specksavers-they dont sell rose tinted glasses there

  • dewi

    “Prosporous etc.”
    Like three quarters of Africa do u mean? Or the Australia aborigines ?
    Perhaps I should have been clearer. Of course I relate to the celtic nations – it’s that the Arcipelagic stuff is usally England / English + some token other stuff – which correctly represents population of these islands and all well and good but not for me.

  • Harry Flashman

    Ah yes, the richest, healthiest, safest, most democratic, best educated, most free, liberal societies in the world bar none all just happen to be products of the British Empire, take the chips off your shoulders boys, anti-Englishness is so last century.

    By the way Dewi weren’t some of the most expansionist kings of England actually Welsh? And remind me what principality the boys singing “Men of Harlech” as they slaughterd the Zulus at Rourke’s Drift came from?

  • dewi

    Completely off thread and mostly my fault:
    A)No – Henry Tudor had some Welsh blood but his line soon assimilated
    B) Ruling classes excellent at sending Celtic soldiers to slaughter and be slaughtered.
    C) Empire’s record in Ireland.
    Some of the most savage slaughter in Imperial history. The deliberate suppression of the langage.The, at best, tolerance of a famine that killed a million and halved the population.Killing Lord Mayors and innocents with impunity in in living memory. *nd after withdrawing from most of the island making the new state pay reparations.Wonderfully benign and benevolent.

  • Harry Flashman

    Ah yes, terrible, those waxy moustache twirling, top hatted Englishmen evilly cackling as they sent off the poor benighted Celts to kill the savage foe.

    Christ Dewi, grow up will ye? The Welsh, Scottish and Irish were up to their bloody armpits in the race for empire, in many cases (the Scots) they were well ahead of the English, stop trying to rewrite history mate. The Celts were in there big time and they loved it. Since 1979 it has suited the Celtic Fringe to pretend that the British Empire was nothing to do with them.

    It’s as convincing as listening to Austrians telling you how they were the first victims of Adolf Hitler (an Austrian).

  • Dewi

    Harry – I am slightly tongue in cheek but can’t remember the referendum for the Anchluss betweeen Wales and England……….Scots well ahead of England ? Apart from the ill-fated Darien expedition can’t recall a single Scottish Colonial adventure.
    Fundamental point is not any of that but that there’s a lot of them on this archipelago and that such an identity would by neccessity be English dominated.
    What’s the significance of 1979 ? We lost that one…
    Seamus Heaney worth a listen by the way. (Sorry Pete)

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Ideology normally dictates which geographical entity is deemed the most appropriate for National identity – for me that’s contiguous landmass – easier to justify obviously for relatively small islands rather whole continents. Presumably, Taffs/Jockstraps not so keen on that one.

    What happened to the unbelievable thread about the BNP the UVF the Orientals and the Marching Prods – did I dream it or had some band decided to parade through all the Chinese returants in South Belfast whilst sinigng pro-Japanese tunes?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Harry,

    I suppose you would suggest that Africans were dead keen on slavery because some of the slave organisers were African.

    Dewi,

    Welsh imperialist adventures will soon be again in the spotlight with the world champions in town. An opportunity for the Welsh to apologose for glorying in the slaughter of the good guys with superior weapons whilst stealing their gold. Cywilydd.

  • Harry Flashman

    *What happened to the unbelievable thread about the BNP the UVF the Orientals and the Marching Prods – did I dream it*

    I was wondering about that too but I seem to recall one of the last posts warned that a very serious allegation had been made against someone incorrectly, instead of simply deleting the relevant post it would appear the entire thread was pulled, I hate when that happens.

    *I suppose you would suggest that Africans were dead keen on slavery because some of the slave organisers were African.*

    Actually all the slave organisers were African – except for the Arab ones.

    The British Empire, however, was the first organisation in the entire history of mankind to send its forces to fight and die to end the appalling curse of slavery, something you wouldn’t realise if all you knew about the British Empire was the dreary bilge that was taught by the products of 1970′s polytechnic Marxist history departments.

    Dewi, you know little about the role of Scottish bankers, soldiers, engineers, teachers, explorers, entrepreneurs, clergymen and chancers that expanded the frontiers of the British empire if all you know is the Darien expedition, I suggest you read a little more on the subject. As regards an Anschluss between England and Wales I suggest you google “Acts of Union, 1535-42″ to find out about it.

    For your information in 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the UK, and suddenly everyone started rewriting British history.

  • susan

    Pete, I would dearly love to check out the links but these people are scaring me. I will try again after the lot of you have gone to bed. :o)

    Dewi, you should be more generous. When I worked in London, I had occasion many times a day to reflect that few sentences in English could ever sound as lovely as a report of a traffic snarl on the M4 in Welsh.

  • Dewi

    Sammy – It’s like £50 a ticket for a humiliation..isn’t that reparations enough. Stanley Baker couldn’t sing anyway.

    Harry – I know a little about Acts of Union – hardly a voluntary process now was it.

    Do you think Thatcher’s election precipitated revisionism ? Not certain of the causal effect there to be honest.

    As to Scottish bankers etc. don’t deny for one minute. My point was that pre union Scotland didn’t try much colonial expansion.

    I am interested in the noble British Empire’s efforts to end the curse of slavery. Any particular war ? – seem to recall some illicit support to the Confederacy.

  • Dewi

    Susan

    “Dewi, you should be more generous. When I worked in London, I had occasion many times a day to reflect that few sentences in English could ever sound as lovely as a report of a traffic snarl on the M4 in Welsh.”

    I started it sorry.

    “What is articulated, strengthens. What is not articulated tends towards the non-being.”

    What’s been articulated and strengthened for the last hundreds of years is the idea of a superior, noble, benevolent British Empite casting its kindly virtues to the ignorant natives anywhere they wanted.
    What has not been articulated (even to our own people) is the hisory of the Celtic nations, both pre conquest and post. This magazine attempts to articulate some of that I suppose – but launched at the Bodleian etc etc – let’s do this stuff ourselves (alone ?)

  • Harry Flashman

    *I am interested in the noble British Empire’s efforts to end the curse of slavery. Any particular war ?*

    Seriously Dewi, you are unaware that the prime force responsible for ending the global slave trade in the nineteenth century (as well as piracy) was the Royal Navy? Do you think the slave traders just woke up some morning and decided to call it a day?

    Man, you need to stop reading celtic twilight whingefests and actually read some real history;

    *What’s been articulated and strengthened for the last hundreds of years is the idea of a superior, noble, benevolent British Empite casting its kindly virtues to the ignorant natives anywhere they wanted.*

    I’m fairly certain that that version of history (which despite all the revisionism has actually got a germ of truth in it) hasn’t been taught in British schools for almost half a century, why do you pretend that it is still prevalent?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Dewi,
    I agree prices are far too high. But I think the tide is turning for you boyz for the better – I expect Ireland to replace you towards the bottom of the 6N – if not this year then next – we simply dont have the players coming through.

    Harry,

    sorry but I thought your boyz organised the massive slave trade which lead to death and deportation of millions of africans and got filthy rich ( in the real sense of the words) on the back of it. The fact that abolition ( plus compensation for owners ) was introduced by a latter generation does not alter that fact. It was murderous, genodcidal and a very British form of trade – lets have a bit more contrition and a bit less boasting old chap. I have little time for Markist history and equally little for revisonist imperialist nonesense either.

  • Dewi

    “Seriously Dewi, you are unaware that the prime force responsible for ending the global slave trade in the nineteenth century (as well as piracy) was the Royal Navy”

    Primary Motivation ? – yeah right

    “Man, you need to stop reading celtic twilight whingefests and actually read some real history”

    I do read real history – a lot of which has been to lost to peiople on these islands. On schools – I hope things are better but don’t find many school leavers with much knowledge of Merthyr Rising, Chartist March on Newport or even Glyndwr – that’s real history to me.

  • Garibaldy

    Of course the first European country to abolish slavery in the modern era was France under the Jacobins, supposedly evil and dictatorial, during the Revolution (I’m deliberately ignoring the question of whether feudalism made slaves of people or the tiny number of serfs still in France). Its restoration was part of Napoleon’s conservative social programme. Kudos to the C19th Brits for abolishing the trade, even if not in quite the glorious fashion Harry suggests.

    As for the Empire as great, a lot more of that in schools than people think, never mind popular culture with idiots like Niall Ferguson. Can’t believe people still like to ignore its blindspots. And I think Harry’s line about the stable, freest etc countries is highly disingenuous.

  • Dewi

    A little more considered:

    The magazine contains a work (translated into English by the author) by Angharad Price who won the literature medal at the St David’s National Eisteddfod in 2002.

    Her favourite line of poetry (from the BBC)

    A dyma ni’n dod at y mynydd,
    Pawb efo’i loes yn ei law.

    Which means

    And here we come to the mountain, all with their pain in their hands.

    Now – whatever anybody thinks of that (and I’m neutral) – I really can’t see it appealing to the mass Archipelagogic audience. Think it best for all that England re-invents itself and we settle ourselves outside the Empire.. Now Pete – that’s on topic !

  • Harry Flashman

    *It was murderous, genodcidal and a very British form of trade*

    Fascinating, so the trade in slaves which goes back into the very beginning of mankind, which was mentioned in the Bible and which existed among the classic Greeks and Romans, which was carried out by Irish pirates, Barbary corsairs, Arab merchants, Spanish dukes, Russian princes, French plutocrats, Chinese emperors, Japanese warriors, Belgian aristocrats, African kings and which was still legal in Saudi Arabia until the 1960′s and which truth be told still exists to this very day in several countries in Africa is all the fault of the one actual country that brought an end to the slave trade?

    Christ help us but some people can’t get past their anglophobia even on such a simple fact. The United Kingdom spent more money abolishing the slave trade in the nineteenth century than it made profits from the trade in the previous centuries.

    Get over yourselves lads.

    *Can’t believe people still like to ignore its blindspots.*

    Yeah because the bad parts about the history of the British Empire never get discussed in our schools, universities, newspapers, books, or in the media now do they?

    I mean it’s all gung-ho Imperial jingoism in the comments pages of the Guardian and on the BBC isn’t it?

  • Garibaldy

    Harry,

    Given that the Guardian is far from the biggest-selling paper and loses money, and that the biggest selling papers are the jinogistic ones, I don’t really see that as a valid argument. Especially when the most recent major tv show and book on Empire was pro-imperial. The BBC is a vast organisation, and carries both pro- and anti-imperial shows.

  • susan

    Dewi
    “Now – whatever anybody thinks of that (and I’m neutral) – I really can’t see it appealing to the mass Archipelagogic audience.”

    Dewi, there is no mass archipelagogic audience, and there never will be, so they might as well suit themselves, you know?

    You need to hold on to more confidence in the beauty and the resonance of the Welsh language.The fragment in your post last night is beautiful, beautiful enough to make me realise it’s years, years — years — since I really listened to spoken Welsh. On a random thought I entered “Welsh poetry” in YouTube, and listened to some of Daffyd Iwan — you can’t tell me he wouldn’t hold a poetry audience in Belfast or Galway in the palms of his hands because he would, he would.

    Welsh is extraordinary. Set it to music and more people will find it, even if we’ve no idea why it resonates. Don’t worry about the inevitable few who will rip even an honest attempt — cynics have to eat too, and there’s enough psuedo pan-Celtic twilight ephemera out there to justify a little of their cynicism.

    Pete, I only had a chance just now to listen to one of the speeches, and of course I listened to Seamus Heaney because why wouldn’t you? Very entertaining and the last line of his prose poem, or whatever he decides to call it, could be the epitaph for many, yeah?

    “He spends his days just walking
    round the island/workin’ the head”

  • Pete Baker

    It could be indeed, susan.

    Also of note, in relation to that particular prose poem, is Seamus Heaney’s own writer’s room – as recorded in the Guardian recently

    “The desk surface is a slab of board on two filing cabinets..”

  • páid

    Harry Flashman,

    go the extra sixteenth of an inch, and tell us all about the white man’s burden.

  • Elliot Mitcham

    páid

    It’s sad to see someone try and apply childish storybook ‘goddies and baddies’ viewpoints to actual history.

    Please stop.

  • susan

    Thanks for the link, Pete. I know you were only explicating the meaning of that particular poem, and did not deliberately mean to increase my despair over the chaos of my own work space.

  • Pete Baker

    susan

    I’ve been telling myself that he had plenty of warning that the photographer was coming round..

  • Dewi

    Elliot – Harry started it LOL (or perhaps not…)

    Susan – nice post – “Dewi, there is no mass archipelagogic audience, and there never will be, so they might as well suit themselves, you know?”

    I think that was my point – but expressed ever so eloquently and without the digression into imperial bloodbaths for which I apologise.

  • susan

    No need to apologise, Dewi. We’ve all been there. :o)

    Pete, I told myself that. I also told myself the piece mentioned hiring a professional to “redesign” the space. I now blame the annexation of my archipelagic mind for the fact that my work surface looks like a swamp.

  • Dewi

    Archipelagic is a racket – to catch
    The unwary and tragic.
    From Dublin town with a weary frown.
    The trams just look so majic.

    Not quite cynghanedd or a limerick but a bit brain dead. The trams just look like TGVs and go 10 miles an hour – cool though.

  • susan

    lol, Dewi. You’ve gone over my head now, and the jedi nun in the blue aviators isn’t helping:

    http://www.cynghanedd.com/annedd/

  • Dewi

    They have weekly Cynghanedd lessons in Bangor cricket club every week through autumn and winter – that is so wonderful – thanks Susan I certainly need some teaching….. (why on earth do they play cricket though…..)

  • susan

    Dewi, I am certifiably dyslexic on the subject of why anyone plays cricket, or even how. Everything goes misty on me as soon as the subject comes up. But I will look for you in upcoming issues of Archipelago, all the same.

  • páid

    Elliot,

    explain your comment, please.

  • Elliot Mitcham

    páid

    I don’t beleive it is very productive to try to trivialise any good done by any party, even one as fundamentally vile as the British Empire.

    Take the United States as it stands for instance, the Cold War was riddled with CIA backed coups against democratically elected governments and its current behaviour shows it’s only gotten worse, but it was still instrumental in liberating Western Europe from Nazi occupation. A great deed even with a knowledge of many American misdeeds both before and after.

  • Harry Flashman

    *CIA backed coups against democratically elected governments*

    Off the top of my head I could name one at a very long stretch (the army in Chile would have taken over with or without the minor assistance of the CIA, it was pretty much a domestic Chilean affair despite the feverish imaginings of the “Pepsi-Cola” conspiracy theorists).

    How many democratically elected governments were undermined by the KGB? Dozens and dozens I think.

    It’s actually quite simple to spot the good guys and the bad guys in history, you generally just have to stop reading soppy left wing propaganda and read actual, you know, history.

  • Garibaldy

    Can you name some of these dozens of governments Harry?

    And while you’re at it perhaps you can explain how it is that both Korea and Vietnam were kept divided against the wishes of their peoples by US interference, but of course in a democratic fashion.

  • Harry Flashman

    All the former states of the Warsaw Pact were undemocratically overthrown by Soviet Communist parties and hijacked into the Soviet Empire. The Soviet Union spent the entire Cold War seeking to undermine and destabilise the democratic governments of the West, as well as many states in Asia, Africa and South Amereica. Christ, Garibaldy do ye really need such basic history lessons?

    Southern Vietnam fought a long hard war against the North and millions of their citizens were murdered or enslaved as prisoners of re-education camps by the Northern aggressors or forced to flee as refugees huddled in leaking boats.

    If South Korea wants to become part of Kim Jung Il’s looney tune state no-one is stopping them, here’s the thing though, they don’t want to.

    Yawn, once again simple historical facts defeat emotive leftist propaganda.

    Next?

  • Garibaldy

    harry,

    I think it might be you on needs the lesson on pre and post-war central and eastern European history if you think that the eastern bloc came about through the undemocratic overthrow of governments in those states.

    I note the absence of specific examples. It seems to me the Soviets wanted stability and peace, especially in Europe. After all they were terrified of being attacked again. Africa and Asia were seen as fair game by both sides, although again no specific example of a democratic government overthrown by the KGB.

    Vietnam was denied the referendum promised due to the French and the Americans. Hence the civil war in which the Americans interfered. Koreans in the south may not want to join with the north now, but they did when the Americans and their allies abused the UN to interfere there too.

    Once again historical fact defeats blatant and inaccurate assertion from the right.

    See how easily we can all be self-righteous?

  • dewi

    Harry – to put it mildly our historical perspectives differ slightly. Do you really, honestly, believe that Ho Chi Minh lacked majority popular support in Vietnam ?

  • Elliot Mitcham

    Harry

    The CIA are quite well known for having a hand in the coups in the following places:

    Iran 1953
    Guatemala 1954
    Congo 1960
    Iraq 1963
    Nicaragua 1981-1990

    “How many democratically elected governments were undermined by the KGB? Dozens and dozens I think.”

    You don’t become somehow ‘good’ just because there’s someone worse than you.

  • Harry Flashman

    Elliot, how many of the above cases were democratic governments?

    As I recall the Left got their knickers in a twist about the Contras in the 1980′s, I too assumed at the time, being a silly misguided student that this was a case of US interference in a democratic country. I little realised that the Sandinistas who were subject to universal wankfests in the British and European media were in fact genocidal thugs (ask the native Indian populations about their treatment by Oriega, it was as awful as his treatment of his 12 year old step daughter, but no the BBC didn’t report much about that did it?).

    The Sandinistas who’d never won as much as an election to the post of head of Managua South Central’s drainage department turned a sleepy central American country into a bridgehead of Soviet military expansionism. The Contras fought them, demanded democracy, were universally excoriated by the liberal inteligensia but curiously enough won the popular election which saw the “hugely popular” Sandinistas being kicked out on their arses and then funny enough the Contras stopped fighting and peace and democracy was brought to Nicaragua.

    Garibaldy I admire your justification for the massively undemocratic siezure and enslavement of much of eastern and central Europe. I’m sure you’ll get hearty agreement from your Polish, Czech, Estonian, Latvian, Ukranian, Hungarian, Slovenian etc. neighbours about how the USSR was merely a benign force for peace and stability in Europe. I imagine they’ll agree completely with your opinion that the United States – the country which single handedly revived, enriched, protected and nurtured the devastated and traumatised nations of western Europe post 1945 and oversaw their transformation into the rich happy states they are today – was the real villain of the Cold War. Just don’t stand too near them if they’re drinking when you propound this theory, you could be swamped by a tsunami of liquid in the explosion of indignation.

    But hey, the US was the villain in the Korean war, imagine if only the South Koreans could have enjoyed the benefits of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and Kim Il Sing’s benevolent rule. Then there wouldn’t have been millions of South Koreans fleeing into the horrors of typhoons and pirates in the South China Sea to escape tyranny, oh wait that was the South Vietnamese escaping the benefits of kind old Uncle Ho’s “agrarian reforms” wasn’t it? My, now I’m confused I thought the Left wing dictatorships were the nice guys and it was the Americans who were the bad people, oh dear seems the sad, pathetic, illusions of the 1970′s Left will simply not lie down and die right.

    Stick with the historical facts boys.

  • Harry Flashman

    *Do you really, honestly, believe that Ho Chi Minh lacked majority popular support in Vietnam ?*

    Oh I’m not sure Dewi, why not ask the millions of South Vietnamese boat people, refugees and political prisoners who were enslaved and terrorised and murdered by the forces of the North, maybe they could tell you how popular Communism was.

    I mean how could anybody deny the benefits of Asian Communism when you’ve got glorious beacons of liberty like Mao, Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung to guide you?

    Even better why don’t the Communists have a free and fair election in Vietnam, you know with a free press and all? If they’re so popular they’d win hands down wouldn’t they?

    What? Wouldn’t they?

  • Garibaldy

    Harry,

    And I admire your ability to tell us to stick to the facts while thoroughly ignoring them. We’ve been over all this before. Although I will say in that list of countries you gave, one wasn’t under Soviet rule, and several of the others had fascist governments that were removed by the Soviets. So I would say that yes, at the time the people who weren’t hate-filled, racist Nazi collaborators were quite pleased to see the Soviets.

  • dewi

    Harry – I think I,ve finally twigged that we should not use a thread on poetry to rant about ideological conflicts. I’m usually the worse culprit – but let’s request a thread on Vietnam on some suitable anniversary for a full and frank discussion ?

  • Harry Flashman

    *the people who weren’t hate-filled, racist Nazi collaborators were quite pleased to see the Soviets.*

    Ah yes, anyone who didn’t support the Soviet takeover of their countries were Nazi colaborators, man you really bought into that Communist propaganda big time didn’t you?

    The Nazis were crushed in 1945, most of the subverting of eastern European nations in order that they be made Soviet satellites occurred in the period 1947-50, so factually you are incorrect. I suppose you believe that the Hungarians who rebelled in 1956, the Czechs in 1968, the Poles in 1981 and the Berliners who ripped down the wall in 1989 were all closet members of the Waffen SS do you?

    Dewi you may be right that this isn’t the thread but I find that I go with the threads as they develop. I am just frustrated that twenty years after the people of eastern and central Europe finally got their liberty, there are still liberals who grew up fat and happy in the west who still believe that Communist enslavement wasn’t a bad thing.

    They seem to take either the approach that in the ideological struggle between liberal democracy and Marxist imperialism both sides were equally at fault or even more bizarrely that the Marxists were actually morally superior.

    To look from the peaceful prosperity of western democratic society and gaze across the mountains of millions of dead victims of Marxism and look at the hollow eyed misery of the people who were imprisoned in those regimes and then conclude that the United States was the real villain of the Cold War takes an amount of cognitive dissonance that could probably only be cured by psychiatric treatment!

  • Garibaldy

    There were unity governments in place that were appointed not elected.
    As for Hungary, yes I do believe there was a lot of fascist involvement in 1956. There is a lot of evidence for it. The rest of the stuff is not relevant to the debate about the creation of the socialist states, not their collapse.

    Let’s be clear about something. Hitler’s willing excecutioners were not just German. Huge segments of the population in all those countries were incredibly hate-filled, anti-semetic and right-wing. They were far from democrats. These were not stable “normal” circumstances, and the creation of the states must be seen in those terms. So if we want to look at things as historians we must look at them in that context.

  • Harry Flashman

    Garibaldy, you clearly are convinced that Soviet enslavement was a great thing for the peoples of eastern and central Europe and that it was something that the peoples of those imprisoned nations desired for themselves. This is, I am afraid, a stunning example of the cognitive dissonance to which I refer above.

    Can I ask you one simple question, a yes or no wil suffice; in the struggle between Marxist imperialism of the Soviet variety and liberal democracy of the western European variety, which came to an end with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, do you believe the right side won?

  • Garibaldy

    I reject the terms of your question Harry. You speak of Soviet imperialism but neglect to mention the capitalist imperialism which continues to starve millions and leave around a billion in life threatening poverty. Never mind the various imperialist military adventures, repressive capitalist governments etc. Our lifestyles cannot be separated from the exploitation of other areas of the world (or of people within western democracies for that matter).

    So what I will say is that I think a socialist world would be fairer and more equitable than the one we have today. I am also happy to acknowledge the many mistakes made by the Soviets. But equally I am happy to laud their many achievements.

  • Nevin

    So, the literary folks are slowly catching up with the slowly evolving political archipelago as outlined in Strand Three of the 1998 Agreement. [pdf file]

    Hows about a little sample from the literary world of St John of Hume in his “Personal Views”:

    p130 … we do not expect the centre to solve our problems . we expect it to make it possible for us to resolve them ourselves . we are polygamists. rather than put all our hopes in the Belfast or London baskets, we look for opportunities and partnerships with an entire harem of centres
    p131 … in a polycentric world, promiscuity is an advantage

    Ironically, his three-stranded analysis failed to complement his post-nationalist/regionalist concepts outlined above.

    Variety is the spice of life and the archipelago dish has many distinctive flavours. Pass on the salt …

  • Nevin

    “What is articulated, strengthens” … prejudice?

  • Harry Flashman

    *I think a socialist world would be fairer and more equitable than the one we have today.*

    That’s plain enough then, I’ll take that as a no.

    Amazing! You believe that a system of government which never managed to achieve the consent of a majority of voters in a single national election in a hundred years but which during its time of operation saw the murder of at least a hundred million innocent men women and children and the enslavement of at least a billion more, is superior to the system in which you are free to express your political views and leads you and your family to live in peace, health and prosperity.

    Have you tried Pyongyang, Garibaldy? I believe the weather’s lovely at this time of year.

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh sorry one other thing, name one single achievement of the Soviets that the Russian people wouldn’t have been able to achieve with a liberal democratic government?

    Remember Joe Stalin and his Communist friends almost single handedly led Russia to massive defeat when his ally and friend Adolf Hitler betrayed him and attacked a Red Army that had been utterly demoralised and eviscerated by paranoid Communist purges.

  • Dewi

    “Oh sorry one other thing, name one single achievement of the Soviets that the Russian people wouldn’t have been able to achieve with a liberal democratic government”

    Kursk Salient.

    Can’t resist can I.

  • Harry Flashman

    If the Russians had had a competent, democratic government instead of paranoid scizophrenic Communists in charge, the Germans never would have got as far as the Kursk salient in the first place!

  • Garibaldy

    Yeah Harry. It wasn’t like the German army was walking all over all types of governments all over Europe. Britain survived only because it was an island. The Soviets survived because of their ability to mobilise human and material resources.

  • Harry Flashman

    *The Soviets survived because of their ability to mobilise human and material resources.*

    Yes after allying with, arming and supplying the Nazis the Communists finally mobilised to fight them.

    Maybe the Nazis would have caused serious problems to the Russians under a democratic government but at least in that situation the Russian army would have started the war as a functioning, well armed, disciplined force with well trained officers rather than the dysfunctional, paranoid, ill equipped rabble that Stalin’s purges had created and which lost millions of prisoners and millions of square miles of territory because the Communists couldn’t believe their good friends the Nazis would ever attack them.

    I repeat my question:

    “Name one single achievement of the Soviets that the Russian people wouldn’t have been able to achieve with a liberal democratic government?”

  • dewi

    First in Space ?

  • Harry Flashman

    They would have got there a lot earlier if their famous “chief designer”, the father of Russian rocketry and whose name escape me just at this moment, hadn’t spent six years in the gulag as a result of one of the insane Communist purges.

    This man was way ahead of Von Braun in developing ballistic weapons but of course instead of the Red Army having the ability to launch cruise missles on Berlin in 1943, he was languishing in a prsion cell as a result of Communist insanity.

    Try harder Dewi, you’re doing great son, you’ll come up with something eventually. ;-)

  • dewi

    Some half decent agitprop posters ?
    The word Stakanovite – always loved it.
    The liberation of Afghanistan with resultant opening of Celtic lapis lazuli trade ?

  • dewi

    And of course Detective Arklady Renko – incomparable star from the pen of Cruz Smith….

  • dewi

    Seriously read “At the Court of the Red Tsar” horrific stuff.

  • Harry Flashman

    Dewi, d’ya think we’ve thrashed this thread to death already?

  • http://threethousandversts.blogspot.com Chekov

    They wouldn’t have maintained a land empire stretching from the Pacific to the Baltic under a liberal democracy. :-) Empires are great! Russification was great too!

  • dewi

    Last from me – Olga Korbut – gorgeous! Yeah our behaviour not good – just can’t resist.
    And Chekov will ya keep to the subject of archipalegic culture like what the rest of us hqave managed so successfully……

  • Harry Flashman

    Das vidanya (is that right?).