Hugo Chávez Frias

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The death has been announced of President Hugo Chávez Frias. Chávez was the most recent of the Central and South American leaders whose left-wing policies and popularity seem to evoke such fear amongst western governments.

By chance, two Irish film-makers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha Ó Briain, were filming a documentary about Chávez and filmed events during a failed right-wing coup in 2002. This was first broadcast on RTÉ as Chávez: Inside the Coup, then in feature-length as The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. There is something evocative in the David and Goliath stand-offs between large corporate interests backed by US foreign and economic policy and the impoverished and embattled, if flawed, Central and South American states.

In that regard, Chávez’s death brought this piece to mind. It was written by Ricardo Garibay (published in various places), from a tape recording by Carlos Ortiz Tejada of the funeral of Pablo Neruda, only days after the right-wing Chilean coup and the death of President Salvadore Allende:

The funeral procession begins at the poet’s house, where the corpse was lying in state attended by his widow and sisters. The wake is held in the middle of a muddy, flooded room that was once his library. Books and documents are floating in the mud along with furniture. The day before, a stream was diverted into the house by the military who smashed everything in sight with their rifle butts and left the house flooded. The coffin has been removed and is being carried by some friends of the poet. Only a few people are present accompanying his widow and sisters and the Mexican Ambassador, Martinez Corbala.

Someone inquires and is told, “Pablo Neruda? “What? “Yes, sir, Pablo Neruda. And quietly the word spreads, and the name opens doors and windows, it begins to appear at half-closed shops, it descends from telephone poles with the workers who worked on them, it stops buses and it empties them, brings out people running from distant streets, people who arrive already crying, still hoping it is not true. The name keeps emerging, like a miracle of anger, in hundreds and hundreds of people – men, women, children almost all poor, almost all people of the shantytowns of Santiago – each of them becoming Pablo Neruda.

We hear a grayish noie of ordinary shoes, we smell the infinite dust, we feel on our eyes the strained breathing of thousands of throats that are ready to explode. Then we hear a sound: shy, half choked, prayed in secret – “Comrade Pablo Neruda? – and we hear an answer of someone who is saying, “Don’t tell that I said it, here now and forever. A voice shouts, “Comrade Pablo Neruda! and there, already in anger, “Here! – already throwing a hat, stepping firmly and facing the military who are approaching and surrounding the crowd.

And here begins something that we imagined ancient and monumental, something from the realm of great literature, something incredible, necessarily fantastic, because it belonged to pure thought and would never appear in the flesh at a street corner. Some kind of giant litany for who knows how many dead. Who knows how many more murdered people this litany is for? A remote voice, shrill voice, howls in a bestial, heartbreaking way, “Comrade Pablo Neruda! And a choir watched by millions of assassins, by millions of informers, sings “Here, with us, now and forever!

There, farther, here, on the right, on the left, at the end of the marching column, a column of three thousand, the Chilean cries rise up, twists of an inexhaustible womb of sadness, twinges of light: “Comrade Pablo Neruda! “Comrade Pablo Neruda! “Comrade Pablo Neruda! “Comrade Salvador Allende! “Here! “Here! “Here, with us, now and forever! “Chilean people, they are stepping on you, they are assassinating you, they are torturing you! “Chilean people, don’t give up, the revolution is awaiting us, we’ll fight until we finish with the henchmen!

Swirls of crying, swearing, threats, wailings, of darkness at noon, of voices choking with anger. Hellish vocabulary, crazy, heavenly words. Three thousand overwhelmingly defeated people are howling.

And suddenly, howling powerfully, a woman begins to sing Neruda’s verses. Her voice grown suddenly alone, “I have been reborn many times, from the depths of defeated stars . . . and all shout, all, they shout from their memories . . reconstructing the threats of eternities that I populated with my hands . . 

 

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  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    I agree Harry. The appeasers and cowards ended up causing 10s of millions their lives and many more folks years of misery and hardship.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello Harry and Joe,

    One of the reasons I mentioned “Chamberlain and the Lost Peace” by John Charmley was to get a bit of balance into the discussion. And to flag an historian who re-iterates arguments most of the senior soldiers I met in my childhood would have made. The issue is that Churchill inherited a situation where preparation had been made for the war over years of delay. If Britain had taken on Germany in 1934 then the Polish army would have been in a position to hold Hitler’s embryo army down in the east, possibly even defeat it, but in 1938 the situation was very, very different. The fighters that won the Battle of Britain were still only just entering production. My uncle flew Fairy Battles, and only survived the first months of fighting because his squadron did not go to France. So I have some idea just how woeful a show the airforce would have made against advanced German aircraft.

    Please, both of you, read Charmley! Joe, there must be some way you can get an interloan, or get a cheap copy sent from here! Churchill is being constantly re-interpreted as the old propaganda myths start to show their weaknesses. Think “Tony Blair.” Think “weapons of mass destruction.”

    And Joe, yes, the Nazis should have been contained early, but they weren’t. “The appeasers and cowards ended up causing 10s of millions their lives and many more folks years of misery and hardship.” But Churchill played his own role in this by fighting a war Britain was unprepared for and could never win unaided. Chamberlain was probably right and 1938 would have been an even more suicidal moment to start a war. But even by fighting Germany when he did Churchill effectively destroyed Britain and turned her into a second rate power, and he would not have been even as successful as he was without the groundwork of military preparation carried out under Chamberlain. Honour where honour is due. Please, please read John Charmley, and also his later book on Churchill. It’s a state of the art analysis of the career of the old rogue and intelligently outlines many of these issues.

    And please do not trust “history”, simply because a lot of people say it in print, this is simply repetition not proof. Over on the Presbyterian thread I’ve been arguing at length with Nevin, who has been insisting that a much repeated propaganda myth of the late seventeenth century is actually a fact. I’ve attempted to describe in my postings some of the ground rules of historical enquiry. There’s a great quote from Hiram Morgan on the article for the thread “Essentially the more you dig down into a subject, looking at the documents, the original sources, you get further and further away from your own preconceptions your own present mindedness as it were.”

    Harry have you read Corelli Barnett’s “Desert Generals”? The reason for the poor showing of the British generals (many of them Ulstermen) was that Churchill had started a war without the means to fight it. They were being asked to fight Rommel with a few outdated tanks and impossible supply lines. They, especially O’Connor, worked wonders! But I would agree with you about Monty, who was known by the people on the spot as a complete idiot. By the time he arrived most of the problems had been solved, but at Alamein Montgomery almost succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory! And his showing in north Europe, no comment! But remember he was Winnie’s man!

    When I was about five I heard a long serving (British Army) soldier say “A lie remains a lie, even when the entire world believes it.” The idea that Hugo Chávez is anything but another demagogue exploiting abstractions to delude his people is reasonably evident to a good number of us under the strident (inter)national socialist praise, but Churchill’s actual record needs a very similar dispassionate examination. Don’t repeat what you’ve been told, go and examine it!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Rory Carr, one of my ancestors made an American marriage one time. Many of the white settlers in the Appalachians during the eighteenth century had intermarried with the Cherokee. Alternate generations “murdered or married” is what I was told growing up.

    I have French, Spanish, Cherokee, Separdic Jewish ancestors that I know of as well as being decended from Niall Noígíallach and an ancient lowland Scots family. Perhaps that is why I’m so very allergic to thinking in straight lines! I may even be the only neo-Jacobite on this thread who has read (and understood, I think) Herbert Marcuse, which is why I have the problems I have with both Marx and his enemies!

  • Harry Flashman

    Yes Seaan I have read Barnett’s Desert Generals and he certainly deflates Monty’s image a bit (however it must be said if Monty’s thrust in May 1940 had been repeated by a few other Allied generals the Nazis could have met another 1914). But seriously how can Churchill get the blame for the dreadful ordinance and equipment that British troops were sent in to fight with in the first half of the war? He was the man screaming for rearmament and increased military spending throughout the 1930s.

    I’m all for a bit of revisionism and I will certainly dig out Charmley’s book (can I give a plug for Powells.com, a superb US second hand online bookshop that sells fantastic quality hard to find books at amazing prices, not as slick and shiny as Amazon but excellent service nonetheless?).

    However to make it out that Chamberlain was a farsighted strategic genius, stringing Hitler along until the British Army was ready (the British Army wasn’t ready until 1944, if even then) while Churchill was the fool who would have brought Britain to the brink of defeat in 1938 (as opposed to the brink of defeat in 1940 with no France, Czechoslovakia or Poland to help out?) takes quite a stretch.

    Hitler could have been stopped at the Rhineland or at the Czech border, Chamberlain and Baldwin chose to let him get fatter and then chose to fight him disastrously over Poland when it was too late. That seems so obviously a historical truism that I can’t accept it is some sort of myth.

    Churchill put it well in March 1939

    “If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.”

    You can dismiss him as an old bibulous imperialist windbag but I have to say he seems to have been phenomenally cleaer sighted than Chamberlain and for that matter most of the British top brass.

  • Greenflag

    @ Kevsterino .

    ‘it was the Native Americans who gave us tobacco. They knew what they were doing.’

    And in return they got the ‘firewater’ And at a later date were presented with ‘casino gambling emporiums’ :(

    I doubt the American Indians were aware of the carcinogenic add ons of tobacco .Neither was Buchanan Dukes .
    Ironically it was the South American Indians who were to have the greatest impact on European history .They did after all give us the ‘potato ‘ without which it is unlikeiy that Ireland’s population would ever have reached 8.5 million in the mid 19th century and the subsequent mass emigration which followed ?

    As we seem to be enmeshed in the pros and cons of Churchill , Chavez and WW2 and Russians in all the above it might be of interest to some to reflect on how the humble potato was the deciding factor in the survival of the early Prussian State as it fought several wars against Austrians , Russians and French . Back in the day it was customary for invading armies to purloin grain supplies and use them as a weapon to force submission of enemies . The canny Frederick the Great had several years earlier imported the ‘potato ‘ and encouraged it’s proliferation among the Prussian peasantry .The Austrians & Russians could never figure out how Frederick could keep supplying his soldiers with full stomachs to keep them on the march .

    In retro with no Prussian State there would have been no German Empire etc etc and subsequent history would have been ‘different . Hitler would have ended up a homeless hobo and Stalin might have remained a priest ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Harry, I have far, far too much respect for you (and relish for your comments) to brawl with you over an old rogue such as Churchill.

    But I’ll just have to say that I’m not suggesting that “Chamberlain was a farsighted strategic genius,” nor is Charmley! The real issue here is that Churchill’s rhetoric dragged Britain into a war they could never, ever win, and would have dragged them into an even worse situation in 1938. Eden, at Stressa, had decided (out of his patrician distain for what he called “wops”) to alienate Mussolini, who had been courting France and Britain and was, surprisingly, Hitler’s main enemy in Europe after the death of Józef Piłsudski (check out Hitler’s first attempt to annex Austria). So, with Mussolini now forced into Hitler’s fetid arms it is highly unlikely that the Austrian corporal would have been stopped by any Franco/British display far from “the Czech border.” While Churchill may have been “the man screaming for rearmament and increased military spending throughout the 1930s.” the simple fact is that this actually happened far too late, and simply running into a war without the goods was an act of lunatic hubris. In the long run, Britain was lucky to have got away with simply loosing control of their dominions to the United States (yes I know, not overtly…) and without an actual German invasion.

    As Ogden Nash says (about something completely different) “His Cause was right and his arm was strong, but he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong.” Even if old Winnie was clear sighted about the need to defeat Hitler, in the event his testosterone inspired tactics would simply have offered Hitler Europe on a plate, and while perhaps “it is better to perish than live as slaves” if I was an Englishman in 1939 I would have been wanting to choose the moment I would have perished for myself rather than at the vainglorious behest of someone else’s self intoxication (in both forms, alas, up to six bottles a day I hear!). Certainly, rather than being cowards, the British top Brass were simply doing their proper job of working out how to not actually loose a war, rather than hoping for the United States or the USSR to come and win it for them.

    But even the depleted British army could have acted with France, Italy and Poland to stomp on Hitler and prevent the Rhineland remilitarization. After that debacle any action was going to be potentially suicidal.

    Have a crack at Charmley, and see if he offers you anything that might get you to rethink Churchill. No pressure, though, I respect the sincerity of your defence, and I know a lot of people I really like who seem to respect the old dilettante.

    And I wonder when Roy will be getting back to us with those USSR production figures? I hope he has not forgotten….

  • Greenflag

    There was a school of thought amongst the WW2 appeasers -many of them in the British Army top brass and aristocracy who seriously believed that Hitler was good for Germany and with his anti communist credentials would also help to shore up western defences against the red menace .

    France in the 1930′s was politically more divided than the USA today but without the USA’s economic strength . That the French could have marched into Germany in 1936 and defeated Hitler before he became too strong is one of those what could have beens of history . But France itself had memories of the slaughter of WW1 and would not have wanted a repeat performance . Also there were still memories of the ‘insanity ‘ of the French declaration of War on Prussia in 1870 when a much smaller French Army was forced into war by the ‘mob’ with the cry of ‘To Berlin ‘ only to find Paris under siege in a few weeks and were finally forced into a humiliating defeat .

    Looking back is easy .Despite their strength in armed forces in 1936 France was ripe for revolution from the left the communists and the right with their home grown fascists .
    Divided they fell .

  • Greenflag

    There was of course a hope amongst many British politicians /top brass and indeed the French and Americans that Hitler would’nt last more than a couple of years .There had been so many assassination attempts on Hitler that it was a standing joke as who would be the lucky one . On one occassion he left a political platform a couple of minutes earlier than anticipated .As he was driven away the bomb exploded under the platform killing a dozen people . And that was before 1939 iirc .

    And then there was that Irish Bavarian policeman who rescued Hitler and a companion from being kicked to death by a communist mob in Munich in 1928.

    Whoever is responsible for the ‘universe ‘ wanted Hitler to live or so it would seem :(

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Two excellent postings Greenflag! Thank you. Yes everything has consequences. But the Generals I’m speaking about above, if my family stories are true, actually wanted to beat Hitler, and their assessment of Britain’s honest chances of success was exactly nil. They were realists, not appeasers in the old blanket sense of the term in the story that has come down to us.

    Such generals looked to belligerent continentals such as Józef Piłsudski and Benito Mussolini to provide the muscle against Hitler, as their own governments conspicuously would not. This was realism, rather than alignment with the systems these men represented, but even so, neither man could begin to compete in political unpleasantness with Stalin, whom Britain finally fought alongside.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Three!

  • Greenflag

    @ SeanUiNeill

    ‘ the Generals I’m speaking about above, if my family stories are true, actually wanted to beat Hitler, and their assessment of Britain’s honest chances of success was exactly nil. They were realists,’

    Britain’s main defence was always the navy . The British Army could never match in numbers what the Germans and/or French/Russians could put in the field . Thus it was always British policy to keep the ‘continent ‘ divided and to prevent any one power be they France (under Napoleon) or Germany (under Kaiser or Fuhrer) or Russia (under Tsar or Stalin ) from achieving hegemony over the continent .

    To an extent that policy remains the same today vis a vis the Eurozone and European integration . Ireland was always of course tucked way out of sight and hearing from mainland Europe since the Second Conquest (Circ 1558) so that it could not prove to be a base for a flank attack on England and later Great Britain. Scotland was also up to the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie considered a possible back door entrance for a French attack .

    Regardless of Churchill’s personal peccadillos I remain convinced that with any other politician in Downing Street at the time the outcome of WW2 would have been somewhat different .How Churchill managed to become PM is another story of which that not too many English or Irish people are aware . The background challenge and plotting to have Churchill replace Chamberlain was organised by Brendan Bracken a scion of a Tipperary family and whose family were founder members of the GAA and involved in the early IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood ).

    Bracken was appointed Minister for Information by Churchill and hired George Orwell to work for the BBC propaganda service .Later Orwell is said to have based his ‘Big Brother’ in the Ministry of Truth in 1984 on Brendan Bracken’s ‘persona ‘ .

  • Rory Carr

    SeaanUiNeill,

    My “How ?” was meant as a greeting, Amerindian style, not a presumptious demand for genealogical details.

    You sure you’re Cherokee ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Rory, Yes. People like me are very careful with their “genealogical details.” We look for proof before we accept anything. I’m still awaiting the USSR production figures…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Greenflag, great reply with lots of real info. English historians frequently say of poor old Brendan “of unknown background” but at least the Slugger readers will know better now.

    My father was a sailor who fought in the war, and that’s another run of stories I was told. But as Yeats says in a poem, describing this very thing, “But this is not the old sea, nor this the old sea shore.” The real issue was that the Luftwaffe controlled the air over France, and without mistakes would have facilitated an invasion of Britain. The Battle of Britain was a very near run thing where at least one of Churchill’s calls almost lost it. And sea power was effectivly going to the U boat until the USA entered the war.

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh dear Seaan I was going to stay out of it but I really can’t let that pass.

    There is not a hope in hell of the Germans mounting a successful invasion of Britain, even if the Luftwaffe had defeated the RAF, those oul’ Dutch barges full of German troops being towed out into the Autumn gales in the Channel would have been a turkey shoot for the Royal Navy.

    The British had a hundred or more destroyers, let alone frigates and corvettes, that would have raced up and down the Channel ripping into the German invasion convoys like terriers into a rabbit warren, the battleships and cruisers could have safely bottled up both ends of the Channel shelling embarkation ports and landing beaches.

    And precisely what would the few thousand German troops, without tanks or heavy artillery do when they landed on the south coast of England? It’s a long walk up to London when all you’ve got is the rifle on your back and a couple of days’ rations in your pockets. The British army wasn’t entirely without weaponry by September 1940 and there was a full division of Canadian troops waiting to get stuck in.

    Those miserable bedraggled, sea-sick members of the Wehrmacht who manged to scrabble ashore from the few invasion barges that actually made it across the Channel would have found it very heavy going capturing a nation of forty-five million people without logistic support, transport, food, ammunition resupply, winter clothes, tents, new boots, artillery or adequate orders from home.

    The invasion of Britain was a nonsensical idea from the start and even a maniac like Hitler knew that.

  • Greenflag

    @ SeanUi Neill ,

    ‘The Battle of Britain was a very near run thing ‘

    Twas indeed .Had Goering continued his ‘bombing campaign ‘another couple of weeks the RAF would have not had enough pilots to fly remaining aircraft . RAF pilots who ended up in the Curragh camps having come down on Irish territory soon enough found themselves back in the Battle of Britain via a taxi cab to Belfast following the nudge and wink of camp guards and the blind eye and the gate left ajar etc .

    Many of these very brave men returned to certain death somewhere in the skies over London or the main cities of the UK .

    German POWs meanwhile spent their war years in Ireland in relative comfort and quite a few remained after the war .

    Call it Irish ‘neutrality ‘ I suppose ?

  • Greenflag

    @ Harry Flashman ,

    ‘The invasion of Britain was a nonsensical idea from the start ‘

    It was’nt . It had been done before in historic times -twice in fact .By the Romans in 43 AD under Emperor Cl Cl Cl Claudius .and by the Normans in 1066 under William the Conqueror a.k.a William the Bastard -successfully and the Danes took half the country or more before being ‘weakened ‘ by conversion to Christianity in the 10th century.

    While the British Navy was far superior to the German navy at the time apart from in number of submarines – that superiority would only have worked had the RAF control of the skies above the Channel .Had the RAF been defeated the German Luftwaffe would have ‘sunk ‘ the frigates destroyers etc in the crowded Channel within a few months or at least enough of them to enable a successful large scale invasion from Norway , Holland and France . Ireland would not have escaped a subsequent invasion despite our ‘neutrality ‘

    Numbers -Harry -numbers . After Dunkirk the British Army was in poor shape and would have needed and did need several years to rebuild .

    The Spanish Armada had it landed would have defeated the then Tudor forces . Spain at the time had the largest trained army in Europe and it’s population was estimated to have been 25 million as compared to England’s 5 million . The same would have true for Napoleon’s Grand Army had they landed on Britain’s shore .

    Naopleon & Hitler succumbed to the lure of Russia whereas the Armada succumbed to the eh ‘weather ‘

    Just as well eh

    I read that the Richard III Society are insisting on a Catholic reburial for he who lost his kingdom and his horse at Bosworth’s field . A staunch and pious Catholic was Richard III so it can be surmised that had the White Roses defeated the Red Roses on that fateful day England would have remained within the Catholic fold and we Irish would have had to become Protestant to support our claim to ‘sovereignty ‘ and independence ?

    And of course that subsequent Armada would never have taken place ?

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Call it Irish ‘neutrality ‘ I suppose ?
    Call it the cheap option.
    Greenflag: A staunch and pious Catholic was Richard III so it can be surmised that had the White Roses defeated the Red Roses on that fateful day England would have remained within the Catholic fold…
    A descendant of the Henry that beat him earned the title of ‘Fidei Defensor’, which the current queen still keeps, so I don’t think you can count on a Yorkist monarchy turning out any differently.

  • Greenflag

    reader ,

    ‘so I don’t think you can count on a Yorkist monarchy turning out any differently.’

    I was’nt counting -I was surmising – Of course it might not have turned out differently just as much as it might not have turned out the same . Had Henry VIII’s sperm count and choice of wife and his health problems been less – his Fidei Defensor title might have continued to have been loyal to Rome .

    As for the cheap option . In retro it was the best option for the then Ireland which could quite easily have returned to Civil War in which case the Free State would have been a hindrance rather than a help to Britain in WWII.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    What a thread. From Chavez through WW2 tactics and generals to HenryV111′s sperm count.

  • Harry Flashman

    Greenie neither the Ancient Britons nor the Anglo Saxons possessed the biggest and most powerful navy the world had ever seen fighting for its life in its home waters.

    I enjoy a good “what if?” as much as the next man but sorry, no German invasion fleet was ever going to get within an ass’s roar of the English coastline, Herman Goering’s much vaunted Luftwaffe (who had just let the same navy whip out an entire army from right under its bombsights) notwithstanding.

    You could have sunk half of the entire Royal Navy and there would still have been enough left to wipe out the strings of barges full of sea sick Germans slowly waddling through the wind and rain of the Channel in Autumn.

  • Kevsterino

    Harry, if America had never entered the war after Pearl Harbor, I don’t see how the Royal Navy could have maintained their effectiveness for more than a year.

    Do you agree?

  • Harry Flashman

    As I said in relation to the Russians it was a joint effort Kev, that’s why they were called allies, without the Yanks the Russians couldn’t have won, without the Brits the Yanks couldn’t have won, without the Russians nobody could have won.

    I fail to see the point of this determination to denigrate the role played by the British in the Second World War, perhaps the most vitally important role of the entire war in 1940, ensuring that the Russians weren’t on their own (and consequently losing) and the Americans would eventually get around to fighting the Nazis.

    If the Brits had lost in 1940 the Russians could not have held on and the Americans would never have come in. Furthermore what everyone here seems to overlook with their could-have-beens and might-have-beens is that the British did actually win in 1940, not by luck, fluke or mischance but by successfully defeating the attack on her by better tactics and fighting ability.

    The British very successfully defended their island in 1940 thus leaving Hitler’s western flank wide open, absent that and he would have won hands down. It came at a massive cost and blood and treasure but the British did it and paid the price, they deserve credit and not this constant nit-picking and derisory revisionism.

    Just a few wee facts to throw into the pot the British Empire mobilised about 10 million men in the war, they deployed the world’s biggest navy and the world’s biggest merchant fleet, they also had the third largest manufacturing industry in the world and had an empire spanning the globe, their air force was one of the best in the world as were their aircraft.

    The British fought in the Arctic, the desert, jungles, Italy, Germany, Greece, France, North Africa, Burma, Malaya as well as in their own native land. Their navy fought in every sea under the sun and the air force flew over Europe nightly wreaking death and devastation on the Nazi heartland.

    As late as Autumn 1943 the British still had a larger number of men under arms and in the field than the US.

    The British were not the pathetic losers barely able to put up a fight without the help of the Russians and Americans that history rewriters now wish to paint them

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Harry,

    Once again, I agree. If the UK had not fought, the Germans would have attacked the USSR a year earlier probably before the Russians had time to recover from Stalin’s army purges and his subsequent mighty efforts to re-arm.We might all be speaking German otherwise. No one nation was decisive. it was very much a joint effort and we should not attempt silly revisionism.

  • Greenflag

    @ harry ,

    I don’t think anybody on this thread is trying to denigrate Britain’s role in WW2 . My point was that a PM other than Churchill might well have agreed to an ‘armistice’ or stand off with the Germans given the then British military’s top brass assessment of the ‘numbers ‘ and the likelihood of a successful outcome to the war if Britain had to stand alone .

    As it was Churchill had quite a struggle in Cabinet in persuading his Government that the war should continue … Had British policy been other than that -as you state above the consequences would have been dire for the Russians and the US would most likely have been confined to a Far Eastern war with Japan .

    Kevsterino is right however re the ability of the navy to maintain it’s effectiveness without the USA entering the war .

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m sorry, Greenflag, to come in so late with a point to add to your excellent 12.25 posting on yesterday. While you mention the Armada (which would have won hands down!) and Napoleon (ditto) you have left out the one invasion of Britain since1066 that was entirely successful. I would have thought that the Dutch invasion of 1688, where a nation that had been that national enemy of England, Scotland and Ireland since the 1650s successfully landed a foreign army, and with the support of a small body of influential Quislings, substituted the head of state of a foreign power for the legitimate King, is the most telling parallel from history. And before you begin to refer to “the Glorious Revolution, Democracy, and British Liberties” please (PLEASE!) go back to Herbert Butterfield’s “The Whig interpretation of history.” Every serious historian knows this work, which has been one of most influential books on historical theory of the last century.

    This a big, but very useful quote from Wikipedia;
    “He found Whiggish history objectionable because it warps the past to see it in terms of the issues of the present, to squeeze the contending forces of, say, the mid-17th century into those which remind us of ourselves most and least, or to imagine them as struggling to produce our wonderful selves.” I don’t think I need to labour just how it applies to much that is being written on this thread.

    I’ve quoted Hiram Morgan’s words on the earlier Presbyterian thread before, but they are so apt at this point:

    “Essentially the more you dig down into a subject, looking at the documents, the original sources, you get further and further away from your own preconceptions your own present mindedness as it were.”

    And, Harry, going back and reading some of the modern historical re-appraisals would have put your model of co-operation on a much, much surer footing. Its not a matter of not fighting Hitler, its a matter of when would have been moist efficacious moment for entry into a war for his defeat. Yes, it was a joint effort that won the war, but the early entry by the British and French weakened them so much that the delivery of a post war world to Russia and the USA became inevitable. And I know that you probably share my abhorrence of Stalin’s post-war expansion and its foul effects on European civilisation in general.

    And Mister_Joe, with every respect, you should not call historical re-appraisals “silly” that you have not actually assessed with your own research and careful reading. If I were ignorant of careful historical research, I would feel that any comments I make are so subjective as to render them completely invalid. And I imagine that a desire to prevent the closing up avenues of thought is essentially what many ordinary people thought they were fighting the war for. It remains one of the most honourable of the war aims and is not invalidated just because we were unable to achieve it.

    One last quote from Butterfield himself: “The greatest menace to our civilization is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness — each only too delighted to find that the other is wicked — each only too glad that the sins of the other give it pretext for still deeper hatred.”

  • Harry Flashman

    OK let’s have a bit of fun with a theory I’m coming around to more and more. What if Britain had stayed out of the war altogether. Would the end result in Europe have been in any way different?

    Let’s see, a weakened France and western Europe falls under de facto German economic control, after a few decades borders are erased and a central European bank is set up in Germany dictating economic policy to the rest of Europe.

    After a prolonged war in the East Russia has captured much of central and eastern Europe but after exhaustion both Germany and the Soviet empire live with a hostile armed peace for decades with a tightly guarded border between the two sides.

    Meanwhile Hitler successfully murders the Jewish population of eastern Europe without hindrance. But like Stalin Hitler too dies in the early fifities and both the Nazis and Communists weaken their ideologies simply looking to get by and ease off the mass murder and concentration camps by the 1960′s in pursuit of consumer goods and bigger rockets.

    America gets rich supplying goods and foods to a prosperous Europe while Britain simply builds up its airforce and navy and stands off in armed preparation for a hot war that never comes.

    In other words precisely what happened anyway.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Or, harry, they enter the war at a later point after both Germany and Russia have weakened each other, and can then act as an equal to the USA with all those resourses taht a few more years of peace have permitted themto build up.

    But either way, why go into a war they were still unprepared for in 1939?

  • Harry Flashman

    “why go into a war they were still unprepared for in 1939?”

    But why blame Churchill for that Seaan? It was the far-sighted Chamberlain who took an unready Britain to war in 1939, and in fairness at least the Navy was ready by 1940 and you know who was in charge of that don’t you?

  • Kevsterino

    Harry, I did not mean to imply that British arms were anything but essential in the allied victory in Europe in World War II. For the sake of clarity, allow me to state it is hard to conceive how the Nazis could have been defeated without them. It certainly would have taken longer.

    The French are another story entirely.