This month, we look at a fascinating book about how wars are justified, and a failed attempt to do something for Gordon Brown’s tattered reputation...
Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age, edited by David Welch and Jo Fox, hardback, 397 pages, ISBN 978-0-230-24627-0, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, £70.
DAVID WELCH’S book is a fascinating collection of essays on the 20th century’s wars, with the exception of two dreadful ones on the First World War by David Welch and Catriona Pennell. The rest are scholarly and objective.
Welch tells us that the Liberal Party “was intrinsically anti-war, as was the fledgling Labour Party.” In the real world, both parties backed the uniquely vast slaughter of the First World War from first to last. Welch also claims wrongly that it is “fair to say that few, if any, scholars would deny Germany and Austria-Hungary’s larger share of responsibility for the outbreak of war.” Pennell ends by justifying that war as fought “in defence of justice, honour and democracy”.
The other essays in the collection demonstrate that the British state and its house historians lie about its wars being all for honour, justice, the rule of law and the rights of small nations. They lie that its wars will end war, from the First World War to arming and backing Al-Qaeda forces in Syria today.
Other essays explore the British state’s use of the cults of Wellington, General Gordon, Lord Kitchener and Churchill to mask or justify the horrors of colonial wars and massacres. European states lie that they always wage chivalric, Christian struggles for civilisation, democracy and freedom, against evil, against savages, barbarians and despots. Their churches preach Holy Wars and Crusades, using Biblical allusions (comically indexed here as “Biblical illusions”).
The capitalist ruling class absolutises all its wars as cosmic struggles between good and evil. It uses up soldiers’ lives and turns their deaths into “sacrifices that must not be in vain”, to justify yet more deaths in vain.
Goering cynically claimed, “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
So far, in too many wars, the mass of the British working class have proved Goering right. We have slavishly followed the ruling class’s bugle calls to war.
“Saving the World”? Gordon Brown Reconsidered, by William Keegan, paperback, 109 pages, ISBN 978-1-907720-56-7, Searching Finance Ltd, 2012, £9.99.
Smug, smiling, and a disaster for Britain: Gordon Brown at a meeting in Berlin in 2009.
In this book, journalist William Keegan tries to make the case for Gordon Brown. But even the facts he cites are enough to damn Brown.
Keegan notes how Brown took the Labour Party path from young “left” to hard right. Brown also always needed a leader. His first guru was the “left” Labour MP James Maxton, later it was Alan Greenspan, the Ayn Rand-loving chairman of the US Federal Reserve. Greenspan told us we could let finance regulate itself. So Chancellor Brown gave the City of London the infamous “light-touch” regulation.
On Brown’s watch, manufacturing output was no higher in 2006 than in 2000. Real household incomes rose only 6 per cent from 2004 to 2007 and household debts soared. He inflicted PFIs on our public services, forcing our hospitals and schools to pay capitalists vast sums for decades. So Brown asset-stripped industry, the working class and our services.
Keegan tells the usual tale that Brown kept us out of the euro, but then explains that Ed Balls convinced Brown that joining the euro would end his power over the currency.
In his book Beyond the Crash, Brown claimed that he had no idea what the City did: he wrote that after Lehman’s bust, “I was furious to discover that other major banks too were recklessly using their customers’ own money to speculate.” What did he think they were gambling with? He also claimed not to have known that top bankers paid themselves huge sums at the expense of their banks’ capital holdings.
He would have us believe that he “had not fully appreciated that moral norms were not constraining the behaviour of those competing across complex and interlocked global entities that covered both shadow and formal banking systems.” Yet for years he had talked about the need for such “moral norms”. This most well prepared and well informed Chancellor’s claims of ignorance were just pathetic lies.
For 13 years at the top of government, Brown was a hatchet man for capital. He promised to end boom and bust, but he boosted the bankers’ boom and made the working class pay for the bust. Brown didn’t save capitalism. He used the crisis that finance capitalists caused to give them our money and he did nothing to prevent the next financial crisis.
So the looting goes on. As Keegan points out, “Even in 2012, the banks have been behaving appallingly.” They are still winning from their one-way bets, still profiting from the bailouts and quantitative easing that successive governments have given them.
Capitalism is still in absolute decline. And so is Brown’s reputation, despite Keegan’s effort. ■