Communism in India finds its mainstay and support in the eastern and northeastern sections of the country. These are relatively backwards, rural, and underdeveloped for the most part, although they also contain the very populous area of Kolkata and surroundings, the state of West Bengal. The highly impoverished poor farmers and land laborers of this region as well as the proletariat of Kolkata has a strongly developed class consciousness, and as a result Communism has found a secure footing there, even in times when globally its powers are at a low ebb. Continue reading “Communists Fight in India”
Month: June 2009
The Bankers Banquet
Today the Deutsche Presse Agentur reports that the Bundestag as well as the Länder have accepted the bill that would amend the German constitution to ban deficit spending.1 Of the sixteen Länder, only three voted in opposition. In Germany, all left forces are represented by Die Linke, which this past weekend held its party conference in preparation for the Bundestag elections later this year. It vigorously opposed the bill, but did not possess the power to prevent it. Now it has sought the advice of the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe, but it is not clear on what basis they seek to have them block the bill on their behalf.
The results can well be imagined. This rigid deference to economic dogma is likely to chain the beast of state until it can no longer move. But it will soon become clear to the Germans how difficult life is when one can neither save nor borrow. In California the result of a similar mindset has been disastrous already: there, ‘white’ taxpayers threw off the yoke of maintaining a humane lifestyle for the many immigrants to that state by passing an amendment effectively making any absolute increase in taxation impossible. Given the strong population growth from immigration over the decades, this had the obvious effect of utterly bankrupting the state. It is now forced to choose whether to auction off its future by shutting down its excellent state education system or whether to die heroically in the present by declaring bankruptcy and effectively committing suicide. It may be suspected a similar motive is behind this particular law in Germany. The very wealthy bourgeois of southern Germany in particular have long been incensed at ‘their’ money being spent on such fruitless endeavors as state improvements in the dilapidated eastern and northern parts of the country.
It is telling that the attempt by the European Union of the bankers to restrict nations to deficit spending of no more than 3% of GDP has failed entirely, with most major nations blithely ignoring the regulation: Germany itself already has a deficit worth 4% of its GDP. In 2005, a change in the regulation was passed that makes it for the most part nonoperative.2 If even the cautious German politicians see no value in placing themselves in an economic straight-jacket for the benefit of bank creditors, there is little reason to believe this law serves any other purpose than to ‘starve the beast’ in favor of feeding the wealthy. No surprise of course that precisely the poorest northeastern Länder Berlin, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein opposed the bill.
Insiders are already quite aware that the European Central Bank’s policy is strongly based on the views and methods of the German central bankers, and their orthodoxy of economic dogma is infamous. Desiring to be ‘more Roman than the Pope’, their restrictive monetary policy has threatened deflation in a time of crisis, while consistently causing unemployment in the major industrial nations of the continent to be relatively high, even so much as a steady 7-10%. With the current crisis reaching its peak, in Spain unemployment is in fact already 17.4%, in France 8.8%, in Germany itself 7.6%.3 Until the current crisis, the United States had a lower unemployment rate, mostly thanks to its own central bankers being a lot less dogmatic in pursuit of its national interests. They knew full well the dangers of further social segmentation in as unequal a country as theirs. Only the fast industrial collapse and evaporation of capital caused by this crisis of capitalism, as well as the large-scale mismanagement and stock-jobbing fraud on the part of private bank management, has managed to raise unemployment in the United States to the higher level of the major European economies. Until recently it was also the case that those nations pursuing get-rich-quick schemes, relying on influx of very volatile financial capital to help them advance in the line of nations, managed to evade the phenomenon of large-scale unemployment. However, the problem with the policy of stock-jobbing and loansharking as basis for a national economy is that money that is quick to come in is equally quick to get out. Any downturn and the established capital evaporates faster than the steam of the geyser or the tones of the harp.
The nations with established niches as carrying-traders are essentially mere underlaborers for the major industrial powers and completely dependent on them. Examples of this can be found in the Netherlands, in Austria, in Denmark and so forth. These seem to have maintained their position for now, thanks to the vast sums of public money flung into the pit of capital’s loss write-offs in the industries of the major economic powers. If we allow for a switch in metaphors, this makes their position similar to that of the bird that lives on picking the leftovers from the crocodile’s teeth. Easy for them to go along with the beast, as they do not have to pay for its maintenance and yet can profit from it nonetheless. But this also means their actual economic significance on a larger scale remains limited, and with it their political independence. Remains to deal with the nations that hoard the black gold that enslaves the modern man as much as the yellow enslaved the Athenians in Shakespeare: those nations, whether Norwegians or Arabs, are to the economic powers what Timon of Athens was to his false friends. Their ending is likely no better: ours is to play the role of Apemantus at this bankers’ banquet.
2.COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1056/2005.->
3.Schmitt, Rho & Fremstad, “U.S. Unemployment Now As High as Europe”, CEPR Issue Brief (May 2009). http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/US-EU-UR-2009-05.pdf .->
On the developments in Iran
All of the Islamic Republic of Iran is in an uproar currently over the result of the elections of friday, when incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won with a surprisingly large margin. It was widely expected that he would win a plurality against his main competitor, the more liberal reformer Mousavi, but that the latter would be able to enforce a second round in which his chances of victory looked solid. Mousavi supporters, relying on uncertain but significant circumstantial evidence, are now claiming election fraud, and Mousavi as well as minor candidates on ‘left’ and ‘right’ have formally lodged an appeal with the theocracy’s main clerico-judicial body, the Guardian Council. In the meantime, Teheran has been the scene of many riots and protests by Mousavi supporters as well as Ahmadinejad supporters, and police as well as unidentified armed motorcyclists have operated with violence against the protesters. Even now, a massive demonstration in favor of Mousavi is taking place, and a general strike has been announced for tomorrow.
From a Communist perspective, the situation is complicated. Ahmadinejad appears from what information we have to be favored by the reactionary clergy as well as by the Revolutionary Guards, who control an estimated one-third of the country’s wealth and operate as a paramilitary force for the clerical elite, parasitical upon Iranian society. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad has attempted (albeit with little success) to improve the lot of Iran’s majority of rural poor, and he has a stronger reputation as anti-imperialist than Mousavi does. Mousavi was Prime Minister during the height of the clerical repression, at the time of the conflagration between Iraq and Iran, and as such cannot be said to have a great record when it comes to political repression and state suffocation of democratic forces in Iran, despite his depictions in the Western media as hero of liberalism. It is of course possible that Mousavi would now fare a better course, and he has been campaigning on slightly relaxing the religious strictures of clerical rule in daily life that enforce the submission to the theocracy, but how serious this is is impossible to determine.
It is telling also that Mousavi has the support of the billionaire former President Rafsanjani, who likely sees in him a candidate who can defeat the Revolutionary Guard-supported Ahmadinejad and their economic competition to his interests, which range from transport to oil. Moreover, Mousavi’s presumed new liberal course fares well with the Iranian bourgeoisie, whom Rafsanjani represents, in its various larger cities. Especially Teheran is generally accepted by both parties to be relatively pro-Mousavi, although according to the official results, Ahmadinejad won even there with 52%. The most pro-socialist candidate is the reformist cleric Karroubi, but it was clear from the start that he had no chance of winning. One ought nonetheless to support the most left-wing candidate available in any election, but the fact the Guardian Council pre-emptively removes all candidates except those vetted by them makes of Iranian democracy as much a sham as the American one is, even if it is clearly an improvement over the days of the Shah.
Ahmadinejad’s base of support is generally identified as the rural poor in Iran, peasants as well as rural petty bourgeoisie, who in any nation tend towards conservatism and nationalism. Mousavi can count on the support of the Iranian bourgeoisie, while the clerical class is divided between the supporters of the old order, including the Supreme Leader Khamenei, and liberal clerics inclined to economic if not political reform, such as Rafsanjani himself as well as Khatami. A factor which makes the class division more complicated still is the youth of the Iranian people – the median age is merely 26.4. In any nation, young people are more inclined to support change, of whatever kind, and are more activist besides. They will also identify less with the ‘Islamic Revolution’ of 1979 and the clerical establishment resulting from it, especially in the cities. So while the class divisions currently still favor the clerics, the demographics do not.
What complicates the issue more is the external pressure constantly exercised against Iran’s independence by the United States, Israel, and their lackeys. As always, the imperialists achieve the opposite of their public intent. The Iranian people will reject any threat to their independence from outside, and the greater the threat, the more militarist the system becomes, favoring nationalist and militarist considerations over any other. This sort of militarist deformation resulting from external pressure has been seen before in such countries as the USSR and North Korea, but also in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, and it shows again how imperial posturing is bad for the peoples it threatens, regardless of how tyrannical their rulers are, and even when the imperialists are impeccable liberals. The result of imperialism is not the removal of tyranny, but its strengthening.
Khamenei has apparently announced that an inquiry will be held by the Guardian Council into the voting count. Regardless of further developments and the real winner of the vote, it is to be encouraged that Iranians use the opportunity to pressure their government into further democratization and into reducing the power of the clerics to channel it towards priestly authority. The greater the power of God, the smaller the power of the people, and the greater the power of God’s representatives, the smaller the power of the people’s representatives. Iran does not need or want the dubious help of America to liberate itself. The Iranians have a chance to do so on their own.
Herr David Irving’s Umwalzung der Geschichte
Although David Irving possesses no formal qualifications, he nonetheless has a certain reputation as a British historian of WWII and its background, much in the same sense in which the mafia can be said to have a reputation. On the basis of his earlier denial of the reality of the Shoah, the government of Austria convicted him, since this historical position is a crime in that republic when publicly avowed. This was not only politically wrong but also a strategic error, as it allowed Irving to play the martyred historian, all the more since he puts enormous efforts into presenting himself as a ‘respectable’ conservative Briton of the old school, rather than as an anti-semitic fascist and ultrareactionary, which his opponents accuse him of being. In order to justify himself after his stint in an Austrian prison, he wrote a publicly available essay-cum-memoir on the topic. Analysis of this will prove highly fruitful in order to understand how narrow and sometimes practically invisible the line is between ‘respectable conservatism’ and outright fascist tendencies. The text involved is titled Banged Up: Surviving as a Political Prisoner in 21st Century Europe. As we shall see, although he may lack historical sense, one thing Irving has a surfeit of is self-pity and pathos, and the title is just the beginning. (For those who wish to read along, it can be freely found at http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Banged/up.pdf .)
After a romantic introduction to the horrors of war, which Irving seems to have mostly boyish fantasies about based on his boyhood memories, we are easily led to believe that here is a man who has never fully grown up, and sees war as an adventure. As we shall see, little he says later on will dispel this notion. All the more since he feels the need to emphasize his cavalier attitude toward women and to boast about his expensive car, sure signs of the mental maturity of a 14 year old. He gets to the point soon enough though – his arrival in Austria, invited by the Olympia Bursenschaft. Of course, he does not see the need to inform us of the justified reputation of right-wing elitism prevalent among the Bursenschaften, whose traditions of ‘patriotism’, duelling, casual anti-semitism and so forth remind us more of 1815 than of 2009.
Moreover, he realizes that the invitation does not imply that he is actually welcome from the point of view of the government, as shown by his manner of entry into the country: “In a Swiss rental car I drove east all night through Zürich and into Austria. I had decided not to risk fying direct to Vienna. Many countries in western Europe are police states now, with state police—Staatspolizei, which operate broadly like the Gestapo with which we historians are familiar.” Yes, pathetic as this sounds, the minor political repression exercised by various post-fascist nations on the continent is considered by this eminent historian to be wholly equivalent to the Gestapo. This does not, of course, reflect in any way on his capacity to make proper historical judgements on WWII or reveal his sense of proportion, or lack thereof. Irving is an honorable man.
He continues to describe his rather clandestine meeting with a representative of Olympia, which has to take place as undercover as possible since both of them are aware that the Austrian secret police will be on their trail. This also offers him the opportunity to comment on his problematic prior visit to the country: “Still half suspecting that the function might not take place, I asked him to grab a snapshot under the Landtmann’s canopy as proof that I was in Vienna. It would certainly irritate some folks back in London. The Board of Deputies of British Jews had written in June 1992 to the Austrian government, livid at hearing of a recent visit by me to the country, and demanding my immediate arrest the next time. Some “Britons”!“. As the reader will see, this will not be his last comment on the apparently rather dubious national status of Jews in this article, which he sees fit to bring up fairly regularly, whether relevant for his train of thought or not. Of course, this by no means implies he believes in retrograde 19th Century conspiracy theories. Irving is an honorable man. Especially when he then adds, in case the point was not clear enough: “Strange, the things that turn out to have been going on all along un-seen, unheard—like the termites gnawing at the woodwork of a rotten building. Not that they are an International Conspiracy of course, they have always denied that.” It is well known of course that respectable conservative historians normally compare ethnic groups to termites and other insects. It truly takes a rabid nutcase to see anything fascist in this. Irving is an honorable man.
Later, it transpires that before the meeting can take place, the Staatspolizei is already on their trail. After posturing in front of a statue of Goethe, our intrepid hero flees in a car toward the border, only to be apprehended before reaching it. Subsequently, he is charged under the Wiederbetätigung laws, that is, the legal mechanism to suppress attempts to revive fascism. Although Austria has never been properly denazified, these laws have been created and remain still, an attempt (however futile the means) to create a bulwark against fascism in a country where it was at its most popular. Irving, of course, makes of this: “Since there is little prospect of a Nazi movement re-emerging now, it is widely used to harass political opponents.” There is some truth to this, but those ‘political opponents’ are without exception those associated with the extreme right nonetheless, whether or not they truly pose a danger. After all, it would be hard to convict the KPÖ of trying to revive Nazism. But our historian does not see the need to reflect on this, or why he is a ‘political opponent’.
In jail, he describes one of a series of worrying events that take place throughout the whole affair: events that indicate his popularity. Irving is of course wholly unreliable when it comes to himself, since his self-perception is supported by little other than his juvenile romanticism of the Persecuted Tell-it-like-it-is Decent Conservative, but knowing Austrian politics there may well be reason to believe that his stories are not entirely made up. So when he begins his term in jail awaiting trial, and tells us that “On the second or third day several offcers knocked on my cell door (yes, they knocked on a cell door), unlocked it, and brought in my books from their homes for me to autograph“, there is probably little reason to doubt it. Clearly in Austria there are many traces and remnants still of the old order, and the consequences of its denazification not having been seriously carried out can be seen. He then complains: “The justice system was less accommodating. My requests to speak to a lawyer or to Bente in London were fruitless. Six weeks or more would pass before I could phone my family from Vienna. The illegality of this was obvious.” The Gestapo of course would have let him phone much sooner. He then has the gall to make the following comparison, since he has not sufficiently, according to his own lights, shoveled the Nazi comparisons onto the compost heap of his self-pity: “I remained philosophical. It was much harder on Bente. In London,they feared I was dead; when I did not return from Vienna on time, sheand her friends phoned the embassies, the police, the hospitals, the mortuaries, the car hire firms; but nobody knew what had happened to me. Unable to contact me to access bank accounts or use key system-passwords, she lost our home and possessions. Nacht und Nebel was the system, as invented by Reinhard Heydrich and his police. One vanished, as though in Night and Fog.” Yes. Truly, according to our respected and serious historian of WWII, sitting a few weeks in pre-trial arrest in Jakomini is equivalent to Nacht und Nebel, with all that implies. Of course, this should not lead us to declare him insane, hysterical, or wholly unfit for any historical judgement. Irving is an honorable man. And “philosophical” at that.
Irving then tells us about his reading materials, which the new Gestapo apparently gladly provided to him, which unsurprisingly are stolid British works of slight antiquity and requiring little imagination: Sherlock Holmes, P.G. Wodehouse, the Hornblower novels. More interesting is his commentary on the prevalence of suicide among the prisoners in his jail. Although we may well assume that he emphasizes this in order to underline the horrors his victimized innocence has had to endure, it is likely a reflection of reality, and moreover shows that when he really desires, he can show some real empathy. It is all the more unfortunate that this has been warped by his descent into the swamp of ‘historical revisionism’.
He then describes the visit of the British consul representative, and asks her to send a coded message, “COPENHAGEN”, to his girlfriend Bente Høgh. As he explains: “Copenhagen was the codeword we had arranged; Bente was to watch for it. However it was used—if I said it to a journalist, or on TV, or on a postcard message, it meant I had been arrested and was unable to contact her, and she was to take certain steps. Just like the BBC’s “Verlaine” messages to the French Resistance before the Normandy landings.” Our pseudo-academic hero obviously misses no opportunity for WWII comparisons. Indeed, an unfriendly commentator might suggest a slight obsession with the topic. This is not of itself all that remarkable, as there are probably more amateur historians and devotees of WWII history than of all other subjects combined (except in the United States, where their Civil War plays this role); what is more intriguing are the analogies he makes. Desiring both to produce apologetics for the actual fascists as well as to be a ‘decent conservative’, he veers back and forth between comparing himself to the Allies and to the victims of Nazi persecution, but those analogies do not really seem to sit well with him, because he sticks to none of them. This is also seen a few paragraphs farther in his tale, when he describes his preparedness to expect the worst (i.e. arrest) when visiting other countries. He produces the following gem of a historical parallel: “In fact I was always steeled for the worst: I was a Boy Scout in my youth, and be prepared was on our belt-buckle, just as some Germans, including Günter Grass as it now turns out, had Meine Ehre Heisst Treue embossed on theirs.” This indeed summarizes well the viewpoint of our historical protagonist. On the one hand Boy Scout, on the other hand the Waffen-SS, and incapable of seeing the difference. Not that we would accuse him of making a bagatelle out of that deadly organization: Irving is an honorable man.
David Irving is then sent to the main jail in Vienna in a “Krokodil”, a particular transport vehicle apparently used by Austrian justice for prisoner transports, and which Irving emphasizes as being unsafe and illegal elsewhere, as he also does with the prison itself at Josefstadt where he is brought. Irving’s text provides us with some intriguing information on the average continental prison system from the inside, written by a clearly intelligent commentator, and this is something worthwhile about it. However, the intellectual price paid for access to this is too high. In any case, Irving is brought to trial before Mr. Justice Seda, whom he mocks as having a high voice. Our respected historian, as we will see more often, is not above a few ad hominems of a rather simplistic kind when it suits him: another sign of his maturity seemingly having ceased around the time when Irving himself stopped having a high voice. Perhaps that is why he makes such a point of it. More worryingly and relevantly, we get in this jail also a description of his apparent popularity with the rank-and-file: “As word spread round the Josefstadt jail on who I was, I received a stream of uniformed, if not always offcial, visitors. Jailers brought me packets of good-quality coffee or gifts. At Christmas, one offcer unlocked my cell, invited me to his room, and offered me a glass of whisky—“This remains strictly between us, Mr. Irving.”” Aside from Irving’s word apparently not quite being his bond, despite his claims to the Boy Scout ideals, one can wonder what kind of society has jailers encouraging visits and gifts, “not quite officially”, to people accused of reviving Nazism. Not that Irving would be guilty of such an inclination – Irving is an honorable man.
En passant, he remarks upon the efforts apparently on the part of the Austrian Ministry of Justice to get his books removed from the library prisons, of itself well enough – although there is little point in banning Irving’s works, this does not oblige a government to make them freely available to wards of the state, especially if they are to be rehabilitated in a manner so that they can improve society in the future. Irving sneers that the press reported the books would be burned, which according to him proves the provenance of Austria as a Nazi state. It’s hard to tell whether that is true, but if so, it was a silly move. Sillier however is Irving not realizing that if Austria were really a Nazi state now, this is precisely what would explain his warm reception among the prison visitors and guards! Subsequently, Irving discusses his lawyers for the trial. He desires to pick Herbert Schaller, whom he at different points describes as a defender of free speech, a ‘patriot’, and so forth. Such compliments coming from our historical friend are indeed more damning than many an insult, and it may be no surprise then that Dr. Jur. Schaller himself has been repeatedly accused of Holocaust denial, including denial of the existence of gas chambers, and so forth, and that he has also attended the infamous conference organized in Teheran on ‘Holocaust denial’, intended a publicity stunt against Israel on the part of Iran’s government. Not, of course, that Irving sees the need to inform the reader of any of this, although surely if it is so legitimate and above-board, this should not reflect poorly on Schaller or himself? In any case, he decides eventually not to pick Schaller, but takes on an attention-hungry fool named Kresbach instead, who is obviously out to use Irving’s case for propagating his own renown. Our intrepid historian realizes this too late, and is stuck with him for the trial. In between commenting on these affairs, he also presents a vignette (the text is filled with various vignettes showing off either his books or himself in various poses and with various decors), showing: “The Unmentionable: My book on the 1956 Hungarian Uprising mentions that most of the secret police and their Communist bosses were Jews.” A legitimate and totally relevant fact for historical research of course, which David Irving has justly taken much effort to present to the world. Only a truly uncharitable spectator could see anything suspicious in this. Irving is an honorable man.
The trial itself, both because Irving was clearly guilty of what he was accused of (that is, having on Austrian soil denied the Shoah in its full extent), and because of his lawyer’s incompetence and guilty plea, is a disaster for Irving. He does however gloat about the favorable media reception, at least as he sees it: “The Italian newspapers, particularly Silvio Berlusconi’s, went overboard with their contempt of Austria, and I saw newspaper photographs of one major championship football match in northern Italy at which a section of the crowd unfurled a banner reading IRVING LIBERO for the television cameras.” This tells us many things: first, it tells us quite a lot about the ‘respectability’ of Berlusconi’s government; second, it tells us much about Irving’s common sense in judgement, since he apparently is not very aware of the political leanings of many Italian football fans (one is tempted to think the team involved could be Juventus or Hellas Verona or a similar one with a history of fascism); third, it tells us that despite the Gestapo nature of his prison, he apparently had no trouble getting access to even international newspapers. One thing it does not tell us though, and that is what Irving thinks it tells us, namely the legitimacy of his cause. All the more when he then continues with: “Der Spiegel ran a fine five-page article which attracted angry letters from my opponents, including Hungarian writer Paul Lendvai, who snarled that my book Uprising was anti-Semitic (my book mentioned that all the Hungarian communist monsters like Kun, Revai, Farkas, Gerö, and Rakösi were Jewish; as is Lendvai himself).” Truly the “snarling” Lendvai must be absolutely hysterically deluded to see any anti-semitism in Irving’s research into an important and relevant topic as whether various randomly selected Communist “monsters” were also all Jews. Irving is an honorable man.
Well, back to his prison, since Irving had no chance of winning the trial, and didn’t. In the prison he helpfully informs us of the demographics present: “Once I was shown into the holding tank, and it contained only fifteen very disgruntled Blacks (twenty-five percent of the prisoners were from Africa, nearly all for drug dealing, some for murder or rape).” Fortunately, the Blacks, capital letter and all (is there anyone who does not faintly hear an Afrikaner accent in his mind when reading this?), have a refined sense of humor and appreciate Irving’s Etonian jokes: “I hesitated as the steel door behind me slammed shut, and said: “Sorry, I think there’s been a mistake. Where’s the waiting room for Whites?” They bellowed with laughter. It’s the kind of joke that needs split-second timing, and one that you can only risk in certain circumstances.” Those circumstances presumably do not include any situation in which people with a less subtle sense of humor are present, or things might end grimly for our respected would-be academic some day. After some complaints about the “jungle” in the prison, what with all the African languages spoken, Irving continues with explaining the nature of his complaint. He is given the files proving he had denied the Holocaust on Austrian soil. It is telling, according to our protagonist, that the complaint came from the Document Centre for the Austrian Resistance, which, he hastens to tell us, is “a well-known Jewish and Communist-front organisation”. Sic. To add to the ignominy of being accused by such lowlifes as the Jews and Communists of the Austrian resistance archives, he is also condemned by the leading Austrian historian Erika Weinzierl. Since she is not Jewish, Irving has to go for the second-best option for any ‘respectable’ British public school boy: misogyny. He makes much hay out of finding different ‘subtle’ ways to describe her lack of good looks, which apparently according to his historiographical expertise is of great importance to judge the truth of someone’s statements. Once is inclined to comment that this would not do his own case that much good either, however.
The trial itself is in his description of little interest – as mentioned, he could not win, his lawyer was incompetent, and most of the description consists of Irving’s repeated complaints about how those crazy Austrians have the gall to have different customs than back home in Britain. The whole affair exudes a highly suffocating Little Englanderism, emphasizing the parochial pettiness of Irving’s neuroses. The same is shown by his petty attempts at playing to the crowd, as when he makes a big deal out of always having a pen and book with him when entering the courtroom, to underline apparently that he is a writer, in other words, murdered innocence. I doubt that anyone saw this press stunt for anything else than what it was, but Irving’s Little England cleverness always thinks that it can fool any foreigners. To finish it off, the Austrian jury turns out to be mostly women, who also do not happen to meet our protagonist’s exacting aesthetic standards, and therefore can be up to no good. One gets the impression that Irving’s view of women relies on a tradition virtually unchanged since the days of St. Paul. What’s more, Irving’s tendency to judge his antagonists by their physical appearance also leads him to consistently insinuate Nazism on their part by means of physical analogy: the prosecutor, Klackl, reminds him of the sinister Jew Aronsfeld, or “even more oddly of Adolf Eichmann, on trial in Jerusalem at that same time.” His own lawyer’s incompetence, of course, makes him equivalent to the July Coup conspirators of 1944, even though Irving chose him himself: “I found myself recalling the Berlin People’s Court after the July 20, 1944 Bomb Plot, where one defence lawyer began his opening submission with the words, “Having listened to the opening remarks of my colleague the Public Prosecutor about the disgraceful behaviour of my client, I find that I can only wholeheartedly endorse them. . .”” With this quality of ‘recalling’, it is no surprise Irving’s approach to historiography has not met with much acclaim amongst his peers. Of the judge he writes: “All the while the Judge sat on his high podium, pink cheeked and puffy faced, oddly reminiscent of Mr Justice Gray in the Lipstadt libel trial.” There is of course nothing neurotically juvenile about calling your opponents ugly and therefore wrong, or about seeing conspiratorial parallels between one’s supposed persecutors – Irving is an honorable man.
Eventually he is convicted, and although according to his own claims receiving many letters in support and only one hostile one (which sounds unlikely), he is remitted to jail, of course awaiting appeal. Again he notes how he attempts to stay sane in jail by seeing his jail as a friendly place, shielding him from unwanted outside intrusions, but also remarks upon the many suicides that seem to take place in the prison, although prison authorities attempt to hide it. As a prison writer, Irving could do worse. Would that one could say the same of him as a historian. In jail he reads the documents relating to his conviction, and angrily remarks that the judge has tried informing himself on the person of Irving on his own before the trial, which apparently is highly offensive to his British judicial sensibilities. Worse is the fact that he read in the Süddeutsche Zeitung an article described by Irving as “a raving article by Eva Menasse, a young Jewish jour-
nalist.” Although he claims to have liked her before when meeting her, something which apparently did not prevent him from making a point of her Jewishness, now her articles praising his conviction are “suspiciously well-informed”. It is difficult to see what this means, other than that apparently reading up on Austrian constitutional law is part of a greater conspiracy by unnamed, but presumably Jewish, elements. More laments about the press follow, and some attempts to ingratiate himself with the reader by describing his happy family life and how he misses his poor children, while commenting along the way about the unpleasant “Romany laments” of a “gypsy out of the window”. He also is visited by a certain Brigitte Müller, whom he seems to have cheated on his wife with (or at least he hints as much), but this does not seem to diminish his perception of himself as a happy family man of honesty and ‘respectability’. He is also visited by a Hungarian woman named Réka, who seems to be a fan of his political-historical works and finally does pass his aesthetic tests that all women are to be judged by. Given the recent success of the ultrareactionary Jobbik party in Hungary, and the general worryingly fascist trend in Eastern European politics, this unfortunately comes as no surprise. Despite the Gestapo-like, Nacht und Nebel-nature of his evil Nazi jailers, he is quite capable of even holding long-distance interviews with the BBC. Herein he manages to present the death march from Auschwitz, which killed many of the prisoners who had survived the operation of that cursed institution itself, and the abandoning of the sick prisoners to whatever slow decrepit death presumably faced them, in the following way: “ the clear evidence that even when the Auschwitz site was about to be overrun in January 1945 the Nazis either evacuated the 70,000 Jews still there to the west (including Anne Frank) or left those who so chose (including Anne’s sick father Otto) in the camp hospital being tended by SS doctors until the Russians came.” Evacuated! “Tended by SS doctors”! Contrast this with the description of the same events given in Elie Wiesel’s much-lauded memoir Night, in which his father dies with most of the other almost-survivors along the harrowing death trail from southern Poland to Germany, or with the description in Primo Levi’s The Reawakening of the abandonment of the sick prisoners (not a single “tending” SS-doctor in sight) to slow death by disease and hunger which was only ended by the final arrival of the liberating Soviet troops, and one can see well enough what kind of history-writing David Irving and his ‘revisionist’ colleagues are capable of. Not, of course, that these bald lies should be seen as apologetics for Nazism. David Irving is an honorable man.
Irving finally fires Kresbach and replaces him by Schaller, who is more of one mind with him (one wonders whether, when Irving says that “Nobody in their right mind can deny that the Nazis did kill millions of Jews”, he told his lawyer this too), and a “faithful soldier” besides, who “cuts a Churchillian figure in court” (the only points of comparison seem to be decrepit age and vile politics) and of course gets the obligatory physical comparison to a Nazi official: only this time, it is Erwin Rommel, which Irving clearly intends as great praise. Journalist Christa Zöchling writes a sarcastic article about Schaller, whom she cleverly calls a “Rechts-Anwalt” (the pun works only in German); as a result, Irving creepily inserts a vignette which shows her in a cafe reading a document, and describes her as a “flawed” journalist writing for Communist papers. These supposed insults are not very serious, but that the ‘respectable’ Irving apparently has people follow his antagonists around and take pictures of them unnoticed is a lot more worrying, and telling about the resemblance between his approach and those of Neonazis. After this, more descriptions of the life in jail follow, with some slightly amusing anecdotes about fellow prisoners and their cases, as well as the many ‘Blacks’ in the jail. He also notes the power of Austrian judges to effectively extort money from people who write critical articles about their judicial system, using the fact that slander is a penal crime in Austria (as in most countries based on the French legal system), and then suggesting out-of-court settlements. Again, Irving is not a reliable source on anything whatever, but it is an interesting observation if true. He also writes a letter to a certain Lady Renouf, which seems to have no content other than to show off he has friends among the nobility. This surely tells us more about British nobility than about him. More worrying is the vignette where he proudly presents his good relations and talks before the German military, the Bundeswehr. Knowing the problems with Neonazism in this institution, inviting Irving to hold talks is surely the last thing that ought to be on their mind. It is essential that the German public put pressure on their military to prevent a revival of right-wing militarism and revanchism of any kind. In the meantime, he writes on his biography of Himmler, whom he describes as “this strange character of Hitler’s Reich, who lived only forty-four years but achieved so much that was both grotesque and spectacular“, and loses a pen which Erhard Milch apparently had personally bequeathed to him. Friends in high places, indeed.
In the meantime his prison time slowly comes to an end. He takes the opportunity, when referring to Raul Hilberg, to usefully and informatively note that “there were only two Jews in this jail, on the foor above ours, C-2: one was made Blockschreiber, or block-clerk, although the jailers told me he could, or would, write only in Hebrew script; the other was allowed to keep his cell door permanently open on some pretext or other.” Never mind the unlikelihood of an Austrian Jew only writing in Hebrew, clearly the Jews “on some pretext or other” have managed to extend their termite-like powers to keeping doors open in Josefstadt prison. Surely this shows what virtually invincible forces our intrepid hero is up against. At least he has the grace to say that Hilberg “shared many of my views”, which is very appropriate since he then quotes an interview where Hilberg calls him a Hochstapler, meaning something like charlatan or fraud. A rare moment of honesty on Irving’s part! The objective reader will be glad he agrees. We can spare the reader summarizing the tale of the crook who in turn tries to defraud our charlatan himself, but more interesting is a supposed Sinti named “Gitan W.”, who tells Irving a tale of woe which mostly revolves around anti-gypsy sentiment among the Austrian government and judicial officials. Here Irving again shows he can have an empathetic side (if perhaps the empathy of one who thinks he knows ”one of the good ones” among the Jews or Communists or whatever), and there is little reason to doubt the truth of this Gitan W.’s story at least in this respect. Again, Irving’s tale gives us some material that is worthwhile, as long as Irving is not talking about his actual subject. Fortunately, our friend W. knows Irving well enough, and makes a point out of adding the important fact that ““The Judge was a Jewess,” he recalled, as an afterthought, and he gave me her name. “Sonja Allyes.””
After having compared himself with Imre Nagy (a rather odd comparison to say the least), Irving is then released after the appeal, his sentence having been commuted to time served, effectively. In between follows a diatribe about Israel in its fight against Lebanon, which shows the principle that a person can be right for the wrong reasons, and of course the obligatory comparison of his appeal trial judge to Martin Bormann. By now, this modus operandi becomes tiresomely familiar. Insert also a vignette about his friendly relations with Albert Speer – in fact, together with Joachim Fest, David Irving is highly responsible for the general view of Speer as a foolish artist caught up in Hitler’s web and quickly coming to resist him. This view is based entirely on the convenient fabrications of Speer himself and has no basis in reality, but Speer has enlisted the above historians quite effectively for his PR campaign. Gitta Sereny’s book on this topic, Speer und Er, gives more detail on this affair. In the meantime, Irving can go, according to him to the “bafflement of the Israelite Cultural Community and Leftist politicians at our appeal victory“. Of course, his imprisonment is all part of a greater whole, as he does not hesitate to tell us, and which apparently his Austrian guards wholeheartedly agree with, confirming the problems I alluded to above: “The officers accompanying me began cracking off-colour jokes, and two even began educating me about what they and everybody else knew: “You’ve been the victim of a small religious clique, a people not like us at all. They were the ones really behind your arrest in 2005.” I made no response.” Let us hope that this commentary was yet another “off-colour joke”, since Irving is so good at subtle humor. He is, after all, an honorable man. At least it turns out the stint in jail had some advantages, at least with regard to his weight: he happily tells us “I weighed in at 110 kilos, six less than when I was arrested in 2005, and height 186 cm; but for the weight and being English, I could have just made it into the Leibstandarte, Hitler’s Guards Brigade.”
Our tale of torment is then practically over, with our hero finally freed from the shackles of his Jewish Nazi Communist oppressors, who do however use the opportunity to declare him non grata in Austria in the future. Too bad for the Bursenschaften, where now will they learn “what everyone knows” about who is behind the conspiracy of historians? Fortunately for them, Irving is always happy to inform them, be it in a veiled manner, of the real nature of the case: as he returns to London, speaking to a journalist, he “fed him the words: “Mel Gibson was right.”“. One is glad he tells us before this that he had “reset his mental dials to zero”, else one could be tempted to think ill of our ‘respectable’ conservative historian. Not that Irving is easily intimidated by the you-know-whos, of course. As he assures us, he has “not studied the life of Dr. Joseph Goebbels for nothing. It was one of his recommended techniques: Always counter-attack, but elsewhere.” The reader can be glad for this little insight into the sources of David Irving’s historiographical method. Truly a ‘Revolution in History’ from this honorable man.
The British at the European elections
With elections being waged for the massive talking shop known as the European Parliament, more than in any other country the mood for revolt is rising in the United Kingdom. The petty, venial corruption shown by the Westminster MPs over the past years, recently revealed but by all and sundry plausibly considered part of a much larger pattern of self-enrichment, has greatly increased the skepticism and hostility of the British public towards the established three parties. Indeed, the corrupt reformist policies of Blair c.s. domestically and his petty vassalism towards the United States and its military adventures in the realm of foreign policy, combined with the continued production of futile nonentities on the part of the Tories and Liberal Democrats had already done much to encourage this, but the so-called ‘expenses scandal’ has been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for many Britons.
The political implications remain to be seen. Many Britons will opt to not vote at all, as has been the norm for European Parliamentary elections, which is both a sign of the petty bourgeois apathy of the overly sheltered and uninformed British population as well as being a sign of the general lack of purpose in voting in elections where outcomes barely make a difference, as the spoils system of the perpetual centrist coalition in the European Parliament makes even voting under the superior system used for its elections exceedingly futile to the politically conscious. The risk is of course that the people who do show up, estimated to be no more than 30% of the electorate, are likely not so much to vote for the left as for the Little England reactionaries of Libertas and UKIP, not to mention the fascist BNP. In this way the elitism of the EU technocrat-parliamentarians will produce its own gravediggers in the form of a resurgence of reactionary populism, but unfortunately they are also likely to dig a mass grave for left-democratic forces along with it.
What then to make of this? Of course attempts by left coalitions such as the well-conceived but awfully named No2EUYes2Democracy to use the opportunity for a left organizational surge must be applauded, but their policy of abstentionism will effectively enhance the power of the right. Moreover, they appear to have little intention to move their organization beyond these elections. It is not necessarily a problem that they do not feel the need to form yet another sectarian party or to produce platforms without the pillars of support that any platform needs to rise above the level of a doormat, but to channel all the left potential that exists in the broader British public as well as with the RMT and then to squander it by closing shop after the elections is pure parliamentarianism, which makes their abstention policy all the more self-defeating. The SLP is also present, but their sectarian basis and the narrow Lassallean antics of their leader Scargill will render them mostly harmless to the establishment.
What is therefore to be agitated for above all is to use the opportunity of the election temperament and the ‘expenses scandal’ to frighten the battered established parties into granting electoral reform. Labour had promised this but, as to be expected, once in office reneged on it; however there has been increasing discussion of the topic in various newspapers, and the Electoral Reform Society has seen a flurry of new activity. Labour’s own government commission recommended keeping the district system, which British voters are very used to for Westminster and abolition of which may easily prove a bridge too far, but replacing the utterly retrograde ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system with a specific variant of Approval Voting, which although favorable to larger parties nonetheless greatly improves the manner of actually counting votes. Also a possibility is introducing STV, as is in use in Ireland, which also gives some benefit to larger parties but allows ranking. There are various good systems that can be compatible with maintaining constituencies, even ones little discussed such as Condorcet’s system, and which one is chosen is rather less important than that the occasion be used to make it finally happen; all the more since it has been an issue since the decline of the Liberal Party.
A referendum on this topic must be held and held soon, using the opportunity of widespread disaffection to force through reforms. In circumstances when progressive forces have little actual power, they can still use their moral force to frighten and cajole the ruling class into reforms, as was proven by the failure of the Chartists that was nonetheless followed by a Reform Bill, although it is to be hoped the distance in time between protest and reform will be less this time. An electoral reform would also enable the progressive forces remaining within New Labour to depart their dying host organism and set out on their own, which will strengthen the political visibility of the British left, necessarily weak as it is, and further enable the death of the right element. Therefore, delaying tactics such as Gordon Brown’s “National Democratic Renewal Council” must be rejected, and the occasion must be used by all left forces, union, MP or otherwise, to call for a swift electoral reform referendum, if necessary to coincide with the general elections in 2010.