Monday, June 23, 2008

Illusions in the Allies

The 21 June Socialist Worker, an issue geared for the SWP’s anti-BNP demo in London, was full of establishment anti-fascism, claiming that the BNP are not a “respectable” party and calling for an apolitical cross-class front against fascism. To this end, the paper included an article about the “hidden story” of West Indian people fighting for the Allies in World War II, as “revealed” by a new Imperial War Museum exhibition.

Simon Assaf tells us that “Over 10,000 West Indians volunteered to defend Britain against the Nazis”, neglecting to mention the imperialist character of the war on both sides. He makes no reference whatsoever to colonial exploitation in the British Empire, and in this vein uses the word "flowed" rather oddly in the sentence "Many people in the British empire took part in raising money to help the war effort – in addition to the extra taxes, raw materials and food that flowed from the colonies to support the war." Surely he means “were forcibly taken”.

Socialist Worker makes great play of the digging-deep the “war effort” required: but the fact that the West Indians were poor doesn't mean that when they got shipped off to Egypt to defend the British Empire from the Germans they were fighting the good fight. They had absolutely no control over the character, strategy and organisation of any aspect of the Allies’ "war effort". They were just cannon fodder for Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin and de Gaulle. One could equally say that German soldiers were working-class and fought bravely: should we honour their "contribution"?

There is no mention of the 1934-39 strike wave in the British West Indies, the lack of free elections in such territories or indeed those peoples' demand for independence. West Indians are just portrayed as useful troops for Churchill, and the article is nothing but a long advertisement for an Imperial War Museum exhibition, i.e. an exhibition staged by a museum celebrating British imperialism. It is social-patriotism, pure and simple, and further evidence of the SWP’s complete lack of working-class political bearings.

2 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

That is really backwards. I'm not surprised, but that was painful to read.

If it came from the CP, who'd care?

B.E.Klein (CPGB) said...

Ouch. They certainly are getting themselves in a bit of a twist on all this. Calling the BNP 'Nazi' not only slippery theoretically, but also plays on this myth of Britain's finest hour in standing up to defend decent civil soviety...

Almost as reprehensible as the flip-side phenomenon of social chauvinism - something a little bit closer to home, David...

wcg

Ben