Mutual admiration

Hitler wanted to emulate the British empire; the British ruling class welcomed Hitler as a blunt instrument to destroy the communist menace

Last week was a treat for connoisseurs of scandal within the establishment. This one, of course, involved the queen's grandson, Harry Windsor, who attended a fancy dress party in the khaki uniform of a German Afrika Corps soldier. Predictably, within days the press had got hold of the fact and the naming and shaming of the 20-year-old prince began. Leading the pack was The Sun, which on January 14 adorned its front page with a photo of the swastika-wearing Harry and carried the headline, "Harry the Nazi". Most of the 'quality' press was equally outraged by his "insensitivity". For example, The Independent criticised him for not taking "account of his position as third in line to the throne" (January 14). Naturally, the mainstream parties have been engaged in a tussle as to who can be the most vocal in their denunciation of Nazism - with the Tories, for the moment, narrowly ahead. Michael Howard was not satisfied with the terse two-sentence 'apology' which was issued from Clarence House. No, he wanted public humiliation, perhaps on television. New Labour's grandees, on the other hand, proclaimed that Harry's 'apology' was sufficient and that surely it was now time to leave him alone - he is part of Tony Blair's 'people's monarchy', so hands off. The anger directed at Harry Windsor is by no means entirely synthetic. He has brought the monarchy into disrepute. After all, one of royalty's prime functions is to personify patriotism and today that means presiding over the national myth that in 1939-45 Britain fought a just war against fascism, not an inter-imperialist struggle to preserve the empire and Britain's world domination. Nazism has become Britain's post-World War II defining other. Evil versus good, black versus white. The monarchy supposedly represents the unity of the nation in celebrating this myth "¦ as it did with the British empire. Harry WindsorRevealingly, the row over Harry has hardly touched upon the history of British imperialism. No irrelevant gripe: the theme of the notorious fancy dress party he attended was 'colonial and native' (obviously something of a recurrent theme amongst aristos and their hangers-on, given the fact that at William Windsor's 21st birthday party the chosen theme was 'out of Africa'). Now, of course, in and of itself, dressing up as a Nazi, role-playing, etc is no sin. Nor is it proof of reactionary leanings. Far from it. Take Mel Brook's The producers - it not only features a chorus-line of goose-stepping Nazis in full uniform, joyfully singing about the invasions of Poland and France, but a hippy-dippy Adolf Hitler with a flower in his hair. In other words in its grotesque absurdity it brilliantly satirises Nazism. Child-like play can be subversive, a challenge to oppressive structures and dull conformity. But - and here's the rub - it can also be the opposite. Political programmes and attitudes which on other occasions are kept secret and guiltily hidden away can be revealed, paraded and relished, under the guise of clowning. Eg, hardened racists often peddle their views through 'innocent' jokes - those who object are told that they lack a sense of humour. Context - and class - is everything. Harry Windsor dressed the Nazi at a country mansion in West Littleton, Gloucestershire, in a ballroom stuffed with over 250 aristocrats with implausible-sounding double-barrelled names, many of them with blacked-up faces. The ancestors of those playing 'colonial and native' were the very people who oversaw the subjugation of India, the West Indies, much of the Middle East and huge tracts of Africa, which resulted in the deaths of many millions. Remember the British trade in black slaves - it is estimated that at least a million died in transit during the Atlantic crossing. Of course, as a result of imperialist colonialism some families - their families - accumulated fabulous riches. Was this bloody page of British history being mocked and parodied in Gloucestershire? No, under the guise of play it was being celebrated. The politics of those involved become all too clear when one considers Harry Meade, whose 22nd birthday Harry Windsor was there to mark. He was one of the six pro-hunt campaigners who last year interrupted Blair's speech at the Labour Party conference; his protest was in defence of the aristocracy's continued domination of the countryside, symbolised by their right to hunt foxes with hounds. The whole plummy weekend was a gathering of reactionaries who look back fondly to a world of aristocratic certainties, where supposedly the lesser folk knew their place and were content to loyally serve and gratefully work for their lords and masters. Donning a Nazi uniform was hardly out of tune with the 'colonial and native' theme. Hitler, after all, admired and wanted to emulate the British empire "¦ "Russia must become our India," he insisted. Unfortunately, the left, or what passes for it in Britain, is content to meekly tail the establishment's anti-fascism. This is manifest in a cringing open letter to The Guardian (January 15), signed by trade union bosses such as Dave Prentis (Unison), Billy Hayes (CWU) and Brendan Barber (TUC general secretary), Labour MEP Glyn Ford "¦ and a certain comrade Weyman Bennett of the Socialist Workers Party - though on this occasion he was wearing his Unite Against Fascism hat (a revamped, more rightist, version of the Anti-Nazi League). Then again, the entire letter was an exact reproduction of the statement that appears on the UAF's website (http://www.uaf.org.uk), which gives a clue as to the nature of its project, which is to cement a 'popular front' with the great and the good, and constitute itself as the left wing of bourgeois anti-fascism. In the Guardian letter we read that Harry's choice of fancy dress "was grossly irresponsible", that January 27 "will be Holocaust Memorial Day and we will be marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz", 60 years since "the whole world said 'never again'". It goes on: "Prince Harry's actions are a worrying sign that racism and fascism is becoming more acceptable. Britain has not been immune to growth of the far right - far from it. The fascist BNP has already announced that they will be standing in 100 constituencies. Last year the BNP received the highest votes ever for a fascist party in Britain. When fascists are polling higher results than ever before, members of the monarchy should be distancing themselves from it and condemning it, not wearing their uniform." While communists (genuine communists, that is, not those of the Morning Star, which came out with exactly the same sort of pap) are hardly surprised by the sight of TUC tops fawning before the monarchy, it is disturbing to see our 'revolutionary Marxist' SWP comrades attaching themselves to such a statement, with its appeal to the anti-fascist conscience of the monarchy, and the British establishment in general. Sadly, in its headlong charge towards respectability with the aptly named Respect, we have witnessed SWP comrades ditching one principle after another - open borders, workers' representatives on a worker's wage, secularism and, yes, republicanism. Now, the SWP appears to be endorsing World War II and 'democratic' imperialism. What next? Of course, as alluded to above, it is the close proximity of Holocaust Memorial Day, started four years ago, which on the surface has most upset Harry Windsor's critics. On January 27, Jack Straw will be visiting Auschwitz and there will be a service in London, attended, naturally, by the queen. There has already been a more-anti-fascist-than-thou dispute over the Auschwitz visit. Michael Ancram, shadow foreign secretary, has ventured the opinion that the government has been insufficiently respectful towards the memory of the Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust - claiming that Straw had been "shamed" into going, after earlier complaints about Britain only sending a "C team" of ministers to Poland. On top of that, some thought that Harry Windsor should be forced to go to Auschwitz as a "punishment" for wearing his swastika armband. Obviously, communists would find abhorrent anything which trivialised or diminished the monstrous suffering of any of the victims of Nazi terror - Jews, Roma, gays, etc - or its very first victims and main target: communists and working class partisans. But the understandable, and natural, desire to be sensitive and, yes, respectful, to use that word in the positive sense of the term, should not lead one to forget that there is a perpetual battle - a class struggle - for the memory of the Nazi holocaust, or, as it is usually referred to these days, 'The Holocaust', which has become transformed into a categorically unique historical event which cannot be rationally comprehended. Indeed, according to some, so 'unique' is 'The Holocaust', that it is tantamount to anti-semitism or neo-Nazism to even attempt to make it the subject of rational or scientific inquiry, or to challenge accepted opinion. The holocaust is unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique. Here we have the mainstay of much of what passes for 'holocaust awareness' in the officially orchestrated, and highly ritualised, memorialisation of the victims of Nazism. Frankly - and you do not hear this often in the mainstream media - 'The holocaust' has proven to be an indispensable ideological weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie and its agents. Of course, before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, talk of the Jewish, Slav, Roma and other national victims of Nazism was viewed - particularly in the USA - as evidence of distinct communist-pinko tendencies. In order to present the post-1967 Israeli regional superpower as a victim state, the holocaust as a unique event was invented. Since then, the remit of 'The Holocaust' has expanded and it has been vigorously adopted by the western bourgeois establishment as its own - a whole ideological industry has been generously financed and patronised from on high to expropriate the memory. Unlike those who espouse the official or establishment account, which presumably these days includes the SWP as well, communists stress that the 'The Holocaust' (as opposed to the Nazi holocaust) is largely a retrospective construct by those with various (and sometimes rival) ideological and 'special interest' axes to grind. Indeed, 'The Holocaust' of numerous school and college text books would not have been recognisable to most people who went through World War II and the horrors of Nazi rule. Rather, as will see over the next few weeks as 'The Commemoration' begins in earnest, 'The Holocaust' will act as a substitute for a rational examination of the specific historical dynamics that led to the Nazi slaughter. Of course, a true awareness of the actual chain of events would clash violently with the real agenda of Holocaust Memorial Day - to further legitimise the ideological, political and moral authority of the bourgeoisie. For this reason, if no other, communists will not be joining in the official 'Holocaust' activities, nor, for that matter, endorsing letters which perpetuate the post-World War II national myths of imperialist Britain. Instead we remember the role of the bourgeoisie - not just in Germany, but across Europe - in promoting fascism and Nazism as a blunt instrument to destroy the communist menace. The British ruling class was stacked with Nazi sympathisers - Edward VIII was in the thick of them. Another reason to demand the immediate abolition of the monarchy and a working class campaign for a federal republic of Scotland, England and Wales.