Thursday, June 10, 2010

Seamus Milne Does History- Oh Dear

Compare and contrast- Seamus Milne discusses the history of Communism and the history of the British Empire:

Nazi Comparisons:

With the USSR are bad-
The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Treblinka or Sobibor, no extermination camps built to murder millions.
With the British Empire are entirely reasonable-
No wonder Hitler was such an enthusiastic admirer of Britain's empire, which he described as an "inestimable factor of value". The echoes of Nazism in the colonial record are unmistakable

The Ends Justifies The Means:

With the USSR, yes-
communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda's Man of Marble and Rybakov's Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.
With the Empire, no-

But the question, as Colin Jones, president of the Royal Historical Society, puts it, should be: "Which narrative?" If Britain had genuinely come to terms with its imperial history, no senior politician would have dared suggest celebrating it or mobilising apologists to sanitise its record for schoolchildren.

The British empire was, after all, an avowedly racist despotism built on ethnic cleansing, enslavement, continual wars and savage repression, land theft and merciless exploitation. Far from bringing good governance, democracy or economic progress, the empire undeveloped vast areas, executed and jailed hundreds of thousands for fighting for self-rule, ran concentration camps, carried out medical experiments on prisoners and oversaw famines that killed tens of millions of people.

By the numbers:

For the USSR, we must avoid an "ideologically-fuelled inflation game":
The real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are horrific enough (799,455 people were recorded as executed between 1921 and 1953 and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak) without engaging in an ideologically-fuelled inflation game.
With the Empire we can cherry pick sources about death tolls from idealogically fuelled nutjobs whose estimates are more than ten times those of mainstream historians:
To this day, Kenyan victims of the 1950s campaign of torture, killing and mass internment are still trying, and failing, to win British compensation during a "counter-insurgency" war that, by some estimates, left 100,000 dead.

Etc etc.


Ross said...

Ooooookaaaaaaay...... [ backs slowly away from computer ]

JuliaM said...

*twirls finger round temples*

Edwin Greenwood said...

Coo-er! He's obviously put an awful lot of work into that website. That in itself is vaguely worrying.

"twirls finger round temples"

That sounds extremely painful, Julia.

Anonymous said...

Sam Buckett said...

Strange beyond understanding...

but anyway...

good blog. Strongly recommend Jan Morris's Empire trilogy for a balanced account (and a good read)...

James Higham said...

no Soviet Treblinka or Sobibor, no extermination camps built to murder millions

Really, Ross? 10 million at the hands of Stalin, the whole intelligentsia wiped out and ethnic groups - seems pretty horrendous to many Russians.

Ross said...

James, those are Milne's words not mine!

Anonymous said...

wot about the romans then ?

Anonymous said...

And the normans and the vikings and attilla

banned said...

Hungary, that brave and friendly republic in Central Europe, has passed a bill equating Communist era crimes to the Holocaust and banned denying it under threat of imprisonment. Those denying, casting doubts on, or depreciating the crimes committed by the Communist regime will be facing from one to three years behind bars.

Ross said...

I'm torn about the Hungarian thing, I don't think speech should be criminalised but I am tempted to send Milne some tickets to Budapest.