Is an appraisal of left & right politics of the Thirties possible eighty years later?
And can that legacy be overcome to differentiate between Idealism and Extremism.
Being convinced I lived past lives, memories and emotions of segments of history seem so near the surface that they seem triggered by world events sometimes quite disturbing, yet I cannot help but wonder can I really imagine a time when it was perfectly natural to be attracted to one extreme of politics or another as tangible alternatives, and cause for hope, when the basic differences between right or left wing policies being nominal, yet frequently sharing the simplistic human frailty in blaming the weakest common denominator be it the Jews or ruling classes, or some other collective or class of people. That said, be under no illusion, both factions are passionate about their cause, both believed beyond all doubt their ideology holds the key to the future, and any that that disagree, must therefore be opponents little knowing the masters of both are one and the same and it's only these recent decades that fact is begining to be realised.
In the thirties the First Great War manifested in the empty bellies of survivors children or families and sacrifices at such a vast human cost was hard to measure. Most families having lost at least oen of its male offspring, plus reparations along with depravation served to drive the population in most western nations to one extreme or another out of sheer despair.
As a result the second conflagration caused seventy two nations to oppose National Socialism and along with Communism age old ethnic grievances were addressed. At the same time most, if not all the occupied nations produced sizeable foreign volunteer contingents to fight on their side in numbers that sometimes exceeded those of resistance or partisan forces. Moreover, some favoured resistance fighters like Marshal Tito became willing pawns in the gamesmanship of a blossoming power base whilst that political extreme was not shy of killing off opposition, even if they were rabid anti Naziâ€™s.
Effectively a far more ominous bonus was achieved to serve global expansion in making nationalism, or patriotism undesirable, if not unacceptable, with the label of Fascist bandied about liberally which I for one resent.
In my case whena teenage student in the early seventies I accepted an open invitation to attend a meeting hosting an open political debate in Haringeys town hall. It seemed a prime opportunity in which to exchange two opposing views in a civilised and mutually beneficial manner, during which they might explore varying degrees of sympathy and understanding and at very least be willing to explore that possibility.
Entering the bright hall, spotlights illuminated the stage bearing a table and chairs set out to form an open mouth of a horseshoe to the gallery front. Quietly, leading figures of both persuasions filed in and took up seats opposite each other. Uncomfortable moments passed of disorientation, nervously dispersing sheets of notes, or shuffling pens and relocating jugs of fresh water and glasses to pass time whilst apprehensively awaiting the mixed audience to arrive and settle.
From the two wing doors an eager audience that were largely students filtered in fairly quietly and inter mingled on tubular steel chairs placed in rows for their comfort. Within a short time the hall became so full that I, as it proves to my good fortune, was forced to stand at the absolute rear with my back to the wall. Just to my side, I could see through a vertical oval glass peephole in a door to the kitchen, and within that kitchen were a host of tightly bunched police officers, clearly present to monitor proceedings or respond to the first sign of trouble. Obviously restless and fidgeting signaled their discomfort in the intense heat of their closeness, and certainly not helped by having been deployed so far in advance of the arrival of the first guest speakers.
What I hadnâ€™t picked up on was that elements of a malignant, aggressive group of men had filtered into the crowd and spread themselves in what soon became clear were predetermined positions. Suddenly, just as the meeting was being called to order, but before any meaningful talk could even open the debate, there was a shrill whistle blast that drowned out all sound, and everyoneâ€™s attention was drawn away from the stage towards one individual standing in a rear fire exit doorway.
Sure enough, there, stood Mr. B........., a serving Labour MP who slowly returned his whistle into his top pocket, and turned about sharply to vanish silently through the swing doors and out of sight. The whistle blast was a signal, and his command instantly obeyed. At least four groups of three or four burly thugs rose quickly from their seated positions, grasped the chairs back support and set about ramming or clubbing them into the faces of anyone with the misfortune to be seated forward or aft of them.
Undiscriminating and completely unconcerned as to whether they were male, female, old or young, right or left wing, their task was to create mayhem that would simply prevent any exchange of dialogue just in case there was a remote chance of an accommodation. The force and power of this initial onslaught made those standing at the rear to surge physically backward, pinning me and a great many others to the back wall. Whilst the violence directly to my front was viscous to the extreme. I was unable to move and had no idea who was friend or foe. The 62 Group of course were well versed and trained as a paramilitary organisation and of course, recognised each other without difficulty. Everyone else, totally disorganised, simply absorbed the ferocity of the unprovoked attack.
Rallying one faction or another simply couldn't occur in the chaos - and even if it did, who would fight and defend against whom? Bewildered and helpless, I gazed around wondering why the police had not burst forward to bring the place to order and saw concerned Bobbies gaping at their senior officers awaiting the command to act. Faces expressed deep frustration at being left in a state of limbo as minutes seemed to stretch to hours and the most appalling injuries were inflicted in front of their very eyes within the hall.
Whatever the source of the senior officersâ€™ orders, he was obviously obeying his instructions to the letter. Whether it was deliberate or not I cannot say, but his delayed command allowed the majority of the attack group to disperse from the scene of conflict and on the whole, retire from the chaos unscathed. When the police finally did make their dramatic entry, they gave aid without favour, what they were not able to do, was to identify the authors of the awful, bloody mayhem in the hall, they had retreated as professionally as they had attacked.
The meeting of minds were now engaged in mutual concern and confusion; as for ideologies, injuries took little measure of political persuasion, just swathes of cloth to mop the blood and yet another example of working class sacrifice and loss I had personally witnessed., with an ominous force of para-military thugs to ensure no mutual ground could be found.
Divide and Rule, the greatest weapon of all time.