Springingtiger's Blog


The Lessons of History
September 18, 2015, 21:16
Filed under: Justice, Politics, Scotland, Yes Scotland | Tags: , , ,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

You could say this has been an historic week. At the weekend the English Labour Party elected a new leader. Jeremy Corbyn is not an identikit party leader in a sharp suit surrounded by media managers, he is different. An honest man of integrity, without a chequered past, he has upset the establishment who could find so little upon which to attack him that they resorted to highlighting the fact that he didn’t sing the National Anthem at a memorial service and allegedly insulted the country. However when asked about he said his thoughts were elsewhere with the people being remembered and with his parents who lived through the blitz. Certain Zionists tried to discredit Corbyn by accusing him of associating with anti-semites and Holocaust deniers, they couldn’t accuse him of anti-semitism himself because no one would have believed it.

I, like most of the country, had forgotten the whole holocaust denying charge until this week when I was watching the House of Commons debating the Trade Union Bill. As I listened to the arguments and realised that we were facing an attempt to destroy the ability of Trades Unions to protect their members or to campaign politically the words of Pastor Niemöler came, unbidden, to my mind. The Thatcher and New Labour years had served the right wing agenda of demonising socialism and now the Conservative government and their financial backers were going to kill the unions.

“Then they came for the Jews”. In today’s Britain one hopes the Jews are safe. However since Nine Eleven we have seen the increasing demonisation of Muslims in particular, and foreigners in general, culminating in the Conservative resistance to allowing refugees into Britain and the constant suggestion that any Muslim refugees allowed into the UK will bring terrorists along with them. In Britain today the word ‘Muslim’ is almost inevitably followed by ‘terrorist’ and ‘Islamic’ by ‘militant’. The British peoples are being conditioned to regard foreigners with the same suspicion as prewar Germans did the Jews. ‘Foreigners are stealing our jobs, houses, benefits, women, grooming our children, undermining our values and culture. We are in danger of being swamped by a swarm of migrants.’

On BBC Question Time last night the new Shadow Chancellor was attacked for remarks he made in 2003. John McDonnell explained his remarks and apologised for the hurt he caused. In 2003 he wrote an article “Why I Stood up for Bobby Sands.” in the Guardian explaining his remarks. In it he indicates another lesson of history,
“Among British people there has to be an acceptance that the violence of the past 35 years had a root cause. It wasn’t some pathological trait of the Irish. Britain faced such violence in virtually every colony from which it was forced to withdraw, from the Mau Mau in Kenya to the nationalists in India. We have to face up to the fact that without the armed uprising in 1916 Britain would not have withdrawn from southern Ireland. And without the armed struggle of the IRA over the past 30 years, the Good Friday agreement would not have acknowledged the legitimacy of the aspirations of many Irish people for a united Ireland.”
John McDonnell points to a sad fact that very rarely does a subject people achieve independence without violence whether the Belgians in 1830, the Irish in 1916, America in 1776, India in 1947 after many years and several rebellions, Bangladesh 1971, and virtually every other successful move to independence. This week we mark a year since the Scottish Independence referendum and we might well be advised to remember the lessons of history. Were it not for the repeated failure of the English government to honour its promises of Irish Home Rule the Irish would not have had to rise in 1916. Now that the English government is backtracking on the promises made to the Scottish people to in 2014 to secure a No vote, it should pause and remember what happened in Ireland ninety nine years ago.

The Tories claim to honour Winston Churchill. They should bear in mind his advice,
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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