Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Our friends in the Commonwealth

Wilson/Callaghan years as a distant mirror of the left in the commonwealth.

Jamaica: forced to call in the IMF.[Michael Manley: the Prime Minster Tony Benn could have been?]

Australia: Interference of the Establishment. Forced into a general election that Labor bound to loose.

New Zealand: smeared as 'Red' and chaotic.


Phil Knight said...

I've just been researching this unusual yet entirely typical fellow:


Basically, what was going on here is that establishment types were up to their elbows in dirty anti-communist wars in Malaya, Indonesia, Cyprus, Aden etc. then returned home and projected communist infiltration on domestic unrest.

That said, many of the supposedly organic, indigenous, spontaneous anti-colonial uprisings really were wholly-owned subsidiaries of the KGB - the Yemeni NLF being an example.

Also, Aus and NZ were involved in Malaya and Indonesia as well as Korea, Vietnam. Basically I see this whole episode as an own-goal by the Soviets - their traceable undermining of Franco-British colonial authority led to a paranoic anti-socialist response in the stable "home" states.

I don't think this mindset has ever really abated, tbh.

William said...

Very interesting. I have been reading about Col. John Cross who also served with the Gurkha Rifles and was involved in anti-communist operations in the '50s too. Unusually he never returned to the UK. Still lives in the hills somewhere in Nepal. Good interview with him here, altho' doesn't go into the guerrilla war stuff http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnyJfM5_Nbw

The British Left don't seem to have been very aware of this going on at the time: they all focused on Chile instead. Disavowal?

Phil Knight said...

I think the British Left were/are totally taken in by the "America's Junior Partner" meme, so what the Brits get up to is necessarily less important than what the Americans do.

I think all the British colonial "small wars" of the post-war period are not ultimately about anti-communism or preserving the Empire. They're really about preserving what I would call the "British World System" i.e. the network of trade relations built up during the Empire.

The Soviets were the main threat to this system, and the British could therefore justify their actions against them to the Americans as part of the united front against communism, but really it was about preserving British power and British living standards.

Has anyone read David Edgerton's "Warfare State"? Does he take this kind of line?

William said...

Still haven't read that properly yet.

He was pretty good on what would become New Labour's 'liberal militarism':

"One felicitious consequence was that Britain could pull out of the unsavoury ‘continental commitment’ and pursue a world role once again. The return to East of Suez, even as a subsidiary
of the US Marine Corps, came faster than anyone might have
expected, but it was anticipated... As Britain goes to war again, on a scale perhaps surpassing Suez, the
failure to understand that through the twentieth century the British
state has been both militant and industrial has clear political consequences.
The first is that the Labour Party has once again succumbed
to the ‘remember Munich’ syndrome: the belief that Britain is inherently
a pacifist nation that keeps its limited forces on short rations
until it is too late. The second is that it fails to see that the militantindustrial
British state may be creating a new role for itself in the
post-Cold War years. For it is not beyond the bounds of possibility
that one of the many causes of the present disastrous war was the
desire of the American and British warfare states, and their individual
armed services, to secure themselves a future. Operation ‘Desert
Shield’ has been aptly called Operation ‘Budget Shield’. This present
war reveals the British state as the most militaristic in Europe; it is
not unreasonable to conclude that the British have become the hightech
Gurkhas of the Western world—a sad fate for a peace-loving,
anti-scientific, and imperial race."


Phil Knight said...

I think there's more to it than militarism, though. For example, people nowadays seem to have no idea how much farmland in Africa is still owned by British interests (much more than is owned by the Chinese, according to some reports I've read).

I'm tending to think that the greatest trick the British Empire ever pulled was convincing the world that it no longer exists.

William said...

Very true. See also mining companies.