Sunday 25 February 2018

Footnotes to history

Poles and Swedes partitioned Ukraine 100 years before Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Russia and Austria, but nobody talks about that. Lord Salisbury, the future Prime Minister, pointed this out.

People always say that the 1905 Russo-Japanese war was the first time in the modern era that a European state was defeated by a non-white state, but the Abyssinians defeated the Italians at Adwa in 1896.

Enlightenment values as a secular religion

"The world is trying to experiment with attempting to form a civilised but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the world from suicide."
T. S. Eliot, "Thoughts After Lambeth" {the 1930 Lambeth Conference that permitted Anglicans to use contraceptives in certain circumstances)

"Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, Justice" was the official and public motto of the Ottoman Empire under the reforming liberal Young Turks who organized and carried out the Armenian Genocide -the template for the litany of nation-building State slaughters that has ensued for over a century of progress. Christian Roy

Germany's "historically unique experiment"

Yascha Mounk is a German in his mid-30s who is a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard and describes himself on his website as "one of the world's leading experts on the crisis of liberal democracy and the rise of populism". Talking recently in an interview with German TV about the threat to democracy posed by populists he said populists thrive for three reasons. The first is economic stagnation and the third is the internet, which allows extreme politicians to be heard. The second reason is this:
"We are in a historically unique experiment. There is no example in history of a democracy founded on mono-ethnicity and transformed into a liberal multi-ethnic democracy. We are halfway, but certainly not arrived yet and have to feel in the dark."

Saturday 24 February 2018


"A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked.
"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."
Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.

"He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future."
Adolf Hitler

The Life and Death in a Small Town in Ukraine

Massacre of the innocents | The Spectator

The history of Eastern Europe is a series of national or ethnic conflicts, one on top of another. Galicia, now Western Ukraine, which came under the rule of the Habsburgs when Poland was partitioned in the 18th century, was always divided by conflicts between the Austrian government, the Polish landed gentry, the Jews who dominated business and the professions, owned 20% of properties and half the property leases, and the Polish and Ukrainian (or Ruthenian) peasants. 

I think Ukrainians and Ruthenes are the same thing but some think otherwise. Gentle reader, please educate me on this point.

Omer Bartov, an Israeli historian, has written 
Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz, about his mother's home town in Galicia, which was in Austria when she was born, in Poland when she emigrated to Palestine, was later ruled by the USSR, the Germans, the Soviets again and is now in Ukraine.

Before the Second World War Jews made up the majority of the town's population and lived in the best houses. They were a minority of 11% in Galicia as a whole but made up most of the Galician business class, owned 20% of terrains of land and held 50% of the leases. They were resented for racial, religious, class and economic reasons, as were the Poles and Ukrainians.

Violence was part of the town's history going back at least to 1648 when the the town's large Jewish population were tortured and killed by Cossacks (Ukrainians) in extraordinarily horrible ways, including skinning Jews alive, tearing unborn children from their mothers' wombs and other equally terrible things. From the first chapter, then, this is a harrowing book to read, though after the town was liberated from the Turks by the Poles for the last time in 1683 it seems to have been largely undisturbed by war until 1914.

The town changed hands several times during the First World War and the enormities committed during and after the war are hard to read or to believe. Witnesses tell of mass murders, mass rapes, torture and gouging out of eyes. These things happened to Jews, especially at the hands of Russians, and also to Ukrainians and Poles, who killed one another and raped one another's women.

Austria Hungary had kept order and peace between the ethnic groups. It was an E.U. that worked. When the Empire fell apart in 1918, thanks partly to the foolish idealism of the American President, Poles and Ukrainians struggled to replace Austrians. 

Jews were seen as having been loyal to the Austrians, which made them unpopular with both nationalities.

After seven years of horror in which a generation of frightened and embittered Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish children grew up, 
including a brief period of Bolshevik rule, peace returned in 1921 and the town settled down as part of Poland. The monarchy had provided its own legitimacy but Poland's legitimacy rested on ethnicity. It was an ethnic state where minorities made up almost a third of the population and who were inevitably second class citizens. 

So the peace that lasted until 1939 was a frozen conflict.

With the Poles now in charge, the Jews started speaking Polish (almost everyone in this drama spoke German, Polish and Ukrainian) and Ukrainians dreamt of their moment of national revival. Some joined the nationalist party of Stepan Bandera that began to use violence.

The First World War and the Second World War were one Thirty Years' War. This is the background to the atrocities committed by Germans, Ukrainians, Poles and Russians between 1939 and the late 1940s when Stalin asserted Communist control over the area, deported the Poles and slowly suppressed the Ukrainian resistance.

The Soviets took over Buczacz in 1939. The Soviet invasion meant

"those national minorities that had been under the thumb of the Polish authorities, the Ukrainians and even more so the Jews, now had the upper hand as the Soviets used them to enforce their rule."
No doubt the Jews were very grateful to be ruled by Communists rather than Nazis. The local Catholic priest, Father Rutyna, an ethnic Pole, testified that Ukrainians and Jews greeted the Soviet soldiers with flowers and pointed out to them whom to arrest, including teachers and municipal officials. 
"'I saw how they threw their captives like cattle into the truck and sat on top of them with their rifles and took them away. These were teachers, people from the administration whom they unfortunately all later slowly murdered.'"
The Polish elite suddenly lost its power. A Jew became mayor and Jewish proletarians were appointed to jobs in the town hall and police. Poles were anti-Soviet and many were deported. 

When the Germans invaded in 1941 the Ukrainians thought that their time had at last come. Ukrainian militias, some members of which had resisted the Communists, took charge of the town and began killing Communist collaborators and others against whom they had a grudge, but in a couple of weeks the Germans took over. With the help of very many Ukrainian collaborators the SS began a comprehensive massacre of the vast majority of the fifteen thousand Jews in the town, drawn out over three years, as well as killing people from other ethnic groups.

Professor Bartov is writing about the fate of the town's Jews, not the townspeople as a body, but acknowledges that another tragedy was also unfolding, the ethnic cleansing of the Poles by the Ukrainian militias. In my opinion it would be a better book had it covered this story too. 

He says that the Polish government in London estimated that half of the original 48,000 Poles in the town were lost through killing, flight or deportation and that the Poles were pleased when Soviet soldiers returned to deal with the Banderite Ukrainians. I'd have liked much more about this but the book skirts it.

One Ukrainian in the town told local Jews that
"the Ukrainian intelligentsia does not approve of the murder of the Jews"
but plenty of Ukrainians of a lower intellectual level did approve of it and of murdering Poles. They did not know that, had Operation Barbarossa gone to plan, the Germans intended to starve to death millions of Ukrainians that winter.

The Ukrainians in 1941 were repeating the murderous role they played in the revolt of 1648 but I'd have liked a detailed explanation of what sort of Ukrainians killed Jews and Poles and why. I presume that, as in 1648, they were peasants, wreaking revenge on groups who were perceived to be well-off and privileged, meaning this was a peasant's revolt. The Romanian revolt of 1907, always said to have been Europe's last peasants' revolt, and glorified as such by the Communists, was also aimed at Jews. As Solzhenitsyn said, writing about the Russian civil war, Jews were generally wealthier than the peasants and therefore they were obvious targets for attack.

In addition, Jews were no doubt considered by Ukrainians to have sided with first Austria, then Poland and then Bolshevik Russia. 

Professor Bartov has a good gift for narrative and details a very long and harrowing catalogue of atrocities by the Gestapo and the SS and their Ukrainian collaborators. He notes the
“astonishing ease [with which] spouses and children, lovers and colleagues, friends and parents, appear to have enjoyed their brief murderous sojourn in the region”
as they killed people whom they knew. 
“For many of them, this was clearly the best time of their lives.”
One Gestapo driver, who in the 1950s was investigated by the Germans for murder, before the case was dropped as most such cases were, told the investigation that he still could not understand why
“the Jews went to the execution like sheep. . . . I shook my head over that at the time.” 
He seemed, to the author, to blame the Jewish community leaders, not the Germans, for the killings.

There are many stories in the book of sickening killings, some horrible stories of Jews who were betrayed by Gentiles and somewhat fewer stories of brave Christians who saved Jews at great risk. There are also plenty of stories of robberies and murders of Jews carried out by young Jewish policemen recruited by the Germans. One Jewish witness said Jewish policemen 

"made a fortune from the torments of the Jews and lived by the slogan: 'Eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die!'"
The most affecting stories are the stories of children killed. They remind me of the unbearable stories of the children hunted and murdered by Gilles de Rais.
One five year-old girl in a school held a German officer's hand and begged her not to kill her, but he shot her first because she was annoying him.

A girl of six hiding in a bunker remembered hearing a Jewish boy saying to a Ukrainian policeman,

“I'll show you where there are Jews, will you let me live?"
A Jewish girl who was given shelter and passed off as Polish, despite speaking the language poorly, and who survived remembered:

"The children always played 'Germans and Jews' . . . and 'Jew hunt.'"
After a time, children at execution sites were buried alive rather than shot, to save bullets.

Meanwhile Frau Koellner, the wife of
 the SS man in charge of killing Jews in the town, discussed with a German woman friend how they could keep their children from knowing what was happening. The friend, years later, testified to this when, at her husband's trial, Frau Koellner denied that they had known about the killings.

I read it all, but you might want to skip parts.

At least one American reviewer has read this book and drawn the conclusion that after reading it we should be more welcoming to immigrants and refugees. This is obviously aimed at readers who support Donald Trump or aimed at making readers who dislike him feel pleased with themselves. 

Another conclusion is that because different ethnic and confessional groups can get along for generations, when forced to do so by a strong state, before exploding into violence, it therefore follows that increasing the size of ethnic or religious minorities creates a greater risk, in the long term, of terrorism, civil war or genocide.

Lenin's ancestry was a state secret

Lenin considered himself and was always considered Russian, but he was not an ethnic Russian. Lenin's father was half Chuvash and half Kalmyk. The Kalmyks are a Mongol people, which is how Lenin got his slightly Mongoloid appearance, and the Chuvash are a Turkic people. 

This is interesting when one thinks that Trotsky and also, I think, though I cannot find it cited on the internet, Lenin himself referred to Stalin's 'Asiatic cruelty'. 

Friday 23 February 2018

Roger Scruton

"Hayek sees that the zero-sum vision is fired by an implacable negative energy. It is not the concrete vision of some real alternative that animates the socialist critic of the capitalist order. It is hostility toward the actual, and in particular toward those who enjoy advantages within it. Hence the belief in equality remains vague and undefined, except negatively. For it is essentially a weapon against the existing order – a way of undermining

Sunday 18 February 2018

Review of R.H.S. Stolfi's "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny" - Part 2

Macaulay disapproved of Napier's History of the Peninsular War because he disapproved of military history. He thought it immoral to divorce military strategy from history in the wider sense. 

He had a point. Someone said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music. Perhaps military history is in the same case. 

Russell Stolfi's unsentimental attitude to Hitler may derive from coming to him from studying German military strategy. He is an interesting military historian who sometimes admires Hitler as a strategist. Nevertheless he is sure that Hitler made many mistakes and, by ignoring the generals, lost the war on a single day.

I learnt from Stolfi that once Britain and France declared war Hitler was in a hurry to invade France, expecting every day to learn that the Allies had taken over Belgium without firing a shot. Would that they had!

Saturday 17 February 2018

Review of R.H.S. Stolfi's "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny" - Part 1

John F. Kennedy, aged 28, wrote these words in his diary on holiday in Germany in the summer of 1945, after visiting the Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Lair.
“After visiting these two places you can easily see how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived. He had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him."
They now read very oddly, although there is no question that Hitler was one of the most significant figures who ever lived. Kennedy did not foresee that the hatred that surrounded Hitler in 1945 has not lessened at all in 72 years. 

Books read since last summer

Reading War and Peace intermittently and lackadaisically took up almost two years, not because it is dull but because it is hard to read when the internet exists. Since then I have read a few books and hope to get off the internet as much as possible. Giving it up for Lent (video, audio and this blog excepted) is an experiment.

Bold means I loved it and highly recommend it. * means I have read it before.

Last year:

War and Peace - 
the best novel I ever read, toppling The Charterhouse of Parma.

Lady in the Lake*
, Raymond Chandler, transcendent prose.

Quotations about 'Cambridge (and Oxford)', written in my commonplace book just after I went down

[I collected them in the dear bygone time before the internet made finding quotations easy. I wonder where I found them. I suppose I just read a lot, much easier to do before the Internet and life began.]

Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Than his own mother university.
Thebes did his green, unknowing youth engage,
He chooses Athens in his riper age.
John Dryden

But how I longed
As a boy for the groves and grooves of Academe.
Christopher Fry, Venus Observed

Quotations I collected when I was 22

I kept commonplace books of quotations in the months between going down from university and starting work. Five thick ones, A4 sized. I intend to publish a selection from them as an e-book. One has been sitting in my sitting room for years and here are a few quotations from it.

Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch's wife
He would have written sonnets all his life?

Lord Byron

Sunday 11 February 2018

Was it Great Britain, not Russia, that was interfering in the 2016 US Presidential election?

The investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russia to help him win the election - spoiler alert: he didn't - is for me very boring and not at all important. What is interesting is that the FBI relied on uncorroborated information in order to investigate someone in the Trump campaign. They did so because they, quite reasonably, had faith in Christopher Steele, the supposedly retired M16 man who produced the information.

The Guardian in April 2017 said:

John Kelly's troubling views and why I back the South in the U.S. Civil War

The Guardian is very disappointed that retired General John Kelly, Donald Trump's Chief of Staff, is not 'restraining' the president, which they see as his duty. And he does not have approved views on the Civil War.
John Kelly expressed some troubling views of his own. He described Robert E Lee as “an honorable man” and blamed the conflict on “the lack of an ability to compromise” rather than slavery. ....Pressure grows on him to resign.
I remember my supervisor in my first term at university telling me that the Civil War was fought over the Union not about slavery. I replied 'Of course. No other reason would possibly have been justifiable'. She seemed a little surprised.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

The UK needs Michael Howard as Prime Minister - there is no-one else

The UK needs Michael Howard to come back to the Commons and form a government. No one else has the stature political skills and is Leave. A Prime Minister is needed who believes in Brexit.

Suffragettes made no contribution to women getting the vote

A lot of nonsense in the press today about Suffragettes. I am sorry to see allegedly Conservative politicians like Mrs. May and the unspeakable Davidson woman praising the Suffragettes, whose illegal and violent tactics delayed women getting the vote. 

Women were given the vote by a predominantly Conservative government as a reward for their contribution to the war effort.

From a letter in today's Guardian:

It is simply untrue to state that the suffragettes only targeted property, not people. That may have been true of the leadership, but certainly not of the rank and file membership. In one year alone, 1914, shortly before Mrs Pankhurst disbanded the WSPU’s campaign to concentrate on the war effort, there were several incidents of suffragette violence against individuals: Lord Weardale was attacked with a horsewhip by Mary Lindsay, who mistook him for Asquith, the prime minister; a bomb on a Blackpool train badly burned a train guard. Meanwhile there were widespread reports of suffragettes practising with revolvers on shooting ranges around London. Had war not broken out in 1914, there can be little doubt that suffragette violence against individuals would have intensified still further.

Time once more for Lord Curzon's 15 Good Reasons Against the Grant of Female Suffrage.

We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do...

The Great MacDermott's song was the big hit of 1877, as Britain geared up to go to war to defend Turkey from Russia in the Balkans. Here he is on YouTube!

Thus the word jingoism was coined. The Tories sympathised with the Sultan as legitimate monarch, the Liberals with the Christians for Blairite reasons.

We had no reason to fear Russia. Even had they captured Constantinople it wouldn't have mattered. The Cold War was probably not necessary but, even if it were, it is certain that Russia is no threat to Britain now.

I used to be a pro Turk a propos 1877. I am not sure now and should read about it but I think that that war, which led to Romanian independence (but Wallachia and Moldavia were de facto independent anyway), was unnecessary.  The majority of people in Eastern Thrace (which remains in Turkey) were Muslim 
and I am not sorry it is not in Greece, but the majority in Constantinople were Christian. Now I regret that, as so many hoped, Mass was not celebrated in the Hagia Sofia. Yet I regret the passing of the Ottoman Russian and Hapsburg empires. In the Middle East a democratic federal Ottoman Empire would be far better than the mess we have now.

The British don't want to be ruled by foreigners

The reason people who want UK to leave the EU do so is that they don't want to be ruled by foreigners. This way of thinking is permitted, which is one of the things that makes Brexit such an interesting issue, but it is not far from the borders of permitted thought. There are actually Remain voters who think this racist. I have spoken to two such people. 

Historians will one day tell us why they think like that or psychologists. Theologians are beyond hope these days.

Monday 5 February 2018


‘The perils of change are so great, the promise of the most hopeful theories is so often deceptive, that it is frequently the wiser part to uphold the existing state of things, if it can be done, even though, in point of argument, it should be utterly indefensible...Resistance is folly or heroism—a virtue or a vice—in most cases, according to the probabilities there are of its being successful.’ Lord Salisbury

Sunday 4 February 2018

Capture kindergartens and you capture the world

While wife Bernardine Dohrn was in the pokey Bill Ayers had a part-time job back in the eighties, teaching pre-schoolers how to be good lil lefties
Bill Ayers who co-founded the Weathermen, a communist revolutionary group that conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings, spent the time that his wife Bernardine Dohrn was in prison running a kindergarten to instill his ideas in the very young. Those ideas seemed eccentric in 1983 but are pretty much universally accepted now.

Saturday 3 February 2018

Liberalism is a religion (a false one, I think)

Amanda Spielman, the Head of Ofsted, the UK's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, said she wants teachers to combat extremism with “muscular liberalism”, instead of religious extremism. She has in mind Muslim schools, but may triangulate by persecuting Christian ones.

is any religion compatible with liberalism? I doubt it.

Does she mean Catholic schools won't tell pupils that sodomy is a sin? Do they even do so now? Or that wives should obey husbands?

Why should schools teach liberalism anyway? Why can't schoolchildren be conservatives or socialists or nationalists or whatever their parents bring them up to be?

Because the idea of our time is that the state is responsible for children, just as the state (in theory the electorate but in practice the man - person, sorry- in Whitehall) is responsible for how much property and money you have and how healthily you eat. 

Poles and Ukrainians murdering Jews

The Polish government, which generally gets an unfairly bad press from liberals, is very wrong to want to make it illegal to refer to the wartime German death camps in Poland as 'Polish death camps'. 

Here is very interesting information about Poles and Ukrainians killing Jews after the Germans invaded in 1939. I knew Ukrainians did so but had not known about the Polish killing spree. I did know of Poles murdering Jews after the end of the war on at least one occasion and about the war between Poles and Ukrainians that continued after Germany surrendered.

What is certain is that no historical writing or theory should be illegal except, because of their responsibility for massacring Jews during the war, holocaust denial in Germany and Austria. The world needs much more 
freedom of speech, not less.

I just finished rereading Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe's authoritative biography of Stepan Bandera. Bandera was a very charismatic Ukrainian nationalist who before 1939 was

imprisoned in Poland for political murders. 

Friday 2 February 2018

When the USA was Anglo-Saxon

King George III, granting his first audience to the first US Minister Plenipotentary (Ambassador) John Adams, sweetly said:

I pray, Mr Adams, that the United States does not suffer unduly from its want of a monarchy.
Of course it did and does but the Loyalists who saw that had been driven out in a horrible manner.

The future President Adams, replying, declared:

I shall esteem myself the happiest of Men, if I can be instrumental in recommending my Country, more and more to your Majesty's Royal Benevolence and of restoring an entire esteem, confidence and affection, or in better Words, "the old good Nature and the old good Humour" between People who, tho separated by an ocean and under different Governments, have the same Language, a similar Religion and kindred Blood.