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  • Utterly bizarre

    by Rumbold
    30th August, 2009 at 3:25 pm    

    Peter Hitchens is in fine form today. He begins his piece by listing all the things wrong with Britain, including the fact that “Our language is invaded by foreign words and expressions.” (of course this never happened before 1939, says the man who is named after someone from the Middle East). In our doughty columnist’s mind, Britain is a third-rate power which has an immense amount wrong with it. Therefore, Mr. Hitchens asks, would Britain have been better off not entering the Second World War? Would we still be the greatest imperial power in the world?

    Most self-respecting historians would be able to answer this in three words: we don’t know. Counter-factual history is largely pointless. You might be able to make broad assertions on what might have happened immediately after something, but that is about it. For example, Napoleon was heading towards Brussels before Wellington stopped him at Waterloo. We can say that it was likely that a French victory at Waterloo would have probably been followed by an attack on Brussels. Beyond that though, we have no idea. We don’t know what Napoleon himself would have done, nor the other European powers. It is therefore useless to speculate on something like that, let alone how the world would have changed decades on if a key event was altered (i.e. Britain not entering WWII). Mr. Hitchens however is undaunted by this:

    “Imagine we had been hard realists instead of sentimental romantics. If we had found a way, as we so very nearly did, to divide Hitler and Mussolini, so avoiding a threat to our Mediterranean sea-routes and bases. Imagine that we had chosen splendid isolation instead of active intervention over the quarrels of Eastern and Central Europe. It is not as if we saved the Czechs or the Poles from their various enemies by getting involved. And if we were really trying to save the borders of the Versailles Treaty, we made a pretty poor job of it.”

    What then follows is a series of assertions not based on anything save what Mr. Hitchens would like to have happened. There are a few demonstrable factual errors (Congress had rejected dominion status by 1930 thanks to Nehru’s arguments, the EU was a pre-war project conceived of in the 1920s and 1930s, while mass migration has been going on for thousands of years), but since most of it is made up, it cannot be countered (though why Mr. Hitchens discounts Japanese expansion I cannot fathom). Suffice to say Britain would still be the best, still have an empire, and no bad people would have emerged. Not sure what would have become of those Nazis though.

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    17 Comments below   |  

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    1. Kurt

      Pickled Politics » Utterly bizarre

    2. “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” « Where is the world from here?

      [...] when he visits in September. I confess that I initially misread the latter story and thought it was Peter Hitchens that was involved. I was even halfway through my letter to The Met asking if a stray truncheon [...]

    1. Bearded Socialist — on 30th August, 2009 at 4:25 pm  

      the bloke is an idiot, totally mental. end of.
      the sooner he’s shut up the better

    2. Laban Tall — on 30th August, 2009 at 5:21 pm  

      Off topic - but either I’ve missed it (always possible) or there’s been nowt on PP about the BJP shenanigans back in India, and Jaswant Singh’s praise for Jinnah which led to his expulsion.

      I’ve always had mixed feelings about Jinnah, so it would be interesting to find out exactly what JS said.

      Come on, Picklers - can’t you give the BJP at least 10% of the coverage you give the BNP ?

      PS - really cogent criticism by the Bearded Socialist, what ?

    3. Don — on 30th August, 2009 at 6:04 pm  

      Reveals quite a squalid mind, really. No surprise there, obviously, but better a Europe under the Nazis than the EU? Better to cut a deal with Hitler than accept foreign words, measurements and movies?

      When you find your internal dialogue is going to places like that, best to keep it internal. What a twerp.

    4. Edsa — on 30th August, 2009 at 7:06 pm  

      Laban Tall #2 - I am sympathetic - so here is a go [don't mind, Sunny]
      You can’t talk of the BJP without bringing in this Hindutva thing that drives it. Hindutva is just like the British BNP - spewing hate against Muslims. Arundati Roy</b) had this ti say in her new book Listening to Grasshoppers:

      “The Sangh Parivar, hydra-headed and many-armed, serves as the joint family of Hindu political and cultural organisations made up of the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and the BJP. Whipping up communal hatred is part of the mandate of the Sangh Parivar. RSS shakas (branches) have been indoctrinating children and young people, stunting their minds with religious hatred and falsified history, including wildly exaggerated accounts of the rape of Hindu women and pillage of Hindu temples by Muslim rulers in the pre-colonial period.”

      Hindu organisations like the RSS and BJP, acutely conscious of Hindu subjugation from centuries of Muslim domination, have developed a historical grudge and vindictive attitudes against Muslims, seeking to oppress them at every turn. The RSS and the BJP, not having an intellectual tradition, do not present their case rationally. They simply unleash inflammatory rhetoric to incite the unthinking masses.

      It is noteworthy that Hindutva does not find any intellectual support in the right wing of the West. To them, it is a form of communal madness, more commonly linked with the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia.

    5. Roger — on 30th August, 2009 at 8:36 pm  

      “Our language is invaded by foreign words and expressions.”

      English is the product of an invasion by foreigners who brought foreign words and expressions with them. That’s why the English words for meat- beef, pork, mutton- are French- they came from the people who ate them and the words for the animals- cattle, swine, sheep- are Germanic- they came from the people who herded them. Someone once defined English as the result of a Norman man-at-arms trying to get off with a Saxon barmaid.

      As for staying out of WWII, Britain would have either had a Nazi-dominated or a Soviet-dominated united Europe twenty miles away and would have had to adapt attitudes and policies to suit its psychopathic neighbour, whichever it was. They could have made a pirates’ deal with Japan in the far East probably. However, the one redeeming feature of the British Empire was that it was not always and not entirely dominated by greed and assumptions of racial, cultural and national superiority. The necessary attitude that the sole purpose of empire was profit would have degraded Britain even more than the colonies.

    6. soru — on 30th August, 2009 at 11:30 pm  

      Answering counter-factual questions is more a job for fiction than historians. I find this trilogy basically convincing.

      A Britain in a world in which Germany won WWII would resemble the winner more or less as much as it resembles the USA these days. The winner of a war doesn’t just gain territory, they set cultural trends, define the limits of the possible.

      I’m not the biggest fan of McDonalds, but they are kind of preferable to extermination camps.

    7. douglas clark — on 31st August, 2009 at 2:26 am  


      Could you tell me please how

      the EU was a pre-war project conceived of in the 1920s and 1930s..


      My understanding is that it was a post war project. Perhaps there were folk around in the 20s and 30s that thought like that but they were hardly influential, were they? The impetus that mainstreamed it came from WW2, I think.

      Lest anyone think you were being counter-factual ;-)

    8. MaidMarian — on 31st August, 2009 at 9:12 am  

      To be Peter Hitchins today is to pine for a world that existed nowhere but in the fetid immaginations of upper class, right wong journalists.

      It is to pine for a world where English roses will provide social care, build extensions to overpriced houses, serve white wine and crab-cakes etc for about 95p an hour. Something like the video to Days by Kirsty McColl.

      It is to pine for a world where the underclass can be wished away and there is socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor. Of course many buy into this guff. One only has to look at just about any talkboard to realise that it is common currency that prior to 1997 everything was perfect.

      douglas clark - In the late 1920s and early 1930s there were some very serious debates about integration, though the EEC emerged from a post-war specific vision of managing the German Question. During the 1940s, Chruchill talkaed about a ‘European Instrument,’ accountable to a World Council.

    9. Rumbold — on 31st August, 2009 at 12:11 pm  


      As MaidMarian said, the intellectual framework for what would become the EU was created in the 1920s and 1930s, thanks to men like Arthur Salter and Jean Monnet.

    10. Bartholomew — on 31st August, 2009 at 7:30 pm  

      I remember once reading Paul “Spanker” Johnson arguing that the end of the British Empire led to chaos in Africa which meant AIDS could not be contained, therefore Clement Atlee was responsible for AIDS. Really.

    11. Jai — on 1st September, 2009 at 12:32 pm  

      Hitchens also has a related article on his own blog (accessible via the Daily Mail article). He takes matters further there, including exaggerating the role of Bose in India’s independence movement.

      I’ve just posted a couple of comments on the Daily Mail comments thread; they have a pre-publish moderation policy so I don’t know if or when my comments will be made available, but here’s what I said anyway:

      (First comment):

      Peter Hitchens,
      It would be worthwhile if you read the excellent novel “Fatherland” by Robert Harris, since the story focuses on the aftermath of a German victory in WW2 and (amongst other matters) the impact on a British Empire which survives largely intact into the 1960s, the decade during which the novel is set.

      Some responses to your assertions:

      - Nazi Germany would have developed nuclear weapons irrespective of the United States. Germany already possessed a nuclear research programme and the rapidly advancing nature of its rocket technology at the time is well-known.

      - A “neutral” Britain would have been ‘tainted’ by not having acted to stop the total extermination of Europe’s remaining Jews despite having the strength of a global empire at its command. So much for the Empire being a ‘force for good’.

      - Bose WAS completely eclipsed by Gandhi & Nehru. Bose’s impact on Indian independence was inconsequential.


      (Second comment)

      A couple of further points to supplement my previous comment:

      - The Nehru-led Congress in India had rejected proposed dominion status for India by 1930. They wanted full independence, long before the events of WW2.

      - Bose’s involvement in securing Indian independence, both in this article and (particularly) in Peter Hitchens’ associated blog article, has been considerably exaggerated. Yes, there are some in India who admire him — due to his aim to secure Indian independence, not because he allied himself with the Axis powers — but, as I said earlier, the impact of his actions was ultimately inconsequential.

      - And let’s not forget that the “British PoWs marched off by the Japanese” included large numbers of Indian soldiers.

      It’s worth bearing in mind that, out of 2.54 million Indian soldiers involved in WW2, only 40,000 under Bose joined the Axis powers, ie. 1.6%.

      98.4% fought for the Allies, a full 2.5 million soldiers, the biggest volunteer army in recorded history.

    12. fugstar — on 1st September, 2009 at 12:41 pm  

      was it really volunteerism.

      good reading references please.

      I think a lot of the biases of hindutva occidentalism of islam( and congress but less) are shared in the west. Somebody would have a productive time trying to understand them.

    13. douglas clark — on 1st September, 2009 at 12:50 pm  

      Rumbold / Maid Marian,

      Is the Arthur Salter of whom you speak this guy?,_1st_Baron_Salter

      For, if it is, his entire Wiki entry misses any mention of it. Although there is a link to something in French that would seem to support your case:

      Christophe Le Dréau, Arthur Salter face à la construction européenne (1929-1951), Mémoire de DEA de l’Université Paris I Sorbonne, sous la direction de Robert Frank, 1999, 232p

      And there is no denying that Jean Monnet was an internationalist. Though the funniest thing about his stellar career is that he established the Bancamerica-Blair, wtf?

      The interesting point I suppose, is this:

      In December, 1939, Jean Monnet was sent to London to oversee the collectivization of British and French war production capacities. Monnet’s influence inspired Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill to accept a plan for a union of France and the United Kingdom to rival the Nazi union of Germany and Italy.

      Really? What happened to that scheme?

      Jean Monnet certainly moved around at the very highest level of world politics, and is a fascinating character. From being Deputy Secretary General of the League of Nations to an advisor to Roosvelt. His ‘work’ on the Schuman plan has given us European peace for, what, coming on 60 years?

      He seems to me to be a forgotten hero. Although not at the University of Limerick, which has a lecture hall named after him.

      There was a young man called Monet,
      whose ideas were very bonny,
      who changed the world for the better,
      through word and cable and letter,
      though his bancamerica-blair is funny.

      EJ Thribb, Esq.

    14. douglas clark — on 1st September, 2009 at 1:06 pm  

      Jai @ 11,

      You are a really annoying person, you do know that, don’t you?

      You sum up what I think better than my brain does.

      Rumbold is sort of against alternate history, but Germany with a nuclear capability seems to me to be something we were lucky to dodge…..

      Good points.

    15. Jai — on 1st September, 2009 at 3:37 pm  


      You should post an abbreviated version of your excellent rebuttals and factual corrections on Hitchen’s Daily Mail comments thread too, I think.



      Thanks (I think !).

      I’ve made some further brief related points on the Enoch thread (here: ).

      Incidentally, that book “Fatherland” I mentioned depicts Nazi Germany as having nuclear weapons and as having effectively defeated the US in WW2 by detonating a long-range missile above New York, thereby scaring America into submission.

      The Wikipedia link I supplied in #11 goes into quite a lot of detail about the different course that WW2 had taken in both the “western” and “eastern” theatres of war, along with the global political and cultural ramifications, so check that out when you have some spare time.


      A general thought: What’s really disturbing is that Hitchens and his online supporters are so openly and unashamedly talking about the moral basis for Britain’s opposition to the Third Reich and what they stood for (beyond purely territorial self-preservation) as being a “mistake”. There are even some people on that thread talking about how it would have been better for the British to be “allies with Hitler”. And the Holocaust is mentioned only briefly and essentially swept under the carpet.

      Until relatively recently, apart from the really hardcore BNP types and neo-Nazi wingnuts, it would have been unthinkable for a mainstream British publication and an associated writer/journalist to say all this so publicly, in a country which has always been so proud of its fight against the Nazis in WW2, the moral righteousness of its struggle against an enemy that needed to be defeated not just for Britain’s sake but for the sake of the whole world, and its champion in the form of Churchill (who hated Nazis so viscerally that he wanted captured Nazi leaders to be summarily executed, a stance that the Americans had to talk him out of pre-Nuremburg).

      The article itself and the level of support it’s receiving amongst some of the Mail’s commenting audience is very disturbing reading. Like I said, it’s unimaginable for this to be happening in the Britain I grew up in.

      Shocking. At some level I’d even define it as treasonous.

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