The Nature of Patriotism
Last Saturday American Thinker published a piece called 'The Next Prime Minister's Marxist Father'. The article was about the leader of the UK's Labour Party and his Marxist father, Ralph Miliband. It was also about the strong and widespread reaction to what the popular British newspaper, the Daily Mail, had written on this father-and-son political relationship.
One defender of Ralph Miliband -- a fellow Marxist called Michael Newman (Miliband's biographer) -- made a statement which could quite easily be deemed nonsensical. He said that Ralph Miliband "wanted a different kind of Britain" but that he, nonetheless, "wasn't against Britain".
I see. This could be like saying, "I like cheese, but only the kind of cheese that tastes like chocolate." Or: "I love football, but I wish they didn't use a ball and have two opposing teams."
It all depends on how different Ralph Miliband wanted Britain to be. The fact is, he didn't just want a different kind of Britain; he wanted a radically and fantastically different kind of Britain. A Britain that would look nothing like one any Brit would recognize. The sort of Britain that would satisfy the contemporary (UK) Socialist Workers' Party (SWP), or the Communist Party of Great Britain (now the Democratic Left), or even one more acceptable to George Galloway. In other words, a Britain with no separate classes (except the ruling 'vanguard' class), no Church, no capitalism, no Parliament, no 'bourgeois morality', no 'bourgeois civil service', no 'right-wing' press, perhaps no right wingers, conservatives or 'reactionaries' at all, no 'atrophied or dead traditions', etc. Yet without all -- or at least some -- of these things, we wouldn't have a Britain at all. It wouldn't just be a different kind of Britain, it would be a non-Britain. It would be a socialist or Communist state run by people not unlike Ralph Miliband.
It is semantically and theoretically impossible for a Marxist to be a patriot. It's impossible by definition. Marxist theories make it impossible. Consequently, all this stuff about some Marxists also being patriots -- let alone Ralph Miliband being one -- is either outright dissimulation or stupidity. However, there are those saying, or hinting, that you can love your country without also being a patriot. Yet that's exactly what patriotism is -- loving your country. But of course these people think that being patriotic is a right-wing kind of a thing. Hence the denials. It could of course be the case that Ralph Miliband's defenders mean something subtly different by the word 'patriotism'. My good guess is that they're intentionally fusing patriotism with National Socialism or fascism; which, of course, Leftists often do. However, Nazis and fascists love the state, not the people (unless they are fellow Nazis/ fascists), traditions, culture, and history of the country in which they live. More correctly, they love the Nazi/ fascist state. Patriots, on the other hand, don't love the state at all -- any state. They see it exclusively in functional terms. Leftists -- or Marxists like Ralph Miliband -- often love the state to a great degree, or more correctly, they love the leftist state, just as Nazis/ fascists love the Nazi/ fascist state. In this way leftists -- and Ralph Miliband himself -- have far more in common with Nazis/ fascists than they do with British patriots.
It's a shame that this entire debate seems to have focused on the Daily Mail itself. We have seen many an ad hominem argument along these lines:
Because the Daily Mail was once sympathetic to Hitler and the Nazis, then it doesn't matter if what it says about Ralph Miliband is true.
In the 1930s Marxists like Ralph Miliband believed in the 'first brown then red' principle, which called for a Nazi (brownshirt) victory in Germany followed by a Communist (red) revolution. In addition, millions of communists supported Stalin's non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Hitler in 1939 and which lasted until 1941 -- two years into the war. Finally, the BBC, which has voiced some criticisms of the Daily Mail, systematically stopped Winston Churchill from criticizing Hitler and the Nazis on their airwaves from 1933 until at least 1938.
It's also ironic that many of the critics of the Daily Mail's article -- who've said it was wrong to write about Ralph Miliband in order to besmirch Ed Miliband -- haven't thought twice about going back over seventy years in the said newspaper's history to comment on its Nazi sympathies in the 1930s. (Many have focused on a single 1934 article in praise of Oswald Mosley's 'blackshirts' and of Hitler ... a bit like the supposedly singular diary entry by Ralph Miliband.) If it is wrong to blame Ed Miliband for the sins of his father (although many defenders don't think they were sins), then it's equally wrong to blame Daily Mail journalists for events that happened before they were even born. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, did receive the wise political words of his father for around ten years of his life, and since then has no doubt read and consulted his father's political writings.
I found it utterly bizarre that Alastair Campbell, on the BBC's Newsnight programme, lectured the Daily Mail on journalistic standards. This is a man who was known for systematically abusing and hounding all who dared to disagree with him. A man who would have done anything, including publish smutty or personal articles, to get New Labour into power in 1997 and keep it in power in the years to come. This man is a prize hypocrite.
Alastair Campbell hardly once tackled the substance of the article which the Daily Mail published last Friday. He claimed only that "the whole article was based on one diary entry written when Ralph Miliband was 17". No it wasn't! Clearly Mr. Campbell hasn't read any of Ralph Miliband's books and articles. If he had, then he would have quickly realized that Ralph Miliband said far worse things than in the diary entry, though usually in academic prose and with footnotes and references; that is, in the pseudo-scientific style often adopted by Marxist academics. Nonetheless, if you re-parse or translate Ralph Miliband's academic-Marxist tomes, they say much the same thing as he said in his diary (aged seventeen).
A Labour Party place-person, Yvette Cooper, has replicated Alastair Campbell's position. She said:
"I just think this is shocking, to decide to pursue and distort and twist the words of a father in order to pursue an attack on a son."
Which words of Ralph Miliband has the Daily Mail -- or anyone else -- twisted? I have read Ralph Miliband. Geoffrey Levy, the writer of the original article, has read Miliband. There is no twisting involved. Has Yvette Cooper read Miliband? If she hasn't, she should keep quiet; if she has, then she is lying about the Daily Mail twisting his words.
Ed Miliband himself has said that the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, should take "a long, hard look" at the paper's culture and practices." Really? Why didn't he say this before they published an article on his dad? Perhaps he did. Nonetheless, I believe that the Daily Mail can fully substantiate what it said about Ralph Miliband. It can also substantiate, albeit less forcefully, Ralph Miliband's political influence on his son.