Wednesday, 17 March 2010
POLITICAL FASCISM IN THE UK
The row over foreign secretary David Miliband's attack on the Conservative party chairman, Eric Pickles, for suggesting that Latvians who had joined the Waffen SS volunteer legion were only "conscripts" – following orders – has drawn inevitable invective from Conservatives. Today in a letter William Hague demanded an apology from Miliband not only for "smearing" Pickles – who has a record for campaigning against racism and antisemitism – but for "slurs" against the Conservative party and for dragging poor little Latvia into the debate. For good measure he accused Miliband of recycling Soviet propaganda against Latvia.
Miliband's powerful point, lest it be forgotten, was that the Conservatives had allied themselves with some pretty awful characters on Europe's far right – Poland's Michal Kaminski among them – including For Fatherland and Freedom, a Latvian party that has participated in an annual event commemorating the Latvian Waffen SS, the Lettish legion. The Tories' charge is that Miliband does not know his history. In reality it is Hague and Pickles who are on shaky ground, both historical and moral.
It is fair to say that the story of the Latvian SS legion is not straightforward. Despite the word "volunteer" in its title, the majority, far from being volunteers, were conscripts who had been offered the unenviable choice of working as auxiliaries for the Wehrmacht or being transferred to Nazi Germany's slave labour camps.
It is also true that those who escaped the Soviet occupation to prisoner-of-war camps in allied-occupied Germany – after campaigning vigorously – were treated during their "denazification" by the US displaced persons commissioner as being "distinct in purpose, ideology, activities and qualifications" from members of the German Waffen SS.
It is on these grounds that their supporters, both in Latvia and without, have attempted to argue that those who did volunteer were "nationalists", anti-communists and not really Nazis; men who sought and found an opportunity to fight the brutal Soviet occupation.In any case, the supporters of the legion claim (one in an email to me last week) that most of Latvia's Jews had already been exterminated prior to the legion being raised. It is an argument, however, that attempts to paper over a toxic stain on Latvia's "unwilling" SS troopers.
The last major slaughter of Latvia's Jews took place in March 1942, a year before the Latvian SS legion was raised. In late 1944, however, members of the Latvian SD – war criminals who had participated in genocidal activities – were transferred to the Latvian SS legion. While many members of the two Latvian divisions were conscripts – some of whom justified their membership of the SS as the lesser of two evils when compared with Soviet occupation – at least 10-20% were actual volunteers who took their oath to Hitler for ideological reasons. Indeed, the Nuremberg judgment distinguished between those conscripted into the SS and such volunteers.
Hague is wrong, too, in his glib attempts to claim that the parade involving SS veterans is an official commemoration. In 1998, the anniversary on 16 March – the day that marked the start of the battle of Velikaya, the only time both divisions in the legion fought together against the Red Army – was declared a national holiday. But it was scrapped two years later. More recently, the SS veterans' march that takes place on that day has become the focus of bitter controversy: when the head of Latvia's armed forces participated in the march, Latvia's parliament voted to have him removed from his position.Although for several years the parade had, at best, a semi-official imprimatur, more recently it has been banned – including this year, although the parade went ahead.
It is precisely this that the Tories have ignored for the convenience of their political alliances in Europe. They have ignored the real history of the Latvian legion, an organisation that included enthusiastic Nazis culpable in the murder of the country's Jews. They have chosen to gloss over as well that the issue of the legion's annual march in Riga is deeply distasteful to many Latvians in a country that suffered grievously at the hands of both Stalin and Hitler.
They have also failed to understand, whatever the mitigating circumstances that compelled some Latvians into the SS, that such service is not something to be commemorated or celebrated, but mourned. Indeed, as the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and several Jewish writers have attempted carefully to argue in the past, while the legion as a single body was not "guilty" of genocidal acts, members of the legion certainly were guilty of the most terrible crimes, making it entirely inappropriate to celebrate its existence.
What is most shocking, perhaps, in this whole story is the intellectual and moral laziness of senior Tories. And the fact that they are so little troubled at being associated with a foreign party that associates itself – for whatever reason of nationalism and history – with Hitler's Schutzstaffel: the SS.
With the emergence of pro fascist ideals in our political system, especially with recent labour anouncements
to let geert wilders into the uk and also labour allowing fascists to teach in schools. we have a long hard struggle against both political fascism and social fascism......LETS KEEP THESE NAZI BASTARDS OF OUR STREETS! ALERTA!