Blog of the AMM

Sharon Borthwick: The Struggle for Hearts and Minds

Ray Challinor, The Struggle for Hearts & Minds: Essays on the Second World War, ISBN: 978-0-9568176-1-7, Unkant Publishers: Sep 2011, 128pp
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Sharon Borthwick Reviews Ray Challinor's The Struggle for Hearts and Minds
“There is a confusion regarding what war is about these days: there was more private security in Basra than soldiers. It felt we were basically pawns doing the work of corporations and big business.”
These are the words of Matthew Horne, an ex-serviceman, home from Iraq these last three years. Matthew is serving a different campaign now, and he isn’t the only ex-soldier to make camp at Occupy LSX. Any successes of the propaganda machinery at work prior to the invasion of Iraq were short-lived, even the mass media unfolding the lies about weapons of mass destruction in nightly news broadcasts. Most hearts and minds previously fooled into believing that a humanitarian motive held sway, with the allies military mission, were quickly alerted to the true nature of the enterprise; enterprise being the key word as corporations raked in the contracts on their newly acquired lands: “confusion about what war is about these days”, says Matthew, possibly believing more noble causes featured in previous conflicts. It’s a certainty that even if he does suppose that now, he will very soon learn the truth as and a part of his political enlightenment, being so committed an activist. To learn details of that truth, all of us could do with reading Ray Challinor’s, The Struggle for Hearts and Minds, freshly published by the Unkant team and first published in 1995. But Ray Challinor hadn’t finished his great endeavor to expose all the intricate webs of deceit surrounding World War 2 and what really moved the world leaders into action. In his essay, ‘Military Discipline and Working Class Resistance in World War 2’, written in 2000, he was still hard at gathering in the evidence and bringing yet more examples of the despicable and unjust treatment the British working class were subjected to and how well and bravely workers stood up for themselves and each other in the face of it. This is a history of WW2 so little referred to. It has gone down as the ‘good’ war. A fight that had to be won for freedom, or we’d all be speaking German now, for surely, and so unlike the invasion of Iraq and what so soon came to light afterwards, this was the most successful propaganda campaign the right ever won; and what’s more is still winning. They had the Hollywood factory hard at it. They had the glitz and the pretty people and that stuff they squirt in actor’s eyes when they’re being really noble. Ray Challinor’s task was more difficult. He just had the facts and the first hand accounts.
The cover of this new edition is illustrated by Ben Watson. A khaki sludge oozes over the front surface, almost filling every available space. Still on the move it has sneaked up on the spine, fully occupied it and infiltrated the back cover. Land grab for profit, it’s what war has always been about and Ray Challinor’s essay here, ‘The Second World War and its Hidden Agenda’, cuts the crap, penetrating the intricate layers of obfuscation, presenting us with that top secret agenda. New markets must be won, growth, profit, growth, profit; it’s a mantra to take over the world and eat up every available resource. It’s a race. Who will get there first? Who will stand in our way? It is more generally known that this was the motivation behind WW1, the ‘bad’ war, but with the bad baddies of fascism it was so easy to erase every sign that these same motivations were behind what grew and blew up into WW2: “The human moneybags get their way silently, without the public ever hearing the clink of coinage.” There were no natural allies here, standing up for ‘freedom’. Britain could so very easily have ended up allied to Germany. Finally, Britain declared war on Germany to protect the investments of British businessmen in the Balkans. The US enters because Japanese and US imperialism conflicted; it was over the black gold again, the threat of Hitler marching to the Middle East and controlling Anglo/American oil. An Anglo/American, ‘special relationship?’ Sure, if we can arrange to divvy up the proceeds to everyone’s satisfaction. But it was only in 1929, when America was drawing up plans to make war on Britain. A brave onslaught against the evils of fascism? Ask the Spanish. Britain’s ruling class was very much in on Franco’s planned coup; the real fear was “the virus of revolution”. Britain owned 40% of the capital invested in Spain and Gibraltar was the Britain’s lifeline to the Middle East; so let’s, on the quiet, be allied to this particular fascist then. Business interests didn’t even stop for breath. But shush, walls have ears, the people might find out. Trade hasn’t even ceased between the enemy nations. And just occasionally the workers do get wind. A piece of kit falls off some equipment in a British factory revealing the legend, “For the inspection of the Japanese Army”. After hostilities begin, high-flying Westerners still keep their jobs in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and gentlemanly pursuits like racing must not be interrupted, naturally, old man; though now there is a tax on bets for the aid of the Japanese Army. The British larking abroad won’t let such trifles interfere with their sport. “We’re all in it together chaps”, sound familiar?
“Never was so much, owed by so few to so many”, the cartoon featured here turns about Churchill’s words, in praise of the Royal Air Force, to reveal the ever-essential truth. In the foreground 3 fat, smug businessmen sit atop a mountain of cash, waving union jacks. To the back of them is a vast crowd disappearing into the distance. The 99% as the occupy movement now describes us. Ray Challinor is about giving voice to these. Mostly as you read this you are saying over and over again to yourself: Bastards, Bastards, Bastards. The litany of iniquitous actions on behalf of capital is overwhelming. The wealthy send their families off to America for safety, even favourite dogs winning refuge from the bombing raids. They have expensive shelters built or are safely ensconced in the cellars of the Dorchester, you can just imagine the cosy laughter, “mustn’t let Hitler interrupt dinner, wot wot wot”. While above ground people actually had to build a movement to persuade the authorities to let them take shelter in the underground! No facility is made available for them when their houses are flattened. People are wandering the streets, lost, not knowing where to go. They are sleeping rough in Epping Forest. They are used and forsaken yet still find resources to resist being utterly trampled. When they are told they must take on compulsory fire-watching duty, in other words, they must protect their bosses’ factories and not be at home protecting their own homes and families, so many take sickies that the authorities had to give up on disciplinary measures. They didn’t have the manpower to check up on everyone. It’s not as if they were having it easy before the war, the defeat of the general strike of 1926 and the new anti-union laws enforced against them then; 1930s Britain reeked of slum housing and dole queues. These are times ripe for revolution, and the powers that be well knew it. Circulation of anarchist and Socialist newspapers rises on the declaration of war: The New Leader says, “Take over the shelters and houses of the rich”. The authorities are keeping a close watch. Ray Challinor was a firsthand witness to events. As a teenager in 1944 he attends a meeting held by The Independent Labour Party where Guy Aldred refers to Churchill as a mass murderer. A patriotic member of the Home Guard attending is furious and attempts to stick up for his hero, thinking that surely most of the crowd will be on side. RC describes him as having the same pomposity of bearing as Captain Mainwaring. He reads the audience completely wrong and is bemused to find himself quickly run off the premises. But there are more Home Guard patriots in the pub down the road and he returns with these in tow. The Home Guards come off far the worse. Fit young men, good at fighting? The authorities soon realise there must have been plenty soldiers attending the meeting, disguised in their civvies… There is much here about left activism during the war. A story never usually told. This is a time when communists, or communist parties, at least, completely capitulated to Moscow, forsook the people, and were active in supporting the war effort. It was the anarchists with their papers, pamphlets and cartoons (some featured here), that best served the working class.

You get the feeling it would have been good to sink a couple of pints with RC. It’s in the details he picks up on whether he’s telling us the stories of working class victories or defeats or when he’s relating the extent of the absolute idiocy of the Colonel Blimp protagonists. Take the meeting in Moscow in the summer of 1939, where a representative from both the French and British governments came to see what possible negotiations could be made with Russia. Naturally on meeting they gave their names, and when the British representative came to give his, “Soviet statesmen sat bewildered as he told him he was none other than Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurty Plunket-Ernle-Erle-Drax. He went on to regale them with a list of his various honours and had just reached the Order of the Bath, when one of the Russians politely inquired why the Order had gained such a peculiar title. Alas, the noble admiral did not know. On the spur of the moment he invented a story: in the Middle Ages the monarchs and their nobles enjoyed hunting. This made them dirty, and therefore afterwards they needed a wash. On hearing this explanation, the Soviet delegation fell about in laughter, presumably muttering to one another, “it’s a right one they have sent us here, tovarish.”” The war ends with a far less amusing meeting, the big three, Russia, Britain and the US divvy up the spoils: friendships born of the “cohesive power of impending plunder”. All the death and misery and all the hardship still to come and it’s decided in seconds. Churchill passes Stalin a swiftly written note, suggesting the percentage spoils. It’s translated. Stalin draws a large, decisive tick with his blue pencil. Churchill is sickeningly smug as he relates this story.

There has long been an unsavory fascination with the Second World War, a mountain of books, documentaries and a dubious trade in memorabilia. War ‘scholars’ go in to the most bizarre minutiae of detail: War Paint: Volume 3 Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003, that’s an actual book, honest. What sort of a person reads this stuff? Would these obsessives be among the 15% of trained, combat-riflemen who actually fired their weapons in battle? Research has told that the rest don’t fire, even when their own lives are in direct danger. RC urges us to think on the casualties of the world wars otherwise. To urge people to kill each other takes an extraordinary amount of callous discipline, including the murder of your own men for insubordination (many died in the ice-house). And, of course, it takes a disgusting concoct of lies. Read Ray Challinor’s, The Struggle for Hearts and Minds, to learn the truth, not just about the Second World War, but of the eternal truth about war: They were bombing Iraqi villages in 1923.

Book Details [amazon asin=0956817610&text=Buy Now&thumb=/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/amazon-buy-button-sml.png]

3 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    Anyone who can talk about taking sickies and its connection to world war is talking the kind of politics I can get going with. Sharon, when's the next meeting? OTL

  • Soon again, I hope Ben. This is good, there is footage from Saturday night at OLSX where Matthew Horne, mentioned above, says, "I see no justification of war since the Second World War, the second World War was a different story" We need get a copy of the book to him. See my faeces book page.

  • When I say good, I mean that I hadn't misinterpreted his comment I used at the beginning of this.

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