The card was sent to a Minna Urban, living in Nürnberg (Nuremberg) in southern Germany. Within three years Nuremberg would become particularly known for the Nuremberg Trials, the prosecution by the victorious Allies of surviving Nazis such as Göring, Hess, Ribbentrop and Speer, and of German Forces commanders including Raeder, Keitel and Dönitz.
Theo’s return address is Münster in north west Germany, which in 1942 was a city with a significant concentration of German Army barracks and units. Theo was fortunate to be writing his card to Minna in Münster in December, 1942. Over a month before, in north Africa, at the Second Battle of El Alemain the seeming invincibility of the German Army was broken when German, and Italian soldiers, were defeated in battle, and thousands taken prisoner. Field Marshal Rommel on 3 November, 1942 started a withdrawal.
Later in November – the 19th – USSR mounted a counter attack against the Germans at Stalingrad in near sub-zero temparatures and by 22 November, 1942 General Paulus the commander was telegramming Hitler that the German Sixth Army was surrounded.
From Christmas 1942 onwards, although it was not immediately clear at the time, the Allies had started to turn back German National Socialism and break for ever the German military class that had helped to put the National Socialists in power in 1933. (1) The Third Reich was annihilated two Christmas’s later, in the unconditional surrender of May 8 1945.
Other Christmas letters and cards had been posted in 1942 for Allied Forces in North Africa and the Middle East.
The German National Socialists, enemies of Christians and Christianity, stripped Christmas of its Christian meaning, reverting, as they saw it, to its original German significance and meaning: a celebration of the winter solstice, the rebirth of the sun, and coming together of the community, witnessing the strength of their race. The Santa Claus was a Christian corruption of the German god Odin they claimed. The image of Mary and the baby Jesus in the manger was changed to an Ayran mother with a blond child.
We do not know whether Minna did get back in touch with Theo, or whether they survived the war.
For the background to the German Army holding the reins of power behind the scenes from 1918 to 1933, and then outwitted by Hitler, who they thought they could control, see The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918 – 1945. J.H.Wheeler-Bennett, Macmillan, 1953.
It is late August, 1964: a dusty deserted roadside in Calabria. Either side of the road are olive trees.
Le Patron is hitch-hiking north of Reggio Calabria, the mainland port and ferry crossing for Sicily. His objective is another port, Bari, over to the east, on the Adriatic side of Italy. It is late afternoon and there is little traffic on the road. A pick and shovel repair gang a few yards up the road are occasionally pecking at the road verge. Le Patron is trying to understand a bus timetable tacked to a concrete shelter. One of the gang saunters over to Le Patron. He wears a dust stained vest and his trousers are held up by a bit of string, improvising for a belt. Le Patron splutters out pidgin Italian, but before he can finish his incomprehensible sentence the Italian smiles and says in a perfect Brooklyn accent: “Da bus goes at seven turty.” Besides the British 8th Army, American army units also travelled this road in the summer of 1943, heading north.
Twenty one years before, almost to the month, Allied forces tanks, heavy artillery and jeeps would have jam packed the road, heading north, whilst up at Salerno the main allied thrust would have been taking place. In 1943, before the bus shelter had been built, in the middle of what seemed empty countryside children and adults would appear, cannily cheering the Allies on whilst asking for cigarettes and what ever else they could get, or barter for. A significant commodity in the bartering system was sex. (1)
He’s a youngish man, in his early thirties. He’s smiling and encouraging me by gesture to take a look at the black and white studio photo of his wife and two young children, that he’s just taken out of his wallet. “My wife, Maria, my son, Roberto and my little girl, Caterina.”
There’s a fearful, threatening black curtain hanging down from the sky, claustrophobically bearing down on the growing maize.
To the left there is a hurrying, receding blue sky. The buildings on the outskirts of Bari look as if they will give no protection to the Apocalypse that is about to unleash. And then it starts: the roll of thunder, the sheet lightning and goblets of rain smashing the windscreen of the Fiat family car, the wipers working manically to clear the sheets of water distorting the view of the road ahead.
In the twenty minutes it takes to arrive at a small block of flats in the centre of Bari the rain has stopped and the black shroud is moving on to put the fear of God into people and animals in the fields from where the car has just come from.
Le Patron had managed to get a lift into Bari with a youngish professional couple and their son. The car was a new four door shiny black Fiat sedan, and at the front of the four storey brick built flats were two sodden palm trees, still dripping. Around the flats was a low brick perimeter wall with high metal railings. The entrance to the block was up two wide steps and then through a metal framed door with a full length frosted glass panel. There were buzzers for the eight flats and eight letter flaps. Le Patron followed the small family up the stairs to the first floor and was shown in to the flat on the right by the husband, the attractive wife and their young son. It was the first time he had been in an Italian home.
The floors were shiny wood parquet, and the rooms were furnished in a spare, modern way. Le Patron had never seen a home with parquet flooring before. It was very foreign, in an interesting ‘cool’ way. It was almost like one of the rooms in La Dolce Vita where Steiner, intellectual friend of Marcello Mastrianni’s character lived, or so he thought.
The husband and wife spoke enough English for Le Patron to understand, the husband more so. The wife prepared lunch, and then afterwards following the lunch the husband showed Le Patron into a room with two single separate beds for the siesta. He and Le Patron occupied the room. Unlike the husband, Le Patron couldn’t sleep. Having a siesta after a meal was not something his 19 year old British body or culture could adapt to. Lying awake he wondered where the son and wife were having their siesta. There didn’t seem any clues as to whether this was a spare guest room or the son’s bedroom.
After the siesta Le Patron and the husband went through to the living room where the wife and son were watching Little Lord Fauntleroy, dubbed into Italian, on a television standing alone in the corner, on its futuristic stick legs.
When the film finished there was a brief announcement, the logo of RAI – the Italian state TV – and the channel closed down. It was late afternoon. The TV service would begin again in the evening.
Later that night in the Bari campsite where the family had kindly driven Le Patron, he thought about the wife telling him about the RAF raid on Bari during the war, asking why they had done it. She was not angry, but perplexed. She had been 17, she said, working in the Bari Telephone Exchange when with no warning – no siren – the bombs fell on the harbour area.
It was years later that Le Patron realised he had spectacularly misunderstood the circumstances of the bombing of Bari. Looking back he realised she had been asking why the RAF didn’t prevent the bombing of Bari.
An estimated 105 Luftwaffe planes bombed Bari on 2 December, 1943, and in just over one hour sunk 27 Allied supply and cargo ships. There were 1000 deaths of Allied seamen and service personnel, and also an estimated 1000 Bari people were killed, although accurate figures for the civilian deaths are still unavailable as many Italians left Bari and went out to the countryside, staying with friends and family members, fearful of further attacks on the town, and some of those fleeing civilians died from gas poisoning. What no one knew in Bari at the time of the immediate attack (including the skipper of the boat) was that part of the cargo of the bombed U.S. John Harvey was mustard gas.
In the first 24 hours medical staff in Bari did not realise that the injured they were treating had been gassed. The full story did not become widely known until 1967. Of 628 hospitalised military victims suffering from mustard gas poisoning 83 were to die. It is believed the figures for those civilians who fled Bari, and subsequently died from mustard gas complications is higher.
The RAF command covering the Bari area though it highly unlikely that Bari would be a Luftwaffe target, believing the Luftwaffe in Italy was too thinly stretched. There were no RAF fighters based in Bari. The attack has occasionally since been referred to as a “Little Pearl Harbour”.
Mustard Gas was waiting to be unloaded as part of a potential Allied counter measure to German threats to use gas in their Italian rear-guard campaign, although the alleged German threat is disputed in some accounts. (2)
Turning to dusk, somewhere on a country road to Rome, a long, long way south of Rome, the driver of an Alfa Romeo drops Le Patron off. The earth is a terracotta colour. During the drive through olive groves and fig trees, every now and then and always suddenly, out of nowhere, a lone boy would leap out in front of the car with a fist of figs. “Fichi! Fichi!“, and just as quickly and agilely leap back as the driver flicked him to one side, driving on. It seemed a precarious and fruitless way to earn a few lire.
As Le Patron looked at his Shell filling station road map of the area he was vaguely aware of a small figure sauntering along the road towards him. He seemed to have a Dick Whittington staff slung over his shoulder, with a bundle of belongings hanging on it. As he came up Le Patron could see he was about 16. In very good English, Oxford English, he asked where Le Patron was headed for. “Rome.” “I am going to Rome too! My name is Ugo, and if we travel together we can stay in my Uncle’s flat in Rome.” Wonderful. What luck! A young Italian who knows his way around, with a relative who has a flat in Rome. It was too good to be true. In the end, that’s how it turned out to be. This was Ugo.
Le Patron never did quite work out how long he had been on the road. He was certainly travelling lightly. His technique for trying to hitch a lift was the same as the sellers of filched figs. By now it was getting dark. A set of lorry headlights approached. “I stop this, Peter” he said and threw himself into the road, waving his arms in a crossing motion. And with the agility of the fig sellers he jumped just as quickly back as the lorry bore down on him. “Son of a bitch” spat Ugo. Le Patron, a little fraught at the thought of being with this maniac until they arrived at the fabled flat in Rome, said he would try hitching the next vehicle. This suggestion had to be negotiated, as Ugo said his technique was the one that worked. He knew best. Le Patron quickly learned that with Ugo, everything – the silliest, stupidest, daftest thing had to be negotiated. Ugo always knew a better way, and couldn’t understand why you couldn’t see it. It was so clear. It was so obvious. What was your problem? And always mentioning the Uncle’s flat in Rome.
So, after a negotiation that was as frustrating and brain exploding as a UN session running into the middle of the night on a contested sub-clause, with a shrug of the shoulders Ugo finally let the Patron hitch the next vehicle.
The next vehicle stopped. Ugo said it was luck, and his method was the still the best. We were dropped off about twenty kilometres up the road, near a small camp site and we set up for the night. Le Patron had a spirit stove and soon the water was boiling and he made coffee. Having just one aluminium cup, part of a compact army type set, he offered it to Ugo who took it, sipped and, with eyes opening startlingly wide – cartoon like, as if he had been poisoned – sprayed it out at high velocity. “Ugh! That isn’t coffee!! That’s disgusting! What do you call this!”
The thing was, when he wasn’t being totally exasperating he was amusing, and sometimes interesting, particularly as a gateway into some political aspects of Italian life. Fascism, for instance.
A few days before, Le Patron had been amazed and shocked to see in a village posters advertising a forthcoming Mass commemorating the life of Benito Mussolini. Mussolini had been captured in the north, and then shot by Communist partisans on the 28th April, 1945, a few days before Hitler committed suicide. His corpse was strung up, upside down, alongside that of his mistress in the suburban square of Piazzale Loreto in Milan. Le Patron mentioned the posters to Ugo and how surprised he was.
– “So? Mussolini was good for our country. He did great things. He was a great man”
– “But he was a fascist!”
– “What about Hitler? He was a fascist”
– “No, he was a National Socialist.”
– “What about Franco? He’s a fascist.”
– “Franco’s bad for his people.”
Slowly making our way closer to Rome over the next two days, the clincher came when, out of the blue, and in sight of Rome Ugo informed Le Patron that he would have to buy a suit – he too was going to buy a suit – if we were staying with his Uncle. A suit!
A suit would instantly pauperise Le Patron. His budget for hitching around Europe for three months was £4 a week, give or take: hard earned and hard saved money – £50 – from working on building sites as a labourer during the preceding 5 months. A bloody suit!!
Le Patron had been aware that Ugo’s pockets seemed to be sewn up all the while Le Patron and he had been together. The thought had crossed Le Patron’s mind once or twice that he was being taken for a ride. On reflection, the truth, Le Patron thought, was that this 16 year old from a middle class background was used to other family members paying his way. Papa, and Uncles. The good Italian coffee that he drank at home would be made by his mother, or grandmother, or sisters or aunts. He’d probably never made a cup of coffee in his life. And wouldn’t know how to. He would be proud that he would not how – that was not man’s work. This was Italy. His father had probably already wired his brother – the Uncle in Rome – the money for a suit and shoes, and what ever else was appropriate. Coming from this background – he didn’t get an Oxford English accent from nowhere – he would have no conception of a life lived differently, whether for a 19 year old from Britain, or a dusty Sicilian peasant with patches in the arse of his trousers.
Ugo could not understand why Le Patron could not afford to buy a suit. Rationality did not enter in Ugo’s understanding of the world or people. We were back to a late night session at the UN on a torturous sub-clause. “Basta! Basta!” Enough! Le Paton had had enough. It was time to part company, here and now, at the roadside.
Parting company was a melodramatic scene – How could I do this to him? Weren’t we friends? etc, etc, over and over again. And when that didn’t work, the reproachful look. The long reproachful look. The guilt inducing look.
Another side of Italian politics, besides Italian fascism, was Italian communism. Banned by the fascists in 1926, post 1945 the Italian communist party quickly became the largest communist party in western Europe. It was the opposition party to the catholic Christian Democracy party (Democrazia Christiana), and at various times controlled many Italian town and city administrations.
On 22 August, 1964, Le Patron saw large posters with heavy black borders suddenly appear in towns and villages. The Italian Communist Party leader Palmiro Togliatti had died on holiday in his beloved Socialist Motherland at the seaside resort of Yalta in the Soviet Union. The message was straight forward: “Togliatti È Morto“. Communist Party members would have been busy overnight, printing, distributing and pasting these posters. “Profonda emotion in Italia e nel mondo” – “Deep emotion in Italy and the world“ – the Italian communist daily paper l’Unità” claimed the day after his death. Outside Italy, apart from national communist parties and nervous strategists in the American White House, no one else would have heard of him, apart from maybe some followers of football who might have wondered if Togliatti had once played for Juventus or AC Milan.
The American strategists needn’t have worried too much about the Italian Communist Party and its leader destabilising the status quo in western Europe. Since 1945 all the Communist Parties in Western Europe were following the Moscow dictated “Democratic Road to Socialism”. No threat of revolution. In hindsight Togliatti has sometimes been criticised, within Italy, for following Moscow’s line, rather than supporting local political and industrial actions by his own communist party members.
“The Ties that Bind”
Another part of Italy, another side of Italy, another lift. A young man, training to be a surveyor. It had been a good ride. As Le Patron gets out, he gets out too, to open the boot where Le Patron’s rucksack is. As he hands Le Patron the rucksack he asks how old Le Patron is
-“19!! How is it you can travel around like this. Don’t your parents object?”
He is astounded, and envious, and deeply frustrated bangs the roof of his Fiat.
– “For me it would be impossible. My Mother, she would say ‘How can you do this to me? How could you do this to your sisters? You can’t leave us! For three months?’ It would never end. It would go on and on. You are very lucky.”
It took some time before Le Patron realised that there wasn’t an absence of husbands and fathers in Italian households – they were so rarely mentioned. It was always the Mother, the Sisters, the Grandmother, the Aunties. Had there been high casualties amongst Italy’s men during the Second World War?
No. The answer was, of course, this was a catholic country: Mother/Madonna ruled.
And the other side of the Madonna was the whore. And the Madonna/Whore polarity was stark in the South, particularly in Sicily. And in 1964 bringing shame on the family could end in an honour killing. It would be a daughter, a sister, or a wife who would bring dishonour to a family. A step down from honour killings would be ‘abductions’ and ‘kidnappings’, staged to circumvent dishonour to a family. Pietro Germi covered this particularly in his stark Sedotta e Abbandonata (Seduced and Abandoned) 1964, and in Divorzio All’Italiana (Divorce Italian Style) 1961, he shows a cynical Marcello Mastrianni using Italian law and the honour killing of his wife to marry his young niece.
Le Patron’s planned hitch-hiking route in Italy, having crossed the Yugoslav border a few weeks before was to head for Sicily. Sicily was a potent symbol of poverty and corruption. In the Spring of 1964 he had read Danilo Dolci’s To Feed the Hungry. It had left its mark on him.
Le Patron was very ignorant about Sicily. Danilo Dolci had not mentioned Taormina in his To Feed the Hungary. Taormina was where Le Patron had been dropped off late afternoon having hitched from the port of Messina. It was an old town but buying peaches he realised something was wrong. They were double the price he had been paying elsewhere in Italy. And then he saw a poster advertising that Marlene Dietrich was playing at the local exclusive nightclub. Without knowing it, he had arrived at a favourite spot of the Med Yacht Set. The near empty campsite was on a cliff edge. Way below, in a sparkling sea – a holiday brochure blue – and so clear you could see the bottom and brightly coloured sub tropical fish, people with snorkels and flippers snorkelled, whilst in the distance Mount Etna puffed slightly threatening. Le Patron was desperately bored with the holiday brochure setting. He had come to Sicily looking for ‘authenticity’ and had ended up in a place that had as much relevance to Sicily as the English singer Cliff Richard had playing at the Sun City venue in apartheid South Africa. (Queenalso played in apartheid South Africa and their lead guitarist Brian May couldn’t see what the problem was, when they were slapped down by the U.N. and the British Musicians Union).
But Le Patron was going to have to cut his search for authenticity in Sicily, and start heading back. His finances were starting to run low.
The notion of “Authenticity” is tricky, difficult to explain, and probably shot through with dubious and naive emotion and intellectual inconsistency and sloppiness. But for Le Patron in the Italy of 1964 it meant a tiny Fiat 500 stopping when he was hitching and the bulging family inside – (there really was no room, and the occupants could probably have got into the Guinness Book of Records for how many people you can get in one car) – apologising for not being able to give him a lift and pushing a bunch of white grapes into his hands for roadside sustenance until he got a lift, and waving him goodbye as they drove off; it meant a young lad telling him to hop onto the back of his Lambretta three wheel van with deliveries to a nearby campsite, and then insisting he takes some bread and cheese and fruit from the deliveries when he arrived at the site.
Or being off the beaten track in a hilly, hot landscape in what seemed a deserted village on a slope of a hill, with noonday shadows as black as death and the light as white as phosphorous – the sort of high key lighting used in Fellini’s 8½ (1963), or that came naturally in the films shot in Sicily by Pietro Germi (Divorce Italian Style 1961, Seduced and Abandoned 1964) and by Francesco Rosi (Salvatore Giuliano, 1962).
It was an afternoon and a weekend. The street was very wide, with low, rudimentary white buildings on either side. Looking up and along the main street – the only street the village seemed to have – in the direction Le Patron would be travelling out of the place were Lombardy poplars stationed at the village cemetery and the cross and the statute of the Madonna.
There were no people, no cars passing through, not even a sleeping dog in the shadows. The prospects did not look good. And then, from nowhere, he became aware of a group of middle aged to elderly men in their weekend best dark suits, hands behind backs as they passed him in the middle of the road, some talking, some nodding. They didn’t seem to notice the stranger in their village. They continued in the direction of the cemetery. They reached the edge of the cemetery and then leisurely about turned and strolled back down again, passing Le Patron without acknowledgement.
After they disappeared from view – did they go into the village’s one bar? – Le Patron can’t remember – a middle aged woman in widow’s black was quietly standing beside him, proffering a chair, indicating with a hand gesture for him to sit on it. He smiled a thanks, she smiled back and he watched her disappear into a dark beaded open doorway behind him. After a while (two vehicles had driven along the street and not stopped) she reappeared and beckoned Le Patrol to follow her through the darkened doorway. He was immediately in a low ceilinged room and at treadle operated sewing machines – Singer sewing machines – young girls and older women were efficiently working. Another woman in widow’s black gave Le Patron a cool glass of home made lemon juice, and a small plate of home made almond biscuits, and there were smiles all around, including modest ones from the young unmarried girls. There was little attempt at talk, smiles and gestures were enough.
One of the women in widows black was concerned that I got back to the chair, with my lemon drink and almond biscuits, in case I missed a car. Le Patron can’t remember getting a lift, but he obviously did, and neither can he remember if or when the empty glass and plate was collected. And typing this, he wonders how and where the young girls are now. They would be in their mid to late sixties now. Did they vote for Berlusconi?
When did sewage and piped water come to their village? And Indesit washing machines, which saved them the chore of washday slapping and lathering and rubbing of clothes in the communal wash trough? How many married? How many went into a convent? How many are grandmothers? Do any still sew? Do they watch game shows on RAI, or soaps on Berlusconi’s Italia 1 channel? How many have iPhones?
And the group of men who walked up to the cemetery are now in it, six feet under.
Where was that village?
Ciao ciao bambina.
1. see To Feed the Hungry, Danilo Dolci; Naples ’44, Norman Lewis.
Yes, Comrade Bwana: The British Empire and the Labour Party
In 1947 a then popular English novelist, and farmer, A.G.Street (Farmer’s Glory, The Endless Furrow) wrote how it was that Britain came to have the largest Empire the World had ever known:
“Why were sailors from such a small nation so successful wherever they voyaged? Largely because they did not set out with any idea of conquering the world…. In their travels they landed on strange shores, where in most cases they found a state of things that offended their ideas of what was fitting for human beings. So they stayed and put it right, not so much because they wanted the job, but rather because they stumbled upon it, and felt it was up to them to do the right thing. Thus, without deliberate design they founded a great empire overseas.” (1)
So, according to A.G.Street, be careful where you berth your boat: you might come across people with disagreeable habits who your moral sensibility and sense of duty dictates that you and your countrymen and women spend years educating them and showing them the moral and spiritual way – a.k.a The White Man’s Burden.
The leading ‘thinkers’ of the British socialist Fabians in the late Victorian and Edwardian period – George Bernard Shaw, the Webbs and their like – believed that it would take years to bring these people with disagreeable habits up to scratch. Some like Beatrice Webb thought it was an impossible mission, that many of the “native races” would never be able to run their own affairs (even though they had been managing in their own way for centuries, before the White Man arrived).
The attitude of British Fabians was also shared and supported by British Conservatives and Liberals. In the early 1930s the local party chairman of the Conservative Duchess of Atholl’s constituency went further, advising her that democracy was not only unsuitable for ‘natives’ but also for nine tenths of the white races. (2)
The founding groups in the early twentieth century (which included the Fabians) of the British Labour Party all agreed on the benefits of the British Empire for the British working classes, such as guaranteeing jobs in the Lancashire cotton mills, or providing cheap food for the toiling classes. Before the First World War Beatrice Webb also saw the usefulness of the British Empire in mooting the idea of cleansing the slum areas in London and Manchester of their undesirable semi-criminal and idle lumpen proletariat by boating them out to the open spaces of the British Empire dominion Australia. Frederick Engels the German Manchester factory owner and co-founder of Marxist ideology would have warmed to the idea: in the nineteenth century he had described the lumpen proletariat that he observed in the Manchester area as “scum”, and both Engels and Karl Marx (who coined the term lumpen proletariat) saw this social group as a hindrance to the advance of communism.
In the second Labour Government of 1929 Beatrice Webb’s husband Sydney was appointed by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald as Colonial Secretary. He echoed his wife’s views when he expressed his ministerial view that some of the subject colonial races would not be fit to govern themselves for at least a hundred years, mentioning, for instance the disenfranchised Empire subjects of Kenya.
The “internationalist” and leading member of the ILP (Independent Labour Party), and evangelical lay preacher, Keir Hardie , was one of the prime movers for the establishment of the British Labour Party. Despite his enlightened reputation (support for the cause of India and woman’s suffrage, and opposed to the colour bar in South Africa) he didn’t extend his internationalist or Christian outlook to Lithuanian workers, let alone – when it came down to it – the “native races” of the British Empire, who, disenfranchised, were digging out diamonds in South Africa, planting cotton in India, picking tea in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and cutting sugar cane in the West Indies. His internationalism stopped at the English-Scottish border and the Port of Leith.
“Keir Hardie, in his evidence to the 1899 House of Commons Select Committee on emigration and immigration, argued that the Scots resented immigrants greatly and that they would want a total immigration ban. When it was pointed out to him that more people left Scotland than entered it, he replied:
‘It would be much better for Scotland if those 1,500 were compelled to remain there and let the foreigners be kept out… Dr Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so.’ According to Hardie, the Lithuanian migrant workers in the mining industry had “filthy habits”, they lived off “garlic and oil”, and they were carriers of “the Black Death”.”
“The first Independent Labour Party MP (Keir Hardie) blamed immigrants for driving down wages of Scottish workers and he accused them of stealing and being dirty. In an article written for the journal The Miner in 1887, he criticised the owners of the local Glengarnock ironworks for using “Russian Poles”. He said: “What object they have in doing so is beyond human ken unless it is, as stated by a speaker at Irvine, to teach men how to live on garlic and oil, or introduce the Black Death, so as to get rid of the surplus labourers.” (2)
The German left revolutionaries Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were blunt in their mid nineteenth century assessments about the native races of the world, whether in Africa or China: “savages” they called them. They also regarded some of the European races – Slavs and Celts – as untermenschen, who were part of the problem, and not the solution, and in the case of the Celts believed they would need to perish in the Final Solution. Even the French as a race were a bit suspect in their eyes, saved only by the fact that they had subjugated the “native races” in North Africa. The race that met their ideal as torchbearers of the new communist movement (as determined by Marx’s crystal ball gazing which he labelled ‘historical materialism’) were their own race: the Germans. Anglo Saxon and similar Aryan races were also considered by them as torchbearers for the reordering of the class world. (3)
The attitude of Marx and Engels was a geological strata that ran through all socialists, whether Marxist revolutionary, 0r social democratic – and usually Christian – socialist in the Western world.
Two left of centre Englishmen who unusually and fairly uniquely didn’t share this view of “native races” within the British Empire were Robert Blatchford (1851 – 1943) and George Orwell (1903 – 1950). And for different reasons the two also didn’t support the British Empire. A third English socialist who went on to campaign for the rights of British Empire disenfranchised colonial “subjects” was Fenner Brockway, another early member of the I.L.P. (1888 – 1988).
In general, the rest of the Labour Movement and the Labour Party into the early 1950s were positive about the British Empire, and had a low view of many of the Empire’s subjects. Martin Pugh in his Speak for Britain!: A New History of the Labour Party (2010) mentions that the Smethwick Labour Club in the English Midlands was still operating a “colour bar” in 1964.
George Orwell knew the British Empire from the inside. Between 1923 and 1927 he was an Imperial Policeman in Burma (Myanmar). His first published novel Burmese Days (1934) and his two short pieces A Hanging (1931) and Shooting an Elephant (1936) takes a scalpel to the belly of British Imperialism. In Burmese Days there are echoes of the near halugenic quality of the Frenchman’s Louis Ferdinand Celine’s descriptions of being in French West Africa at a similar time just after the First World War, written in his Journey to the End of Night.
Like Robert Blatchford, who was in the British Army between 1871 and 1878, and rose to be a sergeant, George Orwell was often out of sympathy with his fellow socialists. Both were independent thinkers. In a July 1939 review of a now forgotten book Union Now by the American Clarence K. Streit, Orwell highlights bogus and hypocritical aspects of the European democracies such as France and Britain rationalising their alignment against the totalitarianism of Nazism.
“In a prosperous country, above all in an imperialist country, left-wing politics are always partly humbug…… One threat to the Suez Canal and ‘anti-fascism’ and ‘defence of British interests’ are discovered to be identical……
Like everyone of his school of thought, Mr Streit has cooly lumped the huge British and French Empires – in essence nothing but mechanisms for exploiting cheap coloured labour – under the heading of democracies!…..
The British and French empires with their six hundred million disenfranchised human beings….
……. What we always forget is that the overwhelming bulk of the British proletariat does not live in Britain, but in Asia and Africa.” (4)
“Some talk about the Empire and Imperialism as if it were something to decry and something to be ashamed of. It is a great thing to be the inheritors of an Empire like ours … great in territory, great in potential wealth. … If we can only realise and use that potential wealth we can destroy thereby poverty, we can remove and destroy ignorance.” – Suffragette leader and I.L.P member Emmeline Pankhurst.
There was nothing “potential” about the wealth being generated within the British Empire, whether before the First World War or after the Second World war. The wealth was there. The Labour Government of Clement Attlee (1945 – 1951) used conscripted troops to maintain the status quo in Malaya, and maintain the output of valuable tin and rubber. Seemingly the Malayan War was termed an “Emergency” at the request of owners of tin mines and rubber plantations. That way they could claim any losses with insurers Lloyds in London, whereas their claims would be null and void if the country was officially at war. This manoeuvre seems to have acted as a template also for Kenya, Cyprus and Aden, for instance.
The quote above from the leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst about using the wealth of the British Empire to destroy poverty and remove ignorance is, without knowing the context in which she was speaking, ambivalent. Did she mean destroying poverty through cheap food and goods imported for the British working classes from the Empire? And in removing ignorance, was she referring to the natives of the Empire? There were many white Christian evangelists sweating under the Tropical skies of the British Empire who were precisely doing that: working on morally and spiritually uplifting the native. Fenner Brockway’s parents worked as missionaries in India, and sent the young Fenner to a Missionary Boarding School in England. Did his missionary parents, bracing their shoulders for the weight of the White Man’s (and Woman’s Burden) know that Christianity first came to the Indian sub-continent when their European antecedents were still pagans?
Missionary and evangelical zeal were to be found everywhere, including within the Labour Party. Besides Labour Party founder Keir Hardy, prominent Labour and Coop activist, and later Labour minister, and Minister within Churchill’s coalition wartime government A.V.Alexander remained an active protestant evangelist to the end of his life in 1965.
For him the benefits of the British Empire was mitigating the poverty and removing the ignorance of the British working class, through cheap food and welfare provision. This view was shared by trade unions leaders, later to be Labour Government ministers, such as Jimmy Thomas and Ernest Bevin. There was nothing unusual in their views within the Labour Party and Trade Union movement.
When the Labour Party was overwhelmingly returned to power in 1945 there had been nothing in its Election Manifesto about introducing self-government in the colonies, with the exception of India. It is said that Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary in the Labour Government, justified this by saying the loss of the colonies would mean falling living standards for British people. (The post war Labour Government saddled a near bankrupt nation with the secret development and massive spending on an atomic bomb, which meant imposing rationing of bread, never rationed during the siege economy caused by the Second World War.)
In general it was only in the early 1950s that some in the Labour Party would start to think about, and agree with Fenner Brockway’s views on disenfranchised British subjects. There were, and had been other voices, of course:
In 1954 along with others, Fenner Brockway founded the British based Movement for Colonial Freedom .
But of course the work of freeing the “native subjects” was done by themselves.
In the 1950s period of the Labour Party being in opposition, under their leader Hugh Gaitskell, it is difficult to get an idea of whether the Party had started to move, in terms of official Party policies, to the acceptance of self-determination for disenfranchised British colonial subjects. Most of the histories of that Labour Party period concentrate on the wrangles over the Clause Four nationalisation commitment, and unilateral nuclear disarmament, and their failure to win the 1959 General Election.
It was the Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1960 who coined the term and accepted that there was a “Wind of Change” blowing through the British Empire, and particularly in Africa. Remarkably, he was the first British Prime Minister ever to visit the British Colonies in Africa.
He had been visiting African colonies for a month on a ‘fact finding’ mission when he gave his speech in the heartland of white supremacy sentiment and practice: South Africa. He made the speech to members of the South African parliament in Cape Town on 3 February, 1960.
“In the twentieth century, and especially since the end of the war, the processes which gave birth to the nation states of Europe have been repeated all over the world. We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other power. Fifteen years ago this movement spread through Asia. Many countries there, of different races and civilisations, pressed their claim to an independent national life.
Today the same thing is happening in Africa, and the most striking of all the impressions I have formed since I left London a month ago is of the strength of this African national consciousness. In different places it takes different forms, but it is happening everywhere.
The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact, and our national policies must take account of it…….
……. As a fellow member of the Commonwealth it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won’t mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men to which in our own territories we are trying to give effect.”
The speech was met with contempt and hostility from the bulk of the white Dutch descended Afrikaner community in South Africa, and with alarm amongst the white politicians and settlers of the East African colonies. He had already given a similar speech, less reported, in Accra, the Gold Coast (Ghana) the month before, on 10 January, 1960.
In the 1960s the Labour Party had too accepted that self-rule (where desired) in the colonies was inevitable. However, like the Conservative Party there were some areas that had a strategic defence interest (docks, airfields, army logistics) that they were loath to relinquish too quickly: Malta, Cyprus and Aden, for instance.
And security and strategic concerns (often in conjunction with the United States) continued to effect ‘native’ populations in scattered colonies: Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean, for instance. Part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, it and associated scattered islands are now known as the Republic of Kirbati, becoming independent in 1979.
The forced depopulation of Diego Garcia (part of the British Indian Ocean Territory) in the Indian Ocean to make way for a United States base began in 1968 (Harold Wilson Labour Prime Minister) and was completed in 1973. The permanency of the depopulation was effectively sealed when the Labour Government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown secretly proposed in leaked documents from 2009 to make the area a Marine Conservation area. (5)
So, Darkie Comrades, watch your step. Socialist Internationalism for the British Labour Party stops at the Port of Dover.
Oh, and yes, nearly forgot:
p.s. Fraternal Greetings.
A.G.Street shared his views on the British Empire in his introduction to the Odhams Press book England Today in Pictures. Odhams Press was a large publisher of popular photo based books, encyclopaedias, popular histories, DIY related reference and tutorial books etc. It was also the publisher and majority share holder, from 1931, of the British Labour Party’s Daily Herald.
Quoted in Hurrah for the Blackshirts: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, Martin Pugh, 2005.
Keir Hardie quotes are from several sources, including scottishmining.co.uk and Wikipedia.
see The Social and Racial Characteristics of…. in Recent Posts.
Not Counting Niggers, July 1939. Orwell: Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters Volume 1.
“According to leaked diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and released in 2010, in a calculated move in 2009 to prevent re-settlement of the BIOT by native Chagossians, the UK proposed that the BIOT become a “marine reserve” with the aim of preventing the former inhabitants from returning to their lands. The summary of the diplomatic cable is as follows : HMG would like to establish a “marine park” or “reserve” providing comprehensive environmental protection to the reefs and waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official informed Polcouns on May 12. The official insisted that the establishment of a marine park — the world’s largest — would in no way impinge on USG use of the BIOT, including Diego Garcia, for military purposes. He agreed that the UK and U.S. should carefully negotiate the details of the marine reserve to assure that U.S. interests were safeguarded and the strategic value of BIOT was upheld. He said that the BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” (This material quoted in Wikipedia)
Postcards to Mrs Pye is part of the “Occasional Postcards” series.
Mrs Pye, along with Mr Pye, lived in Brandville Gardens, Ilford, Essex, nine miles to the east of London.
In the late 1950s, when this small collection of postcards starts, Ilford was still part of the county of Essex.
By the end of 1965, when the last postcard in this collection was sent to Mrs Pye, Ilford was no longer in Essex. It had been absorbed into Greater London.
Package holidays to continental Europe from the UK didn’t, literally, take off in a big way until the mid 1960s.
It took a bit of money, and a bit of initiative, even if booking through Thomas Cook & Co to travel and stay in Paris, or Switzerland or Italy before the mid 1960s. These Technicolour countries of wine, street markets and foreign sights and smells and customs were usually glimpsed in films such as the 1955 David Lean directed Summertime with Katherine Hepburn falling in love in Venice.
Or Paris with Gene Kelly in the 1951 An American in Paris.
A free-wheeling Gene Kelly in Paris… well, in a Hollywood studio set, but the establishing ‘shot on location’ shots gave an authentic taste.
And then there were the saturated Kodachrome pages of National Geographic magazine in the 1950s that in between head hunters in Borneo would feature a spread of the castles and steep vineyards from the perspective of a Rhine cruise boat.
In the postcards that follow, the house number of the Pyes in Brandville Gardens has been brushed out to protect the privacy of the present occupants.
“Lovely little village with beautiful walks all round…..”
“Arrived here 1.30 pm… after delayed journey due to London train being late… and missing our connection at Paris!…. Plenty of sunshine and not excessive heat.”
“The more I see of Paris the more I like it….Can find my way easily on the Metro now….Have taken Valerie up the Eiffel Tower…. she is thrilled with it all.”
“Weather still “scorcher” although had 3 short thunderstorms. Tonight, hundreds of bonfires burning on mountain tops to celebrate mid summer’s day…..”
“We are going on this little railway this afternoon…. “
“We are enjoying a lovely holiday & think Lauterbrunnen a delightful spot… “
“… We have had several drives through the forest of Xmas trees. Yesterday we had a barbecue picnic in the Jura mountains We collected our own wood, made a fire & roasted our meat. Grand fun… “
“We left Luxembourg yesterday having spent 5 days with my cousin and family… Greetings to all the grand girls.”
For the British, travelling abroad has changed tremendously since the 40 or so years since the postcard from Aachen was sent to Mrs Pye at Brandville Gardens, Ilford. Countries and continents that were exotic, and unreachable for millions are now one cheap flight away. In 2015 Majorca and Tenerife were the most popular holiday destinations for the British, followed by the Algarve, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Orlando in the Unites States, Gran Canaria, Benidorm, Crete in Greece and Disneyland Paris. Snapping on their tails are developing tourist hotspots in Turkey. The top five countries for holidays by the British, in order, were Spain, Greece, the US, Portugal and Italy.
Remarkably, London, nine miles from Ilford, is now the most tourist visited City in the World, according to the annual Master Card Global Destinations Cities survey. The Top Four visited cities in 2015 were, in order: 1. London, 2. Bangkok, 3. Paris and 4. Dubai.
But some things don’t change. Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland is still regularly visited and is very much as it was in 1962….
……and the Sporthotel in Igls, Austria is still there, still run by the same family, the Becks.
Different motors, though….
The small collection of postcards to Mrs Pye sent between 1958 and 1965 were found in a bric-a-brac shop in Exeter in 2014.
Next in the Occasional Postcards series: Postcard from the Eastern Front, due Winter 2016 – 2017.
Former anarchist agitator Danny Cohn-Bendit, left and Agit-Prop Marxist film maker Jean- Luc Godard on the cover of Télérama, May, 2010. These days Godard has swapped his proletarian Gauloises for the plutocrat cigar. Now let’s see that again:
Whoops, something’s not quite right. So back to the magazine:
and now the advertisement for the magazine in the Anver Metro station, Paris, May, 2010:
Où est Le Cigare?
The anarchist of the 1960s, Danny Cohn-Bendit is a child of upper class parents.
The Marxist film maker, and Maoist (1968 – 1980) Jean-Luc Godard is also a child of upper class parents – very wealthy parents at that. His grandfather on his mother’s side was the founder of the Banque Paribas, now BNP Parabis that almost went under in 2015 and was restructured. The group describe themselves as “Global Corporate and Institutional Banking and Retail Banking and Services”.
Le Patron would not normally draw attention to their background were it not for the contempt that Cohn-Bendit and Godard have shown for their own class. In Soviet propaganda terms, or in a Moscow Pravda editorial they would themselves be described as classic “spawn of the bourgeoisie.”
For a while “Red Danny” (Cohn-Bendit) was almost as much a pin-up as Che Guevera. A recent news item (December 2015) that claimed Cohn-Bendit had, at age 70, got married, prompted broken hearted responses from would be suitors. They can recover their composure: it seems the story is untrue.
Cohn-Bendit became one of the photographic images of the May Days in Paris, and his fame was cemented as much by government supporting opponents highlighting the German origin of his family, and his Jewish background. The May, 1968 students took up the chant Nous sommes tous des Juifs allemande – ‘We are all German Jews’. The chanting didn’t prevent him being expelled from France as a “seditious alien” on 22 May, 1968.
During the 70s, initially living in the family home in Germany, he continued to be involved in the ‘movement’: working in the Karl Marx Buchandlung bookshop in Frankfurt. As most anarchists regard Karl Marx in the same way a Primitive Methodist would regard the Pope, it seems his theoretical ‘position’ was in flux.
He also worked as a member of a ‘radical’ nursery. He got a lot of erotic pleasure being with five and six year olds and wrote about it in Le Grande Bazar (1975), talking about engaging in sexual activities with the young children. The German Green Party into the 1980s had a tolerant attitude to paedophilia. Since then Cohn-Bendit has unconvincingly excused himself by saying he was being ‘deliberately provocative’ in La Grand Bazar. If so – to what end? To upset the ‘bourgeoisie’? To stay in the spotlight?
Staying in the spotlight seems to be his emotional need. It’s a Lights, Camera, Action scenario, whether on the Paris boulevards, or on a confrontation with a Czech president. And where ever he is, he is sure to make sure the media knows where he is, and are briefed to what he is going to say and do. His greatest love is himself. His website features the toddler Danny, Danny the boy, Danny the teenager, Danny the young activist. If he was in the nursery, instead of an adult having erotic feelings about a five year old, and was a child, a five year old, he’d be the one elbowing the other kids out of the way pushing himself to the front if the local media were visiting, or on a daily basis creating an upset to get attention.
In the late 1970s Federal German melting pot of opposition to nuclear power stations and other ‘green issues’ Cohn-Bendit was drawn into the movement that would eventually result in the emergence of the Green Party in Germany.
The film maker Jean Luc Godard who had had a left sentiment prior to 1968 went the whole horrible hog and stuck his colours to Chairman Mao, at a time of appalling repression in the People’s Democratic Republic of China. This grotesque manifestation at this time effected some others in the ‘Arts’ in the West, particularly the performing arts.
If Godard had been in China in 1969 given his class background he would have found himself being ‘re-educated’: forcibly sent to work on the land. He would be getting off lightly. Other perceived enemies of the People’s Democratic Republic got shot.
During the period of his support of Chairman Mao he denounced his former cameraman Raoul Coutard for being the cinematographer on a film that had American company backing. Raoul Coutard was one of the best things about watching Godard’s films in the early to mid sixties, for instance Pierrot Le Fou (1965). This was gesture, megaphone politics at its worst. (Is there any other kind?)
In August 1968 when Soviet Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia, Cohn-Bendit was selling Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder in the Frankfurt bookshop, and Jean-Luc Godard was reading the Maoist People’s Cause in Paris.
An estimated 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks (a higher figure of 5,000 tanks is sometimes quoted) invaded Czechoslovakia on the night of 20 August, 1968. It was the largest use of military force against a European country since the end of the Second World War, even exceeding the Soviet military force that invaded Hungary in 1956. The crime that Czechoslovakia had committed? To have a little bit of what citizens (including Cohn-Bendit and Godard) in Western Europe took for granted: the freedom to travel, freedom to express oneself, without being imprisoned, or having your passport taken away, or your children being prohibited from going to college. (Or in Mao’s China, being shot.)
The loosening of the Marxist straight jacket had started under Alexander Dubček when he was elected First Secretary of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party. Although he wanted the Czech Communist Party to be firmly in control of the State and the reforms – the economy was in a mess – the enthusiasm in the country for the change of direction was endangering the rule of the Communist Party. Dubček was reluctant to use force to reinforce the central role of the Communist Party. It was this that alarmed Moscow. The period was known as the Prague Spring. The winter came early, in August.
At Radio Prague, journalists refused to give up the station and twenty people were killed before it was captured by the occupying force. It is estimated that a further 100 protesting Czechoslovakians were killed by the occupying forces, upholding the power of Marxist-Leninists to continue the building of the Workers Utopia, not just in Czechoslavakia, but in the rest of central and eastern Europe and the Baltic. As late as 1980 the Central Committee of the German Democratic Republic (East German) were urging fellow Warsaw pact members to use military force to invade Poland and put down the Solidarity movement.
Whilst Jean-Luc Godard remained committed to the Mao-ist version of Marxist Leninism, and Cohn-Bendit worked in the Karl Marx Buchandlung, the negatives of the photographs that Czech photographer Josef Koudelka took of the Soviet invasion were smuggled out of the country, and published anonymously in the British Sunday Times.
Unaware that Josef Koudelka was the photographer who took the invasion photos, the Czechoslovakian authorities allowed him to travel to England on a 3 month working visa issued by the British government. Once there he applied for and was granted political asylum.
Czechoslovakian New Wave film directors and scriptwriters, such as Milos Forman (Loves of a Blonde, and The Firemens Ball) and Ivan Passer (Intimate Lighting) managed to escape to the West. (Foreman happened to be in Paris when the Soviets invaded.) The director of the Academy Award winning Closely Observed Trains, Jiri Menzel, was not so lucky. During 1968 and early 1969 he was shooting Larks on a String, set in a Stalin era industrial scrapyard where the male and female civil and political prisoners were forced to work, and lived in overcrowded, barbed wire surrounded huts. This was no political allegory. This was the reality of 1950s Czechoslovakia.
Once the film was completed it was immediately banned, and was not seen until 1990, following the collapse of the Communist regime. In an interview recorded for the DVD release of Larks on a String Jiri Menzel said he was not able to leave the country – his passport had been taken away from him.
It was five years before he made another film, and seven years before he made Seclusion Near a Wood (1976). In 1985 My Sweet Little Village was released. These post Prague Spring years were the years of “Normalisation” as the Communist Central Committee, with First Secretary Gustáv Husák at the helm, called it.
The Czech photographer Viktor Kolár covertly photographed the years of “Normalisation” in the industrial city of Ostrava, and the surrounding area, whilst earning a living, at one point, working as a labourer in the Nová Hut’ steelworks.
Jeri Menzil’s My Sweet Little Village still remains one of the Czech and Slovak Republic’s favourite films. Menzil had the ability, almost in a Good Soldier Švejk way in the period of “Normalisation” to get one past the authorities, by re-affirming what is best about being human. Both My Sweet Little Village and Seclusion Near a Wood are loving, and sometimes rye observations of human inter-action, irrespective of the political background of the time, typical of all his films from Closely Observed Trains onwards. It is an approach that Jean-Luc Godard would, at best, not understand, and at worst would dismiss as either ‘bourgeois’ sentimentality or of ‘not facing reality’.
The writer on Film, Ray Durgnat, said about Godard in 1967: “Godard keeps babbling on about the world being absurd because he can’t keep an intellectual hard on long enough to probe for any responsive warmth”.
Durgnat said a lot of pungent and insightful things about Godard in the essay the quote comes from Asides on Godard, in The Films of Jean-Luc Godard, Studio Vista 1967. As much as Le Patron likes Ray Durgnat’s writing, in this instance it isn’t intellect you need for responsive warmth, but an open heart. Godard’s shrivelled damaged little heart naturally leapt, a year later, into the sloganising Marxist-Leninist-Maoist rhetoric, where he found a sense of purpose, and with equally sloganising people, a sense of belonging. Despite supporting a Maoist paper called The People’s Cause, he (and the paper) had no understanding of ‘The People’ and loathed and rejected just about everything they, the people, enjoyed.
Theses days Godard is no longer a Maoist, but still identifies himself as a Marxist.
These days Danny Cohn-Bendit has travelled a long way from being a part player in Parisian street theatre. In the journey the anarchist ideal of a bottom up democracy has been replaced by a top down authoritarianism. Benito Mussolini took a similar journey, from Italian anarcho-syndicalism to the fascist corporate state. The journey that Cohn-Bendit embarked on in 1968 led to a grotesque position – equal to Godard becoming a Maoist – when, with other European MEPs he travelled in December, 2008 to Prague to meet and berate the Czech President Václav Klaus. More of this in a moment, but first some details to where he had arrived at in the 1990s and beyond.
In 1994 he became a Green MEP in the European Parliament, and has remained one since. He is a significant politician within the French and German Green movements, and his belief in the necessity of the European Union to force policies – environmental policies, for instance – on member states is authoritarian. In 2003 during the Convention that was preparing the text of the European constitution – which was to become known as the Lisbon Treaty – he demanded that EU member countries who voted No in referendums to the conditions of the constitution should be forced to hold a second referendum. If the result was still No, then those countries should be expelled from the E.U. The planned constitution (The Lisbon Treaty) was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Irish voters rejected it in June 2008, but accepted it in a second referendum in October 2009.
There are some significant differences between the Green Parties in Europe. The German Green Party, for instance, approved the rejection of Scottish Independence by voters in the 2014 Scottish Referendum on the question, at odds with the pro-independence position of the Green Party in Scotland. And although the Czech writer, dissident, thinker, and Czech President (1993 – 2003) Václav Havel supported the Czech Green Party from 2004, he remained committed to Direct Democracy, even though some Green Parties stance on environmental matters is authoritarian. A clash in democratic approaches resulted in Cohn-Bendit resigning from the French Greens. More of that in a moment.
At the invitation of the then Czech President Váklav Klaus a group of MEPs who were members of the “Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament” flew to Prague on 5 December, 2008. To put what happened when they got there in a context, imagine any other President of an autonomous European nation – say Mary Robinson, President of the Republic of Ireland between 1990 and 1997 – getting this kind of drubbing from visiting politicians from Brussels.
Christopher Booker wrote about the extraordinary meeting for the British Daily Telegraph on 14 December, 2008.
“There was…… a remarkable recent meeting between the heads of the groups in the European Parliament and Václav Klaus, the Czech head of state, in his palace in Hradcany Castle, on a hill overlooking Prague. The aim was to discuss how the Czechs should handle the EU’s rotating six-monthly presidency when they take over from France on January 1.
The EU’s ruling elite view President Klaus…. with a mixture of bewilderment, hatred and contempt. As his country’s prime minister, he applied to join the EU in the days after the fall of Communism in the 1990s. But now Klaus is alone among European leaders in expressing openly Eurosceptic views, not least about the Lisbon Treaty, which the Czech parliament has yet to ratify.
Klaus was an outspoken dissident under the Communist regime, and he has come to regard the EU as dangerously anti-democratic. But he compounds this sin with highly sceptical views on global warming, on which he recently published a book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles…….
So when Klaus was due to meet the MEPs, one of them decided this was a moment to display the Euro-elite’s hostility to him. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is German born but lives in France, first came to prominence in Paris in 1968 as a student agitator. He is now leader of the Green MEPs. Talking loudly in the plane to Prague, he made no secret of his intentions, and briefed French journalists on how to get maximum publicity for his planned insults.
As Cohn-Bendit was aware, the only flag that flies over the castle is the presidential standard (though the “ring of stars” is much in evidence elsewhere in Prague, flown outside every government ministry).
As described to me by someone present, President Klaus greeted the MEPs with his usual genial courtesy. Whatever his own views, he assured them, his countrymen would conduct their presidency in fully “communautaire” fashion. (Communautaire: supporter of the principles of the European Community.)
Cohn-Bendit then staged his ambush. Brusquely plonking down his EU flag, which he observed sarcastically was so much in evidence around the palace. (Le Patron: News reports from many sources said that Cohn-Bendit went on to say that the European Flag should have been flying from the Presidential palace.)
(Cohn-Bendit) warned that the Czechs would be expected to put through the EU’s “climate change package” without interference. “You can believe what you want,” he scornfully told the president, “but I don’t believe, I know that global warming is a reality.” He added, “my view is based on scientific views and the majority approval of the EU Parliament”.
He then moved on to the Lisbon Treaty. “I don’t care about your opinions on it,” he said. If the Czech Parliament approves the treaty in February, he demanded, “Will you respect the will of the representatives of the people?”
He then reprimanded the president for his recent meeting in Ireland with Declan Ganley, the millionaire leader of the “No” campaign in the Irish referendum, claiming that it was improper for Klaus to have talked to someone whose “finances come from problematic sources”.
Visibly taken aback by this onslaught, Klaus observed: “I must say that no one has talked to me in such a style and tone in the past six years. You are not on the barricades in Paris here. I thought that such manners ended for us 19 years ago” (i.e when Communism fell). When Klaus suggested to Hans-Gert Pöttering, the president of the EU Parliament, who was present, that perhaps it was time for someone else to take the floor, Pöttering replied that “anyone from the members of the Parliament can ask you what he likes”, and invited Cohn-Bendit to continue.
“This is incredible, said Klaus. “I have never experienced anything like this before.”
After a further exchange, in which Cohn-Bendit compared Klaus unfavourably with his predecessor, President Hável, he gave way to an Irish MEP, Brian Crowley, who began by saying “all his life my father fought against the British domination [of Ireland]… That is why I dare to say that the Irish wish for the Lisbon Treaty. It was an insult, Mr President, to me and the Irish people what you said during your state visit to Ireland.” Klaus repeated that he had not experienced anything like this for 19 years and that it seemed we were no longer living in a democracy, but that it was “post-democracy which rules the EU”.
On the EU constitution, Klaus recalled that three countries had voted against it, and that if Mr Crowley wanted to talk about insults to the Irish people, “the biggest insult to the Irish people is not to accept the result of the Irish referendum”…..
Everntually Pöttering closed the meeting by saying that he wanted to leave the room “in good terms”, but it was quite unacceptable to compare himself and his colleagues with the Soviet Union. Klaus replied that he had not mentioned the Soviet Union: “I only said that I had not experienced such an atmosphere, such a style of debate, in the Czech Republic in the last 19 years.”
The hectoring nature of the meeting was reported in Czech media, and was a news item throughout the former Communist Eastern Bloc countries. It is reported that across all political sentiments in the Czech republic the reaction was similar: that the comments of Cohn-Bendit and the other MEPs was an “undue interference in Czech affairs”. The MEP and the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage went further and compared Cohn-Bendit’s actions to a “German official from seventy years ago or a Soviet official from twenty years ago.”
Cohn-Bendit’s contempt for democratic processes continues.
French Greens’ Cohn-Bendit quits party in fiscal Pact row.
European lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit revoked his membership of the French Greens on Sunday (23 September) in protest at the party’s decision to oppose the ratification of the European Union’s budget discipline pact.
The move threatens to rob the Europe-Écologie Party of one of its most recognisable deputies – known for his rabble-rousing during 1968 student riots in Paris – and may exacerbate tensions within the group, which supports France’s Socialist-led government and has two ministerial posts.
The French Greens voted overwhelmingly against the terms of the pact at a grassroots assembly on Saturday, concluding that it would not provide long-term answers to the EU crisis nor help foster environmentally friendly policies.
France is expected to ratify the pact early next month, though a major revolt within the coalition could force the Socialists into an embarrassing reliance on the conservative opposition.
“Yesterday’s federal council was dramatic. Dramatically pathetic,” Cohn-Bendit told French television station i-Tele.
“I’ve decided to suspend my participation in this movement. It’s clear to me that deep down, things are finished between me and Europe-Ecologie.”
Cohn-Bendit said the French Green party’s position on the fiscal treaty was “completely inconsistent” arguing that the party should pull out of the French government and vote against the budget.
“I don’t want to endorse this leftist policy drift,” the Franco-German MEP further went on.
Cohn-Bendit, nicknamed “Danny the Red” for his student activism, has served as deputy for French Green parties since 1999 and is co-president of the European Parliament’s Greens group.
– Reuters, 24 September, 2012.
Just in case you missed it: it was a collective decision taken by a meeting of grassroots members. Paris, ’68 anyone?
And, oh yes, that Disappearing Cigar.
It’s marvellous what you can do with Photoshop. Not only remove the cigar, but reposition the fingers. In France 2010 it was not permitted for advertising posters in public places to even inadvertently include cigarettes, cigars – (and goodness knows what has happened to Maigret’s pipe). Cohn-Bendit the Green politician would not have a problem with the Photoshopping out of his pal’s cigar. And Godard, like Cohn-Bendit is happy to comply with the distortion. He is, after all, promoting the product: himself. Anyway, as a Marxist who probably knows his Russian Revolution history, he will know that anything that offends the ruling elite gets removed. Long live the Revolution, Comrades.
Sources and Notes
All photographs used in this Post: Copyright the respective owners.
Li Zhansheng is a photojournalist. He was a photographer with the Heilonjiang Newspaper, and photographed the Mao Cultural Revolution as part of his work with the newspaper. However, besides allowed ‘positive’ images of peasant meetings, etc, he managed to secretly take photographs of the realities behind the Cultural revolution, including those forcibly sent to the countryside to help the ‘revolution’ (hard labour camps), and executions without trial. These latter negatives he hid underneath the floorboards in his family one room flat in Harbin. He and his wife, Yingxia, were themselves sent to a hard labour camp for two years, in 1969.
The photographs he took during the Cultural revolution are published as Red-Colour News Soldier by Phaidon, 2003. It is still in print.
2. The photographs that Josef Koudelka took during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia are published as Invasion 68: Prague, Aperture, 2008. It is still in print.
3. Jiri Menzell’sLarks on a String and Closely Observed Trains are currently available DVDs, with English sub-titles, and an English Menu. Vesničko Má Stredisková (My Sweet Little Village) and Na Samoteu Lesa (Seclusion Near a Wood) are Czech DVDs, with English sub-titles and a Czech Menu. It is not too difficult to figure out from the Menu how to switch on the English sub-titles. subtitlescafedalston.co.uk sell by post or in person Na Samote u Lesa (Seclusion Near a Wood) which is how Le Patron got his copy. They also sell online a small selection of other Czech films, film posters and items. All the DVDs are otherwise available from amazon.co.uk
4 The photographs taken by Victor Kolár in Ostrava, during the period of Czech ‘Normalisation’ are in Viktor Kolár, Torst, Prague, 2002.
Unfortunately only very expensive second hand copies of this soft back are presently available, although a search through ebay might yield copies cheaper than the current asking price on abebooks, which varies between £111 to £207, at the time of writing (January, 2016). Fortunately Viktor Kolár does have a website where some of his work can be seen. victorkolar.com
“I was there mate, so I know what I’m talking about.” “Oh really?”
Eddie Cochran and the Summertime Blues
The long, hot summer in the U.K. of 1958 was awash with rock n roll music that blew your socks off: Buddy Holly’s Rave On, Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser, Jerry Lee’s High School Confidential… and Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. Oops!! The latter not even quite right.
Not at all right, it seems. (1)
Le Patron did not – as he wrongly remembered – obsessively play during that Essex summer the London Label Summertime Blues on the portable plug in record player in his bedroom, windows open, whilst his Dad mowed the grass outside, his sister dusted her Wade figurines, and his Mum cooked the sunday lunch. Oh no. He would have lost serious money if he had put a bet on that.
Being there doesn’t mean you remember right. According to the UK hit parades of 1958, Summertime Blues reached its highest position in the British Top Twenty – at Number 18 – on 13th November, 1958. Forget summer. The nights were dark. And the Number One that damp week in November was It’s All in The Game by the rarely remembered Tommy Edwards.
Le Patron is writing about Eddie Cochran as Eddie Cochran died in St.Martin’s Hospital, Bath, Somerset, and so did Le Patron’s Dad, and in a manner of speaking, they both shared the same house too, in Essex in 1958. But first…. The Summer of ’58.
The Summer of ’58
In Rock n Roll legend – as far as the U.K. goes – the summer of 1958 is seen as the final splendid showering of rock n roll. All the American greats were in the U.K. Top Twenty, mostly on the London label (RCA, Coral & Brunswick aside). Buddy Holly got to No 5 in August 1958 with Rave On; Jerry Lee’s explosive High School Confidential made No.12; the staggering Rebel Rouser made No.19 for Duane Eddy in September 1958, and Elvis was there with the Platinum Hard Headed Woman.
Just to take the week in August when Buddy Holly got to No 5 with Rave On: the Everly’s were sitting at the Top with the double A sided All I Have To Is Dream/Claudette, with Elvis snapping at their heels with Hard Headed Woman. The Crickets Think It Over had entered the bottom 20 and was rising, and Little Richard’s Ooh My Soul was in the bottom 20 too. So yes, it was a hot, exciting summer. The Patron played again and again the opening lines of Rave On: “Well-ahella-ahella, the little things you say and do”; Jerry Lee’s blistering High School Confidential which ripped in with “Come on honey, get on your dancing shoes, before the juke box blows a fuse” Or the opening, stunning, mesmerising twangs of Rebel Rouser. Where was that sound coming from?!
It was a far cry from the BBC Light Programme’s Sunday lunch time record requests show Two Way Family Favourites. The closest you might get to the source on that programme was Guy Mitchell, maybe a ballad from the Everly’s, or the poppy Lollipop by the Mudlarks (an English cover of the Chordettes U.S. original). But there was never ever going to be anything that would blow the valves out of their radiogram sockets.
In a small town in Essex in the summer of 1958 listening to Jack Jackson’s Decca show on Luxembourg was the first stop for listening to this electrifying sound from across the Atlantic. (The AFN – (American Forces Network) – signal from Germany was even weaker than Luxembourg’s)
The second way to hear it was to stand in the record booth at the local shop where you could listen before you bought or did not buy a new release. And thirdly, dropping a coin in the slot of a juke box.
So that was the summer of ’58. According to the mythology, it was the Indian Summer of that 1956 – 1958 explosion of American Rock n Roll. Even Le Patron accepted the myth. It didn’t need Don MacLean’s American Pie (1971) to talk about the day the music died (February, 1959 and Buddy’s plane crash). The myth had already been established somewhere around 1964, when Mods and Rockers fought it out on the beaches of England’s South Coast.
But like Le Patron’s dodgy memory, the myth is wrong too. This is the myth: in 1959 Buddy Holly was dead, Elvis was in the Army, Little Richard had found God, and Jerry Lee never recovered from being found out, in May, 1958, that he had married his 13 year old first cousin once removed. And – according to the myth – after that came three or four years of Bobby this, and Bobby that, singing bland bubblegum pop. Rock n roll was dead. (Even Bob Dylan believed this. Years later, commenting on that 1959 – 1962 period he saw it as a successful conspiracy of the WASP majority to suppress the wild, racial elements of rock n roll). Oh really?
Firstly, even if Little Richard hadn’t found God, his recorded music had already gone off the boil. Baby Face, which followed Ooh My Soul in the summer of 1958 was as dire as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (The Beatles) 1961 My Bonny. Likewise Jerry Lee’s singles by 1959 weren’t as strong, apart from Loving Up a Storm. Incidentally, although Jerry Lee’s May 1958 UK tour was cancelled on the back of the press moral indignation, and the Methodist Rank Organisation pulling the plug on bookings in their theatres, his High School Confidential successfully climbed the Top Twenty to No.12. And Col. Parker successfully issued back catalogue material that always saw Elvis in the Top Ten, whilst he was in the U.S. army.
Brenda Lee, the Everly’s, Roy Orbision, Elvis (out of the army in March, 1960), Ricky Nelson, Duane Eddy continued to record material in the 1959 – 1962 period that were massive hits at the time and are now part of rock history: Let’s Jump the Broomstick; Cathy’s Clown; Running Scared; It’s Now or Never; Hello Mary Lou; Peter Gunn….(2).
And interesting new things were happening in that 1959 – 1962 period. Music was evolving, as it always does. A giant like Ray Charles was breaking into the UK Top Twenty, and like Elvis he took white and black music and melded aspects of it: I Can’t Stop Loving You, Your Cheating Heart, from white American Country music and Georgia on My Mind from the white American Song Book, and succeeded with the black Hit the Road Jack and What’d I Say? Buddy Holly was one of several performers who were impressed and inspired by Ray Charles, and his 1958 Early in the Morning was influenced by the Ray Charles approach. In 1961 Jerry Lee made a rare re-appearance into the UK Top Twenty with his version of Ray’s What’d I Say?
Sam Cooke too was breaking into the U.K Top Ten during 1959 – 1962: Wonderful World, Chain Gang, Cupid, Twisting the Night Away and Another Saturday Night. His cool persona, with the Apollo Harlem showtime routine, was breaking the ground for Stax and Tamla Motown to follow. Bob Dylan would have revised his opinion that WASPS killed off the music because of the racial elements, if he had seen Sam Cooke performing Twisting the Night Away to an audience who look as if they’ve been bussed in from a white businessmen’s convention, Sam getting the sober suited execs. to clap as he does some neat moves, singing “Dancing with the chick in slacks… dancing up and back”. (3. The link to this performance is footnoted below)
So what’s the beef? And what was wrong with Bobby Vee? He cut some good stuff, including with the Crickets. And Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet?
O.K. R.I.P the Summer of ’58. Here comes winter.
W i n t e r t i m e B l u e s
When Eddie Cochran joined Gene Vincent on the January-April 1960 UK tour he was no ‘has-been”. His C’mon Everybody had reached No.6 in March 1959, and Something Else got to No.22 in late October, 1959. Gene Vincent, however, hadn’t been in the UK Top Twenty since October 1956,with Blue Jean Bop. At the Bradford concert the thin-skinned Gene got a bit shirty.
BADGERED ROCK STAR QUITS THE STAGE
More than 2000 teenagers at a rock’n’roll concert at the Gaumont, Bradford on Saturday night were astonished when the American star of the show, Gene Vincent, stopped in the middle of a song and walked off stage. His accompanying group faltered to a ragged halt, and harassed compere Billy Raymond hurried from the wings to the microphone to lead a finale in which all members of the company, including a solemn-faced Vincent, took part.
In his dressing room later, the 25-year-old singer from Norfolk, Virginia, explained his startling exit. “Four guys at the back had been heckling throughout the act. I didn’t particularly mind during my fast numbers, but when they tried to ruin Over The Rainbow I could just not take it any more. It is one of the best things that I do and it has been going down well all over the country. I will never play at this place again”
– (Yorkshire Post)
As the tour progressed it was clear the real star of the show was Eddie Cochran. When the tour management suggested he should go top of the bill he declined, as he had a soft spot for Gene. Eddie, it is reported was homesick on the UK tour, ringing his Mum every day, and although he’d experienced cold winters, he wasn’t used to the lack of central heating in 1960s Britain, and that got to him.
When he and Gene finished their last concert in April at the Bristol Hippodrome he hired a car to take him, his girlfriend and Gene through the dark night to London Airport for the flight back to the States. The car crashed near Chippenham, and Eddie died of his injuries two days later at St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath, Somerset on 16 April, 1960.
Gene, and Eddie’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley, survived. Eddie was 21.
So it seems Le Patron was listening to Summertime Blues sometime in October, 1958, (notthe summer), whilst outside his Dad , after the first frost of autumn, dug over the vegetable patch. Mum cooked the meal in the kitchen and his sister listened to the newly introduced Saturday Club, a lame BBC attempt to “get with it”, hosted by Brian Mathews.
Many years later Le Patron’s Dad no longer worked in a garden. In the early 1990s he died in a dementia ward of the same hospital Eddie died. By then St.Martin’s had no “Casualty” (A&E, Accident and Emergency, as it is now called).
A day or so later Le Patron and his Mum went to register the death at the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Whilst his Mum was talking to the receptionist, Le Patron noticed a framed Death Certificate, proudly displayed on an otherwise bare wall. It was the Death certificate of Eddie Cochran. Le Patron looked closer and saw that in the column “Occupation” Eddie was listed as “Entertainer”. It was all so long ago, that Summer of ’58.
It is surprisingly difficult to find the date for the UK release of Summertime Blues. An Eddie Cochran fan site says September, 1958, but doesn’t say when in September. There is also a variation in the highest position it got in the UK Top Twenty. One source lists it as low as 21. All sources indicate the highest position at around 13 – 18 November, 1958. It is surprisingly that if it was released at the end of September it should take 6 weeks to get to no.18 in the bottom half of the Top Twenty.
The bizarre mythology that 1959 – 1962 was a sort of musical vacuum (before the rise of the Beatles, and the British Groups invasion of the States), filled by bubblegum pop, doesn’t stand up to examination. Here are some, but not all, of the releases by the big U.S. names during 1959 – 1962: Duane Eddy: Peter Gunn, Forty Miles of Bad Road, Some Kind of Earthquake, Because They’re Young, Dance with the Guitar Man. Brenda Lee: Let’s Jump the Broomstick, Sweet Nothings, I’m Sorry, Emotions, Dum Dum, Fool No 1. Roy Orbison: Only the Lonely, Blue Angel, Running Scared, Crying, In Dreams, Pretty Woman (1963). Elvis: A Fool Such as I, Little Sister, A Mess of Blues, Big Hunk of Love, Stuck on You, It’s Now or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Good Luck Charm, Return To Sender, She’s Not You, Devil in Disguise. The Everly’s: Till I Kissed You, Let It Be Me, Cathy’s Clown, When Will I Be Loved, Walk Right Back, Crying in the Rain. Ricky Nelson: Travellin’ Man, It’s Late, Hello Mary Lou, Young World, Teenage Idol, It’s Up To You.
Le Patron spotted this photograph in a bric-a-brac shop in Haarlem in 2005, and bought it for €1.50. For a while he didn’t realise the significance of the photograph, until he discovered that on the 10th of May, 1940,the day after the photograph was taken by an on-looker, German forces attacked Holland, and Belgium, 75 years ago this month.
It is conjecture when the person with the camera handed in the roll of film for developing and printing, and in what Dutch town this was, (it was not necessarily Haarlem) but she or he probably got the prints back after Holland had been forced to surrender on 15 May, 1940. The day before, 14 May, 1940, the Germans had blitzed central Rotterdam, and had demanded that if Holland did not capitulate they would flatten Utrecht the following day.
The photo has been printed on the Belgium made Gavaert ‘Ridax’ photographic paper. Without consulting the Belgium Parliament, the Belgium King, Leopold III, ordered Belgium Armed Forces to surrender on 28 May, 1940. Writing in his diary at the time, the soon to be Director-General of the British Political Warfare Executive Robert Bruce Lockhart wrote:
“Reynaud has spoken on Paris radio at 8.30 a.m. “I have grave news to announce. King Leopold of the Belgians capitulated to Germany this morning at 4 a.m.” A day of gloom, although Leopold has always been suspected. Frank Aveling (friend of Leopold) who knows him better than any Englishman has always told me that the King is (1) a totalitarian in his political views and (2) a Peace Pledge pacifist in his religious and sociological views!” (1)
Although a German, and with a brother in the German Army, Prince Bernhard didn’t intend to be part of a Dutch capitulation to German National Socialist forces. A keen photographer he took the following photographs “between raids” at the Palais Noordeinde in Den Haag (The Hague) the day after the German attack, on 11 May, 1940.
“During the German Invasion, the Prince, carrying a machine gun, allegedly organised the palace guards into a combat group and shot at German planes. The Royal Family fled the Netherlands and took refuge in England. In disagreement with Queen Wilhelmina’s decision to leave the Kingdom, the young Prince Consort, aged 28, is said to have refused to go initially and wanted to oppose the Nazi occupation within its borders, but eventually agreed to join her as head of the Royal Military Mission based in London. Once safely there, his wife Juliana and their children went on to Canada, where they remained until the end of the war.” – source, Wikipedia entry “Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.”
Prince Bernhard went on from flying Spitfires in the 322 “Dutch Squadron”, to flying a variety of planes in missions over France, Italy and the Atlantic.
King Leopold III of Belgium continued to live in Belgium as the ruling monarch, with the assent of the National Socialists.
Another monarch, the war hungry absolutist Kaiser Wilhelm II, had been living in forced exile in a country mansion in the Dutch village of Doorn (near Utrecht) since 1918. When Hitler invaded Poland, and when the German forces occupied Paris, the ex-Kaiser sent letters of congratulation to Hitler. Kaiser Wilhelm II had been regarded with contempt as a military strategist by his equally belligerent German Army Officer class since 1908, and Hitler, who was anti-monarchist, shared their sentiments. When the Germans invaded Holland, both London and Berlin invited him to move to their countries. He declined. He died at Doorn in 1941.
What’s Happening in the Photograph?
Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard are no longer the centre of attention as the photo was taken. Note that two women in the crowd are smiling and looking at the person or people who is/are behind Juliana and Bernhard. The Queen, Wilhelmina? If so, the photographer will not have had time to wind the film on and manually cock the shutter for the next shot. Why would she or he be more interested in snapping the Queen’s daughter and husband?
It’s a warm late spring day, with the sun shining in from the left hand side of the photo, and Juliana and Bernhard are lightly dressed. The onlooking boy wears short trousers.
Who is the man walking in front of Juliana and Bernhard. A plain clothes policeman? Then why is he looking down, and not up, and alert?
Bernard has his hand on the winding arm of a 16mm ciné camera, possibly either the American Bell & Howell, or a German Agfa. Going by the shape of the camera case, Juliana has a German Leica 35 mm camera. In general, the feeling is that this is not too formal an occasion.
There are no clues in which Dutch town this is.
The date on the reverse of the snap says 9-5.1940, which gives the photograph the significance, but the detail that caused Le Patron some unease was the pollarded trees with no foliage. On the 9th of May? Other photos of the day of invasion show trees with foliage. There are shadows of young leaves, for instance, in the photo with the Royal Family resting between air raids, taken on 11 May, 1940. On 19 May, 2015, mulling this worrying detail over, on a bench by the brook known as the Dawlish Water, Le Patron looked up and almost next to him he was suddenly aware of a tree that was showing similar characteristics, when all the trees around him were well in bloom, and even the characteristically late ash trees were pushing out foliage. He took a couple of photographs of this tree and sent them to a horticulturist friend. This was his reply:
“Definitely either a Black Poplar (Populus nigra), or alternatively an Aspen (Populus tremula).
If I had to guess, from the pics and the look of the not quite fully out leaves and the bud shape/spacing,….I’d say the former, as its’ a larger tree generally, as your example is!
Having consulted my Hilliers reference book, both these are “late “ to come into leaf, in the U.K.”
This isn’t to suggest the pollarded trees in the “Juliana & Bernhard 9-5-1940” photo are black populars, but does show that some trees can be very late, compared with others.
After the Allies had landed in Normandy in June 1944, in anticipation of their advance, Heinrich Himmler ordered that the Belgium King Leopold III and his family be moved to Germany. When the war in Europe finished on 8 May, 1945, in anticipation of serious political instability in Belgium the Allies did not allow him to return and his brother Charles acted as Regent. When he was allowed to return in 1950 the country was violently divided, with three people shot dead by Belgium police at a demonstration during what has been described as the most violent General Strike in the history of Belgium. The King was forced to abdicate to his son, Baudouin.
Because of a cruel twist, western Holland (including Amsterdam and Haarlem) remained occupied until the end of the war (with a dreadful famine in the winter of 1944 and spring of 1945 that is estimated to have killed 18,000 people). Prince Bernhard arrived with liberating forces and was closely involved in the surrender negotiations of the occupying German forces in Holland in 1945, and deliberately chose to speak Dutch, and not German – his native tongue – in the surrender negotiations with the occupying German forces.
Queen Wilhelmina had remained in England during the war, and returned to liberated Holland in May, 1945. Princess Juliana also returned, from Canada, to Holland in May 1945. The Dutch Royal Family were feted by crowds where ever they went.
The Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter), besides the estimated 18,000 deaths, had a permanent effect on the growth of many young people (including Audrey Hepburn), pregnant women, and their babies. Many people were forced to eat sugar beet and tulip bulbs, although not, as far as is known, tree bark, that had happened in the famines in the Ukraine and China.
1. The Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart, Volume 2, 1939 – 1965. Macmillan, 1980.
All photos taken by Prince Bernhard and of the Dutch Royal Family are from Het Fotoarchief van prins Bernhard de Jaren 1940 – 1945, Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam, 2005. ISBN 90-74159–75-3.
The 8th of May, 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the end of war in Europe in 1945.
East London Teenager Boy VE Day was one of the most emotional days in my life. There were Union Jacks out and every one was saying “We want the King!” Everyone was shouting for the King. Men and women. Mind you, they were shouting for Louis 16th a few weeks before they cut his head off. You can’t go on the emotions of… – People were so pent up. There was mass shagging in the streets… – No sort of class distinction. I walked into a posh hotel and everyone was offering me drinks. Everybody. What amazed me was where they got the drink from! No one ever had it. At least, we didn’t, because before this, pubs were closed. People had to walk miles to get a drink. A bloke would say to another bloke “I know a pub that’s got some beer.” The pub would be packed solid until they drunk the beer out. So I don’t know where they got the drink from.
East End Girl On VE Day I watched my Dad dance up and down the street. He was dead drunk, my Dad. He tap danced all up and down our street. My Dad used to have cups for tap dancing. Everybody was out on the street, drunk. We watched from the windows.
Somerset Girl On VE Day they had bonfires on hilltops. They took weeks building up huge bonfires on all the hills – on Street Hill and Wearyall Hill, between Street and Glastonbury, and all the hills around.
Somerset Boy From Ham Hill we could see all the other fires. A sailor at our fire actually threw himself in the middle of the bonfire and they had to haul him off. He was in flames. They had to roll him down the hill to put the flames out. He was drunk. That was Victory night.
2nd Somerset Girl VE day in Winscombe was very dead. We were longing for something. We could have gone to Weston but there wasn’t a late bus to come back. We really felt left out of things. You read about all these marvellous things going on in London – dancing in the streets.
Paratrooper I was in Ireland on VE Day. There’s a bay there called Dundrum Bay and I was sitting on a little bit of grass thinking to myself: “Well, I don’t know, all this bleeding time, all that square bashing, all them manoeuvres, for me to be sitting here when it’s all over. I’m still here. And them poor sods I joined up with, who I was working with before the war, are probably blown to bits, or something like that. And what for?”
The following day we was on a road run. They took us on a road run all round the country lanes, and we were running down this slope in this little lane and an old Irish boy’s walking along, with an old hat and a bloody great knurled stick in his hand, and as we’re running past he said “What the bloody hell are you running for? The war’s over!” We was pissing ourselves laughing.
Liverpool Mother I spent my VE Day in Southdown Hospital. After going right through the war, when all the celebrations were on I took appendicitis and was taken away. I could hear all this singing going on and I was saying to myself: Ooh, I’d love to be out there.
Liverpool Teenage Girl On VE Night there was a gang of us got together. We were still working the railway, this gang. We were on 2 to 11 shift, my mate and I. We got that much drink, we walked up from Central Station and the next thing we remembered doing was sitting in Abercromby Square Gardens about 4 in the morning – singing. Everyone went mad those two days. I don’t think anyone slept.
Teeside Boy Soldier We were stationed in Catterick and a gang of us went to Middlesbrough. There was a lad from Newcastle and he took a box of hand-grenades and a bloody great box of flares. In Middlesbrough he was throwing hand-grenades in park. We finished up in Acland Road. We came across a pile of road chippings and barrels of tar. How we did it I don’t know, but we got about three of these barrels stacked one on top of the other and set fire to bottom one. And we were dancing around them.
Staffs Miner VE Day they gave you extra money to stop in. I was on nights when word came through – day’s pay and home Jeeves, and don’t spare the horses! Extra pint in pub! Extra ale!
Royal Engineer I was in Germany on VE Day. Our division took Bremen and another division took Hamburg. We went into Bremen brewery, me and the engineers. We had to take a lorry and pick up the company’s beer. We all got pissed and nearly drowned because down in the wine vaults of the brewery the maniacs had knocked the pipes off and the sherry ran all over the floor. You was wading with sherry up to your knees. No lights on. We were shining torches. And the stink! You was intoxicated with the smell……
Prior to Operation Sealion – the German name given to their planned invasion of Britain – military intelligence reports had already been prepared in Berlin. The documents were headed as Militärgeographische Angaben über England. (“Military Geographic Information about England”). They comprehensively described, from an invading military logistic perspective, region by region, the physical terrain, the transport infra- structure, the power stations, the national electricity grid, the location of large “grist” (flour) mills (for hungry troops), and so on. The amount of detail and photographs, and maps was extraordinary. The intelligence material also had a brief overview of the social and racial characterises of the English. In a strikingly doctored, cut down and misleading version of Militärgeographische Angaben über England, published by the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 2007 as German Invasion Plans for the British Isles 1940 (see their cover above) there is a section on the Social and Racial Characteristics of the English. It is reproduced here with the caution that in translation (commissioned by the Bodleian Library), or in the editing, it too may have been shortened or doctored in some way. However, the observations and sentiments expressed about English social classes will be accurate. (For further points about the distortion of the Bodleian “German Invasion Plans” see Footnote 1. below)
“England is… a land of opposites in social respects. The impact of this, however, is softened by the widespread emergence of similarities in lifestyle; and the differences, because they are considered traditional, do not have such a divisive effect as they would in less conservative countries.
The not inconsiderable upper class consists of rich families as well as the old and new aristocracy, whose assets together make up the main part of the nation’s wealth. Next, with its own elaborate hierarchy, comes the extensive working middle classes, whose members enjoy sizeable incomes and considerable prosperity; in general they have a considerably more comfortable lifestyle but lower level of education than in Germany.
There is also a lower class, fairly substantial in size, of workers on poor to average pay and the long-term unemployed, who have a surprisingly low material and intellectual standard of living. They inhabit the “slums” (homes of misery) with their poor sanitary conditions, filth, and at times morbid forms of social existence (e.g. child poverty), in a state of poor health and in some cases long-term malnutrition. Some of these negative developments must be put down not to undeserved poverty but wholly or in part to insufficient competence in domestic matters, specifically among women, as well as to a lack of mutual encouragement.
The most striking features displayed by the more disagreeable sections of this class include a lack of personal ambition, indifference to the demands of the community and nation, and interests that stop with sport and frivolity, the sensations of city life.
In some cases one is dealing here with the residue of an urban social group that has already been making its presence felt for over a hundred years and whose numbers make up an alarming proportion of the population as a whole.
Racially, the population is a mixture of Mediterranean, Alpine, and Nordic elements, with the latter predominant.
The west of England, above all Wales, is home to remnants of an indigenous population whose roots go back to Celtic times and beyond. Unlike the bright English, they are dark and small in stature. Even though they have largely abandoned their language, they have still retained a reasonably strong awareness of the distinctive heritage and culture to which they belong. Radical political aspirations are confined to narrow circles and are of no practical significance.”
As the German National Socialist Adolf Hitler identified enemies and hindrances to his creation of a Thousand Year Reich, based on race, so too did InterNational Socialists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Their “Utopia” was based not on race, but class, although race was significant for them, and many races were written off not only as not part of the Final Destiny, but as a hindrance to it. Here is some of what Engels had to say about the Irish in his The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1845 edition.
“The southern facile character of the Irishman, his crudity, which places him but little above the savage, his contempt for all humane enjoyments, in which his very crudeness makes him incapable of sharing, his filth and poverty, all favour drunkeness. . . . the pressure of this race has done much to depress wages and lower the working-class. . . . That poverty manifests itself in Ireland thus and not otherwise, is owing to the character of the people, and to their historical development….
….. The Irish are a people related in their whole character to the Latin nations, to the French, and especially to the Italians…. With the Irish, feeling and passion predominate; reason must bow before them. Their sensuous, excitable nature prevents reflection and quiet, persevering activity from reaching development — such a nation is utterly unfit for manufacture as now conducted. . . . Irish distress cannot be removed by any Act of Repeal. Such an Act would, however, at once lay bare the fact that the cause of Irish misery, which now seems to come from abroad is really to be found at home” (2)
Engels assessment, written in the early 1840s of some of the reasons for the condition of the Irish peasantry is identical to the reasons given by the National Socialist assessment, written in 1939/1940 for the causes of poverty amongst some of the English working class in the 1930s. Engels assessment was primarily based not on political or economic criteria, but on race.
Friedrich Engels regarded all people of a Celtic background (he mentioned, for instance, the inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands) as an impediment to the forward march of an ‘enlightened proletariat’, whose heightened political consciousness would act as the force that would eventually lead to a proletarian paradise. His friend and political colleague Karl Marx believed, dogmatically, that he had discerned it as a scientific based historical fact.
Engels regarded Slavs and Basques as retrogressive elements, too, standing in the way of “progress” and that they would have to be dealt with, or would “perish in the revolutionary process.” (His words.)
Ambivalent about the people of France as a positive revolutionary force, he nevertheless approved of their Government’s subjugation of the inferior Arabs in their north African colonies.
Negro and Jew were untermenschen. (sub-human). Despite his Jewish background Marx was also dismissive of Jews and contemptuous of negroes.
Compared with the German National Socialists of the 1920s and 30s, Marxist socialists, years earlier theoretically, and then practically, embraced the removal of those who got in their way of arriving at their Messianic goal. Lenin wrote in 1918. “Ruthless war on the kulaks! Death to them!” (3) The programme/pogram against Kulaks in the USSR started in 1918, but reached its appalling climax in the early 1930s with Stalin remaining faithful to the tenents of Lenin.
Hundreds of thousands were uprooted and sent to gulags (concentration work camps) with hundreds of thousands, or more, worked to death on projects such as the White Sea Canal. Others were executed. Like the improvised gallows of the Nazis public hangings in occupied Europe eighteen years later as a warning to those who resist, some kulaks were hung and left on village gallows for the local population to take note of what happened to those who were perceived to be class “traitors”.
A translation of what is known as Lenin’s 1918 “Hanging Order”
11-8-18 Send to Penza
To Comrades Kuraev, Bosh, Minkin and other Penza communists
Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost’s must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle “with the kulaks.” We need to set an example.
1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take away all of their grain. 4) Execute the hostages – in accordance with yesterday’s telegram.
This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let’s choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.
Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this.
P.S. Use your toughest people for this. (5)
Definitions by the Soviet Marxist-Leninists of what constituted a kulak shifted sloppily, like an unsecured cargo in a boat’s hold. It is reported that in many villages, neither villagers or kulaks knew which was which, partly because the criteria was not clear. Being a perceived enemy of the revolution was often enough, even when the individual had no land, for he might be harbouring “kulak” thoughts. Bearing in mind land ownership and cultivation in Ireland in the 1920s, as a comparison, a kulak, very roughly, was considered to own one or two cows and five or six acres of land. Estimates range widely on the numbers of kulaks who died. A conservative estimate for the 1930 to 1940 period puts the figure at three quarters of a million. Others have put it much higher.
The Marx and Engels emphasis on “backward races” largely disappeared with the ascendency in Russia of the Bolshevik Party in the worlds’ first “proletarian” revolution. Ideologically it had to disappear because it was in economically backward countries such as Imperial Russia – contradicting Marx’s “scientific” law – that became the centres of Red Revolution. The sickle, the emblem of backward, peasant agricultural communities, now became, along with the proletarian hammer, the symbol on the red flag of the United Socialist Soviet Republics. Peasants vastly outnumbered industrial workers in the U.S.S.R. The next great “triumph’ of Red Revolution was in an even more “backward” country: China. Writing about the Chinese in the 19th century Mark and Engels had written of the “Heredity stupidity of the Chinese” (Marx, 1853); “The overbearing prejudice, stupidity, learned ignorance and pedantic barbarism” (Engels, 1857) (6)
Class, always central to Marxist ideology became foremost, in the ideological somersaults that had to be performed to rationalise the circumstances in which the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist parties found themselves in. Besides the obvious class enemy of the aristocracy and large land-owners, in the USSR the small land owning Kulaks were identified as one of the immediate “reactionary” elements to be wiped out.
In the backward peasant agricultural societies that existed in Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Mao Tse-Tung’s China the twisted Marxist ideology identified “intellectuals” (brain workers) as a class enemy, and hundreds of thousands of what they deemed intellectuals were either worked to death, or executed.
Grotesquely, at the same time, revolutionary posters in both countries had images of classic intellectuals (brain workers) – Marx, Engels and Lenin – staring into the triumphant socialist future, whilst at the same time anyone wearing glasses and not reading Lenin or Chairman Mao was a potential suspect. As far is known neither Marx, Engels or Lenin ever picked up, or knew how to handle a hammer or a sickle. They were good with pens, though.
Unlike the Nazis who only started to plan for the Final Solution to exterminate their perceived race enemies, the Jews, in January, 1943, and kept very circumspect about their plans, and consequent activities, the nineteenth century writings of Engels clearly pointed the way, followed by Lenin proclaiming in 1918 death to the perceived class enemies of the United Socialist Soviet Republics in his Comrade Workers, Forward to the Last, Decisive Fight! (7)
The openness on how to deal with class enemies was characteristic of many who supported the Marxist revolutionary socialist government in the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s. The Irish playwright, reviewer, polemicist and socialist admirer of the U.S.S.R, George Bernard Shaw, writing a preface to a print edition of his play On The Rocks (1933) derided the principle of the sanctity of human life as an “absurdity to any good socialist” and called for extermination to be put ‘on a scientific basis’ and added that to kill off the acquisitive classes is ‘quite reasonable and very necessary’, since no punishment would ever cure them of their capitalist instincts. (8) He repeated a variation of his views on film in 1931, asking that a pain free way of killing people should be developed. In 1934 he called for the development of a “humane’ killing gas, writing in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s magazine The Listener of 7 February.
His English Fabian socialist colleague Beatrice Webb was aware of, and approved of the campaign against the kulaks. In 1932 she was uneasy about what was happening to the kulaks getting known in Britain. She reportedly had said that it had been very poor stage management to allow a party of British visitors in the Ukraine to see cattle-trucks full of starving “enemies of the state” at a local station. She thought it was “ridiculous to let you see them. The English are always so sentimental”. (Recalled conversation by her niece Konradin Hobhouse, in a letter to the Manchester Guardian, February 1958.)
Besides his support for the USSR, there was a point in the 1930s when Shaw simultaneously admired Hitler’s National Socialist Germany, and the Italian fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Before the first world war Mussolini was a prominent and active revolutionary socialist, influenced by syndicalist ideas, and edited, amongst other publications, Lotta di Class (The Class Struggle), and later Avanti!, the newspaper of the Italian Socialist Party. He took its weekly circulation from 20,000 to 100,000. Impatient with ‘reformist’ social democracy, and rejecting the historical determinism of Marxist he developed his own brand of national socialism, partly inspired by the writing of the German Friedrich Nietzsche. Mussolini’s Italy of the 1920s and 1930s, which was not based on racial theories, promoted syndicates between employers and employees. Shaw’s support for the national socialist regimes, besides the USSR, was not so illogical. George Orwell was aware of, and commented on Shaw’s position, in a footnote in his James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution article, 1946. (9).
Orwell, Franz Borkenau (author of the Spanish Cockpit) and Robert Bruce Lockhart, who had known Lenin and Trotsky, were three who understood at the time – at a deeper level – the ideological inter-connection between the United Socialist Soviet Republics, the German National Socialists and Mussolini’s corporate state. Musing in his diary on 18 May, 1933, Robert Bruce Lockhart wrote: “… Russia does not hate fascism so much as the jelly-bellied democracy of Britain. She prefers the fascist system of government: (1) because the Fascist form of rule justifies and is the same as her own; (2) because the corporate state is more akin to her own ideal and in the event of a change goes over en bloc to Communism; and (3) she understands exactly where she is with Mussolini: trade and no propaganda nonsense. Result is Mussolini is never attacked in Soviet Press. Gorky once wrote something against Musso. It did not go in.“(Diaries of Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart 1915 – 1938, edited by Kenneth Young.)
In a May, 1940, review of Franz Borkenau’s The Totalitarian Enemy, George Orwell wrote:
“….We cannot struggle against Fascism unless we are willing to understand it, a thing which both left-wingers and right-wingers have conspicuously failed to do – basically, of course, because they dared not.
Until the signing of the Russo-German Pact, the assumption made on both sides was that the Nazi régime was in no way revolutionary. National socialism was simply capitalism with the lid off, Hitler was a dummy with Thyssen pulling the strings – that was the official theory, proved in many a pamphlet by Mr John Strachey and tacitly accepted by The Times. Blimps and Left Book Club members alike swallowed it whole, both of them, so to speak, had a vested interest in ignoring the real facts. Quite naturally the propertied classes wanted to believe that Hitler would protect them against Bolshevism, and equally naturally the Socialists hated having to admit that the man who had slaughtered their comrades was a Socialist himself…… Then came the eye-opener of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Suddenly the scum of the earth and the blood-stained butcher of the workers (for so they had described each other) were marching arm in arm, their friendship ‘cemented in blood’, as Stalin cheerily expressed it. National Socialism is a form of Socialism, is emphatically revolutionary, does crush the property owner just as surely as it crushes the worker. The two régimes, having started from opposite ends, are rapidly evolving towards the same system – a form of oligarchical collectivism….”
(Volume 2, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: My Country Right or Left, 1940 – 1943, Secker & Warburg, 1968)
The 1939 Russo-German Pact, as Orwell describes it, was often also called the Non-Aggression Pact. That is, non-agression between the German National Socialists and the United Socialist Soviet Republics. Their first, and joint aggression, was their invasion of Poland in September, 1939.
The non-aggression pact held for three months short of two years. Whilst it did, the USSR attacked Finland in late November, 1939. The German Nazis attacked Denmark and Norway in April 1940, followed by attacking Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France in May 1940. The USSR attacked Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia two months later, in July 1940. Germany attacked Roumania October, 1940, and then Greece and Yugoslavia in April 1941.
And then, in Hitler’s biggest strategic military mistake (though not on National Socialist race ideology and geographical grounds) German forces attacked the USSR in June 1941.
Six months after the United Socialist Soviet Union had occupied their pre-agreed areas of Poland (agreed with the German National Socialists), the USSR systematically executed Polish “class enemies” in a short period, beginning on 3 April, 1940. The victims were executed in several Polish locations, including near the Katyn woods. 22,000 were shot in the back of the neck by a small team of NKVD executioners. The “pain free” way of killing the “acquisitive classes” that George Bernard Shaw asked for was reserved for the executioners. It was soon realised that the strong recoil on the Russian made pistols the NKVD executioners used caused hand and arm ache after 12 executions. They were therefore issued with German made Walther pistols, with a softer recoil. Vasilli Mikhailovich Blokhin, chief executioner for the NKVD, executed approximately 7,000 of the 20,000 who were killed. Besides Polish army officers – who were the largest group – Polish NCOs, university professors, physicians, lawyers, engineers, teachers, writers and journalists were also amongst those shot. The Polish film director Andrzej Wadja’s father was one of the executed. The bodies were buried in shallow mass graves in 1940, and were discovered and exhumed by the German National Socialists in 1943. In 1943 the USSR angrily denied they were responsible and broke off diplomatic relations with the exiled Polish Government in London, who had correctly accused them. The culprits, according to the USSR, were the German National Socialists. The USSR stuck to this story until 1990. And then blamed Stalin for the executions, and not Marxist theory.
“Accused peasants are kept under guard by local militia as they wait to be denounced at a mass rally as one of the ‘four elements’ – landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, or ‘bad characters’ – as indicated by the sign.” – Red-Colour News Soldier: A Chinese Photographer’s Odyssey through the Cultural Revolution, Li Zhensheng, Phaidon, 2003. All photos copyright Li Zhensheng. (The above two photos are from one photo spanning two pages in the above publication. They have been reproduced as above because of the limitations of the photo scanner used in scanning the size of the original, and not for editorial reasons.)
And so it goes on…….
At the time of writing, in 2015 the totalitarian left continues to meet the totalitarian right. The new Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias in the Syriza dominant Greek Government was a previous member of the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party. In the 1980s he applauded the attempted suppression of the Solidarity movement by the Polish communist government. The Economist magazine is reported to have said that he “enjoys cordial relations with the religious-nationalist segment of the Russian elite”. Indeed he does.
Russian TV online news story, 1 February, 2015:
“EU must stop ‘feverish’ anti-Russian steps, think long-term relations – Greek FM:The EU should consider long-term relations with Moscow, instead of making feverish anti-Russian moves, new Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said, adding that his country does not want to give up its historic ties with Moscow…”
Besides social democrats, democratic socialists and green groups comprising the original elements in what became the “Coalition of the Radical Left” (SYRIZA), Greek Maoists, Trotskyists and Communists were also part of the original ‘radical’ mix.
1. The Oxford Bodleian Library is a ‘respectable’ library of rare manuscripts. Academic fidelity has gone out the window with their publication of German Invasion Plans for the British Isles 1940. No such title in the original German was produced in Berlin, nor were the original documents covered with the imprint of the National Socialist swastika. The Bodleian Libary’s editorial thinking is that swastika’s sell. And of course, they’re right. But that has nothing to do with academic fidelity to the original documents.
The Bodleian Library on the back cover of their publication claim the material they have translated is from “One of the only surviving copies found by Allied Forces…”. How many is One? Two? Three? Ten? Twenty? More? At the time of writing a seller on Abebooks is selling an original German edition of the Berlin documents from 1940, and 1941. “Two important items, 1, Militargeograhische angaben uber England prepared 15 August 1940, numerous photographs of the southcoast and coloured maps and profiles, designed to provide information for German forces invading Britain 446pp., coloured map, additional information at rear c.50pp., large folding map. Modest blemishes and chip to rear cover and modest stain to front else vgc. Also 2. Militargeographische angaben uber England. London 2 Auflage August 1941 Text und Bildheft 18pp., 51pp., Seperately in case 5 coloured folding maps, as called for, all vgc with interesting stamp to cover “First Canadian Army Documents 23 October 1944″ indicating when it was captured. In summary two seperate items, historically interesting and rare, German text. Bookseller Inventory # 18674”
Similar original documents are also available from David Archers Maps.
In the anonymous Editor’s Note to the Bodleian ‘fake’ he or she writes “The text for this edition has been abridged and some of the headings have been altered”. Abridged by how much is not discussed. No reasoning is given for the editorial guidelines in changing England to Britain, for instance. In a forward it is acknowledged (blink and you’ll miss it) that this fake is drawn from ‘Portfolio A” but doesn’t mention, to put it in a meaningful context, how many other Portfolios there were. The Bodleian Library has produced other small bite sized Second World War books in the same series, keenly priced and aimed at the impulse buyer. Just to add to the ‘period feel’ they have produced them in the stressed British Economy Standards wartime look. And that is a fake too, as the British Economy Standards didn’t come into force until later in the war, and weren’t, of course, on the original source material.
2. The complete Condition of the Working Class in England is online from various sources. Telling extracts from it, such as Engels’ view of the Irish, are available in English, with a link to the original German at jonjayray.tripod.com/engels.html
4. The authenticity of photographs can be questionable. When the advancing western Allied Forces in 1945 stumbled across the appalling scenes in slave work camps and concentration camps in Germany, photographers and cinematographers were advised to shoot establishing shots, besides close ups of corpses and dying inmates. The concern was that when seen by a viewing public some would not believe what they were seeing and would dismiss the photos and films as propaganda, unless there was a general establishing view first. The impact of the images reduced people to tears in cinemas, for instance, in Britain. Others, reasonably, covered their eyes, so horrific were the images. Others, who had believed that stories of Nazi atrocities were largely Allied propaganda, such as an active anarchist war-resister in wartime London, realised their mistake. (see You!, You! & You! Chapter 29 “Lets Face It – Who Cared About the Jews?”). Because the USSR was not over-run there is no irrefutable photographic evidence of the enormity and barbarity of the crimes committed by the Marxist-Leninist Bolsheviks. (The same reasons apply to what has happened in China, and is continuing to happen in North Korea). There are no photographs of cattle trucks loaded to bursting point with “kulaks” being sent to Siberian labour camps, for instance, with the dying strewn across the railway sidings. The very few photographs from the Ukraine, in the early 1920s and then the early 1930s, are sometimes difficult to authenticate.
Some of the photos from the Ukraine in the early 1930s cannot be refuted as they were taken by the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. They usually show a dead malnourished clothed body, lying on the pavement, whilst pedestrians walk by. Photo evidence from the early 1920s is problematical, not only in the captions that over the years have been attached to them, but also in interpretation of what we are looking at. The photograph of naked corpses loaded on a cart, reproduced above, has appeared on the internet with either 1921 or 1922 or 1921-22. Photographs that document the Ukraine at this time were usually taken by Western Food Aid agencies. But what are we looking at? Those who have died from starvation? Why are they naked? Victor Kravchenko in his I Chose Freedom: The Personal and Political Life of A Soviet Official (1947) was enforcing policies against the Kulaks in the Ukraine in the early 1930s, and records how some peasants deliberately made themselves naked in their homes, in the mistaken belief that the NKVD would be too embarrassed by their nakedness to haul them out.
Another interpretation of the naked corspes is that they have been hung from gallows, on orders from Lenin. We just don’t know.
5. When the newly elected and first President of the new Russian Federation, Boris Yeltzin was elected in June 1991, he ordered in August that the files of the KGB be opened. It was from this time, for a while, that historians had relatively free access to study documents never seen before. Lenin’s ‘Hanging Order’ was one of those documents. There would have been many other damning documents from the pen of Lenin, but there had been several removals of politically sensitive documents over the years, usually following a power struggle within the Politburo. In other instances, some damning documents survived in the most strange of circumstances, such as the documentation discovered in a church in the Tambov area in 1982 detailing the orders of the suppression of the 1920 – 1921 organised peasant uprising a few hundred miles south east of Moscow in the Tambov area, where chemical warfare was used by the Marxist-Leninists. In 2004 the material was finally written up.
The cost of sending a postcard in Britain was relatively stable between 1956 to decimalisation in 1971. In the examples below, between 1956 to 1968, a period of 12 years, the price increased by one penny. (The going 1956 rate of two pence (2d.) had first been introduced in 1940. It was increased to 3d in 1965.)
The new 1971 decimal rate 0f sending a postcard doubled overnight, from 3d to the equivalent of 6d (2½p.) Even allowing for the inflation of the 1970s, the cost of sending a postcard sky-rocketed. By 1986 it was 12 new pence – a touch under 2/6d, that is: a touch under 30 old pennies per postcard. The feeling at the time that the introduction of decimalisation in 1971 led to some financial shenanigans in public and private sector pricing was not always wide of the mark.
And, if you still send a postcard – rather than a photo from your mobile – Royal Mail will charge you 97p, a touch under one pound, if you send it to Germany, or any other European country. If, however, you send a postcard from Germany to the UK (at the time of writing, November 2014), Deutsche Post will charge you 75 cents. At present conversion rates, that is 59p.
“We are having a wonderful time, going sight-seeing this afternoon. Food is marvellous. Everybody is very friendly and helpful. Going to the night clubs to-night, the bottom right hand photo is the street of 1000 night clubs!! Quite a place……” (Reeperbahn, in St.Pauli)
At it’s peak, in the Edwardian period, the picture postcard was the 2014 equivalent of the mobile phone text and photo. As some Royal Mail delivery services may soon be history (there have been noises about their pulling out of some rural deliveries), and as stands of picture postcards spin forlornly in the occasional gust of wind on British seaside fronts (yellowing each summer), and costing up to 50% less than the stamp you put on it, Le Patron will post occasional pieces inspired by the picture postcard.
The letters between Mother and Daughter span 1939 – 1950, and are now being published every Friday. This is the link to the book –lendarlinggirl.com– and here is an extract from Part Two 3 Life As Medicine. Len, born in Scotland, is working for the Ministry of Supply in Cairo. She is a shorthand typist, and is 21.
Part Two 3: Life As Medicine
“Some of the English girls don’t seem alive at all – they take life as a sort of medicine.” – Vera, a young Russian, quoted by Len, 28 August, 1947.
18 August, 1947. Cairo.
Hello my Darlings,
You’re such a joy to me, for when I hear from you I realise more than ever how much you both mean to me. Your letters are – well it’s almost like talking to you and believe me that’s what I need. 18th of August, one says the date to oneself, thinks of ones longing for ones people and the U.K. and on the other side the need for money and the other things which keep one in this Lotus Land.
I know how you feel about the “10lb look” (apologies to Barrie), but I really do want to lose it and E. is the only person who agrees with me – everyone else says I’m alright and that once plump always plump, which is a fallacy and inspired by lazy defeatists. I do need some one else to want me lose weight too and the incentive of the studio portrait is a help. Also re. dignity, it’s there O.K., you needn’t worry about that and he knows it. After all, I’ve told him to be charming and outwardly he hasn’t taken any offence and really that’s an awful lot more for him to do than me to lose 10lb and put on some nail polish. N’est ce pas?
In his last letter Ernst mentions Canada with quite a lot of keenness, I’m rather glad. He received your letter Mum and told me he was replying in a few days, I expect you have his letter by now.
Buying the house – what’s noo? I want us to have the house, and us all (inc. E) to go to Canada. The house is an asset and why shouldn’t we be ‘men of property’ even if we’re elsewhere. Our schemes are nebulous, but it’s better to have such schemes which can be adapted or suddenly clarify than no scheme at all.
Thanks so much for all your letters, I have them all to 187. It’s grand to get the dough, I’m exchanging some of it with U.K. bound people like Betty Mac who think they’ll find it useful. The Black Market could not be found, so I changed all my dough at the ninety seven and a half touch, found it maddening, but what could I do. (1)
Pat was at Ish at the week-end. (2) As you know I don’t propose going away till Ernst’s birthday at the end of September , so sometime in October I want to go to Ish.
Right now I’m busy collecting addresses in U.K. for everyone seems to be going that way, naturally I’ve given our address, so you’d better prepare for people popping in.
On Sunday after breakfast – which we had about 8.30 I went over to the Stokes. I talked to them for a while, then walked with them across to Gezira – whilst they went on to Wilcox.
Guess who I met in Gezira – Major Wallace. You remember I met him in the Fort William-Glencoe bus in September, 1945 and on the steps of the “Britannia” gangplank for a few minutes on the morning of a riot in February 1946 (3)
He’s a gem of a man and one to whom the adjective charming can be fearlessly applied. I do wish you could meet him Mum, for honest you’d get on together so well. He went into raptures when I said you came from Dornoch. I s’pose I said it in a cold Anglified way and when he repeated it after me, (in rapture) he really rolled it around his tongue and practically made a poem out of the word.
He was telling me his daughter of 18 has just left Roedean (you know, the school) and was starting on a tour of Scotland with her cousin and was also going to the Musical Festival at Edinburgh (the people I know who are going there – lucky so-and-sos – Ethel Wilson, Olga Rundall, co-voyager-out, etc.). (4)
He also told me about her playing the violin, whereupon I said “Oh, was it her picture in the Sphinx”. And it was. (5)
Mr Wallace as he is now took me out of the sun for this conversation and got me one of those gorgeous jugs of shandy. He was telling me that some pals and he have 16,000 acres in Cyprus and export to Britain and all about. As it’s a Crown Colony they have Imperial Preference etc. He told me too of all the car trips all over Europe which he’s done and was giving me various alternative itineraries for hitching home. I was talking to him also of the Summer Isles out from Gruinard Bay in Wester Ross and of Barrie’s “Marie Rose” being centred around one of them. (6)
He’s a pensioned official of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and now acts in a freelance capacity. I just wish I could really get in with his family. I’d be car-ing home then next year if I’d my way. However, he made a most charming companion for a short while.
As I’d had a lot of sun I slept for a little in the Ladies’ Lounge after looking at my French verbs, then went across to Wilcox for tea with the Stokes. It was lovely sitting there under the trees and they insisted I go back to supper with them.
My Digs. Of course I knew snags were bound to arise and they’re arising. The room is excellent and so are the breakfasts. However here are some points of interest, and of complaint, three of them:
1. This morning her clock was wrong and her watch was wrong, – about 20 mins. to half an hour. In consequence I missed the bus.
2. Last night I got in from the Stokes about 11.30 (as you know Mum, early for Cairo). She’d given me a key , but lo and behold although it turned, I couldn’t get in for the door was bolted. Of course she let me in, but this morning suggested I let her know when I was going to be late, I said I didn’t know, where upon she said I could phone her, but I intend doing no such thing, for it’s not as if she’s got to alter meals, my having b&b.
3. The other night she suddenly intimated she wanted her money in advance. I mentioned this in passing to the Stokes. I’ve 50Pt. to pay for this fortnight (i.e. the balance of £5, half of the month’s dough – from 15th to end of the month), and Mr Stokes says I should pay this at the end of the month and tell her she’s getting the rest of the money at the end of each of the month and not in advance. Her argument is that she pays for everything in advance. Mr Stokes says that’s not my worry and they pay everything in advance, but Mr W. pays them at the end of the month. He says too she can’t hold a pistol to my head as they are all desperate for people just now, not like the war years when they had the upper hand. He says I stand to lose a month’s dough and the principle of the thing’s bad.
The Stokes were dears the way they championed my cause unasked and they also said if she says I’ve got to go I can bunk in with them for a while, so I intend to stand firm – wish me luck. I don’t mention all this for sympathy, but because I know it’ll interest you. I t’s part of the growing up process I hadn’t encountered before.
People keep on asking for bulletins about you Mum, they’re not content with knowing you got home safely at all almost want day to day bulletins.
Anything you want from the Musky , as I hope to go down there at the beginning of next month? (7).
I was nearly ill when I read the description of your accident on the DM.(8). Please take care of her Dad. Remember all those lovely plans can mature without money, but one must have ones health, for you can’t fight without that.
Good gracious, is the leopard skin ready all ready? Don’t work too hard at it Mum. Unless I receive your wee slip giving gen on thread I won’t get it on Thursday, for I daresay I’ll be going into town again pretty soon, after that. Thanks so much for your letter of comfort (re. E and me) I feel a new woman. (9)
I don’t mind you telling the people you said you’d tell about my homecoming and am with you in what you say about them – they are nice types. It’s just this dislike of the Reid-Ballantine clan which overwhelms my outlook – sorry. I know how you feel about the announcement angle Mum and can sense you’re feeling of wanting to tell the world we’re doing all right, but just ignore that clan, we don’t alter our behaviour for them. (10). I feel so strongly that E must have a good long holiday (and only hope he does) in our lovely land and that it will do him so much good and take away all that ME (11) tension and you know it’s with this thought in mind and the hope that it’ll be gratified that makes me feel a bit tense myself waiting for the months to slip by, wanting UK, wanting the dough I get out here to save and wanting E and you two all at the same time.
Must close this letter now and get it off – it’s 19th now.
Your own most loving Len xxxx
1. Len is converting her British sterling to Egyptian Pounds.
2. Ish: Ishmailia, seventy miles to the north east of Cairo, on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Nearby was a RAF camp, which today is used by the Egyptian airforce.
3. From a news report of the time, 21 February, 1946: ‘Riots Erupt in Cairo. British troops in Cairo today opened fire on angry crowds demanding an end to foreign influence. Twelve people are reported to have been killed and over 100 wounded’. There had also been protests in the Suez Canal Zone, beginning in December 1945. The protests reached their peak in Cairo, as reported above, in February, 1946. The Turf Club in Cairo, for instance, was set alight by protestors and eleven members died. British Army casualties during this period have been put at 33 soldiers killed and 69 wounded.
4. This was the first Edinburgh Festival.
5. A Cairo English language paper for the Brits.
6: Unknown to either of them, Gruinard Island, in Gruinard Bay, had been lethally toxic since 1942, and remained toxic until declared safe in 1990. Scientists from the Chemical and Biological Warfare Station at Porton Down, Wiltshire, had released a virulent strain of anthrax on the island, killing sheep that had been tethered. The conclusion was that anthrax bombs dropped on German cities would be very successful, apart from the problem that the cities would remain toxic wastelands for years. Len, in 1949, would be working at Porton Down.
7. Musky: the Arab market quarter. Variant spellings exist. Cecil Beaton in his Near East (1943) spells it Moski.
8. Mum had tripped or fallen and pulled a ligament.
9. This letter of comfort is not in this collection.
10. Mum’s sister Ena was married to Bill Reid. Their brother Dennis was married to Euphemia Ballantine – Aunt Phem. The cause for Len’s dislike of them is unknown. The ‘home coming’ is when Len’s tour of duty in Cairo would be over; the ‘announcement’ is more than just her returning to Scotland – Len and Ernst were engaged.
Photos taken in the former DDR 2000 – 2009, using German cameras made between 1932 and 1959. All photos by Pete Grafton, except where stated.
The Deutsche Demokratische Republik: DDR (German Democratic Republic: GDR), a one party Marxist-Leninist satellite state of the Soviet Union was established on 7 October 1949. It’s guarantee of ‘legitimacy’ was the Soviet Union and the Soviet Army armed forces. These forces were used in 1953 to suppress the protests and industrial actions of DDR workers and farmers protesting against the government imposed working conditions and output expectations. In 1961 the Marxist-Leninist government built the Berlin Wall, and a national boundary concentration camp fence that ran from the Baltic in the north to the Czechoslovakian border in the south to keep their own citizens in. The Stasi, the secret police, meanwhile developed a labyrinth of spying on virtually all the citizens of the Democratic Republic, pressurising, or blackmailing it is estimated, by some, of up to one third of citizens to spy on each other. The collapse of the Democratic Republic, along with the other satellite states (Poland, Czechoslavakia, Hungary) became inevitable when the Soviet Union First Secretary, Gorbachev told (in secret) the First Secretaries of these states that they would no longer be guaranteed the armed intervention of Soviet Union forces to uphold the legitimacy of their regimes.
Four weeks after the 40th anniversary of the founding of the DDR, and with First Secretary Honecker boasting of the improvements that were going to be made to take the Berlin Wall into the 21st Century, the Berlin Wall was breached on 9 November 1989. In the months following, some of the DDR Central Committee hastened to the safety of Moscow, including First Secretary Honecker, who then, with others, followed in the 1945 footsteps of some German National Socialists, and made their way to South America. Following multi-party elections in March 1990, the reunification of the West German Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic took place in October 1990.
The main railway line between Hamburg and Berlin ran through the DDR and the track was deliberately kept on low maintenance (it was the main link to the Federal Republic ) by the DDR. The station buildings , however, reflected the low maintenance of all buildings in the DDR. In 2000, ten years after reunification, many of the small farmyards viewed from the carriage window still had a DDR built Trabant parked next to the tractor. The former DDR border was not so far east of Hamburg, and a sure sign one had crossed into it was the characteristic low slung national grid electricity pylons, that seemed to only just clear the trees in the meadows and flat farmland. Berlin FC arriving back at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, following a 3 – 1 defeat against Barcelona, March 2000. Berlin FC, a DDR team, almost went under following reunification because of lack of financial support in the new German republic. They clawed their way back and continue to have a strong fan base similar to that of Hamburg’s St.Pauli FC. Berlin Schönefeld was the DDR Berlin airport.
Schwerin in the former DDR is to the east of Hamburg, and is a comfortable day trip away, using the Hamburg Haupbahnhof to Rostock (on the Baltic) train. Online picture searches of Schwerin show photos of the ‘picture book’ palace in its large grounds with the lakes. In 2007, however, away from the Palace – now the administrative centre for the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpomern – Schwerin was a town that architecturally was a striking reminder of pre-war Germany, and the post war DDR. Both eras in March, 2007 were bathed in dust and decay. One or two streets and their buildings in the centre had been spruced up with fresh plaster and repointed brickwork and bright coats of paint, but round the corner, any corner in town was the reminder of a national socialist and Marxist-Leninist socialist imprint. A Federal German 1955 manufactured Agfa medium format camera took the pictures. The train from Hamburg was almost like a ghost train – few passengers. A group of black men (for that is how they identified themselves) from Africa moved through the open compartment, saying to another group (using English as their common language) that there was “more black men” near the front of the train. The got off onto an empty platform in the middle of the flat countryside at a station called Hagenow, 30 km from Schwerin. It seemed to be stranded in the flat countryside, with a lone round brick tower as the only landmark. My curiosity aroused, I saw from the timetable that I could get off at Hagenow on the return to Hamburg, and pick up another train an hour later. When I got off on the returning train there were no signs of the black men. There were no signs of anyone. A goods train passing through Hagenow Bahnhof. The only sign of life. Work in progress: a new underpass at Hagenow Bahnhof, linking the platforms. Note the coiled power cabling. Locked sheds by Hagenow Bahnhof, a few metres across the tracks. A few more metres from here was a road, a quiet road, and some houses, possibly railway worker, or ex- railway worker housing. As I was taking this photograph a man in his eighties passed by on a path, and paused. He liked my camera. He said that he too used to have an Agfa. Given his age, it would have been one from before the war, before the creation of the DDR. “Berlin ruft de Jugend” – “Berlin summons the youth”.
Empty schnapps bottles, Hagenow.
A lot of West German money was being spent renewing and bringing up to date the infrastructure of the former DDR. Wage earning citizens of western Germany were, and are still taxed (2014) towards the costs of this continuing work. Examples obvious to a visitor is the upgrading of the railway network – new stations, track, signalling and rolling stock. This is one of many, many examples. However, even eighteen years after reunification, the physical skin of the old DDR was still everywhere in 2008, including Berlin. Helsingforser Strasse, near the Sunflower Backpacker hostel. Ostkreuz S Bahn station, Berlin. Ostkreuz S Bahn station, Berlin. DDR Weighing Machine, S Bahn, Berlin. The new Berlin Haupbahnhof (Central Station), viewed from near the restored Reichstag – the German parliament since reunification.
DDR design: Lampshade in room, Weimar, June 2009. Open window, Weimar, June 2009. Fly Me to the Moon, Weimar. The new indoor Atrium shopping centre, Weimar. Taken on a 1932 Ikonta, manufactured in nearby Jena. Street scene near the new Atrium indoor shopping centre. Note the tourist landau bottom left of picture. Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) buildings, near the Atrium indoor shopping centre, Weimar. In June 2009 they were being renovated, for a possible use as offices. Although Weimar gave its name to the democratic multi-party German Weimar Republic, 1919 – 1933, it was an early centre of Nationalist Socialist activity and support. Weimar had a special significance for National Socialists because of the association with Schiller and Goethe, symbols of German culture and civilisation. The Hitler Youth movement was started in Weimar, and it is said that in the 1933 elections 50% of the voting population of Weimar supported the National Socialists. The local No.6 bus to Buchenwald from Weimar. Buchenwald, and the site of the concentration camp, is on a wooded hill a few miles to the north of the town. However, like other former regional DDR administrative states, Thuringia, which includes Weimar and Jena and Erfurt, a notable number of voters revealingly support Die Linke (The Left) party since its formation in 2007. Political Party posters in Weimar, June 2009. “No Nazis in Weimar”. Poster in the centre of Weimar, June 2009.
The vote for the Left Party, in both elections to the European Parliament and legislative elections within the German federation in 2009 showed a striking split between the former West Germany and East Germany.
“The party was founded in 2007 as the merger of the post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), successor to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) that ruled East Germany until 1989, and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG), a left-wing breakaway from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).” – Wikipedia
Within the former East Germany there is still a discussion amongst a significant number of people about the kind of society that they want. Many are unhappy about a society based on profit as a gaol and competitiveness. Many (and not just some of the older generation) value aspects of a socialist society with its equitable goals. There was a discussion in 1989 and 1990 within some of the community in eastern Germany that the former DDR should remain separate from the West German Federal Republic, and establish its own multi-party democratic state.
In Thuringia in the Legislative Elections of 2009 the results were: Christian Democrats 31.2%; Social Democrats 17.6%; Liberals (Right wing free market) 9.8%; Greens 6% and the Left Party 28.8%.
20 years after the Berlin Wall was breached the striking difference in support for the Left Party in the 2009 elections between the former Federal West and DDR East is shown in results such as these, from a sample of former DDR local regions, compared with a sample of former West German Federal Republic regions:
Thuringia 28.8%; Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 29%; Berlin 20.5%; Saxony 24.5%
Former West German Federal Republic
Bavaria 6.5%; Schleswig-Holstein 7.9%; Hamburg 11.2%
In 2013 the appeal of Die Linke (The Left) in the former DDR was, on the whole, only slightly less. It is difficult to know whether the slight dip reflects an ageing population dying in eastern Germany, or whether there were other factors at work.
Thuringia 23.4%; Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 21.5%; Berlin 18.5%; Saxony 20.0%
Former West German Federal Republic
Bavaria 3.8%; Schleswig-Holstein 5.2%; Hamburg 8.8%
At a Garden Party in Weimar in June 2009 these were some of the issues talked about, along with a resentment, from some, that salaries for teachers, in eastern Germany were less than teachers in western Germany. This was a reflection of the occasional tensions that occur between Ossis and Wessis. (‘Easties’ and ‘Westies’) Jena, to the east of Weimar is home to Carl Zeiss, manufacturers of cameras, lenses and optical equipment. Of the former DDR towns and cities I visited since 2000, it was in the summer of 2009 the one that seemed – superficially to a visitor – the one that was the most vibrant.
There were still reminders of the former DDR – a Trabant parked in Carl Zeiss Place, and the monolithic buildings, but there was a freshness too.
Carl Zeiss optical innovators and manufacturers has been in Jena since the nineteenth century. During the economically depressed 1920’s it merged with and absorbed other German optical and camera manufacturers to become Zeiss Ikon. It already had world leading camera lenses such as the Zeiss Tessar lens, and their lenses were fitted on the medium format Rolleiflex cameras. In the late 1930’s they introduced the Contax rangefinder camera that many argued was a better camera with a better lens than the Leica rangefinder. (There were reliability problems, due to complex engineering, though).
After the war Jena like the rest of Eastern Germany came under Soviet control and industrial plant throughout the Soviet zone was dismantled and sent back to the USSR, including manufacturing capacity at Zeiss Ikon. Carl Zeiss with some of its technicians established itself in the south west of Germany, in the Federal Republic. But in Eastern Germany Carl Zeiss Jena remained, and the quality lens and the cameras that it started to produce again, and develop, were a valuable and desperately needed hard currency export for the DDR. Unlike most other DDR manufactured products Carl Zeiss Jena cameras – which included the Werra and then the Praktica range, amongst others – were well put together.
When I walked out of the Jena railway station in the summer of 2009 a taxi driver in the stance across the road spotted my Werra and shouted across “Is that a Werra?” “Naturally”, I replied, and he beamed back. Since reunification Carl Zeiss has also reunited, manufacturing photographic lenses, optical lenses, specialist glass and other products, either as Carl Zeiss, Jenoptic or Schott AG.
June, 2009, the Goethe Gallery, Jena: Exhibition of photos by Harald Hauswald, taken from his book Seitenwechsel, published by Aufbau Verlag. (Roughly translated: Seitenwechsel = Changeover)
The Coen Bros Inside Llewyn Davis – some aspects loosely based on the early life of Dave Van Ronk – might have been an even more interesting film of a person and a time and a place if it had drawn on the story of another, younger, American folk singer. Unlike Dave Van Ronk he wrote his own material and Nick Drake recorded more tunes of his than any other singer-songwriter of that era. The tracks from his one, and only LP, produced in London, are now registering over 100,000 hits on You Tube. His name was Jackson C Frank.
“FRANK, Jackson C (b. ’43, Buffalo, NY) USA singer/songwriter infl. in London during mid-’60s folk boom. Songs covered by Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention; Frank himself made only one LP Jackson C Frank; ’65, reissued ’78: cult classic prod. Paul Simon, second guitar played by a young Al Stewart; incl. best known song ‘Blues Run The Game’ (world-weary gem of genre), eight other originals. Regular feature on folk club circuit; once shared flat with Denny, Simon, Art Garfunkel; began work on second LP ’68 but never completed it. Said to have been badly injured in fire at Woodstock home. Jansch called him ‘as influential as Bob Dylan’ in mid-’60s; evidence of album suggests great ability unfulfilled.“
– unattributed entry in Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, First Edition, 1990.
He’d caught a boat to England in early 1965, and it was briefly in England that he made his mark. By the mid 1970s, back in the U.S., he had virtually disappeared off the scene and his life became a sad and tragic decline. He died in near obscurity in 1999. This is a recollection of those autumn months in 1965 that were leading up to the release in December of his CBS album, produced by Paul Simon, and beyond into the early summer of 1966, when Jackson moved out of his Twickenham, London flat, possibly to be with Sandy Denny.
In 1965 in Britain women still wore stockings and suspender belts. Men had to buy condoms in gents barbers shops. Tears was the biggest selling hit single, sung by the north of England comic Ken Dodd. The National Anthem was still played at the end of the pictures and Le Patron was shouted at, after watching Judy Dench in Four in the Morning, for not standing still as it played, as he made his way to the exit. (In anticipation of the National Anthem most cinema goers quickly shuffled out of the fire exit doors into the street, or the foyer, as the credits rolled, whilst some women discretely headed for the Ladies to re-arrange their underwear after two hours of snogging and groping in the back row).
And an American, Jackson C Frank sailed on a boat to England to buy a 1952 Bentley, a long wheel base Land Rover and an Aston Martin DB5. He also brought a Martin guitar with him, and Katherine Henry his girlfriend came too. (Well… that’s the Wikipedia version, and that of some other potted biographies.)
In the U.S. in 1965 the Democratic Party government sent 50,000 troops to Vietnam, as American involvement increased from USAAF bombing and reconnaissance. In the American South civil rights activists were killed by white supremacists, and in the Watts area of Los Angeles, in August 1965, 28 people died in race riots.
The biggest film of the year was Mary Poppins, making more money than the other big 1965 hit film, Sound of Music, both featuring Julie Andrews. Dr Zhivago with Julie Christie and Omar Shariff was popular too. The Beatles second feature film – in colour – Help! had come out that summer. Clint Eastwood, the former TV cowboy, was having his second significant big screen outing in For a Few Dollars More (A Fistful of Dollars had been released in 1964). Away from the mainstream there were interesting films such as Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, exteriors edgily shot in the streets of South Ken, and Michael Caine was on the ascendency in The Ipcress File, a year before 1966’s Alfie.
But still you needed to go into a gents hairdressers to furtively buy condoms (and not get a haircut). And Levi jeans were hard to find (and expensive).
Jackson C Frank’s black Bentley saloon, his dark green Land Rover, and silver Aston Martin DB5 were parked outside 50 Cole Park Road, St Margarets, Twickenham. Cole Park Road was a leafy suburban road of mostly large detached houses, built in the interwar period on the fields of Middlesex, an area that soon became known as south west London.
Jackson could have flown into Heathrow, just a few miles to the north north-west of Twickenham. (Also built, after the Second World War, on the meadows of Middlesex.) Pan Am had started the first regular New York – London Heathrow flights in 1958. Jackson could have afforded the flight.
When he was ten he was attending a school in Buffalo, New York.
“The brand new school was made out of brick but it had a wooden annexe that was used for music instruction. It was heated by a big furnace. One day during music lessons the furnace blew up. I was almost killed on that day. Most of my classmates were killed. I spent seven months in hospital recovering from the burns.” (Quoted in CD liner notes by Colin Harper, Jackson C Frank, Blues Run the Game, “Expanded Deluxe Edition”, 2003)
In 1964, at the age of 21 Jackson was entitled to the insurance payout from the fire: $110, 500. He and a friend headed for Toronto, Canada, spending as they went “… I bought a Jaguar straight out of a showroom.” Returning to Buffalo he decided to catch a boat – and not take the plane – to England, in April 1965.
Jackson’s life around this time is not – it seems – quite as Wikipedia, and some other sources, report. He did catch a boat – the Cunard Queen Elizabeth – from New York to Southampton, but it was in February, and not April. And the reason he bought a ticket was because his girlfriend of two years, Katherine Henry, was looking for a way to get out of the relationship. Unable to say she was calling it off, she booked a ticket to escape to England. But when Jackson found out, he booked a ticket too. She still found it difficult to say “It’s off”, and she recalls they spent a lot of the Queen Elizabeth journey in one of the onboard bars, drunk. She told her story in 2009 to Andrew Male in Mojo 186. (1)
They stayed in the The Strand Palace, which she recalls was across the road from the Savoy, where Dylan had stayed. They lived in Twickenham, until she returned to the U.S. in June 1965, to have an abortion. Jackson accompanied her. She didn’t come back. Jackson did. She said she found his intensity, his imagined slights too heavy. She says there was an element of paranoia – centred on Jackson imaging that she was only interested in him because of his insurance money – that was not easy to deal with. But they had some good times, too. She described their few months in Twickenham as pretty domesticated. They occasionally went off on a trip, once to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast.
At some point they met Tom Paxton, who was also over from the States, with his wife and living in London. Paul Simon was another young singer songwriter who had arrived in London in 1964. There was a lively folk club scene in Britain particularly in London. Besides the traditional folk scene, there was an emerging folk new wave of interesting guitar stylists and singer-songwriters. Davy Graham’s Folk Blues and Beyond had been issued on Decca in January 1965, and Bert Jansch had his first LP out on Topic by the Spring. There is no indication of where Katherine and Jackson were living those few months together in Twickenham. But when Fan, Pussy, Sue and Doreen moved into the ground floor of 50 Cole Park Road in September, 1965, for the second year of their teacher training at the nearby all female Maria Grey College, Jackson was living upstairs with a young English woman called Caroline, and the three cars were parked outside. No biographies of Jackson mention Cole Park Road, or Caroline.
Up until the summer of 1965 Jackson was an unknown singer-songwriter. Although he’d played with friends in Buffalo he was reportedly training to be a local journalist when he received his insurance pay-out. Katherine recalls that when she moved back to the States she heard that he had started playing a lot more in folk clubs: her leaving him had broken the couple cocoon the two of them were in. Although shy, he started playing regularly at Les Cousins, and other London folk clubs. He started to be a face on the scene.
He seemingly would give visiting American folkies – including Dave Von Ronk – a drive around London in one of his cars.
Although he had been known to have been singing traditional folk material in Buffalo Le Patron speculates that his self-penned repertoire expanded on the back of Katherine leaving him. Catch a Boat to England was possibly written just after they arrived in England, when he was still with Kathleen, as was Yellow Walls, but other songs, for instance You Never Wanted Me, is a cert to have been written after she decided to stay in the U.S. in June. He recorded it in December.
Le Patron first visited 50 Cole Park Road in late September, 1965, and moved in in early November, he and Doreen having begun a relationship. The girls went off most mornings to college whilst Le Patron had already left a couple of hours earlier. He was working as a labourer in the building maintenance section of a slightly dodgy property company, on jobs all over London, from Chelsea, to Finchley to Walton on Thames.
Fan and Kate, after a Saturday shopping raid on Biba’s, Kensington. Yoghurts from Express Dairies.
It was a peculiarity of the time that there was a vibrant music scene in the Twickenham/Middlesex, Richmond/Surrey, west south west London area. Down the road in Richmond the Stones two years before had been regulars at the Station Hotel, and their spot had been filled by the Yardbirds by 1965. The Who regularly played to the north in Wealdstone and there was a regular venue at the Jolly Rogers, Isleworth, with the likes of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, and Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band playing in the area. Eel Pie Island, in the Thames, was a fifteen minute walk from Cole Park Road, where Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men played, along with visiting black blues and folk artists such as Jessie Fuller. Around this time Sandy Denny, still a nurse, was singing solo in the Kingston folk club, and Maria Grey college that Doreen, Fan, Sue and Pussy, and Kate, attended also regularly booked folk singers.
One Saturday night at the Maria Grey College Le Patron saw a double bill of, first on, a young lean Bert Jansch, and after the interval, Paul Simon. Although it wasn’t a contest, Bert won it by a mile. Bert just played, whilst Paul Simon pontificated and blethered between numbers. He was wearing the “I’m a purist folk singer” halo (he had the neat haircut and the fine wool pullover to go with it) and he got tore into Marianne Faithful for being on RSG (Ready Steady Go) the night before, covering something he used to sing, but she used strings!!! – lush orchestral strings!
It sounds as if anyone in work and earning, and at the age of 20 and into music would be having a rip-roaring time living in the Twickenham area in 1965. But it wasn’t necessarily like that. Besides anything else, even if it did cost two to ten bob (ten to fifty pence) to go to listen to a band or individual, the going rate for an unskilled worker, whether in the building trade, or working in shops or cafes hovered around 5 bob (twenty five pence) an hour. Le Patron was on 5/4d an hour.
A take home pay of around £10 didn’t go far, particularly if you weren’t living at home and having to pay rent. For a single person too, income tax ferociously ate into your gross earnings, or that’s how it seemed when you worked with seasonal students who’d get all they’d been taxed back in the autumn, or aware of what the married blokes take home pay was.
Le Patron was, too, (besides being knackered after work) ploughing the anti-social, introverted furrow at this time, labouring over books on existentialism, and other mind-expanding tomes that he hoped would explain what it ‘was all about’. He enjoyed the company in the downstairs flat, and one of the girls would ask him to do posters for the folk gigs at the college. But like Jackson and Kathleen had been, he and Doreen were in their own couple cocoon, which was no bad thing.
Le Patron had very early on, when asking who the expensive cars belonged to, learned from the girls that an American folk singer lived upstairs, with someone called Caroline. Le Patron doesn’t know what the furrow Jackson was ploughing, but it was a quiet one. He was rarely seen and rarely heard. No sound of him playing, of trying out a new song, no sound of a radio. Very quiet. No creaking floorboards above. No crashing up and down the stairs. The recollection was that he was shy, that he was polite, and he had a warm fleeting smile. You rarely caught a snatch of conversation between him and Caroline upstairs, and they never used the downstairs garden for drying clothes, or relaxing in the sun come Spring and early summer 1966.
Caroline was a southern Home Counties young woman, with the good bone structure, and the quiet air of someone who had been to a girls boarding school (and hadn’t rebelled). And yet, by living with a man and not being married, and living with an American, and a folk singer, even if he had money, was rebellion enough in 1965. She had dark, straight hair, and like Jackson was quiet. In her case maybe it was Home Counties reserve, rather than shyness. Jackson was 22 at this time, and she was around the same age.
As noted, Le Patron was ploughing the anti-social furrow. It would be the girls who would nip upstairs to ask Jackson to sign their copy of his just released LP, or to get a visiting Tom Paxton to sign a poster Le Patron had done for the gig he’d just done that evening.
“I was in London/Richmond/Soho during 65/66. One evening I was performing playing blues at Les Cousins. Al Stewart was also playing that night – and after my set I was approached by the legendary Judith Piepe who asked me to move in with her, Paul Simon, Al Stewart – and Jackson C Frank. For reasons that now escapes me I said ‘No’ – I must have been mad. This was before the album (Jackson C Frank) but after Bert and John (Renbourn) had started singing ‘Blues Run the Game’. I used to hang around Potters Music Shop at the bottom of Richmond Hill where Jackson used to trade guitars. One of my friends bought one of his Martins.
I remember a particular night at Maria Grey College in St Margarets. The star performer was Tom Paxton and I found myself standing next to Jackson in a very crowded room. I was struck by the severity of his scars – and suddenly he turned to me and said that he just had to get out – NOW. It seemed to me at the time that he was claustrophobic – at the time I put it down to the effect of the fire.” – David Freeman (2)
The girls had a party one Saturday evening, either just before Christmas, or just after the New Year, 1966. Jackson and Caroline would have been asked if they wanted to join in, but they kept themselves to themselves. In Jackson’s case, I’m sure out of shyness. Johnny Silvo was there, playing with two others, possibly Wizz Jones and Diz Disley. Le Patron can’t quite remember. A memory of a couple of guitars, one of them possibly a 12 string, and a mandolin. And wearing a bright red Guardsman tunic there was Jeff Beck, the first time Le Patron had seen anything like it. Jeff was there because he’d been asked by a bloke called Bill who was going out with one of the students from the college, and had sung on the chorus of the Yardbirds For Your Love that caused Eric Clapton to decide to move on, and Jeff to become the lead guitar.
Le Patron, during the party, going to the toilet overheard Caroline and Jackson upstairs, leaning over the banisters of the landing, talking about the music: Caroline: What do you think of it.Jackson:Yeah, nice. That was it. Just crumbs of memories of Jackson.
Or the time the front door bell went one Saturday afternoon, and no-one being in, Le Patron answered it. One door bell for both flats. Le Patron opened the front door to two policemen, who were looking for the owner of the cars outside. They wore flat peaked hats, like the drivers out of Z Cars, and a brand new Police Zephyr was parked opposite. Le Patron went up the wide Wilton carpeted stairs and knocked on a door off the landing and Jackson opened it, listened to what Le Patron said, smiled with a nod, and came down. Le Patron went back into the little room Doreen and he shared. And eavesdropped. The little room happened to be the one closest to the front door.
They politely pointed out that two of the cars didn’t have Road Tax, and therefore shouldn’t be parked in the road. That bit over, they asked about the cars, what the top speed of the DB5 was, and all being car enthusiasts Jackson in turn asked about their police Zephyr, was it the latest model….. and so on.
Jackson’s LP was recorded for CBS in their London studio, and produced by Paul Simon. It came out in December 1965, and the girls bought it, and Doreen and Le Patron bought it. Le Patron liked it enough, but emotionally he was too cut off to really hear and feel the intensity of the lyrics. He preferred Davy and Bert’s LPs. As Life is the Great Educator, and not books on existentialism, the emotional power of the lyrics now roots an older Le Patron to the spot, particularly Here Comes The Blues, and Yellow Walls.
In the late Spring, early summer of 1966 the news filtered down from upstairs that Jackson and Caroline were moving out. It became known that they were splitting up. The cleaner reported that Caroline was too good for Jackson. There had been no raised voices, no banging doors. Always the same peace. No fore-warning. There was a cleaner for 50 Cole Park Road, as employing one was a condition on the lease, for both flats. The house was owned, it seems, by a BOAC pilot, who’s austere and unsmiling wife would periodically turn up for a house inspection.
With the girls being at college during the day, and Le Patron being out at work, one day we returned to an empty space in front of the house where the cars used to be, and a couple of tea chests in the downstairs hall with a note to say “Help Yourselves”. It was mostly bits of crockery, and kitchen utensils. Amongst it Le Patron found Jackson’s AA Member’s Handbook for 1965. With its town and city centre maps, and distances between towns, and the atlas, Le Patron figured that it would be handy when hitching, so he took it.
At present there is no note or biographical detail of where he moved to next in London, nor is it clear if he and Sandy Denny moved in with each other. On the latter the probability seems that they didn’t. Neither is it known if Sandy, wittingly or unwittingly, was the cause of the separation between Jackson and Caroline. Or whether, like Katherine, Caroline found aspects of Jackson’s personality ‘difficult’.
The girls and Doreen and Le Patron moved out around late June/July and went their separate ways, Doreen deciding to give up teacher training. By 1967 Doreen and Le Patron had moved to Glasgow, and discovered one or two folk there had heard of Jackson C Frank – and what was to become one of Le Patron’s best friends even had a copy of the LP. The signed copy of the LP that Doreen and Le Patron had disappeared in a squat.
Over the years you’d bump into someone who knew his music, and you’d both ask: “I wonder what happened to him?” Occasionally there would be something on the telly to remind you of him: Billy Connolly holding a copy of Jackson’s LP, and saying how great it was. What happened only started to trickle out on the back of interest in Sandy Denny a while after her death, and the growing reputation of Nick Drake, decades after his death.
The 2003 double CD release of Blues Run The Game ‘Expanded Deluxe Edition’ on Castle, with liner notes by Colin Harper was the start of the wider interest in Jackson. Colin highlighted the role of Jim Abbott who befriended Jackson and found him sheltered accommodation in Woodstock. (3)
The awareness of Jackson accelerated with the CD releases of Where The Time Goes, Sandy ’67, (2005) and Family Tree, (2007) private recordings by Nick Drake mostly from 1967 and 1968. The Sandy Denny material was drawn from albums she did with Alex Campbell and Johnny Silvo in 1967. She was going out with Jackson around this time. She recorded Jackson’s You Never Wanted Me with Alex Campbell, and Milk and Honey with Johnny Silvo. (4) There was an underlying streak of melancholy in many of Sandy’s songs, typified in her most well known tune Who Knows Where The Time Goes, which she had already written by 1967. Maybe that was something that drew the two of them together for a while.
Nick Drake recorded on his Philips cassette recorder his renditions of Jackson’s Here Comes The Blues, Blues Run the Game, Milk and Honey, and the traditional song Kimbie, in the style that Jackson had recorded it. Robert Frederick in liner notes draws particular attention to Milk and Honey:
“The unusual melodic phrasing beginning on the third beat of the measure, the guitar picking patterns, the sense of embracing sorrow and accepting loss, even the lyric references to seasons – all of these can be found in Nick’s later songs. In fact, he could have been using Milk and Honey as a template when writing Day is Done – these two songs are musically so similar.”
Like Peter Green, and Nick Drake, for Jackson C Frank, the blues was not a musical style that you picked up and put down at random. It was not a ‘lifestyle’ choice. The explosion at his school caused more than physical scars. The blues, unfortunately for him, truly ran the game. But like Peter Green and Nick Drake he has given a lot of people a lot of pleasure on a scale over the years he could never have anticipated when living in a London suburb in the autumn of 1965.
And you don’t need to buy condoms in gents hairdressers anymore. Or stand for the Queen at the pictures. And black Americans study with white Americans together in southern schools and colleges; can sit where they like on public buses, and use the same public toilets and eat in the same road-stop cafes.
And Medgar Evers, who Jackson sang about in Don’t Look Back would have been vindicated, and probably amazed at the man currently using the Executive Toilet in the White House.
There’s still the nuclear weapons (East and West) and excursions into other lands by the major former Second World War Allies, still looking after their interests: Russia, the U.S.A, Britain, France…. Oh well. A step at a time.
The two most interesting, and probably most accurate recollections of Jackson in London at this time, and after, are the Mojo interview with Katherine Henry, and a recollection by John Renbourn that Le Patron has unfortunately mislaid, but is online somewhere.
The Le Patron recommended CD of Jackson is Jackson C Frank, on Earth Recordings, 2014. This is the 1965 album. The 2003 double CD on Castle – which includes the album – diminishes Jackson’s work for including material that, with one or two exceptions, would never have been issued if he were still alive and well. And that includes the single version of Blues Run The Game, that few liked when bought back in 1965.
Added January, 2017. Blues Run the Game, a film about Jackson C Frank iscurrently in production, directed by Damien Aimé Dupont. A trailer is here: https://vimeo.com/184539090
3. At the time of writing (May, 2014) the CD is available second-hand at daft prices: £80 upwards! But it is available, or was, as a download from iTunes. The Earth Recordings CD (see above) is available at approx. £8.
4. One of those curious associations, that always crops up, that Johnny Silvo was downstairs and Jackson was upstairs at Cole Park Road, and eighteen months later he is accompanying Sandy Denny singing one of Jackson’s songs.
My thanks to Doreen for sharing her memories of the Cole Park days. And Kate, Fan, Pussy and Sue – if you’re still around – do get in touch.
“Switzerland is a special and fascinating place. Its unique institutions, its direct democracy, multi-member executives, absence of strikes, communal autonomy, its universal military service, its wealth, and four national languages make it interesting in itself. But it has a wider significance, in representing the ‘Europe that did not happen’, the Europe that escaped the centralisation of state and economy associated with the modern world. Today there is a new special feature. Switzerland is an island surrounded by the European Union and resists membership.” – from Why Switzerland?, Jonathan Steinberg, Cambridge University Press.
“You don’t see where the problem is when every male citizen who has been in the army has an assault rifle (FASS-90) under his bed.” (see You Know You’re Swiss When… below)
Eight million people, 23% of which are “resident foreigners”, a third of this group having Swiss citizenship. A Federal Government, with 26 self-governing cantons, and a seven member cabinet, representing different political parties and a rotating President. Four spoken languages: 63.6 % German; 19.2% French; 7.5% Italian and Romansch 0.6% (40,000 people), plus 8.9 “other languages”. (1990 Census). Those who believe in a God: 38.4% Roman Catholic; 52.8% Protestant; 0.88% Jewish Faith, Hindu and Moslem.
Pinned to a wall in a Lausanne backpacker hostel, some years ago, was the following witty list:
You know you’re Swiss when…
1. You complain if your bus/train,tram is more than five minutes late. Make that 1 minute.