[Marxism] Query on British historiography

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat Sep 19 19:49:42 MDT 2009


I suppose it must be my age showing but have a fascination with this topic I
must confess and it is good to see Paddy take a part in the thread.

WW2 is a complex phenomenon and it is unfortunate that Trotsky did not live
long enough to make a definitive contribution to its analysis.  I am away
from my library so I cannot check on Deutscher's writing about Trotksy's
views.  From memory Trotsky began by saying WW2 was a continuation of WW1
but there was I believe  a "but" in his analysis and unfortunately we were
not to get what he thought the "but" was.

What I think is happening in this thread is that we are debating the "but".
Unlike we Marxists the revisionist historians, like Niall Ferguson,  have
nothing negative to say about imperialist wars.  They want more of them.
But they tend to see that the compromises Churchill had to make weakened the
British Empire.

For the right the key compromises were the alliance with Russia and even
more important the accepting of junior status vis a vis American
Imperialism.   Despite his disavowals and the maneuverings of people like
Ernest Bevin, it was Churchill who at his Atlantic summit meeting with FDR,
who agreed to accepting inferior role for the mighty British.  And needless
to say the Americans have been cashing in on the Churchillian promises ever
since.

However there was  a leftist dimensions to the Churchillian compromises and
Paddy has outlined some of these.  I would say that the biggest compromise
Churchill made was his probably very reluctant acceptance of the Beveridge
Report of 1942. However as Paddy pointed out the British public did not
trust Churchill with the implementation of the Beveridge Report which had
recommended the establishment of a welfare state and gave him short shrift
at the 1945 election.

Now of course the Atlee government was undermined by Washington, but folk
like Ernest Bevin did not need much undermining. However the most important
point is that not only Churchill compromised during WW2, the left also
compromised when it agreed to have Churchill as the national leader.
Moreover it was the sort of inter-class compromise that was to determine the
shape of post WW2 Britain.  Of course inter class compromises were the very
stuff that Stalinism was made of and when pray tell did they ever work?

On second thoughts - don't answer that, unlike Lou I do not have the
courage to face the arguments that would follow.

regards

Gary



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