Marx, patriotism, and blackshirt supporters
October 2, 2013 4 Comments
The Daily Mail is almost a running joke for the liberal left; it contrives to be a caricature of the worst of the xenophobic Right. Almost a joke. Almost. It has a circulation that whilst falling is still ahead of all bar The Sun, and is influential. I see its influence regularly; it is often quoted back at me, sometime near to verbatim. You can spot the Daily Mail readers; conversations invariably include “I am not a racist, but …”
I read the Daily Mail regularly, and it is not always rubbish or wrong. Sometimes it is quite funny, though this is usually unintentional. But it does thrive on a climate of fear, promotes stranger danger, and is unafraid of adding two to two to reach five. It is also sexist, and when not verging on hysteria when it comes to foreigners and all things foreign, sends strong xenophobic signals in the juxtaposition of stories. Even when not on political territory, and not appealing to the evident voyeurism of some of its readers, it is alarmingly inaccurate – I am waiting for the ‘breathing gives you cancer’ headline.
My dad was a Marxist, and unlike Ralph Miliband did not fight the Nazis directly. Dad started the war in Chelmsford Gaol, imprisoned as a conscientious objector. His pacifism came largely from the early death of his father, killed in Arras in May 1917. Dad went on to work as a minor civil servant through the War; so he did make a small contribution to the defeat of fascism. My dad was critical of privilege, and thus critical of the establishment of his time. This meant he would lambast the existence of monarchy, the aristocracy, and the nepotism and elitism that infected (and still infects) much of British society. He wanted revolution, not because he hated his country, quite the reverse. He wanted revolution because he loved it. If he cared not he would not have spent much of his lifetime making political argument; neither would he have given me my political education. I do not share my dad’s politics, not all of it anyway, but I am grateful that he imbued in me the desire to inquire and to think independently.
I do not suppose the editors and owners of The Daily Mail really care what their opponents think, and the row over the slandering of Ralph Miliband’s reputation will move them not. I don’t doubt that the current crop of writers would disdain what Viscount Rothermere wrote in their paper in July 1934. However, since The Daily Mail likes to drag up the past I feel obliged to remind them that theirs is far from unblemished.
(I am grateful to Chris Brooke, and hope he will not mind my sharing his picture.)