The Nature of Patriotism

Paul Austin Murphy

Last Saturday American Thinker published a piece called ‘The Next Prime Minister’s Marxist Father’. (see that full article below) The article was about the leader of the UK’s Labour Party and his Marxist father, Ralph Miliband. It was also about the strong and widespread reaction to what the popular British newspaper, the Daily Mail, had written on this father-and-son political relationship.

Milliband_small The Nature of Patriotism

One defender of Ralph Miliband — a fellow Marxist called Michael Newman (Miliband’s biographer) — made a statement which could quite easily be deemed nonsensical. He said that Ralph Miliband “wanted a different kind of Britain” but that he, nonetheless, “wasn’t against Britain”.

I see. This could be like saying, “I like cheese, but only the kind of cheese that tastes like chocolate.” Or: “I love football, but I wish they didn’t use a ball and have two opposing teams.”

It all depends on how different Ralph Miliband wanted Britain to be. The fact is, he didn’t just want a different kind of Britain; he wanted a radically and fantastically different kind of Britain. A Britain that would look nothing like one any Brit would recognize. The sort of Britain that would satisfy the contemporary (UK) Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), or the Communist Party of Great Britain (now the Democratic Left), or even one more acceptable to George Galloway. In other words, a Britain with no separate classes (except the ruling ‘vanguard’ class), no Church, no capitalism, no Parliament, no ‘bourgeois morality’, no ‘bourgeois civil service‘, no ‘right-wing’ press, perhaps no right wingers, conservatives or ‘reactionaries’ at all, no ‘atrophied or dead traditions’, etc. Yet without all — or at least some — of these things, we wouldn’t have a Britain at all. It wouldn’t just be a different kind of Britain, it would be a non-Britain. It would be a socialist or Communist state run by people not unlike Ralph Miliband.

It is semantically and theoretically impossible for a Marxist to be a patriot. It’s impossible by definition. Marxist theories make it impossible. Consequently, all this stuff about some Marxists also being patriots — let alone Ralph Miliband being one — is either outright dissimulation or stupidity. However, there are those saying, or hinting, that you can love your country without also being a patriot. Yet that’s exactly what patriotism is — loving your country. But of course these people think that being patriotic is a right-wing kind of a thing. Hence the denials. It could of course be the case that Ralph Miliband’s defenders mean something subtly different by the word ‘patriotism’. My good guess is that they’re intentionally fusing patriotism with National Socialism or fascism; which, of course, Leftists often do. However, Nazis and fascists love the state, not the people (unless they are fellow Nazis/ fascists), traditions, culture, and history of the country in which they live. More correctly, they love the Nazi/ fascist state. Patriots, on the other hand, don’t love the state at all — any state. They see it exclusively in functional terms. Leftists — or Marxists like Ralph Miliband — often love the state to a great degree, or more correctly, they love the leftist state, just as Nazis/ fascists love the Nazi/ fascist state. In this way leftists — and Ralph Miliband himself — have far more in common with Nazis/ fascists than they do with British patriots.
It’s a shame that this entire debate seems to have focused on the Daily Mail itself. We have seen many an ad hominem argument along these lines:

Because the Daily Mail was once sympathetic to Hitler and the Nazis, then it doesn’t matter if what it says about Ralph Miliband is true.

In the 1930s Marxists like Ralph Miliband believed in the ‘first brown then red’ principle, which called for a Nazi (brownshirt) victory in Germany followed by a Communist (red) revolution. In addition, millions of communists supported Stalin’s non-aggression pact (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) with Hitler in 1939 and which lasted until 1941 — two years into the war. Finally, the BBC, which has voiced some criticisms of the Daily Mail, systematically stopped Winston Churchill from criticizing Hitler and the Nazis on their airwaves from 1933 until at least 1938.

It’s also ironic that many of the critics of the Daily Mail‘s article — who’ve said it was wrong to write about Ralph Miliband in order to besmirch Ed Miliband — haven’t thought twice about going back over seventy years in the said newspaper’s history to comment on its Nazi sympathies in the 1930s. (Many have focused on a single 1934 article in praise of Oswald Mosley’s ‘blackshirts’ and of Hitler … a bit like the supposedly singular diary entry by Ralph Miliband.) If it is wrong to blame Ed Miliband for the sins of his father (although many defenders don’t think they were sins), then it’s equally wrong to blame Daily Mail journalists for events that happened before they were even born. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, did receive the wise political words of his father for around ten years of his life, and since then has no doubt read and consulted his father’s political writings.

I found it utterly bizarre that Alastair Campbell, on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, lectured the Daily Mail on journalistic standards. This is a man who was known for systematically abusing and hounding all who dared to disagree with him. A man who would have done anything, including publish smutty or personal articles, to get New Labour into power in 1997 and keep it in power in the years to come. This man is a prize hypocrite.

Alastair Campbell hardly once tackled the substance of the article which the Daily Mail published last Friday. He claimed only that “the whole article was based on one diary entry written when Ralph Miliband was 17″. No it wasn’t! Clearly Mr. Campbell hasn’t read any of Ralph Miliband’s books and articles. If he had, then he would have quickly realized that Ralph Miliband said far worse things than in the diary entry, though usually in academic prose and with footnotes and references; that is, in the pseudo-scientific style often adopted by Marxist academics. Nonetheless, if you re-parse or translate Ralph Miliband’s academic-Marxist tomes, they say much the same thing as he said in his diary (aged seventeen).

A Labour Party place-person, Yvette Cooper, has replicated Alastair Campbell’s position. She said:

“I just think this is shocking, to decide to pursue and distort and twist the words of a father in order to pursue an attack on a son.”

Which words of Ralph Miliband has the Daily Mail — or anyone else — twisted? I have read Ralph Miliband. Geoffrey Levy, the writer of the original article, has read Miliband. There is no twisting involved. Has Yvette Cooper read Miliband? If she hasn’t, she should keep quiet; if she has, then she is lying about the Daily Mail twisting his words.

Ed Miliband himself has said that the owner of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, should take “a long, hard look” at the paper’s culture and practices.” Really? Why didn’t he say this before they published an article on his dad? Perhaps he did. Nonetheless, I believe that the Daily Mail can fully substantiate what it said about Ralph Miliband. It can also substantiate, albeit less forcefully, Ralph Miliband’s political influence on his son.

The Next Prime Minister’s Marxist Father

The popular British newspaper, the Daily Mail, published an article last Saturday on the Marxist academic Ralph Miliband and what it takes to be his political influence on his son, Ed Miliband — the leader of the British Labour Party. Predictably, Ed Miliband has responded in strong terms to this piece.

The actual Daily Mail headline was: ‘The man who hated Britain.’ Edward Miliband has said that it was a ‘character assassination’. That’s no surprise. If his dad had been Vlad the Impaler he would have probably said something similar. In fact most sons would do the same — it’s only natural.

Yes, a son shouldn’t be held responsible for his father’s actions or views. So the question is whether or not Edward Miliband is indeed carrying on the political tradition of his father.

The Daily Mail itself wrote:

“We do not maintain… that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father’s teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different.”

The writer of the article, Geoffrey Levy, questioned whether or not Ralph Miliband’s Marxist views have influenced Ed Miliband. It’s a justifiable question considering the fact that for a long time Edward’s father was one of the most important Marxist academics and intellectuals in the UK. (He was perhaps slightly less influential — or at least less popular — than the British Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm.) Ralph Miliband also had close links to the Labour Party and wrote about it in often critical terms (as well as saying many dismissive things about ‘capitalist’ or parliamentary politics).

The Daily Mail writer, Geoffrey Levy, went into detail when he wrote:

“[H]ow passionately [Ralph Miliband] would have approved today of his son’s sinister warning about some of the policies he plans to follow if he ever becomes prime minister.”

As you’d expect, Edward Miliband has distanced himself from his father — or at least from his father’s Marxist beliefs. He said:

“My father’s strongly left-wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision…”

Indeed ‘Red Ed’ has ‘pursued a different path’. Even if one doesn’t accuse Ed Miliband of being a Marxist, he must know that Marxists have followed all sorts of different ‘paths’ throughout the 20th century and beyond. There’s been Trotskyism, Leninism, and Stalinism.

There have also been many Marxist political strategies: such as entryism; the state-and party-based politics of the Communists; the violence- and activism-based politics of the Trotskyists (e.g., the SWP); the infiltration-of-the-Labour-Party route of Militant Tendency and many other such groups and individuals; and now we have the patronize-and-tap-into-the-‘revolutionary-potential’-of-Muslims route of contemporary ‘Progressives‘; such as George Galloway’s Respect Party, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Hope Not Hate.

 However, the most effective ‘path’, I would argue, is the Gramscian or Frankfurt School one of ‘taking over the institutions’ and carrying out the revolution from within. And what bigger institution is there than the British Labour Party?

So when Miliband laughs at the idea of him being part of a ‘sinister Marxist plot’, he must realize that politics has always been full of such plots. He should also know that the history of the British Labour Party — especially in the 1980s and before — has been ridden with specifically Marxist plots. In fact if you look into all these political plots, they aren’t at all sinister. They are obvious; if only you care to look.

Not surprisingly (because most what it said is true), the Daily Mail has refused to apologize for the story and stands by it (it did so in an editorial). The bone of contention, at least in Ed Miliband’s eyes, is a single passage which the Daily Mail cited. It is a quote from Ralph Miliband in which he wrote that the English were
“perhaps the most nationalist people in the world… you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are”.

This quote is apparently from diary written when he was 17. In response to its use by the Daily Mail, Edward Miliband said that to ‘build an entire case about him hating our country on an adolescent diary entry is, of course, absurd’. No, Ed, what’s absurd is that you think the Daily Mail — or anyone else — would base all it charges against Ralph Miliband on a single diary entry. If, say, Margaret Thatcher’s — or even Tony Blair’s — father had written that, no one would have made such a big deal about it. Only a famous Marxist theorist wrote it — the father of the shadow prime minister; who, some would argue, may well have similar views.

(The full quote is even more telling: “The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world…When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are. … This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.”)

In defense of his father, Ed Miliband said that he ‘loved’ Britain and ‘served in the Navy’. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there conscription in Britain at that time? (And what, exactly, does ‘love’ mean in this context?) If there was outright conscription for all adult males, then there was a moral and political imperative for such people to fight the Nazis. Indeed, as a victim of the Nazis himself, Ralph Miliband would have fought them no matter what outfit he belonged to. It just so happened that he ended up in Britain — so he fought in the British Navy. Nonetheless, as a Marxist, he would have been fundamentally against all forms of patriotism. Therefore Ralph Miliband didn’t fight for Britain. He fought against the Nazis and on behalf of the international working class.

Edward Miliband also said the article was a ‘smear’. Yet Marxists — until very recently — wouldn’t have thought twice of voicing such categorical slag-offs of Britain and the British people. Nonetheless, Ralph Miliband (just as with Leftists/Marxists today) would of course have felt it necessary to exclude all socialist and Communist Brits from such criticisms. But they would have only constituted a small number of British people. And the situation is even worse today. Contemporary Leftists (including the pseudo-patriots) still hate most Brits and what they believe; even if they too, like Ralph Miliband, exclude the tiny number of Brits who’ve escaped from ‘false consciousness’ (or from ‘internalizing the values of the elite’, as Noam Chomsky puts it).

Indeed, considering that Marxists and Leftists still think this about most Brits and all patriots, it’s perhaps even more likely that they did so in Ralph Miliband’s day. In fact the contemporary Labour Party is still firmly attached to all sorts of groups — from Hope Not Hate to UAF and to unions such as UNISON, NUT and the NUJ — that still think precisely in these terms.

Even internally the Labour Party has had many elements which were Communist/Trotskyist and which therefore hated all forms of British patriotism. This was most certainly true up until the Neil Kinnock’s day (when he had a lot of bother from Militant Tendency) and perhaps up until Tony Blair. But many would now argue that the Trotskyists and Communists in the Labour Party are far more subtle and wise than they used to be. They know that mouthing off about the sins of patriotism — or ‘chauvinism’, ‘xenophobia’, or ‘racism’ as they often put it — will be politically counterproductive. Indeed because these Leftist elements in the Labour Party — and beyond –have already ‘taken over the institutions’, as suggested by Antonio Gramsci, they have no need to mouth off or demonstrate on the streets about the evils of patriotism. Instead of mouthing off or activism on the streets, they can do something about it in the Labour Party itself, or in the Rights and race industries, or in the Law, or in the councils, or in the local and national newspapers, or in the universities, or in the BBC, or even in the churches. In fact that’s precisely what Leftists or ‘priogressives’ have been doing since at least the 1960s; the time when Ralph Miliband, Ed Miliband’s father, was most active.

Note: Some Nazis and other Jew-haters may have fixated on the ‘Jewish blood’ of Ralph and Ed Miliband. So it’s interesting to note that the author of the Daily Mail article (which criticized these fellows), Geoffrey Levy, is himself Jewish. This only goes to show that when it comes to Jewish people, the only safe generalization you can make is that it’s very hard to generalize about them.