One Britain One Nation: Echoes of Early British Fascism in OBON

June 25 is OBON Day, a new adventure in national pride set up by OBON, the “One Britain One Nation” movement. On Friday, thousands of children equipped with Union Jacks will sing the OBON anthem, One Britain, One Dream, the rousing chorus of which is “We are Britain / And we have one dream / To unite all people / In one great team.” It is no surprise that the UK Government and The Department of Education are in full support of this jamboree. As faith in Boris Johnson’s government evaporates by the minute, OBON Day provides a welcome diversion from the disasters of Covid and Brexit. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, described OBON Day as “an amazing project” adding that the Government had “already asked schools to be able to participate in this and we are very happy from the dispatch box to reiterate that endorsement of this project and encourage them to play their part in it.” So, putting children in the front line of a nationalist push was a clever move on the part of OBON. It captivated a desperate government and drew support from a disillusioned public. Though the event has attracted ridicule and apprehension in many quarters, it remains popular in others and is likely to be well supported.

Some have inevitably likened OBON to the Hitler Youth, perhaps without realizing that Britain has a dishonourable history of its own when it comes to press-ganging children into a nationalist cause. June 1925, for example, saw the founding of the FCC, the Fascist Children’s Clubs, an offshoot of the women’s units of the British Fascisti, a forerunner of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. If your offspring joined this junior branch of the movement, they could expect a well-organised afternoon of activities: “I. Roll call and salute the Union Jack. II. Hymn and Lord’s Prayer. III. Historical and national subjects, lives of good men and women etc. IV. Games. V. Competitions given out for home work. VI. Patriotic songs and items of news. VII. General tidying up. Monitors take special charge of the Union Jack. God Save the King.” The following year a Mr Harrison Hill founded the Patriotic Song League. The first song he wrote for children proclaimed the virtues of nationalism in the face of the common enemy, which in those days was Communism: “We are all Anti-Red, and We’re proud of it, / All Britons, and singing aloud of it / If Red, White and Blue isn’t good enough for you, / And if you don’t like the Empire, clear out of it!.” Clearly, OBON would be the first to distance itself from historical movements like the FCC, pointing to its own avowed focus on  “inclusion” and “tolerance” as evidence of very different ideals. Nonetheless, there are unsettling similarities to be found in the ideology of OBON and that of the far-right groups that took root in the Twenties and Thirties. What are they? A careful inspection of the OBON website reveals a great deal.

First, OBON has unwarrantably appointed itself guardian of the nation’s moral compass. This is a well-known characteristic of extremist movements. It says, my italics, that its aims are “to make Britain an international model of moral rectitude” and to “re-appropriate the flag of Great Britain so that it represents all people of good conscience”. So, if your ideas of what constitute moral rectitude and a good conscience are not congruent with OBON’s, then you won’t be admitted to the fold.

Second, OBON also sees itself, with breathtaking impertinence, as a custodian of culture – which again is a familiar badge of extremism, recalling the cultural depredations of Hitler and Stalin. OBON’s cultural aim, again my italics, is “to create a single culture that embraces and accommodates differences without over-emphasising and reinforcing them.” In other words, your cultural differences will be tolerated as long you submit to the overarching principles of the new nationalism, the new culture hastily cobbled together to replace the old. Step out of line, and you’re for it.

Third, the OBON website is littered with entirely gratuitous jingo carefully calculated to appeal to nationalist sentiment and sentimentality – yet another characteristic it shares with extremist movements of the past. For example, when introducing its CEO and founder, a former police officer, we are told that “it can be said with confidence that Kash Singh wore the Queen’s uniform with immense pride.” It goes on to say that Singh “feels proud to dedicate his role as the Chief Executive of OBON to Her Majesty and the people of this Nation.” The jingoism is visually intensified by the OBON logo, an embarrassing clip-art hotchpotch featuring British lions rampant as supporters, surmounted by the Crown of England. It falsely implies endorsement by the establishment and unsuccessfully tries to create an impression of tradition and heritage.

Fourth, worst of all perhaps, is OBON’s shameless cooption of ideals that we all strive for and that are attainable without recourse to nationalist jingo. OBON says it wants “a society built on compassion, tolerance and harmony based on mutual respect”. Well, don’t we all? But we all know from history that founding a nationalist movement is emphatically not the way to achieve this. All OBON seems to have learnt from history is this: that to give a dangerous movement traction in this day and age, one must cynically sugar the pill with the tame vocabulary of “inclusion” and “tolerance”. The only sense in which OBON might genuinely be described as “inclusive” is that people of colour are now welcome aboard the nationalist bandwagon in a way they wouldn’t have been in the 1920s.

If anyone is tempted to dismiss all this as unduly alarmist and consider OBON a harmless and well-meaning diversion, remember that extremist movements gain traction in hard times and thrive on chaos. They start from slender and apparently innocuous beginnings and grow into monsters. Kash Singh, who as a police officer won the Criminal Justice Award for his work during the 2001 Bradford riots, should know this well. If he has forgotten it, he should revisit history – and make a careful assessment of the people who write his copy and shape his publicity.

I have every hope that children will eventually resist the nonsense peddled by OBON and rebel against it. I leave you with an aggrieved report from Rotha Lintorn-Orman, the founder of the British Fascisti, describing how she was attacked by a group of uncooperative children in the East End in 1927: “We went down, a party of 15 strong, all women members, to further our campaign for the formation of the Fascist Children’s Clubs which are organizing around the country to counteract the propaganda of the Red Sunday School. Nearest the platform there were about 200 children, and the Reds behind kept on pushing at the back, so that the children were driven towards us. After a while the children started throwing things at us.” Good for them. Lintorn-Orman was forced to retreat in disarray.

Hitler’s Favourite Film

Major Francis Yeats-Brown was the author of The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, a hugely successful book based on his career as a cavalry officer in India. It was made into a film by Paramount, starring Gary Cooper as the ‘Yeats-Brown’ character, Lieutenant Alan McGregor. Trivia specialists will know that Mohammed Khan, played by Douglas Dumbrille, was the first to utter the line that has since been adapted or misquoted in many other films since: “We have ways of making men talk…”.

It is less widely known that The Lives of a Bengal Lancer was Adolf Hitler’s favourite film – there were many private screenings in his flat in Munich and at his retreat in Berchtesgaden. This film, thought Hitler, exemplified all that was good about England, sterling qualities that in his view the British shared with the Germans. When one looks at some snatches of dialogue it is easy to see why it appealed to him. Here is Major Hamilton extolling the stiff upper lip, defending Colonel Stone’s refusal to disobey orders and attempt to rescue his captured son: “Man, you are blind! Have you never thought how, for generation after generation here, a handful of men have ordered the lives of 300 million people? It’s because he’s here, and a few more like him! Men of his breed have made British India. Men who put their jobs above everything. He wouldn’t let death move him from it. He won’t let love move him from it. When his breed of man dies out – that’s the end. And it’s a better breed of man than any of us will ever make…”

The clip below, of the official trailer, spells it out very clearly. Here, in Major Hamilton, we see a character in tune not only with the aspirations of the Third Reich (a “handful of men ordering the lives of 300 million people”) but also recalling sentiments that pre-date Hitler and hark back to the archetypal German hero sung by Ernst Jungers in the wake of Bismarck’s imperial ascendancy – the merciless, death-dealing type with Stahlnaturen (a steely nature), the ‘gorgeous bird of prey’ who sweeps all considerations of love and death aside.

The film was well reviewed in Das Schwarze Korps, the official newspaper of the SS: The Lives of a Bengal Lancer “displays throughout the spirit and conduct which is shared in our new Germany by the entire Volk”. However, praise was balanced by aggressive accusations of hypocrisy levelled at British critics of the Reich: “They abuse our new Germany abroad, making it out to be one large garrison where drill – and to use their own idiotic terms – ‘mindless obedience’ suppress and extinguish all humanity; and then from that same world beyond our borders a film reaches us: a scene from the life of a great and powerful nation. A film glorifying precisely that which those vile tongues seek to criticize in us…”

Yeats-Brown became progressively involved in right-wing politics throughout the Thirties. His views are set out in his book European Jungle, a sort of whistle-stop tour of the Continent in which he airs his thoughts and prejudices, reserving a special chapter for Jews who, he says, are a talented and industrious nation who would do well if they were to be settled in their own land. His most striking utterance was made in July 1939, in an article he wrote for the New Pioneer entitled “Listen, Tommy!”, addressed to British troops. It contained a mish-mash of pro-Arab sentiment mixed with glowing references to anti-Jewish measures in Germany, ending with the banner headline “Not another British life for Judah”. This was the latest angle on Jews: why should Tommy Atkins fight their war for them?

America Remembers Kristallnacht

I’m going to assume that this woman (below) went to school at some point. If so, what a savage indictment this all is of the education system that makes it possible. See Dumb America: WEDs and BEDs.

How low can proletarian America get?

I’m going to assume that this woman (above) went to school at some point. If so, what a savage indictment this all is of the education system that makes it possible.

Below, a detail of the “Not Vaccinated” patch with the Third Reich original for comparison.

Orwell on Antisemitism

George Orwell writing in 1945, from ‘Antisemitism in Britain’, dispensing characteristically uncomfortable and perennial wisdom: “When Hitler has disappeared a real enquiry into this subject will be possible, and it would probably be best to start not by debunking antisemitism, but by marshalling all the justifications for it that can be found, in one’s own mind or anybody else’s. In that way one might get some clues that would lead to its psychological roots.”

To study any subject scientifically one needs a detached attitude, which is obviously harder when one’s own interests or emotions are involved. Plenty of people who are quite capable of being objective about sea urchins, say, or the square root of 2, become schizophrenic if they have to think about the sources of their own income. What vitiates nearly all that is written about antisemitism is the assumption in the writer’s mind that he himself is immune to it. “Since I know that antisemitism is irrational,” he argues, “it follows that I do not share it.” He thus fails to start his investigation in the one place where he could get hold of some reliable evidence—that is, in his own mind.

It seems to me a safe assumption that the disease loosely called nationalism is now almost universal. Antisemitism is only one manifestation of nationalism, and not everyone will have the disease in that particular form. A Jew, for example, would not be antisemitic: but then many Zionist Jews seem to me to be merely antisemites turned upside-down, just as many Indians and Negroes display the normal colour prejudices in an inverted form. The point is that something, some psychological vitamin, is lacking in modern civilisation, and as a result we are all more or less subject to this lunacy of believing that whole races or nations are mysteriously good or mysteriously evil. I defy any modern intellectual to look closely and honestly into his own mind without coming upon nationalistic loyalties and hatreds of one kind or another. It is the fact that he can feel the emotional tug of such things, and yet see them dispassionately for what they are, that gives him his status as an intellectual. It will be seen, therefore, that the starting point for any investigation of antisemitism should not be “Why does this obviously irrational belief appeal to other people?” but “Why does antisemitism appeal to me? What is there about it that I feel to be true?” If one asks this question one at least discovers one’s own rationalisations, and it may be possible to find out what lies beneath them. Antisemitism should be investigated—and I will not say by antisemites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion. When Hitler has disappeared a real enquiry into this subject will be possible, and it would probably be best to start not by debunking antisemitism, but by marshalling all the justifications for it that can be found, in one’s own mind or anybody else’s. In that way one might get some clues that would lead to its psychological roots. But that antisemitism will be definitively cured, without curing the larger disease of nationalism, I do not believe.

Ma Struissle: Hitler in the Scottish Wikipedia

You live and learn. I never knew until today that Wikipedia is available in Scottish. Here is Hitler’s life story from the Scots Wiki.

Adolf Hitler wis born on Aprile 20t 1889 at Braunau am Inn, a smaw toun naur Linz in the province o Upper Austrick, nae far frae the German mairch, in whit wis than Austrick-Hungary.

Adolf wis an mensefu lad, but he failt the heich schuil admeession seys in Linz twice. Thare, he becam interestit in the anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish), Pan-German haivers o Professor Leopold Poetsch.

In 1913, Hitler wis 24. At that time, aw young Austrian men haed tae jyne the airmy. Hitler didna like the Austrian airmy, sae he left Austria for Germany. He steyed in a German ceety, Munich. In 1914, Hitler jynt the German airmy. He did weel for Germany in the First Warld War. He wis hurt in the war. The govrenment gied him the Airn Ruid as an awaird for his bravery.

In 1919, Hitler jynt a smaw poleetical pairty cried the German Warkers’ Pairty. He belyve wun the support o the pairty members. Twa year efter, he becam the heid o the pairty. He renamed the pairty the National Socialist German Warker’s Pairty (more aft kent as the Nazi Pairty).

In 1923, Hitler tried to owerthraw the Weimar Republic govrenment in the Swats Haw Putsch, but coudna dae it. The govrenment pit Hitler in the Landsburg Jyle. Thay said that he wad stay in the jyle for 5 year, but thay lat him leave efter 9 month. While he wis in preeson, he wrate a beuk wi the help o his freend Rudolf Hess. At first, Hitler wantit tae cry the beuk Fower an a Hauf Year o Struissle agin Lees, glaikitry an Couardiness. In the end, he cried the beuk Mein Kampf or Ma Struissle. In the beuk, Hitler shaws respect tae his faither. He says that thay haed disagreements. Hitler wisst tae become an airtist. His faither didna like this, he socht Adolf tae wark for the govrenment insteid.

In 1932, Hitler makkit the plans for a caur: later it was the weel-kent Volkswagen Beetle.

In 1933 Hitler gat intil pouer in Germany acause o poleetical manoeuverin. His govrenment immediately began restrictin freedom o speech an the press. It baured aw ither parties cep the Nazi party, an makkit fowk poleetical preesoners.

On 29 Aprile 1945, Hitler married Eva Braun; anly ane day later they committit suicide in Berlin afore his airmy wis defeatit.

Trump and Hitler – the dying days

I have just read an absorbing piece by Joshua Chanin in The Armstrong Undergraduate Journal of History. It is entitled ‘Sinking into the Dark Abyss: Adolf Hitler’s Final Years, February 1943 – April 1945’. The similarities between Hitler’s decline and Trump’s are striking. You can read the full piece on the Armstrong site, but here is an excerpt from Chanin’s opening passage: “Along with the shrinking of his empire, Hitler would also be pulled down an uncontrollable hole himself. The overall health of a fit, loud, and impressive world leader, who at one time had conquered nearly all of Europe himself, would decline rapidly. His past grandeur would disappear before him, as his enemies would speed up the destruction of his Nazi destiny. His trustworthy generals would eventually lose faith in him, and his decisions would be looked upon from all corners with suspicion. His mood would alter, tantrums would flare up, and the great, strong-willed courageous German leader of the past would be overtaken by tiredness and desperation. With defeat looming on the horizon, a frail Hitler would soon sink into a gloomy dark abyss during the final two years and five months of his ‘great war,’ facing many periods of exhaustion, addictions to drugs, contracting illness, and many crushing blows, which would hurt his heart and faith, all due to the rapid decline of his empire; and as he lost his psychological mind, walked into the unknown, and gave random unexplained orders of attack, he unexpectedly pulled the innocent country he had grown to love and adore down with him.”

So much for Hitler. What now of Trump? Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US Election will undoubtedly be America’s salvation. Perhaps January 20 should be named Liberation Day and celebrated with as much fervour as Victory in Europe Day, May 8 1945, that marked the end of the Second World War. Following the initial celebrations for Biden, there will be a great deal of cleaning up to do in the wake of his victory, just as there was in Europe from 1945 onwards. August 1945 saw the Potsdam Agreement, which solidified the allied program of Denazification, designed to rid Germany and Austria of Nazi ideology . It was a far-reaching attempt to heal and regenerate society, culture, the press, the economy, the judiciary, and the political machine itself. Similarly today, Biden will face the task of re-educating the many millions of Americans who bought into the corrosive Trump mythology and who continue to keep its flame burning. Detrumpification, like Denazification, will take many years – at the very least the two terms one can confidently expect Biden to serve. One wishes him the very best of luck.