Friday, October 04, 2013

The Daily Mail article about Ralph Miliband

I'm afraid I'm becoming bored with the faux outrage over the Daily Mail.

This morning on the Today programme Lord Glasman (someone I have always regarded as sensible and moderate) was comparing the situation to Apocalypse Now (a fictional gotterdammerung set in 1970s south east Asia).

And Twitter is filled this morning with right-on commentators (Caitlin Moran, Richard Angell, Ellie Mae O'Hagan, Patrick Kingsley, Diane Abbott MP and so many others I cannot list them) ecstatically promoting a YouTube clip of Mehdi Hasan denouncing the Daily Mail on Question Time yesterday.

Presumably they are unaware of Mr Hasan's October 2011 article in the Guardian in which he gratuitously "outs" David Cameron as the great great grandson of a Jew (and a Jewish financier to boot - how's that for an antisemitic cliche):

But perhaps they are aware of it and they just don't care.  That Mehdi Hasan is a hypocrite is an observation that hardly needs pointing out.  The important thing for these people is to attack the Daily Mail.

Anyway, since we cannot escape the Daily Mail article about Ralph Miliband perhaps I can be allowed to comment about the comments that have been made about it.

Is the diary entry Ralph Miliband wrote as a 17-year-old relevant to our judgment of him? (and let us make no mistake, we have been invited to judge him by Ed Miliband himself).  I think the Daily Mail has a point here.  This was not some idle harmless musing by a precocious teenager.  This was a comment written in wartime hoping that Britain would lose the war.  Had the authorities seen this diary entry Ralph Milband would have been interned as an enemy alien (and had his working class neighbours seen the diary entry they would have given him a beating).   

Can we compare Ralph Miliband's diary entry with the diaries of other Jewish teenagers of the time?  The most obvious comparison would be with the diary of Anne Frank.  Did Anne Frank express in her diary the hope that Britain would lose the war?  I think not.  Do we dismiss the diary of Anne Frank as unimportant and irrelevant?  No, young as she was, her writings are regarded as important historical evidence.

Why should Ralph Miliband have made such a comment in the first place?  We need to consider the context.  Up until June 22nd 1941 Nazi Germany was in an alliance with Soviet Russia and communists in the West were instructed to support the alliance, which (incredibly) meant supporting the idea that Germany would win the war.  Of course we have heard from various commentators that Ralph Miliband was not a communist in his later life, and condemned the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in his later life.  But we also know that Ralph Miliband was "steered away" from the CPGB by Harold Laski, which implies that he had some relationship with the CPGB to be steered away from.  There is a lot of grey here - was the teenage Ralph Miliband just venting teenage angst in his diary, or was it a more candid expression of communist policy at the time (that the fascist and reactionary forces in the West must fight themselves to a standstill before Soviet liberation can sweep in from the east).

Is it true that Ralph Miliband was a "hero" for fighting in the British armed forces?  On one level yes, they were all heroes.  But let us not be starry-eyed here.  In wartime all eligible men were conscripted and therefore if he had not volunteered he would have been called up a few months later (and those who volunteered a few months early had more options about where they would end up, especially if they had a "mentor" like Harold Laski - and is it not curious that Ralph Miliband made no attempt to join the Belgian Free Forces).

But enough of all this.

The most important thing to know about Ralph Miliband is that he failed in the central political objective of his life.

His eldest son failed in the central political objective of his life.

And (nothing personal) I am hoping and working to ensure that his youngest son fails in the central political objective of his life.

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