What would we have done?

by Harry on April 27, 2006

Via Norm, a very interesting article by Max Hastings, arguing that if Britain had been invaded by the Nazis the British would have behaved much as the French did:

Most of France’s “haves” collaborated not willingly, but in the face of perceived necessity. The bourgeois classes allowed their view to be determined by law-and-order arguments, which possess even greater force in war than in peace. Sabotage provoked murderous reprisals upon the innocent. Surely, people said, it is in the interests of the community that we behave in such a way as to be spared killings and confiscations, when daily existence is harsh enough already.

Resistance, confined to a small minority until 1944, was dominated by what middle-class people would categorise as “the awkward squad”: teachers and unionists (many of them leftists), young mavericks, communist activists, journalists, peasants: in short, little people.

All this, I think, would have applied equally in a German-occupied Britain.

Hastings commends Eden’s statement, when asked to comment on the behaviour of the French during the war, that “It would be impertinent for any country that has never suffered occupation to pass judgment on one that did.” We’d all do well to reflect on that brilliantly diplomatic, and true, comment. Hastings concludes that

Némirovsky’s great novel paints a portrait of a society that did not conduct itself with conspicuous courage or honour. I am doubtful, however, that we would have done much better.

I can think of only one piece of counter-evidence, which I can’t link to because my googling skills aren’t up to it, but I undertsand that as soon as the war began the British government started to train a secret domestic guerrilla army in preparation for invasion, comprised of conscription-age men who were (because of their age) regarded throughout the war (and until the end of the 50-year embargo on the confidential records) as conscientious objectors. But this is slim evidence (made even slimmer by my inability to cite it: did I dream that I heard a Radio 4 documentary about them?)

Talking of Eden, I recently read Kenneth Harris’s wonderful biography of Attlee (prompted by being fascinated by the role Attlee plays in Five Days in London: May 1940).

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Jose Can You See

by Kieran Healy on April 27, 2006

“Apparently,”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_04_23_atrios_archive.html#114610748283196427 Michelle Malkin is ticked off by a song that incorporates bits of the _Star-Spangled Banner_ in Spanish — or “Star-Spangled Mangle” as she prefers to say. It’s an outrage, and so on. Meanwhile, here is a quiz: 1. What do the following words have in common? California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Montana, Oregon.