Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Classic from Oliver Kamm

The noted obituarist and music critic writes:

One minor aspect of Hobsbawm's allegiance to British Communism that I have never understood is his authorship of the notorious Cambridge pamphlet supporting the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939-40. Hobsbawm wrote this with Raymond Williams, who later recorded (Politics and Letters, 1981, p. 43): "We were given the job as people who could write quickly, from historical materials supplied for us. You were often in there writing about topics you did not know very much about, as a professional with words."

A bit like a leader-writer for the Times then?

16 Comments:

Anonymous Chris Baldwin said...

He supported the Soviet invasion of Finland? Oh god, now I must totally change my opinion of him!

3/04/2009 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

I certainly don't defend the Soviet invasion of Finland, but it does no harm to recall that violating the rights of sovereign neighbours for reasons of strategic defence was quite widely approved of in the period. Churchill actually used his VE Day broadcast to vindicate the principle, thusly:

"Owing to the action of Mr de Valera ... the approaches and the Southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we would have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valera or perish forever from the earth."

Finland, of course, lay athwart the approaches to Leningrad, which partly as a result endured one of the most horrible sieges in history.

Given Oliver's satisfied approval of area bombing and dropping the A-Bock, he should really indulge apologias for Stalin's attack on Finland a bit more.

[BTW, Dev's response to Churchill has been justly;y famous in Ireland ever since:

"It is indeed fortunate that Britain's necessity did not reach the point when Mr Churchill would have acted. All credit to him that he successfully resisted the temptation which I have no doubt many times assailed him in his difficulties and to which I freely admit many leaders might have succumbed. It is indeed hard for the strong to be just to the weak but acting justly always has its rewards".]

3/04/2009 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Dr Paul said...

The Soviet invasion of Finland was interesting in that it led to a sudden eruption of Decency avant la lettre in the Labour Party, in that for the first time the Soviet Union was portrayed in LP official statements as a totalitarian threat to Western Civilisation (read more in my book The New Civilisation?, details here.

Re Churchill, de Valera and Ireland, I read that Churchill offered him 'a nation once again' after the war so long as de Valera allowed Britain wartime use of Eire's west coast facilities. De Valera didn't reply, thus confirming my suspicions that he, along with the bulk of Eire's rulers, didn't really want the Six Counties back.

3/04/2009 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

Chamberlain really did offer Dev a united Ireland, but with no convincing mechanism to 'deliver' the Ulster protestants, and in the context of British defeat on the continent. Churchill's 'nation once again' comment, after the entry of the US, was almost certainly an appeal to Irish martial pride rather than an offer to treat on Ulster - Dev certainly took it that way. It wasn't diplomatically serious.

3/04/2009 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

(Interesting looking book, by the way, Paul - I'll buy it].

3/04/2009 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kamm forgets to mention that the UK declared war on Finland in 1939 the only case in history of 2 democratic states doing so.

3/04/2009 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The UK was on verge on military intervention in support of Finland in 1939, before the conflict ended. The UK - and all other allies - declared war on Finland in 1941 after they had joined in Operation Barbarossa. This also wasnt the only examples of democracies at war with one another - India and Paksitan, and Ecuador and Peru were at war in the 1990s

3/05/2009 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Would these be the same Finns who fought alongside the German army until 1944?

Glad to see Ollie in such a forgiving mood re Hitlers allies, unless they are muslim of course.

3/05/2009 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NATO bombed Yugoslavia a democratic country an act that Kamm loves to defend. Before anyone says it Yugoslavia was a democracy were opposition partys operated freely, Montenegro and Voivodina were bombed despite being held by anti Milosevic partys.

3/05/2009 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Israel and Lebanon is another. Georgia and Russia are two more (Russia's at least as democratic as Georgia). The US and Nicaragua. The US/France and Haiti. I think I'm going to stop now.

Though at a pinch you could argue that Pakistan, Georgia, Russia and Lebanon are not strictly democracies.

3/05/2009 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Not sure where you're getting your information about Vojvodina, anon. The province voted away its own autonomy in 1990, as indeed did Kosovo.

3/05/2009 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voivodina has a president called I think Sandor Egasi from the Hungarian minority. The USA did not really declare war on Nicaragua in the 1980s so its not really a case of 2 democracys declaring war on eachother.

3/05/2009 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

Anon,
mining a country's harbours is an act of war, regardless of whether its preceded by a formal declaration. Or an act of terrorism perhaps

3/06/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree its an act of terrorism

3/06/2009 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Immediate post-Baby Doc Haiti, a democracy?

3/08/2009 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, Dr Paul has made a fine choice in his publisher. How does Clive Boutle do such a good job for the money, we ask ourselves? Cornish poety must be far more of a money-spinner than anyone suspects.

Returning to the matter in hand, if OK is not OK about countries enthusiastically violating each others' neutrality, perhaps he'd care to comment on the plan to mine the Norwegian coast in 1940, and the actual invasion of Iceland in that year, both Churchill's babies.

[It was a pity that the Brits failed to violate neutrality when it might have made a difference, in Kra on Dec 6th 1941. D'oh.]

Chris Williams

3/08/2009 11:39:00 PM  

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