Ralph Miliband and the politics of hate
From Brother Ivo:
Brother Ivo has been taking a few days to reflect upon the furore over Ralph Miliband's legacy.
Any comment about Miliband Pere by the Daily Mail was bound to end in tears - real or crocodile. Let us not forget that Ed recently hired Arnie Graf, who was one of Obama's campaign team, and it was Rahm Emanuel, the éminence grise of that election machine, who coined the maxim "Never let a crisis go to waste". From there it is but a short step to "Never let a family insult go to waste". And so, however much the natural filial defence mechanism may be genuine, Ed was never going to shrug it off lightly. There was political capital to be made, and scores to settle.
Like a Premier League prima donna touched in the penalty area, he not only felt himself "entitled to go down", but also to "big up" the event hoping to get his assailant sent off, and preferably suspended for several games.
Thus he has continued to wail "Will no one rid us of this tiresome press culture?", whilst even those who may not share the Mail's judgment on good or bad journalistic taste began reflecting that the party which employed both Alistair Campbell and Damian McBride, and which also used the 7/7 bombings as cover to release bad economic news, is not in the best position to claim the moral high ground in such matters.
While mulling over the question "Did Ralph Miliband hate Britain?", with conflicting evidence being offered by various commentators, Brother Ivo remembered the basic question posed by the Cambridge positivist philosopher GE Moore. When confused by his students' argument, he routinely asked "What exactly do you mean by..?".
It is a good question in this context.
What exactly do we mean by "hate", and what exactly to we mean by "Britain"?
We use the term "hate" in a variety of ways. Brother Ivo "hates" the taste of tripe. Sporting rivals "hate" their closest rivals while frequently having personal friendships away from the stadium, and they frequently particularly welcome players who cross the sporting divide. We "hate" pantomime villains.
More seriously, in the First World War, the entrenched soldiery developed a convention as to when they would or would not exchange fire - 'morning and evening hate' - and special contempt was visited upon new officers who ordered a costly disruption of that rhythm of warfare which always increased the casualty rate. Winston Churchill himself angered his troops when he first arrived in the trenches and began launching grenades and visiting unnecessary retaliation upon the old hands who had worked out a modus vivendi with the "hated" Hun.
A study of the famous Christmas truce found that it was not symptomatic of war-weariness or incipient pacifism, but rather broke out on sectors where the fighting and determination was the fiercest before and after the event. Like Christians who "hate the sin but love the sinner", the best soldiery could be patriotic and utterly professional yet paradoxically capable of respect and kindness to individuals, especially the wounded and the captured.
Centuries before, Saladin reputedly sent his personal physician to tend King Richard the Lionheart, and so we are beginning to see that this hatred business is actually considerably more complicated than we have heard in the present debate hitherto.
Much of the better side of moderating hate arises from people who have a sense that they will have to account for how they conduct themselves. Chivalry is for those who expect their actions to be judged by more than history.
As he thought about it, Brother Ivo moved into considering something akin to hatred and perhaps a sub-set of it - what one might call the "resentment of obligation".
A classic example is Charles De Gaulle, whose attitude to Britain was decidedly ambivalent.
Intellectually, he must have known that he and France were deeply in Britain's debt, but actually acknowledging the fact was a near impossibility. Thus, as late as the day before D-Day, De Gaulle was refusing to assign English-speaking French officers to assist the more numerous Anglophone liberators of France. It is a little-known fact that more Poles than French crossed the beaches of Normandy. Later, despite Ernest Hemingway and a raggle-taggle bunch of journalists and irregulars "liberating" Harry's Bar well before five French armoured cars entered the city in a stage-managed saving of French face, De Gaulle portentously intoned that Paris had liberated herself.
Did De Gaulle "hate" Britain?
Brother Ivo senses kindred attitudes between De Gaulle and Ralph Miliband where Britain is concerned.
Ralph Miliband's father was a member of the Bund - a Jewish Social Demeocratic party in Poland which was associated with the Menshevick Party when the October revolution established Lenin as the driving force. He moved to Belgium after the First World War and, in due course, Ralph sought refuge in Britain. Here he settled and his family prospered within the social, educational and political systems he opposed.
How could there be anything other than ambivalence for an ideologically-driven intellectual? Marxism had betrayed its ideals when the Russians rebelled: there is supposed to be a historical imperative leading to the inevitable triumph of the masses, but there was precious little evidence of that. The place of safety, comfort, acceptance, freedom, tolerance proved to be what?
What was this "Britain" you are invited to love? It is everything you think you despise.
It is a 1000-year-old monarchy whose constitution is irrational yet remarkably functional, thanks to a middle-class revolution that left hereditary Lords offering the wise long-term view within a bi-cameral parliamentary system. Organised Labour and working people can receive and hand back power when they are defeated in the polls. Marx did not predict either.
Britain's politics was not class or hate-based because many members of Parliament served together and fought a "rationalist" ideologue during a war they won with American support. You might be willing to fight through ideological passion; many others did so out of love for King and Country which you neither share nor especially care for.
The country is shifting from a wartime command model (of which you approve) toward free-market capitalism (which you oppose).
And there is an Established Church, which offends your atheism.
Despite a liberal trend in your lifetime, those who should be joining you in the class struggle are too often cheering the Queen, enjoying a pageantry to which you have no emotional commitment. You see ordinary working folk voting Conservative, dockers marching in support of Enoch Powell, and country folk mixing on cheerful terms with their class oppressors at local hunts, county shows, village fetes and cricket matches. They don't think much to your intellectual cosmopolitanism. They are so intellectually lazy and careless of their class interests.
Why wouldn't it make you hateful, dammit?
That is not to say any of this is an unqualified or malevolent response to your adopted countrymen, however alienated you may feel. Perhaps you like walking in the Lake District, listening to Elgar or watching Shakespeare's plays. Yet such mollifiers will not appease the abiding sense that these people wilfully refuse to accept your assessment of their best interests.
Love and hate can be closely aligned. and that may be the paradox here.
For what it's worth, Brother Ivo suspects Ed Miliband can probably identify enough aspects of Britain liked by his father to give him an Anglophile pass.
Nobody suggests that Ralph Miliband is proximate to those who have randomly put a bomb next to strangers, careless of who it might kill or maim. That is the action of those who truly "hate" Britain.
Yet, having said that, can we not agree that Ralph Miliband's "love" of Britain was highly qualified, and that through it all he continued to love Marxism much much more?
Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of Lawyers