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British military symbols, Spitfires, Churchill and the BNP

October 20, 2009

Four senior army officers went public today in opposition to the use of British military symbols and heritage by ‘extremist’ groups or political parties. The implication was that the political parties they had in mind included the BNP, as reported by BBC News Online.

In response, one of the things said by a BNP spokesman was “The Spitfire is nothing to do with the modern military. It is to do with Britons fighting during the Second World War against European dictatorship.”

I suggest we look closely at the decisions that the British government and in particular Winston Churchill ( himself a popular icon amongst the more right wing parties) made about conducting a war against a European power.

At several stages, and especially in the summer of 1940 after the Dunkirk evacuation and the onset of the Battle of Britain, Churchill had the option to abstain from the war. Indeed, Hitler was taken aback that this didn’t happen. Britain could have left mainland Europe to the Nazis, and to a straight fight between them and Stalin’s Russia… a power which Britain might equally have feared, and whose Communism today’s right wingers would no doubt condemn outright as an even worse alternative.

The longer-term would have been more difficult to call, for a Britain which wished to retain an Empire, but in the short term Britain might pragmatically have agreed terms with Germany, and the Battle of Britain would never have happened… a much more attractive prospect than fighting on, with a skeleton army short of everything, and risking invasion and total collapse.

But Britain didn’t do that. Churchill didn’t do that. It wasn’t Germany, it was Hitler’s Nazi regime in Germany… a fascist, nationalist regime. Churchill’s primary motivation, however much you might pick apart his social views as those of an upper class Englishman born in the 1870s, stemmed from the fact that he saw Britain as a standard bearer for “decency”, a concept that mattered most to him, and therefore as a bulwark against the values of Hitler and the Nazis. This had nothing to do with Europe, geography, or super-states. Churchill ultimately committed Britain to the terrible risks and privations of continued war on behalf of ‘decency’ against a totalitarian, racist and anti-democratic regime.

That’s what the Battle of Britain, and the Spitfire, and Churchill himself all signify. A truly British, but not ultimately an introspectively nationalistic, stand against fascism and intolerance.

I just think that anyone who adopts those symbols, to signify the values of their own organisation, should be aware of this. It is well documented. If they continue to use those symbols in full knowledge of those values, because they genuinely aspire to them (no bull!) then I don’t think that anyone should complain… unless, of course, those professed values repeatedly fail to translate into action.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2009 10:08 pm

    Clever bastards, aren’t they? Spitfires, Churchill, brave Tommies are powerful symbols deeply ingrained in the British psyche. The trouble is that our education system is so piss-poor that nobody knows what the hell it all really means, they just believe that Britain (or, more exactly, Engerlund) is great and everyone else is crap. I’m depressed now.

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