In Greece, the British state’s primary aim was to hold the country within the imperialist camp after the defeat of fascism. This meant denying support to the Greek popular resistance movement and ultimately collaborating with pro-fascist elements of Greek society to suppress it with armed force. The Atlantic Charter’s proclaimed “respect [for] the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live” was trumped by the goals of imperialism and by the secret deal between Churchill and Stalin to carve up post-war Europe.
In Asia the war followed a similar pattern. Continue reading
The USA and the UK, just as much as their adversaries, fought the Second World War to defend and extend their imperial power – in defiance of their own proclaimed war aims.
The most explicit piece of evidence that the liberation of Europe was not an Allied war aim comes from the infamous “percentages agreement” between Churchill and Stalin, a deal struck at the Moscow Conference of 1944. Continue reading
It is obvious that the war fought by the Axis powers – Germany, Italy, Japan – was an extraordinarily and unprecedentedly savage war of imperial conquest and enslavement. And conversely, according to the “good war” myth, their adversaries – primarily Britain, the USA, the USSR – were therefore fighting:
- a war of self-defence
- a war for liberation
- a war for democracy
- a war against fascism, racism and genocide
The Second World War presents a problem for the left. Continue reading
I do not propose to write in depth at this stage about Edward Gibbon’s intellectual assumptions and preoccupations, as I hope to elucidate these through my reading of his Decline and Fall. But it would be useful to make some preliminary remarks about Gibbon as an Enlightenment thinker. Continue reading
Everyone has heard of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But how many have actually read it, all of it – six volumes, 1.5 million words, 8362 footnotes? I must confess that, although I have studied the later Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages (the “Dark Ages”, as they used to be called), I have not – beyond some excerpts in abridgement. So my project for the forthcoming year (or probably somewhat longer) is to rectify this, and as I do so, to summarise Gibbon, chapter by chapter, and attempt to work towards an understanding not only of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, but also of the nature of Gibbon’s historical work and thought. Continue reading