Sunday, 8 June 2014

Arthur Donaldson and others

It was the seventieth anniversary of D-Day on Friday past.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has many great achievements to its name but surely its role in the defeat of Naziism is the greatest of these.

And, now the full history is known, it can be realised that it was a close run thing.

Those in the Conservative and Liberal ranks who would have appeased Hitler emerge with much discredit. As indeed do those of a 1930s pacifist bent in my own Party. But, in the end, Labour, at the instigation famously of Ernie Bevin, ditched the pacifist Lansbury and installed as leader instead Major Clement Attlee. Much more importantly, when that self same Attlee, at the demand of Leo Amery, spoke "for England" during the Norway debate, the Tories finally got it too. Not just that Chamberlain had to go but that the only credible candidate to replace him was Churchill.

And the ultimate triumph of these political events came on 6th June 1944 and over the ten months that followed until final victory.

Now, ask any Tory, Liberal or Socialist today about their own Party's history and they will acknowledge these events. They will be entitled to observe that neither Lansbury nor Chamberlain actively sympathised with Nazi ideology but they would readily acknowledge that their respective political responses to Naziism at the time were, not even just with the benefit of hindsight, fundamentally wrong.

Nothing I have said above is remotely controversial.

So, let us turn to the case of the fourth participant in Scotland's democracy. The SNP.

Now, in the 1930s they were a relatively new phenomenon, having only been founded in 1934. Actually, you would have thought that this being their eightieth anniversary they might have been keener to publicise that. I mean, all Parties are proud of their history. But for some reason the SNP are not. Here is why.

The original leader of the SNP was the innocuous figure of Alexander McEwan, who was even knighted by the King for his public service. But he was insufficiently Scottish for the rank and file. So in 1936 he was bumped out in favour of one Andrew Dewar Gibb. And let us be in no doubt about it, this man was a fascist.

Obviously, there were relatively few Jews in Scotland so Gibb seized on another target; Irish Catholics. You don't need to take my word for this, he wrote a number of books about the danger of Irish Catholics to the well-being of Scotland. And just like the wee man with the moustache, since outright racism needed a rationale, he seized not on their origin but their religion as their "fault". He was particularly outraged that "these people" (as he would have it) not only were allowed a vote but then used that vote to support the Labour Party. For he hated the Labour Party. But not quite as much as he hated the Communist Party, which he described as "too largely Jewish in origin".

There you are. One of Alex Salmond's direct predecessors. Never disowned by the SNP to this day.

But, I hear you cry, this was a long time ago!.As indeed it was, although still within the living memory of those who returned to Normandy this week.

So, presumably when Gibb departed, the Nats saw sense. No more anti-semitism. Well, No.

In May 1941 a man called Arthur Donaldson was detained under the emergency powers regulations for his pro Nazi sympathies. For he had been foolish enough to say the previous January to an MI5 officer (who he believed to be a sympathiser)

"We must, he declared, be able to show the German Government that we are organised and that we have a clear cut policy for the betterment of Scotland; that we have tried our best to persuade the English Government that we want Scottish Independence and that we are not in with them in this war. If we can do that you can be sure that Germany will give us every possible assistance in our early struggle. The time is not yet ripe for us to start a virile campaign against England, but when fire and confusion is at its height in England, we can start in earnest. He then went on to tell them that he had an idea in his mind for fixing up a wireless transmitting set in a thickly populated district in Glasgow or Edinburgh, in order to give broadcasts to the public"

(My emphasis)

Now, let's just consider when this conversation took place. After Kristallnacht. After the fall of France. When any lingering doubts about the nature of the Nazi regime could not surely be held by any reasonably informed person.  Yet here was this man wishing for a German victory and actively distancing himself from any continued resistance to it.

So what, I here you cry again?  So what even if this guy was a member of the SNP? All Parties have nutty members.

Except that in 1960, during my lifetime, after six million Jews had died, twenty million or more Russians and indeed more than 50,000 Scots, without ever disowning these views, this man was elected Leader of the SNP. 

And I will, believe me, come back to that.

For even then you say, this is all still history!

Well, Donaldson served as leader of the SNP until 1969, when he was succeeeded by a man called William Wolfe. Mr Wolfe was clever enough to keep any pro Nazi sympathies under wraps. But he remained in office until 1979, during which time, before 2007 at least, the Nationalists were at their most electorally successful. When, having demitted office, he was given the honorary position of Party President. And Mr Wolfe might then have faded into obscurity. Except that the removal of political necessity allowed him to express his true views.

In 1982, Pope John Paul II came to Scotland. I am  not a Catholic or even an unconditional admirer of the Catholic Church. But I recognised even then that this was an important and good man in the slow thawing of the Cold War. At least as importantly a man whose presence on Scottish soil would bring great joy to many of my fellow Scottish citizens. Except that wasn't the view of Mr Wolfe, let us not forget, leader of the SNP for a full ten years. 

Catholicism, he believed, was an alien religion, practiced largely by Irish immigrants, who, even if they had by now been here for several generations were, by implication, not "true" Scots. Now, don't forget, this wasn't in the depths of history, it was only just over thirty years ago. When Alex Salmond was already a member of the SNP. And while it might only have been in 1982 that Wolfe made his views public they could surely not have been a secret to those who worked with him daily before that?

Although, since those of you who have borne with me this far might see the echo of the words of Andrew Dewar Gibb, perhaps it is not unreasonable to assume they were widely shared internally within the SNP. After all, the Catholics weren't "really" Scottish. That was demonstrated by their voting Labour.

And the reaction of the SNP to Wolfe's remarks at the time? Did they disown him, expel him? Did they........

Instead they protested mildly that he did not speak for the SNP. Far from him being expelled or even being removed from office, instead he was allowed to step down in his own time and when he died in 2010, (yes, that's right, just four years ago), he was described by Alex Salmond, cuddly friendly inclusive Alex Salmond, as 

"incredibly influential in developing a social democratic ethos for the SNP in terms of its political identity".

Well, I don't know about you but that tends to lead me to think that Mr Salmond must have a pretty warped view of social democracy if he believes that Mr Wolfe had a place within its ranks. Mr Wolfe was a piece of racist scum would have been more in line with my assessment although,  to be fair, the First Minister might just have said that it was best not to speak ill of the dead. Except, tellingly, he didn't.

But anyway, that was four years ago! Since then the SNP really really have been converted to social democracy. I mean look at Yes Scotland! It has the support of Pat Kane, Lesley Riddoch, Patrick Harvie. These people aren't fascists!

And of course they aren't. Nor indeed are most modern members of the SNP. But, and this is a big but, why won't the SNP confront their own history? And why won't their media cheerleaders demand that they do so.

I realise that this is an angry piece. It is anger provoked by an article in today's Sunday Herald. In it Iain McWhirter states

"The character of "Naw" is revealed Daily in the stream of sneering tweets by its social media outriders who portray the SNP as Party that celebrates Nazi-sympathisers............"

I think by that he means me for I had indeed pointed this out on Twitter.

But more tellingly he goes on to assert

"I don't know who they think believes this stuff"

Well, I believe it. Only belief is not the right word for I know it with certainty to be true. Every year, every single year, at the SNP Conference, as part of the official programme, there is an Arthur Donaldson Memorial lecture. Yes, that Arthur Donaldson, the one who was interned for being..........a Nazi sympathiser. Last year it was delivered by Andrew Wilson. The year before by Blair Jenkins. That is a matter of public record. And Iain McWhirter knows that for, as a journalist, he will surely have attended at least one of these events.

So, two final questions.

The first for which I cannot possibly find an answer is why Iain wrote what he did? You'd need to ask him that.

The second is however more telling. Why do the Nats persist in honouring this man Donaldson? Even I don't believe the likes of Nicola Sturgeon or Roseanna Cunningham would want, in an ideal world, to have anything to do with him.

The reason is that to drop the Donaldson lecture would infuriate a significant minority in nationalist ranks. Who would dissent, thus highlighting their views. And that would be disastrous for the SNP electorally. So let us all, they calculate, just ignore that this happens and hope that nobody notices. That nobody notices that a significant minority in our governing Party hate the English so much that they believe that even a Nazi victory in the Second World War would have been an opportunity for "the betterment of Scotland."

And let's just pretend for the moment that these people, the Donaldson faction, SNP rank and file in some number, after independence, would not then be likely to move on to hating somebody else. Somebody nearer at hand. Citing indeed that such views had a legitimate tradition within "their" Party.

It is annoying enough when the Nats mislead people about the future but when they are prepared also to mislead them about the past? What kind of regimes come to mind as doing that?



















12 comments:

  1. Or indeed, Wolfe's notorious comments when still PRESIDENT of the SNP, in Life & Work, criticising the UK accepting an Ambassador from the Vatican, his reference to Argentina as "the cruel and ruthless dictatorship of a Roman Catholic state." Why he felt the need to add anything after "dictatorship" is beyond me.

    He went on to described Falkland Islanders as "mainly Protestant and democratically minded Falklanders, mostly descendants of Scots." Why the need to emphasise religion?

    Wolfe stood down after this but it's worth remembering that the year previously this odious bigot defeated the WW2 veteran Donald Stewart for the presidency. This was in 1981, scarcely the dim, distant past.

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  2. This is good. The SNP's questionable past does not bother me nearly so much as their refusal to engage with it, not because they are extreme nationalists but because they are cynical, and can see that it would be a difficult conversation.

    Minor quibble: The estimate "twenty million or more Russians" dead in the Second World War—the current consensus is that the number is closer to twenty-five million—is actually that of the total Soviet dead.

    During the Second World War, Russians made up between 50% and 60% of the total Soviet population. Of the war dead, national minorities were disproportionally represented because it was the Soviet territories of Eastern Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine and Belarus that were invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941; they were stopped and turned back in the extreme west of Russia, most famously at Leningrad and Stalingrad, and so did not occupy large swathes of Russia. As such, it was in the Western SSRs that the majority of fighting and mass-killing took place: the Nazis killed fewer Russians because they did not control territory in which many Russians lived. The Red Army contained many million non-Russians—including Jews, who were statistically more likely to gain medals for bravery than any other Soviet nationality. This is not to understate the extreme suffering of Russians, but to avoid erasing that of other nations.

    It's also important to remember that in 1941 the extreme Western Soviet territory—that is, Eastern Poland and the Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—were seized as part of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact and so had been a part of the Soviet Union for only two wartime years.

    Daniel Rivas Perez (@drivasperez)

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    1. You are of course correct that the correct classification should have been citizens of the Soviet Union. I would have corrected that but it would then have made your own comment apparently nonsensical!

      Thanks for commenting. I agree with your thoughts in the first paragraph

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  3. Now that the SNP, whom many used to dismiss as "Tartan Tories", have reinvented themselves as the standard bearers of social democracy, and advance this vision not just as their blueprint for an independent Scotland, but the main reason for voting for it, it is vital that all of this is aired - their fascist past and the unpleasant views within their present ranks.

    For those who haven't read it, I recommend CJ Sansom's Dominion, an alternative history novel. Sansom, a historian by profession, adds a historical note to the novel, saying more about the SNP's fascist roots, and it's similarity to contemporary petty nationalisms across Europe.

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  4. Am I right in thinking that the SNP expelled Alex Salmond and others in the 79 group were expelled from the SNP? - so not beyond the wit of the SNP to expel people with odious views should they feel so moved to do so.

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  5. Ian your so blinded by the the SNP you forget many of us share billy kay values for Scotland

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  6. Spot on about Donaldson and the SNP blind eye - with Wolfe though you should really point out that he later recanted -"I ask for forgiveness of those whom I hurt, if they understand me now. I can see myself then as others saw me...I don’t know why I did it” - indeed his last wife was a Catholic.

    Also those attitudes were pretty damn prevalent - indeed dominant - in Scotland until a few decades ago. I remember Teddy Taylor saying some eyepopping things about the Pope's visit when he was MP for Cathcart!

    We have all moved on, but you are right - facts are chiels, whether we like them or not

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  7. Their beloved founder, Hugh McDiarmid (sorry Christopher Grieve, lets not give the fraud his made up moniker) was a Fascist at one point, and in 1940-41, wrote a poem hailing the Nazi bombing of London and the UK.

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  8. To view the prospect of your neighbours houses ablaze as an opportunity to put food on your own plate, it takes a certain nasty quality to hasten that outcome let alone stand aside and have it fall to you. This latent racism has undergoing a revival courtesy of the SNP. Just ask Faisal Islam.

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  9. If you look on Wikipedia, which most people use, you will find no mention of these things when you look at the entries for individual SNP leaders, no mention of the 'Green Terror' in the entry for Andrew Dewar Gibb for example.

    Nothing either on the page for the SNP about it's Nazi flirtations, just look in the history section, it's like it never happened, funny that...

    It's all been airbrushed out, and sanitised.

    You might think the SNP had something to hide, underneath that mask of 'Civic' Nationalism, but scratch the surface of it, especially with any cybernat, and you'll soon find good old 'Blood and soil' nationalism lurking underneath.

    Curiously there are still Fascist groups lurking around the fringes of the SNP folk like these;

    http://www.siol-nan-gaidheal.org/title.htm

    Take a look at the section marked 'Demographics' with its talk of 'White settlers' and 'Colonialists' no prizes for guessing who they are referring to!

    Yes their leader one Bruce Ogilvie, is openly racist and has been photographed with Alex Salmond.

    https://twitter.com/snpfail/status/582674444390391809

    He also was part of the group harassing Jim Murphy during the Independence referendum, so they are still there participating in Nationalist events.

    Some things never change...

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  10. Strange when you think of it in Ireland the catholic Irish many had sympathy towards Nazi Germany there leader even signed the book of condolence when Hitler died so I think it has more to do to hating the English than religion

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  11. "Donaldson - N@zi sympathiser and antisemite."
    But to us middle class Scots he was a hero, and as far as I know, neither a nazi sympathiser or hater, and certainly not anti -German.
    He believed that Scotland should be a neutral country, like Portugal, Spain and Sweden and that it should be left to Scots to decide for themselves which side, if any, they should fight for....as was the old Scots custom.....and went to jail for this.....not the luxury jail of Nelson Mandela but a cruel harsh place.
    He felt it was wrong for Scots to be dragooned into fighting for the jewish- led English, probably having in mind the carnage of the Somme where some 30,000 lives were sacrificed in a morning.
    Even the dear old jews can't match that with their largely fictitious ....holocoust.
    Censored by the Spectator….13/08/16.

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