Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Queen's Speech: The Christmas Truce

The Queen's Speech this year managed to plumb new depths of hypocrisy:


She was waffling on about 'reconciliation' and highlighted the Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 2014.

Well, hang about here. It was her extended family which started this war in the first place, the land-owning aristocracy in Germany, Russia and the UK all pitted their minions against each other (to distract them from radical ideas like Land Value Tax or Socialism). As it happens, the Russian aristocracy came off worst, being largely killed and/or dispossessed in the aftermath.

The German Junkers didn't do so badly, their Kaiser abdicated and the country became a republic, but apart from some Prussian landowners in the east whose land was transferred to Poland, the system of landownership remained largely intact (and exacerbated the effects of the Great Depression etc). British landowners got off more or less Scot free, although to be fair, they were the least-worst of the three groups.

The Christmas Truce itself was outright mutiny against the ruling classes, the poor sods in the trenches just said "we've had enough" and it didn't last long, the powers-that-be soon saw to that. The Queen's direct ancestors had plenty of mutinous minions pulled out of the front line and shot, no doubt the Germans and Russians did the same.

30 comments:

Ed P said...

I hope your grandparents never did anything wrong, as by your standards it's now your fault. Only kidding, Happy New Year!

Lola said...

There are six words that stop me being a republican...
President Thatcher
President Blair
President Brown

A K Haart said...

I don't think much of Brenda or her offspring, but Lola's list is downright scary, especially if President Balls was ever a possibility.

The Stigler said...

Lola,

They're all better than King Charles III, who is frankly an embarrassment. I've met middle managers that I'd rather have in the job.

Ireland doesn't have a problem with elected heads of state doing dinners with presidents, opening hospitals and all that in a non-political role. I want good people doing things like that not idiots by virtue of birth, something that we know scientifically produces a wide range of outcomes. In the absence of a better option, democracy seems like the best way.

Thankfully, their presence is mostly irrelevant to power. Things like appointing prime ministers is done by protocol. Most of their job is having fancy weddings, like a nationalised version of Hello magazine (their support is always boosted by weddings and births).

The Stigler said...

Lola,

They're all better than King Charles III, who is frankly an embarrassment. I've met middle managers that I'd rather have in the job.

Ireland doesn't have a problem with elected heads of state doing dinners with presidents, opening hospitals and all that in a non-political role. I want good people doing things like that not idiots by virtue of birth, something that we know scientifically produces a wide range of outcomes. In the absence of a better option, democracy seems like the best way.

Thankfully, their presence is mostly irrelevant to power. Things like appointing prime ministers is done by protocol. Most of their job is having fancy weddings, like a nationalised version of Hello magazine (their support is always boosted by weddings and births).

Lola said...

TS. Well, possibly. We don't know yet, although the signs aren't good.
Quite frankly the whole concept of a 'royal family'is just bizarre, bit so bizarre that is just might be the least worst system, as long as it a 'constitutional monarchy'. Presidents in the main always end up getting an inflated sense of their own wonderfulness, which Liz 2 hasn't. In any event the British P.M. has extraordinary powers in comparison with other genuine 'heads of state'.
It's MW's 'tried and tested' rule again.

Lola said...

TS. Your last paragraph is bang on.

DBC Reed said...

There is a an anti-landowner emphasis in this ,that is a touch misplaced surely. UK Landowners would not have given a toss in 1914 about land being invaded across the Channel. Neither would they have been that bothered about the Empire which was largely of benefit to the Manufacturing Interest which, by getting rid of the Corn Laws, made sure they could pay their workers less by the importation of cheap corn from the prairies, as Karl Marx correctly predicted.

The Stigler said...

Lola,

I don't think the measurement matters much. It's mostly opening hospitals and doing big expensive weddings. It's not like we'll be invaded by jihaidis or the economy will crash if they screw up.

But I never feel like any of them are in touch with me, and the sort of people I know. All this horse riding, hunting and this bucolic idea about the land feels very outdated. I don't get the impression that they're into any sort of lofty intellectual pursuits. They're like an old fashioned load of 1920s aristocrats.

And I don't feel like they even do the speeches and public appearances that well. The likes of Obama or Mary Robinson can. It always seems a bit shufflingly embarassing. These are supposed to be ambassadors for our country, symbols of our greatness and after decades, the Queen still seems uncomfortable in front of a camera.

Lola said...

TS
Para 1. True.
Para 2. Ooo er. The bucolic bit. Welcome to my world. I don't do fox hunt - don't like horses - and I don't shoot (well except rats with my air rifle, but I do get given game shot by mates.
Para 3. True. But so what? As long as they impress johnny foreigner when required..

Mark Wadsworth said...

Ed P, it's not a question of 'fault'. The current royal family is still very much benefitting from the crimes perpetrated by their ancestors.

L, you missed the point. This is about hypocrisy. And you present a false choice by suggesting that in a republic, the president is always somebody odious. And as it happens, the three you name were Prime Miinisters, which is equivalent in status/power to the president in many republics.

AKH, see reply to L.

TS, agreed but off topic. I was not talking about the royal family's power NOW (much diminished) I was talking about the landed gentry and royal families' powers in three large European countries a century ago, which was a fight to the death and our lot were the winners.

DBC, you are wrong. Proper industrialists (i.e. not arms manufacturers) have a lot to lose from warfare - spending is curtailed and trade is hindered. Just look at who was in charge at the time - they were the ones who started it.

Lola said...

NW. I think we are talking at cross purposes. I did get the hypocrisy. But the point I was making is what's the alternative?. I am also very aware that UK PM's are extremely powerful relative to, say, the US President. Overall, the Crown may be hugely hypocritical ( and enable all sorts of fire rewards like knighthoods), but it may be the least worst option as 'head of state'. Quite frankly I couldn't give a stuff about Liz and get family. I'll never get to meet them, which is a good thing, as I would not do the bowing scraping bit. but, everywhere you look in the world presidents get to be an even bigger pain in the arsenal. Of course in a true libertarian society you wouldn't have a head of state at all.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, like most Brits, I am perfectly happy with the idea of a 'constitutional monarchy', but what I don't like about our lot is that they are figureheads for Home-Owner-Ism and the human shield for the entire landowning classes.

Once we've got LVT and Buckingham Palace Gardens are turned into a public park, then it won't be an issue any more.

Lola said...

MW. Hmm. Well, going back to Magna Carta, as you have previously observed, it was the Barons what won it. That is taking the land taxes (aka rent)away from the State (i.e. the King) and keeping them for themselves. I would be quite happy to reverse that and then HMG would get the land taxes. The Crown, as we know, has to 'live off it's own',so the LVT raised would go on defence (not wars) and policing/system of justice etc etc. Clearly Liz and Co have been subject to an hostile takeover by the Land-ownerists, willingly I would hazard, in much the same way that the banks were willingly taken over by the regulationists (and bribed).

DBC Reed said...

@MW
Naturally the big industrialists had a lot to lose: markets and raw materials etc.This is why they were so keen to get involved in the war.(Once it got started the U-boat campaign soon demonstrated that their success in making the UK dependent on foreign food had a downside:incredible food shortages
with shops empty.)There was little point in our becoming involved in WW1: we could have left them to fight it out as we did in the Franco_Prussian War with a big fleet patrolling the Channel and North Sea i.e, if we had remained self sufficient in food and home production.
The landowners are not the only bastards we've had to contend with.Getting us strung out across the globe in Imperial trade arrangements was bound to have a massive downside.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, agreed.

DBC, agreed that we should have cut the French loose and stayed out of it, but please stop talking about "big industrialists" who are by implication somehow evil. Free markets and trade are good things, war is a bad thing and bad for free markets and trade. That affects small producers as much as large ones.

And unless you never drink tea or coffee, eat oranges, buy foreign made goods or go abroad on holiday, I don't see how you can argue against international trade.

The Stigler said...

Mark,

I agree. If you look at WW1, it basically wiped out a lot of monarchy in Europe - Germany, Italy and Russia. What followed wasn't great in those countries, but post-revolutionary societies are often a bloody mess for a while.

The effect of industrialisation in this country had a similar effect (both pre- and post- war). Factories took skilled workers away from the aristos and when we got tractors and modern agriculture, the value of good farm land fell. And with the loss of money went loss of power.

There's still some around (like the Duke of Westminster) with money, but a lot of them aren't.

What I can't figure out is why so many people watch this crap like Downton Abbey. It's another Upstairs, Downstairs projecting the aristocracy as noble men, as though they somehow deserved their wealth rather than being a bunch of people who at one time had done something for a king to get it given to them.

DBC Reed said...

MW
You seem to believe Imperialism and Free Trade are compatible.We spent a lot of time keeping competitors out of our markets ; particularly the Americans. Roosevelt Imperialism 1901 1909 on Google is quite succinct. I don't think you can call sponsoring a coup in Panama (then belonging to Colombia) and getting your stooges to sign up to the Panama Canal can be called free competition/free trade.
Looks like Big Governments trying to protect trade routes for Big Business to me.It started off with the East India Company then morphed into the Imperial Indian government.Even the privateers were supposed to be privately own though encouraged by our Gov to loot foreign ships.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DNC< no I am not confusing "imperialism" and "free trade".

You are so tedious sometimes. Read the post, comment on the post, that's what this is about. Agree or disagree, doesn't matter.

But doing what you do and telling somebody that he actually said something else (which is not even touched on or mentioned in the post) and then telling him he is wrong is just irritating.

DBC Reed said...

@MW Wait a minute.Did you or did you not say in your original piece that "the landowning aristocracy in Germany, Russia and the UK all pitted their minions against each other"? I simply pointed that landowners in these countries would not have been bothered about what was happening outside their borders and that the British Manufacturing Interest which depended on importing raw materials including workers' food and exporting finished goods might shoulder much of the blame.
How all this occasioned this ad hominem attack only you know.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, my view is that WW1 was about a stupid gamble between "Imperialists" and was very bad for "free trade". The German exporters were doing really well up to then but were knackered thereafter, and it did the UK economy a lot of harm.

The Communists were actually not quite as bad as the old Tsar etc, and the economy did slightly better under them, compared to before.

Bayard said...

I have to agree with DBC here. WWI was started by France and Russia. France wanted their own back after the Franco-Prussian war and Russia was their ally. We could have stayed out of it but we didn't, because Germany was stealing our trade. It was the industrialists who pushed us into WWI, not the aristos.
Mark, your analysis of the 1914 Christmas truce is wrong, (as was the Queen's). Fraternisation had been going on long before Christmas, the officers as much as the men. A friend of mine whose grandfather was in the trenches on the German side said that long before Christmas, they had run a telephone wire over to the English in the opposing trench and were able to warn each other of impending bombardments. All that happened at Christmas was that it all came out in the open. I very much suspect that the top brass knew about it all the time, but once the press got hold of it, had to clamp down as, although the public thought it good to have a truce at Christmas, in the rest of the year they were much keener on giving the Hun a good pasting.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B: "Germany was stealing our trade. It was the industrialists who pushed us into WWI, not the aristos"

Possibly. But that is about 'imperialism' and not 'free trade'. And had the ruling classes, from the King downwards been against us joining WW1, then we wouldn't have done.

You are also right that there were lots of local cease fires and truces all along the trenches throughout the war, it is just that the Xmas truce is the most famous one.

But so what? Had the Queen's Speech focussed on all these little local truces and praised them, it would have been just as hypocritical.

Lola said...

MW et al. Reading up On Queen Victoria it seems that she spent a lot of time trying to get all the European Royal Houses inter-elated by marriage just to try and prevent Europes interminable wars.
Didn't work did it?
Families, especially big ones, always row when there's lots of money or land involved.

Bayard said...

"Families, especially big ones, always row when there's lots of money or land involved."

Leaving your house jointly to your children will illustrate the truth of that nicely.

Bayard said...

Mark, I am not sure that it is fair to hold grandchildren responsible for the actions of their grandparents. If your grandfather had been a con man, swindling old ladies out of their money by selling dodgy investments, would think it hypocritical for you to be offering financial advice now?
If you take the view that it is not Liz Windsor, who is being hypocritical, but the Queen of England, then that means that all holders of office are bound by the actions of their predecessors, which is manifestly absurd, if you consider the actions of all the monarchs of Britain back to Arthur.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, good grief, I am not holding her personally responsible for WW1.

If your grandfather had been a con man, swindling old ladies out of their money by selling dodgy investments, would think it hypocritical for you to be offering financial advice now?

Not particularly. But that is a rubbish analogy. How about...

If your grandfather had been a con man, swindling old ladies out of their money by selling dodgy investments, would think it hypocritical for you to be boasting about how you are helping out their impoverished grandchildren by lending them the same money back at high rates of interest?

DBC Reed said...

Now that things have settled down somewhat, I hesitate to breathe life into the old disagreement but the British tended to confuse free trade with outright imperialism.Palmerston forced opium on the Chinese by naval bombardment (snapping up Hong Kong into the bargain)by claiming that their refusal to buy the stuff off us ,when we bought so much silk ,porcelain etc off them, was an infringement of "free trade".When the Americans tried to muscle into the Chinese market (circa 1900) which we and the French had eventually opened up, they called it their Open Door Policy which makes it clear that the door to Chinese trade had hitherto been barred to them.The last thing we wanted was free trade competition in the new non-European markets.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, nobody is disputing any of that. But while my passport says I am British, that does not mean that I can't tell the difference between "imperialism" and "free trade".

It's an interesting topic, i suppose, but rather than raking over old history, it would be interesting to look at the EU, which is a bizarre mix of two opposites:
a) free trade and
b) imperialism-protectionism-mercantilism
all rolled up into one incoherent bundle.

DBC Reed said...

It seems significant that European Union was kicked off in the UK by Oswald Mosley's Union movement. Autarky or economic self sufficiency would appear to be essential as he proposed Africa (for its raw materials) should be part of his Europe!
John Laughland in "The Tainted Source" explores at length the part played by Italian Fascist, Nazi and even some Communist policies in the setting up of European institutions.
I was very influenced in my anti Common Market days by left-wing propaganda that Churchill had got worked over by the Americans in the Atlantic Charter and had sacrificed all Britain's mercantilist "Imperial Preference " markets to get The USA to enter the war (to no avail).This extreme idea, which had some wild ramifications, now seems to be re-emerging this year in the columns of Peter Hitchens e.g. Shoulder to shoulder or cynical calculation? The US UK relationship.
The idea used to be that the US having robbed us of our Imperial Preference Markets tidied us up by attaching us to the Common Market, there being nowhere else to go.
I suppose you could say that the US is carrying on with very ancient mercantilist policies .