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Ralph Miliband didn’t hate Britain and nor did my friend Lou

Mail cutting on Ralph MilibandI didn’t know Ralph Miliband, although I knew many who did. But I did know Lou Kenton, of the same generation, also a Jewish Marxist, who distinguished himself as a volunteer ambulance driver with the International Brigades in Spain and doing successful battle with Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in Cable Street in London’s East End.

This was at a time when Viscount Rothermere’s Daily Mail enthusiastically bellowed ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’, while prominent members of the British Establishment, including from the Royal family, were busy appeasing the Nazis and hunting wild boar with Herman Goering in the forests of East Prussia. This was a time when the Midlands Industrial Council – full of Tory donors – enthused over Hitler’s brave new World and the Duke of Windsor shook hands with the upstart German Chancellor. Lest it be forgotten, had Hitler’s armies defeated Britain, it was his intention to instate the Quisling Duke on the throne – which is why Winston Churchill had him bundled off to be Governor of the Bahamas.
Lou would have been the first to volunteer that he was more ‘hand than brain’ than Ralph Miliband. But he shared the solidarity and internationalism that distinguished such a remarkable generation whose formative experiences in a country that had given them and their families refuge from from persecution, gave them special reason to love the spirit and generosity of the people of these islands.
I worked with Lou when we raised funds for trees to be planted aroujnd the Czech village of Lidice, liquidated by the Nazis, in reprisal for the assassination of one of the architects of the Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich. Lou, like Ralph Miliband, never abandoned his Marxist beliefs. For Lou the Soviet invasion of Czechoslavakia in 1968 saw him abandon the Communist Party for the Labour Party.
Just because people like Lou had no time for the rotten British Establishment – and thought – to coin a phrase, that Britain ‘could do better’, could not, in the wildest stretch of the fevered imagination of Paul Dacre, mean that he hated Britain.
Both Lou Kenton and Ralph Miliband would, I suspect regard the current, deeply unpleasant background racket from the puerile right wing and a newspaper editor, who should know better, as time to, in the words of George Washington; ‘Guard against the imposture of pretended patriotism’.

5 Comments

  1. ray davison says:

    Congratulations Mark Seddon, Philoctetes without a foot wound and with arrows true…

  2. swatantra says:

    A moving piece. You speak for all of us Mark.

  3. Mark Seddon says:

    Thanks to both of you. Do have a look at this as well;
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/03/ralph-miliband-british-values-daily-mail?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
    A reminder in Ian Aitken of the journalism so missing from The Guardian generally.

  4. Robert says:

    What can one say, the Tories have a conference people are ready to answer the attack on the under twenty fives and bang what do we have a battle over Ed Miliband’s dad, by a news paper I’d not wipe my ass with.

    I actually read a few of Milibands books and to me the best was the one just before he died the socialism for a skeptical age, because boy am I skeptical of all parties at the moment.

    Not saying I understand all of it he can get into the deeper side of the issues.

    But on the whole the bloke has been a benefit to this country he fought in the war, he did more then some of the parents of the Mails journalist it seems.

    But in the end the Daily Mail is working well at a time when the whole world is looking at clamping down on Journalist and media.

    Talk about cutting your own throat.

  5. David Pavett says:

    @Mark Seddon

    I read the Ian Aitkin piece but was not so impressed by it as Mark Seddon appears to have been. The correcting of the record about Ralph Miliband was good – except I could have done without Aitkin’s prejudices against Marxism. He felt it necessary to say that its “core philosophy” is “determinist” and “dirigiste”. This is the standard nonsense that one can learn on university courses but it has little to do with what Marx actually wrote. Moreover I am sure that Ralph Miliband would have rejected such an interpretation.

    But even more important to me was that while combating the prejudice and chauvinism of the Daily Mail Ian Aitkin could not resist indulging in some of it himself. Thus we find tolerance and generosity described as “good old British values” (or something of that sort). Since when were tolerance and generosity “British” values as opposed to general human values. Both, and their opposites, are found in all cultures. I find the constant description of general human values found everywhere as “British” values highly objectionable. It is a pity that an article which set out to combat one set of prejudices ended up by supporting others.

    P.S. I also knew Lou Kenton and have good memories of him as a kind and considerate man.

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