There is, however, just enough truth in Churchill’s dictum to make it widely accepted by non-historians at least. It is plausible to assume that the weight of the state can manipulate a narrative to create a “useable past” which reinforces a status quo and provides an intellectual integrity to the setting of specific objectives and the means used to achieve them.
Plausible but wrong.
I am not an academic, and certainly no historian. I didn’t ‘read’ history at university. But all my life I have read history voraciously and I have been attracted, primarily, to the “lost cause”: those movements, philosophies, revolutions and revolts which coruscated briefly before, ultimately and often quickly, failing.
I guess I am hard-wired for opposition.
The road not taken is, for me, more interesting than the motorway along which we all race today. Not least because “History to the defeated/may say Alas but cannot help or pardon”.
And it is significant that Auden, who wrote those lines in 1937 in his poem Spain later renounced his communism and the poem itself. The volunteer ambulance driver on the Republican side took only a few steps along that road before taking the slip-road to the mainstream motorway. He fought in Spain, but when the real war against Nazi Germany, for which Spain was a rehearsal, broke out in 1939, he decamped to the United States.
He called the transAtlantic move “a new way of happening”. Others called it betrayal. “But today the struggle” he claimed. Yeh, right.
Nevertheless, it is that final stanza of Spain which has given me my title and theme for my 2018 project. And I’m putting this resolution out there to ensure that I remain committed.
It will be a book. And a podcast. And a website. It will discuss the failures of the Levellers, the Weather Underground and the Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof gang). To balance the political scales, it will address movements such as the British Union of Fascists (Mosley’s lot) during the ‘30s and perhaps Prohibition - I am open to suggestions.
Not Dark Yet, my musings on baseball and Bob and books, will continue in its parallel world here at www.everysmith.com. But my priority will be this history of historical failure.
It will be entitled History to the Defeated and www.historytothedefeated.net has been duly registered. I am hoping – ambitiously, you may think, as I do – to research, write and record one topic per month throughout 2018.
But, by the end of next year, I at least will be able to say, with Maurice Merleau-Ponty, that “nous avons appris l’Histoire et nous pretendons qu’il ne faut pas l’oublier”.
Today from the everysmith vaults: I have always preferred the acoustic work of Hot Tuna to their electric stuff. So I am delighted to acquire two acoustic shows recently, and the one I am listening to right now is from the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma CA back in 2000. “If you don’t know Jorma, you don’t know Jack!”