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Sunday, 13 October 2013

Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism

In today's Guardian Paul Dacre made an attempt to defend Geoffrey's Levy's attack on Ralph Miliband. "Surely, we reasoned, the public had the right to know what influence the Labour leader's Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking. So it was that Levy's article examined the views held by Miliband senior over his lifetime, not just as a 17-year-old youth as has been alleged by our critics. The picture that emerged was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers' revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the royal family, the church and the army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy. Levy's article argued that the Marxism that inspired Ralph Miliband had provided the philosophical underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes – a regime, incidentally, that totally crushed freedom of expression."

Of course it is completely untrue that Ralph Miliband "gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s." Miliband was in fact one of the leading Marxist critics of the Soviet government during this period. As his biographer, Michael Newman, has pointed out: "Miliband was... politically homeless in post-war Britain. He regarded himself as a Marxist, but was increasingly critical of the Soviet Union and Communist Party allegiance to it. He had several friends in the Labour Party, but there is little to suggest that he had any great enthusiasm for it and, in any case, the Labour Left seemed extremely weak." In 1968 he wrote to his great friend, Marcel Liebman: "The invasion of Czechoslovakia show very well that this oppressive and authoritarian Russian socialism has nothing in common with the socialism that we demand, and we must state this very loudly, even at the risk of seeming to be anti-soviet and to echo bourgeois propaganda."

Dacre's claims that "the Marxism that inspired Ralph Miliband had provided the philosophical underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes – a regime, incidentally, that totally crushed freedom of expression" is of course ridiculous. But what about the owner of the Daily Mail who championed Adolf Hitler in the 1930s? Was he not "underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes"?

The liberal press has made the point several times over the last couple of weeks about the articles published by Lord Rothermere in the lead up to the Second World War. However, no references have been made to the treasonous letters he sent to Hitler during this period. These were released by MI5 in 2005. However, it was several years earlier that the FBI made their files available on Lord Rothermere. Surprisingly, the national press don't seem very interested in this story. However, it is one of the most interesting of the Second World War. 

The story begins in 1927. At that time Rotheremere's personal wealth was around £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere spent three months of the year gambling in Monte Carlo. It was here he met Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe in 1927. According to a FBI file, Stephanie had targeted Rothermere. It said that "she was reputedly immoral, and capable of resorting to any means, even bribery, to get her ends." They both enjoyed gambling and she described Rothermere as "a fabulous plunger at the casino tables". 

Princess Stephanie persuaded Rothermere that the defeated nations had been badly treated by the Treaty of Versailles. Rothermere was impressed by her arguments and her understanding of the problem. Rothermere agreed to write an editorial on the subject. On 21st June, 1927, The Daily Mail argued: "Eastern Europe is strewn with Alsace-Lorraines. By severing from France the twin provinces of that name the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 made another European war inevitable. The same blunder has been committed on a larger scale in the peace treaties which divided up the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. They have been created dissatisfied minorities in half a dozen parts of Central Europe, any one of which may be the starting point of another conflagration." 

In 1931 Princess Stephanie now moved to London where she took an apartment on the sixth floor of the Dorchester Hotel. An American banker, Donald Malcolm, spent a great deal of time with Stephanie and advised her to negotiate a contract with Rothermere. According to Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stefanie Von Hohenlohe (2011): "Clinching the contract was not difficult to achieve. She reminded Rothermere of the success of her intervention over Hungary, and persuaded the press baron to appoint her as his emissary in Europe. She argued - and this was undoubtedly true - that she had the contacts to gain admittance to many of Europe's most powerful people, and that she could open doors to almost every exclusive social circle on the Continent." It was later revealed that Rothermere paid the Princess Stephanie £5,000 a year (equal to £200,000 in 2013) to act as his emissary in Europe.

In November, 1933, Lord Rothermere gave Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe the task of establishing personal contact with Adolf Hitler. Princess Stephanie later recalled: "Rothermere came from a family that had experienced the novel possibility of influencing international politics through newspapers and was determined to sound out Hitler." Stephanie went to Berlin and began a sexual relationship with Captain Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler's personal adjutant. Wiedemann reported back to Hitler that Stephanie was the mistress of Lord Rothermere. Hitler decided that she could be of future use to the government and gave Wiedemann 20,000 Reichsmarks as a maintenance allowance to ensure that she had her hotel, restaurant bills, telephone bills and taxi and travel fares paid. Wiedemann was also allowed to buy her expensive clothes and gifts.

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