Ron Unz has been posting some interesting articles on historical revisionism lately. Historical revisionism always gets my attention.
Of course revisionist historians have to be approached with caution since they usually have an axe to grind, but on the other hand the mainstream historians pushing the orthodox line usually have axes to grind as well. That’s the thing about history – everybody has an axe to grind. Everybody has an agenda. Not surprising, since as Orwell tells us, who controls the past controls the future. History is and always has been propaganda. As Napoleon put it, history is a set of lies agreed upon.
One of the most interesting of Ron Unz’s posts, Post-War France and Post-War Germany, deals with France under the Vichy regime and France after the Liberation. The idea that after the Liberation of France up to 80,000 people, or possibly even as many as 105,000, were summarily executed as collaborators is rather disturbing. It’s even more disturbing that a very large number may have been executed by the communists in the Resistance, for the crime of being anti-communist.
The whole subject of the Resistance is one that the defenders of the orthodox line would prefer to avoid. There is no doubt that most of those who claimed to have fought for the Resistance actually joined after the Liberation. By the late 40s it seemed that every single Frenchman claimed to have been a brave Resistance fighter.
In fact most of the these wartime resistance movements that were so enthusiastically supported by Churchill were dominated by communists who were more interested in strengthening their position in the post-war world than in actually doing anything useful to win the war. What they mostly achieved was to provoke retaliations that led to the deaths of countless innocent people, whilst contributing very little to winning the war. Churchill may in this case have been merely deluded in believing that these groups were more useful than they actually were but it’s also pretty clear that he wasn’t especially bothered by the deaths of so many innocent civilians in the resulting reprisals. Just as he was quite unconcerned by the deaths of civilians (including French civilians) in British bombing raids.
Of course these are still very emotional subjects that most people would prefer not to think about. The orthodox historical account, the accepted narrative, is very comforting and inspiring. And it has to be admitted that revisionist historians are sometimes wrong. They do sometimes attract people who are candidates for tinfoil hats. But the revisionists are not always wrong.