Issue 216 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published February 1998 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Pat Stack

'We don't care about Hitler's views
Although he killed six million Jews
It doesn't matter that he was a Fascist
At least you can't say he was a Communist.'
So went one verse of Bob Dylan's 'talking John Birch Society Blues', a lampoon of the mad anti-Communist, witch hunting organisation that was active in the US in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dylan came somewhat nearer to the truth than you might think, for one of the charges against 'leftists' by McCarthyite witch hunters was that the individual under investigation was 'prematurely anti-fascist'.

Bizarrely, if you were anti-fascist before the Second World War broke out, if you had opposed, say, the rise of Hitler, Mussolini or Franco, then you were a dubious sort - maybe not a Communist but certainly a 'fellow traveller'. Of course when the Stars and Stripes were being waved against the Germans on the battlefield, then anti-fascism was acceptable, or even patriotic.

Such absurdity led at the outbreak of the Cold War to an anti-Communist hysteria which meant that the House Un-American Activities Committee, the John Birch Society and a host of right wing groups went desperately looking for Communists everywhere.

George Lincoln Rockwell could openly organise his Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan could continue to gather, but dangerous subversives like Hollywood scriptwriters would come under the hammer for threatening to end civilisation as America knew it.

Nazis were not un-American, it was claimed, just good ol' boys gone slightly astray. Most of them, after all, were clean living, god fearing folk. They may beat or even lynch the odd black, but they went to church on Sunday, didn't take drugs and didn't have sex till they were married. So what did fascism or violence matter compared to such clean living?

Such attitudes were not confined to Cold War America. I remember my father once telling me about a family that had lived near him in rural Ireland when he was a young boy. The family had developed a feud about a portion of land (a very small portion according to my father) which had ended up with two of the sons murdering a third son and the father. My father explained all this to me and finished by saying, 'To top it all off, the eldest daughter brought shame on the family.'

What on earth, you may ask, could she have done that was so awful as to have brought shame on this group of land crazed murderers? Well she had committed what was seen as a far greater crime than the odd bit of family murder - she had had a baby out of wedlock.

Such was the moral mayhem of Catholic Ireland at that time that hers was seen as the truly evil act. I'm not saying my father held this view - I don't think he did. But nevertheless he could use such phrases as 'bringing shame on the family' without truly comprehending the awful irony of the whole affair.

Nor should we believe that because we've lived through the era of sex and drugs and rock and roll that such views are consigned to the pages of history. In fact you could find almost identical views being spouted in a recent edition of the Guardian.

The paper was reporting on the reaction of a group of Northern Ireland Loyalists to a new film that has just been released. The film, Resurrection Man, is about a group of Northern Ireland Loyalists who were known as the Shankill Butchers. In it they are depicted as wearing Nazi regalia, and two of them are shown kissing.

This has caused outrage amongst Loyalists in Northern Ireland. The Rev Roy Magee, a Protestant fundamentalist minister, has stated, 'It's a very grave slur against them. They were married men. This would be very damaging and hurtful to their families. I'll be speaking to the leadership of the UVF about this. I'm meeting them soon and I know they'll be concerned.'

Kenny McClinton, a former UVF commander who has since renounced violence, commented, 'I'm not condoning anything I or the butcher boys did but I know this will upset them.'

Ah yes, and what was it these 'boys did' that Kenny doesn't condone? Clearly something fairly trivial if the worse slur that can be thrown at them was that they were gay.

Well in two years between 1976 to 1978, they murdered some 20 Catholics. These Catholics were not politicos, or IRA men - they were simply Catholic. Nor did 'the boys' simply kill them. No, they kidnapped them, inflicted unspeakable tortures and when they grew tired of their sadistic games they would slit the throats of their victims. These remain the most notorious sectarian and horrific killings of the whole Northern Ireland conflict

Now I have no idea nor interest in their sexuality. But if they are not gay then it seems to me the people who should be shouting 'slur' are gays everywhere, not these sectarian monsters.

How strange that there are still those who think that two men kissing is worse than cold blooded mutilation and murder, and who feel they can protest without the slightest sense of irony.

In Dylan's song the member of the John Bircher society becomes unsure of his investigations when he finds red stripes in the American flag. Irish Catholicism has lost its certainty as its sexual hypocrisy has been exposed. Now some Loyalists are having their sexuality questioned, yet still don't see that this is about the least harmful allegation you could throw at them.

It seems there are still those with a sense of proportion about as realistic as them good ol' Birchers.

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