I 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’.