Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Home Guard 70 Years On

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the Home Guard. The BBC has reported that it is being marked by a number of events such as archaeological work at Osterley Park, where the Home Guard trained its members. Part of the Transitional Programme echoes the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia, and calls for the establishment of a Workers' Militia. Engels also favoured Universal Conscription, which he said was the necessary concomitant of Universal Suffrage. The history of the establishment of the Home Guard is important for socialists in all these respects, and more. It owed its establishment ot the work of one Communist – Tom Wintringham.

During the 1930’s repeated demands had been raised, by Tom Wintringham, for Britain to introduce adequate Air Raid Protection (ARP) measures. Wintringham had been a founding member of the British Communist Party. On the outbreak of the First World War he had given up his studies at Oxford University and signed up for the Royal Flying Corps. His politics are somewhat eclectic. Long before the policy was adopted by the Comintern he argued for cross class Popular Fronts. But, Wintringham also seems to have developed, fairly early on, some unease at the polciies being adopted by Stalin, and his Popular Frontism seems also to have been driven by a concern that change should be driven from the bottom up, rather than from the State down, as his later political activity demonstrated.

In the 1930’s he went to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, and became the Commander of the English Battalion of the International Brigade.

See: Wintringham .

There he learned guerilla tactics, and as WWII loomed he argued not only the need for ARP measures, but also that the British people should be trained in such tactics to fight against any invaders. He argued strongly in favour of the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV), which was to become the Home Guard. But, when the LDV was first established it was a haphazard affair, much like the portrayal in “Dad’s Army”. Wintringham was brought in to organise proper training at Osterley Park.

See: Wintringham and the Home Guard .

Wintringham worked for the Picture Post, and when the film “The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp” was made it was Wintringham whose role was portrayed. Osterely Park was established not as a Government facility, but a private facility by the Picture Post.

See: Picture Post

Ironically, although a large part of the initial organisation and training for the Home Guard is attributable to Wintringham, he was not allowed to join it himself, because he was a member of the Communist Party!!!!

In Spain, Wintringham had an affair with an American Trotskyist, Kitty Bowler, who became his wife. His refusal to leave her led to his expulsion from the Communist Party. Wintringham’s political trajectory then led him to advance positions close to what would today be called Libertarian Socialism. His Popular Frontism led him into an alliance with Liberals, and together with J.B. Priestley he set up the Commonwealth Party, which sought to advocate politics based upon Co-operation. Having said that, at a time when the LP itself was in a Popular Front, National Government with the Tories, and the Communist Party was banned, the Commonwealth Party, did stand candidates in elections against the National Government candidates, in order to provide a socialist choice for workers, and did achieve some degree of success.

See: Commonwealth party

For more information on Wintringham and his writings see:
Wintringham Index


Tom Wintringham .

See Also:proletarian Military Policy

1 comment:

Louis Allaways said...

Here's a BBC radio documentary I found on the web a while ago about Wintringham and other radicals in the early home guard, who saw it as the beginnings of the British Resistance and of a popular uprising against Petain-types in the ruling class:'s%20Document%20-%20Dad's%20Revolutionary%20Army.mp3