A comment in the Sunday Times today, reminds us of another well-known, newly appointed populist European leader of recent times, who promptly closed down his parliament – one A. Hitler. He suspended the Reichstag only to see it burn down a few days later … Hmm. Aren't the Houses of Westminster due to be closed shortly for major renovations?
Talk of this reminds me of an amusing incident that occurred when I was a post-graduate student at Essex University in the early 1970s. The university was a hotbed of revolutionary socialism in those days, with several strikes and sit-ins happening during my time there.
During one such sit-in, a barrier of lockers was erected – with my office and the student union TV room inside the barrier. I was obliged to crawl through a tunnel to access my desk … My soon-to-be wife was visiting at the time, and I had found out that Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) was to be shown on BBC 2 at 9 pm. This was a famous NAZI propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl that chronicled the 1934 Nürnberg rally. The film was fascinating and terrifying considering what was to come, but I could not see any politically correct reason for not watching it if challenged.
We crawled through the tunnel, and at 9 o’clock, surrounded by revolutionaries and no-one being much interested in the TV, I changed the channel to watch the film. Notwithstanding the content, it was electrifying, and we managed to see 20 minutes or so before anyone noticed all the swastika flags and recognised some of the ‘players’. Then someone did, and they commented that Albert Sloman was probably in there somewhere (he was the university Vice-Chancellor, the Antichrist and universal hate-figure among the students); we were obliged to turn it off.
Triumph of the Will should be watched by everyone. Right-wing populist political leaders are gaining power in more and more countries around the world. We need constantly to be reminded of how easy it is for apparently laudable aims – full employment, economic prosperity etc – to be subverted into misery, terror and death.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs