When Martin Niemoller first penned these words his message to whoever might have cared to consider them was short and to the point! Just four short lines. By the time that he had committed the thoughts to paper he had already made the painful transition from Hitler supporting anti-communist to concentration camp survivor. A slightly longer version of the poem/verse followed in which the also targeted communists gained a mention.
Entirely dependant upon to which historical period one wishes to relate the verse significant further peoples or groups could reasonably be added to the list. Yet to do so would rather detract from the focus, certainly it would broaden our perceptions of any alluded to persecutors, many of whom are likely to be white (colonial) males. Not exclusively so, of course, but significantly so.
The theme, or the gist, is quite clear; it conjures up thoughts of a society populated with indifference. Or pretended indifference born of fear. To brush in specifics would undermine the impact. The pretext under which socialists or the communists are rounded up is either left to the imagination or else invites further historical study. The fact that, in either version, the penultimate half line cites the gathering up of the Jews rather contextualises the whole. But then there's the lonely 'me' at the end.
Because the work is a short poem we are left to analyse it on our own terms... partially on our own terms. Maybe the culminating 'me' represents a last hidden Jew? Or, is Martin Niemoller here looking to broaden the field? Either way the message is a powerful one!
Martin Niemoller died in 1984. If he was here today he might be able to tell us, as I have always preferred to believe, that the 'me' is an abstract, that we can very easily substitute in the persecuted peoples of our choosing. As such the words are also open to lazy misrepresentation, even abuse! The term, 'cancel culture' springs to mind, barked with indignant pomposity care of LBC or GB News.
I like to think that Martin would not object to his powerful words being used in reference to, and in defence of, any of many native North American tribes. Surely it's an irony of the highest order that so many of the US military helicopters have been named after the persecuted peoples they have displaced. Or the Australian Aborigines? Or New Zealand's Moaris? Where to start with Central and Southern America, or Africa? Or the Palestinians? All, or almost all, of these people- surviving, hanging on, or since exterminated- seem to be connected by the blighted issue of colonialism. So, pick a cause!
Why not travel full circle and back to our opening thought?
'First they came for the socialists...'
That the BBC or the Guardian have elected not to pick up on this issue should serve as due warning, albeit a worryingly silent one. If we know where to search and to read between the lines we may find that the establishment ('they') have indeed come for the socialists, are currently still in the process of coming for the socialists.
Harking back, as I am wont to do, to the Labour Party's alleged anti-Semitism tsunami we should be encouraged to turn as many stones as is required of us. The alternative is that we permit somebody else entirely to colour the narrative according to their own particular pallet and whims. What substitutes for the news media in the UK would have it that the stones are best now left well alone, that it would be anti-Semitic to do otherwise. Too much hurt has already been caused, they feign!
Yet, if we were attending a high school social sciences or modern politics class, it would be highly remiss of the teacher not to encourage her more keyed-in students to shine a spotlight brightly upon the issue. Kick a few of the topmost stones about a bit and we will very soon, and surprisingly easily, be persuaded that Jeremy Corbyn was afforded more than ample cause to argue that the issue (anti-Semitism) had been 'weaponised to political ends' (my approximation of his words). If we search through footage of Starmer's post 2019 election speeches and interviews it is also easy to find and listen to Starmer stating much the same sort of thing. Delve and we can find images of him, pre LOTO days, in attendance at precisely the types of meetings that would see other party members being retrospectively judged and then expelled from the party he now pretends to head!
Corbyn's words remain consistent and honest. Whereas, pre-EHRC report, Starmer's words writhe, slippery as snake oil. We may find one Starmer post election, metamorphosed into an eviscerated-changeling post EHRC report. Even if we endeavour to read the document in its entirety we will find nothing with which to endorse or to support Starmer's weasel words. Starmer and dangerous sidekick, David Evans, repeat (ad nauseam), that they are 'coming for the anti-Semites,' the truth is that they're 'coming for the socialists!' If we care to look more closely at the internal machinations of Starmer's 'New' New Labour, specifically the mounting expulsions, we might be given to note that many of the targeted individuals are quite specifically Jewish (former) members, or they will number amongst the aforementioned 'socialists,' likely they will be both of these things... a tiny minority of them will be of the 'anti-Semitic' ilk frequently being referenced by Starmer and his cabal. I am going to venture further here and to attempt to contextualise many of those cited cases of anti-Semitism, something that would have been denied me from inside the party.
To contest that the Labour Party membership is/was without fault would be naive, yet the truth is necessarily more complex than this. I could state that the members I know, and have known, are not anti-Semitic, yet there is now considerable ongoing evidence to suggest that, for other members and former members, this is no longer such a clear cut issue. Under Starmer Jewish members, specifically those tending more towards socialism, are now being disproportionately targeted in what could easily be argued as an anti-Semitic manner. Further, I am going to venture to suggest that the manner in which disingenuous sources such as the Jewish Chronicle, AIPAC, Labour Friends of Israel and the BOD have shaped the current Labour drive has undoubtedly fuelled anti-Israeli thought. For those who even bothered to peer behind the screens it must have been profoundly evident why Corbyn, as Labour leader, was so reluctant for his party to adopt the ticking time-bomb that was the full IHRA definition on anti-Semitism. Elsewhere, it is highly doubtful whether useful idiots like Schofield were even required to gen up on the wording, in order to be able to bark on cue. I think it may still prove a useful exercise to consider one's own position before re-familiarising oneself with the precise wording of all eleven examples. Careful now, how you approach that latest or next condemnation of further Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip, in the face of hot air onslaught from Mail-reading 'Jonathan' at your next dinner invite. Remember, it's by design that Jonathan doesn't seem capable of differentiating between 'Israeli' or 'Jewish' thought and action.
To speak out (and invite expullsion) or to hold one's tongue?
'and I did not speak out...'
Starmer's Labour currently operates with the same sort of 'free pass' that was afforded the BBC et al and the Guardian in 2019- many other MSM outlets (several of which have been consistently and repeatedly far more culpable) needed no such 'invite.' By the time that we are again free to properly discuss what actually happened to our democracy at that time it will likely be far too late! Merely an academic exercise! Think Windrush, think Hillsborough, think Orgreave and consider adding Grenfell and the 'awarding of Covid contracts' to the same never-never list. Oh, I know that there's significant dissent amongst the electorate but there's also one hell of a lot of indifference, much as is implicit with Niemoller's short verse.
"Oh yeah? What about that visit to Hammam Chott?" Jonathan might have retorted. He didn't, and for two very sound reasons- one being that Jonathan is fictional and an example, two being that the retort is far more likely to have been delivered along the lines of, "Well, what about that photo of Corbyn with that terrorist... in Tunisia, was it?" Imagine here theatrical nods of support from any fellow useful idiots around the table, as Jonathan sets to reward himself with a well-earned swig of red. At which point eyes set to glaze over as formally have so many brains.
I doubt there's many a Western politician, with any degree of longevity or international drive, who has managed to fully avoid meeting or sharing a stage with any character with whom they happen to profoundly disagree... or with a 'discredited' character with whom they happen to wholeheartedly concur. Try drawing up a list of characters with whom Netanyahu has shared a stage! Or Blair. Or Regan. Or either Bush, Senior or Junior. Or Trump! Or Thatcher! Each, after their own particular fashion, party to more than their own fair share of selective terrorism. Or Nelson Mandela. But such pursuits are anyway a distraction. Check the date! Make the effort to find out why Corbyn was even there. But, I'll save you the time.
He was there to lay a wreath in commemoration of sixty victims of yet another internationally illegal bombing on the part of the IDF (the 'Defence' part has to be ironic, right?), when mighty Israel elected to bomb Hammam Chott in Tunisia. So, any Corbyn connection to terrorism would have been in opposition to terrorism. At the time of this act of terrorism, just one of countless Israeli bombings of a peacetime sovereign nation, even the United States- the jets were anyway their's- was driven to spinelessly abstain, as opposed to veto, the United Nation's condemnation of this war crime! Now, ask yourself, how is it that the entirety of the BBC and the people's Guardian managed to miss all of that? Took me half an hour, just to check the dates and the numbers. Operation Wooden Leg! October 1985, fewer than two years after the death of Niemoller.
If one had ever been given to the misconception that the UK is a thriving democracy then Corbyn's tenure of the Labour Party has surely revealed an alternate reality! Undoubtedly books will be written, to lay bare the lie, books to line the dusty parliamentary and politics shelves of our more well-appointed libraries, those still in operation. Perhaps, in twenty years, the topic will be permitted out into the light, the BBC, a privatised Channel 4, will permit the subject fair game for a late night airing? Perhaps there will be a replacement gatekeeper Giles-Brandreth-type-clone standing by to ensure just the right degree of tilt?
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.
Step into the spotlight Prime Minister Boris Johnson!