Editor, The Times:
Some books, once read, that’s good enough!
Others can be read time and time again.
One of these for me is William Shirer’s “Collapse of the Third Republic.” I’ve always considered this to be Shirer’s best work. It is an inquiry into the fall of France in 1940 and was written after “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”
William Shirer fled the Scopes monkey trial and other stifling aspects of American society in the Roaring 20’s.
He went to France where, like Hemingway, Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, he saw France (not England) as his second home.
He was witness to the chaos that was France in the 20’s and 30’s. He lived through the nightmare years, the rise of Hitler in Germany, and he was witness to the humiliating armistice signed in the same railcar as the armistice the triumphant Allies had forced upon Germany in 1918.
The question that Shirer asked was: How did an army that had suffered some quarter of a million casualties at the beginning of WWI and then rallied to stop the Germans on the Marne in 1914, collapse like a wet paper bag in 1940?
The collapse ran the whole spectrum from left to right. The whole French nation appeared to deflate – leading to the horror of the Vichy regime until liberation in 1944.
It is said, “History might not repeat itself, it tends to rhyme from time to time.”
In my fifth (or is it sixth) reading of Shirer’s monumental work a certain resemblance to Canada’a money-men and Canada’s press can be seen.
Lets deal with the money-men first. Just like France’s 200 families, they sit on some three quarter of a trillion dollars which, as Mark Carney pointed out, they refuse to invest in Canada. They whine about lower taxes, oppose any raise in the minimum wage or expansion of the CPP. They pour money into the likes of the Fraser Institute to say so? Just like the French money-men of the 30’s
As to the press and media, well though not as vicious and venal as the right-wing press of the 1930’s France (and the left was just as bad) there were far too many right-wing hacks who were there because, in the words of Noam Chomsky, everyone is for free speech. Stalin and Hitler were for free speech, so long as you tell us what we want to hear.
Yes, history does rhyme from time to time.