Empires; soft hard and downright homicidal

In a mildly eccentric piece of timing the new constitution of southern Ireland came into effect on Wednesday 29  December. Its principle features were to change the name of the country from the Irish Free State to  Eire and to bring into being the office of Uachtaran or President, which has since evolved into that of head of state in the full sense. Eire was described as a member of the Commonwealth but in practice it had become an entirely independent country. The King of Britain was “recognized” albeit most emphatically solely for purposes of foreign relations with no role in internal politics whatever. The British press instantly skewered one of the ambiguities thrown up by the pretence of having their King as the symbol of Eire’s diplomacy. Eire’s diplomatic representative to Rome was accredited to the King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia, implying that George VI recognized Fascist Italy’s conquest of Ethipoia whilst wearing his (non-existent) Irish crown but not when he was wearing his other ones.

Eire was an independent country that went through the sham of being part of the British empire. Egypt was a British dependency that went through the sham of being an independent country. King Farouk understood that his interests and those of Britain were broadly aligned in opposition to any reform of the state (much like the Indian princes). Farouk could never quite reconcile himself to the Wafd a popular national movement even though he had accepted Nahas Pasha, a Wafd leader, as Prime Minister. Farouk’s latest bout of wobbles provoked a stern response from the Wafd which threatened to expel any minister who agreed to serve under anyone Farouk appointed to replace Nahas. The British were caught in a cleft stick: Farouk's preferred option of rule by lightweight Court figures was not tenable long term, but a strong Wafd ultimately spelt the end of British rule.

The Soviet Union found an original way to mark the “joyous” celebrations to mark the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of one of the pillars of the democratic socialist state: the Cheka secret political police, heir to the Tsarist Okhrana and ancestor of today’s FSB. The names of eight former ministers and civil servants shot for their crimes against the state were announced amidst appropriate publicity for such an important move to protect the workers.


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