John Stuart Mill, The BNP, And The U.K.’s Dying Democracy (2011), by Sean Gabb
John Stuart Mill, The BNP, and Britain's Dying Democracy
by Sean Gabb
(Published by VDare on the 19th January 2011)
For about a year now, I have been writing for VDare about the British National Party (BNP), which is the main white nationalist organisation in the United Kingdom. The essence of my reports has been that the BNP faces a wall of media bias and legal and administrative persecution that put its survival in doubt. Though, as a libertarian, I have my own agenda for England, I do not regard this bias and persecution with any pleasure. What is being done to the BNP is unfair in itself and sets a precedent for the persecution of other dissident organisations and movements. What I have now to report about the BNP must be depressing both to white nationalists and to believers in liberal democracy.
First, there is the result of a parliamentary by-election on Thursday the 13th January 2011. The Labour Party won the Oldham and Saddleworth constituency in the 2010 general election. However, the winner was unseated by a legal challenge, and a fresh election was held. The result was very poor for the BNP. It got its lowest ever vote in the constituency. It should, in the nature of things, have done better than to get 1,560 votes and take fifth place. There is no reason why the party should have won this election. The British electoral system has always been biased against small parties, and a BNP victory would have required something like a miracle. But it should have done better. A by-election has none of the pressure of a general election – no one goes off to vote thinking that his vote might decide the next government: people are more inclined to vote for small parties.
Add to this that none of the main parties was looking very attractive. The Labour Party is out of government, and has a leader generally seen as useless. The Liberal Democrats, who came second at the general election, are members of a coalition government that has failed to generate enthusiasm among the public. The Conservatives ran a minimal campaign and effectively invited people to vote Liberal Democrat.
Moreover, the BNP had been claiming for years that Moslem gangs were targeting young white girls for sexual abuse and forced prostitution. This had been ignored by the mainstream media. Then, a few days before the vote, two Asian men were sent to prison for sexually abusing white girls and forcing them into prostitution. A former Labour Home Secretary then admitted that this was a wider problem than people liked to admit.
All this, and the BNP still did badly. Why it did badly can be explained by any number of reasons. We might say that the British people have looked hard at the BNP and not liked it. Or we might say that the media bias against the BNP was so extreme, that 1,560 votes were a good showing. Or we might look at disunity within the local party. Or we might look at any number of other more or less credible reasons. My own suspicion, for what it is worth, is that the BNP did badly in this by-election because of a general feeling that it is not and will not be successful. This may sound an unusual reason, but, in my experience as a Conservative activist in the 1980s, it is – particular excitements aside – one of the main reasons why people vote for a party or not.
And the BNP was not regarded as successful for reasons that many outside England might regard as perverse. This brings me to my second piece of news. On Friday the 17th December 2010, the BNP finally beat off the case brought against it by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This meant that the assets of the Party would not now be seized, and its leader, Nick Griffin, would not now be sent to prison. It brought to an end around eighteen months of legal harassment by an organisation that has about as much to do with equality and human rights as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has with democracy or the people or republicanism – but that does have unlimited amounts of the taxpayers’ money to throw at whoever or whatever may be disliked by the British ruling class.
I have been covering this case for VDare almost since it began. However, not everyone will have read or will remember my earlier articles. I think, therefore, it would be helpful if I were to summarise its course.
The Legal Harassment of the BNP
The EHRC was set up by virtue of the Equality Act 2006. Its alleged function was to bring enforcement of all the “equality” and “human rights” legislation of the past few decades within a central and unified scheme. But it first came to media prominence in August 2009, when it began legal proceedings against the BNP. Its cause of action was that the BNP restricted membership to white people – that is, to “indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of ‘Indigenous Caucasian’" plus “those we regard as closely related and ethnically assimilated or assimilable aboriginal members of the European race also resident in Britain”.[Constitution of The British National Party Eighth Edition, published November 2004] (Which is interpreted to include Jews—thus one BNP elected official, Pat Richardson, a local councillor, is Jewish).
This restriction and others like it had so far been accepted as natural by both members and opponents of the BNP. The party exists, after all, to assert that the British Isles are the homeland of the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish peoples; and it denies the wisdom and the legitimacy of the mostly state-sponsored immigration of non-whites since the end of the Second World War. Its membership rule was no more controversial than the limitation of places at a Jewish school to Jewish children or the exclusion of practising Moslems from ordination by the Roman Catholic Church. But the lawyers of the EHRC had found that the BNP membership rule might be in breach of sections 24 and 25(5) of the Equality Act and of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended). And so began lavishing the taxpayers’ money on an action that was ostensibly about the right of non-whites to join a party that disapproved of their presence in the United Kingdom.
In March 2010, the BNP changed its rules and said it would admit non-whites to membership, and it then admitted an elderly Sikh who was a long-standing British nationalist. However, it also imposed two conditions on new members to prevent flooding attempts – that is, to prevent large numbers of non-whites from joining and then bringing actions of their own against the party, or using its internal rules to destroy the party. First, prospective members should be visited at home, to see if they were suitable for membership. Second, all members should declare support for the “continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence” of an indigenous British race, and should support action towards “stemming and reversing” immigration. The EHRC immediately argued that these conditions amounted to “indirect racial discrimination”, and continued its case against the BNP.
The EHRC won this round. On the 12th March 2010, a Judge outlawed the requirement for home visits, saying that this might lead to intimidation—though admitting that there was no evidence it ever had. He also outlawed the requirement to declare support for party principle and policy. He said:
“I hold that the BNP are likely to commit unlawful acts of discrimination within section 1b Race Relations Act 1976 in the terms on which they are prepared to admit persons to membership under the 12th addition of their constitution.”
The reason for this, the Judge went on, was that no non-white person could support these policies without compromising his “personal sense of self-worth and dignity as a member of their racial group”. And so the BNP changed its membership rules again, now accepting members regardless of whether they agreed with its policies.
However, these conditions for membership were only suspended by the BNP, not removed. And so the EHRC went to court again, this time arguing that the BNP was in contempt for not complying in full with the earlier judgment. The penalties for contempt of court are an unlimited fine or two years imprisonment (imprisonment of the most senior person if the defendant is a corporate body).
The hearing took place in London on the 8th and 8th November 2010. Judgment was then reserved for six weeks. It was finally given on Friday the 17th December 2010, and the Judges ruled that the BNP had no case to answer.
The EHRC was plainly disappointed with the judgment. But, according to John Wadham, one of its main officials:
“Today's judgment makes no difference to the substance of our action against the BNP… The County Court ruled that the BNP's constitution was racially discriminatory. That ruling remains in place and has now, finally, been obeyed by the BNP."
He added that he and his colleagues would continue monitoring BNP rules relating to members' right to vote and attend meetings and whether such rights were connected with what members thought about mixed-race relationships and the like. "We will be keeping a watching brief on them to make sure they don't break the law," he added. (BBC Report, 17th December 2010)
The End of the beginning – Perhaps not Even That!
So far as the British media were concerned, this was the end of the matter. Once the judgment was reported – and reported rather briefly – it is as if some spell of silence had been cast on the gentlemen of the press. Nick Griffin continues to send out his regular newsletters. His followers continue to agitate. But there has been no editorial comment on the judgement, and no significant reporting on what might have happened next.
This does not mean that the BNP has struck a blow for freedom that will rank with the Trial of the Seven Bishops, or the Treason Trials of 1794. Anyone who thinks that last month’s judgment was the end of the matter is naïve. The EHRC will not go away, and there are so many other avenues of attack on the BNP, from media smears, to private legal actions, to disruption by the security services. And the courts are not neutral. Contempt of court hearings do not usually involve complex issues of law. I find it very suspicious that judgment had to be reserved in this matter for six whole weeks. Rather than for pondering the various submissions, it is more likely that the six weeks were used for asking round among the powerful whether the BNP could decently be put out of the way, or if there was no choice but for justice to be done. I really do not think this will be my last article on the persecution of the BNP.
And this is probably the main reason why the BNP did so badly in the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election. Success of this kind in the courts nowadays indicates that a person or movement has been singled out for destruction.
Liberal Values and the BNP
I will say in passing that none of this can be reconciled with any version of liberalism as it might have been recognised before the name was taken over by American big state managerialists. The only human rights claimed by liberalism are to life, liberty and justly-acquired property. From these follow the specific rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. This first is the right to say anything about public affairs – no matter how upsetting it may be to others. The second is the right of adults to associate or not as they see fit. No one has the right to be loved. No one has the right to be included. No one has the right not to be hated or ridiculed or despised. We may all have a general obligation to behave decently to others – and it is this on which political correctness is a parasitic growth – but the obligation itself is not one that may rightly be imposed by law.
I could elaborate on the above for several pages. However, I imagine my readers are more interested in the BNP than in libertarian homilies. I have explained that the BNP is marked out for destruction, and that this mark has for the moment depressed its fortunes. Let me then move to a discussion of why a small political party like the BNP is under such heavy and continual attack. If it were the sort of organisation it is claimed to be, it would probably be left alone. A party of skinheads and Hitler-worshippers is a wonderful excuse for people who think themselves “progressive” to sit round the dinner table, competitively boasting how many black and homosexual friends they have, and assuring each other of benefits that “diversity” has brought to England.
The truth, I think, is that the BNP is not a national socialist, but a nationalist party. Whatever it may once have been, it is no longer, or is rapidly ceasing to be. And it is the nationalism that makes it so dangerous. Certain nationalisms can be tolerated, and even celebrated – Scotch nationalism, for example, with its sporrans and whines about Culloden, and its ruthless grasping at English subsidies – not to mention its liking for the European Union. But the big fear is that the BNP has already vacated the dead end of national socialism for white nationalism and an equal embrace for all the nationalisms of the British Isles. If it has done this, it might finally see the logic of its position and become an English nationalist party. It would then be in a position to speak for an unusually ferocious and cohesive nation. This cannot be risked. If English nationalism were to become an active political force, it would mean the end of the present British ruling class. This would be ended for its general uselessness over much of the past century, and for the legitimising ideology it has, with grim enthusiasm, been trying to impose for at least the past generation.
A Legitimising Ideology both anti-Liberal and anti-National
There is, of course, nothing inherently bad in legitimising ideologies. Every ruling class needs some body of ideas that directly justifies its position, and that also supports those institutions and state of affairs that entrench that position. And, so far as ruling classes are inseparable from states, the only question – this side of a libertarian utopia – is how much respect a ruling class ideology pays to the lives, liberties and property of ordinary people. The problem for England, though, is that the present ruling class has taken up a legitimising ideology that involves the flattening of popular rights. It sees itself less as a committee of trustees for the nation than as the senior management for a “community of communities”. Mass-immigration of non-whites has been made a policy of state. Objections to this have been made increasingly illegal. “Diversity” is a blessing, and anyone who fails to agree must be ruthlessly bullied. See, for example, this by Andrew Marr, formerly the Political Editor of BBC News:
“[T]he final answer, frankly, [after miscegenation, school propaganda, and higher taxes to pay for it all] is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilising instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain 'natural' beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off. The police are first in line to be burdened further, but a new Race Relations Act will impose the will of the state on millions of other lives too.” [Published in The Guardian, 28th February 1999]
Now, the primary motivation of this is not to destroy the white race, or to turn Britain into an Islamic state – though there is always more than one agenda at work in a project of this nature. Nor is it the creation of a heavily-policed theme park in which imams and transgendered lesbians and football fans and rap singers all pretend to love each other. In my book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and how to Get it Back, I do argue at some length how Britain – and perhaps America – have been taken over from within by a clique of neo-Marxists, who are trying to impose every multicultural and politically correct fantasy of their student days. This is true. There is no doubt that the intellectual and governing elites of both countries are soaked in the thought of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault. At the same time, though, I believe that political correctness and multiculturalism are symptoms as well as causes. The gathering attack on representative liberal democracy is more a purpose in itself than a by-product of present intellectual trends.
One of the main reasons for this is that a reasonably homogenous nation state may not be democratic, but it can be democratic. People who have a common identity will often conceive common interests, and stand together against a government that does not respect these interests. They may also trust each other with political power – confident that differences over economic or other policies will not be carried to the point of civil war.
This is a standard argument of nationalists. But it is also accepted within a significant strand of classical liberalism. A hundred and fifty years ago, John Stuart Mill stated the argument about as clearly as it can be. In Chapter 16 of his essay On Representative Government, he says:
“Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance; the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favour of the government against the rest.”
One of the reasons why England was, in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries the model of representative liberal democracies was that it was remarkably homogeneous. Ireland was always an exception – but it was another island, and could for most of the time be ignored. But the Scottish and Welsh nations were broadly willing to fit themselves into an English structure. This meant that there were none of those national or regional diversities that made representative government difficult or impossible in much of Europe.
To be sure, England never became a pure democracy. The people at large were allowed to give final answers to questions – but the questions themselves were always put by a largely aristocratic ruling class. But this ruling class retained power on the understanding that it would identify itself with the interests of the whole nation.
The old ruling class was destroyed by two great wars. It was destroyed in the sense that disproportionate numbers of its own young were killed in the fighting, and by the high taxes and the socialist challenge that attended these wars. And it allowed itself to be destroyed so far as it had identified with the nation. There was no shirking from military service, and few attempts to conceal taxable wealth. Moreover, these were democratic wars. The first one, in particular, had to be sold at its outset to what might otherwise have been a sceptical public. The necessary lies then generated national hatreds so intense that the war itself ran out of control.
Globalisation + Mass-Immigration = Unaccountable Class Domination
The managerialist ruling class that emerged after 1945 has been resolutely anti-nationalist and anti-democratic. It has signed the county up to every treaty in sight that would transfer power to unaccountable, and frequently invisible, transnational bodies in which it could have a leading place. Most obviously, it lied the country into the European Union. This was the creation of European ruling classes that had faced similar problems of national over-identification; and its central purpose has always been to concentrate real power into a cartel of ruling classes, thereby allowing these to float away from accountability. Few members of the new ruling class in England have any military inclinations – though they are happy enough to sacrifice other people’s sons when it suits their convenience. They derive much of their wealth from involvement in multinational business, or in multinational bureaucracies, or in the implementation of treaty commitments; and they cannot be touched financially short of a revolution.
Mass-immigration has been the domestic counterpart of globalisation. The second transfers power upwards. The first so Balkanises national politics and social life, that no concerted effort can be made to pull power down again to the people. We are moving quickly to the situation described by Mill – where “the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favour of the government against the rest.” I think what he had in mind was the Hapsburg Empire, where Slavs had recently been used to put down German and Hungarian revolts, and where German and Hungarian nationalism was then encouraged to keep the Slavs in line. That, minus the high culture, is what the British ruling class has in mind for England. It wants a country in which political argument is either to be suppressed on the grounds of good communal relations, or is worthless because all elections are fought on communal lines, and their results always mirror the census returns.
I am not claiming that there is an overt conspiracy. I have discussed the above analysis with many journalists and politicians. All have denied it. Many have been incredulous. I do not think they were lying to me. This may indicate that I am wrong. Just as easily, it indicates that, while there are individual conspiracies – getting us into and keeping us in the European Union, for example, or getting us into the Iraq and Afghan Wars – there is no single overarching conspiracy of dispossession. But there does not need to be any such conspiracy. Political correctness and multiculturalism did not become parts of a legitimising ideology because thousands of well-connected students just happened to be lectured after 1968 into believing them. Nor was it because the well-connected thought they might be useful as domestic counterparts to globalisation. Without any visible coordination, groups of people often act as if directed. Everything I have mentioned can be explained in terms of ideas, and the material interests conceived in terms of these ideas, and the personalities of those involved.
Equally, the almost fanatical hatred directed against the BNP is not consciously the product of the fear that English nationalism might bring about a revolution. However at variance with the truth they may be, the reasons given for hatred are mostly believed by those giving them. But, I repeat, it is not distaste for what it is said to be that really drives persecution of the BNP. It is fear of what the BNP might become, and of the great reaction it might contribute to enabling.
I will not say that the BNP will be destroyed. Its electoral fortunes may recover. England is not a totalitarian country, and there are limits to what even a frightened ruling class can do. But, purely so far as it might become successful, the BNP is certainly marked for destruction. I do not think this will be my last article on the matter.