Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 195
17th June 2010

Reflections on the 2010 Conference of the
Property and Freedom Society
by Sean Gabb

I have never bothered asking what persuaded Hans-Hermann Hoppe to invite me to the first conference of the Property and Freedom Society in 2006. I received his invitation in about the February of 2006. It looked interesting – not least because it was to be held in Bodrum, which is the modern Turkish name for Halicarnassus, the birthplace of Herodotus and otherwise famous for its Greek theatre and the remains of the great Mausoleum. However, Chris Tame was dying in hospital, and I decided that my place was at his side.

“Oh no, it isn’t,” Chris answered from his bed. He sat up and stabbed at the print-out of the invitation. “I’ll be dead long before May. Whatever the case, you’d be mad to turn this one down.” He took me through the names listed in the invitation, pointing out their eminence within the conservative and libertarian movements. Finally, he reminded me of the key importance of Professor Hoppe within both movements, and his importance in his own right as an economist and philosopher. It was my duty to attend, Chris announced. If he were not confined to his death bed, he would go with me.

And so – Chris now dead, just as he had predicted – I set out in the May of 2006 for Bodrum. I wrote a longish account at the time of this first conference of the Property and Freedom Society, and see no reason to say more about it now. But Chris was right. It was a significant event in my life. Until then, I had long admired from a distance, but never met, men like Professor Hoppe and Paul Gottfried and Stephan Kinsella. Now, in the luxurious surroundings of the Hotel Karia Princess, and in the perfect weather of the Eastern Mediterranean, I could sit down to dinner with them and get to know them. I was invited back the following year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Last week, I went again, and can report that this fifth conference was every bit as interesting and productive as all the others.

PFS 2010 - Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Welcoming Remarks. The PFS - After Five Years
from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because I made video recordings of all the public proceedings, I do not need to give a close account of all the speeches. They will, in the next week, all be uploaded to the usual place for anyone to see. But it is worth discussing professor Hoppe’s opening speech, The Property and Freedom Society: Reflections After Five Years – now published by the Libertarian Alliance as Personal Perspectives, No.25. In this, he explains why he set up the Property and Freedom Society and what he hopes it to achieve. He begins with a critique of the mainstream libertarian and conservatives institutes. It is, for example, now 63 years since the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, and it is hard to see what good this has achieved. F.A. Hayek cannot be wholly blamed for its failure, since he was never wholly in charge. But it was, from the start, a place where limited statists were able to mingle with avowed advocates and beneficiaries of fiat law and paper money. And any scheme for limiting either of these is impossible in principle and has failed in practice. The tendency of fiat law is to become ever more arbitrary and burdensome. The tendency of paper money is semi-permanent inflation. Both are means for the ruling class to tighten its control on society. The State cannot be limited. At best, those directing it can be persuaded to pick and choose among various schemes for making their control easier or less immediately destructive.

The very success of organisations like the Mont Pelerin Society to engage with governments is a sign of their failure. In the past, ruling classes were able to neutralise the far more potent threat to their control posed by religion. They have used much the same methods to deal with the limited state movements. As with the churches, they have been bribed and flattered into moderating their critique of the State, and even co-opted as some kind of intellectual fig leaf.

Professor Hoppe saw this clearly in the 1990s, when he attended three meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society. These were filled with politicians and central bankers and general clients of the ruling class. There was no discussion allowed of the American State’s military aggressions, or of its monetary corruptions, or of the multicultural discourse that is the main current legitimation ideology of the State. His own attacks on democracy and support for constitutional monarchy were considered scandalous and “confrontational”, and he has not bothered going back.

His experience of the John Randolph Club was slightly more positive. This was largely a Murray Rothbard front organisation, where conservatives and libertarians were able to come together and discuss their equal, of sometimes different, objections to unlimited state power. It was also a place where members of each movement could learn from the other. Libertarians, for example, could overcome the indifference to the cultural and historical underpinnings of liberty that often proceeds from their emphasis on economics. In turn, the conservatives could learn some true economics.

Ultimately, though, the John Randolph Club fell apart because of the failure of many of its conservative members to radicalise. They were never able to put aside their fantasy of somehow capturing the institutions of an extended state and using these to impose a conservative authoritarianism. And they would not reconsider their support of stupid economic policies like protectionism and soft money.

It was on account of his disappointment with even the least useless of the other policy institutes he had known that Professor Hoppe decided to set up the Property and Freedom Society. Its purpose was not to engage with the ruling class or its various clients, but to have nothing whatever to do with them. It would exclude politicians and economic illiterates. It would reject the State and all its works. It would instead seek to foster a counter-culture that was opposed both to the State and to the legitimising ideologies of the State that many libertarians have not been able to recognise for what they are. The Property and Freedom Society would provide a space within which representatives from a range of traditions would be able to discuss the principles of a free market natural order, and to see the State more clearly than is normally possible as nothing more than a gang of bandits surrounded by various applause societies and useful idiots.

The Property and Freedom Society was conceived as a kind of salon – a place where intellectuals from various traditions could come together as friends, and share and harden their own opposition to the State and its legitimising ideologies. Presided over by him and by his wife Gülcin Imre, the Salon Hoppe would surely have it impact on the movement, and on the world at large.

This was the essence of Professor Hoppe’s opening speech. And his movement has been a success in the way that he intended. Its public proceedings are the speeches, and I am glad that I have been able to help make these available by making video recordings of them and putting them on the Internet. I regret that my recordings of the first two conferences were incomplete. I also regret that my fuller recordings of the next two were marred by technical incompetence. Some of these have adequate sound, but many are hard to follow, either because I relied on the internal microphone of my video camera, or because I was ignorant of how to place an external microphone. This year, I am happy to say, I was more successful. All the speeches have adequate sound, and many have good sound. A problem I have not been able to overcome is that, outside of England – in both Turkey and Slovakia – recording on mains power with an external microphone is inseparable from a feedback hum. The morning sessions I was able to record on battery only, with partial recharges during the coffee breaks. Afternoon sessions required mains power. I can filter out much of the feedback hum, but cannot wholly eliminate it. Whatever the case, the speeches all have clear sound, and I shall eventually buy additional batteries or a better video camera.


PFS 2010 - Mustafa Akyol, Are Islam and Capitalism Compatible? from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

But, as said, because they have all been recorded, I do not need to describe the speeches. If I have to acknowledge any star of the conference, I suppose it would be Mustafa Akyol, on Islam and Capitalism. He is a Turkish journalist who is completely fluent in English, and is a libertarian, and, it seems, is a fairly devout Moslem. His speech is an informed response to the frequent claim in the West that Islam is a religion only for men with frightening beards and wild eyes and a taste for suicide bombings. It is not. If is, of course, The Other – the historic enemy of Christendom, that subdued three quarters of what had been the Roman Empire, and came close more than once to taking the last quarter. No one who is not of that Faith can take a sentimental view of Islam. At the same time, Islam produced a great and often admirable civilisation that had room for much intellectual freedom and for extended commerce. If the accidents of immigration have made Islam in Europe a religion for displaced peasants with lavish funding from Saudi puritans, that does not make Islam in the wider sense other than a religion compatible with as high a degree of enlightenment as Christianity. Islam is compatible with a free market order. The development of a market system in Turkey has been associated with a recovery of Islam in the public sphere, and this must be recognised by anyone who wants to see through the fog of propaganda that has been raised to lead us into another world war.

I liked Paul Gottfried on Herbert Marcuse, and on Marxism in general. I liked Olivier Richard on the economics of inflation. And I liked everything else. To single anyone out other than Professor Hoppe and Mr Akyol would be – as I keep saying – superfluous, bearing in mind that everything is on-line, and unfair to the other speakers.

Naturally, this does not prevent me from mentioning my own speech. I was asked to speak about the Second World War and why it should have been avoided. I did this rather well. Mrs Gabb, who came into the conference room to watch me, was not impressed. She said it all sounded too much like an advertisement for the novels of Richard Blake. But I have watched my speech twice now on video, and I still think it was rather good. I dislike reading from a text. Even without one, my voice tends to dullness, and my general delivery is wooden. Since I can speak fluently enough without, I like to avoid having either a text or notes in front of me. At the same time, I do like – other commitments allowing – to produce a text in advance. This lets me lay down the structure of what I want to say. It also removes any suspicion that I have just turned up without any preparation to deliver a speech that is only clear by accident.


PFS 2010 - Sean Gabb on the Second World War from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.

Because both text and video are available, I will not go again over the main part of what I said. What I do think worth mentioning is the point that came into my head for the last five minutes of the speech. This is the lack of any sustained cultural production within the conservative and libertarian movements. We have always been strong on analysis and criticism. We have our philosophers and economists and historians, and these are among the best. We are not wholly without our novelists and musicians and artists. But we have not so far excelled in cultural production, and have mostly not considered this of comparable importance to uncovering and explaining the workings of a natural order. So far as this has been the case, however, we have been mistaken.

The socialist takeover of the English mind during the early 20th century was only in part the achievement of the Webbs and J.A. Hobson and E.H. Carr and Harold Laski and Douglas Jay, and all the others of their kind. They were important, and if they had no written as they did, there would have been no takeover. But for every one who read these, there were tens or hundreds who read and were captured by Shaw and Wells and Galsworthy and Richard Llewellyn, among others. These were men who transmitted the socialist cases to a much wider audience. Just as importantly, where they did not directly transmit, they helped bring about a change in the climate of opinion so that propositions that were rejected out of hand by most thoughtful men in the 1890s could become the received wisdom of the 1940s. They achieved a similar effect in the United States, and were supplemented there by writers like Howard Fast, and, of course, by the Hollywood film industry.

More recently in England, the effect of television soap operas like Eastenders has been immense and profound. Their writers have taken the dense and often incomprehensible writings of the neo-Marxists and presented them as a set of hidden assumptions that have transformed the English mind since 1980. No one can fully explain the Labour victory of 1997, or the ease with which law and administration were transformed even before them, without reference to popular culture.

I do not wish to disparage novelists like Ayn Rand, who was a libertarian of sorts. At the same time, what I have in mind is not long didactic novels where characters speak for three pages about the evils of central banking. What I do believe we need is good, popular entertainment of our own creation that is based on our own assumptions. I think the most significant objective propagandist of my lifetime for the libertarian and conservative cause was the historical novelist Patrick O’Brian. I have read all his historical novels, some more than once, and I do not think he ever sets out an explicit case against the modern order of things. What he does instead is to create a world – that may once have existed largely as he describes it – that works on different assumptions from our own. If this world is often unattractive on account of its poverty and brutality, its settled emphasis on tradition and on personal freedom and responsibility has probably done more to spread the truth than the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Ideas combined.

I would never claim that Richard Blake is in the same league as Patrick O’Brian. But he is significant so far as he is a libertarian novelist who has managed to find a mainstream publisher. His latest novel, Blood of Alexandria, is still more explicitly libertarian than his others, and he deserves all the encouragement that our movement can provide. Indeed, someone else who deserves our encouragement is Jan Lester, one of the most significant figures in the Libertarian Alliance and in the Libertarian Alliance – yes, this is not one of my typing mistakes! The Libertarian Alliance has just published his play, The Naked Politician, as Philosophical Notes, No.82. This needs a performance. Anyone who can help with this is doing the cause of right, truth and justice as great a service as by funding the distribution of the more abstract works of our movement.

But this really is enough of the public proceedings of the conference. Professor Hoppe spoke of a salon, and this works at least as well through private conversations as through formal speeches. And one of the few rules of the Property and Freedom Society is that there are to be no limits on what anyone cares to discuss over lunch or dinner. Sadly, these were private conversations, and I might find my own conversations in Bodrum far less open and interesting in future if people thought their words were about to be transcribed and published to the world. One part of a long conversation, though I can reveal. I was at dinner with some Turks who explained their bitter humiliation at being kept out of the European Union. They listened patiently to my explanation that they were lucky to have avoided that horrid embrace. Their reply was that it was a matter of national pride. They could put up with being excluded from a club made up of great nations like France and Germany and England. They could accept the inclusion of the Greeks – a matter of historical connection with Europe. But to be passed over in favour of disreputable mafia states like Romania and Bulgaria was too much to be tolerated. If I wanted to understand Turkey’s rising disillusionment with the West, and its recent closeness with the Arab countries of the Middle East, I needed look no further than its rejection by the European Union.

But this is all I think I can say. If you want to know more about them, you will have to go to Bodrum yourself next year!

I should say something now about the location of the Property and Freedom Society conferences. The Hotel Karia Princess is a luxury hotel in one of the quieter parts of Bodrum. It is about a ten minute walk from the harbour and shops of the city, and just a flight of steps away from a discreetly-placed supermarket that is most useful for those things that are not provided by the hotel. With its swimming pool and large garden and its gymnasium and Turkish bath – the hotel is a world in itself, and many guests – some go every year for a month – and conference attendees hardly ever go outside it.

Even if it were not owned and run by libertarians, I would recommend the Hotel Karia Princess for the excellence of its location and the quality of its service. But it is owned and run by libertarians, and I suggest that any libertarian or conservative who is planning a Turkish holiday should consider booking a room here. It has all that anyone could desire for a memorable holiday. My only criticism is the perhaps excessive fondness displayed by the staff during my stay for the Overture to Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss, and for the Waltz based on themes from Emmerich Kálmán’s Gräfin Mariza. These were a welcome change from the “elevator music” played in the public areas of other hotels. And there was no coverage at all of the dreadful World Cup. Even so, I might recommend a more balanced repertory of the light classics.

Since all the hyperlinks will be stripped from this article when it is posted out, here are the full details of the hotel:

Hotel Karia Princess
Eskiçeşme Mahallesi,
Myndos Caddesi No:8
48400 Bodrum
Tel. :+90.252.3168971
Fax : +90.252.3168979

Speaking of Turkey in general, I do most highly recommend the country to the more discriminating traveller. As with Islam, I do not take a sentimental view of the Turks. Historically, they have been implacable advocates of every cause to which they attached themselves. This being said, they have never been other than a brave and honourable race. They are justly proud of their country. To anyone who does not attack Islam or the memory of Kemal Ataturk, and who refrains from going about stark naked in public, they are as straight and welcoming as could possibly be desired. Since I regard Ataturk as a great man – if somewhat flawed – and have no desire to shock the religious sensibilities of others, and am far too modest to expose my flesh to the world, I am not inconvenienced by these limitations.

I cannot speak for those parts of the country remote from the sea. But the parts of Turkey I have seen strike me as entirely safe. The reputation of Turkish drivers is undeserved. On three of my visits with Mrs Gabb, I have hired a car and driven for several thousand miles. I have never once seen an accident, and the other cars are far less battered than in Greece. The main problem on the mountain roads is finding the right points for overtaking the lorries that rumble uphill at about 20mph. On one occasion,, we ran into a giant storm on the mountain roads between Aydin and Mugla. For half an hour, it was like driving in a car wash, and the road was an inch deep in water. But everyone else on the road slowed to a steady crawl and stayed safely in lane.

The beaches within easy reach of Bodrum are mostly either crowded or dirty. The beach at Bitez is both. We spent an hour there, struck by the omnipresent smell of dog mess and the stains on the cushions provided by the local restaurant. Unless you are a lower class Englishman or an elderly German of limited means, my advice is to avoid the place. There is an excellent beach resort outside Fethiye, a few hours south of Bodrum. We arrived rather late in the day, and so had less benefit of the place than we might have liked. Otherwise, boats can be hired for about £200 a day. These will take you to places inaccessible by road, where you can swim in the warm, sparkling sea.

So far as sightseeing is concerned, I am less fond of Ephesus than I ought to be. Though grand, it is normally filled with tourists. We went there in 2007. I enjoyed sitting in the theatre where St Paul preached, and the public toilets have a sociological interest. But it rained hard while we were there, and our most memorable experience was trying not to fall down on the wet marble pavements.

But I do recommend Aphrodisias, about four hours through the mountains from Bodrum, and hardly ever visited. In ancient times, this was the provincial capital of Caria, and its sudden destruction by an earthquake in the 7th century – plus the quality of the marble used for its construction – has left ruins of great freshness and magnificence. The reconstructed gateway to the Temple of Aphrodite is particularly impressive, as is the partially reconstructed Temple of the Emperors. There is also an immense stadium on the outskirts of the city, part of which, I regret to say, was partitioned off in later antiquity for gladiatorial combats.

On all my visits to the ruined cities of what used to be Asia Minor, I have been struck by the great wealth of the region. Judging the wealth of past ages by modern standards is a worthless activity. But I do not think Western Europe had anything until fairly recently to compare with the civic life of the Asiatic Provinces of the Roman Empire. I will not boast about my knowledge of the ancient languages. I have much trouble with reading inscriptions. The ancients never separated words, and used many abbreviations that I am not learned enough to understand. But I was struck by the fact that almost every carved block in Aphrodisias is covered in writing – dedications, funerary inscriptions, public memorials: this was a civilisation based on the written word, and those who carved their words into stone did so in the assurance that their civilisation would last to the end of time. It is both interesting and melancholy to walk streets that once swarmed with people, and to wonder how London or Paris might appear to the travellers of some remote future in which our own civilisation has also passed away.

Because, yet again, we arrived rather late in the day, we had to hurry about the city. We missed the public baths and the theatre. However, we did find time to look in the museum. This is well worth seeing. Perhaps its most interesting exhibit is a statue of a Governor set up in about the year 500. I had never before seen a public statue from so late a time in antiquity, and, though much influenced by the stiffness of Christian art, this shows a strong survival of the classical tradition. For this alone, the trip was worth the drive.

We have been twice to Pamukkale, anciently known as Hierapolis. Both times, we arrived late and without any hope of seeing the whole of what was once a large city – a large city surrounded by one of the biggest cemeteries in the world. Mrs Gabb, on both occasions, was much taken with the limestone deposits that have given the whole site the appearance of a snow field. I was more interested in the bizarre paganism of the city. This was a centre for the worship of Cybele, whose priests would castrate themselves in a religious frenzy. They were notable for their visits to the Plutonium, which is a fissure in the rocks through which poisonous gas escapes. Though more visited than Aphrodisias, This is also far less crowded than Ephesus, and repays a visit.

One day, we shall pay visits to Miletus and to Laodicea. It would also be interesting to find some Turkish towns that have not been stripped of their old charm by modern development.

I could say much more. I could go into detail about the immense hospitality shown by Professor Hoppe and by his wife Gülcin Imre. I could mention the meals, the visit to the fishing village, the boat trip, and all the rest. However, this has already been a long article, and Stephan Kinsella has already written at length about these things. And so, I commend Turkey and the Hotel Karia Princess. And I commend Hans-Hermann Hoppe and the Property and Freedom Society. Long may their salon continue to shine from Bodrum!

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet

Issue Number 12
19th February 1998

The People vs Jerry Sadowitz:
A Public Warning
by Sean Gabb

Last Thursday, the 12th February [1998], I had a telephone call from a London Weekend Television researcher called Reuben Stone. He told me he was gathering interviewees for a new television show hosted by someone called Jerry Sadowitz. This would, he continued, be a place for the airing of, and keen debate over, controversial views of all kinds. It would go out late on Tuesday evenings on Channel Five. It would be innovative and "fun" television. Would I like to be a guest on the first show?

I read Gore Vidal many years ago to the effect that one should never turn down an invitation to sleep with someone or to go on television. I have more often than not broken the first part of the rule, but have always tried, with one or two exceptions, to keep to the second. On this occasion, I kept to it. I discussed going on to advocate the legalising of all drugs, and then of all guns, before settling on the repeal of the laws against drinking and driving.

Of course, I am a realist about my chances on television. On the wireless, I can say what I think, and develop it at length - sometimes even getting the time to say it all over again. On television, everything must be abbreviated and repackaged for an audience with an attention span that apparently shortens by the decade. I have no illusions about the medium as a place for informed debate. I assumed that on this show, I would face an actively hostile studio audience, and perhaps host, would have no more than a minute to say my piece, and would then be cleared out for someone else to come on and moan about the dog mess in the streets.

Even so, it is necessary to go on television. It lets me reach out to the masses, no matter how briefly; and every so often, I do score a direct hit—as when on Newsnight last July, I made a Government Minister squirm about the plans, announced the same day, to lower the age of consent for gay sex to 16 and raise the age from smoking to 18. Though the message itself should never be compromised, television requires endless compromise over the means of spreading it.

My real misgivings started the following Tuesday, when I received a letter of invitation and a contract. The latter was an odd and ungrammatical document, badly photocopied. It read:

In consideration of LWT filming me
I agree to assign the entire copyright
in my participation in
The People V's Jerry Sadowitz
to LWT (who may cut and edit the
same as they deem fit)
and give all consents necessary for
it to be used in any form and any media
and waive all moral rights.

Neither the BBC nor Channel Four has ever demanded that degree of control over the material. Nor has either ever insisted on written details of my sex, my date of birth, and my occupation.

I supposed it was a set up of some kind. We were being got into the studio under false pretences, and would then be made exhibits in a freak show. I thought of cancelling. But my Libertarian Alliance colleagues Chris R. Tame and Brian Micklethwait had also agreed to go on—Brian with me, Chris the evening after; and, after discussing the matter, we decided to set aside the suspicions we all shared and to give the show a fair trial.

That is what Brian and I did earlier this evening. We arrived at a studio in Wandsworth, and were greeted by Mr Stone—a fussy young man in black, with a hint of effeminacy that would once have indicated a minority taste, but is nowadays probably just the fashion for fussy young men in black. After a spell in the VIP hospitality lounge, we were ushered into the studio, to sit with about 40 other people. There were some dance students next to us, and in front some charming people from the Church of Scientology who had read, and admired, my article on the persecution they face in Germany. Then, all my worst fears were confirmed.

Jerry Sadowitz bounced in, got up as a sort of cross between Billy Connolly and Dr Who as played by Tom Baker. As is usually the case with imitations, he was decidedly inferior to both. He sat behind his presenter's desk, a top hat pulled over a mass of untidy curls, a fake cigar in his hand. The show was being recorded, so he could make as many mistakes as he pleased: the editor could clean the performance up later into something a little more coherent than the reality.

The format of the show was to have each guest go up to him in turn. They would open their mouths and try to make a point. Each would be interrupted at best, and at worst shouted down with a stream of vulgar abuse. After about a minute, Mr Sadowitz would hit a bell in front of him, and the guest would have to get up and leave the platform. Anyone who refused to leave would be assisted from the platform by a bouncer who looked genuinely thuggish.

Perhaps to keep us interested, Mr Sadowitz had begun by waving ten £50 notes at us. Whoever begged most abjectly on camera would win these before the end of the evening.

While the audience was encouraged to cheer and laugh for audience shots that could later be spliced into the show, Brian and I tried to smother the horror of the proceedings in a conversation about the Asian economic crisis. After the first guests had been dispatched, however, I decided I had had enough. Had the show been going out live, it would have been worth risking an encounter. I might have said something sufficiently cutting to deflate Mr Sadowitz. As it was, anything remotely challenging would almost certainly have hit the cutting room floor before tomorrow lunchtime. By the end of the editing, I would have been made to look like the character Peter Sellars played in Being There.

I will do most things to get the libertarian message across—I even sometimes agree to appear with Nicky Campbell, so long as he offers cash. But I am not so desperate for publicity as to risk an appearance with Mr Sadowitz. This really was one of those times when Gore Vidal was not the best guide to action. I got up from my seat and walked out of the studio. I collected my coat and bag from the hospitality lounge and made for the main doors.

I was held up for a few minutes by Mr Sadowitz's agent. A man quite evidently more charming and able than his client, he tried to wheedle me into staying. He gave me a cigarette. he flattered me horribly. I was there as one of the stars, he confided. Why else had I been one of the select few let into the Green Lounge? "Don't think you will be treated like the little people who had been allowed on just to warm things up." I would be given the chance to speak my mind. "Jerry's a really great listener. This is the start of something big." I was polite but firm. The cigarette extinguished, I walked through the main doors into the street outside.

Brian left about ten minutes later. His resolve to sit the thing out and hope for a sound bite on tax cutting crumbled after one of the Scientologists was sent off at the first mention of her faith. He avoided the agent, but was chased instead by Mr Stone. It was unnerving, I suppose, to have half the VIP guests walk out 20 minutes into the filming of the pilot show.

Now, the purpose of this article is not to complain—I half guessed what the show would be like, and it was my fault that I went as far as I did with it. My purpose is to warn. A show like this needs a regular stream of victims. I have no doubt that Mr Stone and his colleagues will be hard at work again tomorrow, scouring London for them. If you belong to a new religious movement, or are a hunter or shooter, or a vegan; if you are a drug legaliser, or a sado-masochist, or a libertarian—in short, if you have views that are not as often expressed in the media as you would wish, you are in danger. You are in danger of being made to look utterly foolish, and of having your most cherished beliefs made an excuse for foul-mouthed merriment.

Brian and I got away just in time. Chris has some ripe words ready in case Mr Stone should dare call him tomorrow to confirm his appearance. Whatever your minority opinions—no matter how alien to those of the Libertarian Alliance they may be—I hope you will take warning from our experience. If you are called by Mr Stone, you are advised to refuse any offer he makes. If you have already been persuaded to go on the show, you are advised to cancel.

I cannot believe that The People vs Jerry Sadowitz will go far beyond its pilot, this to be shown next week. Even in this age of cultural barbarism, there remain standards of taste strong enough to drive that sort of trash from the main media. However, just in case the show does not collapse under the weight of its own awfulness, here follows the address of the television company responsible for the show, and to which complaints may be directed:

The People vs Jerry Sadowitz
London Weekend Television
The London Television Centre
Upper Ground
London SE1 9LT
Tel: 0171 261 3897 or 3027

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet
Issue Number 31
2nd May 1999

How not to Stop the London Bombings:
In Defence of Liberal Democracy
by Sean Gabb

Should organisations that preach racial hatred be banned and their members put in prison? "Yes" says a body called the National Assembly Against Racism. "Yes" say various politicians and journalists. I have just returned home from arguing "no" on the Edwina Currie show on BBC Radio Five; and since I did rather well in defence of liberal democracy, I have decided to repeat myself in print.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 81
4th December 2002

A Record of a Debate Held by the Local Government Association
on Wednesday the 4th December 2002
on the Motion: “This House Believes Promoting Diversity Causes Discrimination”
Sean Gabb

About a month ago, David Conway telephoned me to ask if I might be interested in making a speech to the Local Government Association, which, as its name suggests, is an organisation set up to represent the interests of local government in England and Wales. I said yes, and forgot about the matter. Only yesterday did I bother looking at the papers that had been sent to me and pay attention to what the debate was to be over. I am normally a very lazy speaker. I never write my speeches, and usually give no thought to their content until I open my mouth. On this occasion, however, I was to be proposing a somewhat controversial motion to an audience of Guardian readers. Looking at the list of those invited to sit in the audience, I noticed representatives from the Commission for Racial Equality, the Runnymede Trust, the National Housing Association, the Home Office, and various other bodies with the same predictable views. And so I decided to give up on trying to be spontaneous, and wrote my speech in full.

Speaking for the motion with me was Tiffany Jenkins, who is Director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas. Speaking against was Simon Woolley, who is National Co-ordinator of Operation Black Vote, and who wrote a most interesting article in The Guardian a few months ago about Winston Churchill and Black History Month. With him was Dr Richard Reiser, Director of Disability Equality in Education. Together with Councillor Laura Willoughby, who is Chairman of the Local Government Association Equalities Executive, and who was to keep order in the proceedings, we sat together at a raised table facing the invited audience. The debate was recorded, and transcripts will be published by the Local Government Association.

Ms Jenkins spoke first. She began by praising certain kinds of diversity—the sort that brought vibrancy and cosmopolitanism to a country. But followed by saying that diversity as a public ideology was a force for great evil. First, it tended to stereotype people, putting them into categories that were permanent and irreconconcilable. Second, it was reactionary, so far as it upheld the present order of things. Third, that it tended to undermine the sense of shared experience that all societies needed to survive. In its place, it put the thought police.

I spoke next, but as I will simply give the full speech that I made, I will leave this to last, in order not to unbalance the brief account that I am giving of the other speakers. I am, I must emphasise, giving bald and probably inaccurate accounts. I hope that the other speakers will publish their own accounts and circulate them at least as widely as I am circulating mine. If not, there will be the official transcript on the Local Government Association website.

Mr Woolley spoke third. He began by describing his thoughts when first invited to speak. At the beginning of this century, he said, he thought it was a waste of time to debate on whether diversity was a good thing: the real debate for him was over how it was best to be promoted. However, he had decided to come along and argue that it was a good thing and should be promoted for two main reasons. First, it was the right thing to do—an inclusive society was obviously better than one that was not. Second, it was in the direct self-interest even of people like Sean Gabb to have the promotion of diversity. People who are not included in the making of decisions drift to the margins, where they turn either to crime or to dangerous ideologies like radical Islam. Look at Bradford, he said—a place torn apart not because of its diversity but by the lack of any real diversity. Look, on the other hand, at London—a city universally admired and indeed envied for its great wealth of diversity.

Finally, Dr Reiser spoke. For him, diversity was the same as equality and therefore the same as a fairer world. Discrimination was always the fault of those in power—politicians and big business. Racism was a product of their imperialism. So were racial attacks and murder. What the world needed, he said, was the use of power to correct its past misuses. He accused the proposers of the motion of "extreme right wing prejudice" camoflaged in "neo-liberal arguments" about freedom of speech and association. He objected to Sean Gabb's use of the word "handicapped", arguing that the correct word was "disabled", and that to use any other was patronising and offensive. Of course, the Government must challenge discrimination wherever it could be shown to exist—I counted 15 uses of the word "challenge" in this sense. Therefore, we needed a new Race Relations Act, and much more vigorous promotion of diversity. In particular, we need much more promotion of diversity in schools. We needed to abolish independent education, so that all children could study together in state schools, where they could be taught to love one another. Ultimately, he concluded, it was necessary not just to change this country, but the whole world, dominated as it is by American imperialists and rapacious multi-national corporations.

Now, here is my speech. I read it slowly and exactly in my loudest and flattest voice.

I will begin by questioning the notion of diversity. What does it mean? If it means that we are all individuals with different tastes and opinions and understandings of the world, it is of course something with which no libertarian would take issue. As commonly used, however, it means that we should work for the sort of society in which every organisation, public and private, is filled with representative numbers of women, black people, homosexuals, and the handicapped. Anything with less than representative numbers of these and other groups is to be investigated on the grounds that it is probably discriminating. In describing the ideal society according to this view of diversity, the old sneer about jobs for black, one-legged lesbians is cruel but not that unfair.

Now, this is a diversity of sorts. But it is not the diversity that really exists when not as carefully managed and constrained as a bonsai tree. This is the diversity that concentrates on superficial differences between individuals. When it comes to matters of opinion, there is no diversity. Everyone is expected—in public, at least—to endorse the kind of opinions that would not be out of place in a Guardian editorial. Let there be diversity of belief—let someone say the number of black people in this country has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished; or that America is the Great Satan, and got a jolly good hiding in New York last year, and should mind its ps and qs over the Middle East in future if it wants to avoid more of the same; or that homosexuals are the spawn of Satan, and aids is only the beginning of God's punishment for their abominations—let anyone deviate from the Guardian line on any issue dear to the promoters of diversity, and there is an end of talk about diversity. The cry will go up for sackings from employment, for police and security service harassment, and of course for censorship laws with criminal sanctions attached. Promoters of diversity as the word is commonly used are inclined to tolerate only the diversity of which they approve. Where they do not approve, they will happily manufacture excuses for hate crime laws as arbitrary and soon perhaps as draconian as the religious laws of Elizabeth I.

That, I suspect, is the diversity promoted by the Local Government Association and the organisations that employ most of the rest of you. Looking around this room, I see people of every superficial difference. But anyone of you who deviates too far from the bonsai intellectual status required will pretty soon find out what the inside of a job centre looks like nowadays.

The problem is that diversity as it exists outside the bonsai grove is not some multicultural love feast. It is an extraordinarily unstable thing, always liable to collapse into violence born of ungovernable hatred. If you want to see diversity in action, look away from this room—look at Yugoslavia; look at Rwanda; look at Ulster; look at parts of India; look at the old Ottoman Empire and virtually the whole of the present Middle East. Those born into such societies know that they are unfortunate, and lament their inability to make their world different from how it is. Yet that is exactly what we, in the name of diversity or anti-discrimination or multiculturalism, are busily—if usually uncomprehendingly - manufacturing for ourselves.

Diversity does not need to collapse into naked violence to produce a nasty, uncivil society. There are many circles of hell before the lowest is reached. But how can the historic, fairly liberal institutions of this country survive, when increasing numbers of people are actively encouraged not to define themselves as individual members of one nation, but as members of groups with interests different from and often opposed to those of other groups?

Democracy requires at least belief in a fluid public opinion to which rival candidates can address themselves and hope to win over enough votes to form a government—a government that will exist so long as their majority exists, and that will in the meantime be regarded by the present minority as legitimate if regrettable. In a society Balakanised along racial, religious, sexual, or any other lines, democracy is no more than a headcount superfluous so long as the census reports are up to date—a headcount after which the majority will forever more or less tyrannise over the minority.

And if that is the case with national democracy, how much more it is with local government, with the delivery of public services like healthcare and education, with policing, and with criminal justice. How can there be trial by jury when verdicts are routinely brought in on grounds separate from the evidence presented in court?

To say that diversity as commonly promoted causes discrimination is the very mildest condemnation.

Nations are fictitious entities. Except where the smallest or most primitive are concerned, they are not composed of individuals very closely related by blood. They have normally grown over centuries by amalgamation with successive waves of migrants and invaders. What holds a nation together, then, is not shared blood, but a shared identity. Attack that identity, and the nation is attacked. Destroy that identity, and the nation is destroyed. But, as said, do not suppose the resulting diversity will be one of mutual love or even respect. It will be a diversity in which individuals are judged according not to character or ability, but to membership of a distinct and possibly hostile group.

The challenge facing this country in the next few generations is to find some minimal shared identity with which to connect the often visibly diverse individuals who live here. The facts of demography mean that this must be very largely a matter of assimilation - though with much compensating tolerance by the majority of remaining differences. How we shall manage this I do not know. But I do know we shall not manage it by promoting diversity.

The speeches over, questioning from the floor began. About half of it was directed at me, but I had run out of paper and the will to keep notes; and so anyone interested to know exactly what was said must wait for the official transcript. However, I had the chance for several long replies, the last of which went something as follows:

I repeat that I am not arguing for a monolithic society, in which all people must conform to one standard of thought and behaviour. Indeed, I am arguing against exactly that. I believe that we should do our best to get along with each other, and that we should always try to look behind superficial things like nipple rings and green hair and religion and colour of skin, and judge each other on character and ability. But I do not believe in the enforcement of niceness. As a libertarian, I believe in the right of people to do as they please with themselves. This means that people have the right to discriminate in their selection of employees and tenants on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, age, physical incapacity, or any other criterion that takes their fancy. To say otherwise is to advocate forced association. People also have the right to say anything they like about the above issues, no matter how unloving it might be. To say otherwise is to advocate censorship.

I oppose all state promotion of diversity. I therefore believe in repealing all the race relations and other anti-discrimination laws. I also believe in shutting down the Commission for Racial Equality and bodies like the Local Government Association. Please accept that there is nothing personal in this. I have no doubt that you would all do much better for yourselves if you were required to sell your services in the private sector. You would also do less harm to the wealth and happiness of all the people in this country.

I saw several mouths fall open in the audience when I said this. Of course, the motion was lost. In the vote at the beginning of the meeting, it was lost by about 30 to four, with five abstentions. In the final vote, those in favour were down to two, with five abstentions—though these were a different five. But no one shouted back at me or walked out. Indeed, I was surprised how nice most Guardian readers can be. We were all very friendly in the buffet afterwards. I was button-holed by a young woman who I think was Mr Woolley's daughter, though I neglected to ask. She began with flattery. She was a reader, she said, of Free Life Commentary on my web page and found it very interesting. the surest way to an intellectual's heart is though his ego. This young lady will doubtless go far in life. She then asked why I was spending so much of my time on the mixed bag of losers and cretins who are the modern Conservative Party? Why not turn my attentions to the Liberal Democrats? These at least were already social liberals, and they might with a fraction of the effort I had wasted on the Tories come to some agreement on economic liberalism. Good question, and I had no ready answer. Perhaps I should think of one.

Her third point, and we argued over this at some length, was that I had made no effort to win the debate. She thought the motion might have been carried had I taken the same approach as Ms Jenkins and tried to argue my case in terms more familiar to the audience.

My reply was to repeat the argument long ago agreed within the Libertarian Alliance. The purpose of taking part in such debates was not to try to win them. That might be possible by softening arguments and trying to find common ground. But it was worthless in the long term, bearing in mind the very small number of libertarian activists. The real purpose was to use every opportunity to state one's opinions as clearly and with as little compromise as possible - thereby contributing to a long term shift in the terms of debate.

Had I been less tired after a day of hard teaching—taking my students to a coffee warehouse that no longer existed, and so forth - and had my mind been less ruled as I spoke by the railway timetable, I should have used the example of Mr Woolley. His reaction to what I said was interesting. I do not doubt his honesty or good faith, but I will say that he replied to me in the debate by arguing against positions I had not taken. This was not, I think, my fault. My speech is a pretty clear statement of belief; and I can have no doubt that he caught every word: sitting next to me, he might even have benefitted from ear plugs. The problem is that he had probably never come across opinions like mine. The natural human reaction to the unfamiliar is to try and make sense of it by squeezing it into a known category, however inappropriate that may be. But this is a short term reaction. The next time Mr Woolley hears the libertarian case against diversity promotion, it will be more familiar to him. His disagreement then will not be over what it is not, but over what it is. Eventually, I hope, he will realise that disagreement is not possible. The day he resigns from Operation Black Vote, and becomes a British Thomas Sowell will be the day his daughter has my full answer to her objection.

Yes, it was a successful and enjoyable evening. Many thanks in conclusion to Councillor Willoughby for chairing the meeting so tightly and yet so fairly. Perhaps I should be more careful in future about stereotyping all Guardian readers as embittered fascists spraying staccato hatred from behind a clenched and shaking cigarette.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 110
25th August 2003

"Nej till Euron"
Fighting the Evil Empire in Another Province
by Sean Gabb

Adlon Hotel, Stockholm, Monday 25th August 2003

With Mrs Gabb, I am in Sweden for two reasons. The first is to address the summer conference of one of the main libertarian movements in Scandinavia. The second is to help strengthen the no campaign in the closing stages of the Swedish referendum on the Euro. It was my intention to write a long account of the things seen and done during this past week, together with observations on the Swedish people and their architecture and language. But I am presently short of time, and the glare of the television lights has dimmed all else but the events they illuminated. I will write at more length when back in England. For the moment, though, I will concentrate on the second reason for my visit.

Late last year, the Swedish Prime Minister—some vain creature whose name escapes me, but who likes to get himself photographed in company with Tony Blair—decided to try pushing his country into the Euro. He announced a referendum, and doubtless imagined that a year of campaigning would so wear out everyone else that he would have his way in the end. Sadly for him, though most of the parties and media and most of the Swedish establishment in general were in favour of giving up the Crown, the Swedish people have so far shown unwilling. With three weeks to go before the vote, the opinion polls continue to report strong opposition. The yes campaign seems to have more money and a better co-ordination of effort than the diverse coalition of movements against joining. But truth and greater commitment have so far been decisive.

Not surprisingly, the campaigners for a yes vote have descended from vague generalities—peace in Europe, more investment and jobs in Sweden, and so forth—to specific falsehoods. The claim at present is that Sweden cannot escape the Euro, since just about every country in Europe either is a member already or is about to become one. Even Britain, they insist, will join within the next few years. This being so, Sweden has no choice.

It was with these claims in mind that one of the more vigorous groups campaigning against the Euro—Medborgare Mot EMU, which is Citizens Against Economic and Monetary Union—decided to bring over some British Eurosceptics to explain that Britain was in fact very unlikely ever to join. This group is led by Margit Gennser, a former Conservative Member of Parliament in Sweden, and has Erik Lakomaa as its Campaigns Director. Together, they chose to invite me, Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, and Bernard Connolly, former civil servant with the European Commission and author of The Rotten Heart of Europe. We made our presentations this morning at the Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, before an audience of bankers and politicians and virtually all the main Swedish media.

We began at 10:00 am. After a brief introduction by Professor Kurt Wickman, who was chairing the meeting, Madsen Pirie went first. What I like most about listening to Madsen is that beneath the entertaining surface of what he says is a logical structure of argument that lets whatever he says be reconstructed from memory days or even months after the event. I first noticed this at a conference in 1988, when I was able to sit down two days after he had introduced us to the concepts of an internal market and diversity of funding in the National Health Service—dull stuff now, but exciting when explained by one of the people who had just helped think of it—and write three pages without a single note. Today was no exception. Madsen began thus:

I was first in Sweden 35 years ago. While I was here, you changed from driving on the left of the road to driving on the right. I well remember the endless confusion during the weekend of the change—the traffic jams, the young men and women with their yellow jackets and flags, and the general excitement of the change.

In retrospect, all Sweden got was to put itself at a disadvantage in a car market that still includes, Britain, Japan, India, and various other important places. I am here again during what may be a process of change, and I can tell you this with pretty near certainty—whatever you may decide in the next few weeks, British driving will continue to be on the left and its politics on the right.

He now moved to explaining the "five tests" set by Gordon Brown—that is, the political device for ruling out British membership of the Euro until it could be shown not to be bad for the economy. This had not been shown. He dwelt on the considerable differences between the British and European financial economies. For example, 70 per cent of British families owned their homes. 80 per cent of mortgages were advanced under variable rate agreements—that is, payments rose and fell with changes in the lending rate set by the bank of England. This was often very unlike the rest of Europe, where people either rented or bought on fixed rate mortgages. In Europe, a change of interest rates could take 18 months to have an effect on consumer spending. In Britain, the change was almost immediate. This made the activities of whoever is in charge of monetary policy far more important in Britain that elsewhere.

Again, he said, the British economy was far more open and flexible than those on the Continent. Even after six years of Gordon Brown, Britain remained by European standards a country of low taxes and light regulation. This had allowed the country to attract up to 40 per cent of all direct inward investment to the European Union as a whole. "In terms of geography" he said, "Britain is just off the coast of Europe. In economic terms, it is somewhere in the mid-Atlantic—half way between Europe and America." Nothing that might seriously damage these facts could be considered.

From this, Madsen passed to the political consequences of joining the Euro—how it would increase the regulatory pressures from Brussels. He concluded:

At the moment, let me assure you, there is an 80 per cent probability that Britain will not join the Euro. If you vote no to the Euro next month, that probability will rise to 100 per cent. Voting no will not leave you isolated in Europe.

Madsen spoke for about 15 minutes, which was just right for the audience. I saw two campaigners for the Euro looking concerned as they discussed his speech. Next, I spoke. For those who are interested, a recording of my speech will soon be somewhere on the Internet. For those who cannot wait, or do not care to endure my loud, flat voice, what I said went roughly as follows:

Dr Pirie has explained very convincingly the reasons why, on both micro and macroeconomic grounds, Britain will not join the Euro. I will now explain why, on political grounds, this will not happen.

You can never under-estimate the vanity and stupidity of politicians—look, for example, at your own Prime Minister. However, what politicians usually want above all is a quiet life. It is perfectly obvious that trying to get Britain into the Euro will give no one in government anything but trouble.

As in Sweden, there must be a referendum before Britain can join the Euro. The first difficulty with this will be the question. This will inevitably cause an argument. No matter how fair the questions seems to one side, the other will claim bias. Probably, the matter will end up in court, and there is no certainty of what the Judges will rule. The politicians may well find themselves going into a referendum with a question not of their choosing.

Then there is the matter of funding. The State will give money to both sides, but this will be greatly supplemented by wealthy activists. The result will be a disadvantage for one side. This might also end in court.

Though the Government might win all cases brought against it, the mere fact of being taken to court would make many of the electors suspect they were being tricked—and this would incline them to vote against joining even if they could think of no other reason.

Then there is the matter of public opinion. For years now, there has been an overwhelming majority against joining the Euro. No campaign is likely to change this. Most likely, the Government would lose. In theory, it could stay in office having lost a referendum. But the moral damage would be immense, and it might destroy the Government.

Even assuming a victory, there would be trouble. In the first place, the opponents of entry would not just go away. They would make loud accusations of cheating. Many would turn out to even louder street demonstrations. Some might even start campaigns of civil resistance. In the second, whatever government took us into the Euro would be made to accept the full blame for the next recession. At present, we all know there will be a recession, but no one seems much inclined to blame Gordon Brown. After all, the Conservatives won elections in 1983 and 1992 as the country was bottoming out in very deep recessions. They lost an election in 1997 about half way through one of the most spectacular booms in British history. Since Margaret Thatcher retaught us our economics, we have learnt to regard politics and economics as largely separate matters. In the Euro, we would blame the politicians for any recession. They took us in, we would insist. The Euro caused the recession, we would assert. We would crucify them.

So what is in it for the Government? The answer is nothing. Tony Blair might look for some reward in Europe—the Presidency, perhaps—but what about Gordon Brown and Jack Straw and David Blunkett, and all the others who would expect to stay behind and live with any resulting mess?

One should never say never. But assuming some understanding of their self-interest, the various members of the British Government have no reason to lift a finger to get the country into the Euro. It will not happen.

Now, I was warned before giving this speech that—to quote John Cleese—I should not mention the War. I do not think I have. But if I have, I do not think you noticed.

I put in this rather odd final point because some other British Eurosceptics had recently visited and had given credibility to the yes campaign by insisting that the European Union was exactly the same as the Europe intended by the German National Socialists. It seems that most Swedes know the scripts of Fawlty Towers by heart, and we decided to throw in the reference so we could head off the usual boring questions about paranoid xenophobia and whatever. It got a big laugh and a round of applause.

Next came Bernard Connolly. He spoke at much greater length - nearly an hour—and concentrated on the details of which he was a master and Madsen and I were not. He spelt out the corruption and incompetence at the heart of European decision making, giving examples of how economic decisions are made for political ends, and how these are made to work no matter at what cost to productive and allocative efficiency. It was a speech worth hearing, but was too long and involved for me to retain the full threads.

Then there was questioning from the floor, but this produced nothing new and is not something I feel any duty to report.

I will not report the comments I received. But I know I did a good job. I looked smart in my suit. I spoke clearly and fluently. I conformed closely to the Madsen Pirie school of public speaking - "stand up, speak up, shut up". I also handled a long interview for the television rather well. I had been willing to bet money that no one in the Swedish media would have bothered to find our who I was. But the researchers had been set to work, and I faced a polite grilling about the Candidlist, about the Libertarian Alliance, and about my reasons for not wanting laws against drinking and driving. I answered all questions honestly and dully—that is, I killed any story that might have been under construction. My experience is that straight answers are always the best. This was no exception.

The efforts today of the three British visitors—and mine were less than a third of the whole—have tended to help the no campaign in Sweden. We have not in ourselves made a great difference. But we have helped to knock down the claims that Britain is about the join the Euro, and that Sweden ought to hurry to avoid being left out.

I would normally be dubious about getting involved in the internal politics of another country. But referenda on the Euro are a different matter. The European Union is a threat to all the peoples of Europe. In the face of this common threat, we help ourselves by helping each other. I am sure the Swedish politicians do not intend to take no for an answer in this referendum. As in Denmark and the Irish Republic, their intention, if they lose, is simply to keep holding new referenda until they get the answer they want. However, this may not work. The Euro is an economic disaster. All the promises made in its favour have come to nothing. If the Swedes vote against joining, the British will not even be asked. If Britain stays out, the whole project may begin to unravel.

The Europhiles often call people like me "narrow little nationalists". We are encouraged to visit other member states of the Europe Union, and to get involved in issues of common importance. We are told to learn that our fellow citizens of the European Union are people just like ourselves, with similar problems and similar hopes. Well, I have taken that advice—and I hope its results will not be pleasing.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 112
19th September 2003

An Afternoon with Tony Martin
by Sean Gabb

Since time immemorial, on the third Thursday in September, Thame in Oxfordshire has hosted what is now the largest agricultural fair in the country. From all over England people come to buy and sell things and to see one another. There are tractor displays, and cows, and horses, and stalls selling clothing and food and drink, and vast car parks for the thousands of people who attend.

I was there yesterday at the invitation of the BBC. Bill Heine, a populist libertarian from America, has a show with Radio Oxford, and is in the habit of getting me on air every week or so for five minutes at a time. Yesterday, he wanted me not on the end of a telephone, but in person. Without offering the usual fee that I charge for leaving home, he wanted me to drive for a round trip of 300 miles to spend an hour live on air discussing rural crime and the right to self defence. For that distance and that time, regardless of fees, I would normally have refused. However, this was different. One of the other guests was to be Tony Martin.

He is the farmer who shot two thieves in August 1999, killing one and wounding the other. He was put on trial for murder and convicted. On appeal, his conviction was changed to manslaughter, and he was eventually released on Friday the 8th August this year, having spent more than three years in prison. He could have been released last year, but the authorities argued at the parole hearings that his lack of repentance made him a continuing danger to any thieves who might try to break into his home. He is presently facing a tort action for damages from the thief he neglected to kill—the man is claiming for loss of earnings and for reduced sexual function. His legal fees are being charged to the tax payers.

This is a case that has at times filled me and many other people with incandescent rage. It is the perfect summary of all that is wrong with modern England. Now, I was invited to meet the man at the centre of the case. Let alone driving—I might have walked the entire circuit of the M25 to be with him. So off I went.

The radio show was by design an anarchic affair. Bill Heine took us off the stage that had been set up for the broadcast, and had us mingle with the large crowd that stood around. He darted here and there with his microphone, every so often taking calls from the listeners. His guests were Tony Martin, I, and a Bill Bradshaw, who used to be the Vice Chairman of the Thames Valley Police Authority. I think he had been given a peerage by Tony Blair—which is, of course, to be regarded as null and void; and so I will call him Mr Bradshaw. He sprayed us with the usual junk statistics—burglary is unusual and diminishing; we are likely on average to be attacked in our homes once every 285 years; and so on and so forth. Al I can say in his favour is that he showed courage in turning up to a debate in which he could not possibly get the sympathy of his audience. I have done that, and it can be unnerving—even when you believe what you are saying; and I cannot believe he was entirely persuaded by the truth of some of his claims.

I do not intend to fill this article with an account of my own doings. In any event, I am to be sent a recording of the broadcast, and I will make this available on my website for anyone who wants to listen. However, I do need to explain how I came to be seen as a minor hero at the fair, and how I was able to speak so freely with people. I made my own introductory statement roughly as follows:

There is in any society an implied contract between state and citizen. We give up part of our right to self defence—only part, I emphasise—and all our right to act as judge in our own causes. We resign these matters to the state and obey its laws. In exchange, it maintains order more efficiently and more justly than we could ourselves. In modern England, the state has not broken this contract. If it had simply given up on maintaining order, that would be bad enough—but we could then at least shift for ourselves. No, the state in this country has varied the terms of the contract. It will not protect us, but it will not let us protect ourselves. If we ignore this command, we can expect to be punished at least as severely as the criminals who attack us. That is what the Tony Martin case is all about. This is not just a matter for the country. The towns have it just as bad, if not worse. If you are a victim of crime anywhere in this country, you are in it alone and undefended. Call for the Police, call for a home delivery pizza—see which arrives first.

Mr Bradshaw insisted I was talking nonsense—that the response times for burglary was excellent; and that the law on self defence was "plain" and had not changed in "hundreds of years". I poured scorn on this:

The modern law says we may use "proportionate force" to defend ourselves. What does this mean in practice? It means this: You wake at 3:00am. Someone is moving about downstairs. You must go down and ask—"Excuse me, but have you come to tie me and my wife up and torture us slowly to death? Or are you here just to lift some cash and the car keys? If the former, I will consider what force to use that will be proportional. If the latter, I will retire upstairs and wait for the police. What nonsense! Anyone who is unlawfully in your home should be regarded as taking his life into his hands. If you kill him, that is his tough luck.

That got a big round of applause, and—as said—made me a hero for the day in Thame.

After the broadcast, I fell into conversation with Mr Martin. I was no sure what to expect. His coverage in the media has been almost wildly hostile. The usual picture of him shown is of a man with staring eyes and a morose look about his mouth and lower face. He is described as a "loner" with incoherent and nasty opinions about the world. This can all be discounted as the smears of a controlled media. The man I met yesterday—and I have photographs which I will publish to show it—was a cheerful, rather stolid farmer, though with an unusual fluency of speech. Far from avoiding company, he went into the crowd and mingled as if he had been doing outside broadcasts all his career. At least once, he carried on a three way conversation with someone in the crowd and with a telephone caller.

What most impressed me most, however, was his modesty. I come across many people who have been plucked from obscurity to face some public injustice inflicted by the authorities. Quite often, they come to regard themselves as people of immense importance, and take on airs and graces that sit ill on them. Now, Mr Martin has suffered more injustice than anyone I have ever met. He was treated as a common criminal and spent years in prison for doing what in any sensible country would be regarded as a public service. One of his dogs died while he was inside. His remaining dog—a black Rottweiler called Otto—had not at first recognised him after a three years absence. He is a continuing victim of persecution because of that law suit, and may lose still more before it has ended. To suffer all this would send many people mad. Mr Martin, though, behaved throughout yesterday's appearance with quiet good humour. People came up to him in a continual stream, to shake his hand and give him their thanks and best wishes. He smiled. He gave as well as accepted sympathy. He had a kind word for everyone. I may have been a minor hero, but he was the main attraction. And it did not turn his head. I have met half mad loners. This was not one of them. I thought of John Hampden. By an odd coincidence, I later read that he had gone to school in Thame. So did John Wilkes.

We spoke for about an hour. Again, it was a chaotic affair, interrupted by other people and an interview he did with a rival broadcaster. We shook hands and said goodbye three times before we did part. We spoke about the shootings at his farm in 1999. He said that, after so much discussion of what happened and what he was supposed to have thought, he could no longer recall what had really happened. He said he was angry about his treatment by the Police. In particular, they had made much of the fact that he was fully clothed when the thieves broke into his home. They used that as evidence of intent to use violence. "If I was sleeping in my clothes" he asked, "what business was that of anyone? Surely what I do at home is my business alone. Ask any farmer if, after a hard day's work, he always bothers to get changed for bed.".

I asked if he was worried about further attacks. He showed me his mobile telephone. It had a red button on the top. "If I press this" he said, "a police helicopter will be overhead in five minutes. These people do not want still more bad publicity. But"—he smiled—"I don't know what good a police helicopter can do me after five minutes. A lot can be done in that time". Of course, he no longer has a shotgun licence. He reminded me of the motorcycling injury from his younger days that left him with a propensity to deep vein thrombosis. Had those thieves in 1999 taken him by surprise, they would have tied him up. That might have finished him there and then. Next time, without effective means of self defence, he might not be so lucky.

His opinions can be described as old-fashioned Tory. I can understand why these are so shocking to the media and political classes. But I heard nothing yesterday that any reasonable person could have found objectionable. "Democracy is dead in this country" he told me emphatically. "It was good while it lasted, but it's now gone. The Government doesn't care about ordinary people. The Police treat us with contempt. The way things are going, there will one day be a revolution in this country. Then, we shall need a benign dictatorship. I don't mean this present lot will have more power. I mean a benign dictatorship that will give ordinary people back their rights." Nothing eccentric there, I think, regardless of whether I agree with it. We exchanged addresses and parted—he back to his farming, I to look around the fair. Bill Heine had passed on to a debate about tractors that drive very slowly down country lanes. The debate was heated, but did not touch me.

Over by the Countryside Alliance stall, I fell into conversation with an old woman. She was 87, and had lost her husband and both brothers in the War. One of her sons was settled in America with his family. But another had a farm in Oxfordshire. He had been threatened repeatedly by intruders. He had lost crops and machinery to them. The Police had told him they were unable to help, but had warned him not to "take the law into his own hands". She was safe in her own home. She had good neighbours who kept an eye on her. But she looked about her with quiet despair. "I have been coming to this fair and to others like it all my life" she said. "I used to think it would go on forever—always changing with the times, but continuing generation after generation. It will see me out, I suppose. But I don't believe it will go on much after that. You should think yourself lucky you have seen it while you can. There will be nothing for your children. They will have neither country nor freedom. Sometimes nowadays, I almost regret I survived the bombing."

I tried to assure her that even this Government could not last much longer, and that the forces of reaction were swelling in both numbers and conviction. But her own conviction had been too much for me. Perhaps this is the approaching end. All nations die eventually. Why should ours be different? If the present collapse can be dated to the appointment of Tony Blair as Prime Minister, it was not without advance warning. It was preceded by a long corrosion of values and of the institutes that embodied them. Mr Blair's Government did not take power by any coup. It was elected and re-elected by regular process. We retain a freedom of speech and constitutional safeguards that would be formidable in any nation still inclined to make use of them. Nothing has been done to us yet that we could not have stopped had we only the will as a nation to resist. For doing hardly worse, Charles I was put to death by a revolutionary tribunal. His son James II was run out of the country for doing far less overall. We live in a country where the majority are inclined to grumble, but are more interested in voting people out of the Big Brother house than in getting rid of the cast of traitors and buffoons who run our lives. My words of assurance were hollow, and we both knew it.

Still, I did see one of the last English heroes yesterday, and I did see a little fragment of the old England. My thanks to bill Heine —and, oddly enough, even to the BBC that made it possible.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 113
13th October 2003

Not Socialism, but Post-Socialism:
The Nature of the Enemy
by Sean Gabb


Around this time of year, I give much of my writing time to complaints about the Conservative Party. There is little directly on this matter I have not already published; and I see no reason for saying it all again with a present set of examples. What I will do instead is to provide a sociological analysis of why the Conservatives are doing so badly. I begin this with an abstract that summarises a longer argument.


The problems now faced by the Conservative Party are not fundamentally a matter of policies and personalities. They are instead the effect of a set of assumptions—more or less accepted by all involved in politics—that makes the advocacy of conservative ideas almost impossible. Using the terminology and analysis of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist thinker, this set of assumptions may be called a "hegemonic discourse". Propagated by all the instruments of administration and law and education, it sets the terms of public debate—what questions may and may not be asked, and how those allowed may be answered.

The discourse is not supported by overt propaganda of the kind used by the totalitarian states of the middle and late 20th century. It is instead imposed by three primary methods. There is the control of terminology—"left" and "right", "progressive" and "outmoded", and so forth—thereby enabling arguments to be conducted in terms already biassed to one side. Periodic shifts in terminology - "gay" for homosexual", for example—also allows one side to come to any argument from an already established position of moral superiority. There is control of the news media. This does not involve actual lying. It is rather a matter of selection and emphasis of true facts: articles and news items can be constructed that in the formal sense are wholly neutral, but that create an entirely prejudicial effect on their audience. Then there is control of the entertainment media. Again, this does not involve the crude propagandising of the National and Bolshevik Socialists. It is the use of drama and comedy to normalise attitudes previously regarded as unusual or even offensive, and to associate their opposites with all that is bad.

Conservative opposition to the New Labour project is based on the assumption that it is essentially about economic policy. But it is not about economics—or is so only at the periphery. This project is one of cultural deconstruction. Socialism of the familiar kind is for the moment dead. This project is its replacement. The established order of liberal democracy is still to be overturned, but not by the traditional means of seizing the means of production. Though not socialists in the traditional sense, the directors of the project were all influenced—at university or by example—by the writings of Gramsci and Foucault and Althusser, and the various other philosophers of the "New Left".

To understand what is happening needs an understanding of these philosophers. Indeed, to understand their writings is of the greatest importance—just as understanding those of Karl Marx was in the earlier debates over socialism. The critiques of liberal democracy contained in these writings are all variously false or questionable. But the analyses of how the ruling class gains and keeps power - through the control of culture and the construction of hegemonic discourses—may be seen as a set of instructions for how the new non-economic socialists can themselves gain and keep power.

These writings are also useful to the opponents of the project. For over a generation, the enemies of liberal democracy have been complaining about "repressive tolerance" and "labelling" and "moral panics" and "hegemonic ideologies". All these terms and the analyses they express can now be used with far greater justice against these enemies of liberal democracy. They can be used to spread embarrassment and confusion, and also to recapture the moral high ground of debate.

For this to be achieved, however, it is necessary to educate conservatives in general—and Conservatives in particular—so that they can understand the nature of the present threat, and to use these captured tools of analysis and attack. Arguments based on the economic calculation debate won against the socialists from the 1920s onwards are for the moment largely useless. It is now accepted that the State cannot bake bread better or more cheaply than the private sector. It is still useful to complain about high taxes and the growing burden of regulation. But these complaints must be grounded on an understanding of the reasons why these taxes and regulations are being imposed—their purpose being to advance an agenda of cultural transformation.

How this education is to be achieved is a matter for further discussion. Briefly put, is there anyone out there who will give me the money needed to buy the time for educating the conservative movement?

I can be reached by the usual means.

Sean Gabb
13 October 2003
07956 472 199


For at least ten years now, the British Conservative Party has been in serious trouble. It has lost two of the past three general elections, and does not seem likely to win the next one. The reasons for this collapse of support can be divided under two headings. There are local and general reasons. The local reasons are obvious. Since Margaret Thatcher was forced from office in November 1990, the Party has had three more or less ineffectual leaders. At the same time, the Blair Government has been reasonably able and very lucky. It has faced no serious challenge to its authority, and has done little immediate harm to the strong economic position inherited from the Conservatives in 1997.

If these were the only reasons for Conservative weakness, the solution would be fairly easy. It would be a matter of looking for a better leader, or waiting for the recession to hit, or both. The problem is that, behind these local reasons, there are general reasons for weakness that make it very hard for any Conservative leader to be effective, or for any but the most serious failure by Labour to bring its legitimacy as the governing party into doubt. Indeed, even given some unexpected upset that might bring them back into office, it is unlikely that the Conservatives would find themselves in power. For all they might be able to form a Conservative Government, they would not be able to pursue conservative objects in defence of liberal democracy. The great problem for the Conservatives, regardless of whoever leads them, is that they are the target of a highly effective Gramscian project, and they show not the smallest sign of understanding the nature of their enemy.

A Gramscian Project

The administration of this country should not be regarded as a neutral machine, to be directed as the elected politicians please. It is instead best seen as a web of people and institutions. There are the civil servants. There are the public sector educators. There are the semi-autonomous agencies funded by the tax payers. There are journalists and other communicators. There are certain formally private media and entertainment and legal and business interests that obtain power, status and income from the policies of government. Together, these are the true government of this country. The elected politicians are not unimportant parts of the administrative web. But they are required to work within limitations imposed by the web as a whole. These limitations are set by the ideas that hold the various parts of the web together.

These ideas may be called a hegemonic ideology. They set the agenda of debate and policy. They determine what questions exist, how they can be discussed, and what solutions may be applied. They provide a whole language of debate. Ideas outside the range of this hegemonic ideology—as especially those hostile to it—either have no words at all for their discussion, or can be discussed only in words that implicitly discredit them in advance. Once achieved within the administrative web, ideological hegemony can be spread, through education and example, to the rest of the population.

The function of ideological hegemony is to legitimise the power and status of the ruling élites in a society, and to marginalise dissent where it cannot altogether be prevented. It supplements—or can even entirely replace—the more overt forms of repression.

These functions were first analysed in systematic manner by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist imprisoned by Mussolini. By the early 20th century, it was clear, in spite of what Marx had predicted, that the industrial working classes in Western Europe and America would not rise in spontaneous revolution. Rather than conclude that the whole theory had been falsified by events, Gramsci and his followers developed the "rescue hypothesis" that the workers had been prevented from understanding their real interests by their acceptance of the dominant bourgeois ideology. Because they thought in terms of national identity and the amelioration of hardship through social reform, they could not see how exploited they were, and how no true improvement was possible within the existing mode of production.

The purpose and use of this analysis has tended to limit its reception among conservatives. However, once developed, any set of ideas can be detached from the circumstances that produced it. It makes no more sense for non-socialists to reject the concept of ideological hegemony because of its origins than it did for the German national socialists to reject the theory of relativity because it was originated by a Jew. Where ideas are concerned, all that matters is whether they are true or false.

Now, when applied to the institutions of liberal democracy, the analysis was false. These were reasonably open societies, with a high degree of toleration of dissent, and economic institutions that had raised and were raising the living standards of all social groups. Nevertheless, it does exactly apply to those people who have taken control of the administrative web and are using it to impose their own, profoundly anti-conservative hegemony in Britain and throughout the English-speaking world.

A Quasi-Marxist Ideological Hegemony

In a sense, the administrative web has been dominated for at least the past three generations by ideas hostile to conservatism. Ever since the 1940s, conservative governments in both Britain and America have found it necessary to govern mostly within the assumptions of the administrators and of their allies. However, the old anti-conservative élites—headed by people like J.M. Keynes and Paul Samuelson, and Roy Jenkins and Warren Christopher - by and large accepted the assumptions of liberal democracy. There was a commitment to open and reasonably fair debate, and to the proposition that justice should remain separate from politics. It was bound together by a belief in its superior wisdom and goodness and by a contempt for opposition. But its hegemony was rather mild and amateurish, and little attempt was made to preserve that hegemony after its claims had been falsified in the 1970s. Since the 1970s - even as conservatives were celebrating the death of socialism—a new and far more professional and ruthless hegemony has been established within the administrative web.

This hegemony proceeds from the progressive domination of the universities by radical socialists. From Sociology and the other social studies, they spread out to colonise virtually every other discipline with the exceptions of Economics, Mathematics and the natural sciences. They are particularly strong in most departments of Education and in teacher training programmes. Since the 1960s, they have been turning out generation after generation of graduates exposed to the ideas of Marxism and quasi-Marxism. Few of these graduates, of course, became committed activists. But, from early middle age downwards, there are now hundreds of thousands of intellectual workers—the key personnel of the administrative web - whose minds have been shaped within radical socialist assumptions.

How the Death of Socialism Has Strengthened Socialists

When socialism collapsed in the 1980s as an economic ideology in the West, and as the legitimisation of tyranny in the East, it seemed at first as if the world had been made safe for liberal democracy. Francis Fukuyma, for example, felt able to argue that the next century would see the progressive triumph around the world of capitalism, democracy and the rule of law. More than a decade later, though, we can see that his optimism was at least premature.

If we look at the leading personnel in the Blair and Clinton administrations—and, perhaps more importantly in the administrative webs below them—we see an almost unvaried hold on positions of importance by people whose minds have been at least shaped by the general ideas of radical socialism. They may no longer be socialists in the economic sense. But their most basic assumptions—from which their old economic analysis had proceeded—has remained intact.

The Relevance of a Gramscian Analysis

What makes the various kinds of Marxist and neo-Marxist analysis so peculiarly appropriate to their actions is that these analyses accurately describe how their minds work. Speech in the old liberal democracies was reasonably free. There was an attempt to separate news from comment. Justice was fairly impartial. But since our new rulers spent their younger years denying these truths, they are quite willing, now they are in power, to act on the belief that they are not true. Because they believe that tolerance is repressive, they are repressive. Because they do not believe that objectivity is possible, they make no attempt at objectivity. Because they do not believe that justice is other than politics by other means, they are politicising justice. Because they believe that liberal democracy is a façade behind which a ruling class hides its ruthless hold on power, they are making a sham of liberal democracy. In this scheme of things, the works of a whole line of Marxist and neo-Marxist philosophers, from Gramsci to Foucault, are to be read not as a critique of liberal democracy, but as the manifesto of their students.

What the Socialists Want

That these people cannot clearly describe the shape of their ideal society, does not at all weaken the force of their attack on the one that exists. The old socialists were notoriously vague about their final utopia, but this did not stop them from producing mountains of dead bodies wherever they took power. We may doubt if the present generation of socialists are sincere when they talk about justice, peace and good will between all people. But we can have no doubt of their immediate end. This is the destruction of the old social and political order—the overturning of its traditions and norms, its standards and laws, its history and heroes. Every autonomous institution, every set of historical associations, every pattern of loyalty that they cannot control—these they want to destroy or neutralise.

The Lack of Conservative Response

As said, this is a Gramscian project carried out by Gramscians. These people spent their younger years reading and thinking about ideological hegemony, and they are now, in their middle years, trying to achieve it. Again, as said, conservatives do not understand the nature of the attack. They understand armed terrorism, and know—at least in theory—how to deal with it. They also know about economic socialism, and are fluent in all the necessary modes of refutation. But the anti-conservatives are not really interested in armed violence—why should they be when they dominate the administrative web? Nor are they really interested in nationalising the means of production, distribution and exchange. No doubt, the Blair Government has raised taxes since 1997, and has imposed a mass of regulations on business. But the tax rises have not been high enough, nor the regulations heavy enough, to give serious inconvenience to the important big business interests.

The real area of conflict is cultural. That is where the engines of destruction are now most concentrated. And this is a conflict in which there is no overall strategy of defence. There are local defences, and these sometimes succeed. But there is no strategy, nor even the realisation that one might be needed. The engines of destruction may be ranged against fox hunting, or unfashionable humour, or Remembrance Day commemorations, or the Churches, or the nuclear family, or received opinions about the past, or national independence, or the Monarchy, or standard English, or private motoring, or whatever else—but the object is always to delegitimise dissent where it cannot be made impossible.

The strategy of attack is easily described. It involves controlling the language of public debate, control of the news and entertainment media, and the use of these to control perceptions of the past and thereby to shape the future. As Orwell said in Nineteen Eighty Four, "who controls the present controls the past: who controls the past controls the future".

The Control of Language

Most obvious is the control of political taxonomy. The distinction between "right" and "left" is an extraordinarily pervasive force, shaping general understanding and judgement of political concepts. Hitler was on the "extreme right". Conservatives are on the "right". Therefore, all conservatives partake of evil, the extent of evil varying with the firmness with which conservative views are held. Any conservative who wants to achieve respect in the media must first show that his conservatism is of the "moderate" kind—that intellectually he more of a social drinker than an alcoholic. Equally, libertarians and those called "neo-liberals" are on the "right". Therefore, they must be evil. The humorous accusation that someone is "to the right of Genghis Khan" serves the same function.

The use of this taxonomy allows the most contradictory views on politics and economics to be compounded, and all to be smeared without further examination as disreputable. Therefore, the "extreme right-winger" David Irving, who is a national socialist and holocaust revisionist; the "extreme right-winger" J.M. le Pen, who wants to reduce the flow of immigrants into France, but is not a national socialist and who apparently has much Jewish support in his country; and the "extreme right-winger" Enoch Powell, who was a traditional English conservative and a notable champion of liberal economics - all these are placed into the same category, and hostile judgements on one are by natural extension applied to the others.

At various times and in various ways, the trick has been played with other words—for example, "reform", progressive", "modernisation", and "outmoded". This first is among the earliest modern examples. From around the end of the 18th century, concerted efforts were made to alter the qualifications for voting in parliamentary elections. The advocates of change were arguing for the abandoning of a system that had been associated with the rise of England to wealth and national greatness, and that had allowed a reconciling of reasonably stable government with free institutions. In its place they wanted a franchise that had never before been tried —except perhaps in some of the revolutionary upheavals in Europe. Perhaps they were right. Perhaps they were proved right in the event. But their way was made easier by calling the proposed changes "reform"—a word they charged with positive associations - and leaving their conservative opponents to argue against "improvement". Modern politics are less intellectually distinguished than in the 19th century. Therefore, less effort has been needed to play the trick with "outmoded" - which allows ideas and laws to be rejected simply on the grounds that they are old.

Then there are the periodic changes of permitted terminology. Every so often, conservative newspapers report that a new word has been coined to describe an established fact, and laugh at the seeming pedantry with which use of this new word is enforced within the administrative web. For example, homosexual became "gay", which became "lesbian-and-gay", and which is now becoming "LGBT"—this being the acronym for "lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered". Words like mongol, spastic, cripple, single mother, and many others, have likewise been replaced and replaced again. In a sense, this is a misguided but well-meaning attempt to mitigate the hardship of the thing by finding new words that contain no added hurt. But its effect—and therefore part of its intention, a Granscian project being granted—is to remove conservatives from the moral high ground in any debate over policy on such people. When conservatives must think twice before opening their mouths, consulting their opponents on what language of description is now appropriate, they have conceded a very important part of the agenda of debate to their opponents. They have conceded an authority over words that must be gradually extended to a general authority. Conservatives may laugh at the clumsy acronyms and circumlocutions that are coined to replace existing words. But the intention is far from comic; and the effect is highly dangerous.

A similar effect is achieved with the frequent and often seemingly arbitrary changes of name given to ethnic groups and to places. Gypsies must now be called "Roma" or simply "Rom", and Red Indians must be called "Native Americans". Ceylon has become Sri Lanka, Dacca has become Dhaka, and Bombay has become Mumbai. Again, words are no longer the neutral means of discussion, but are charged with a political meaning, and judgements can be made on whether or not they are used as required.

Sometimes, words are imposed with a more immediate effect than forcing the deference of opponents. Take a word like "underprivileged", which has largely replaced the older word poor. This came into general use in the 1970s, and was soon used without apology or comment even by Conservative Cabinet Ministers. It carries a powerful ideological charge—the message that anyone with money in the bank or a good set of clothes has somehow received an unfair advantage, and that those who lack these things have been deliberately excluded from the distribution. Though frequent use has tended to blunt its effect and make it no more than a synonym for poor, its acceptance in any debate on social policy puts conservatives at an instant disadvantage.

Control of the News Media

Noam Chomsky, another radical socialist, is useful to an understanding of how the news media are controlled. There is no overt censorship of news—no bureau through which news must be cleared, no restrictive licensing of media outlets, no closed order of journalists, or whatever. Instead, only those journalists and media bureaucrats are ever appointed to positions of public influence who already share the hegemonic ideology. They censor themselves.

Again, the Chomsky analysis was intended to apply to the media in a liberal democracy, and was false. When liberal democracy was in its prime, there was a truly diverse media in which all strands of opinion found open expression. But, as ever, his analysis does apply to any media dominated by those he has influenced. Nobody tells BBC reporters how to cover stories. Instead, all BBC positions are advertised in The Guardian, and most are filled with graduates from the appropriate Media Studies courses.

Now, the propaganda thereby spread by this controlled media is not usually so overt and as that of the great totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century. Techniques of influence have much improved since then. News is reported, and with seeming accuracy. The propaganda lies in the selection and presentation of news. To take a notorious example, everyone knows that the overwhelming majority of interracial crime in Britain and America is black on white. Yet this is not reflected in the media coverage. When the black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, was killed in South London back in 1992, the story received lavish coverage in the media; and the story continued through failed trials, a public enquiry, and the official and media harassment of the unconvicted suspects. The much larger number of black on white murders—known rather than suspected murders, and containing an obvious racial motivation—are either not reported at all or covered briefly and without comment in the local media.

Then there is the presentation of news. A skilled journalist can cover a story in such a way that no fact is untrue, and dissenting views are reported in full—and still manage to produce an article so biassed that it amounts to a lie. It is a question of selecting the right adjectives, or suggesting doubts or motives, of balancing quotations, of carefully taking words and opinions accurately reported but framing them in settings that suggest the opposite. The greatest single exposure of these techniques is the 1993 article "How to Frame a Patriot" by Barry Krusch. But, to give a brief example, look at the way in which almost all coverage in The New York Times and on CNN of the Oklahoma bombings include some reference to the American militia movement. No connection has ever been proven between the bombings and any militia, yet the connection is still made in reporting of the bombings - without making any overt accusation, the association is still made out. Or look at the way in which nearly all media coverage of the British Conservative Party smuggles in some reference to the personal corruption of several Ministers in the John Major Cabinet. The exception to this rule is Kenneth Clarke, the leading Conservative supporter of British adoption of the Euro: his role in the arms to Iraq scandal is forgotten. Equally, any reporting of the far worse corruption in Tony Blair's Cabinet is usually accompanied more by pity than condemnation. Without any actual lies told, the impression conveyed is that the last Conservative government was so corrupt that the known examples may have been a fraction of the whole, while the present Labour government is a model of virtue compromised only by the Prime Minister's inability to realise that not all his colleagues reach his own standards of honesty.

Control of the Entertainment Media

Control of the entertainment media is an area almost uncovered in Britain, except for the radical socialist analyses of the 1960s and 1970s. But it is probably far more important than any control of the news media. Fewer and fewer people nowadays pay much attention to current affairs programmes on the television, or read anything in the newspapers beyond the sports pages—if they still read newspapers at all. But millions watch the entertainment programmes; and these have been recruited as part of the hegemonic apparatus.

Look at the BBC soap Eastenders. This is a programme in which almost no marriage is happy or lasts for long, in which anyone wearing a suit is likely to be a villain, and in which the few sympathetic characters are worthless but presented as victims of circumstances. While they may not have invented them, the scriptwriters have introduced at least two phrases into working class language: "It's doing my head in", and "It's all pressing in on me". These are usually screamed by one of the characters just before he commits some assault on his own property or another person. It means that the character has lost control of his emotions and can no longer be held accountable for his actions.

Then there is its almost comical political correctness. One of the characters is a taxi driver and his mother is an old working class native of the East End. Neither of them raised the obvious objection when one of his daughters decided to marry a black man—not that such a marriage would be in any sense wrong: what matters here is the deliberate absence of the obvious objection as part of a project of delegitimisation. But this is a flourish. The longer term effect of the programme is to encourage intellectual passivity, an abandoning of moral responsibility, and an almost Mediterranean lack of emotional restraint.

Or look at how the BBC treats its own archive. Every so often, black and white footage of presenters from the 1950s is shown, with parodied upper class voices talking nonsense or mild obscenity added in place of the original sound. Is this meant to be funny? Perhaps it is. But its effect—and, again, its probable intention at least in part—is to sneer at the more polished and sedate modes of communication used before the present hegemonic control was imposed.

It is possible to fill up page after page with similar examples of the use of popular entertainment as a reinforcer of the hegemonic ideology—the careful balance of races and sexes in positions of authority, the vilification of white middle class men, the undermining of traditional morals and institutions, the general attack on all that is targeted for destruction. Any one example given may seem trifling or even paranoid. But, taken together, the function of much of the entertainment media is to subvert the old order. Hardly ever are people told openly to go and vote Labour. But the overall effect is so to change perceptions of the present and past that voting Conservative or expressing conservative opinions comes to be regarded as about as normal and respectable as joining a Carmelite nunnery. And barely a word is raised in protest.

How to Win the Battle

I do have a complete strategy of opposition, but have none of the financial means needed to implement it. This analysis is offered, therefore, in the hope that someone will agree with me sufficiently to fund the strategy.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 114
2nd November 2003

Thoughtcrime and The Secret Policeman:
A Case Study in Discourse Theory
by Sean Gabb

I have just watched a recording of The Secret Policeman. This is a documentary programme first shown by the BBC on Tuesday, the 21st October 2003. In this, a reporter posed for six months as a police cadet and then as a police officer, while secretly filming his colleagues. Some of the language caught on film expresses strong dissent from the established opinions on race and immigration. One of the officers put on a white hood and discussed the merits of burying a "Paki bastard under a railway line". He also insisted that Stephen Lawrence—a black youth whose death ten years ago led to a report all about "institutional racism"—had deserved his end. He added:

Isn't it good how good memories don't fade? He fucking deserved it, and his mum and dad are a fucking pair of spongers.

Another officer said of his Asian colleagues:

Truthfully? Fuck them all off. I'll admit it—I'm a racist bastard. I don't mind blacks. I don't mind black people. Asians? No.

Another said of Asians in general:

A dog born in a barn is still a dog. A Paki born in Britain is still a fucking Paki.

As soon as the programme was shown, the chorus of disapproval swelled to full volume. The Acting Deputy Chief Constable of the North Wales Police said:

I felt physically sick as I watched The Secret Policeman.(1)

The Deputy Chief Constable of the Manchester Police said:

I was shocked, sickened, ashamed and saddened by what I saw.(2)

The newspapers and the electronic media not only reported, but joined in the expressions of outrage. Five of the officers filmed resigned the day after the showing. Another was suspended.

Even forgetting the nature of the language used, it is hard to feel sorry for these officers. They are police officers. They are "the pigs". They are the unintelligent, semi-literate dregs of their section of the working class, who have been given a supervisory power over everyone else, including their betters—and who use and abuse this power to the full. They are inefficient. They are incompetent. They are corrupt. So far, only five of these people have resigned. It would be a better country by far if they could all be persuaded to resign. We could then save on the costs of their well-padded salaries. As for crime control, we could go back to the good old days of arming ourselves and otherwise relying on the hue and cry and private prosecutions.

We need, however, to look away from the beastly nature of the people concerned, and look instead at why the programme was made and why the responses to it were so emphatic. Look at the response of that Welsh police chief—he described himself as "physically sick" at what was said. "Physically sick"? When was the last time any of us felt that about something read or heard? For myself, cat droppings, rotten meat, certain medical conditions - these can set my stomach heaving as if I were some teenage anorexic. But I really doubt if, once in the past forty years, I have read or heard anything that came near to provoking a physical response. And these were the words of a senior police officer. It has long been his professional duty to acquaint himself with matters that require a greater than average firmness of mind. "Physically sick"? I somehow doubt it.

But what those police officers said was not merely tasteless and uncharitable. Nor was it merely embarrassing to their senior officers. So far as their senior officers were concerned, and so far as the authors were concerned of virtually all media and political comment, what they said was the equivalent of heresy or treason. It was a duty not merely to deplore what they said, but to denounce it in the strongest terms that came to mind. Any faintness of utterance, it seems to have been felt, might leave one open to suspicions of agreement oneself with what had been said.

Marxist Theory Is Marxist Practice

At this point, I must beg the indulgence of my readers. In my last article for Free Life Commentary, I wrote at some length to show the usefulness of neo-Marxist sociology in analysing the nature of any social order ruled by Marxists or by those influenced by Marxism. Here, I will continue the theme, using this present case as an example of how the analysis can be made to work.

According to Marx himself, the political and cultural shape of any society is determined by ownership of the means of production. There is the economic base, and piled on top of this is the superstructure of all else. Let the base be changed, and the superstructure will be changed as surely and automatically as the appearance of a forest is changed by the varying distance of our planet from the sun. I know there are inherent ambiguities in his theory and many possibly varying interpretations of it. But this summary is accurate enough for our current purposes. As here summarised, there is a rough grandeur to his claim. It is, however, false. We have now been waiting over 150 years for the inner contradictions of liberalism to reveal themselves, and so bring on the next stage of human development. There has been no immiserisation of the proletariat, and no general overproduction crises.

Aside from dropping the whole system as a failure, two responses to this problem emerged in the early 20th century. The first was to look around for some half-convincing rescue hypothesis - see Lenin, for example, on how exploiting the colonies had replaced exploiting the workers at home. The second was to keep the messianic fervour of the original ideology while dropping its economic determinism. The three most important projectors of this change were Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), Louis Althusser (1918-91), and Michel Foucault (1926-84).

According to their reformulation of Marxism, a ruling class keeps control not by owning the means of production, but by setting the cultural agenda of the country. It formulates a "dominant" or "hegemonic" ideology, to legitimise its position, and imposes this on the rest of society through the "ideological state apparatus"—that is, through the political and legal administration, through the schools and churches, and through the underlying assumptions of popular culture. There is some reliance on the use or threat of force to silence criticism—the "repressive state apparatus"—but the main instrument of control is the systematic manufacture of consent. At times, this hegemonic ideology can amount to a "discourse", this being a set of ways of thinking and talking about issues that makes it at least hard for some things to be discussed at all.

Though much ingenuity has gone into proving the opposite, it is hard to see what value even a reformulated Marxism has for analysing the politics and culture of a liberal society. In this country, between about the end of the 17th and towards the end of the 20th centuries, there were ruling classes, and there were what can be called dominant ideologies. But the rulers legitimised their position by reference to standards which were not imposed by them, but had largely emerged spontaneously throughout society as a whole. The function of the ideological state apparatus was not to enforce values on the governed, but to reflect and thereby reinforce values that were already taken for granted. I remember once seeing a print of the Queen and Prince Consort sat with their family round a Christmas tree. This was not a creation of values, still less an imposition of them. It was instead a royal identification with ideas of family stability that were already accepted—ideas that were accepted even by those who, for whatever reason, chose not to take them up, and that had not been noticeably accepted in several earlier reigns.

There were strong disagreements—over religion and land ownership and the extent of the franchise, and the extent of state intervention in the economy, among much else—but the underlying values of society were generally shared and did not need to be imposed. The neo-Marxist analysis only becomes useful for providing a terminology to discuss what happens when a ruling class turns oppressive. Such is the present case.

The Ideology of the New Ruling Class

We have in this country a new ruling class. It is no longer the Monarchy and the network of land-owning and mercantile interests that clustered around it, or anything identifiable as the old—alleged - working class movement that competed with them. Instead, we are ruled by a coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, academics, media people, and businessmen who look to an enlarged state as the source of their income or status. When it came to power is hard to say with precision. It had taken over the ideological state apparatus long before the 1997 general election that gave it formal political office; and that election result more intensified than redirected the course of events. Undoubtedly, though, it is now supreme.

The ideology this ruling class has taken up to produce internal unity and to justify itself before the ruled has nothing to do with the national past or the currently perceived interests of the majority. It is incidentally about regulating everything that moves in the interests of health and safety, and sometimes banning them, and incidentally about preventing alleged dangers to the environment, and incidentally about making us all into the subjects of a centralised European state. But these are only incidentals. They are not the core ideology. Though it has not entirely broken with the past, and though it may appeal to tradition as convenience requires, the new ruling class defines its basis of legitimacy lies in the proclaimed right and ability to bring about a transformation of the country into something entirely new. The old ethnic and cultural homogeneity are seen as evils. In their place, we are to have "a rich diversity of communities". Some of these are to be sexual, some religious. But the real passion is for ethnic diversity.

To take one instance of this, in 1998, the Government set up a Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Its purpose was

to analyse the current state of multi-ethnic Britain and propose ways of countering racial discrimination and disadvantage and making Britain a confident and vibrant multicultural society at ease with its rich diversity.(3)

Chaired by Bhikhu Parekh, an academic placed in the House of Lords by Tony Blair, the Commission was a sub-division of the Runnymede Trust, a formally private body "devoted to promoting racial justice in Britain". Its Report can be seen as a digested expression of the transformation intended for this country. Among the recommendations were a formal declaration by the State that Britain was now a "multicultural society", and a commitment that

deep-rooted antagonisms to racial and cultural differences [should be] defeated in practice, as well as symbolically written out of the national story.(4)

There was also some discussion of giving the country a new name:

[The Name Britain] has systematic, largely unspoken, racial connotations.... Englishness and therefore by extension, Britishness, is racially coded.(5)

No new name was suggested, though it was emphasised that the country from now on should be regarded not as a community, but as a "community of communities".

"Multiculturalism" and "Anti-Racism" As Hegemonic Discourse and Legitimation Ideology

The ruling class has yet to take full notice of Dr Parekh's recommendations. However, its behaviour and language all proceed from the same assumptions. See the endless official fussing over criminal conviction rates and examination passes, the emphasis on "diversity", the careful blending of races and sexes and appearances in all official photographic opportunities, the changed emblems and mission statements of governmental agencies. In the neo-Marxist terminology, the ruling class and its ideological state apparatus are imposing a new hegemonic ideology of multiculturalism.

The great apparent problem with this new ideology is its impossibility. It is a false ideology. It is easily possible for small alien minorities to be accepted into a country. Orthodox Jews are a good example. They live in the nation, but do not regard themselves as of it. What makes them acceptable is that they do not make nuisances of themselves and can never by their nature be other than a small minority. Even hardened anti-semites have little objection to the Orthodox, being more concerned about the alleged doings of the assimilated. It is also possible for large numbers of aliens to be accepted into a nation so long as they assimilate and embrace its culture as their own. The United States in the century to about 1970 is a good case here. During this time, settlers of British ancestry went from being the majority to a large minority, but the American nation they had created continued to exist and to prosper by just about every reasonable standard. But a large and rapid immigration in which the burden of adjustment is thrown not on the newcomers but on the natives—in which, indeed, the newcomers are positively discouraged from assimilating—that is an obvious cause of resentment and even disorder.

There cannot be one society made up of widely different communities each of which loves and respects all the others. There cannot be a society in which the ethnic composition of every group - from university vice chancellors to hairdressers, from lunatic asylum inmates to fashion models—exactly parallels that of the census returns. Instead, there will be a retreat into ethnic nationalism among all groups.

In this context, the words of that police officer quoted above - "A dog born in a barn is still a dog. A Paki born in Britain is still a fucking Paki"—take on a grim significance. The words show a hardening of spiritual boundaries more typical of Eastern Europe or the Balkans or Africa than of the Britain we have known for many centuries—a nation of which membership has been more defined by allegiance to the Crown and adherence to certain norms than by race or colour. Given such attitudes, most of our constitutional arrangements must tend to become unworkable. What is the point of democracy—national or local—or trial by jury, or any public service, when decisions are made not on their merits but on differential group voting power?

Dual Consciousness and the Coming Crisis of Multiculturalism

The ideological state apparatus can be set to work on proclaiming the joys of diversity. But the result is at best what Gramsci calls a "dual consciousness"—a situation in which values are imposed but only partially accepted. Multiculturalism is a discourse, so far as many now cannot find neutral terms to oppose it: see more of the words quoted above—"I'm a racist bastard" - where the immorality of an opinion is conceded even as it is expressed; but the discourse cannot secure plain consent.

The inevitable result is a sharper use of the repressive state apparatus. We cannot be made to love and respect each other. But we can be made to act as if we did. Therefore we have a frequently absurd but always searching inquisition into matters regarded until just recently as private. There are laws to censor speech and publication, laws to regulate hiring and promotion policies, and to regulate the selection of tenants and membership of private bodies, and increasingly stiff criminal penalties for breach of these laws(6). Every few days, the media gives space to some official expression of rapture at the benefits we have gained from multiculturalism. Its most notable fruit, however, has been the creation of a police state.

In a sense, though, the falsehood of the ideology is not so much a disadvantage as a great benefit to the ruling class. Because it is false, it can only be accepted on faith; and faith can give rise to more passionate attachments than any sober acceptance of the truth. And with passionate attachment goes passionate rejection of the opposite. In the word "racism", the ruling class has acquired a term of venomous abuse that can silence most criticism. That the word has no fixed meaning makes it all the better as a weapon of ideological control. It can mean a dislike of people because of their race or colour. It can mean a belief in differences between people of different races. It can mean a propensity to violence. It can mean no more than a preference for one's own people and values—even a belief that one has a "people". As "institutional racism", it can exist in the structures and assumptions of corporate bodies without the intent or knowledge of those employed within.(7) Or it can arise when every effort is being made to avoid it.(8) It can mean a mental disorder(9) or a sin.(10) It can mean any of these things or all of them(11). Whatever it means in any particular context, it soils and discredits all who are labelled with it, placing them outside any claim to respect or tolerance or fair dealing. Modern English contains no greater instance of the power of words to terrify and subdue.

As for the police state laws, these are welcomed. At the very least, the various inquisitions set up provide jobs and status that would not otherwise exist. They are also enjoyed for their own sake. Governments by their nature like to oppress, and the degree of their oppression is limited only by the prospect of resistance and their own beliefs about what is seemly. As an article of faith, multiculturalism obliterates regard for old conventions. Just look at the self-proclaimed "civil libertarians" of the past behave now they are in positions of authority. In the 1970s, they could be trusted to demand every refinement of due process when some picketer was in the dock, or someone accused of revealing official secrets. Now they have incorporated "racial aggravation" clauses into the law which in effect make opinions into crimes. They are calling for the abolition of the double jeopardy rule because it prevents their vendetta against the alleged killers of Stephen Lawrence(12). Multiculturalism also undercuts the old grounds of peaceful opposition to misgovernment. Arguments from ancestral right can be delegitimised by a mere raising of eyebrows and a polite question about whose ancestors are being invoked. Everyone knows the next response will be an accusation of "racism". Therefore, the argument is dropped more often than not, while those who dared raise it must go about protesting their belief in the official ideology.(13)

Nor is the destruction of accountability unwelcome. Democracy has always been something of a fraud in this country—and perhaps with good reason. But rulers were vaguely answerable to the ruled, and could, given the right provocation, be removed. Multiculturalism turns us from a nation to which ultimately the rulers had to defer into a gathering of mutually hostile groups—all with different ambitions and complaints, all capable of being turned against each other in the manner that imperial ruling classes throughout history have used to nullify opposition. In the words of Margaret Thatcher,

Thus the utopia of multiculturalism involves a bureaucratic class presiding over a nation divided into a variety of ethnic nationalities. That, of course, looks awfully like the old Soviet Union.(14)

Thought Crime and the Police State

And so we find ourselves living in a country where conformity to the dominant ideology is imposed by threats of force accompanied by an increasingly hysterical propaganda. It is as if the ruling class were waving a stick and turning up the volume on a television set - so it can stop others from talking about something else and give them no choice but to watch the programme. And it is still not enough. Dissent has been driven out of the establishment media and out of respectable politics, but it continues to flourish in private and on the Internet. We live in a country where almost no one would describe himself openly as a "racist", but where the British National Party seems to stand on the edge of an electoral breakthrough.

That explains the chorus of outrage when those police officers were exposed: there could be no public expressions of sympathy for them—indeed, the knowledge that there was much private agreement with at least the sentiments expressed, if not with their manner of expression, required the public denunciations to be all the more unsparing. It also explains the demand for still greater supervision of speech and action. As in some gentle parody of Stalin's Russia, it is accepted as necessary for conformity of speech and action to be so generally compelled that even the slightest expression of dissent stands out like a black swan among white.

This is the wider significance of the undercover filming of those police officers. It is worth asking why only white officers were filmed, when black and brown officers might not in private be oozing love and respect for their white colleagues. It is also worth asking in what context the words were uttered, and to what extent the reporter had made of himself an agent of provocation. And it can be asked whether the opinions expressed could be shown to have had any effect on actions. But, while it would be useful to have some on the record, the answers are obvious. Witch hunts need witches. When none can be found in public, they must be searched out in private. When none can be found at all, they must be invented.

However obtained, such dissent from the multicultural ideology can be used to justify its more intrusive imposition. Therefore, these words from the Home Secretary:

What's been revealed is horrendous. The issue is... what we can do to ensure police services across the country adopt the new training programmes on diversity to root out racists before they can get through the training programme.(15)

In other words, he promised to make it impossible for dissidents to be employed as police officers.(16) His theme was immediately taken up by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police:

[h]is force intends to plant informers in its classrooms to root out racist recruits. It will also allow community representatives to sit on recruitment panels to prevent racist applicants entering the force. At the Met's training school in Hendon, which trains 3,500 new officers a year, one recruit in a class will be secretly selected to inform on colleagues. Their identities will remain secret for the rest of their careers and they will act as intelligence gatherers. If racism is discovered by undercover officers, it may be used to provide evidence for a criminal prosecution for incitement to racial hatred.(17)

Police officers are already bad enough. But the known presence among them of informers—and perhaps also agents of provocation - can only tend to remove them still further from the rest of the population. They will become a sort of Janissaries, quite separate in outlook and perhaps in nationality from those they are employed to coerce into obedience.

Nor will these undercover means of gathering information be confined to the police. Once they are established as normal, they will be used against other targets. One of the recommendations of the Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence was

[t]hat consideration should be given to amendment of the law to allow prosecution of offences involving racist language or behaviour, and of offences involving the possession of offensive weapons, where such conduct can be proved to have taken place otherwise than in a public place.(18)

This was rejected as unworkable. However, the use of undercover filming to gather evidence makes it workable. The informers and agents of provocation will spread into every area of private life. New friends or partners taken to dinner parties will constrain discussion even when no one intends to discuss the forbidden issues. We shall have to start learning the rules of private conduct that East European have been forgetting since 1989. Life will become grimmer and more oppressive.

How will all this end? Not, we can be sure, in Dr Parekh's "confident and vibrant multicultural society at ease with its rich diversity". I see one of two outcomes. The first is that the ruling class will keep control until it has finished remodelling the population. According to the 2001 returns—and these probably understate the truth—the non-white population of England rose by 40 per cent in the 1990s.(19)

According to an anonymous demographer cited three years ago in The Observer,

Whites will be an ethnic minority in Britain by the end of the century. Analysis of official figures indicate that, at current fertility rates and levels of immigration, there will be more non-whites than whites by 2100.(20)

With a small and credible adjustment to the extrapolated trends, minority status could be reached as soon as 2040. Long before either date, though, national life would have been wholly transformed. For this would not be accompanied by an assimilation in which white Englishmen were joined by black and brown Englishmen, and the nation went on much as before. Ethnic change would bring with it cultural displacement. Whole areas of the country would become alien; and within them, the physical appearances, place names, festivals, rituals and general customs of the past would be effaced—in much the same way as happened when, from the 5th century, the northern barbarians displaced the Romanised Celts who had inhabited this country before them. Then, the ruling class could be safe. It would be presiding over an empire, not a nation, and would be safe from effective challenge.

The second outcome is that the English—or British—will turn nasty while still the majority. I do not think this would be an original nastiness. The French would probably turn first, or the Israelis. But there may come a time when the harsh ethnic nationalism of that police officer becomes the consensus. Then there will be a spiritual casting out of "strangers" from the nation, followed by ethnic cleansing of the strangers, and severe legal and social disabilities for those allowed to remain. And among these strangers will be many who are now unambiguously accepted as of the nation and who regard themselves as of the nation. It is worth recalling that, until the National Socialists redrew the spiritual boundaries of the nation, many Jews were German nationalists. I suppose I should add here that I do not want our own spiritual boundaries redrawn, nor will I lift a finger to help redraw them. But I can easily see their being redrawn if present trends are allowed to continue.

There is a third possible outcome. This is that present trends will not be allowed to continue, that the multicultural discourse will be overthrown before it is too late, that freedom of speech and action will be restored, and that private and public arrangements will be made to encourage assimilation of all British citizens to the cultural values of the majority. This will not bring us to Dr Parekh's land of harmonious diversity. But it is the only basis on which people of widely different appearances are ever likely to live at peace with each other.

Sadly, I need only close my eyes to see the lips of my readers curling at these words. It may already be too late.

A Brief Reading List for the Interested

Althusser, Louis, For Marx, Allen Lane, London, 1969
Foucault, Michel, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Tavistock, London, 1974
Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Tavistock, London, 1979
Gramsci, Antonio, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, New Left Books, London, 1971
Meek, Nigel, Modern Left Multiculturalism: A Libertarian Conservative Analysis, Political Notes No.175, The Libertarian Alliance, London, 2001
Parekh, Bhikhu, The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, Profile Books, London, 2000


1. Jaya Narain and Adam Powell, "Five racist policemen quit force in disgrace", The Daily Mail, London, 23rd October 2003.

2. Ibid. One police officer claims it took him over a week to recover from the shock of watching the programme. See Bryn Lewis, "Police racism is a challenge to the ethnic minorities", letter published in The Independent, London, 30th October 2003.

3. Report of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, published in 2000 by the Runnymede Trust—Introduction available at

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. See, for example, this from 1998:

"A couple of weeks ago, the Commission for Racial Equality recognized what black actors have known for a long time; namely the 'unjustifiable under-representation of ethnic minorities in theatre, opera, cinema, television drama, etc.' The Commission announced that it will press for legislation to close a loophole in the Race Relations Act which allows directors to use 'authenticity' as an excuse for all-white casting. A black Nelson Mandela or a white Winston Churchill will be acceptable; but an all-white production of Hamlet will be in contravention of the act. In this, Britain is merely catching up with the USA, which has had a quota system long enough to ensure that black faces are now run of the mill across the media."

(Lesley Downer, "Theatre: Wanted: a brand new caste", The Independent, London, 2nd September 1998)

7. On this point, see The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of an Inquiry by Sir William MacPherson of Cluny, HMSO, London, 1999, CM 4262-I&II:

"The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people." (6.34)

8. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry:

"Such failures can occur simply because police officers may mistakenly believe that it is legitimate to be "colour blind" in both individual and team response to the management and investigation of racist crimes, and in their relationship generally with people from minority ethnic communities. Such an approach is flawed. A colour blind approach fails to take account of the nature and needs of the person or the people involved, and of the special features which such crimes and their investigation possess." (6.18)

9. See this from America:

"Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School professor and perhaps the nation's most prominent African-American psychiatrist... urged the American Psychiatric Association [in 1999] to 'designate extreme racism as a mental health problem' by including it in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.....

"Poussaint gets support from Dr. Walter Shervington, president of the National Medical Association, an organization of more than 20,000 black physicians. When he took over leadership of the NMA last year, Shervington, a New Orleans psychiatrist, called for a discussion of adding racism to the APA's list of mental disorders.

"'When (racism) becomes so severe in its expression, should it not come to the attention of a psychiatrist or someone working in the mental health field in relationship to identifying what some of the core struggles are around it?' Shervington asks....

"Sabina Widner, a clinical psychologist who teaches at Augusta State University, is blunt about the human rights implications of classifying racism as a mental illness.

"'When I hear these types of things, I think about Russia,' she says, 'where people who are dissidents, people who don't hold majority views, are subjected to psychiatric treatment.'"

(Extracted from John Head, "Can racists be called mentally ill? Debate strikes a nerve", The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Atlanta, 23rd January 2000)

10. See:

"The [Roman Catholic] church has come close to acknowledging the problem. Earlier this year, guidelines for parishes to review their practices described institutional racism as 'a form of structural sin and primarily a sin of omission'.

(Stephen Bates, "Racism in Catholic Church 'driving minorities away'", The Guardian, London, 16th October 2000)

"The Pope, clad in purple as a sign of penitence, said sorry on behalf of his flock for all past wrongdoings, from treatment of the Jews to forced conversions, the Crusades and Inquisition, and more contemporary sins such as discrimination against women and racism."

(Frances Kennedy, "Pope confesses 2,000 years of Church sins", The Independent, London, 13th March 2000)

"The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday apologised for wars, racism and other sins committed in the name of Christianity."

(Laura Clark, "Christian leaders say sorry for wars", The Daily Mail, London, 30th December 1999)

11. In conversation, Dr Chris R. Tame says this about racism:

Anti-racism is a useful ideological tool since the contemporary concept of racism is a portmanteau one, that combines a large—and apparently ceaselessly growing—number of quite distinct ideas. "Racism" is used to describe or mean, amongst other things:

  • • the scientific view that important aspects of human intelligence and/or emotional disposition vary according to racial group and are transmitted genetically;
  • • the attribution to anyone holding such views that their belief is held on the basis of prejudice or blind hatred;
  • • that believing that there are average/general differences in IQ/emotional disposition between racial groups means that one hates other races, or seeks to deny them equal rights or just treatment;
  • • the denial of just, fair and meritocratic treatment to individuals on the basis of their race, ignoring their individual character, IQ or achievement;
  • • the practice of violence against, or denial of individual rights to, individuals of different races.

As soon as we look critically at the varied meanings associated with the word "racism" it is clear that one is dealing with what Ayn Rand calls an "anti-concept", a word designed to actually confuse distinct meanings and ideas, and to smuggle all sorts of unjustified assumptions into political discourse.

12. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Chapter 49, Recommendation 38:

"That consideration should be given to the Court of Appeal being given power to permit prosecution after acquittal where fresh and viable evidence is presented."

13. For an interesting case of bold heresy, followed by immediate recantation, see:

"A village bonfire society has been accused of racism and divided a community after burning an effigy of gypsies during a Guy Fawkes celebration night.

"The Firle Bonfire Society in East Sussex put to the torch a caravan with images of children at the windows just days after gypsies were evicted from fields near the village.

"The caravan was paraded through the streets as part of a procession before it was set alight. It had the registration number P1 KEY painted on the side. 'Pikey' is a term of abuse for gypsies.

"According to local people who saw the parade, the organisers encouraged bystanders to shout 'burn it, burn it'.

"The society was last night facing calls for those responsible to be prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred -an offence that can lead to a jail term of up to seven years.

"Richard Gravett, chairman of the Firle Bonfire Society, defended its actions yesterday, claiming that they were not racist. 'There was no racist slant towards any of the travelling community. If anything, it's actually completely the other way,' he said.

"'It was done to try to make people realise that these people obviously, as we all do, need somewhere to live.'

(Thair Shaikh, "Villagers burn an effigy of gypsies", The Times, London, 30th October 2003)

14. Margaret Thatcher, "Resisting the utopian impulse", American Outlook, Spring 1999; quoted in "Culture, et cetera", The Washington Times, Washington DC, 22nd June 1999.

15. Jaya Narain and Adam Powell, "Five racist policemen quit force in disgrace", The Daily Mail, London, 23rd October 2003.

16. A friend to whom I showed the draft of this article took exception to my use of the word "dissident" to describe racists. My answer is that these are the real dissidents in this country. What other ideology or set of opinions or prejudices make someone dangerous to know? What else can get him the sack from his job, and prevent him from booking rooms to hold meetings?

17. Helen Carter, "Informers will be planted at training colleges", The Guardian, London, 23rd October 2003.

18. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Chapter 49, Recommendation 39.

19. Paul Brown, "Minorities up 40%, census reveals", The Guardian, London, 4th September 2003. The official figures are:

England by Ethnic Group (000s)

  1981 1991 2001
White 44,682 44,848 44,925
Black 707 917 1,286
Asian 1,031 1,487 2,102
Orientals 414 626 825

20. Anthony Browne, "UK whites will be minority by 2100", The Observer, London, 3rd September 2000. The demographer "wished to remain anonymous for fear of accusations of racism".

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 140
29th September 2005

Reflections on the Case of Subhaan Younis
by Sean Gabb

While having coffee with Dr Tame yesterday [28th September 2005], I did a brief telephone interview with BBC Radio Oxford. The issue I was called on to discuss was whether it was right for a certain Subhaan Younis to be sent to prison for 60 days for having shown someone a video clip on his mobile telephone of a beheading in Iraq.

My answer to the question was no. I agreed that to seek out and take pleasure in such images showed a singular depravity of mind. I also agreed that to show such images to someone who had not agreed in advance to look at them was at least in bad taste. But I disagreed with the man’s being sent to prison. By all means, I said, let him be named. Let others know the depravity of his mind, and let him be shunned by the respectable on account of that. But no one should be punished for merely looking at or even publishing things that others might find offensive. 

Of course, there is the matter of procurement. If this man had commissioned the beheading so that he might look at pictures of it, it would be right to prosecute him as an accessory to murder. However, so long as no such connection could be shown, he should not be sent to prison.

Then there is the matter of showing the images to someone who had not consented to look at them. According to the newspaper reports, the person to whom they were shown was shocked and upset. Here, though, while there might be some question of an action for the tort of nervous shock, I fail to see anything that ought to be regarded as a criminal matter. Mr Younis should not be in prison. He should be released now he is there.

And that was the whole of my radio discussion. I spoke clearly and firmly, and no one asked me any hard questions. In any event, the whole item took up only about five minutes, and there was no room to develop a full argument or to answer full objections. All I managed in the time was to outline the distinction, on which libertarians mostly insist, between doing and looking. But there is more to be said – as I realised afterwards in a long dissection of the issues with Dr Tame. Indeed, the Younis case is of little importance compared with the larger issues into which its discussion leads.

What Criminal Act?

Let us begin with the question of whether Mr Younis had committed any act that could be regarded as criminal. There is an exception as regards acts against the whole community. But where common crimes are concerned, it is fair to insist that when no individual victim can be identified, there can be no crime. I have no idea what motivated Mr Younis to show that image. He might have been trying to illustrate the horrors of Moslem terrorism. Or he might have believed in the accurate presentation of reality – as opposed to the sanitised, or censored, imagery provided on British television. But his name is Asiatic, and he could be one of those citizens of convenience – that is, someone who values his British passport purely for the material comforts to which it entitles him, who does not share our national ways, and who knows enough about us only to hate us. If so – and I say at once I have no evidence to believe it really is – he would fall into that large class of persons whose presence among us is becoming a problem that needs at least to be honestly discussed.

However, this being raised, let us put it aside and concentrate on whether he can be regarded as a common criminal. Here, we need to identify a victim. It was not Mr Younis himself. His possible moral corruption is not so much effect of the video clip as cause of the faults that led him to seek it out in the first place. So how about the woman to whom he showed the image? Can she be called the victim of an assault?

I do not think so. Mr Younis showed her something that she found upsetting. But let us be reasonable. What he showed her was most likely a jerky, pixellated video clip, and it must have been displayed on a screen of no more than one inch by one and a half. Any person of reasonably firm mind should have been more upset by a good newspaper report. Even applying the civil burden of proof, in making out the tort of nervous shock, I do not think it reasonable for him to have anticipated so extreme a reaction. Unless the accounts I have read of the incident have left out something important, I fail to see how showing that video clip could have been taken as an assault – or even the breach of the peace for which he was punished.

Procurement and Agency

The publisher and viewer of the clip being excluded as victims, let us turn instead to the unfortunate subject of the clip. Can we say that Mr Younis had in any sense procured his beheading? As said, there is no doubt that the direct procurement of images that show illegal acts should in itself be a crime. If I have a man killed for the sake of having his death filmed, I ought rightly to be charged as an accessory to murder. But how about what may be called indirect procurement – that is to say, how about acts that fall short of commissioning a criminal act, but which still contribute by a possible chain of inference to the committing of similar acts in the future?

This is an argument that frequently arises when people are found guilty of collecting pornographic images of children. We are told that while they may not have commissioned the specific images found in their possession, they have provided through their act of purchasing an incentive for the creation of similar images in the future. Does that argument apply in this case?

I do not think so – and that is granting its validity as an argument. There is nothing in the newspaper reports to show that Mr Younis had paid to obtain his video clip. Nor is there any reasonable chance that the Iraqi resistance group had beheaded someone with a view to selling the video footage. Nevertheless, while there is no reason to assume any financial incentive, the footage was released in order to attract approval and support outside the resistance group.


Does Mr Younis support the Iraqi resistance? Did he approve of the beheading? The newspaper reports I have seen give no answer to these questions, and I have no evidence for thinking greater ill of him than I do for simply possessing and showing the video clip. But let us for the sake of argument suppose that he does support the Iraqi resistance, and that his support was quickened by sight of the beheading. Does this change matters? Could it be argued that the intention of the beheaders to gain approval and his granting of public approval did create a sufficient nexus to justify an accusation of indirect procurement?

I do not think so. It may be wrong to support the various groups resisting the American and British occupation of Iraq, and to glorify their acts. But this must be regarded as fair comment on events of public importance. To magnify any such comment with video clips of an atrocity is irrelevant. I know that the British Government is trying to create a new offence that will cover expressions of support for irregular political violence. But this is political censorship. It is the modern equivalent of the seditious libel laws that were used in the 1790s to stifle the support of some English radicals for the French Revolution. If applied consistently, the proposed law – indeed, the breach of the peace law used to punish Mr Younis – could be used to punish my own view that the Iraqi resistance groups stand in a tradition that leads through the Guerillas of the Peninsula War and the French Resistance of living memory. To answer yes to the above question is to sanction as close a censorship of the media as we have known in this country since the expiry of the Licensing Act.

Should Possession Ever be a Crime?

But while I think I have answered the specific question of whether Mr Younis should have been sent to prison for showing that video clip, I have done so in a way that avoids what Dr Tame and I take as the wider and much more interesting question – of whether any possession or publication should in themselves be treated as crimes. What happened yesterday to Mr Younis was an act of disguised censorship, and I can join with the media class in deploring this. But I am drawn to discuss it by the general principle that some are using to justify his punishment. Should possession or publication be treated as crimes in themselves?

The Case of Child Pornography

Let us turn back to the issue – raised above – of child pornography. This is presently seen as the most revolting and indefensible kind of publication. As such, it is the perfect example for answering my question. I do not accept the standard English mumble about “not carrying arguments to an extreme”. It is precisely in its extreme applications that an argument is most effectively tested. If it fails that test – if it collapses into absurdity at the extreme – the argument is to be rejected. If it holds up, it is at least internally consistent. So, should it be a crime to possess or publish child pornography?

Dealing first with the issue of possession, my answer is no – this should never in itself be a crime. Possession should be acceptable as evidence of direct procurement of children for sexual acts. But without that nexus, possession should not be a crime. If the possessor of sexual images involving children cannot be shown to have had contact with those involved in the creation of the images, there has been no act that can be reasonably described as criminal. After all, where no aggression can be identified, no crime can be imputed.

There is also the argument of procedural honesty – that to make a crime of possession is to give the police even greater scope for corrupt and oppressive behaviour than they otherwise enjoy. To prove an offence of publishing usually requires objective evidence that is difficult to fabricate. To prove an offence of possession requires the unsupported word of a police officer or some agent of provocation. I do not think, at this late stage in our national decline, I need to bother with arguing that the police are corrupt and oppressive. It is notorious that the police in this country have a long history of “stitching up” individuals by planting whatever items may currently be demonised. Anyone who believes they are uniformed civilians, paid to do the job that we might, if so inclined, do for ourselves of protecting life and property, has never read a newspaper – or, for that matter, much history. On this ground alone, the crime of possessing “indecent” images of persons believed to be under the age of sixteen – first introduced, I think, in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 – erodes the safeguards against unjust prosecutions far more than it protects the rights of children.

But there is a more fundamental objection. We can grant that products should be made illegal so far as their creation involves illegality. This would then justify criminalising the mere possession of child pornography. But it would also justify criminalising the possession of clothes made with child labour, or the consumption of electricity made with coal dug out of the ground by workers who are effectively slaves. The principle is the same in all cases. Possession proves purchase. Purchase rewards creation. Creation involves what by our laws is illegality. Thus we have a connection of sorts linking creator to possessor. Yet almost no one suggests that buying clothes made in Bangladesh should be a crime, or the burning of coal imported from Colombia. We have here an argument that does collapse at its extremes, and that ought therefore to be rejected. If its principle is applied selectively, it is because those pressing it object more to the pleasure that some adults get from child pornography than to the alleged harm to children involved in creating it. For all the talk about protecting the young, the real object is to police the imagination.

I turn now to publication. And here, for the avoidance of doubt, I will say that I do believe there should be some age of consent, and that those below it should be protected from sexual use by adults. That is the only ground I can see on which laws against child pornography can reasonably stand. But this does not justify the laws against publication in itself that we now have. If a publisher can be shown to have procured the creation of images that involve criminal acts, he is to be regarded as an accessory to those criminal acts. But what if he has not procured them? Suppose I find a magazine lying in the road one day, and this contains child pornography; and suppose I then pass this to you. In the technical sense I shall have published child pornography. But does this mean I should be treated as a criminal?

I do not think so. As I said yesterday about Mr Younis, where no connection can be shown to its original creation, there should be no crime in publication. Or, as I have just said above – where no aggression can be identified, no crime can be imputed. The argument that buying what is already in being encourages the creation of more is invalid, so far as it muddles the necessary distinction between identifiable and prospective victims.

Moreover, my understanding is that child pornography is created for the market mostly in places like Russia and Latin America and the Far East. These are outside the traditional jurisdiction of our courts. And I think it highly dangerous to go any further than we so far have in the granting of extraterritorial jurisdiction. We have gone too far already. Unless we are to consent to the growth of an unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical body of international criminal law, we should insist on principle that acts committed elsewhere in the world ought not to be the business of our own criminal courts. For the same reason we should insist that those accused of criminal acts in this country should not be extradited to face trial elsewhere in the world – and that therefore our Government should refuse to implement the European Arrest Warrant, and should denounce the treaty signed a few years back with the United States of America.

National Sovereignty and Law

I suspect most of my readers will agree with these two last points. But there are problems with the refusal to countenance any extra-territorial jurisdiction. Does this mean that, if a man living in this country should directly procure the filming of a rape and murder in France, he should not be subject to prosecution in this country? Does it mean that Egyptian nationals living in this country should be able with impunity to procure the assassination of the Egyptian President in their own country?

With regard to the second question, I can argue that, as a matter of policy, we should not allow foreigners into this country who are likely to complicate our foreign relations. And any who are found plotting here should be expelled at once – regardless of what punishment they can expect in their own countries. But answering the first question is difficult. Before the law was changed in 1858, in response to the Orsini bomb plot, there was no crime of conspiring to break the laws of another country. Nor, until the Fugitive Offenders Act of later in the century, was there any means of sending suspects from this country to face trial in another country.

I sympathise with the old concept of an absolutely separate territorial jurisdiction. On the other hand, the concept was applied in a world where, having regard to the state of communications, France was more distant from England than China is today. Paris is now within a three hour railway journey from Waterloo Station, and the price of telephone calls to anywhere in the world is heading toward zero. Perhaps the concept is no longer applicable in its strict sense. Perhaps, then, there is a case for laws to punish the direct procurement of crimes in another country. This would cover publishers who commission pornography from anywhere in the world. It would also cover people – such as Mr Younis is almost certainly not – whose approval of terrorist acts abroad amounts to commissioning. As said, such laws might not cover Mr Younis. But they would cover those hyphenated Americans who have spent the past 30 years contributing financially to the Fenian insurrection in Ulster.

But this takes me further from the case of Mr Younis than I intended to go. I will conclude by repeating that he should not have been sent to prison on the basis of the facts reported in the newspapers. Nor should he have been sent there on the basis of any argument I have seen made or can imagine being made. I do not know Mr Younis. I have no sympathy for him. But this is irrelevant to the question of his punishment. What is relevant is to recall the words of John Lilburne as he was led out to punishment: “What they do to me today, they may do to any man tomorrow.”

Mr Younis should be released.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet

Issue Number 130
16th February 2005

What's Wrong With British Conservatism?
Text of a Speech Given By Sean Gabb
at The Royal Society of Arts,
Tuesday the 15th February 2005

On Tuesday the 15th February 2005, I spoke at a conference organised by the Royal Society of Arts in London. The subject was “What's Wrong With British Conservatism?.” According to the official notification of this debate:

While American conservatism is in such apparently rude health, its English cousin appears terminally ill. The British Conservative Party used to be the biggest political party in the West, but is now a shadow of its former self. What happened to the social base of the British Conservative party? Can the British Conservative Party learn any lessons from America?

The speakers were:

  • Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator;
  • Dr Irwin Stelzer, Director of Economic Policy Studies, The Hudson Institute, and editor of Neoconservatism;
  • Paul Whiteley, Professor of Government at the University of Essex;
  • Dr Sean Gabb, Director of Communications at the Libertarian Alliance.  

The Chairman of the debate was Samuel Brittan, a writer for The Financial Times and author of Against The Flow

It was a most interesting debate, and I am glad that so many of my friends were able to attend. I am obtaining a recording of the event, and will place this on the Libertarian Alliance website just as soon as I can find time for the necessary conversion and html coding. In the meantime, here is a brief record of it.

Dr Irwin Stelzer spoke from an American perspective. He said that the British Conservative Party needs to learn from the Republicans. He made several good points. But since the American Republicans are not really concerned with liberty, or with any type of conservatism relevant to the English tradition, his advice was of limited use.

Boris Johnson gave his usual good and enthusiastic performance. Though I had a rather bitter dispute with him in 2001, I have come in recent years to think more highly of him. He is easily the most interesting and clever Conservative politician in the public eye. If only he were less immediately ambitious and were willing to wait another five years or so for a chance of real power, he might look forward to a very successful career. As it is, he feels too constrained to follow the existing Party line, and this diminished the impact of what he had to say.

Paul Whiteley ran through various polling statistics that showed the Conservatives to be not entirely without hope of winning the next election. While the main opinion polls put the Government ahead, this lead vanishes once the likely turnout is considered. Labour support is melting away in much of the country, while the Conservative core vote is largely holding together. While I am not sure what sort of mandate might flow from an election won on the basis of whose vote collapses the least, I do grant that Mr Blair may be in serious electoral trouble. 

Now to my own speech. I do have a strong prejudice against reading from a prepared text. The ancients never did this – and whatever they did in the arts is a model for all eternity. There used to be rules in the House of Commons against even notes. And the soporific effect of a read speech entirely cancels the effect of the best preparation. On the other hand, I had only eight minutes for my speech, and I wanted to ensure that I made every point I had in mind. So I wrote a speech last Friday, and spent the next few days thinking about the balance and spoken emphases of the sentences. I did think to have the text in front of me as I spoke. Fortunately, I was unable to find this in my bag, and so had to speak from memory and momentary inspiration.

I shall never be a really good public speaker. My voice is too flat, and I never think to smile at an audience. But I can be effective. I spoke clearly and grammatically last night, and I said everything I wanted much as I had wanted. I may even have made the best speech. Here it is:

The central question of this debate, ladies and gentlemen, is what is wrong with British conservatism?  My answer – and I speak for many other people, both in this room and beyond – Is hardly anything at all. From Europe to tax to immigration, conservatives are beginning to set the agenda of public debate. Forget the largely mythical threat of Islamic terrorism: it is against conservatives that laws like the Civil Contingencies Act have been made. Whole stretches of popular culture – the comedian Jimmy Carr, for example, or BBC satirical programmes like Monkey Dust and Little Britain – are objectively conservative. There is now in this country a conservative movement – and I include libertarians in this movement – more passionate and more agreed in substance on what needs to be done than I can recall. All that is wrong with British conservatism is that it lacks a conservative party. The Conservative Party has been out of office now for almost eight years; and even against a Government that, for corruption and incompetence and petty tyranny and high treason and utter discredit, is unprecedented in our history, it is unlikely to win the next election – or perhaps the one after that.

The problem with the Conservative Party and its associated media is that as long as I have been alive, its function has been less to advance conservative interests than to neutralise conservative opinion. This country is ruled by the left. The left dominates the administration and the media and education. Its aim is to construct a new order in which – whatever its proposed merits—we shall have been stripped of our historic liberties and our national identity. The left continues to rule by ruthlessly destroying anyone who challenges it. Even so, it must rule a nation that, so long as it remains a nation, is strongly conservative. The solution is a Conservative Party and a Conservative media that many of us increasingly call the Quisling Right.

A Quisling Rightist is someone who calls himself a Conservative. When standing for office, he implies promises without making them. If pressed, he will make promises that he has no intention of keeping. If elected, he will make firm declarations of principle and argue over inessentials. His conservative politics are purely symbolic. Where essentials are concerned, he will do nothing to challenge the continued domination of the left. In return for this, he will be invited to the best parties, and allowed endless time in the media. When he leaves politics, he will become the Warden of an Oxford college or the Chancellor of one of the new universities. He will be allowed income and status. He will earn this by systematically betraying those who trusted him to stand up for all that they held most dear this side of the grave.

There was a time when conservatives were not able properly to discuss what, on a candid review of the past half century, is hardly worth contesting. Conservatives generally came together only within the institutional structures of the Conservative Party – a rigid, centralised organisation, as able to suppress internal dissidence as the old Communist Party. But the Internet has now brought thousands of us together in places far beyond Party control. And if we argue there over many things, we agree on many others. And what we are coming to agree most firmly is that there is no point in working for a victory at the next election of the Conservative Party.

What would happen, we ask, if, by some miracle, the Conservative were to form the next government? Our answer is that they would do nothing substantial. At the end of five years, there would have been much political excitement and much appearance that something was being done. But there would, at the end, have been still fewer of our historic liberties and still less of our national identity. The project of the left would have moved forward as if Labour had never left off ice.

Why then vote Conservative? For myself – and for most of my friends – if I must be destroyed, let me be speared in the front by someone who looks me in the eye and calls himself my enemy. Far better this than be garrotted from behind by a supposed friend.

Until recently, this line of thinking could often be checked by the approach of an election. The Conservatives are dreadful, we would say. They have broken all their promises so far. But Labour is dreadful too, and these Conservatives might this time do something half decent. But this check no longer applies. The present generation of the Quisling Right is so ineffective that it cannot even tell a straight lie. It will not win the next election. This being so, we in the conservative movement might as well vote for a party that says what we believe. That party will not win either, but at least our votes will be counted and recognised as a clear statement of opinion. What party will this be? It might be UKIP. It might be Veritas. It might be some other party yet to be formed. It will not be the Conservative Party.

Let me end where I began. The conservative movement in this country is in enviably good health. All we need to take power and dismantle the project of the left is a conservative party that is at heart conservative. All that holds us back is that we are stuck with the Quisling Right. 

I could have elaborated on these points. But I made them well enough.

Afterwards to dinner with Dr Tame, David Carr, Bruce Nichol and Paul Staines. We agreed that there was a comfort in despair. Now that the Conservatives have made it clear that they have no intention of rolling back the New Labour revolution, and now that they have ensured they cannot win the next election – as opposed to watching Labour lose it – we felt content to watch the downward course of events, while continuing to prepare for some eventual reaction. 

As said, I will in due course publish a sound file of the proceedings, and will also get copies of the various photographs taken.