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

Preface

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.

Abstract

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
sean@libertarian.co.uk
07956 472 199

Introduction

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.

Understanding England and the English
by Sean Gabb
Speech to the Property and Freedom Conference
in Bodrum, September 2013

Note: I took notes of all the speeches, and will soon publish these notes. In the meantime, here is my own speech as I wrote if after delivery. I think it’s a bad habit to read speeches from a text – not unless you are speaking in a foreign language, that is, or you need to be exceedingly careful about what you say. But it’s a very good habit to write them down afterwards. Many thanks to Ian B, by the way, for some of the stuff on American cultural hegemony. I was saying much the same long before we met. Even so, I did speak to some extent under his influence, and this deserves acknowledgement. SIG

I’d like to begin by thanking Hans and Gulcin for their great kindness in inviting me once again to Bodrum to address the Property and Freedom Society. But where to begin with the title that Hans has set for me? I could take the patronising approach taken by many Englishmen when called to speak about their country to an audience largely of foreigners. Whether I talk about Shakespeare, the Changing of the Guard and Churchill, or gush about the sinister pantomime that opened last year’s Olympic Games in London, it would have the same implied message. You see, we are an extraordinarily nationalist people. Our nationalism, however, doesn’t cause us to hate foreigners. Instead – and this applies also, and indeed particularly to Americans – we don’t hate you: we just feel sorry for you.

But I’ll not patronise you this morning. I’ll even avoid telling you the truth – that, in the development of our modern civilisation, two great nations have the greatest honour: England and Germany; and that, of these two, England is by far the greatest. What I will do is confess what you must have noticed for yourself – that something has gone badly wrong in England. Exactly when the rot began is a subject that would require far longer to discuss than the time given to me this morning. But you can see the earliest plain evidence of national derangement when the Princess of Wales died in 1997. I watched in horror as the mountains of flowers piled up, and as the funeral was made into a carnival of insanity.

The examples have multiplied beyond counting. I won’t give examples of the multicultural frenzy. Instead, I’ll talk about the sexual mania.

First, there is the legal privileging of homosexuality. In doing this, I speak with much security. I began denouncing the laws constraining homosexual conduct when I was a schoolboy – at a time when what I was saying might have got me roughed up in the playground, and certainly got me funny looks from other boys and teachers alike. I also wrote one of the earliest and best analyses of the Spanner Case. Since then, though, persecution has given way to privilege.

Take, for example, the case of the Rev. Alan Clifford, Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church. A few months ago, the Norwich Gay Pride organisation held a rally in the middle of Norwich. Dr Clifford and four members of his congregation attended and handed out leaflets of the usual kind. Afterwards, he sent the leaflets out to everyone on his mailing list. This now included the leaders of Norwich Gay Pride. They complained to the police, and Dr Clifford was visited in his home by the police. They told him that a homophobic hate crime had taken place, and gave him the choice of confessing, in which case he would be given a police caution and made to pay a £90 fine, or of denying guilt, in which case he might be prosecuted.

Not surprisingly, Dr Clifford chose to deny his guilt. If the authorities ever do take him to court, they will probably get a bloody nose. Dr Clifford is a Calvinist. His sort drove Catholicism out of England in the 16th century, and pulled down the Stuart state in the 17th. He will turn up in court with the Bible in his hand and speak to a public gallery filled with his congregation. But his example is important as illustration. There is a regular persecution of Christian   street preachers in England. There are new cases several times a year.

The next example is of the Late Jimmy Saville. During his lifetime, he was adored by the media for his charity work and his public eccentricity. When he died in 2011, enough hot air about him went up to fill a balloon. Then, in 2012, it came out that his sexual taste had been for pubescent girls. The media went hysterical. His family joined in. Early in 2013, his grave stone was torn up, its inscription ground smooth, and then smashed into small pieces and taken off for landfill.

I suggest this is evidence of great mental derangement. It is certainly unEnglish. The custom so far has for the dead to be left to rest in peace.

These are two examples of the madness that has gripped England. Of course, the madness is not universal. If you look at the continuing popularity of Gary Glitter, it seems that many people – perhaps the majority – do not partake of the madness. But it can be seen in every organised area of our national life.

What is the cause? The answer is complex. There is no single cause. But one cause worth exploring is the unbalancing of our Constitution during the 20th century.

In 1908, Rudyard Kipling published a short story called “The Mother Hive.” In this, the bees in a hive decide to drop all outmoded ideas of hierarchy and to make everyone equal. This includes the right of workers to eat royal jelly and to mate with the drones. In the spreading chaos that results, traditionalist dissidents are first shunned and then murdered. Eventually, the bee keeper looks into the hive, and sees the empty honeycombs and the horribly deformed offspring of the workers. His response is to poison all the bees.

Now, something like this has happened in England. In the past few generations, the whole of national life has been taken over by the cultural Marxists. They run government and the administration, and the law, and education and the media, and business too. They have imposed on us a nasty hegemonic discourse. Cultural Marxism is ultimately to be traced to European thinkers like Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and the FrankfurtSchool. But this has come to England in American clothing. It has prestige because it was taken up by the American universities.

In America, however, the progress of cultural Marxism has been resisted, or slowed, by a strong religious right and by a written constitution that it is taking a long time to subvert. Here, we have no religious right, nor an entrenched constitutional law. In the past, freedom and common sense were safeguarded by an hereditary land-owing aristocracy and gentry. These ran the country, and did much to determine its moral tone. During the 20th century, they were marginalised and then eliminated from government. They remain as a class – still very rich – but the tacit deal since at least the 1940s has been that they will be left alone, so long as they keep out of politics. Government has been left to middle class lefties. The effect followed the cause only after several generations. But here it is.

It may be interesting for you, as foreigners, to learn an answer to the implied question in the title of this speech. But it is essential for the English to think about the question and its answers. You see, like both the Germans and the Russians, we have had a revolution. Unlike them, we have had no obviously revolutionary event. The Russians had the storming of the WinterPalace and the murder of their Royal Family. The Germans were utterly defeated in 1945. Their cities were bombed flat. Their country was occupied and divided. Every German knows either that German history came to an end in 1945, or at least that a new chapter in German history had begun.

We do not have that awareness, and it would be useful for us to understand, even so, that we are living in a state of revolution. England has become the Mother Hive.

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/multimedia/2013-10-19-tbg-sig.mp3
Flash Animation

Britain and the Global Reversion to Ancestral Ways:
A Speech Given to the Conference of
The Traditional Britain Group,

Held in London on the 19th October 2013.

[What began as laziness, and then settled into method, is that I do not prepare speeches in advance. What I do is to prepare a mental list of the things I feel inclined to say, and of the order in which I might say them, and then to leave the manner of saying them to the inspiration of the day. If there is a written text, it is usually prepared after the event. After decades of practice, this usually works rather well. Because there will soon be a video of it on YouTube, you can judge for yourselves whether my speech to the Traditional Britain Group was any good. Here, for the moment, is what I probably said.]

I think you will know, ladies and gentlemen, about the Socialist Workers Party. If not, this is an organisation that has spent the past four decades latching on to every working class grievance in sight, and using it to promote the good news of Trotskyism. For example, the workers at a button factory in Leeds might go on strike in some dispute over tea breaks. Sooner or later, you will hear the raucous chanting and see the unmistakeable font of the banners that tell you the Socialist Workers have turned up.

During the three decades of its existence, we at the Libertarian Alliance have been paying close attention to these tactics; and we do, to the best of our ability, try to imitate them. Our people go to conferences of traditionalist conservatives, of sado-masochistic porn worshippers, and even to student union meetings and the occasional Islamic group. Our purpose is the same as the Socialist Workers: it is to convert as many people, no matter what they initially believe, to what we believe.

Of course, there are differences between the Socialist Workers Party and the Libertarian Alliance. We have no booted thugs to put on the street, to beat up or intimidate our opponents. Above all, we are honest about our intentions. We do not seek to lead people deceptively and in stages to what we regard as the truth. Instead, we delight in proclaiming that truth, as loudly and as clearly as we can, to all who will listen to us. This being so, let me tell you what we believe, and would like you to believe as well.

We want to live in a world where every human being has equal rights to life, liberty and property. I will not specify the meaning of this phrase, but it includes the right to follow what some of you may think utterly degenerate ways of life. We believe in legalising all drugs, and guns. We have no moral objection to homosexual marriage or homosexual adoption. We believe in completely free markets, and in the scientific and technical progress that these enable. Our only objection to progress is that it has not been completely unfettered, and therefore that its curve has not yet turned completely vertical. We regard the natural world  - for which many of you have a mystical veneration – as a vast repository of resources to be used for reshaping the world for our increasing wealth and general convenience.

You will appreciate, then, that I have little time for many of the philosophers and writers who have inspired some of you. I have read much Nietzsche, and some Julius Evola and Francis Parker Yockey, and am loosely familiar with Alexander Dugin. I follow the Counter Currents Blog and AltRight and The Occidental Observer and other publications that a well-brought up libertarian should never confess to knowing about, let alone to reading. And, while I appreciate the frequent brilliance and occasional insight to be found here, I have not been at all convinced. Indeed, what I appreciate is largely a critique of the present order of things that is partly shared by libertarians. When it comes to the replacement of this order with another – when it comes to actual prescriptions of what ought to be – I really think the whole collected mass of these writings has contributed less to the wellbeing of mankind than a single railway bridge built by Brunel.

Does this mean I should not be here? Does it mean that I have nothing to say that you should feel obliged to take seriously? I hope not. As well as a libertarian of sorts, I am also a conservative of sorts. I am deaf to the beauties of Nietzsche and Evola and the other foreign conservatives. But I am profoundly impressed by our own conservatives – Burke and Lord Salisbury and Enoch Powell, among others. These men have taught me much about politics and how to think about politics.

Moreover, I believe that, in a country like England, the defence of liberty is often best made through a defence of tradition. Most people do not think much about political and legal philosophy. This is not a criticism, but an acceptance of what is. When, therefore, it comes to defending institutions like trial by jury, the best defence is not an abstract case for an independent power in the legal process, but to say that the institution has always existed in England, and that it always should exist. It is the same with all the other protections of our legal system, and with freedom of speech.

Then there are the accommodations that any libertarian of sense needs to make with reality. I have said that I want to live in a world where everyone has embraced libertarianism. I want to convert China and black Africa and even the Islamic World. I am ultimately a universalist. At the same time, I accept that, at the moment, not every people is equally inclined to libertarianism, nor will be for the foreseeable future; and that it is not sensible to allow those places where a limited form of libertarianism exists to be settled to the point of obliteration from places where no libertarianism can presently be found. To be clear, I am against mass-immigration from the third world. Those libertarians who arrive, by some process of semi-geometrical reasoning, at the idea of open borders have no understanding of the world as it is, nor any chance of being taken seriously on other issues.

It is the same with hereditary nobilities, or established churches, or evidently coercive taking part in institutions such as trial by jury or a citizen militia. For the sake of maximising the liberty that can exist in any particular time or place, we need to accept incidental breaches of the equal self-ownership principle. And this means an often large concession to the conservative defenders of an established – or recently disestablished – order of things.

Now that I have explained the nature of my own accommodation with conservatism – an accommodation that is, in its approach, pretty common among libertarians – let me explain why you conservatives and nationalists should embrace libertarianism.

The first reason is that you have no consistent choice. You belong to a nation the history and laws of which have been the raw material from which every liberal or libertarian doctrine has been refined. Ours is a country where, for many hundreds of years, we enjoyed freedom of speech and faith and association and contract, and where they have not yet been wholly taken from us, or taken by any semblance of democratic process. Ours is a country where power has been formally and informally limited, and where the authorities have always been more or less accountable to the governed. Your favourite writers – usually foreign – denounce Bacon and Locke and Newton and Hume and Darwin and all the others as the purveyors of some moral poison. But you cannot regard these men as eccentrics who just happened to be born on the same island, and who systematically perverted the thinking and the institutions of that island. For the most part, they are celebrated because they put consistently and memorably into words only what their countrymen already thought or were inclined to accept as the truth. If you are an English or British conservative, you must – unless you want shamelessly to misrepresent your national ways – also be a libertarian.

The second reason is that, even if you reject free markets and the idea of a small and limited government, you will be mad to suppose that a large and activist government is likely to bring about and sustain the kind of order that you may want. Every institution of, or connected with, the British State belongs to what we all understand by what I call “the left.”

Leftist thinking is absolutely hegemonic within the ruling institutions of this country. The left is the institutions. The institutions are the left.

Assume that, somehow, you were to take power tomorrow. You could parachute each other into the leading positions in the state bureaucracy, or in the universities and the BBC. But you would need to run these institutions through the existing management. They understand what they are running, because they have grown up within it. And they are many; you are few. You would find yourselves pulling levers and pressing buttons that were disconnected from the effective machinery of control. You might be in office. The left would remain in power. It would take a generation to displace it – and you would not have the luxury of a generation to bring about these changes.

There is much to be said, then, for at least a conditional libertarianism. You cannot have the big state you may want. You should investigate how little state is actually needed to keep things running. That must lead you to a better acquaintance with libertarian economics and legal and political philosophy than you may so far have possessed.

I regard myself as a conservative among libertarians, and as a libertarian among conservatives. Because I am an Englishman, I can be both. Leave aside the state socialists – who, though regrettably successful, are a recent and a foreign intrusion into our national life – our political spectrum runs from very traditional conservatives on the one hand to rationalistic libertarians on the other. And there is, in the centre, a wide area that is neither exclusively one nor the other, but where elements of both are – sometimes harmoniously, sometimes jarringly – combined.

All this being so, I call on you to recognise the logic of your position, and to explore the libertarian side of your folkways.

[This is a tidied up version of what I said. I suppress a digression on a global return to ancestral ways. This turned out, as I spoke, to add nothing to my argument: I put it there because my speech would otherwise have had no obvious connection with the title I suggested without thinking what I might say.

One additional point worth recording is my answer to a question about what I thought of a young German who spoke very ably in English, and without notes, about his involvement in the identitarian movement, which seems to be rather important in some European countries. My response is that I am a bourgeois liberal. I have a preference for peaceful and, so far as possible, legal campaigning. There may be circumstances where influence will need to be gained through putting boots on the street. But this would take me in directions that I find most undesirable, and that are best avoided.

In general, this was the most interesting one day conference that I have attended in many years. Because they were all recorded, and will be made available on YouTube, I see no reason to summarise or discuss the other speeches. But I thank the Traditional Britain Group for having invited me to listen to these speeches, and for the great indulgence that it showed for my own. The lefties have made a fetish of “diversity.” I am not the first to observe that what they mean by this is letting people of all colours and genders and sexualities mouth at each other the same dubious platitudes. The only diversity that matters – which is of sincerely-held opinions – is something more often seen among the enemies of the left. So it was here.]

Politische Philosophie:
Warum Konservative libertär sein müssen

von Sean Gabb

Die Linke ist mit dem starken Staat verwachsen

[Vorbemerkung: Die folgende Rede hielt Dr. Sean Gabb, Direktor der „United Kingdom Libertarian Alliance“, am 19.10.2013 in London vor der Versammlung der erzkonservativen „Traditional Britain Group“ – ein Verband, der die regierende konservative Partei David Camerons als Verräter an ihrer Sache betrachtet. Übersetzung für ef-online von Robert Grözinger.]

Ich denke, meine Damen und Herren, Sie kennen die Socialist Workers Party. Falls nicht: Dies ist eine Organisation, die die letzten vier Jahrzehnte damit verbracht hat, jede Beschwerde der Arbeiterklasse zu übernehmen und sie zur Verbreitung der frohen Botschaft des Trotzkismus auszunutzen. Zum Beispiel wenn die Arbeiter einer Knopffabrik in Leeds wegen eines Streits über Teepausen streikten. Früher oder später würde man das lärmende Gegröle hören und die unverkennbare Schrift der Banner sehen, die einem sagen, dass die Socialist Workers erschienen sind. 

Während der drei Jahrzehnte unseres Bestehens haben wir von der Libertarian Alliance dieser Taktik große Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt; und so gut wir können versuchen wir, sie zu imitieren. Unsere Leute gehen zu Konferenzen von traditionellen Konservativen, von sadomasochistischen Pornoanbetern und sogar zu Treffen der Studentenvereinigung und gelegentlich zu islamischen Gruppen. Unser Ziel ist dasselbe wie das der Socialist Workers: so viele Menschen wie möglich, egal was diese zunächst glauben, von dem zu überzeugen, was wir glauben.

Natürlich gibt es Unterschiede zwischen der Socialist Workers Party und der Libertarian Alliance. Wir haben keine gestiefelten Schläger, die wir auf die Straße schicken, um unsere Widersacher zusammenzuschlagen oder einzuschüchtern. Vor allem sind wir aufrichtig bezüglich unserer Absichten. Wir versuchen nicht, die Menschen betrügerisch und etappenweise zu dem zu führen, was wir für die Wahrheit halten. Statt dessen ist es uns ein Vergnügen, diese Wahrheit so laut und klar wie wir können zu verkünden, und zwar jedem, der uns zuhört. Somit lassen Sie mich sagen woran wir glauben und was Sie wie ich meine ebenfalls glauben sollten. 

Wir möchten in einer Welt leben, in der jeder Mensch die gleichen Rechte auf Leben, Freiheit und Eigentum hat. Ich werde die Bedeutung dieses Satzes nicht im Einzelnen ausführen aber er beinhaltet unter anderem das Recht das zu tun, was manche von Ihnen für eine äußerst verkommene Lebensführung halten. Wir glauben an die Legalisierung sämtlicher Drogen und Waffen. Wir haben keine moralische Einwendung gegen homosexuelle Ehen oder Adoption durch homosexuelle Paare. Wir glauben an absolut freie Märkte und an den wissenschaftlichen und technischen Fortschritt, den diese ermöglichen. Unsere einzige Beschwerde über den Fortschritt ist, dass er nicht vollständig entfesselt ist und dass deshalb seine Kurve noch nicht komplett senkrecht verläuft. Wir betrachten die natürliche Welt – für die einige von Ihnen eine mystische Ehrfurcht empfinden – als eine gewaltige Lagerstätte, die dazu genutzt werden sollte, die Welt für unseren zunehmenden Wohlstand und allgemeinen Komfort umzugestalten.

Sie werden dann verstehen, dass ich wenig übrig habe für viele der Philosophen und Dichter, die für einige von Ihnen eine Inspiration waren. Ich habe viel von Nietzsche und etwas von Julius Evola und Francis Parker Yockey gelesen und bin etwas vertraut mit Alexander Dugin. Ich verfolge den „Counter Currents Blog“ und „AltRight“ und „The Occidental Observer“ und andere Publikationen, deren Existenz zu kennen ein gut erzogener Libertärer niemals zugeben sollte, von der Lektüre ganz zu schweigen. Und während ich die oft anzutreffende Brillanz und gelegentliche Erkenntnis hochschätze, die man hier findet, bin ich überhaupt nicht überzeugt worden. Was ich begrüße ist hauptsächlich eine Kritik der gegenwärtigen Ordnung der Dinge, die teilweise von den Libertären geteilt wird. Wenn es zur Ablösung dieser Ordnung durch eine andere kommt – wenn es um tatsächliche Rezepte geht, wie die Dinge sein sollten – denke ich wirklich, dass die gesamte gesammelte Masse dieser Schriften weniger zum Wohlergehen der Menschheit beigetragen hat, als eine einzige von Brunel gebaute Eisenbahnbrücke. 

Bedeutet das, dass ich nicht hier sein sollte? Bedeutet das, dass ich nichts zu sagen habe, das Sie ernst nehmen sollten? Ich hoffe nicht. Ebenso wie ich eine Art Libertärer bin, bin ich auch eine Art Konservativer. Ich bin taub gegenüber den Wohlklängen von Nietzsche und Evola und den anderen ausländischen Konservativen. Aber ich bin hochgradig beeindruckt von unseren eigenen Konservativen – Burke und Lord Salisbury und Enoch Powell, neben anderen. Diese Männer haben mir viel über Politik und das Denken über Politik beigebracht.

Darüber hinaus glaube ich, dass in einem Land wie England die Verteidigung der Freiheit oft am besten durch eine Verteidigung der Tradition erreicht wird. Die meisten Menschen denken nicht viel über politische Philosophie und Rechtsphilosophie nach. Dies ist keine Kritik, sondern die Akzeptanz dessen was Tatsache ist. Wenn es daher zur Verteidigung von Institutionen wie das Schwurgerichtsverfahren kommt, ist die beste Verteidigung nicht ein abstraktes Argument für eine Unabhängigkeit der Gerichte, sondern zu sagen, dass es diese Institution schon immer in England gab und dass es sie immer geben sollte. Dasselbe gilt für all die anderen Absicherungen unseres Rechtssystems und für die Meinungsfreiheit. 

Jeder Libertäre mit Verstand muss sich an die Realität anpassen. Ich habe gesagt, dass ich in einer Welt leben will, in der jeder den Libertarismus übernommen hat. Ich möchte China und Schwarzafrika und sogar die islamische Welt überzeugen. Ich bin schließlich ein Universalist. Gleichzeitig akzeptiere ich, dass derzeit nicht jedes Volk in gleichem Maße dem Libertarismus zugeneigt ist, noch dies in absehbarer Zukunft so sein wird; und dass es nicht vernünftig ist, Einwanderung aus Gegenden, wo kein Libertarismus festzustellen ist, dort zuzulassen, wo eine limitierte Form des Libertarismus existiert, bis dieser gänzlich ausgelöscht ist. Um es klar zu sagen: Ich bin gegen Masseneinwanderung aus der Dritten Welt. Jene Libertären, die durch einen Prozess halb-geometrischer Argumentation auf die Idee offener Grenzen kommen, haben kein Verständnis von der Welt wie sie ist, noch jegliche Chance bei anderen Belangen ernstgenommen zu werden.

Es ist dasselbe mit dem Erbadel oder etablierten Kirchen oder die offensichtlich zwangsweise Teilnahme an Einrichtungen wie einem Schwurgericht oder einer Bürgermiliz. Aus Gründen der Maximierung der Freiheit, die zu einer bestimmten Zeit oder an einem bestimmten Ort existieren kann, müssen wir nebensächliche Verletzungen des Prinzips gleichberechtigten Selbsteigentums akzeptieren. Und das bedeutet ein häufig umfangreiches Zugeständnis an die konservativen Verteidiger der bestehenden – oder kürzlich abgeschafften – Ordnung der Dinge. 

Da ich nun das Wesen meines eigenen Zugeständnisses an den Konservatismus erklärt habe – ein Zugeständnis, das im Denkansatz unter Libertären ziemlich verbreitet ist – lassen Sie mich erklären, warum Sie, die Konservativen und Nationalisten, sich den Libertarismus zu eigen machen sollten.

Der erste Grund ist, dass Sie keine widerspruchsfreie Wahl haben. Sie gehören zu einer Nation, deren Geschichte und Gesetze das Rohmaterial gewesen sind, aus denen jede liberale oder libertäre Doktrin weiterentwickelt worden ist. Unseres ist ein Land, in dem wir seit mehreren hundert Jahren die Freiheit der Meinung und des Glaubens und des Zusammenschlusses und des Vertrages genießen, und wo uns diese noch nicht ganz oder durch den Anschein des demokratischen Prozesses genommen wurden. Unseres ist ein Land, in dem Macht formell oder informell beschränkt worden ist, und wo die Amtsgewalt immer mehr oder weniger rechenschaftspflichtig gegenüber den Regierten gewesen ist. Ihre Lieblingsautoren – meistens ausländische – verunglimpfen Bacon und Locke und Newton und Hume und Darwin und all die anderen als Verbreiter moralischen Gifts. Aber Sie können diese Männer nicht als Exzentriker betrachten, die zufällig auf derselben Insel geboren wurden und die systematisch das Denken und die Institutionen dieser Insel pervertiert haben. Zum größten Teil werden sie gefeiert weil sie beständig und einprägsam nur das in Worte gefaßt haben, was ihre Landsleute schon dachten oder geneigt waren als Wahrheit zu akzeptieren. Wenn Sie ein englischer oder britischer Konservativer sind, müssen Sie – es sei denn sie wollen Ihre nationalen Eigenheiten schamlos verdrehen – auch ein Libertärer sein. 

Der zweite Grund ist: Selbst wenn Sie freie Märkte und die Idee einer kleinen und beschränkten Regierung ablehnen, müssen Sie verrückt sein, wenn Sie glauben, dass eine große und aktivistische Regierung wahrscheinlich die Art von Ordnung zur Folge hätte, die Sie wünschen. Jede Institution des britischen Staates oder die mit ihm verbunden ist gehört zu dem, was wir unter „der Linken“ verstehen.

Linkes Denken ist innerhalb der herrschenden Institutionen dieses Landes absolut dominierend. Die Linke ist die Institutionen. Die Institutionen sind die Linke. 

Angenommen Sie kommen morgen irgendwie an die Macht. Sie könnten sich gegenseitig in die führenden Positionen in der Staatsbürokratie plazieren oder in die der Universitäten und der BBC. Aber Sie würden das bestehende Management brauchen, um den Betrieb aufrecht zu halten. Dieses versteht, was es leitet, weil es darin groß geworden ist. Und es sind viele; Sie sind wenige. Sie würden feststellen, dass Sie Hebel ziehen und Knöpfe drücken, die von der eigentlichen Kontrollmaschine abgekoppelt sind. Sie wären im Amt. Aber die Linke würde an der Macht bleiben. Es würde eine Generation dauern, sie zu ersetzen – und Sie hätten nicht den Luxus, eine Generation Zeit zu haben, um diese Veränderungen durchzusetzen.

Es spricht daher sehr viel für einen zumindest bedingten Libertarismus. Sie können den starken Staat, den Sie möglicherweise wollen, nicht haben. Sie sollten untersuchen, wie wenig Staat tatsächlich nötig ist, um die Dinge am Laufen zu halten. Dies muss Sie zu einer besseren Bekanntschaft mit libertärer Ökonomie und Rechts- und politischer Philosophie führen als die, die Sie bisher besessen haben. 

Ich sehe mich selbst als Konservativer unter Libertären und als Libertären unter Konservativen. Weil ich ein Engländer bin kann ich beides sein. Abgesehen von den Staatssozialisten – die, obwohl bedauerlicherweise erfolgreich, eine neue und fremde Einfügung in unser nationales Leben sind – reicht unser politisches Spektrum von sehr traditionellen Konservativen auf der einen zu rationalistischen Libertären auf der anderen Seite. Und es gibt, in der Mitte, ein breites Feld, das weder exklusiv das eine noch das andere ist, aber in dem Elemente beider kombiniert werden – manchmal harmonisch, manchmal misstönend.

Da dies so ist, rufe ich Sie auf, die Logik Ihres Standpunktes zu erkennen und die libertäre Seite Ihrer traditionellen Lebensweise zu erkunden.

Information:

Originalrede von Dr. Sean Gabb

26. Oktober 2013

http://www.libertarian.co.uk/multimedia/2014-01-24-sig-sw.mp3

On Friday the 24th January 2014, Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, gave a speech to the Swinton Circle. He spoke at The Counting House, which is a pub at the junction of Gracechurch Street and Cornhill in the City of London. The subject was "We are All Guilty: The Need for a Positive Conservative Vision."

Sean made these points:

  • People on the Right are good at grumbling - and usually about what "others" are doing to our country. The European Union gets blamed, or the immigrants.
  • However, everything bad that has happened has been quietly accepted by the British people. They have never used their still formidablle constitutional rights to stand up and complain effectively.
  • One reason for this might be that the British people are now at the end of a century of dysgenic change, and that the changes we do not welcome are actually fitted to the degraded condition of the people as they now are. As de Maistre said, "Every nation gets the government it deserves."
  • But another possible reason is that people on the Right have been ineffective at conceiving and arguing for an alternative vision to the one we are given by the ruling class.
  • Most conservatives seem to want a return to about 1954, plus modern medicine and the Internet. But this is not on offer. The institutional arrangements of the past have been swept away, never to be recovered. There is no going back. We can only go forward, and we must explain where we want to go.
  • Before then, however, we should accept that victory is not likely in the foreseeable future. Before we can start waging our side of the culture war, we need effective communities of the like-minded.
  • One thing we can all do is to do business with each other. We should seek out conservative lawyers and accountants and building workers. This does not mean putting up with shoddy goods and services. It simply means that we should start to behave as homosexuals and Jews and Moslems and Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, and every other cohesive minority group does. This is wholly natural and reasonable behaviour for people who, for whatever reason, do not wish to be atomised within the general population.
  • We need intellectual communities that are bound together by shared values and by commercial interest. We might then find that we are less easy to push round, and that we have greater confidence to push back.
  • Only then can we start planning for a conservative revival.

Note on the Recording

Sean Gabb recorded the debate on his Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile telephone. The microphone used was not very directional, and there is considerable background noise from a busy pub in the City on a Friday night. However, it also managed to pick up the questions and comments from the floor

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet
Issue Number 24
25th November 1998

Why the Hereditary Peers
Should Stay in the House of Lords
by Sean Gabb

Introduction

As promised and as expected, the Queen today has announced plans to remove the hereditary Peers from the House of Lords. Though her annual speech to Parliament is normally heard in silence, this part of it was received with combined groans and cheers. What may be the last constitutional crisis in English history has begun.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment published on the Internet
Issue Number 27
26th January 1999

Nelson's Second Death
by Sean Gabb

"Who controls the present controls the past.
Who controls the past controls the future."
(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty Four)

The National Maritime Museum is housed in a line of buildings that stand in South East London, separating Greenwich Park from the Thames. I first went there when I was ten, and have revisited on average once a year ever since. It has the fullest Trafalgar exhibition in the world—including Nelson's last uniform complete with bullet hole. It has displays about Francis Drake, Captain Cook, and Fisher and Cunningham. It has thousands of scale models and paintings and other images. In short, it is a museum that tells the story of England's great age as Mistress of the Seas.

Out With the Old, In With the New

I now read in The Daily Telegraph (25th January 1999) that the Museum is to be "modernised". Richard Ormond, the Director, claims that it is "old-fashioned" and must change with the times. He explains:

We're not spitting in our predecessors' graves, but when this museum was created the Red Ensign ruled supreme and as a maritime nation we were on the crest of a great wave. We are in a different world today.... Unless we find new intellectual purpose and bring home to people that the sea is still central to our lives, we will become a sideshow museum dealing with traditional artefacts to an increasingly limited market.

Out, therefore, will go most of the paintings and scale models - out too most of the displays about battles and exploration. In will come exhibitions about slavery and history "from the position of the colonised". One display will show a white woman in eighteenth century costume with a manacled black hand reaching out to her. Mr Ormond's suggested text for this is: "The slave trade was driven by the need for an English cup of tea".

There are also to be large displays about global warming, damage to the ozone layer, marine pollution, threatened fish stocks, and the "danger of rising sea levels". Commenting again, Mr Ormond makes no apology for the change. Care of the sea, he believes, is a "number one international issue". It must be brought to our attention even if it means reducing space for exhibitions about the past.

On top of all this, we are promised a sprinkling of new works from something called the Sensation Generation of Young British Artists. Tacita Dean has been commissioned to make a "video sculpture" about the sea. Stefan Gek has already made a sculpture by crushing a buoy in a diving chamber.

There is to be a "Caribbean folk sculpture" suggested by the floats in the Notting Hill Carnival. And a video about weather forecasting is to use poetry and "talking fish".

These changes have been unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees—one of whom is the Duke of Edinburgh; and the museum is to be "reopened" by the Queen this coming 31st March.

Cultural Vandalism

Now, why this act of cultural vandalism? The claim that the Museum needs to be saved from "an increasingly limited market" is a falsehood. Every time I go there, the place is crowded—and crowded with people of all ages and all colours. If Mr Ormond believes that more people will want to look at his talking fish than at the bullet hole in Nelson's uniform, he is a fool. There is no need for the Museum to be changed, and the changes that are to be made will actually repel visitors once the word gets round what has happened.

Nor can we fall back on platitudes about trendy museum directors and "political correctness gone mad". The changes involved more people than Mr Ormond; and they are not isolated acts. They are part of a consistent pattern that has been applied and will be applied in many other places. The true reason for the changes is not to get in more visitors into the Museum, but simply to stop it from being what it was. Let me explain.

The New World Order

During the past generation, a new Establishment has grown up in England, in America, and in some other countries. Its ultimate ambition is a world government. I am not talking about a grand conspiracy. There is no central direction. Here in particular, the groups making up our Establishment are split—some wanting an interim merger with Europe, others a direct jump to world government. Even so, they are all agreed that their often different ends are best served by transferring sovereign power out of the country.

This new Establishment's success is already apparent. The world government exists in outline—as a web of treaties and international bodies that constrain national sovereignty in ways that most people still do not understand. This country cannot, for example, legalise cannabis and heroin, or roll back the financial police state that has been created to fight the "war" against money laundering. It cannot allow a whole range of industrial processes to take place within its jurisdiction. It may soon not be able to tolerate the sale of high potency vitamins or the publication of unfashionable opinions about race. Even if a democratic majority could be found in favour of these things, doing them would involve breaking all manner of treaty commitments. And to break these would bring on us the condemnation of the "international community".

London is unlikely ever to be bombed as Baghdad is now being bombed. The pressures on us for stepping out of line would be more subtle—a matter of hard things said against us in all the usual international gatherings; perhaps a few expulsions of our representatives from sporting bodies; perhaps one or two threats of sanctions; and always a general barrage of disapproval and smears from our own new Establishment media. It took just thirty years of mostly uncoordinated pressure to beat down a grimly determined South Africa. Under more coordinated pressure, Israel may last another decade in its present form. I doubt if a democratic reaction against the New World Order could survive more than two years once we are properly into the next century.

The ambition is one world of serfs—spied on, brainwashed, perhaps one day genetically engineered, by one worldwide Establishment. It may be claimed that the New World Order is about liberty and democracy. But no one who has read the international treaties and "human rights" documents on which it is based can honestly believe a word of this. They do not guarantee freedom of speech, or the right to trial by jury, or the right of self defence. The limited rights on offer are better described as limited and easily revoked privileges. Whatever may be quoted at us by the media, the small print in these texts is always about control and arbitrary power.

Patriotism and the Defence of Freedom

All that stands in the way of this is the desire of most people for it not to happen. General ideas about freedom and small government—the sort of thing Libertarian Alliance authors write about—are important but relatively weak as a barrier. In the first place, they hardly ever command self-sacrificing commitment. I believe, for example, that the principle of comparative costs is an almost indisputably valid argument. But I would never let myself be burned at the stake for refusing to recant this belief. In the second place, intellectuals are very easily deceived. I know at least two libertarians who think the European Union is a good thing for liberty. In the past, there were liberals who believed, against all the evidence, that Soviet Russia was home to a progressive experiment that deserved a chance to work.

What really sustains opposition to the New World Order is patriotism—an absolute attachment to the customs and institutions of one's own country. People will die for that. They will march across a field and be mown down like hay if they can believe it is for their national good. They will stand up for their native liberal institutions even when they are not very liberal themselves. Patriotism is a barrier against world government that cannot be directly beaten down.

Playing the Race Card

And so patriotism must be undermined until it collapses. That has been the big Establishment project during much of my lifetime. Patriotism has been made so great an object of satire that patriotic words and deeds have come to be seen as faintly ridiculous. At the same time, it has been ruthlessly confused with ideas of racial nationalism. In a country that has received several million coloured immigrants, many of whom have been positively discouraged from assimilating, this is a powerful weapon: appeals to national pride can be smeared as coded appeals for ethnic cleansing.

See, for example, how cleverly many of the old naval exhibitions in Greenwich have been replaced by exhibitions about black people. From what I am told, these will be unbalanced in the usual way. There will be much dwelling on the commercial interests that benefited from the international slave trade, but hardly any on the unique importance of the Royal Navy in suppressing that trade—or on the uniqueness of England as the first country ever to abolish slavery by law. But the desired effect of these exhibitions is not really to convey information, whether true or false. It is instead to use race as a means of frightening people from complaining about their loss until what they have lost has been forgotten.

The War Against the Past

This returns us to the subject of the Museum. A nation is not merely the population of a territory. It also exists in time. People identify with each other partly because they live together and speak the same language and have similar customs and beliefs, but partly also because they have a common historical memory. Wiping this memory —as if it were a length of video tape—has become the priority of our Establishment. Great anniversaries from before 1914 are almost ignored. History in the old sense is no longer taught in state schools. The weights and measures have been changed by force. The House of Lords is being abolished. National and regional devolution is blurring the old constitutional landmarks. The stated justifications are all threadbare. No intelligent person could advocate them except as a means of turning the past into a foreign country.

Museums must be a primary target in this war against the past. They contain physical objects that real people once made and used. They help to tell us who we were and what we might be again. This is particularly so with the National Maritime Museum. That is why it has been destroyed. The new Museum will remove this physical link. True, Nelson's uniform will remain on show. But it will have been removed from the full context that gave it meaning. As the centrepiece of a museum filled with guns and scale models of Dreadnoughts, it was the secular equivalent of a saint's relic. As an appendage to a PC circus of modern art and moans about racism and the environment, it becomes at best a piece of blue cloth with a hole in it. At worst, it becomes tainted with all the sins alleged against our history.

Do this, and opposition to the New World Order will crumble. Strip us of our national identity, and we defend our freedom with all the confidence and determination of an animal dragged from its lair.

Of course, the destruction of national identity will not make humanity love one another. We are pack animals, and group loyalties will always survive. Destroy the customs and traditions that bind a people together, and a new cement of shared blood will rapidly emerge. Skinheads are not integral to national pride. They are part of what replaces it. Until we can have our group loyalties bred out of us, the New World Order will be a place of wild ethnic hatreds.

Then again, I am sure this is realised by at least some within the Establishment. Turning the world into one great Bosnia will be a prime excuse for world government. It would not be the first time that politicians had written themselves into apparently essential solutions for problems of their own creation.

I used to think that the old Establishment might save us from all this. I am no longer so sure. The Duke of Edinburgh—a former naval officer—has consented to the changes. The Queen is to reopen the Museum. They seem not to notice or to care that they are serving an agenda from which the continuation of monarchy is absent. I do not like to criticise the Queen. At the same time, I do believe that her reign has been one long surrender to the enemies of everything she swore at her coronation to uphold.

For the moment, though, the practical cause for regret is that we have lost a glorious museum. I come from a naval family. One of my great grandfathers managed the Ropery at Chatham Dockyard. One of my grandfathers went down with his ship at the Casablanca landings. I sit and wonder what they would have thought of all this—how their efforts did not save the nation for their posterity. But they at least left me enough for me to notice its loss. What will my children have?

Afterword,

28th January 1999

Before writing the above, I decided to check the story with the National Maritime Museum. Telegraph journalists are notorious for their inability to check the truth of the stories they are fed; and I could easily imagine a credulous hack taking the whole story over the phone from someone claiming to be Mr Ormond. No one could really have names like Tacita Dean or Stefan Gek—or at least not be called that and be modern artists as well. But a conversation with Michael Barratt, who works in the Museum's Press Office, confirmed that the story was true—even down to the names of the artists. I said some very hard words and put the phone down.

A while later, I was called back from the Press Office. Mr Ormond, I learned, had been invited to explain his changes on the BBC Radio Four Today Programme, but could only go on if there was someone to oppose him. Neither the Museum nor the BBC had been able to find anyone willing to say a word against the changes. Would I go on air to do so?

Of course, I agreed. This morning, I argued with him in a White City Studio while James Naughtie chaired the debate. Mr Ormond turned out to be as silly in the flesh as he had been quoted. I always know I have won a radio debate when the other party spreads bits of paper on the table in front of him: the best knock down arguments are unscripted. Mr Ormond's notes were filled with waffle about making the Museum relevant for young people in the new millennium; and he read from these rather hesitantly.

I made a much simplified version of the case given above, and won the debate. I know this from the mass of telephone calls and e-mails I have received today. I do not think Mr Ormond had imagined he would be called a traitor on a programme more used to evasions and PC banalities. As when I go on air to defend guns, I was making points too far outside the normal bounds of debate to be dealt with in the usual way.

I am pleased with myself. On the other hand, I have not saved the National Maritime Museum. And I have been sharply reminded of the correlation of forces in the war for liberty and national independence. Why was I the only person available to argue against Mr Ormond? Where were the Tory MPs? Where were the maritime historians? Where were the retired naval commanders? Skulking in their clubs, I have no doubt—terrified to oppose the prevailing opinions, and hoping those opinions would not fully prevail while they were still around to suffer the consequences.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment

published on the Internet
Issue Number 47
22nd January 2001

How to Destroy the Enemy Class:
A Manifesto for the Right
Sean Gabb

The purpose of this manifesto is to discuss how England might be taken over and indefinitely held by the political right.

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment

published on the Internet
Issue Number 50
15th June 2001

Inquest on a "Lost" Election
by Sean Gabb

Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment

published on the Internet
Issue Number 68
2nd July 2002

Return to Sanity?
More on the Tory Recovery
by Sean Gabb

Last night, Oliver Letwin, who is the Conservative home affairs spokesman, gave a lecture to the Adam Smith Institute in central London. I went along to it reluctantly, only there because I had promised to accompany one of my students and to introduce him to a few people. I had in my mind the recollection of a speech given there, I think in 2000, by Francis Maude. This had been a performance of mind-rotting dullness—an hour of weasily posturing, read in a monotone and with no questions allowed from the audience. This, however, was a performance of an entirely different kind. For sincerity and originality of thinking, and for its radical challenge to the consensus, there has been nothing like this from a Conservative politician since the great days of the 1970s. I have said some cutting things about Dr Letwin. Having paid close attention to him for an hour last night, I now believe that I have misjudged him. If this is not part of a Conservative recovery, I have learnt nothing from the past 25 years of fringe political activity.

Before moving to a proper analysis, though, let me repeat as much as I can recall of his lecture. He began with a defence of Margaret Thatcher's alleged claim in 1988 that there was "no such thing as society". This was misrepresented—probably knowingly —by the left as a statement of atomistic individualism. In fact, it was an attack on the habit of ascribing moral agency to an abstract noun. There was no such thing as Society, she said—there were simply individuals and families, and these were the real agents of moral responsibility and the real source of strength or weakness in a nation. Given this limitation, Dr Letwin explained, conservatives do believe that society exists. What makes it so hard for non-conservatives to understand this belief is that when conservatives talk about society, they do not mean—as does New Labour—the State, but the millions of individuals in a nation and the complex web of customs and institutions that bind each individual to the others.

The State, he continued, has a role. But this is to support the institutions of society, not to manage or to try to replace them. Here is the new threat, he said. Before 1979, governments had tried to replace the complexity of the market, and had brought the country close to economic ruin. The Conservative reforms of the next 18 years did much to restore the self-correcting harmony of the market. New Labour has accepted most of these reforms, and has avoided the cruder interventions of the past. But it is still crudely interventionist in its social policies, believing that central control is better than self-determination. The Conservative task now, he said, is to produce a new consensus on social policy that supplements the consensus on economic policy produced by Margaret Thatcher. This Conservative thinking on society can be explained in terms of four propositions familiar from environmental science. These are:

1. The real world is irreducibly complex. Illustrating this, Dr Letwin took scientific arrogance about genetic research. Scientists have identified 30,000 genes in the human body. This is a very large number. But the number is indefinitely magnified by the complex interactions between these genes. It does not seem to be true, as some claim, that each gene has one function, and can be modified to change only that one function. Any one change may bring an unpredictable number of changes in other functions. So it is with society. There are 60 million people in this country, and the interactions between these people are immensely complex. Just as we have legitimate worries about genetic engineering, should we not still more worry about the effects of social engineering?

2. Simplistic targets can be exceptionally destructive. The illustration here was the "Great Leap Forward" imposed by the Chinese Communists in the late 1950s. They noticed that the rice harvest was being reduced by the predations of sparrows. So they announced targets for the eradication of sparrows from China. Over the next year, millions were killed. The immediate result was a larger rice harvest. The Communists had not noticed, however, that sparrows ate insects as well as rice. Without the sparrows, the insects multiplied without limit, and the next rice harvest was eaten by great clouds of locusts. New Labour targets are not so destructive, but have, even so, caused deaths. He gave the example of the waiting list targets in the National Health Service, where an obsession with reducing overall waiting times for treatment had led to an emphasis on treating simple complaints at the expense of the more difficult.

3. Crude intervention damages natural regeneration. A society, like any other organic structure, is a self-sustaining web of interactions. Intervene, and the balance may be destroyed. My recollection here is uncertain, but I think the illustration was welfare policies that destroy family structures and communities, thereby turning individuals into despairing clients of a distant and uncaring state.

4. Natural systems are able to absorb limited disruption, then degrade irreversibly. They can take many interventions without apparent damage to the whole. Eventually, however, there is a "tipping point", where just a few more—apparently unexceptional—interventions bring about a general collapse. The illustration here was soil erosion in the Amazon basin—where cutting down forests had created giant deserts.

These, said Dr Letwin, are a summary of Conservative thinking on social issues. He was not willing to talk about specific policies. These would be developed over the next few months and years, and would be announced when the details were able to stand hostile analysis and attack. But, when announced, they would be clearly based on the principles just outlined. They would require a dismantling of "one-dimensional interventions by big government". They would enable the recreation of "self-sustaining relationships within communities". They would be about decentralisation, about trusting the judgement of individuals and local communities. The State would be there, but would not try to be omnipresent and omnicompetent.

I hope the full text of the lecture will be published on the Internet. My own summary, though fairly accurate, is a very dim reflection of the most sophisticated and clever performance I have heard from any politician, with only the possible exception of Enoch Powell. There are two reasons that make it so important.

First, there is the content. The Conservative Party spent the whole of the last Parliament waiting for Labour to start copying the economic policies of Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson. This done, the economy would collapse, and the Conservatives could come back having learnt and forgotten nothing from their previous time in government, and without having to make any policy commitments. The strategy failed. In economic issues, Labour has been broadly competent. On those issues where it has most obviously failed—social and legal and constitutional—the Conservatives spent four years saying nothing of any interest. This failure is now being addressed. Of course, I would like to see a fully detailed manifesto. But this is not something to be pulled out of a hat. The William Hague approach of making up policy on the spur of the moment—without principled thought or even political coordination—has been abandoned. In its place, we have a slow but perhaps steady advance.

Second, there is the manner of presentation. What Dr Letwin said last night was pure English conservatism. There was nothing that would have raised objections from Burke or Hayek or Enoch Powell. But it was all dressed in the language of environmentalism and communitarianism. There are two ways to challenge a consensus. One is to reject both it and its language, and to put something else in its place. The other is to adopt its language and turn it against the consensus. The first, I confess, is my own preferred approach. However, we are dealing with an enormously powerful consensus that will not easily be beaten down by a frontal attack. This approach could take years, and we probably do not have years. Certainly, the approach is worth trying, but the other is not thereby ruled out if others want to try it. Assimilating the language of the consensus involves a certain risk. In unskilled hands, it can simply amount to accepting all the assumptions of an opponent, and then arguing over the details. The result is a set of compromises each one of which is a further surrender. In skilled hands, though, it can bring about large changes of opinion. It can confuse opponents by turning their own principles against them. It can even convert opponents by persuading them that the applications of principle for which they have been arguing are not the right ones.

Now, Dr Letwin does not seem unskilled. Much environmentalism strikes me as nothing more than a dislike of modern civilisation dressed in the language of bad science. Equally, much communitarianism strikes me as socialism in camouflage. But some of it is about preferring evolved, self-sustaining orders to orders imposed from outside. What was said last night will not just be reported in the plodding, ever-faithful Daily Telegraph. It will also have to be discussed in The Independent or even in The Guardian.

What I will also say about Dr Letwin is how impressed I was by his apparent sincerity. For years, I have been listening to politicians as they read their speeches from an autocue. The speeches have been written by others, and all content has been carefully drained from them, leaving a more or less connected set of sound bites when can then be explained through unattributed and often inconsistent media briefings. What I heard last night was a real speech—the sort of thing I last heard from Conservatives in the early 1980s, or from Labour before the rise of Tony Blair. Dr Letwin made a statement of principle, and then answered questions from the audience. It is not necessary that I should be happy with all that he said. For instance, he opposed the legalisation of drugs during the question and answer session. I think his grounds for doing so were silly. But, again, he plainly believed what he was saying. In an age when drug legalisation is being urged by judges and police chiefs, and when increasing numbers of ordinary people no longer believe in prohibition, it would have been easy to work the usual political trick of giving five minutes to saying nothing at all. Instead, he said what he thought. He seems, by the way, always to have thought this. In 1990, I asked him at some Conservative youth gathering what he thought about drug legalisation, and he raised a big laugh against me by accusing me of wanting to "make England into one vast Malay opium den". I mention this not with any bitterness—twelve years is a long time - but only to show his consistency even in being wrong.

So, the Conservatives are on the road to recovery, and the recovery is of a kind that will be more friendly to liberty than Labour has been—or than the last Conservative government was: I will not more than mention that most of what Dr Letwin said about New Labour's centralising mania also applies to the Thatcher and Major governments. This recovery is to be welcomed. The only problem I now face is what to do next. I have made myself moderately famous over the past ten years by denouncing the Conservative Party and all its works. The Candidlist was only the most successful of my efforts. That phase of my career may now be over—though do note the "may" in my statement: anything can happen between now and the next election—and I shall need to think what else to do. Doubtless, I shall find something. In any event, I would not be unhappy if I were to become a redundant critic.