FLC133, Forget the Election: How We by Delaying Yet May Save the Nation, Sean Gabb, 7th April 2005
Free Life Commentary,
an independent journal of comment
published on the Internet
Issue Number 133
7th April 2005
Forget the Election: How We by Delaying Yet May Save the Nation
by Sean Gabb
I will not presume here to advise my readers on how to vote in this general election. In the first place, most of you would pay no attention to my advice. In the second, I am not sure if I have any to give. Instead, I will explain what I think about the election, and what I plan – speaking for myself alone – to do about it.
My own approach to the election is simple. I want Labour to lose, and I do not want the Conservatives to win. My objection to Labour is its leadership of a cultural revolution that is obviously directed at stripping us of our liberties. It is not, of course, a revolution that began in 1997. It has been a project for at least the past half century of our entire ruling class, which I will define – yet again – as the sum of political, administrative, educational, legal media and business interests that gain status and income from an enlarged and active state: perhaps we can also call this the Enemy Class by virtue of its object. But there is no doubt that the revolution was greatly hastened when the present Government came into office. I should also say that the overt intention of these people is not always to make us into slaves. Some, no doubt, just want more money and privilege for themselves, and do not care to think about what this means for the rest of us. Some genuinely want to create a better world, and find that the existing order of liberty gets in the way of this. Of course, I have no sympathy for this object. I can understand that the French Jacobins did not realise what they were doing. I can just about feel for some of the Communists at the end of the Great War. But we now have a 200 year experience of the fact that every road to Utopia is paved with corpses, and these people ought to know better.
But, whatever I think of these people, I do accept that they are not stupid in their means of securing their end. Their strategy for abolishing liberty is highly effective. In this country – and I will say also in America – liberty is not something that depends for its existence on a set of written guarantees. These may be useful. But the real defence of liberty is its placing within a web of associations that makes its abolition unthinkable. Our own constitution is an organic growth. It draws its legitimacy from a perception that it has always existed. There are powerful abstract justifications of freedom of speech and freedom of contract and trial by jury and all the other procedural safeguards of our criminal law. But these abstract justifications do not individually count for much in the public mind against the specific practical objections that can always be fabricated by the Enemy Class. What preserves them over the long term is their position within the larger web of associations. The best defence of – say—trial by jury, we have seen in recent years, is the argument that it has existed for 800 years. Therefore, the best means of destroying liberty is to destroy that overall web of associations.
It may be an illusion natural to childhood, but I believed as a child that I lived in an order that was both ancient and permanent. During the past 30 years, that belief has become impossible to sustain. The currency has been decimalised. The weights and measures have been metricated. The county boundaries have been redrawn again and again. Writs have become claim forms. Plaintiffs have become claimants. Affidavits have become statements of truth. The Lord Chancellor is being renamed the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. By a series of individually small changes, any one of which can be defended – and sometimes with good reason – as improvements, the past has been made into a foreign country. I belong to the last generation in this country that can pick up a book written before about 1960, without needing a mass of footnotes to understand common allusions.
Indeed, not only has the past been made into a foreign country – it has also been demonised. It was a time of class inequality and racism and imperial aggression. We are better off without it. This demonisation has been achieved partly by explicit statement in television documentaries and the remodelling of museum and the rewriting of history books. But it has been achieved mostly by implicit means. Look, for example, at those posters sometimes displayed on the London Underground. We see black and white photographs of stiff bus conductors from the 1950s, their faces pinched by loss of teeth and roughened by blunt razor blades. Contrasted with these we see modern, full-colour pictures of black bus conductresses, their bodies contorted as if on a dance floor, their white, even teeth bared in wide grins. Look again at how the BBC shows black and white films of suited announcers form the past, with silly statements dubbed over. In all cases, the sub-text is to make the past alien and hostile.
Yes, much has improved over the past half century. But this is not celebrated – as it was in 1897 or 1951 – as a continuous, organic improvement. It is instead used to create the impression that the past has been abolished and we are living in a new world. This allows changes that were once unthinkable to become the daily business of government. When the double jeopardy rule was abolished, and similar fact and hearsay evidence was made admissible in criminal cases, those who opposed the changes could be portrayed as the enemies of “modernisation” – they could be dismissed in exactly the same terms as those who resisted decimalisation and those who still resist metrication. When it comes to the actual abolishing of our political independence and the projected transfer of our financial independence to the European Central bank, the only objections accepted as legitimate are based on considerations of short term economic calculation.
That is why I want to see Labour lose this election. With a renewed mandate – even if this were based on the positive approval of around 20 per cent of the whole electorate, Labour will continue with the cultural revolution. There will be more police state laws, more unaccountable and often alien rule, more remodelling of the Constitution. By the end of this decade, many of what we still take as the unchanging basics of our national life will have been swept away or transformed into something new and sinister.
But let me now turn to the Conservatives. As said, the revolution did not begin in 1997. It was merely accelerated. We had Conservative Governments for about three fifths of the time between 1951 and 1997. All that has been done during the past eight years rests on foundations laid during periods of Conservative supremacy in Parliament. What reason have we for believing that another Conservative Government after this coming 5th May would reverse any of what has been done so far? The answer is that we have no reason whatever.
Forget the Macmillan and Heath and Thatcher years. Given the present condition of the Conservative Party, there would have been no real hope even had Mr Howard been more effective than he has turned out to be. The whole Conservative strategy since 1997 has been nothing but a competing set of Quisling Right deceptions. The Conservatives have – and have had – no intention of rolling back the cultural revolution. Rather than discuss the nature of Enemy Class control of the administration, of the media and of education, and show how this is being used to destroy both individual freedom and national identity, and consider how best to restore liberal democracy, they have given themselves to fraudulent gestures. Under William Hague, these were simply incoherent. Under Iain Duncan Smith, they were timid. Under Mr Howard, they have been more focussed. But these are nuances. The overall strategy has never been more than to lie their way back into office and then to do nothing to shake the established structures of power in this country.
I did say at the beginning of the article that I would not give advice. But I am by trade a lecturer. I am constitutionally incapable of not giving advice. And so, because this is a stream of consciousness article, thrown together on my railway journey home, I will not silently withdraw my promise by recasting the article. I will instead break the promise, and proceed straight to my advice.
If what I want comes to pass, that the Conservatives will not win a majority next month, we are no worse off than before. We may, indeed, be better off. If we are to be destroyed, let it be done openly, by people who make no secret of their intentions. That is at least more seemly than a destruction presided over by supposed friends, who quote Burke and Disraeli in their speeches while following an agenda drawn up by the followers of Antonio Gramsci and Theodore Adorno. It also means that conservatives and libertarians can act as a unified movement, rather than – as is the case presently in America – fall into disputes over how far the formally conservative office holders are to be trusted and supported.
Now, it is one thing to say that we can act as a unified movement. It is another entirely to say how we should act. For centuries, English political activity has been focussed on Parliament. Every movement for change has concentrated on getting its spokesmen elected to Parliament and at least to influence the Government through the electoral process. This is now closed to us. The Conservative Party is a shambolic fraud. The small parties that many hope will replace it are too badly organised to gather more than the occasional protest vote. If there is to be a final victory for our movement, it must involve a parliamentary majority. But that is a distant prospect. In the meantime, what is to be done?
My answer in the short term is that we must assist in the destruction of the Conservative Party. While it remains in being as a potential vehicle of government, every initiative from our movement will be taken over and neutralised. I will vote next month for the United Kingdom Independence Party. I do not believe that my candidate will win. I strongly doubt even that any UKIP candidate anywhere in the country will save his deposit. I will vote for UKIP because it is the most obvious dustbin for disgusted Conservative votes. There is an argument for not voting at all. If I believed we were absolutely without hope in the short term, that I what I should do. A collapse in turnout, after all, is a far more effective delegitimisation of the present order of things than a reduced Labour Majority or even a hung Parliament. But there is always the faint hope that someone in the Conservative leadership will get out his pocket calculator next 6th May and add to the actual Conservative vote all the votes given to the various Conservative Parties in exile, and realise that the Quisling Right strategy of implied or fraudulent promises must be abandoned if the Party is ever to stand another chance of winning a general election. I may be wrong here. But if I am wrong, voting for a fringe party is unlikely to do much harm – and may do some good.
In the longer term, we must learn to keep our nerve. Unless we have another of those strokes of luck that have always got us out of trouble in the past, there is no immediate prospect of victory. The Enemy Class has too strong an ideological and repressive state apparatus for it to be defeated by simple electoral means. We need to consider a Fabian strategy. I do not wholly mean by this copying the socialist intellectuals who surrounded the Webbs a hundred years ago. What I have in mind is Quintus Fabius Maximus, who was appointed Dictator during the Second Punic War. Under Hannibal, the Carthaginians had broken into Italy. They had annihilated every Roman army sent against them. As an army in the field, they were unbeatable. And so Fabius avoided battle and let them wear themselves out. Where possible, he harried them with small skirmishes. Otherwise, his main victories were clever retreats that kept his own army in being. Though his strategy was at first unpopular with the more straightforward Romans, he prepared the way for the great victories of Scipio Africanus; and he died the acknowledged saviour of his country. Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem, said Ennius of him.
That must be our model. Elections cost money. They absorb huge amounts of time and effort. Every failure is disheartening. We cannot afford the luxury of thinking we can vote our way to safety. We need instead to create our own media to get our message across. We need to continue organising among ourselves. We need, where appropriate, to use the courts. These are not necessarily expensive. The Internet has transformed the balance of power between the public and the established media. So long as we can stop tearing each other apart in various internal disputes – the Conservative and UKIP activists are increasingly tiresome in this respect – we already have a large network of publicists. At least two court actions in recent years – over compulsory metrication and the hunting ban – have been successful. They did not achieve their stated aims, but gave the Judges an excuse to change the Constitution in our favour. Though not cheap, they were not prohibitively expensive. Above all, we can expect the Enemy Class eventually to run out of commitment, and transform itself into an increasingly timid ancien regime. Remember, these people are at war not just with us, but with reality itself. That war must always be lost in the end.
I know that this strategy will be often depressing. It will also be dangerous. I see that Nick Griffin of the British National Party appeared in court today, charged with various offences that should not exist in a free country. His party has been targeted for destruction. Its known members cannot get jobs in the public sector and in growing areas of the private sector. It cannot get its website hosted in this country, and must get its magazine published by an Arab-owned company that has so far been outside the reach of the Enemy Class. Can we assume that these measures will not be extended to us? I am told that, already, applicants for jobs in the Foreign Office are asked if they are or every have been members of a “Eurosceptic organisation”. Fighting the Enemy Class will not be the same as fighting the Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan Governments.
And if victory ever does come, it will be in a transformed country. We shall be like the aristocrats who returned to France in 1814 – though ours will be a liberal reaction. All that we knew and loved in our youths will have been swept away. Much might be recoverable. More will need to be begun over again. The old organic Constitution may have passed beyond recovery, and we shall need to devise some new set of arrangements within which we can recreate the spirit of our past without even what now remain its most hallowed forms. I tremble to clarify this sentence, but I suppose I mean a republic.
We need therefore to have our vision of a conservative England for the 21st century. My own suggestion here is that conservatism is not to be defined as a living in a country where everyone sits down to a dinner of meat and two vegetables while listening to Max Bygraves records – unless, that is, they want to. This is a definition cleverly imposed by the Enemy Class and accepted by both traditionalists and modernisers in the Conservative Party. That is why debate in that Party has settled into a sterile dispute between those who want an agenda of authoritarianism and those who want one of imitative political correctness. We want to be a free people again living in an independent country. On this definition, our allies can be everywhere. They can have nipple rings and green hair. They can be homosexuals and transsexuals and drug users. They can want to live in racially exclusive enclaves. They can be Catholics and Moslems and atheists. Whoever wants to be left alone in his own life, and whoever wants this country to be governed from within this country, is a conservative for the present century.
But I find I am running out of energy and have started to wander even further from my stated object, of explaining my own intentions. So let this be an end of my lecture for today.