Cultural Notes No. 57
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London, W1J 6HL.
ISSN 0267-677X (print)
ISSN 2042-2539 (online)
© 2012: Libertarian Alliance, David Webb
David Webb studied Chinese and Russian at Leeds University, where he was involved in Marxist politics. He has since become a conservative writer, contributing to The Salisbury Review and Right Now!, and more recently contributing extensively to the Libertarian Alliance blog. He lived for four years in China (Tianjin, Kunming and Chengdu) and now writes freelance on Chinese politics and economics.
The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee, Advisory Council or subscribers.
FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY
Marxism and censorship
I am interested to see the views on the Stephen Lawrence case published on the Spiked website by Brendan O’Neill1 and Mick Hume.2 Before discussing those articles, I should explain why I have mixed feelings about Spiked and associated groups, including the Institute of Ideas. My feelings with regards to them are mixed, but largely positive. They are one of the few groups standing up for freedom from state control in an intelligent way, and we need all the allies we can get. So I welcome their regularly updated website, www.spiked-online.com, which holds articles on an astonishing array of subjects. One can with profit spend many hours on that website, and in a day when Internet browsing can easily become a bored surfing from site to site, that cannot be said of many sites.
My mixed feelings relate to the fact that in an earlier incarnation I was a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which published a well-argued and interesting magazine, Living Marxism, later LM, before having to close down as the result of a libel verdict pursued by ITN (the details of which are well worth examining; personally, I feel that LM was unlucky to have lost the case, but all such cases are rather unfairly adjudicated). The decision that the objective circumstances for revolutionary politics did not exist in Britain (apologies to LM or anyone else if I have poorly remembered the reasons for the closure of the party in 1997) showed this group was rather unusual in being able to “think outside the left-wing box” and draw interesting conclusions from the changes in the world in the early 1990s. Following the final closure of LM magazine in 2000, the online magazine Spiked was set up, giving the group a new platform for their views, and in the years since then Spiked has gained something of a reputation for libertarianism.
Despite its opposition to the bourgeois state, freedom from the state is not a logical consequence of Marxist thought. I remember one of the members of the RCP arguing that “after the revolution”, all sorts of censorship and repression would be used to reorient social discussion and close down opposition. Lenin himself was unabashed about the use of state power. And yet for around two decades, the people who are now grouped (very loosely) around Spiked have argued against mindless calls to give “no platform” to anyone who could be painted as “Fascist and Racist” (Fascist with a capital F and Racist with capital R because these are contentless labels), partly because such calls allow the authorities to direct social discussion, and if they bar one group’s political ideas, then they can bar another’s. They also appear to believe that the “Racists and Fascists” hold viewpoints that are scarcely credible and easily defeated in the full glare of argument, and so there is little to be gained from not thrashing out ideas; indeed, the failure to do so can allow non-progressive assumptions to reign unchallenged.
From a people to a population
There is some confusion in Spiked’s ideas: their assumption seems to be that it is possible to argue for immigration and anti-racism without enforcement by the state or other official bodies exercising a censorship over self-expression on the subject. In fact, state intervention is crucial to the project. To create a society with no common culture, where groups are enabled to replicate their ancestral cultures and carry on as if they were not in England; to create a society where violent crime by immigrant groups may not be openly discussed; and to insist that no ethnic group has a prior claim to the country: all this requires state repression. I lived for four years of my life in China, but it never occurred to me to claim that China does not belong to the Chinese, or that all human beings have an equal claim to every square inch of the earth, regardless of the achievements of long-standing settled societies there. To do so would be to express racial prejudice in fact – to deny others the right to claim their sods of earth and to create societies in their territories that reflect their cultures.
Of course, Spiked would claim that it does not support the politics of identity, and that it stands for humanism, rather than narrow nationalism. However, this is either a coy support for the dispossession of the English nation, or it is a nonsense trussed up as theory. No one can love the whole of Humanity (capital H required here too) equally. The Human Race is just an abstraction, or, to use the terminology of the far left, it is a social construct. If nations are imagined communities, based on real cultural connections and allegiances, then how much more illusory is the imagined Human Race? What unites the Human Race? Simply that we all have two legs? If our cultures are distinct, then a common identity across the Human Race has to be a thin thing indeed, as many have noticed with the multiculturalism promoted by bureaucracies in the West. “Humanity” has too much of a whiff of synthetic and sanctimonious piety about it. Even those who claim to support Humanity could not feasibly warm to all human societies. Place Mick Hume or Brendan O’Neill next to a barbaric “female circumcision” ceremony in Somalia, and they might find it within themselves to object to Somali culture (and thus, logically, given that cultures are the values of the people that adhere to them, to Somali people themselves).
It is, of course, likely that there is no way back to a society united on the basis of England’s traditional identity, but that is a problem that in itself stands in the way of freedom in England today. Reduced from a people to a mere population, there is nothing that unites England today, other than our exposure to intervention by the same bureaucratic machine. Where there is no society, the state grows to assume a dominant role, arguing that social fragmentation forces it to intervene to regulate the fragmented lower orders. No one should suppose that a loss of a country’s identity is the natural consequence of a globalised world. Hong Kong is one of the most globalised economies in the world: Hong Kong has strong trade and investment ties with all other economies; people from all over the world work in Hong Kong; and people from all over the world visit Hong Kong, a free port, without the inconvenience of having to apply for visas. And yet Hong Kong remains 97% Chinese. Maybe it is because Hong Kong does not promote multiculturalism, requires overseas workers to be highly skilled and does not allow the entire Indian subcontinent to apply for welfare upon arrival in the territory. Ditto for Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, etc.
The decision to become a multi-ethnic society is a policy choice, and it is one that Spiked supports. They have the society they always dreamed of: the right has been vanquished; the demographic realities on the ground have been totally altered; and those opposed to these developments have no voice, and indeed are subject to prosecution where they speak out! What is there not to like for the likes of Spiked? Apparently, official anti-racism has become a moral crusade that has taken the place of what Spiked sees as the erstwhile official promotion of racism, amounting to a new form of class prejudice, the despising of the Racism of the lower orders. According to this analysis, we seem to have successfully moved the cultural basis of the Establishment’s rule on to new territory, but this time the role of democracy, free speech and freedom of expression seems to have been excised. A technocratic society has little need for popular participation.
Racism and power
Mick Hume explains that his earlier opposition to Racism was directed towards the ‘official’ kind, that racial prejudice was used to back up the rule of the British capitalist class in order to create ideological support to ‘cohere’ society under the rule of the powers-that-be. Hence, the reinvention of Racism as a viewpoint found only in the lower classes is a perversion of his concept: anti-racism was meant to weaken the hold of the authorities over society, not strengthen it. Brendan O’Neill echoes this viewpoint, claiming the authorities want to “redefine racism as a disease of the brain rather than as a relation of power”.
There is so much wrong with this, it is difficult to know where to begin. The assertion that Racism is a “relation of power” is pure Marxist rhetoric; without this assertion, the Spiked viewpoint would disintegrate. Neither of the Spiked writers stop to examine whether support for the society around you is actually ‘racism’ (a word I can only understand as “hatred of those of other races”) or a healthy phenomenon implying no hatred for others, and akin to the average person’s support for his family’s interests over those of strangers. Neither of them shows that Racism has its origin in an earlier period of promotion of the ideology by the British ruling class.
First, you would need to go back a long while to find a period when the state promoted racism, if it ever did. True, Britain was an imperial power, and the logic of imperial rule was in the inequality of the governed races, not in their supposed equality despite the disparity in their social, economic and cultural achievements. It was probably true that in the 19th century, imperial rule did give a sense of pride to lower-class Britons. But the state was so small – at times accounting for just 7% of GDP in the late 19th century – that you would be hard-pressed to show that the British state worked overtime to promote prejudice against the subject imperial nations among the lower orders. The working class had little interaction with the state in those days. There was no TV and no BBC, and while treason and sedition were crimes on the statute books (as they remain today), there was no attempt to officially enforce racialist views. Race was in fact an abstract category when England was more than 99% European in terms of its population. We are meant to believe that the British state was frenetically promoting prejudice against people in far-off countries who most English people would never come across. A more logical view is that pride in the British Empire was derived from its fact, the fact that a small dot in the North Atlantic had conquered one-quarter of the world, a feat that it could not have accomplished had Britain not been centuries ahead of the developing countries.
In the early 20th century, Antonio Gramsci argued that all societies have ruling elites and that all societies have cultures that prop up the rule of their elites. No ruling class can rule by a monopoly of violence alone, he argued, but by Cultural Hegemony, which induces society as a whole to support the elite’s rule. These ideas were not new, being broadly in line with the ideas of Niccolò Macchiavelli in The Prince. However, it is one thing to show that an elite obtains social acceptance of its rule by supporting, or feigning support for, the society’s culture – and quite another to show that that culture is created out of whole cloth in order to induce support for minority class rule. Historically, no society before Soviet Communism was able to develop the propaganda resources and means of social control to create a truly unfree state. Only in the modern period do you have states large enough to be able (as with multiculturalism in Britain today) to seek to reinvent society. If elites ruled by virtue of their support for the society around them, that represented the natural evolution of a society with cultural connections internally.
Patriotism and society
You have to presume that there is an essential antagonism in class society – a precept of Marxist dogma – before you begin to explore how a society creates compliance with the rule of an elite. Yet there is a fundamental distinction between a society with hardly anything in the way of a state structure – late 19th century England – where some people were rich, and a society where the state accounts for half of the entire economy, and the state bureaucracy is in itself a key means for personal self-advancement for a parasitical minority. The 19th century bourgeoisie – an economic elite whose position in society derived from their entrepreneurialism and not from their political propaganda – did not cast around in an artificial way for cultural theories with which to “cohere” society. People made their own luck, in a society with considerable social mobility and no means for government promotion of “opportunity for all”. While strikes and labour unrest among the disadvantaged were of concern to the government, the ultimate tendency of capitalism was to raise average living standards. The advent of democracy aimed to give all Britons a stake in society, and as revolutionaries such as Gramsci found out internal cultural connections in most European countries made violent revolutions rare and unlikely events.
Patriotism, far from being a tool for the bourgeoisie to dominate society in its own interests, was a means whereby society kept a hold on its rulers. Demands for social reform were a demand for patriotism among the ruling elite. If we consider how the White Australia Policy was supported by generations of workers in Australia, we can see that patriotism sought to keep the rulers operating in the interests of society as a whole, rather than bringing cheap labour to undercut the working man and divide society. If we see today how our rulers have abandoned support for our society, often encouraging immigration, rule by foreign bureaucracies and pointless adventures to “spread democracy”, it is clear that patriotism and other moral values used to be a binding force on the so-called bourgeoisie, and not a binding force to keep the lower orders in line. Mick Hume explains:
Thirty years ago when I joined a group called Workers Against Racism, there was no sympathetic media coverage or mainstream political support for the Asian families being burnt out of housing estates or the black youth being routinely brutalised by the police. The national debate was all about the scourge of ‘immigrant scroungers’ and black ‘muggers’. Those who fought against racists were branded extremists, the flipside of the fascists.
This presentation requires heavy subtext. The national debate was about immigrant scroungers, because immigrant scroungers were flooding in in large numbers, although it must be admitted that the numbers back then in the 1980s were a small fraction of the numbers that have been flooding in ever since. The debate about black muggers reflected … (surprise, surprise) the high proportion of muggings by black youths. Support for England’s being English was something that working men traditionally sought in their ruling classes, not because they were duped into not being internationalist by a ruling class that sought to divide up Humanity in order to rule us, but because a decent society needs to conduct its affairs on the basis of a recognition of common origin and common interests by the rulers and the ruled. Where the rulers can allow the ingress of millions of unskilled labourers, they are showing as plain as they can that they are not accountable to their own lower orders. They will keep the wages low, and there is nothing the workers can do about it. And they will culturally divide the ruled in a way that allows for an industry in social propaganda to install itself in every workplace, school and even living room.
Immigration and propaganda
Immigration is not just about cheap labour, of course. It is also a moral project. Communism, atheism, the rise of the developing world – all these have weakened elite belief in the national cultures of Western societies. Multiculturalism began to be implemented, not because patriotism no longer worked as a cohering value with which to con the workers, but because the Establishment no longer believed in society’s values. As O’Neill says, “the Lawrence murder became a significant turning point in the way in which the white working classes were discussed and understood – and feared”, precisely because large swathes of the ‘white’ working class would still be interested in England’s being a nation-state, which is in turn because the elite’s project of multiculturalism runs directly contrary to the interests of the English working class (dubbed “white” by left-wing commentators, although the point is not that we are white, but that this is our country). The workers have been brought along more sullenly into the multicultural paradise that increasing numbers of senior state personnel have sought to promote, until today, where the promotion of this cultural shift is now compulsory for all state bureaucrats.
Democracy becomes impossible where the political elite is united in a project to reform society demographically. Much of social policy is off-limits to political debate. Public broadcasting is used for the strong promotion of tendentious views. As every single workplace, school and club of any type is now required to promote the multicultural agenda, people are strongly deterred from expressing themselves on cultural topics. The elections still take place, but the content has been removed. One example of the way in which politics is constrained is the prevention of social discussion of the ethnic involvement in crime. It has become apparent that the police only exist in England today to promote the great experiment of creating a multi-ethnic society, and the suppression of crime is no longer really on their agenda.
Given that the immigration we have had to absorb has been to the detriment of the long-standing population, in terms of welfarism, crime, our subjection to constant propaganda and the ruthless excision of anything revealing England to have a culture (which would also reveal the English to be an ethnic group, and not just “white” people), it is unsurprising that at a slightly less extreme phase in the demographic shift there was a national debate about the scourge of immigrant scroungers and black muggers. We have now moved on to the more advanced phase, where we cannot even discuss what is happening to our society. The fact that the police were – in Mick Hume’s words – “brutalising black youths” merely shows that, back then, there was still some social pressure on the police to fish where the fish were, to prevent black crime from having a greater impact on the host community, whereas, by now, we are expected to have become accustomed to a decaying social fabric and hence to keep quiet. Mick Hume’s article is devoid of any explanation as to why PC Blakelock’s killers roam free, while two men who are not proven to have had a connection to the killing of Stephen Lawrence are behind bars.
If Mick Hume is right that in the 1980s there was “deliberate, politicised and vitriolic racism, popularised from the top down and enforced by the state as a weapon to divide the working class and consolidate white support for the authorities”, it is only because white support was only available for the authorities when they showed themselves to be on the side of the existing community. In fact, contrary to what Mick Hume claims, the government has long been opposed to the nationalism of the English working classes, and a firmer stance against black crime has long been coupled with policies to allow refugees and secondary immigrants to arrive in Britain unchecked in terms of numbers, at the same time that propaganda units in all state bodies to promote “anti-racism” were being set up. Is Mick Hume unaware that so-called Racism had been outlawed under the Race Relations Act of 1965? Back as far as 1965, before my birth, the state was already trying to force the population to accept a planned demographic change. Those like Enoch Powell who claimed there might be three million people of New Commonwealth descent in Britain by the end of the 20th century were vocally condemned (by Mick Hume, along with the Establishment press) for Racism. And yet the official figure is north of nine million today.3 How does Spiked explain this?
Mick Hume goes on:
What has happened over the past two decades is that Britain has undergone a major cultural shift as the old politics of nationalism and race have lost their grip on public consciousness. This would have happened whether or not Stephen Lawrence had been murdered by racists. Indeed, the fact that his killing remains the benchmark for racist violence 19 years on shows how rare such incidents have become.
It is difficult to deny that the younger generation are not captivated by what Hume claims was the “old politics of nationalism and race”, although support for the demographic change is more sullen and passive than Hume admits. Hume does not tarry to investigate whether state propaganda of an almost blanket nature has driven acceptance of the state’s agenda. Has he ever watched Eastenders or noted how most television programmes seem to be used as a vehicle for the state’s cultural messages today? Marxists used to speak of “False Consciousness”. Well, is it not false consciousness for official figures to show the heavy and disproportionate ethnic involvement in crime, when the average English person instantly blurts out that it is not true when confronted with the facts? Is it not false consciousness to force yourself not to notice that it is the English and English culture that are on the receiving end of prejudice in England today? Many are afraid to think of inconvenient facts lest they end up thinking the wrong thoughts. It is only an abuse of state power that can make an untruth stick. It is true that many of the young are prepared to mouth the nostrums of multiculturalism, but it is not the case that an integrated new society, with a new common culture, has been created – which is what Hume needs to show in order to praise the “major cultural shift” that has happened. If we were gradually creating a new culture that united society on a new basis, attempts to oppose it by conservatives would be quixotic. But in the end all Hume shows is that the technocracy has had its way and created a society that requires constant state management of inter-cultural issues.
As Hume says, “racist” killings of ethnic-minority individuals are extraordinarily rare – and there is no reliable evidence that Stephen Lawrence was killed on account of his race. Racially motivated killings of British people are considerably more frequent, but I do not think Spiked will be launching campaigns to publicise this. Richard Everitt, Ross Parker, Kriss Donald, Gavin Hopley and others are among the unknown victims. I personally would feel uncomfortable for English people to take up the victim mantle – as I think it is more appropriate for us to claim England as ours because we are English than to claim it because we are victims, but it is worth pointing out that there are many English victims of extreme racial prejudice whose names and cases are of no interest either to Spiked or to the Establishment press.
The truth is that the less overtly racist British society has become in recent times, the more the authorities have started preaching about the evils of racism and launching new crusades against it. What has altered most is the perception of racism. Where once it was society’s guilty secret, now there is a concerted effort to trawl for and publicise any hint of racially incorrect language or behaviour from the school playground to the football pitch. The less racism is in evidence, the more everything appears to have been racialised.
When Hume says that British society was “overtly racist”, he could just as easily have chosen to say that Britain was a free society, where free expression of the view that the authorities should not be trying to change the ethnic identity of the population was common. That is not racism; that is the normal expression of solidarity with one’s society expressed by any normal person. Even racially inflammatory comments and behaviour amount to merely an inchoate reaction to what is happening to our society, although genuine racial hatred is rare among the majority English community (and far from rare among the ethnic minorities, whose unjustified sense of grievance is officially fostered). By tolerating everything culturally, we stand for nothing. We are being asked to become cardboard cut-outs of people, with no views or loyalties, rather than people with genuine passions and adherences, along the lines of the becalmed population created by the authorities in the film Equilibrium. In a free society, people are more than walking-and-talking tolerance machines: they have real views and express them, and it is this that Hume describes as “overt racism”.
Along with millions of other English people, I have no axe to grind against individual people of other ethnicities, as long as they remain in their own countries and are not trying to take over England. It is absurd to claim that this expression of “ownership” of England is itself motivated by prejudice. Does Mick Hume open his home as a hostel to all the homeless? If not, is that because he is denying the equal worth of all human beings and expressing contempt towards them? Is he violating his own expressed support for Humanity with a capital H? Or is it simply because he needs his space as a human being to live the way he chooses to live and wishes others well to find their own spaces and ways of life without intruding on him? The same principle applies to the nation. People who come here – ideally, people who arrive here with strong democratic support for their arrival, which can only be obtained where a frank national discussion on the issue is permitted – should join our culture, not bring theirs with them. Logically, they will recreate their cultures in England if their numbers reach critical mass, which means only a low number of immigrants can be easily integrated.
O’Neill says Racism has been “thoroughly reconceptualised, turned from an ideological thing into a kind of instinctive tick, from a tool of the powerful into a disease amongst the powerless”. What about the “powerless” – among whom I have to number myself – who do not feel any “hatred” for people of other races, but for whom a nation-state is an ideological thing, because I want to live in a democracy and in a society that feels like a society where there is something in common between ruler and ruled? In a society where instinctive support for the country and people around you is not penalised by the state? Where the rulers also feel instinctive support for their own lower orders? Where freedom of speech, expression and association are taken for granted?
Perhaps beaten, but never silent
Of course I realise that there is little likelihood of a reversal of the state’s cultural policies, which means that a divided society has been successfully created, apparently giving the technocracy a permanent role in society. But the fact that what has been done will not be reversed does not mean we should surrender our right to freedom of expression on the subject for ever more. I would like to see official promotion of multiculturalism stop, all the discrimination tribunals closed down, and the ethnic minorities told they will no longer be allowed to be “more equal” in our society. If the demographic change could be stabilised at current levels, with an end to the propaganda element and the constant negativity of the discussion of race and culture, I suppose many English people would see that as an improvement they could live with. Ironically, if this happened and people felt free once again to voice their views on a range of racial and cultural issues, Spiked might find that support for multiculturalism had been more superficial than they had supposed, leading them to editorialise about an upsurge in Racism once again.
So while I rave over the majority of Spiked articles, I cannot do so over the ones on race and immigration that still try to promote the anti-racist agenda while claiming to oppose the moral crusade against the Racist ‘white’ working class. The real reason Mick Hume and LM promoted the idea that Racism was a state-backed ideology to con the workers was because, as Marxists, they believed that the workers of all nations had more in common with each other than with their rulers. Workers of the world, unite! and all that. Yet Humanity is an abstraction, as proven by the failure of the international revolution to take place in the early 20th century. A Humanist agenda with no plan for international revolution, as still plugged by Spiked, seems like a stance on race and immigration that has forgotten its original rationale. Hume and O’Neill clearly back the state’s views on race and immigration, while posing as opponents of the way race has become a moral crusade against the workers. And yet, without the state’s adoption and enforcement of this agenda, the cultural shift Spiked welcomes would not have happened. Without state propaganda, the somewhat passive acquiescence of the young would not have happened either. The only way that multiracialism could have been enforced is via the ideological interests of the ruling minority supported by an over-large state. It’s called preventing democracy and preventing liberty, with a cast of hangers-on made up of moralising enthusiasts and advocates for cheap labour in tow: to support the technocratic agenda, but not the technocracy, is simply confused, and yet that is where Spiked is.
(1) Brendan O’Neill, ‘Lawrence verdict: this isn’t justice – it’s politics’, Spiked, 4th January 2012, retrieved 13th January 2012, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/11951/
(2) Mick Hume, ‘Official anti-racism: the new nationalism?’, Spiked, 5th January 2012, retrieved 13th January 2012, http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/11947/
(3) Simon Rogers, ‘Non-white British population reaches 9.1 million’, Guardian, 19th May 2011, retrieved 13th January 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/18/non-white-british-populati...