The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Enoch Was Right

Forty-five years ago today, the Conservative Political Centre for the West Midlands met in a room in Midland Hotel, in Birmingham.  It was a small meeting, not the kind that would ordinarily attract much media attention.   The man addressing the meeting, however, was no ordinary man, and his speech was no ordinary speech.  It would be the talk of the nation for days, weeks, even years to come.  It would earn the speaker, an articulate, well-educated intellectual, of High Tory convictions, the love of the lower and middle classes, and the hatred of the progressively inclined, academic and media elites.  It was due to this speech that dock workers, union members, and other manual labourers would march in defense of the most outspoken advocate of free enterprise since World War II and prior to Margaret Thatcher.

The Man

The man speaking that day was John Enoch Powell, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton, South West, the constituency he had represented since 1950. (1)   He had twice been Minister of State for Health in the government of Harold Macmillan.  In 1968, however, the Labour Party was in power and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister.  The Conservatives, led by that wettest of the “wet Tories”, Edward Heath, were in Opposition, and Powell was Shadow Secretary for Defence   Until he gave the speech, that was.  April 20th was a Saturday that year.  On Sunday April 21st, a vivid Heath sacked Powell from the Shadow Cabinet, replacing him with Reginald Maudlin, the Deputy Leader of the Party.  Powell would never again hold a position within a Conservative Cabinet, government or Shadow.   The rift between him and the Conservative Party leadership, especially Heath, would never be repaired.   In 1975 Heath was replaced as Conservative leader by Margaret Thatcher, an admirer of Powell’s who had advised Heath against firing Powell and who expressed agreement with the controversial speech in her memoirs, (2) but by this time Powell, while remaining a Tory by conviction, had left the Party in disgust over the way Heath had betrayed his Party’s principles and platform in his premiership and had compromised British national sovereignty by bringing the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community.  
Powell had been born in Birmingham, the city of his famous – or infamous, depending upon your perspective – speech, in  June of 1912, three years after the marriage of his parents.  His father, Albert Enoch Powell, of Welsh descent, was an elementary school teacher and later principal.  His mother, Ellen Mary Powell, nee Breese, a policeman’s daughter who had been a teacher herself before her marriage, was a woman of immense scholarly aptitude, who had taught herself classical Greek, and who encouraged this same trait when it manifested itself early in her only child.  He won an early scholarship to King Edwards’, a grammar school in Birmingham, when he was only thirteen.  He initially entered as a science student, but transferred to the classical form after one term.  In the break between, under his mother’s tutelage, he learned two years worth of Greek in two weeks, catching up with his fellow students.  (3)  

After graduating with distinctions in Latin, Greek, and Ancient history, he entered Trinity College at Cambridge with several scholarships,  where he studied Latin under A. E. Housman, the classical scholar more famous as the poet author of A Shropshire Lad, and read the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.   Nietzsche had become the professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland when he was only 24.  Powell acquired an ambition to beat his then-idol’s record.   He did not succeed in this, but he came close to matching it.  He became full professor of Greek at the University of Sydney in Australia in 1937 when he was 25.   The following year his Lexicon to Herodotus was published by Cambridge University Press which also published, early in 1939, his History of Herodotus.  His career as a classical scholar was already well-established but events of that same year, would lead to the resignation of his professorship in a romantic answering of the call of duty.   On September 3rd, 1939, the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany.  On the following day, Powell resigned his position and caught a flight back to England, determined like the character of Guy Crouchback in Evelyn Waugh’s novels, to offer his services to King and country.

Powell was more successful in this than the fictional Crouchback, joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a private in October of 1939, being promoted to lance corporal while still in basic training, and then selected to be trained as an officer.  This training began in January 1940 and lasted four months, after which he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the General List, to be shortly thereafter transferred into the Intelligence Corps.  This pattern of promotion continued throughout the war until he attained the rank of brigadier.   Stationed in Cairo, Algiers, and Delhi, he developed an ambition to become Viceroy of India and a lifelong dislike of the Americans, whom he correctly believed were trying to bring down the British Empire as well as the Axis Powers.

When the war ended, Powell had the pathways of two careers in which he had already achieved success open before him.  He could have retained his commission and continued to climb the ranks of the military.   He could have gone to Durham University, where he had been elected Professor of Greek and Classical Literature to resume an illustrious career in classical scholarship.   Instead, he resigned both commission and professorship to go into politics, initially with the idea of achieving his goal of becoming Indian Viceroy.

Powell was, by instinct and conviction, a Conservative, or, to use the term he preferred himself, a Tory.  His excellent definition of a Tory was “a person who believes that authority is vested in institutions.” (4)   In defending the authority of institutions which he had instinctively revered from his earliest days, he grounded it in the concept of prescription, i.e., legitimacy derived from tradition and tested and established through long usage.   It was because the Conservative Party traditionally embodied these concepts and not because he was particularly impressed with the way the Party handled the reins of government when in office that he sought to become a Conservative candidate for office.   He was added to the candidates list and, while he lost his first bid for office in Normanton in 1947, he was given a job in the meantime in the Parliamentary Secretariat and later the Conservative Research Department where he met Pamela Wilson, at first his secretary, later his wife and the mother of his two daughters.  His next candidacy, was in Wolverhampton.  One Sunday evening, on his way home to his Wolverhampton apartment, he heard the bells of  St. Peter’s Collegiate Church.  Although Powell had lost his faith as a youth,  become an atheist, and then an admirer of the notoriously antiChristian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he responded to the summons and entered the church to hear Evensong.  He found himself drawn to participate in the worship, and after that regularly attended the church each Sunday.  He soon abandoned his atheism to become a devout if idiosyncratic High Anglican. (5)   In 1950 was sent to the House of Commons by the electorate of Wolverhampton South West to begin his new career as a statesman.

As mentioned previously, Powell served as a minister in Macmillan’s government.  What most distinguishes his Parliamentary career, however, is his erudite and articulate speeches.   Although he is remembered today chiefly in connection with one issue in particular, he was hardly a single-issue controversialist.     When the Macmillan Conservatives introduced the Life Peerages Act he spoke out against it.   The Conservative leaders behind the Act, regarded it as a means of preserving the House of Lords through modernization.  The Labour Party rejected the Act on the same grounds, because they wished for more radical modernization.  Powell, however, regarded it as the first step towards the democratization of the House of Lords.  This would be an unacceptable redundancy, Powell argued, in which the two Houses would both be representatives of the same electorate, creating a constitutional crisis over which of the two is rightly representative.   He championed traditional, hereditary, peerages, soundly arguing that it was prescription that legitimized the authority of the Lords, just as prescription was the basis of the authority of the Crown and even of the elected assembly.

At the time the leaders of the Conservative Party had agreed to support the Keynesian and socialist economic policies brought in by Clement Attlee and William Beveridge after the war. Powell, however, broke with the Post-War Consensus, to insist that Keynesianism generated inflation, to call for monetarist reforms to combat such inflation, and to preach the virtues of private enterprise and the free market.

At the end of the war Powell was still an imperialist.  After India achieved independence in 1947, however, he was convinced the Empire could no longer be maintained and adopted a nationalist approach to foreign policy similar to that of  the Taft Republicans in the United States.  In the Cold War he opposed both the Communism of the Soviet Union and the hubris of the Americans.  His British nationalism led him to oppose the UK’s entry into the EEC in the 1970s and to take up the cause of Unionism in Northern Ireland.   It was also intimately related to the position he took in his most famous speech.

The Speech

The subject of the talk, that would earn Powell the love of the masses, the ire of the fashionable, progressive, chattering classes , and his place in history was immigration and racial strife.   His enemies accused him of trying to incite racial strife by stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment.   The reality is quite different.  In fact, he as actually trying to prevent racial conflicts and violence by warning that such would be inevitable if large scale immigration continued.   The progressive-minded, without listening to or reading the text of his speech in its entirety, responded to the selected excerpts highlighted by the media and accused him of racial prejudice and of promoting discrimination against new immigrants and their descendants.   In reality, Powell declared in the speech what he consistently maintained throughout his political career, that British subjects and citizens were entitled to the same rights and protections under British law, regardless of whether they had arrived on British soil yesterday or whether they lived where their ancestors had lived since the days of Alfred the Great.   It was the Labour government of Harold Wilson, Powell insisted, that was trying to create special privileges for new immigrants at the expense of born and bred, white British people, through their proposed Race Relations Bill.  The second reading of this bill was scheduled for the Tuesday after the speech.

The speech itself was masterfully constructed.   He began by declaring that “the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.”  (6)  The statesman, however, encounters difficulties in performing this function, because preventable evils lie in the future and are not perceived as being as pressing as present evils, leading to the “besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.”   The statesman must rest this temptation, for if he does not he will “deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after”. 

Having thus prepared his listening audience for predictions that they might find unpalatable he launched into his subject by recounting a conversation which had taken place a week or two previously between himself and one of his constituents.  His interlocutor was “a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries” who had expressed dissatisfaction with the direction in which Great Britain was going and a desire to emigrate and to see his children and their families settled overseas.   The genesis of this seemingly rather unpatriotic despair, Powell quoted in the man’s own words, as the feeling that  “in this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

Later in the speech, he quoted at length from a letter he had received describing the plight of another of his constituents.  The lady who wrote to him, told him about an elderly woman, who had begun renting rooms in her house to make ends meet after losing her husband and sons in the war, but who was now the only white on her street, the other, including her tenants, having moved away as the neighborhood filled up with immigrants.  Without the rent income, and unable to get her rates reduced because of an unsympathetic government, she was now subjected to threats, abuse, vandalisim, and the taunts of “Racialist” from immigrant children who followed her whenever she went to the store.  
Nothing in Powell’s address seems to have infuriated his critics, whether from Labour or among the “wet” leadership of his own Party, more than these anecdotes.  Ostensibly, the reason for this is that the most inflammatory rhetoric, the kind most vulnerable to the charge of racism, in the whole speech is contained within them.   Yet the glaring fact that in neither case was the rhetoric Powell’s own but rather that which had quoted from ordinary people who had spoken or written to him does not seem to have mollified his enemies’ rage in the slightest.  If anything it increased it.   One can only speculate as to why this would be so.  The Labour Party has always tried to present itself as being the voice of the ordinary, common, working, Briton, and presumably did not appreciate this lesson in how out of touch their thinking actually was with that of the very people they claimed to represent.(7) Those Conservative leaders who were enraged by the speech appear to have made the same mistake in reverse.   Powell’s  views on immigration were, as he himself pointed out in the speech, the official position of the Conservative Party, and men like Edward Heath, Quintin Hogg, and Edward Boyle appear to have seen Powell’s statement of that position as an embarrassment.  They misjudged the tremendous amount of popular support that actually existed for their own party’s position and jumped on the rhetoric Powell had quoted as an excuse for not acting on that plank of their platform, claiming, quite unreasonably, that Powell’s speech had made the subject of immigration untouchable.

Whatever his opponents may have thought, by including these quotations in his speech, Powell demonstrated his willingness to take seriously the concerns of ordinary British people, in his own constituency and elsewhere, that through forces beyond their control, including the inertia or even malice of their own government, they were becoming strangers in their own country. This was a refreshing change from the attitude of the typical modern intellectual who believes that such fears should be treated as irrational, dismissed and ignored, or changed through an aggressive campaign of social engineering on the part of government, church, media, and institutions of education.

In fact, the bulk of Powell’s speech demonstrated that such fears are far from being irrational in the sense of being contrary to fact and reason.  Noting that in some areas mass immigration was producing a “total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history”, he cited the Registrar General’s calculations that within fifteen to twenty years, there would be three and a half million immigrants and their descendants in the UK.  From these figures, he extrapolated that by the year 2000 the number would be between five and seven million, and pointed out that these would not be distributed evenly throughout the country, but would rather be concentrated in certain areas.

He made it clear that the problem is not immigration qua immigration but is rather a matter of scale. “[N]umbers are of the essence” he stated for:
the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

He was also careful to distinguish between an immigrant, someone who entered the country with the purpose of settling there, and someone who entered the country to visit or to study, with the intention of going back home.   The problem, then, was not that alien people were entering the country, or even that alien people were entering the country to stay, but rather that the latter were coming in so fast and in so large numbers that it was transforming the country, or at least the parts of it where the immigrants were concentrating.   Later in the speech, after quoting from the letter about the widow who had lost her tenants and was experiencing harassment, he made another point that is logically connected to the idea that the scale of immigration was the problem.  This was with regards to the integration of immigrants.  Integration, he said, means that the immigrants “become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members.”   Physical differences such as colour make integration “difficult though, over a period, not impossible”, and of the new coloured immigrants there were “many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.”  Nevertheless, it was, he said “a ludicrous misconception” to think that was true of the majority of them.  The large scale of immigration and the concentration of immigrants in particular areas, was, of course, a deterrent to integration, which Powell noted, although he brought it up in the context of discussing the Race Relations Bill, an even greater deterrent to integration.

Since the increase in the immigrant population would make it harder and harder to deal with this as time went on and it was happening at such a rapid rate that it was a matter of urgency that it be dealt with immediately.  The government could deal with it in a simple way, he declared, first by “stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow” and second by “promoting the maximum outflow”, noting that these suggestions are “part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.”    By “promoting the maximum outflow” he did not mean kicking people out of the country, but rather encouraging the re-emigration of those who wished to go, and providing them with “generous assistance” to do so.   He did not know how successful such a program would be because “no such policy has yet been attempted” but he noted that immigrants in his constituency had approached him, on occasion, asking for such assistance to return to their country of origins.

After discussing the possibilities of a re-emigration policy, he turned to “a third element of the Conservative Party’s policy” by way of introducing the subject of the Race Relations Bill.   That third element was that the law and the government ought to treat all citizens the same and not practice discrimination.   This, he said:

does not mean that the immigrant and his descendent should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

That, of course, was exactly what the Wilson government was setting out to do with its Race Relations Bill.   The supporters of this bill – among whom, Powell singled out the press and the ecclesiastical authorities for specific mention – were completely mistaken.  The bill was not a two-way street and was not intended to be.   It was being enacted to protect the new immigrants from discrimination on the part of the white British.  This kind of legislation was not only unnecessary, it completely mistook the situation and who needed protection from what.  The new immigrants were not in the same situation as American blacks.  The latter had been brought to their country as slaves before the country even existed, and who had gradually been emancipated, enfranchised, and given full citizenship rights.   The new immigrants, however, had entered the UK with full citizenship rights.  Their entrance was “admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought” and it was the existing populace that was feeling the adverse effects as:

For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

Now the Race Relations Bill was set to make things even worse, being:
a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

Powell’s analysis of the problems inherent in mass immigration and anti-discrimination legislation and his proposed solutions were quite reasonable.  This is not what attracted the attention of the media and the British nation.  It was rather, in addition to the anecdotes referred to above, the apocalyptic tone in which he set his predictions of future evils.  The admission of immigrants at such a high scale was an act of national suicide:

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.

The Race Relations Bill would give the immigrant communities a loaded weapon to use against their unarmed citizens.   Powell expressed his reaction to this in the most famous line in the entire speech, the one which caused it to be dubbed “Rivers of Blood”:

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see "the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. (8)
The Parallel Voice

In that line, Powell compared his premonition of unnecessary racial strife due to mass immigration and the Race Relations Bill to the ominous prophecy of the Sybil in Virgil’s Aeneid.   From the perspective of hindsight, a more apt comparison might have been to Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, or to Laocoon the Trojan priest.  Having been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but having spurned his erotic advances, Cassandra had been cursed by the jilted god, who made it that her warnings would not be believed.   She warned against accepting the wooden horse from the Greeks, as did Laocoon.  The warnings went unheeded.  Likewise, Powell’s warnings were disregarded by those with the authority to put his recommendations into action.

He was not the only one to fill the role of Cassandra with regards to immigration.  In 1973, a novel entitled Le Camp des Saints was published, written by French author Jean Raspail.  An English translation by Norman Shapiro was published a couple of years later.   The novel, set in a “near future”, told of an armada of one hundred ships, that had set out from Calcutta laden with thousands of the poorest of the poor and destined to arrive at the French Rivera on Eastern Sunday.   As the ships slowly make their way, the French debate what to do about it.   Leftist elites, in the government, the church, and the media, declare that the immigrants must be welcomed.  They declare the ships to be carrying “The Last Chance for Mankind” and utter banalities like “we are all from the Ganges now” but are basically given free reign to spread their views because the one right-wing publisher left in France, refuses to print anything about the matter except a map of the progress of the ships, and a countdown to the “moment of truth”, i.e., their arrival.  

Throughout the book various people who believe in France and French civilization, oppose the leftist consensus.  One of these is a man who had immigrated from India years previously but who had integrated into French society.   These gather in the home of one of their number, a retired professor whose house overlooks the beach where the ships have landed, and make a last stand for France and Western civilization, as it crumbles all around them, brought down by the burden of a liberal guilt that had rendered the West incapable of fighting to ensure its own survival against hordes armed with their own pitiable condition.

The Retrospect

How do Powell’s predictions appear in hindsight, forty-five years later?

If anything, he appears to have erred on the conservative side in the sense that the things he predicted have come true on a much larger scale.

The Race Relations Bill passed and, like similar anti-discrimination legislation in the United States and Canada, it has been used in exactly the way Powell predicted, as a weapon against white people.   It is more than just the anti-discrimination legislation, however.  A complete double-minded attitude towards race, racial prejudice, and even racial hatred has developed in the UK, North America, and other Western societies.  What is forbidden of white people is tolerated and in some cases even praised when directed against white people.

Powell’s described the United Kingdom’s admission of immigrants on a large scale as the act of a nation “engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre”, i.e., committing national suicide.   Immigration rates have continued to be high and an additional factor has joined high immigration to contribute to the national suicide of Great Britain, i.e., a decline in British fertility rates.   Declining fertility and high immigration are a deadly combination.   For a nation, which is a living, collective, entity, to survive, its present generation must continue to be primarily descended from its past generations.   People from other nations can enter a nation and become integrated into the nation without threatening the nation’s survival, but if the nation takes to bringing in immigrants on a large scale to offset its own failure to reproduce, it will die.  

To maintain that mass immigration and multiculturalism have been good for the United Kingdom or any of the other countries that have adopted them is to bury one’s head in the sand and ignore reality.   The traditions and institutions of these countries have been undermined and in some cases changed beyond all recognition.  There has been a loss of a sense of continuity, and with that, of a sense of community.   With this erosion of social capital and increase in alienation have come the unnecessary ethnic strife that Powell strove to prevent.

It is not fashionable to say it, but it is nonetheless true, that Enoch was right!

(1) My main source for the biographical details about Enoch Powell contained in this essay is Simon Heffer’s Like The Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Phoenix Giant, 1998, 1999). This is a comprehensive biography, which, while not an “official” biography, was written with the cooperation of its subject, who made his archives available to its author, with the stipulation that his most private papers would be accessed only after his death. I have also consulted Patrick Cosgroves’s The Lives of Enoch Powell (London: The Bodley Head, 1989).

(2) Margaret Thatcher, The Path To Power (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995) p. 146.

(3) By the end of his life, he could fluently speak English, French, German, Greek (modern and classical), Italian, Latin and Urdu, read Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Welsh, and was learning Hebrew.

(4) This is in response to the question “Can you tell me what it is to be a Tory?” in the interview he granted to Naim Attallah in 1992. Variations of this same basic definition can be found throughout his various speeches and interviews

(5) The idiosyncrasy is most noticeable in his Biblical scholarship, which he took up as his primary pastime after his career as a statesman.

(6) The text of the Birmingham speech is available to read on The Telegraph’s website:

(7) To give the devil his due, while the Labour Party as a whole was vehement in its denunciation of Powell and his speech, there were exceptions. Michael Foot, later to become leader of the Labour Party, whose friendship with Powell crossed the vast divide between their different views and parties and survived the speech, said that Powell had been tragically misunderstood. Another Labour MP, Christopher Mayhew, cancelled a speech he had been invited to give at Birmingham University after the school reneged on an invitation to Powell. Mayhew told the school bluntly “People who believe in free speech and practice it should stick together whatever their other differences. If Birmingham University won’t have Enoch Powell they can’t have me.” (quoted in Heffer, op. cit., p. 472, italics added)

(8) According to Simon Heffer, in the actual address Powell quoted the line “Et Thybrim multo spumentem sanguine” from Virgil’s Aeneid, in its original Latin first, and then translated it, but provided only the translation in the press release. Heffer, p. 454.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Iron Lady Had Class

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1979, and held both positions until forced from office by an in-party coup in 1990, passed away on Monday, April 8th, 2013. In the days since her passing, leftist politicians and media commentators, progressive bloggers, union leaders, student activists and other leftist riff-raff have been celebrating, rejoicing, partying, and basically making a loud, crude, rude public spectacle of themselves. The song, “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”, from the 1939 MGM musical-movie version of The Wizard of Oz even made it onto the singles charts due to their efforts. By carrying on in this fashion, the Left has demonstrated the truth of what I have long said about such radical ilk – that those who believe in a classless society have no class.

Lady Thatcher herself, had class.  Sadly, the same cannot be said of all of her supporters.  It saddened me to hear one of her admirers, a media personality in my own country, speak of Britain’s traditional “class society” with the same sneer in his voice that one ordinarily associates with Marxists.   The man in question is no Marxist.  I often agree with what he says, and I agreed with most of what he had to say about the rudeness and ignorance of Lady Thatcher’s detractors and in defence of her ideas and policies.   Yet for some bizarre reason, he chose to turn the death of the great lady into an opportunity for class warfare.

Yes, class warfare.  That is exactly what the talking head in question would have called it, if a union representative, leftist academic, or Marxist politician were to attack the entrepreneurial, business, or middle classes in the name of the manual labour classes or the poor.   He would have been right, too.   Marxists, however, are not the only ones to engage in class warfare.

This man rightly praised Margaret Thatcher as a champion of liberty, economic freedom, and democracy.   She was all that.  He also was correct in saying that she attained the leadership of the Conservative Party and accomplished all that she did in her years in power against the opposition, not only of the Labour Party, but of many of the leaders of her own party.   He insisted, however, on making this into a matter of class differences.   Margaret Thatcher, nee Roberts, was of middle class origins, a grocer’s daughter, whereas traditionally, the leadership of the Conservative Party had been drawn from the upper classes.   The opposition she met from within the ranks of the Conservative leadership, he maintained, was due to snobbery on the part of Tory aristocrats, whereas her success as Primer Minister was due to virtues that arose out of her middle class background.   While there is some truth to both of these assertions, the contempt for the upper classes that was dripping from every word displayed a remarkable affinity with the spirit of socialism.  Lady Thatcher herself, on occasion, had said that sometimes members of the upper classes were susceptible to sympathy with socialism due to misguided guilt over wealth they had inherited rather than obtained through work and entrepreneurship.  Unlike a certain broadcaster, she remained classy in saying so, and did not try to make the upper classes into a scapegoat.   She believed socialism to be bad for all classes of society, and economic liberty to be good for all classes of society.

The media commentator that I am referring to wished to emphasize the differences between Margaret Thatcher and the traditional Tories that he dubbed “the far right” – differences in class, training, and ideas.   While these differences were there, they were perhaps not as large or as significant as some people might think.   In her memoirs Lady Thatcher wrote that “both by instinct and upbringing I was always a ‘true blue’ Conservative.” (1)   She seems to have been speaking both of her party affiliation and personal philosophy.  With regards to the latter, she was both a conservative and a liberal.  A conservative is someone who believes in and defends his community, society, and country, their social, political, and cultural institutions, and the traditions which uphold those institutions.   A liberal is someone who believes in the abstract ideals of individual rights and liberty, the free market, and democracy to the extent that it is consistent with liberty.    While the latter are the set of ideas with which she was most often identified, at least by her North American admirers, she was also a classical conservative.   Consider her treatment of the subject of human rights in the chapter entitled “Human Rights and Wrongs” in her book Statecraft.  She started out by pointing to the religious origin of the idea that “an individual human being has a moral value in his or her own right”, then briefly described how the English concept of rights and liberties had organically evolved over centuries, so that “the English-speaking peoples’ conception of human rights is one that has an institutional context and is the fruit of a living tradition”.  This she contrasts with the “tendency to generalize about natural or human rights which predate and are not contingent upon specific laws” which produces the paradox that “the more ambitious and far-reaching natural rights are taken to be, the more likely it is that in the end liberties are going to be lost”, as is evidenced by the French Revolution.   Therefore it is clear that “the guarantees offered to individuals by habit, accumulated tradition and the common law were a great deal sounder than ‘democratic’ principles applied by demagogues.”  This is a clear enunciation of classical conservative thought. (2)  

Was liberalism more predominant in Lady Thatcher’s philosophy than conservatism, or the other way around?   The quotations in the previous paragraph would suggest that conservatism was predominant, as would her statement elsewhere in the chapter quoted from, that for her “duties precede rights”.  Her oft-quoted remark that “there is no such thing as society” would suggest that liberalism was predominant. (3) 

Ultimately, the answer to the question is not important.  Margaret Thatcher was the right person to lead the United Kingdom because she was both a conservative and a liberal, for at the time Great Britain was threatened, both domestically and abroad, by socialism, the common enemy of both conservatism and liberalism.  Liberals are opposed to socialism because it is an inefficient economic model and because they see it as a threat to individual liberty that leads inevitably to tyranny.   Conservatives are opposed to socialism because of its revolutionary and utopian nature and its threat to things such as property, order, and social institutions.  

The socialism that was killing Great Britain in the 1970s, had its roots in the 1940s, in the Second World War.   Great Britain had emerged from that conflict a victor in the limited sense that the enemy she had set out to defeat, Nazi Germany, had thankfully been vanquished.   Her victory, however, was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory.   The price she paid, for her triumph over Hitler, was her empire, and her place as the leading power of the Western world.   This outcome had been orchestrated by the egomaniacal socialist who was then President of the United States of America, the wartime ally that was to succeed her as the primary power of the free world.   Meanwhile, the country whose liberty she had entered the war to protect, Poland, was swallowed up along with the rest of Eastern Europe, by the Soviet Union, with whom Britain and the United States had been forced to make a wartime alliance in order to bring down the Third Reich.   The territory controlled by the Soviet Union, arguably a greater evil than Nazi Germany, was greatly expanded as a result of the war, and shortly after the war Communism triumphed in China and began to spread throughout Asia as well.
If Communism had grown through World War II to become the international threat that it was during the Cold War, domestic socialism was an outcome of the war in the UK as well.  The Conservative Party had been in power, under the leadership of Neville Chamberlain at the beginning of the war.  Sir Winston Churchill took over as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister from Chamberlain in 1940 and led Britain through to the end of the war, at the head of a coalition government.   In the general election in 1945, however, he was unceremoniously thrown out of office when the election returned a landslide victory to the Labour Party, and Clement Attlee became Prime Minister.   Margaret Thatcher, who would have been twenty years old at the time, recorded her thoughts on this outcome: “I simply could not understand how the electorate could do this to Churchill…At the time I felt that the British electorate’s treatment of the man who more than anyone else secured their liberty was shameful.” (4)

What was the reason for the Labour victory?  Duff Cooper believed that it was a response to the policy of appeasement Chamberlain had practiced prior to the outbreak of war.   Evelyn Waugh believed it was due to the obsequious fawning over Stalin and the Soviet Union by the wartime government.  Anthony Burgess was of the opinion that the British soldier, tired of war, yearning for home and family,  voted en masse to turn out of office the man who wished to keep them deployed for years after the war, to defend against the Soviet threat. (5)

Perhaps it was a little of all of these.  Clement Attlee, however, believed that it was do to widespread popular approbation of his socialist ideas.   He did not hesitate to bring in a broad range of sweeping changes.  He nationalized the canals and railroads, the telecommunications services, the coal and steel industries, and the electricity and power companies.   He expanded the social safety net established by the Disraeli Conservatives in the 19th Century into a massive and expensive Welfare State.  These policies predictably produced exactly that which they were designed to combat – misery.  At a time when Britain was staggering under the debt from the recent war, the Labour Party made things worse by vastly increasing the cost of government, placing a huge tax burden on an economy that was less able to bear that burden due to socialist inefficiency.   The ineffectiveness of the government at administering the industries it had taken over combined with the Attlee government’s maintaining of war rationing well into peacetime brought about shortages and a decrease in the quality of goods produced.  All of this was brilliantly satirized by Wyndham Lewis in a collection of short stories entitled Rotting Hill. (6)

Unfortunately, the belief that the Labour landslide was due to the popular appeal of socialism was shared by the leaders of the Conservative Party. In 1947, they put out a paper declaring their support for the Attlee innovations, and, against the accumulating evidence that these policies were doing more harm than good, maintained that support for most of the next three decades. Historians call this the Post-War Consensus, and Margaret Thatcher dubbed the Conservative leaders who maintained that consensus, “Wet Tories”. Individual Conservatives occasionally spoke out against the Party’s odious policy of providing an echo rather than a choice. The most noteworthy of these was Enoch Powell, the former professor of classical Greek who had become an officer during the war and had returned to take up a career in Conservative politics. Powell, a High Tory who defended the political, social, cultural, and religious institutions of Great Britain on the basis of prescriptive authority, used his eloquence to oppose leftist plans to democratize the House of Lords, to champion free market and monetarist reforms against socialism and the Post-War Consensus, to challenge liberal immigration policies, and to speak out, on the grounds of national independence and sovereignty, against Britain’s joining the European Common Market. The Conservative leadership refused to act on any of these ideas, however, and Powell’s uncompromising stand alienated him from his own Party.

Meanwhile, socialism continued to have a deleterious effect on Great Britain.  Government spending continued to grow, and, unsurprisingly, so did inflation.  Unemployment, which many of the Attlee programs had been intended to prevent, began to rise.   Realizing that Britain was facing an economic crisis, James Callaghan, who in 1976 had succeeded Harold Wilson as leader of the Labour Party, and Prime Minister, attempted to control inflation through caps on pay raises and found himself in conflict with the Trades Union Congress.   This conflict erupted into strikes in the winter of 1978-79.  Things got so bad, that commentators, borrowing a phrase from the opening monologue of Shakespeare’s Richard III, bestowed upon that winter the sobriquet “the Winter of Discontent”.  

That was the last winter of Labour government for almost two decades.  Margaret Thatcher had become leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, and had broken with the Post-War Consensus, calling for free market reforms.   In the general election of 1979, the Conservative Party won a majority and Margaret Thatcher was summoned to Buckingham Palace where Queen Elizabeth II invited her to form the next government.

The rest is history.   As Prime Minister, she introduced monetarist policies to combat inflation, set out to promote economic growth through deregulation and free market reforms, cut government expenditures, and privatized industries that should never have been nationalized in the first place.  She declared war on the unions, with the purpose of breaking their power, derived from the threat of nation-crippling strikes, to dictate terms to Parliament .  Furthermore, she stuck to her guns.  It took time for the benefits of her reforms to become apparent and in the meantime progressives sought to pin the blame on Thatcher and her economic liberalism for every slightest bit of human suffering they could dig up in Britain.   The reforms worked however.  Inflation went down, and eventually, as the economy grew, unemployment went down too.   She succeeded in breaking the power of the unions as well.

In the international theatre, she helped bring about an end to the forty-year Cold War, by standing with American President Ronald Reagan against the oppression and aggression of Communism.   Progressive intellectuals will, of course, deny that the policies of Thatcher and Reagan had anything to do with the Soviets suddenly becoming more reasonable and the collapse of Communism in Russia, preferring to give the credit, if to anyone, to Mikhail Gorbachev, but as these are the same bloody fool idiots who could not see the terror famines, show trials, Gulag concentration camps, the utter misery of the masses, the persecution of the faithful, and other countless Soviet atrocities going on in their precious workers Paradise through the Potemkin villages, until forced to by the testimony of men like Solzhenitsyn, their opinion is worthless.

By the strength Lady Thatcher displayed in conflicts – whether with Communism abroad in the Cold War, with socialists and unions at home, or with Argentina in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands, she well earned her nickname the Iron Lady.   Whatever else may be said for and against economic liberalism, her economic policies repaired much of the damage done by three decades of socialism.   She was a champion of democracy, but of democracy grounded in a living tradition, and she was also a supporter of Britain’s other traditional institutions, notably saying with regards to the continuing relevancy of the monarchy that those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians.”   Her virtues were such that she won over the support of such hardnosed, traditional High Tory critics as Enoch Powell and Peregrine Worsthorne, who had been highly critical of her in her early years in office, but who wrote and spoke in defense of her in her unsuccessful struggle to retain her leadership of the Conservative Party in 1990.   She displayed the traditional virtues of loyalty, gratitude and honour, against a sea of progressive criticism and hatred, when she came to the assistance of General Pinochet, a man whose support had been invaluable to Great Britain during the Falklands War,  after his 1998 arrest during a visit to Britain. (7)

She was a classy lady and she will be missed. May she rest in peace.

(1) Margaret Thatcher, The Path To Power (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995) p. 28. This is her second volume of memoirs, although the events recorded within it take place prior to those in the first volume, The Downing Street Years, which was published in 1993.

(2) Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002), pp. 250-254. In the sentence after the last one quoted, Lady Thatcher quotes from Edmund Burke, the “father of conservatism”.

(3) The conservative view of society and the individual was expressed by Enoch Powell in a 1992 interview with Naim Attallah thus “Society is in the end normative, and politics is about the management and governance of a society. Society is prior (in a logical sense) to the individual; the individual in the last resort is an abstraction. Nobody has ever met an individual, we didn’t start as individuals, we don’t live as individuals, we only know ourselves as members of a collectivity.” (

(4) The Path To Power, p. 46.

(5) For Cooper and Waugh’s views, see Christopher Sykes Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (London: Penguin, 1975, 1977), p. 446. For Anthony Burgess’ views see Little Wilson and Big God: The First Part of the Confessions of Anthony Burgess (London: Vintage, 1987)

(6) Wyndham Lewis, Rotting Hill (London: Methuen, 1951)

(7) For her own account of this action, see Statecraft, p. 267-274.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lawrence Auster, R. I. P.

Lawrence Auster was buried yesterday, Tuesday April 2nd, 2013, in Philadelphia, having passed away peacefully on Good Friday morning in a hospice in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mercifully, his death brought an end to a long, painful, struggle against the pancreatic cancer that killed him. Alas, it also brought an end to his even longer struggle against the liberalism and progressivism that have been killing the things he loved the most – his country, the United States of America, the Christian faith, and white Western civilization. Other traditionalists will continue the struggle and keep his memory alive but our side is weaker for his loss.

Mr. Auster was a right-wing pioneer in more ways than one. He was one of the earliest voices in the revival of the American immigration restriction movement. In 1965, the American government had passed an Immigration Act which introduced an open door, mass immigration policy, similar to those being introduced by liberal governments throughout the Western world. Public debate of these policies was actively discouraged by liberal media and academic elites, who insisted that the only possible grounds for opposition to such policies was an irrational prejudice against people of other ethnicities and races and branded as “racist” anyone who questioned liberal immigration and the cult of diversity. In the 1990s the opposition to this heavy-handed imposition of manufactured diversity began to organize itself. In 1992, political commentator and former Presidential aide Patrick J. Buchanan sought the Republican nomination in the first of three presidential campaigns in which he ran on a platform of immigration reform. In 1995-1996, major mainstream publishers like Random House, W. W. Norton, and Basic Books put out books by authors like Peter Brimelow, Roy Beck, and Chilton Williamson Jr. which presented intelligent arguments against the liberal position and in favour of a more restrictive immigration policy. Before all of that, however, The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism had appeared, published in 1990 by the American Immigration Control Foundation. The author was Lawrence Auster.

While Mr. Auster’s book was quite short, being a booklet really, of only ninety pages, it was also lucid, intelligent, and straightforward. He directly addressed the central problem with liberal immigration – its corrosive effect upon a nation’s identity and cohesiveness. He followed up The Path To National Suicide with a few other short booklets on immigration, also published by the AICF, and for a short time was allowed to present the case for immigration reform in mainstream conservative publications like National Review, Newsmax, and FrontPageMag. This was not to last, unfortunately, and, like so many other of the most interesting and intelligent voices of the late twentieth century American right, he found that the official organs of movement conservatism were no longer interested in listening to, much less printing, what he had to say.

By that time, however, he had his own outlet for his writings. This was A View From the Right, a weblog founded in April 2002 by James Kalb, who turned it over to Mr. Auster later that year. At VFR, he continued to defy the spirit of the age, speaking tabooed truths about immigration, race, sex, and morality. Yet his work was more than just an expression of unpopular views on controversial topics. He also sought to articulate a traditionalist, conservative, philosophy that was not just a repackaging of an earlier version of liberalism, that did not rest upon a foundation of liberal ideas.

He believed in his country and its political and cultural traditions and in the Christian tradition of Western civilization. Christianity was more to him, however, than just the religion of the civilization he identified with. It was his personal faith as well. Jewish by birth and ethnicity, he recognized his Messiah and was a Christian by faith and practice. He was converted, baptized, and confirmed in the Episcopalian Church and in the last week of his life, was received into the Roman Catholic Church.

He and his insightful commentary on the events of the day will be missed.

Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.