January 1, 2001
Some Thoughts on the British
Peace Movement I
PILED ON DEFEAT
those of us who believe in liberty the last three years of New Labour
has been a gloomy period of losses piled upon defeat. The fact that
the Conservative Party is marginally better than it was before and
seems to be led by a man who understands our language, if no longer
fluent, is scant consolation as they are just about unelectable.
On Europe we have been signed and sealed to an irreversible union
with a corporatist behemoth. Although we are told that monetary
union is not with us, our high taxes and misplaced spending belie
this fact. In the economy we see the government take ever more management
functions from the hands of the nominal owners of businesses, while
at the same time leaving a tax burden of onerous scope and eye popping
complexity. The claims of social liberalism for New Labour are exposed
as thread bare as liberties are given only to the favoured groups,
such as the homosexual identity lobby while market traders are threatened
with prison for selling in ounces. Aspects of the very British constitution
of liberty, with roots over a millennium deep, are discarded by
faceless junior ministers for a wretched sound bite. We know all
this, even the dulled senses of the Conservative Party have picked
up some aspect of the monumental change afoot, but there is one
area that has been left untouched the rise of a global empire.
British right has a problem with Peace. Generally they are not for
it. However the warfare state is as much of an enemy to liberty
and tradition as the welfare state. For one thing, war is a great
excuse to intervene in every part of our everyday lives. A government
that seems to be itching to do away with outmoded ideas such as
habeas corpus would not fail to see the precedent set by the detention
without trial of Oswald Mosley. The idea of conscription was fostered
by war, and reluctantly given up in peace, as were rationing, identity
cards and press censorship.
just personal liberty is endangered by war, but economic liberty
takes a battering as well, and recovers far less readily. It is
not just taxation and spending that goes through the roof, which
it does (and never recovers to quite the same level as before) but
the very ideas of sound economic policy. Take nationalisation, the
idea that it was some Fabian dream that set the workers hearts on
fire is a convenient untruth. The Fabians and their unworkable schemes
would have been disdained as middle class dreamers by the skilled
trained unionists if it were not for the First World War. It was
then that the coal mines and the railways were taken under government
direction, and the government was found to be a far softer touch
than the dividend (and customer) conscious owners. Hence the demand
for nationalisation that found fruition in the government of 1945.
is not just in the area of government ownership and control of industry
that war has a detrimental impact on the economy. The First World
War made the Gold Standard unworkable, and the period of permanent
inflation that has dampened growth since 1914 is still upon us.
Trade is disrupted by every war, and we have to accept the third
class offerings of a siege economy. The civil service expands, and
looks for new empires when the war is finally done.
on the right also have to look to the present mockery that is made
of "national interest" by the war party on the left. When Tony Blair
says that Kosovo was "the first (sic) Progressive war," it should
make our flesh creep. The idea that the armed forces of this country
should be used for anything other than the defence of our narrowly
defined national interests is pretty close to treason. It is even
closer to stupidity. Do we really want to be picking quarrels with
Russians, Islamic fundamentalists and the Chinese? And should we
do so all at once?
should also be alarmed at another part of this great push for empire,
the great melting pot of cultures. The monoculture in agriculture
is an area planted with only one crop, as the west of Ireland was
with the potato in the 1840s. When the blight strikes there is no
refuge, no alternative, and there is a general breakdown of society
as the children desperately try to eat the grass on the verge.
same goes for Western civilisation. Now don't get me wrong
parliamentary democracy, equal rights for women, the Judeo-Christian
tradition (as far as we allow it) and private ownership are fine
things. Very fine things. Indeed, I want more people to enjoy them.
However, these things should be accepted in their own time and place.
Imposing them just will not work. If everyone, everyone, adheres
to the same cultural norms, what happens when a serious sickness
develops in that culture? Social breakdown can be dire. Look at
the African problem with AIDS. Do we want a breakdown without limits,
a general inferno that devours the whole world, with no borders
and no respite? That is what a monoculture offers us.
important than running all these ideas on an imported template,
is the very idea of diversity. Now it may seem barbaric to keep
women at home and not let them work, but it cannot be said to affect
us in the remotest if it is happening in Iran or Afghanistan, or
for that matter in Ireland. It is simply none of our business. Similarly,
it is no-one else's business if we happen to keep our monarchy,
don't write down our constitution or elect parliamentarians by a
plurality in each constituency. Diversity is not an abstract ideal,
only fit for the left wing students who mean no such thing, but
a real part of human life, making it richer and stronger and therefore
fit for conservatives and libertarians to defend.
ALLERGY OF THE RIGHT
right in Britain is allergic to this analysis for historical reasons.
For a start the demonisation of the British Empire by the left has
produced an equal and opposite reaction on the right. Firstly there
is the belief that the Empire was an unalloyed blessing on the otherwise
benighted natives. I am not someone who believes that the Empire
was the highest form of evil, and that in many cases life was better
than before. However, I doubt if putting proto-Fabians in charge
of traditional tribal and princely societies was Britain's greatest
other point of imperialism is that it actually drained resources
from Britain. Many of the best and brightest of the British went
abroad, a brain drain never equaled. It was also an expensive operation,
and apart from in a few places such as the Caribbean, never turned
a profit. The Empire also stretched our military resources, to the
extent that at the beginning of the Second World War it threatened
Britain's very survival. We need feel no guilt for the Empire, and
any fondness we feel for it should be tempered by the realisation
that in the cold light of day it was an economic liability.
further source of Conservative interventionism has been the legacy
of the Cold War. The Cold War was to most Conservatives and centrists
(and I include myself here) a war for survival. The Soviet Union
was just as much a threat to Britain as was Nazi Germany, but like
the fight against Nazi Germany it mutated into something more. It
was assumed, reasonably, that the Soviet Union was both too powerful
and too unstable to ever be a decent neighbour. Therefore, if survival
was necessary then the Soviet Empire either needed to be cut back
or to be ended altogether. Further to this aim dissident elements
in various satellites were encouraged by the West. At some time
in the eighties this tactical encouragement of dissidence merged
into disgust for the genuine excesses of the system and so the liberation
of much of the Soviet bloc mutated from being a tactical aim, to
being the aim itself. This was a mistake as the size of the Russian
state has no relevance when Russia is not a credible threat, and
the state of Balkan democracy, let alone the ethnic composition
of these states, is not any of our business. Weaning the right off
this delusion may take another generation, and by then it may be
Week: What is a Right Wing Peace Monger to do?
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