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John Stuart Mill, The BNP, And The U.K.'s Dying Democracy
For over a year now, I have been writing for VDARE.com about the British National Party (BNP), the main British/ white nationalist organization in the United Kingdom. The essence of my reports: the BNP faces a wall of media bias and legal and administrative persecution that put its survival in doubt. Though, as a libertarian, I have my own agenda for England, I do not regard this bias and persecution with any pleasure. What is being done to the BNP is unfair in itself and sets a precedent for the persecution of other dissident organizations.
My news now about the BNP must be alarming both to white nationalists and to believers in liberal democracy.
First, there is the result of the January 13 Oldham and Saddleworth parliamentary by-election. Labour held the seat with just 42.1% of the vote. The BNP got 4.5% and came in fifth.
It is true that the fourth-placed United Kingdom Independence Party is also anti-immigration and anti-European Union. So, combined with the tiny English Democrats, the total anti-Establishment nationalist vote was some 10.7%. (This point has been ably made by Colin Liddell in AltRight). And that is especially significant because as much of a quarter of the vote could have been cast by Muslims. (British governments have been able to suppress exact ethnic breakdowns, something the U.S. government has not been able to achieve, except in the case of Jews.) Labour, like the Democratic Party in the U.S., is abandoning its traditional working-class base for the minority vote—not a recipe for future political stability.
But BNP leader Nick Griffin has said frankly that the result was "disappointing". A by-election is the classic venue for a protest vote. And none of the main parties was looking very attractive. The Labour Party is out of government, and has a leader generally seen as useless. The Liberal Democrats, who came second, are members of a coalition government that has failed to generate enthusiasm. The Conservatives ran a minimal campaign—with a Muslim candidate—and effectively invited people to vote for their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Moreover, a few days before the vote, two Asian men were sent to prison for sexually abusing white girls and forcing them into prostitution. A former Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, then admitted that this is a widespread problem. [Jack Straw: Some white girls are 'easy meat' for abuse, BBC, January 8, 2011] The BNP had been protesting about this problem for years. Now it was vindicated, although still ignored by the MainStream Media.
Finally, in a disgraceful scene, the BNP candidate in Oldham was physically evicted—by police—from an all-candidates meeting after the other parties objected to his presence.
What happened to English fair play? Why did the BNP not do better? There are many possible reasons. Mud sticks—maybe the BNP is fatally damaged. Extreme media bias. Disunity in the local party.
But my own suspicion: the BNP did disappointingly because of a general feeling that it can never succeed. My experience as a Conservative Party activist in the 1980s is that—particular excitements aside—this is one of the main reasons why people vote for a party or not.
And success is seen as impossible for the BNP for reason that Americans might still find surprising: systematic repression by the state.
My second piece of news: On December 17, the BNP finally repelled the case brought against it by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This meant that the assets of the Party would not now be seized, and Nick Griffin would not be sent to prison (again). It brought to an end eighteen months of legal harassment by an organization that has about as much to do with equality and human rights as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has with democracy or the people or republicanism—but which does have unlimited amounts of taxpayers' money to throw at whoever may be disliked by the British ruling class.
The Legal Harassment of the BNP
The EHRC was set up by the Labour Government's Equality Act 2006. It first came to prominence in August 2009, when it began legal proceedings against the BNP. Its claim: the BNP restricted membership to white people—that is, to "indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of 'Indigenous Caucasian'" plus "those we regard as closely related and ethnically assimilated or assimilable aboriginal members of the European race also resident in Britain". [Constitution of The British National Party Eighth Edition, November 2004] (Which is interpreted to include Jews—thus one BNP elected official, Pat Richardson, a local councilor, is Jewish).
This membership rule is obviously a simple matter of freedom of association and it had been regarded as no more controversial than the limiting a Jewish school to Jewish children, or the excluding of Moslems from ordination by the Roman Catholic Church. But the EHRC nevertheless began an action that was ostensibly about the right of non-whites to join a party that disapproved of their presence in the United Kingdom.
In March 2010, the BNP actually changed its rules to admit non-whites, accepting an elderly Sikh. However, it also imposed two conditions to prevent flooding attempts. First, prospective members should be visited at home, to see if they were suitable for membership. Second, all members should declare support for the "continued creation, fostering, maintenance and existence" of an indigenous British race, and should support action towards "stemming and reversing" immigration. The EHRC immediately argued that these conditions amounted to "indirect racial discrimination", and continued its case.
The EHRC won this round. In March 2010, Judge Paul Collins outlawed the requirement for home visits, saying that this might lead to intimidation—though admitting that there was no evidence it ever had. He also outlawed the requirement to of support for party principles. He said that no non-white person could support these without compromising his "personal sense of self-worth and dignity as a member of their racial group".
So the BNP changed its membership rules again—now accepting members regardless of whether they agreed with its policies.
However, these conditions for membership were only suspended by the BNP—not removed. And so the EHRC went to court again, this time arguing that the BNP was in contempt for not complying in full with the earlier judgment. The penalties for contempt of court are an unlimited fine or two years imprisonment for Griffin.
On December 17, the court finally ruled that the BNP had no case to answer.
"Today's judgment makes no difference to the substance of our action against the BNP… The County Court ruled that the BNP's constitution was racially discriminatory. That ruling remains in place and has now, finally, been obeyed by the BNP."
Wadham added: "We will be keeping a watching brief on them to make sure they don't break the law". (BNP leader Nick Griffin wins court contempt battle, BBC, December 17, 2010)
The End of the beginning – Perhaps not Even That!
Once the judgment was reported—and reported rather briefly—it was as if some spell of silence had been cast on the gentlemen of the press. There have been no editorial comments on the judgment, and no significant reporting on what might have happened next.
But the BNP has not succeeded in striking a decisive blow for freedom that will rank with the Trial of the Seven Bishops, or the Treason Trials of 1794. The EHRC will not go away. There are many other avenues of attack on the BNP, from media smears, to private legal actions, to disruption by the security services.
And the courts are not neutral. Contempt of court hearings do not usually involve complex issues of law. I find it very suspicious that judgment here was reserved for six whole weeks. Rather than for pondering the various submissions, it is more likely that the six weeks were used for asking round among the powerful whether the BNP could decently be put out of the way, or if there was really no choice but for justice to be done.
Liberal Values and the BNP
None of this can be reconciled with any version of liberalism—as it would have been recognized before the name was taken over by American big state managerialists. The only human rights claimed by liberalism are to life, liberty and justly-acquired property. From these follow the specific rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. This first is the right to say anything about public affairs—no matter how upsetting it may be to others. The second is the right of adults to associate or not as they see fit.
No one has the right to be loved. No one has the right to be included. No one has the right not to be hated or ridiculed or despised. We may all have a general obligation to behave decently to others—and it is this on which Political Correctness is a parasitic growth—but the obligation itself is not one that may rightly be imposed by law.
But why is a small political party like the BNP is under such heavy and continual attack? If it were the sort of organization it is alleged to be, it would probably be left alone. A party of skinheads and Hitler-worshippers is a wonderful excuse for people who think themselves "progressive" to sit round the dinner table, competitively boasting how many black and homosexual friends they have, and assuring each other of benefits that "diversity" has brought to England.
But the truth, I think, is that the BNP, whatever it may once have been, is now not a national socialist, but a nationalist, party. And it is this nationalism that makes it so dangerous.
Certain nationalisms can be tolerated, and even celebrated—Scotch nationalism, for example, with its sporrans and whines about Culloden, and its ruthless grasping at English subsidies—not to mention its recent liking for the European Union.
But the big fear is that the BNP has vacated the dead end of national socialism for white nationalism and an equal embrace for all the nationalisms of the British Isles. It might even see the logic of its position and become an English nationalist party. It would then be in a position to speak for an unusually ferocious and cohesive nation. This cannot be risked. If English nationalism were to become an active political force, it would mean the end of the present British ruling class—because of its general uselessness over much of the past century, and for the legitimizing trans-national, multi-cultural ideology it has, with grim enthusiasm, been trying to impose for at least the past generation.
A Legitimizing Ideology both anti-Liberal and anti-National
Of course, every ruling class needs some body of ideas that justifies its position. And, so far as ruling classes are inseparable from states, the only question—this side of a libertarian utopia—is how much respect a ruling class ideology pays to the lives, liberties and property of ordinary people.
The problem for England, though, is that the present ruling class has taken up a legitimizing ideology that involves the flattening of popular rights. It sees itself less as a committee of trustees for the nation than as the senior management for a "community of communities". Mass immigration of non-whites has been made a policy of state. Objections to this have been made increasingly illegal. "Diversity" is a blessing, and anyone who fails to agree must be ruthlessly bullied.
"[T]he final answer, frankly, [he previously recommended miscegenation, school propaganda, and higher taxes to pay for it all] is the vigorous use of state power to coerce and repress. It may be my Presbyterian background, but I firmly believe that repression can be a great, civilizing instrument for good. Stamp hard on certain 'natural' beliefs for long enough and you can almost kill them off. The police are first in line to be burdened further, but a new Race Relations Act will impose the will of the state on millions of other lives too." [Poor? Stupid? Racist? Then don't listen to a pampered white liberal like me, The Guardian, February 28, 1999]
Now, the primary motivation of this is not to destroy the white race, or to turn Britain into an Islamic state—though there is always more than one agenda at work in a project of this nature. Nor is it the creation of a heavily-policed theme park in which imams and transgendered lesbians and football fans and rap singers all pretend to love each other.
In my book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and how to Get it Back, I do argue at some length how Britain—like, perhaps, America—has been taken over from within by a clique of neo-Marxists, who are trying to impose every multicultural and politically correct fantasy of their student days. This is true. There is no doubt that the intellectual and governing elites of both countries are soaked in the thought of Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault.
At the same time, though, I believe that Political Correctness and multiculturalism are symptoms as well as causes. The gathering attack on representative liberal democracy is more an object in itself.
One of the main reasons for this: a homogenous nation-state may not be democratic—but it can be democratic. People who have a common identity will often conceive common interests, and stand together against a government that does not respect these interests. They may also trust each other with political power, confident that differences over economic or other policies will not be carried to the point of civil war.
This is a standard argument of nationalists. But it is also accepted within a significant strand of classical liberalism. A hundred and fifty years ago, John Stuart Mill stated the argument about as clearly as it can be. In Chapter 16 of his essay On Representative Government, he says:
"Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state. Their mutual antipathies are generally much stronger than jealousy of the government. That any one of them feels aggrieved by the policy of the common ruler is sufficient to determine another to support that policy. Even if all are aggrieved, none feel that they can rely on the others for fidelity in a joint resistance; the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favor of the government against the rest." [VDARE.com note: Links added]
One of the reasons why England was, in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, the model of representative liberal democracies was that it was remarkably homogeneous. Ireland was always an exception—but it was another island, and could for most of the time be ignored. But the Scottish and Welsh nations were broadly willing to fit themselves into an English structure. This meant that there were none of those national or regional diversities that made representative government difficult or impossible in much of Europe.
To be sure, England never became a pure democracy. The people at large were allowed to give final answers to questions—but the questions themselves were always put by a largely aristocratic ruling class. However, that class retained power on the understanding that it would identify itself with the interests of the whole nation.
But the old ruling class was destroyed by two great wars. It was destroyed in the sense that disproportionate numbers of its own young were killed in the fighting, and by the high taxes and the socialist challenge that attended these wars. And it allowed itself to be destroyed so far as it had identified with the nation. There was no shirking from military service, and few attempts to conceal taxable wealth.
Moreover, these were democratic wars. The first one, in particular, had to be sold at its outset to what might otherwise have been a skeptical public. The necessary lies then generated national hatreds so intense that the war itself ran out of control.
Globalization + Mass-Immigration = Unaccountable Class Domination
In contrast, the managerialist ruling class that emerged in the U.K. the after 1945 has been resolutely anti-nationalist and anti-democratic. It has signed the country up to every treaty in sight that would transfer power to unaccountable, and frequently invisible, transnational bodies in which it could have a leading place. Most obviously, it lied the country into the European Union. This was the creation of European ruling classes that had faced similar problems of national over-identification; and its central purpose has always been to concentrate real power into a cartel of ruling classes, thereby allowing these to float away from accountability.
Few members of the new ruling class in England have any military inclinations—though they are happy enough to sacrifice other people's sons when it suits their convenience. They derive much of their wealth from involvement in multinational business, or in multinational bureaucracies, or in the implementation of treaty commitments; and they cannot be touched financially short of a revolution.
Mass immigration has been the domestic counterpart of globalization. The second transfers power upwards. The first so Balkanizes national politics and social life, that no concerted effort can be made to pull power down again to the people.
We are moving quickly to the situation described by Mill – where "the strength of none is sufficient to resist alone, and each may reasonably think that it consults its own advantage most by bidding for the favor of the government against the rest."
I think what he had in mind was the Hapsburg Empire, where Slavs had recently been used to put down German and Hungarian revolts, and where German and Hungarian nationalism was then encouraged to keep the Slavs in line. That, minus the high culture, is what the British ruling class has in mind for England. It wants a country in which political argument is either to be suppressed on the grounds of good communal relations, or is worthless because all elections are fought on communal lines, and their results always mirror the census returns.
I am not claiming that there is an overt conspiracy. But there does not need to be any such conspiracy. Political correctness and multiculturalism did not become parts of a legitimizing ideology because thousands of well-connected students just happened to be lectured after 1968 into believing them. Nor was it because the well-connected thought they might be useful as domestic counterparts to globalization. Without any visible coordination, groups of people often act as if directed. Everything I have mentioned can be explained in terms of ideas, and the material interests conceived in terms of these ideas, and the personalities of those involved.
Equally, the almost fanatical hatred directed against the BNP is not consciously the product of the fear that English nationalism might bring about a revolution. The reasons given for hatred are mostly believed by those giving them.
But, I repeat, it is not distaste for what it is said to be that really drives persecution of the BNP. It is fear of what the BNP might become—and of the great reaction it might contribute to enabling.
I will not say that the BNP will be destroyed. Its electoral fortunes may recover. England is not a hard totalitarian country, and there are limits to what even a frightened ruling class can do.
But, purely so far as the BNP might become successful, it is certainly marked for destruction.
I do not think this will be my last article on the matter.
Dr. Sean Gabb [Email him] is a writer, academic, broadcaster and Director of the Libertarian Alliance in England. His monograph Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back is downloadable here; hard copies can be purchased here, along with his recent novel The Churchill Memorandum and other works. For his account of the Property and Freedom Society's 2008 conference in Bodrum, Turkey, click here. For his address to the 2009 PFS conference, "What is the Ruling Class?", click here; for videos of the other presentations, click here.