What Would Enoch Say?

See also:

Easter 2002 And The Resurrection Of The West, by Chilton

By a happy
coincidence, Easter Sunday falls this year on the
thirty-fifth anniversary of Enoch Powell`s great

on immigration – given in Birmingham on April
20, 1968. This neatly intertwines the themes of
spiritual and national death and resurrection in a way
that might have pleased Powell, who had been a fierce
atheist as a young man and whose equally fierce if
unorthodox Anglicanism in later life was explicitly
related to his appreciation of the English Church as an
expression of the English nation.

By another
happy coincidence, Easter falls this year as we give
thanks (despite

insinuations in some

) for the conclusion with relatively little
loss of American life of what may well be only the first
phase of an immense imperial enterprise in the Middle
East. No one thought more deeply about imperialism and
democracy than Enoch Powell. Or reached more pessimistic

I first met
Powell, as a visiting journalist from

, in the summer of 1974. In the spring
election of that year, he had stunned friend and foe by
declining to run. In a series of devastating speeches,
he had helped ensure the defeat of Edward Heath`s
Conservative government, which he believed had betrayed
its election promises, notably over Britain`s entry into

European Union
. In the U.S. system, Powell could
have run against Heath in the presidential primaries, as

Pat Buchanan
did in a very similar situation in
1992. The British system fatally lacks this flexibility.

Contrary to
a widespread perception, as I`ve

before, Powell`s 1968 speech did not end his
career: it made it. It began a brilliant six-year
guerrilla campaign as an unofficial opposition. With the
Heath government sinking into stagflationary crisis,
Powell had seemed perfectly positioned to claim his
reward. His declining to run in the 1974 election, on
the unprecedentedly scrupulous grounds that he could not
accept Heath`s election manifesto, was like a jeweled
clock suddenly striking thirteen. It meant he was not
eligible to run when the Conservative parliamentary
caucus voted on Heath leadership – a vote that
ultimately lead to Mrs. Thatcher`s victory.

Of course,
you wouldn`t know this by reading the British
establishment media – just as the U.S. establishment
media dismissed Pat Buchanan after 1992 and was thus
totally unprepared for his 1996 New Hampshire primary

lived in a narrow townhouse in an elegant area near the
House of Commons. (Many years later, I learned there was
only one bathroom.) It was full of books. One of his
teenage daughters had draped her jeans over the stair
rail. This caused him to mutter into his moustache – to
the end of his life he wore the style he must have
adopted while serving in the British Eighth Army in
North Africa during World War II – histrionically but
without, I thought, any particular hope.

This was a
man who had come into politics to save the British
Empire – the good points of which, mysteriously, are now
once again

in polite company – above all in India,
where he hoped one day to be Viceroy. (He spoke several
Indian languages.) When in 1947 the Labor government
announced its decision to abandon India, much more
precipitously than anyone had expected, Powell wrote
that “it was a shock so severe that I remember
spending the whole of one night walking the streets of
London trying to come to terms with it.”

But he did
come to terms with it. For a while, he told me in 1974,
he had hoped that Britain would be able to maintain what
he called “an empire of position” – not ruling vast
alien populations, but holding military bases in
strategic spots around the world. But he gave up even
that hope after the retreat from Suez.

he told me, “I don`t believe any democracy can be an
empire, except transitionally.”

reasons for this conclusion appear to have been

Firstly, he
did not think a democracy was capable of the sustained
ruthlessness necessary to crush the continual
insurrections that colonial rule inevitably provokes.
There were many such insurrections in the 1950s, for
example in French Algeria. They appear to have been
forgotten by the architects of current U.S. policy in
the Middle East.

Powell was concerned about the consequences for any
democracy of that sort of sustained ruthlessness. After
eleven Mau Mau terrorists were beaten to death in the
Hola camp in Kenya in 1959, and a fellow Conservative
Member of Parliament dismissed them as “subhumans,”
Powell said in a famous speech: “I would say it is a
fearful doctrine, which must recoil upon the heads of
those who pronounce it,
to stand in judgment on a
fellow human being and say, `Because he was
such-and-such, therefore the consequences which would
otherwise flow from his death shall not flow.` “

emphasis. This speech is often cited to rebut the
conventional charge that Powell was a “racist.” Today,
looking at

alarming developments
like the Homeland Security
Act, I wonder about that recoil upon our heads.

new grand strategy for democracy: a libertarian
isolationism. It led him, contrary to his right-wing
image, to advocate abandoning Britain`s remaining bases
“East of Suez” and to oppose the American effort in
Vietnam.  But he did this in the name of national
interest. Democracies could not defend those bases, in
the long run, nor win that war. Better not to make the
effort – and deploy accordingly.

What would
Enoch say about the invasion of Iraq? We know, because
he said it at the time of Gulf War I: “Saddam Hussein
may not be nice and his form of government not to our
taste. That is no business of ours nor of the United
The balance of power in the Middle East, he
told his

, was no longer a British interest.

Why is the
balance of power in the Middle East an American interest
– especially given that the U.S. is so much further away
and so much less dependent on Middle Eastern oil?

And can the
U.S., as a democracy, maintain its multi-base “empire of
position” – and, increasingly, its empire of conquered

Maybe. But
Powell`s conclusions were dearly, and painfully,
bought.  I would like to think Washington has considered
them carefully.

The obverse
of Powell`s retreat from Empire was his renewed focus on
the nation. He began this process as early as 1961, in a

celebrating the day of England`s Patron
Saint, Saint George.

imperial phase in Britain`s history, he said,

“…is ended, so plainly
ended that even the generation born at its zenith, for
whom the realization is the hardest, can no longer
deceive themselves as to the fact…

“And yet England is
not as
Nineveh and Tyre, nor as Rome, nor as Spain.

relates how the Athenians, returning to
their city after it had been sacked and burnt by Xerxes
and the Persian army, were astonished to find, alive and
flourishing, the sacred olive tree, the native symbol of
their country. So we today at the heart of a vanished
empire, amid the fragments of demolished glory, seem to
find, like one of her own oak trees, standing and
growing, the sap still rising from her ancient roots to
meet the spring, England herself.”

He concluded:

“We in our day ought
well to guard, as highly to honor, the parent stem of
England, and its royal talisman; for we know not what
branches yet that wonderful tree will have the power to
put forth.”

This, of course, is
exactly why Powell so passionately opposed the
transformation of Britain through mass immigration from
the Third World – which, paradoxically, did not begin
until the empire was dissolved. A nation for Powell was
an enthocultural entity – in the case of England, over a
thousand years in the making. It is not an ideological “proposition.”
It is not infinitely plastic. Change cannot be
introduced without consequences.

In Britain this
year, the consequences of immigration include government
schools being ordered to end the ancient tradition of
serving hot-cross buns at Easter so as not to offend
non-Christian children. (“Hot
Cross Banned
by Chris Hastings and Elizabeth
Day, Sunday Telegraph, March 16, 2003.
Note the eloquent denunciation of this ban by a Muslim
organization. Since there actually is an Established
Church in England, this episode highlights the fact that
the similar

war against Christmas
every year in the U.S. really
has nothing to do with the Constitution, however

In the U.S., mass
immigration began in the year of Powell`s speech,
triggered by the 1965 Immigration Act. I told him once,
some years after our first meeting, that the U.S. (about
which he knew little and, alas, cared less) was in a
“pre-Powell situation” – that it was only a matter of
time before immigration began to damage what I called
“the fabric of the nation.”

“The fabric of
the nation,”

he nodded. “That`s the point.”

And it is the

Unlike Britain, but
like Rome, the U.S. faces the threat of transforming
immigration as it moves to its imperial zenith. This
raises the danger that, when that empire has passed
away, the American nation itself may turn out to have
been destroyed.

In the face of this
threat, we don`t know what branches yet the American
nation may have the power to put forth.

But, at Easter, we
can have faith that it will.