Why I’m Right
WHY I’M RIGHT
A PERSONAL GUIDE TO PACIFISM
Why I’m Right
The Founder and the Follower: Patriotism and the American Conscious Part I: America Your America (Sunday)
Part II: Classes at War (Monday)
Part III: The Open Source Revolution (Tuesday/Wednesday)
A Hanging (about Sadaam) (Thursday)
Politics and the Dominant Culture (Friday)
Why I’m Right
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I pledged allegiance to my country every workday, excluding the summer months. Between the ages of about eighteen and twenty I tried to defend this country, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to declare my pacifism.
I was the middle child of three, and I had an active imagination. For this and other reasons I was somewhat rebellious, and I soon developed a suspicion of authority which made me troublesome throughout my schooldays. I had the stubborn child’s habit of creating my own priorities and holding off on school work, and I think from the very start my sense of justice was mixed up with the feeling of being coerced and manipulated. I knew that I had a facility with and a power of high reasoning, and I felt that this granted me a sort of defense which I could use against what I suspected were stifling institutions. Nevertheless the volume of serious – i. e. seriously intended – rebellion in which I participated all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen incidents. I rejected pre-school routines at the age of four or five, or so my parents have told me. I cannot remember anything about that time except that there were ‘children’ and I didn’t feel like one of ‘the children’ – a good enough conceit, but I fancy the conviction was a form of shyness. At twelve, when Bill Clinton was one year in office, I had come around. I was chosen to read an inaugural speech I had written for the dedication of our elementary school, and I drew the mascot for our class banner, ‘Percy’s Penguins’. But as I grew older, I began to earn bad ‘grades’ in the education system. This led, in middle school and high, to invitations for academic pentathalon and decathalon teams which sought out bright students with poor records. That was the general pattern that would follow during those high school years; intelligence paired with an unwillingness to perform.
Hoewever, throughout this time I did in a sense engage in intellectual activities. To begin with there was the school library which I visited often and with much excitement. Apart from assignments, I read, paper-backed things which were filled with what now I recognize as revolutionary concepts. At sixteen I digested The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to the good Alex Haley, in about a week and recognized a kindred soul. Soon after I helped to organize an underground school newspaper, legal-sized sheets photocopied on both sides and folded in my parents’ insurance agency. These issues were the most inflamatory burlesque stuff that you could imagine, from tips on how to find free pornography on the nascent internet to opinion pieces on the validity of Kwanzaa and the necessity of male genital grooming. But side by side with all this, I was carrying out a rebellious exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a personal ‘moral code’ for myself, a sort of rule book existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to intervene in the shouting matches of my parents, and place myself as the arbiter of family feuds, but quite soon my ‘family’ ceased to be merely my household and became more and more the social group in which I was engaged and those I observed. On many occasions my friends would have to suffer this kind of unsolicited reasoning: ‘Your mom just wants you to do well in school. You want her to leave you alone. Perhaps if you negotiated reasonable goals with her, including rewards, for turning your grades around, you wouldn’t have these arguments and be grounded all the time. It doesn’t do any good to disrespect her, in the same way that you’re not motivated by her threats. You both want the same thing, you just have to figure out how to communicate your desires efficiently,’ etc. etc. This meddlesome habit continued till I was about twenty-seven, right through my non-activist years. Although I had to reflect, and did reflect, on my own hypocrisy, I seemed to be pursuing this peacemaking effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. This ‘moralizing’ must, I suppose, have reflected the Christian ethic of the non-denominational family church I attended since birth, but so far as I remember it always had the same pragmatic rationality.
When I was about eighteen I was suddenly discovered by an Army recruiter, an alumnus from my high school and fellow wrestler. The scores from my SAT’s,
which now seem wonderful in a quaint way, did not seem to me so very wonderful at the time; and the continuation of formal schooling was a horrible prospect. As for the need to rebel, I was rejecting the easy college path. I chose to join the good fight and earn my rank among those who by serving afforded us civilians the freedom we take for granted. So it is clear what kind of life I wanted to live, in so far as I could be said to have a sense of purpose at that time. I wanted to do the right thing while challenging myself physically and mentally, among fellow adventurers and roughneck patriots, and also have those Rambo moments in which masculinity is defined by one’s ability to survive the awesome wilderness. And in fact my first action upon separating from the military was to hike into the Big Sur Wilderness to smoke marijuana, for the first time, and commune with the ‘awesome’ astride a redwood log floating down a glittering river.
I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a person’s motives without knowing something of his earlier development. His constitution will be in part determined by the environment he lives in – this is most true in a patronizing, coercive country like our own – but before he ever begins to liberate his mind he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his responsibility, no doubt, to practice self-reflection and avoid getting stuck with false assumptions, or with some perverse prejudice: but if he escapes from his earlier influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse towards justice. Putting aside the drive to live an examined life, I think there are four great motives for social justice, at any rate for the social crusader. They exist in different degrees in every activist, and in any one activist the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:
1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc. etc. It is bullshit to pretend that this is not a motive, and a strong one. Activists share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen – in short, with the stale lot who derive esteem from identifying themselves as the top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. But there is also the minority of gifted, wilful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and activists belong in this class. Serious activists, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than the villains they rail against, though less interested in money.
2. Moral enthusiasm. Perception of injustice in the external world, or, on the other hand, in ideals and their actualization. Pleasure in the impact of one person on another, in the firmness of good cause or the respect of a good solution. Desire to share an idea which one feels is invaluable and ought not to be dismissed. The moral motive is very feeble in a lot of activism, but even a paid canvasser or call center operator will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for idealistic reasons; or he may feel strongly about single issues, democracy in action, etc. Above the level of forced conscription, no social activism is quite free from idealism.
3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
4. Political purpose – using the word ‘political ‘ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. No activist is genuinely free from political engagement. The opinion that activism should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political position.
It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature – taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first self-aware – I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have advocated superfluous or merely tangential causes, and might have remained almost unaware of political landscapes. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of ideological taxonomist. First I spent two years in an unsuitable profession (the United States Regular Army, Military Intelligence), where I underwent regimentation and the sense of conformity. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the dictatorship of bureaucracy, as well as the character of the American soldier: but these experiences were not enough to give me a meaningful political orientation. Even as I rushed into our rec room on that fateful Tuesday morning, witnessing the second plane, I stood there as a ‘soldier’, and yet I did not feel like one of ‘the soldiers’. After the military came stints in community college, state university, etc. Four years into the occupation I had still failed to establish a firm philosophy. Around this time I adapted a poem from Ernest Hemmingway, trying to synthesize my thoughts:
March 19th 2003, NYC NY
They say it’s over
The need, now, is for justice,
Not for militarism
We must be full of grace, or on the way there,
Civilization must lead to something,
Morally instructive, dull, but stemming from universal rights
Which mostly dealt, if I remember,
With life, liberty, and the pursuit of property
My constitution, Jefferson, where is it got to-
Who have created wealthy men,
Have financed foreign wars,
Buried our partners,
Buried our founders, when these did humble themselves for
An American gesture to assuage senility with the endowment or
Who know our labor for bitches,
We who have utilized the desperate in different countries
And experienced great profit,
Have destroyed environments,
Settled claims, invested and born returns
Who have instigated revolutions, counter-revolutions and
Who have seen many systems of government
And many a good venture fail
Who have been at the Docklands
In Tokyo in Chicago and in Wall St
During the rally there,
(I speak figuratively,)
Who have seen assets deflated in Asia’s centers
And cast into the red
Who have developed other countries as well as our own have
spoken and understood the language of progress
and have answered the call to modernity;
We have something that cannot be taken away from us by an article
Nor abolished by a critical agreement of United Nations
The searchers for justice will find that there is a certain
humanity in the acceptance of profits.
They may, that is;
They rarely find out anything they cannot read in Marx or
We’ll start the wars.
They will not fight them
But their children may
If they have children.
I found inspiration in the World Wars and other events of the earlier half of the 20th century, when passionate men seemed to know where they stood. Every person of serious intellect that I have read of that age took a stand, directly or indirectly, against war and for pacifism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that taking positions on such subjects as Democrat or Republican are idealistic actions. Both parties promote war. It is simply a question of which side one trusts more, or distrusts less. And the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s humanity and intellectual integrity.
What I have most wanted to do since leaving high school ten years ago is to live my ideals. My starting point was a feeling of partisanship, a sense of duty. When I sat down in MEPS, I did not say to myself, ‘I am going into the Army to secure a signing bonus and gain a language skill’. I was assigned my MOS because of my ASVAB score, and later my DLAB score, and the enthusiasm of my recruiter. But I could no longer do the work of a good soldier, or even a poor soldier, without a moral justification. Anyone who cares to examine the history of the United States will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a rational human being would consider barbarous. I am not able, and I do not want, completely to abandon the world-view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about peacemaking, to love the people of the earth, and to take pleasure in human interaction and the creation of something beautiful. It is no use trying to suppress that rebellious side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained compassion with the essentially aggressive, war-mongering activities that this age forces on all of us.
It is not easy. It raises problems of organization and of action, and it raises in a new way the solution of peace. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. Our occupation of Iraq, eight years on, is, of course, a frankly imperial act, but in the main it is described with a certain detachment and regard for humanity.
1. The policy of extending a nation’s authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.
Good people do try very hard to tell the whole truth without violating their humanist instincts. But among other things they are contained within a large war-machine, full of narratives and incentive structures, defending Empire when its justification might fall into doubt. Clearly such a system, which after a generation or two would create its own internal logic, must ruin the independent mind. An American leader who was much respected illustrated this phenomena. ‘What kind of a peace do we seek?’ he asked his young audience at American University. ‘Not a Pax Americana, enforced on the world, by American weapons of war…genuine peace.’ His words may very well have been sincere, but his actions could not have been more opposed to this principle. We all now know, what very few people in the cultural mainstream are allowed to say, that we committed genocide against the people of Vietnam. If we cannot openly be ashamed about this, the good people of Iraq should never allow themselves hope.
In one form or another this problem of Empire comes up again. The problem of human nature is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that with the latest research we have discovered that man is inherently an empathic, mimetic creature. In every case one is born a dependent, and therefor cooperative, animal. You have always to learn war. Iraq was the first war in which a global pacifist movement was aroused, with full consciousness of the crimes against humanity about to be committed, to fuse political purpose and peaceful purpose into one whole. I stood alone on a downtown corner in my home town, but I stood with the prescient of the world. War is bound to be a failure, every war is a failure of the human spirit, but we know with much clarity war is profitable and therefor a success for the few.
Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in activism are wholly idealistic. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All leaders are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Pacifism is a horrible, reductive argument, like a far-off fantasy in some fictional world. One would never promote suck a thing if one were not driven on by some angel whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that angel is simply the same unreason that makes a man fall in love; And yet it is also true that society cannot evolve unless it lays claim to its heart. The good pacifist is like a defibrillator. I cannot say with certainty from where I derive my moral authority, but I know that I am right, because I know that I am leading with my heart. And looking forward at the work to be done, I predict that it will be when we finally conquer our compassion that we will become a lifeless society and will betray our humanity, condemning our children to the rotted fruits of our failed imaginations.
The Founder and the Follower: Patriotism and the American Conscience
Part I: America Your America
As I write, highly patriotic military drones beings encircle the world to protect me.
They do not feel any love for me as an individual, nor I for them. They are ‘only doing their duty,’ as the saying goes. Many of them, I have no doubt, are young men who role- play committing murder in virtual life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in killing ‘the enemy’ with a well-placed round, he will likely sleep worse for it. He is serving his country, but it does not have the power to absolve him from his conscience.
One cannot see the modern state as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of compassion, universal brotherhood. In certain circumstances it can break down, at certain levels of animosity it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. State dogma and economic ideologies are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi earned followings in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their states could not.
Also, one must admit that the divisions between nation and nation are founded on artificial differences of outlook. Till recently it was thought proper to pretend that all human beings are very much different, but in fact anyone able to use his eyes knows that the average of human behavior is quite similar from country to country. Things that could happen in one country could very well happen in another. King’s economic boycotts, for instance, could have happened in Ghandi’s India. And, as world populations go, Americans are very highly homogenized. There is a sort of paradoxical denial of this in the admiration which nearly all school children are instilled with for cultural diversity. Most immigrants can endure living in America, and even Americans often feel at home abroad.
When you leave America to visit any other foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of living in a shared world. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild important faces, their congestion and congeniality, are similar across the globe. Then the common bond of humanity swallows you up, and you earn for a while the insight that the whole world has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not seven billion human beings, all related? And the commonality of protest, the similarities! The civil disobedience of curfews in the Cairo streets, the barricading of government employees in the Great Acropolis, the protests outside of Stock Exchanges, the rabble of Iraqis at the Green Zone gates, the growing dissatisfaction with the Old Order on the left and the right in America – all these are not fragments, but common characteristics, of a humanity in revolt. How can one make a division out of this pattern?
But talk to patriots, read jingoist books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same prideful thought. Yes, there is something similar and recognizable in all of civilization. It is a desire to be as free as an American on football Sundays, middle class and entertained, democracy and consumer choice. It has a logic of its own. Moreover it is illusionary, it turns civilization into a mere equation of production and consumption, there is something in it that is mendacious, as in a devil’s gift. What can the American of fifty thousand dollars median income have in common with the Ghanaian of fifteen hundred? But then, what has billionaire author J.K. Rowling in common with the Edinburgh woman on welfare who was so impovershed that she contemplated suicide? Nothing, except that she happens to be the same person.
And above all, it is one civilization, it is us. However much you hate poverty or laugh at failure, you will never be the differentiated lifestyle you purchase. The electronic gadgets and the fast cars cannot divorce you from humanity. Compassionately or callousnessly, you take part in the human struggle, it’s a part of you, and this side the grave you will never get away from the trasgressions recorded against your fellow man.
Meanwhile the world, and America with it, is changing. And like everything else it can change in infinite directions, which at any point can be influenced. That is not to say that the future is unknowable, merely that every alternative is possible and imagination is endless. A seed of thought may grow or not grow, but at any rate inspiration never comes
fully formed. It is therefore of the deepest importance to try and dream of what the world can be, before guessing what part America should play in the huge events that are happening.
Cultural myths are not easy to pin down, and when pinned down they often turn out to be trivialities or seem to have no connection with injustice. Columbus setting out to prove the earth was round, the Mayflower and its ‘pilgrims’ making haste from babylon, the canonization of the ‘founding fathers’. Obviously such things don’t seem important in themselves. Nevertheless, nothing is causeless, and even the fact that cultures embrace mythology can tell something about their current ability to embrace reality.
Here are a couple generalizations about the world that would be accepted by almost all Americans. One is that the world is not gifted physically. There are not enough resources as the human species requires, scarcity and abject poverty can never be eradicated in America let alone in the rest of the world. Another is that, as nationalities go, the American is exceptional. They have a horror of global egalitarian thought, they feel a compulsion for never-ending competition in a ‘world-market’. Nor is this because they are ‘capitalist’, as they are so fond of claiming for themselves. One has only to look at their methods of economic planning and corporate welfare, their obstinate clinging to an economic imperialism that is out of date and a human travesty, a financial sector that defies analysis, and a system of cronyism and corruption that is transparent only to the insider, to see how little they care about mere theories of real economies. But they have a certain power of acting without revealing intent. Their world-famed plausible deniability – their double-faced attitude towards the Empire, for instance – is bound up with this. Also, if provided with opportune moments of supreme crisis the whole nation can suddenly draw together and act upon a species of manufactured instinct, really a programmed code of behavior which is understood by almost everyone, though never formulated. The phrase that Geoge Bush coined after September 11th, ‘a war on terror’, would supply the filter to perceive supreme crisis almost anywhere in perpetuity. Note the impossibility of waging, let alone winning, a war on a noun, much less an emotion which is arguably the most common byproduct of modern warfare.
There is nothing more terrifying in the current age then being on the receiving end of American fire-power.
But here it is worth noting a minor American trait which is extremely well marked though not often commented on, and that is a plasticity of national character. This is one of the first things that one notices when one observes American culture, especially if one observes trends. Does it fully explain the American indifference to its political reality? Perhaps, because ritualistic acts have become substitutes for the political. What it does not account for, however, is another American characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it, and that is the domestication, the passivity of current American citizens. We are a nation of conformists, but also a nation of progressively strike-broken, war-robbed, regressively taxed, conglomerated, factually deceived, emasculated citizens generation upon generation. All the political topics that are most often discussed center round tangental issues which even when they are relevant are not economically or historically contextualized – immigration, war, civil liberties, decisions made by the ‘benevolent technocrat’. The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the enlightenment of the ‘founding fathers’. But this has nothing to do with democratic reality then or now, the right of common citizens to actively participate in meaningful self- governance. It is the obscuring of compulsion in the American system, the illusion to vote for whom you like in your elections, to form your own opinions instead of having them formed for you that keeps the common citizen from condemning his government as authoritarian. The most hateful of all concepts to self-serving bureaucracies is Democracy. It is obvious, of course, that this reality is under constant threat of exposure. Like all other compulsive systems, American citizenship requires processes of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, ‘indoctrinated’. But the narratives of their cultural myths are in the other direction, and the degree of American malleability will be modified in consequence. Low party identification, youth antipathy, democratic deficits, ballot boycotts euphamized as ‘low voter turnouts’ demonstrate the collision of mythic independent national character with a reality that demands conformity. No forced conscription either, since the Vietnam fiasco.
But in all compulsive societies the common people must live to some extent managed by the existing order. The genuinely popular culture of America is something that goes on above the surface, officially and more or less condonced by entrenched power. One thing one notices if one looks directly at the cultural leaders, especially the most successful, is that they are patriots. They are inveterate jingoists, pander as much to their audience as their dignity will permit, are devoted to xenophobia, and possess possibly the shortest memories in the world. They have to justify state coercion in the face of skeptical, supposedly free people (Bill of Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc, etc) who are raised to believe that everybody has a right to participate in democracy. Also, the common people are without definite meaningful organization, and have been so for generations. The two-party system has taken hold of them, it was simply a bifurcation of the corporate class, and the Nonconformist sects only influence minorities. And yet they have retained a deep tinge of republican feeling, while almost forgetting the meaning of representative democracy. The power-worship which is the new religion of Politics, and which has infected the American intelligentsia, has spread to the common people. Culture has been caught up with power politics. The ‘realism’ which is preached in Business and Political camps reaches out to them. One can learn a good deal about the spirit of America from the comic colored legitamacy that you see bestowed to state violence in the columns of the major papers. These pacts are a sort of converging point upon which American critical thought has impailed itself. The old-fashioned journalists, their graded skepticism, their mixture of idealism and fact-finding, their extreme thoroughness, their deeply moral attitude to life, are all immolated there.
The inhumanity of the American state is perhaps its most marked characteristic. You notice it the instant you are born into the American system. It is a land where the economic indicators are numerical and the faces of poverty carry no weight. In no country inhabited by civilized man will you find more people shoved into incarceration. And with this goes something that is always written off by American apologists as the ‘rugged pioneer’ or explorer, the American love of war and militarism. It is rooted deep in history, and it is strong in the lower classes as well as the upper class. Successive grotesque wars have shaken it but not destroyed it. Well within living memory a respectable Chicago museum thought it would be acceptable for ‘America’s future’ to take the gunner position in a helicopter diorama and for these children to imagine pacifying peasant villages of Vietnam. In ostensible times of peace, even when there are millions unemployed, it is difficult to redirect funds from the swollen public military to other non- militaristic public works, which would create real goods and therefor real growth, and employ this underemployed and idle population. The mass of impoverished persuaded by military employment or benefits are grateful, and their attitude towards the American war machine is invariably defensive. No reformist could rise to power by ignoring their employment or military ‘tradition’, no Politician of Peace has ever made any appeal to them. In the Iraq war the justification which the administration manufactured and presented to congress was not complicated but clear and documented deception. The only meaningful resistance they ever encountered was outside of the cultural mainstream.
In America all the boasting and flag-wagging, the ‘Proud to be an American’ stuff, is done by class-unconscious majorities. The patriotism of the common people is militaristic but not economic. They do not retain among their historical memories the name of a single labor victory. American economic history, like other countries, is full of class- warfare, but it is worth noticing that the corporate model that has won for itself a kind of personhood is always an image of virtue and success. There is no popular cry for capital punishment for the most egregious of corporate citizens, revoking their corporate charters for instance. Countrywide Financial, facing a glut of toxic assets due to criminal lending practices escapes death through a Bank of America takeover. The most stirring struggle against corporate abuse in the world is taking place in Ecuador, a struggle which Chevron inherited when it merged with Texaco. And Chevron itself, back when they were known as Standard Oil of California and alongside fellow corporate criminals General Motors and Firestone, was convicted of criminal conspiracy for their part in the Great American streetcar scandal. The criminal dismantling of public transportation that precipitated American car culture is simply unkown to the general public.
The reason why the American pro-business rhetoric delights patriots is that it reinforces the mythology of the American Dream. It looks like an unquestionable truth. After all, the 20th century has brought unprecedented technological and social advances and provided these by means of a modern economy. How dare does one then turn round and say that business is wicked?
It is quite true that the Americans are suspicious about the corporate class. In the public this suspicion takes the form of condemnation of the latest corporate criminal. But the condemnation of entire economic sectors would be a perfectly sound instinct. The Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) industries employ comparatively few people, yet their level of influence cannot help but strangle the productive economy. Central Banks exist everywhere, but there is not such thing as a public board. What American people of nearly all classes loathe from the bottom of their hearts is the swindling financier type, the collusion of tycoons and the manipulation of markets. Decades before Hitler was ever heard of, the word ‘Robber Baron’ had much the same significance in America as ‘Fascism’ has today. So deep does this feeling go that for a hundred years past the industrial statesmen, exemplified by William Randolph Hearst then and Rupert Murdoch now, have always taken their propaganda directly to the public.
One rapid but fairly sure guide to the independence of a country is its control over its economy. A national economy is really a kind of dance, something like a collective performance, expressing a certain gracefulness in movement. The monetary system, for instance, is a kind of music, allowing for the coordinated interaction of goods and services on the dance floor. It is simply an invention for economic interaction, contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the concept of a paper note in the place of something of value. Its artificiality is part of is essence, for what it is saying is ‘Yes, I am worthless, and you dare to trust me’, like the proprietor who lends credit against his frequent customer’s word. Why have global monetary instruments been placed in private hands? There are, heaven knows, plenty of democratic, public tunes by which national economies can dance, including America’s constitutional mandate for Congress to control the monetary jukebox. It is not enforced because the technocrats in the positions of power would laugh. Beyond a certain point, economic democracy is only possible in countries where the common people dare to refuse the sheet music of the private global finance syndicate. The Vietnamese attempted economic sovereignty at about the time when Southeast Asia passed definitely under American control, and, as was clearly articulated, so did much of the rest of the world. The Latin American governments, if they rebelled, were bound to incur stiff discipline for dancing to their own tune. In the Globalist Choir the cadence is rigid and uncompromising, full of invocations of theory and counter- theory, but without democratic participation, the dance is merely a formalized cake-walk. It is a game which is won by the conductor who, controlling the music, knows where to position himself when the movement stops.
And yet the manipulation of American, and world, economies is obscurred by xenophobia and nationalism. International solidarity is as out-of-date as the ideologies of the Third World holdouts. Over against the storming American Marine you have got to set that typically private figure, the financial ideologue, some gouty old bully with his mind rooted in corporate profits, benefitting from the savagery of war. In America, military and public servants pound the drum-beat of empire while benefitting from or even being directly employed by international corporations. These war profiteers are obscene as well as amoral, but there has never been any genuinely popular outcry against them. People accept them (and the technocrats, and the jingoists) almost as they accept the mythic benevolence of the founding fathers or the ‘federal-ness’ of the Federal Reserve. They are part of the ‘war effort’ which is assumed to be for the common good.
Here one comes upon an all-important American belief: the respect for self-enrichment and ownership, the belief in ‘profit’ as something sacred above society and beyond reproach, something which should be reaped responsibly and humbly, of course, but at any rate a natural right.
It is not that anyone imagines the society to be just. Everyone knows that there is one America for the rich and another for the poor. But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone accepts that the foreign policy interests of the elite, and subsequent wars, are their interests, and do not have the faculties to identify where they are not. Remarks like ‘Spreading democracy; promoting peace’, or ‘Fighting for freedom; liberating the oppressed’, are part of the propaganda of American – Corporate American – aggression. The professed enemies of America share this confusion as strongly as anyone else. One sees it in anti-Americanism of Osama Bin Ladin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the solemn idiocies that escape the lips of America’s critics, in letters to the papers from eminent humanitarian organizations, pointing out that this or that is a ‘crime against humanity’. Everyone believes in his heart that American government can be, ought to be, and, on the whole, will be democratically administered. The totalitarian idea that here is no such thing as democracy, there is only power, has not taken root. Even the intelligentsia have only accepted it in theory.
An empire is never democratic, war is always directed first and foremost against domestic threats to State power. The familiar arguments to the effect that we live in a ‘post-9/11 world’ or face new enemies never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that the enemy of American Empire is without and not within. In the American conscience such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, patriotism is born of them. In proof of which, look about you. What is posse comitatus, why is it being subverted? The sword is still in the scabbard, but it is being readied to be wielded against the homeland. The international financial syndicate, for instance, is supra-national. In a dozen obvious ways the American military acts in the interest of the global moneyed class. But until some deep change has occurred in the patriotic mind, America cannot be internally reformed. You do not arrive at the polling booth to find politicians free of corporate influence telling you which way to dismantle empire, nor are the reformers organized, nor are there any meaningful alternatives. Patriotism is a powerful motivation. The myth of the founding father, that benevolent old man of noble ideals and self-made wealth, whom nothing short of treason could ever impeach, but who will at any rate will be used to justify the bastardization of his experiment, is one of the contradictory figures of American mythology. He is a symbol of the strange mixture of enlightenment and self-enrichment, democracy and authoritarianism, cooperation and coersion, the subtle perversion of ideals, by which a bureaucratic state justifies its existence.
I have spoken all the while of ‘the nation’, ‘America’, ‘United States’, as though 50 states could somehow be treated as a unit. But is not America notoriously two nations, the red state and the blue? Dare one pretend that there is anything in common between people in urban centers and people in the sprawling suburban and rural outlands? And even Republican and Democrat readers are likely to have been offended because I have used the word ‘class’ oftener than ‘opportunity’, as though the whole population was a lottery ticket or reality showcase away from financial security.
One gets a better view of this question if one considers the conservative point first. It is quite true that the so-called political persuasions of America feel themselves to be very independent from one another. A Libertarian, for instance, does not thank you if you call him a Republican. You can see the hesitation we feel on this point by the fact that we measure our ideologies by at least six different categories, Far Left, Left, Centrist, the Right, the Far Right and, in very exasperated moments, the Apathetic. Even the differences between Left and Far Left loom large in our own eyes. But somehow these differences fade away the moment that any two Americans are confronted by war. It is very rare to meet a Pacifist, other than a symbolic one, who can find a home among the Left or the Right or even the Far Left and Far Right. To a patriot, peace and pacifism seem very different beings, and the justice of military power is an accepted fact in the United States, at the very least regarding the consecrated triumvirate of holy wars which consist of the Revolutionary, the Civil, and the Second World. Yet we speak of ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’, recognizing divisions of strategy amid a singular acceptance for war-lust, which in fact it is. So also with ourselves. Looked at from the outsider even the humanitarian and the servicemember have a strong connection.
And even the distinction between political and apolitical dwindles somewhat when one regards the war from the cultural mainstream. There is no question about the injustice of the war in Iraq. It is grosser than in any modern colonial effort, and you have only to look down the cement-barracaded streets of Baghdad or up to the Vatican-city sized and similarily reinforced ‘Green Zone’ to see it. Economically, Iraq is certainly colonized, if not partitioned as once was opium-lulled China. But at the same time the vast majority of the Iraqi people feel themselves to be a single nation and are conscious of resisting foreigners more than they resist one another. Pan-Arabism is stronger than sectarian violence, and always stronger than any kind of foreign occupation. Except for a brief moment in the 1960’s (cut short by a CIA-sponsored coup led by Saddaam Hussein) the Iraqi people have never been allowed autonomous democratic development. For twelve years they watched their weak and poor countrymen slowly strangled by inhuman sanctions, and never received the benefit of even updated university textbooks. But when our own nation (the country of WWII heroics and ‘Wilsonian Idealism’) decided to finally invade them, this reality was very differently depicted. At the moment when it seemed likely that America might invade, Dick Cheney offered his belief that “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators”. Meanwhile his old company Halliburton secured seven billion dollars in no-bid contracts in the run-up to the war alone, and another twenty billion have gone to foreign companies whose identities have been impossible to determine. After finally collecting over twenty-five billion dollars in US Government contracts, Halliburton itself decided in 2007 to move its headquarters to Dubai, showing how little national loyalties – used to sell lucrative wars – really mean to the corporate winners of these ‘free-market’ cake walks. One has only to compare this supranational war-profiteer bonanza with, for instance, the patriotic drivel choking the mainstream to see how vast is the strength of war propaganda compared with objective reality.
Tim Duncan has nothing to say regarding war profiteers but NBA fans can rest assured that he “supports our troops”, a basketful of domestic and international crimes against often the letter of the law as well as its spirit not to mention humanity and the public trust, all legitimized with a stilted public service announcement spliced with images of men in uniform. It would be almost as blasphemous to support the truth as to disparage our armed forces, if the truth contradicted the narratives of the patriotic hordes. Forgotten in all of this public relations goose-stepping is the sworn duty of our service-members to protect the country from all enemies, domestic as well as foreign.
But then, to charge the financiers of war would be to knock the aristocrat down from his horse, which is to say it would be bad form. To some the saddle, others the mallet and the rest to be caromed about like a ball in play.
In America subservient patriotism takes different forms in different ideologies, but it runs like a connecting thread through nearly all of them. Only the culturally ignorant are really immune to it. As a reactionary emotion it is stronger in the heartland than on the liberal coast – the rural poor, for instance, are more dependent on military employment than their urban counterparts– but the number of consciously self-serving patriots, the Cheney type, is probably very small. In the red states patriotism is profound, but it is sincere. The good old boy’s mind does not leap to aggression when he sees the Stars and Stripes, but rather pride. But the famous ‘jingoism’ and ‘xenophobia’ of the Right is far stronger in the cultural leader than in the common Republican. In all countries the rich are more class conscious than the poor, but the American elite class are outstanding in their unity of message and control over its dissemination. Even when they are obliged to at least nominally abide by non-monopolistic practices media figures collude either to mirror elite objectives or to give complimentary narratives. Nearly every American of conservative identification considers it effeminate to withdraw from a military conflict without the declaration of victory. Reflecting on the annihilation of Vietnam the largest regret voiced is not the loss of life but the loss of American ‘prestige’. The sole lament is that we were not able to finish the job, as if the survival of a sovereign nation through a firestorm of historically unprecedented foreign aggression was something to mourn. In eight years on Iraq soil these apologists have not even acquired the faintest of appreciation for the burgeoning humanitarian crisis, the largest refugee disaster in the middle east since the displacement of the people of Palestine. The insularity of the rabid Patriot, their refusal to take humanity seriously, is a trait that allows them to be paid very heavily in times of war. Glenn Beck did not rally to oppose the war, but to sell it to the masses. Rush Limbaugh does not earn four hundred million dollars to play the gentle lamb, peace has never been that profitable. They play their part in the American propaganda mills, and the sincere who have tried to break their shtick down have generally done more harm to themselves than their subject. At bottom it is the same filth in the pigsty that repels the truth and keeps out the self-respecting.
Here one comes back to two American characteristics that I pointed out, seemingly at random, at the beginning of the last chapter. One is the plasticity of character. This is perhaps another way of saying that Americans are without a native culture. For there are many heritages from which they have gleaned plenty of traditions, namely English. But this is also the heritage of Kings and profitized war. Great Britain, especially the Royal Family, and the young princes most of all, are a kind of political celebrity, with little or no real power outside their own popularity. Except for Tony Blair, the most powerful English politicians are barely known in America, even as names. The only people who are widely acknowledged are Prince Harry, who lent his celebrity to the Afghan war cause, and Prince William, who is currently in the Royal Air Force. And linked up with this, though not very obviously, is the need for our own political royalty, the presence in nearly all Americans of any political stripe for an avatar of patriotism to embody the national mythology. And so we politicize our celebrities by celebrating their patriotism.
In such a way our passivity is revealed through our longing for these heroic stand-ins, a virtual reality, parallel world, staged morality plays – entertainment – to make up for our increasing lack of personal empowerment. We are united in our shared disengagement from reality, to the point that our social skills and subsequently our society is disintegrating. The more we seek esteem from virtual sources, the more we allow not just our time and resources but our very minds to be colonized, until resistence cannot even be imagined let alone acted upon.
What more can be said of the priesthood of war than a mental gelding of the empathic human animal? Is not a child born with a loving and playful nature? Perhaps our pastimes are not war-like as much as our wars game-like. In a majority of the stories we entertain ourselves with people don’t die morbid deaths of blood and gore, losing control of their bladders and crying for their mothers, rather they die push-button deaths as if simple robots powering down, one accurate and often bloodless knife/bullet/explosion and the participant has to sit out the round. Stories of Indian warfare readily allude to gaming traditions, giving marks to the combatant who can touch the enemy and return to his camp safely. Imagine this dangerous form of tag spontaneously breaking out over a trenchline. Yet, as veterans can attest, stranger things have occurred when human nature happens to escape the narrow ideological blinders of conflict. Flash truces, displays of compassion, completely irrational acts from a battlefield perspective stand out as outliers from what the war-mongers would have us believe is our naturally aggressive nature. And so by manipulating how a population views itself, manufacturers of these narratives can manipulate what a population perceives as possible, which is how warfare, with all its blatant entropy creation, is transformed – at the very least tacitly – into a necessary step towards an ordered civilization while pacifism a regressive naivete. Thus the good Patriot’s defense that real peace is desireable but not possible, and war an undesireable but necessary fact of life.
Only the dead have seen the end of war? No. Only the dead have achieved the highest glory through war, for war is a form of national necrophilia. In the same way that romantic love is consumated through sex, warfare is consumated through death, wearing its battlefield pall like lingerie for the pornographers of violence. In this way, the war machine feeds upon the seduction of youth, achieved through a culture of mindless patriotism.
Up to a point, a sense of national unity is a substitute for ‘common sense’. Just because patriotism is all but universal and not even the apolitical are uninfluenced by it, there can be moments when the whole nation suddenly swings together and does the same thing, like a herd of cattle corralled by a sheepdog. There was such a moment, unmistakably, at the time of the disaster in New York City. Before an awe-struck citizenry could even vaguely wonder what the attack was about, the people were suddenly told what they had got to do: first, to start bombing Afghanistan, and secondly to invade Iraq. It was like the manipulation of a trauma victim. Quick! Danger! The Philistines be upon thee, Samson! And then the swift unanimous action – and, then, alas, the prompt shearing of our Samson’s wealth and shackling to the temple of permanent militarization. In a traumatized nation that would have been exactly the moment for a big reformation movement to arise. But does this mean that the rational instinct of the American will always be subverted to the march towards war? Not at all, merely the fact that a 9/11 truth movement exists reflects the stubborness of independent thought in America and around the world. In the 1942 attack on our Hawaiian colony, Pearl Harbor, for instance, we were led into a world war in perfect lockstep. We were as single-minded as the Gadarene swine. But I honestly doubt whether anyone can now say that the attack was not allowed, even invited, for this purpose. Truth has an unfortunate habit of enduring the marathon of time.
It follows that American democracy is even more of a fraud than it sometimes appears. A casual observer sees only the huge inequality of wealth, the monetized electoral system, the consolidated control over the press, the radio and television (with the internet still being fought for), and concludes that democracy is simply a polite name for corporatism. But this ignores the considerable power that is unfortunately still being shifted to the leaders from the led. However much one may hate to admit it, it is almost certain that since the passage of the PATRIOT ACT the National Government has appropriated, at least legislative terms, the liberty of the mass of the people. It sanctioned torture, surveilence and unchecked domestic suppression. Yes, but it did pass through congress. It was a patriotic period, and our elected officials were mediocrities. This legislation gave teeth to what a cynic would have then called a corporate state, and what a realist must now acknowledge is a benevolent form of fascism.
The government does not strong-arm corporate citizens to violate the civil liberties of Americans. There is no government. Corporations manufacture legislation which allows them to retain and increase their stranglehold on any meaningful political – social – power. The amount of actual policy work that corporate lobbyists perform as opposed to elected officials is transparently one-sided. During a personal tour in 2010 of the California state capital building, I was informed by a newly minted and therefor perhaps uncommonly candid aide that “lobbyists do much of the heavy-lifting around here, we couldn’t function without them”. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that what – by the casual citizen observer – could be construed as a gross violation of democratic principle, is accepted as a necessary fact of governance by all but a small minority of elected officials and their staff across the whole castrated political spectrum. The business of running the United States has been delegated as a function of the largest companies in each sector. And with the election of Obama, at the Federal level we’ve now peacefully transferred ruling power from a dominance of energy brokers to a cabal advocating the interests of the financial services sector.
In spite of the campaigns of the independent Left and the Right, it is fairly certain that the bulk of the congress were behind Bush’s foreign policy. More, it is fairly certain that the same struggle going on in Bush’s mind was dissimilar to the minds of ordinary citizens. His opponents professed to see in him a buffoonish and ignorant clown, swaggering into the war-shoes of his father, but it is far likelier that he was merely a homespun broker selling the interests of his class utilizing his admittedly very meager skill set. It is difficult otherwise to explain the unity of his policy, his ability to immediately grasp the path towards war that opened to him. As a one-time insurance salesman, I’d like to think that I can recognize when someone’s selling me a policy, especially one that they might not completely understand themselves. Unlike a rational citizen, he did not want to discuss the merits either of peace or of war. And public opinion was behind him all the while, taking in a sales pitch that was completely manufactured years prior by the architects of Empire. It was behind him when he went to Afghanistan, when he gave ultimatums regarding weapons of mass destruction, when he invaded Iraq, when he secured its oil fields, and when he finally executed Saddaam by proxy. Only in 2006 when the results of his policy became apparent did public opinion turn against him; which is to say that it turned against its own passive policy-consumption lethargy of the past three years. Thereupon the people elected en mass the ostensible anti-war party, the Democrats, who were at any rate able to defend themselves by disowning the ‘errors’ if not the war itself. To use a perhaps obscure life-insurance analogy, if Bush’s slogan was ‘buy term and invest the difference’, the Democrats merely suggested that the American people look into whole life. They did not stop the cycle, they merely substituted the policies being sold while keeping their war-quotas the same. Someday, perhaps, citizens will grasp that democracy is not the brokering of elite interests but an open forum of national discourse, and the merits of peace should not have to be sold but merely recognized.
Do I mean by all this that all of congress is a war-mongering body? No, but not even an independent-minded Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul could nudge the warship from its intended course.
America is the most war-addicted country under the sun. It is a land of arms and insecurity, fueled largely by its militarized industries. But in any calculation about it one has got to take into account its propagandized culture, the education of nearly all its inhabitants to feel alike and act like the inheritors of the Greek intellectual tradition. It is the only great country in the world that is obliged to drive millions of its nationals into incarceration camps. At this moment, after years of decreasing violent crime, politicians and media figures still decry a figment of lawlessness, praising the prisons and clamouring for more to be built, almost without opposition. And this is less from a respect for law and order than from a simple misperception that society is not safe. It is considered safe, however, to metropolitan centers economically disintegrate, because it is certain that the majority of their afflicted populations will never achieve a meaningful political identity. Crime and poverty are bound together by an invisible chain. With any sincere dedication the criminal element can be trained, employed, reformed, assimilated into society; with any sincere investment poverty can be eradicated. But let the priorities of elites really make themselves heard, let the Empire get a taste for foreign conquest that it cannot avoid savoring, and it is difficult for government to respond to the most pressing needs of its own people. The left-wing writers who denounce the whole of the Republicans as ‘knuckle-draggers’ are grossly over-simplifying. Even among the Islamo- phobia of conservative Christians who are pandered to by xenophobic pitchmen, it is doubtful whether there are any purposeful bigots. The persuasion that happens in America is seldom of that kind. Nearly always it is more in the nature of economic suppression, of the rich man not allowing comfortable room for agitation. And being economic, it is total. One sees this at its most obvious in the engineered financial crisis. Was the crisis engineered or random? At the very minimal it involved collusion among the highest players of the financial sector with the direction of the global central banking syndicate. All the energy that activism requires is excess, and a recession is a tightening up of the excesses of democracy, as incarceration is the removal of excess citizenry. Yet I do not suppose there is one solid patriot in America that can be straightforwardly intimidated with threats of state violence. In the America of the mythic imagination all of our revolutionary ideals could heroically be invoked like the patron saints of republican virtue. Public life in America has never been openly oppressive. Empire has not reached the justification of power at which democratic artifice can be completely dropped, which is not to say that it does not continue to build its case.
America is not the dutiful heir to Plato’s halcyon republic, nor is it acting out the decadent suicide that ended the Roman Empire. More than either it resembles a colony, a rather fancy Modern colony, with not many true freedoms in it but with all its forms of servitude bursting with options. It has rich owners who have to be obeyed and poor workers who are of no use to the profit margins, and there is a deep conspiracy of silence about the unequal distribution of the sums of production. It is a colony in which the young are generally indocrinated to believed that the major decisions in their life are in their own hands and not those of the cynical and the world weary. Still, it is a colony. It has its windows barred and its chattle numbered, and at the approach of a foreigner it closes its ranks. A colony with delusions of grandeur – that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing America in a phrase.
Probably the battles of the Cold War have been replaced by the asymetrical-fields of terrorism, but the end of all subsequent war has begun there. One of the dominant facts in the world during the past century has been the increase in communication among the average citizen. Resistence has not just become asymetrical, it has become open-sourced.
In the years between 1990 and 2010 it was happening with the speed of a chemical reaction. Yet at the moment of writing it is still possible to speak of politically unorganized victims. Like the knife which has never been whetted, the lower slice of American society is still without an effective sense of common interest. After 9/11 the new conspiracy-minded netizens steadily increased their voice, but instead of translating their frustrations into a new political movement or creating coalitions they simply challenged the powerful, entrenched narratives head on, or were co-opted by the marginal fringes of the party duopoly. The wise chess player or general strategist sets up for himself a plan of approach as a path to victory, while his enemy employs the right tactics of subterfuge which are designed to steer him from this path. America is kept passive in part by an entertainment industry whose chief aim is to constantly distract its audience.
And considering what limited time and energy socially integrated citizens are left with, and considering that they have bought more into their virtual lifestyles than their actual class which at any rate shares their immediate reality, one might have expected that able citizens could not on their own imagine a solution to their oppression.
And yet somehow a solution is being imagined, taking its shape, its reality, finally even its beauty, until a time comes when stuffed shirts like Bush or Cheney will stand out as men of criminal inhumanity. As for Obama, one could not even dignify him with the name of stuffed shirt. He is simply a hole in the air. The mishandling – or rather, corporate coddling – of America’s domestic problems during the housing crisis has been bad enough, but American foreign policy since his taking office is one of an increasingly belligerent, although eloquent, Empire. Why? What else had he promised? What was it about the novelty of mixed race that made every American idealist do the wrong thing with so unerring an instinct?
The underlying fact was that the whole apparatus of the party system has long ceased to be justifiable. There they sit, at the top of a vast pyramid and a nation-wide political network, drawing power and influence and spending them – on what? It is fair to say that the values within the Democrat and Republican parties are in many ways more similar than values outside of them. Still, the alternatives are underdeveloped, Pacifists are laughed off of the main stage, the compassionate wait eagerly, with hearts heavy within, and even as America multiplies its neglected and unemployed. Only some four hundred and thirty odd people, a number that could match a high school graduating class, definitely benefit from the existing party system. Moreover, the tendency of lobbies to fund candidates along vertical integrations robbed more and more of the amateur politicians of practical entry points and turned them into mere symbolic candidates, their campaigns being run for them by pro-bono managers and volunteers. For long past there has been in America a professional political class, living as courtesans at the head of a government they hardly know how to run, the ‘consumate politician’, the people whose photographs you can look at in the local Congressman’s office and the Senator, always supported by a cult of personality. The governors Cuomo and Brown, fundraiser turned Speaker Pelosi, and now even Rand Paul trading upon the name of his simple but sincere father all exemplify this inbred social circle. Only the entertainment industry rivals the political primacy of royal bloodlines, only the dillusional could ignore the blatant nepotism in American politics. The existence of this class of people, and the institutional framework by which they attain and retain power, is by any standard unjustifiable. Political parties are simply parasites, less useful to society than his fleas are to a dog.
By 2008 there were many people who were aware of all this. By 2010 millions more are now aware of it. But the American Left obviously cannot admit to themselves that Obama is a fraud. Had they done that they would have had to assume responsibility for his ascendency. For it was not possible for his campaign alone to turn himself into a cultural icon, the embodiment of the American Dream, consciously pandering to base nationalism and side-stepping specifics by PR grandstanding and rock-star rallies. After all, he belongs to a profession – Law – with a certain reputation, which is vilified constantly in public as amoral in addition to the circus of these political campaigns, every two years, that are drawn out as the most cynically deceptive of displays. Voters had to feel themselves true change-makers, even while they recognized his institutional political mold, from cabinet choices to policy decisions. Clearly there was only one escape for them – into stupidity. They could keep their idealism in its existing shape only by being unable to grasp that any deception was possible. Difficult though this was, they are achieving it, largely by fixing their eyes on ‘winning the future’ and refusing to notice the cost – ransom – that is being extracted from them.
There is much in America that this explains. It explains the decay of independent thought, due to the conformity of a sham political system which drives the more spirited leaders out of the parties. It explains the upward immobility of the standard of living, which has actually decreased since the post-war generation. It explains the distrust of real democracy which has again and again infected the reformer. Since the sixties every reformist movement in which America has engaged has started off outside of the cultural mainstream, after which the situation has been co-opted by cultural leaders comparatively ignorant to the social situation. The higher idealists, drawn often from the priviledged class, could never relate to the common man, because in order to do so they would have had to have been raised without priviledge, which would rob them of their ability to become credentialled specialists in compassion. An educated man spends a great deal of money and – more importantly – time, to learn how to justify with eloquence an empathy for suffering that is inborn, which is to say that institutional activism, especially among those of more modest means, is a leaching of raw catalysts from within oppressed communities. Institutional activists have always clung to obsolete organization methods and tactics, because they inevitably see each movement as a charge of the vanguard with the ignorant masses in tow. Before the cultural revolution they led with violent theory, before the technological revolution with cultural elitism, and before the present open- source revolution with technological sophistication. Even at this moment millions of men and women in America are in immediate contact with one another, their electronic gadgets entirely useless except for as toys. It is worth noticing that technology’s toys and, latterly, its tools, have always been more efficient in the hands of the self-aware. But on the national scale, and increasingly on the global, self-awareness is catching up to our levels of technological ability.
Within an unjust system, self-awareness is a weapon of mass destruction.
It must be admitted that so long as people were seperated the methods of the American ruling class were well enough transparent. Their manufactured ideological boxes filled themselves. But today, however divided Americans might be depicted, they are at any rate not out of touch with or ignorant of their fellow citizens. Citizens are in contact as no generation of America has ever been. Throughout its vast online social networks alone, over 60% of internet users or more than one hundred and thirty million Americans, there has long been enough organizational potential for a populist flash-revolution. As a model to organize by, and looking at them merely from a rational, efficiency standpoint, traditional political parties have no point. They were evolutions of the truly modern bureaucratic mold, that of the Technocrat and Manager and it has long been obvious that they have insulated our democracy against any serious reform from the outside.
They cannot free themselves from Bureaucracy or Authoritarianism, because they thrive on them. Neither could they embrace Democracy, if Democracy means a serious threat against entrenched power. To empower voters they would have had to practice the theory of egalitarianism, which would have forced them to realize that the economic barriers by which they promote party insiders and exclude outsiders is unjust, undemocratic and corrupt. But it is exactly this these traits that they have been created to promote. They deal with political innovators as the Gore/Kerry/Obama et al. campaigns of the 21st century have dealt with Ralph Nader – by ignoring him. After years of power accumulation and consolidation, they offer up only one explanation, that they are the only game in town. Therefore, it is argued, they must be chosen as the lesser of two evils to the Republican poison-pill. Hence the truly frightening spectacle of fellow Skull & Bones elites wildly cheered as representing the entirety of America’s political spectrum, bringing choice to the American People, that choice being a minor difference of institutional policy. Even when parties had begun to grasp that virtual organization was potent, their essentially coercive nature, the huge corporate war-chest they are capable of ammassing, the sort of hierarchical structure it can use, can quiet any potentially democratic unrest. At the time of the Obama campaign of 2008, anyone with an internet connection and a thirst for participatory Democracy could, if inclined, make a policy suggestion on Obama’s official campaign website; and yet it is openly dissected without apparent sense of irony how Obama turns to the specialists and technocrats who have given their professional careers to the study of policy issues. This vein of admitted technocracy runs right through American official life, through media interviews with specialists, experts, professionals, generals, credentialed, insiders. The citizen who longs for ‘self-governance’ does not have the credentials the ‘professionals’ have earned; if he did his he would not hold his position as a member of the disenfranchised class of the commoner. There is reason to think that even calls for direct democracy would be hopelessly hampered by lack of independent organization of the newly empowered citizenry and their being co-opted by the parasitic corporate parties and their tree-top astroturfing campaigns.
The American ruling class is not altogether wrong in suspecting that populism is not on their side. It is a fact that any rich man, unless he is a saint, has more to fear from Democracy than from either Fascism or corporate Socialism. One ought never to forget this, for nearly the whole of American political propaganda is designed to cover it up. The natural instinct of men like Hitler, Franco, Pinochet, Sudharto etc. was to come to an agreement with Business. But – and here the peculiar feature of American life that I have spoken of, the deep sense of national patriotic delusion, comes in – they could only do so by defending the Homeland and selling their own people on a militarized society. A truly manipulated population would have acheived this transformation without hesitation, as in WWII Germany. But things have not gone that distance in America. Figures who would make cringing speeches about ‘the patriotic duty to shut the hell up’ are ridiculed in American media. Tossed to and fro between upholding a mythological democratic tradition and promoting their own class-centric machinations, it is impossible that men like Obama can do anything but make a sideways case for authoritarianism couched in meaningless platitudes.
One thing that has always shown that the American population as a whole are morally fairly sound, is that in time of war they are ready enough to believe in altruistic narratives. Several humanitarian war columns, articles and what nots can often be found in the most popular papers in America. That could not happen if these people were the war-mongering scoundrels that they are sometimes declared to be. It is important not to mistake the motives of a misled citizenry for those of its rotted leadership, or one cannot place hope in reform. What is to be expected of an empowered America is not warfare, or political turmoil, but self-governance, conscious problem solving, a redirection of resources towards the majority of society and the benefit of the common good. They are not ignorant, or not altogether ignorant; they are merely unpracticed. Only when their obstructions to self-governance are gone will the younger among them begin to learn what their true potential may hold.
The stagnation of social activism in the modern generation has affected everyone in America, but it is having an especially direct effect upon two important sub-sections of the political spectrum. One is the educated and liberal agitator, generally nicknamed the far-left, and the other the so-called tea-party conservative. These two seemingly hostile types, symbolic opposites – the half-tenured professor with his pencil neck and formulaic brain, like a high priest, the townhall patriot with his Reagan quotes and bull-like frustration – are mentally linked together and constantly interact upon one another; in any case they are born to a considerable extent out of the same populist frustration.
Forty years ago the social crusader was already having his identity fractured. The northern civil-rights sympathizers, the prolific highbrow families whose children were Freedom Riders throughout the segregated South encouraging the rural blacks who would become the backbone of the civil-rights movement from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans, R.I.P., were criticized for being unpatriotic even before they started. The men who conspired to kill Martin Luther King Jr., however, were the very definition of patriotism, that is, agents of the State. In a wrongful death civil trial, with a verdict finally reached in 1999, a jury concluded that his assassination was an act of the United States government.
“In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes.”
-Judge James E. Swearengen, King Family vs Jowers and Other Unknown Co-Conspirators
Leaders like King, Malcolm, Kennedy, and again Kennedy would find no place for themselves in the modern American Empire/Colony. In a decade which opened with the agency assassination of the first elected Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo, by 1968 every one of the preceding names were added to the list of slain. Patriotic, overtly- civilized spooks, in dark suits and black felt hats, with neatly rolled Wall St. Journals crooked into the left forearm, were imposing their constipated view of Pax Americana within and without the country, one covert action at a time. The targeting of domestic leaders with mass appeal helped to staunch an upwelling of broad-based social reform, reducing activism to the status of single issues, buried deeper and deeper under waves of platitudes and mollified rhetoric. In his later years one could see, in all of his actions, the generalist King, who more than a dream of racial equality had a suspicion that social justice spilled beyond civil rights, venturing potently into the topics of economic policy and state militarism. From that generation onwards it has been next door to impossible to create a coalition of activists to take any part in a transformative social movement. And what was true of the activist world is true also of the political candidate. The tactic of pandering to one’s base replaced the coalition builder. Instead of going out to carry on the fight to abolish poverty and end American militarism MLK’s legacy was dilluted into purely racial terms with whatever macroscopic message for social improvement being overshadowed by the emergence of his ideologically and ethnically blinded posterity. “Now don’t think you have me in a bind today” King told the members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference regarding his late economic initiatives, “my inspiration did not come from Karl Marx…America, you must be born again!” Reformers in subsequent generations have been actually duller and narrower in their scope than in the sixties. Economic critique remained strong in the activist, chiefly owing to recognition of the flaws in American-styled capitalism, but the task of reforming – and further still, transforming – the whole of America has ceased to appeal. Few reformists venture outside of their single issue specialty if there is any way of avoiding it.
The general balkinization of social activism, and to some extent of the collective American Conscience, that has taken place during the past decades precipitated the emergence of right-wing populism, a kind of growth that has sprouted from the neglected fields of the liberal generalist-turned-specialist.
It should be noted that there is now no populism that is not in some sense ‘right’. Perhaps the most recognizeable, and ironically villified, left-wing exception has been Ralph Nader. Since Ross Perot saw his shadow, most candidates describable as a ‘populist’ have ridden upon a libertarian discontent with the existing bureaucracy. Necessarily so, because the party system, as it is constituted, has no room for him. In a democracy that is simply illusionary, inhibiting both innovation and reform, and in an America ruled by political cults whose chief priority is their retention of power, to ‘represent the interests of the common citizen’ is to commit class betrayal. If you have the kind of sincerity that can empathize with the common man or appreciate stubborn independence, the two-party duopoly works against your gaining any important political office. The populists could find a home for themselves only in the libertarian respect for freedom among the far-right political fringe.
Dennis Kucinich, for example, did not have the audacity to organize an alternative event to protest his party’s anti-democratic convention as Ron Paul and his supporters did in 2008 (check?). Compared to Paul’s consistent support from the politically dissatisfied, John Edward’s once-lauded populism was a flash in the Iowa pan. And Obama, as I mentioned earlier, was a clinic in the manufacturing of a hollow brand, winning a coveted marketing industry award in the process.
The emergence of American right-wing populism can be studied in half a dozen newpapers and magazine articles. The immediately striking thing about all these articles is their generally party-based, divisive analysis, their complete lack at all times of any social contextualization of the source of the tea-party’s attraction. There is little in them except the superficial description of voters who, beyond policy opinions, actually suspect that their very welfare is of little concern to their politicians in positions of power. In other words, they are questioning the humanity of the American democratic system. Another glossed-over characteristic is the mental flexibility of people who live in a society of diversity and have little interest with ideological purity. Many tea-partiers of the Right will openly wonder what we are doing in Iraq, even admitting that the invasion was a manipulation of the public trust, before promptly transitioning to a necessity to support the troops now that they’re there. It is broadly though not precisely true that the conservatives who were mostly ‘pro-war’ during the invasion are mostly skeptical now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of American political independents – their pessimism of any major government initiative, domestic or foreign.
As a political organization, at any rate, the official tea-partiers are Corporatized. They take a majority of their funding from wealthy elites and their policy suggestions mirror institutional think-tanks. In the general desert of nationwide activism they form a sort of oasis of corporate-irrigated libertarian thought. America is perhaps the most advanced ostensibly democratic country in the logistics of manufactured political thought: from its intellectual mining to its final mass consumption. In right-wing populism it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an intellectual and that it is a duty to smirk at every higher-educational reference, from ivory towers to political correctedness. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any American conservative would feel more ashamed of not crossing his heart during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ than of not knowing the names of his elected officials. All through the recent decades many right-wingers were chipping away at ‘big government’, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes proudly ignorant, sometimes violently pro-American, but always anti-intellectual. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the American people have suffered for the past generation a real retardation of public political discussion, so that the Corporate interests judged that they were ‘maleable’ and that it was safe to finance a populist movement, the intellectual phobia from the Right is partly responsible. And yet as both the Glenn Becks and the Sara Palins cry out against the intellectual elite, they merely serve as spokesmen themselves for political opinions manufactured high above their mental rank. After all, before their political prominence their respective claims to fame were morning shock-jock and beauty pageant doll. A generation of systematic political-amnesia affects even the cultural leaders themselves and makes it harder than it has been before to get an objective wide-angle view of the general political reality, of course assuming cultural leaders are even interested in the search for truth. Given the fragmentation of the social reformer, our societal conscience must have atrophied in any case, but the spread of a pride in political ignorance and the corporate co-opting of populist resentment hastened the process.
It is clear that the special position of the American populists during the past couple years, as purely conservative creatures, mere anti-government, was a result of corporate-class engineering. Actual activists could not organize them, and they had not got it in them to see that defense of one’s country implies ‘foreign & domestic enemies’. Both the far left and tea-partiers took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you watched Fox News and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not politically correct’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the period costumes and regarded the whole movement as inane. It is obvious that this artificial division of what are common complaints against a stifling American democracy cannot continue. The collegiate highbrow, with his tuitional compassion, is as self-defeating as the corporate populist. A mass movement cannot afford either of them. The dissatisfied of both the left and the right will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are facing a systemic corruption, and a very peculiar kind of corruption, that may make this possible.
One of the most important developments in England during the past twenty years has been the upward and downward extension of the middle class. It has happened on such a scale as to make the old classification of society into capitalists, proletarians and petit bourgeois (small property-owners) almost obsolete.
England is a country in which property and financial power are concentrated in very few hands. Few people in modern England own anything at all, except clothes, furniture and possibly a house. The peasantry have long since disappeared, the independent shopkeeper is being destroyed, the small businessman is diminishing in numbers. But at the same time modern industry is so complicated that it cannot get along without great numbers of managers, salesmen, engineers, chemists and technicians of all kinds, drawing fairly large salaries. And these in turn call into being a professional class of doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, etc. etc. The tendency of advanced capitalism has therefore been to enlarge the middle class and not to wipe it out as it once seemed likely to do.
But much more important than this is the spread of middle-class ideas and habits among the working class. The British working class are now better off in almost all ways than they were thirty years ago. This is partly due to the efforts of the trade unions, but partly to the mere advance of physical science. It is not always realized that within rather narrow limits the standard of life of a country can rise without a corresponding rise in real wages. Up to a point, civilization can lift itself up by its boot-tags. However unjustly society is organized, certain technical advances are bound to benefit the whole community, because certain kinds of goods are necessarily held in common. A millionaire cannot, for example, light the streets for himself while darkening them for other people. Nearly all citizens of civilized countries now enjoy the use of good roads, germ-free water, police protection, free libraries and probably free education of a kind. Public education in England has been meanly starved of money, but it has nevertheless improved, largely owing to the devoted efforts of the teachers, and the habit of reading has become enormously
more widespread. To an increasing extent the rich and the poor read the same books, and they also see the same films and listen to the same radio programmes. And the differences in their way of life have been diminished by the mass- production of cheap clothes and improvements in housing. So far as outward appearance goes, the clothes of rich and poor, especially in the case of women, differ far less than they did thirty or even fifteen years ago. As to housing, England still has slums which are a blot on civilization, but much building has been done during the past ten years, largely by the local authorities. The modern council house, with its bathroom and electric light, is smaller than the stockbroker’s villa, but it is recognizably the same kind of house, which the farm labourer’s cottage is not. A person who has grown up in a council housing estate is likely to be – indeed, visibly is – more middle class in outlook than a person who has grown up in a slum.
The effect of all this is a general softening of manners. It is enhanced by the fact that modern industrial methods tend always to demand less muscular effort and therefore to leave people with more energy when their day’s work is done. Many workers in the light industries are less truly manual labourers than is a doctor or a grocer. In tastes, habits, manners and outlook the working class and the middle class are drawing together. The unjust distinctions remain, but the real differences diminish. The old-style ‘proletarian’ – collarless, unshaven and with muscles warped by heavy labour – still exists, but he is constantly decreasing in numbers; he only predominates in the heavy-industry areas of the north of England.
After 1918 there began to appear something that had never existed in England before: people of indeterminate social class. In 1910 every human being in these islands could be ‘placed’ in an instant by his clothes, manners and accent. That is no longer the case. Above all, it is not the case in the new townships that have developed as a result of cheap motor cars and the southward shift of industry. The place to look for the germs of the future England is in light-industry areas and along the arterial roads. In Slough, Dagenham, Barnet, Letchworth, Hayes – everywhere, indeed, on the outskirts of great towns – the old pattern is gradually changing into something new. In those vast new wildernesses of glass and brick the sharp distinctions of the older kind of town, with its slums and mansions, or of the country, with its manor-houses and squalid cottages, no longer exist. There are wide gradations of income, but it is the same kind of life that is being lived at different levels, in labour-saving flats or council houses, along the concrete roads and in the naked democracy of the swimming-pools. It is a rather restless, cultureless life, centring round tinned food, Picture Post, the radio and the internal combustion engine. It is a civilization in which children grow up with an intimate knowledge of magnetoes and in complete ignorance of the Bible. To that civilization belong the people who are most at home in and most definitely of the modern world, the technicians and the higher-paid skilled workers, the airmen and their mechanics, the radio experts, film producers, popular journalists and industrial chemists. They are the indeterminate stratum at which the older class distinctions are beginning to break down.
This war, unless we are defeated, will wipe out most of the existing class privileges. There are every day fewer people who wish them to continue. Nor need we fear that as the pattern changes life in England will lose its peculiar flavour. The new red cities of Greater London are crude enough, but these things are only the rash that accompanies a change. In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. The Stock Exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children’s holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.
Shopkeepers At War I
I began this book to the tune of German bombs, and I begin this second chapter in the added racket of the barrage. The yellow gun-flashes are lighting the sky, the splinters are rattling on the housetops, and London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. Anyone able to read a map knows that we are in deadly danger. I do not mean that we are beaten or need be beaten. Almost certainly the outcome depends on our own will. But at this moment we are in the soup, full fathom five, and we have been brought there by follies which we are still committing and which will drown us altogether if we do not mend our ways quickly.
What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism – that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit – does not work. It cannot deliver the goods. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. Argument and propaganda got one nowhere. The lords of property simply sat on their bottoms and proclaimed that all was for the best. Hitler’s conquest of Europe, however, was a physical debunking of capitalism. War, for all its evil, is at any rate an unanswerable test of strength, like a try-your-grip machine. Great strength returns the penny, and there is no way of faking the result.
When the nautical screw was first invented, there was a controversy that lasted for years as to whether screw-steamers or paddle-steamers were better. The paddle- steamers, like all obsolete things, had their champions, who supported them by ingenious arguments. Finally, however, a distinguished admiral tied a screw-steamer and a paddle-steamer of equal horsepower stern to stern and set their engines running. That settled the question once and for all. And it was something similar that happened on the fields of Norway and of Flanders. Once and for all it was proved that a planned economy is stronger than a planless one. But it is necessary here to give some kind of definition to those much-abused words, Socialism and Fascism.
Socialism is usually defined as ‘common ownership of the means of production’. Crudely: the State, representing the whole nation, owns everything, and everyone is a State employee. This does not mean that people are stripped of private possessions such as clothes and furniture, but it does mean that all productive goods, such as land, mines, ships and machinery, are the property of the State. The State is the sole large-scale producer. It is not certain that Socialism is in all ways superior to capitalism, but it is certain that, unlike capitalism, it can solve the problems of production and consumption. At normal times a capitalist economy can never consume all that it produces, so that there is always a wasted surplus (wheat burned in furnaces, herrings dumped back into the sea etc. etc.) and always unemployment. In time of war, on the other hand, it has difficulty in producing all that it needs, because nothing is produced unless someone sees his way to making a profit out of it.
In a Socialist economy these problems do not exist. The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them. Production is only limited by the amount of labour and raw materials. Money, for internal purposes, ceases to be a mysterious all-powerful thing and becomes a sort of coupon or ration-ticket, issued in sufficient quantities to buy up such consumption goods as may be available at the moment.
However, it has become clear in the last few years that ‘common ownership of the means of production’ is not in itself a sufficient definition of Socialism. One must also add the following: approximate equality of incomes (it need be no more than approximate), political democracy, and abolition of all hereditary privilege, especially in education. These are simply the necessary safeguards against the reappearance of a class-system. Centralized ownership has very little meaning unless the mass of the people are living roughly upon an equal level, and have some kind of control over the government. ‘The State’ may come to mean no more than a self-elected political party, and oligarchy and privilege can return, based on power rather than on money.
But what then is Fascism?
Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and – this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism – generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.
But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations. Eminent Nazi professors have ‘proved’ over and over again that only nordic man is fully human, have even mooted the idea that non-nordic peoples (such as ourselves) can interbreed with gorillas! Therefore, while a species of war-Socialism exists within the German state, its attitude towards conquered nations is frankly that of an exploiter. The function of the Czechs, Poles, French, etc. is simply to produce such goods as Germany may need, and get in return just as little as will keep them from open rebellion. If we are conquered, our job will probably be to manufacture weapons for Hitler’s forthcoming wars with Russia and America. The Nazis aim, in effect, at setting up a kind of caste system, with four main castes corresponding rather closely to those of the Hindu religion. At the top comes the Nazi party, second come the mass of the German people, third come the conquered European populations. Fourth and last are to come the coloured peoples, the ‘semi-apes’ as Hitler calls them, who are to be reduced quite openly to slavery.
However horrible this system may seem to us, it works. It works because it is a planned system geared to a definite purpose, world-conquest, and not allowing any private interest, either of capitalist or worker, to stand in its way. British capitalism does not work, because it is a competitive system in which private profit is and must be the main objective. It is a system in which all the forces are pulling in opposite
directions and the interests of the individual are as often as not totally opposed to those of the State.
All through the critical years British capitalism, with its immense industrial plant and its unrivalled supply of skilled labour, was unequal to the strain of preparing for war. To prepare for war on the modern scale you have got to divert the greater part of your national income to armaments, which means cutting down on consumption goods. A bombing plane, for instance, is equivalent in price to fifty small motor cars, or eight thousand pairs of silk stockings, or a million loaves of bread. Clearly you can’t have many bombing planes without lowering the national standard of life. It is guns or butter, as Marshal Goering remarked. But in Chamberlain’s England the transition could not be made. The rich would not face the necessary taxation, and while the rich are still visibly rich it is not possible to tax the poor very heavily either. Moreover, so long as profit was the main object the manufacturer had no incentive to change over from consumption goods to armaments. A businessman’s first duty is to his shareholders. Perhaps England needs tanks, but perhaps it pays better to manufacture motor cars. To prevent war material from reaching the enemy is common sense, but to sell in the highest market is a business duty. Right at the end of August 1939 the British dealers were tumbling over one another in their eagerness to sell Germany tin, rubber, copper and shellac – and this in the clear, certain knowledge that war was going to break out in a week or two. It was about as sensible as selling somebody a razor to cut your throat with. But it was ‘good business’.
And now look at the results. After 1934 it was known that Germany was rearming. After 1936 everyone with eyes in his head knew that war was coming. After Munich it was merely a question of how soon the war would begin. In September 1939 war broke out. Eight months later it was discovered that, so far as equipment went, the British army was barely beyond the standard of 1918. We saw our soldiers fighting their way desperately to the coast, with one aeroplane against three, with rifles against tanks, with bayonets against tommy-guns. There were not even enough revolvers to supply all the officers. After a year of war the regular army was still short of 300,000 tin hats. There had even, previously, been a shortage of uniforms – this in one of the greatest woollen-goods producing countries in the world!
What had happened was that the whole moneyed class, unwilling to face a change in their way of life, had shut their eyes to the nature of Fascism and modern war. And false optimism was fed to the general public by the gutter press, which lives on its advertisements and is therefore interested in keeping trade conditions normal. Year after year the Beaverbrook press assured us in huge headlines that THERE WILL BE NO WAR, and as late as the beginning of 1939 Lord Rothermere was describing Hitler as ‘a great gentleman’. And while England in the moment of disaster proved to be short of every war material except ships, it is not recorded that there was any
shortage of motor cars, fur coats, gramophones, lipstick, chocolates or silk stockings. And dare anyone pretend that the same tug-of-war between private profit and public necessity is not still continuing? England fights for her life, but business must fight for profits. You can hardly open a newspaper without seeing the two contradictory processes happening side by side. On the very same page you will find the Government urging you to save and the seller of some useless luxury urging you to spend. Lend to Defend, but Guinness is Good for You. Buy a Spitfire, but also buy Haig and Haig, Pond’s Face Cream and Black Magic Chocolates.
But one thing gives hope – the visible swing in public opinion. If we can survive this war, the defeat in Flanders will turn out to have been one of the great turning-points in English history. In that spectacular disaster the working class, the middle class and even a section of the business community could see the utter rottenness of private capitalism. Before that the case against capitalism had never been proved. Russia, the only definitely Socialist country, was backward and far away. All criticism broke itself against the rat-trap faces of bankers and the brassy laughter of stockbrokers. Socialism? Ha! ha! ha! Where’s the money to come from? Ha! ha! ha! The lords of property were firm in their seats, and they knew it. But after the French collapse there came something that could not be laughed away, something that neither cheque-books nor policemen were any use against – the bombing. Zweee – BOOM! What’s that? Oh, only a bomb on the Stock Exchange. Zweee – BOOM! Another acre of somebody’s valuable slum-property gone west. Hitler will at any rate go down in history as the man who made the City of London laugh on the wrong side of its face. For the first time in their lives the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong. It was a great step forward. From that time onwards the ghastly job of trying to convince artificially stupefied people that a planned economy might be better than a free-for-all in which the worst man wins – that job will never be quite so ghastly again.
The difference between Socialism and capitalism is not primarily a difference of technique. One cannot simply change from one system to the other as one might install a new piece of machinery in a factory, and then carry on as before, with the same people in positions of control. Obviously there is also needed a complete shift of power. New blood, new men, new ideas – in the true sense of the word, a revolution.
I have spoken earlier of the soundness and homogeneity of England, the patriotism that runs like a connecting thread through almost all classes. After Dunkirk anyone who had eyes in his head could see this. But it is absurd to pretend that the promise of that moment has been fulfilled. Almost certainly the mass of the people are now
ready for the vast changes that are necessary; but those changes have not even begun to happen.
England is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory. They could not do it, even if their material interests did not constantly trip them up. As I pointed out earlier, they have been artificially stupefied. Quite apart from anything else, the rule of money sees to it that we shall be governed largely by the old – that is, by people utterly unable to grasp what age they are living in or what enemy they are fighting. Nothing was more desolating at the beginning of this war than the way in which the whole of the older generation conspired to pretend that it was the war of 1914-18 over again. All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces. Ian Hay was cheering up the troops, Belloc was writing articles on strategy, Maurois doing broadcasts, Bairnsfather drawing cartoons. It was like a tea-party of ghosts. And that state of affairs has barely altered. The shock of disaster brought a few able men like Bevin to the front, but in general we are still commanded by people who managed to live through the years 1931-9 without even discovering that Hitler was dangerous. A generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses.
As soon as one considers any problem of this war – and it does not matter whether it is the widest aspect of strategy or the tiniest detail of home organization – one sees that the necessary moves cannot be made while the social structure of England remains what it is. Inevitably, because of their position and upbringing, the ruling class are fighting for their own privileges, which cannot possibly be reconciled with the public interest. It is a mistake to imagine that war aims, strategy, propaganda and industrial organization exist in watertight compartments. All are interconnected. Every strategic plan, every tactical method, even every weapon will bear the stamp of the social system that produced it. The British ruling class are fighting against Hitler, whom they have always regarded and whom some of them still regard as their protector against Bolshevism. That does not mean that they will deliberately sell out; but it does mean that at every decisive moment they are likely to falter, pull their punches, do the wrong thing.
Until the Churchill Government called some sort of halt to the process, they have done the wrong thing with an unerring instinct ever since 1931. They helped Franco to overthrow the Spanish Government, although anyone not an imbecile could have told them that a Fascist Spain would be hostile to England. They fed Italy with war materials all through the winter of 1939-40, although it was obvious to the whole world that the Italians were going to attack us in the spring. For the sake of a few hundred thousand dividend-drawers they are turning India from an ally into an
enemy. Moreover, so long as the moneyed classes remain in control, we cannot develop any but a defensive strategy. Every victory means a change in the status quo. How can we drive the Italians out of Abyssinia without rousing echoes among the coloured peoples of our own Empire? How can we even smash Hitler without the risk of bringing the German Socialists and Communists into power? The left- wingers who wail that ‘this is a capitalist war’ and that ‘British Imperialism’ is fighting for loot have got their heads screwed on backwards. The last thing the British moneyed class wish for is to acquire fresh territory. It would simply be an embarrassment. Their war aim (both unattainable and unmentionable) is simply to hang on to what they have got.
Internally, England is still the rich man’s Paradise. All talk of ‘equality of sacrifice’ is nonsense. At the same time as factory-workers are asked to put up with longer hours, advertisements for ‘Butler. One in family, eight in staff’ are appearing in the press. The bombed-out populations of the East End go hungry and homeless while wealthier victims simply step into their cars and flee to comfortable country houses. The Home Guard swells to a million men in a few weeks, and is deliberately organized from above in such a way that only people with private incomes can hold positions of command. Even the rationing system is so arranged that it hits the poor all the time, while people with over £2,000 a year are practically unaffected by it. Everywhere privilege is squandering good will. In such circumstances even propaganda becomes almost impossible. As attempts to stir up patriotic feeling, the red posters issued by the Chamberlain Government at the beginning of the war broke all depth-records. Yet they could not have been much other than they were, for how could Chamberlain and his followers take the risk of rousing strong popular feeling against Fascism? Anyone who was genuinely hostile to Fascism must also be opposed to Chamberlain himself and to all the others who had helped Hitler into power. So also with external propaganda. In all Lord Halifax’s speeches there is not one concrete proposal for which a single inhabitant of Europe would risk the top joint of his little finger. For what war aim can Halifax, or anyone like him, conceivably have, except to put the clock back to 1933?
It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power. Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place. Nor does it mean the dictatorship of a single class. The people in England who grasp what changes are needed and are capable of carrying them through are not confined to any one class, though it is true that very few people with over £2,000 a year are among them. What is wanted is a conscious open revolt by ordinary people against inefficiency, class privilege and the rule of the old. It is not primarily a question of change of government. British governments do, broadly speaking, represent the will of the people, and if we alter our structure from below we shall get the government we need. Ambassadors, generals, officials and colonial
administrators who are senile or pro-Fascist are more dangerous than Cabinet ministers whose follies have to be committed in public. Right through our national life we have got to fight against privilege, against the notion that a half-witted public-schoolboy is better for command than an intelligent mechanic. Although there are gifted and honest individuals among them, we have got to break the grip of the moneyed class as a whole. England has got to assume its real shape. The England that is only just beneath the surface, in the factories and the newspaper offices, in the aeroplanes and the submarines, has got to take charge of its own destiny.
In the short run, equality of sacrifice, ‘war-Communism’, is even more important than radical economic changes. It is very necessary that industry should be nationalized, but it is more urgently necessary that such monstrosities as butlers and ‘private incomes’ should disappear forthwith. Almost certainly the main reason why the Spanish Republic could keep up the fight for two and a half years against impossible odds was that there were no gross contrasts of wealth. The people suffered horribly, but they all suffered alike. When the private soldier had not a cigarette, the general had not one either. Given equality of sacrifice, the morale of a country like England would probably be unbreakable. But at present we have nothing to appeal to except traditional patriotism, which is deeper here than elsewhere, but is not necessarily bottomless. At some point or another you have got to deal with the man who says ‘I should be no worse off under Hitler’. But what answer can you give him – that is, what answer that you can expect him to listen to – while common soldiers risk their lives for two and sixpence a day, and fat women ride about in Rolls-Royce cars, nursing pekineses?
It is quite likely that this war will last three years. It will mean cruel overwork, cold dull winters, uninteresting food, lack of amusements, prolonged bombing. It cannot but lower the general standard of living, because the essential act of war is to manufacture armaments instead of consumable goods. The working class will have to suffer terrible things. And they will suffer them, almost indefinitely, provided that they know what they are fighting for. They are not cowards, and they are not even internationally minded. They can stand all that the Spanish workers stood, and more. But they will want some kind of proof that a better life is ahead for themselves and their children. The one sure earnest of that is that when they are taxed and overworked they shall see that the rich are being hit even harder. And if the rich squeal audibly, so much the better.
We can bring these things about, if we really want to. It is not true that public opinion has no power in England. It never makes itself heard without achieving something; it has been responsible for most of the changes for the better during the past six months. But we have moved with glacier-like slowness, and we have learned only from disasters. It took the fall of Paris to get rid of Chamberlain and the unnecessary suffering of scores of thousands of people in the East End to get rid or
partially rid of Sir John Anderson. It is not worth losing a battle in order to bury a corpse. For we are fighting against swift evil intelligences, and time presses, and history to the defeated May say Alas! but cannot alter or pardon.
During the last six months there has been much talk of ‘the Fifth Column’. From time to time obscure lunatics have been jailed for making speeches in favour of Hitler, and large numbers of German refugees have been interned, a thing which has almost certainly done us great harm in Europe. It is of course obvious that the idea of a large, organized army of Fifth Columnists suddenly appearing on the streets with weapons in their hands, as in Holland and Belgium, is ridiculous. Nevertheless a Fifth Column danger does exist. One can only consider it if one also considers in what way England might be defeated.
It does not seem probable that air bombing can settle a major war. England might well be invaded and conquered, but the invasion would be a dangerous gamble, and if it happened and failed it would probably leave us more united and less Blimp- ridden than before. Moreover, if England were overrun by foreign troops the English people would know that they had been beaten and would continue the struggle. It is doubtful whether they could be held down permanently, or whether Hitler wishes to keep an army of a million men stationed in these islands. A government of –, – and – (you can fill in the names) would suit him better. The English can probably not be bullied into surrender, but they might quite easily be bored, cajoled or cheated into it, provided that, as at Munich, they did not know that they were surrendering. It could happen most easily when the war seemed to be going well rather than badly. The threatening tone of so much of the German and Italian propaganda is a psychological mistake. It only gets home on intellectuals. With the general public the proper approach would be ‘Let’s call it a draw’. It is when a peace-offer along those lines is made that the pro-Fascists will raise their voices.
But who are the pro-Fascists? The idea of a Hitler victory appeals to the very rich, to the Communists, to Mosley’s followers, to the pacifists, and to certain sections among the Catholics. Also, if things went badly enough on the Home Front, the whole of the poorer section of the working class might swing round to a position that was defeatist though not actively pro-Hitler.
In this motley list one can see the daring of German propaganda, its willingness to offer everything to everybody. But the various pro-Fascist forces are not consciously acting together, and they operate in different ways.
The Communists must certainly be regarded as pro-Hitler, and are bound to remain so unless Russian policy changes, but they have not very much influence. Mosley’s
Blackshirts, though now lying very low, are a more serious danger, because of the footing they probably possess in the armed forces. Still, even in its palmiest days Mosley’s following can hardly have numbered 50,000. Pacifism is a psychological curiosity rather than a political movement. Some of the extremer pacifists, starting out with a complete renunciation of violence, have ended by warmly championing Hitler and even toying with antisemitism. This is interesting, but it is not important. ‘Pure’ pacifism, which is a by-product of naval power, can only appeal to people in very sheltered positions. Moreover, being negative and irresponsible, it does not inspire much devotion. Of the membership of the Peace Pledge Union, less than fifteen per cent even pay their annual subscriptions. None of these bodies of people, pacifists, Communists or Blackshirts, could bring a large-scale stop-the-war movement into being by their own efforts. But they might help to make things very much easier for a treacherous government negotiating surrender. Like the French Communists, they might become the half-conscious agents of millionaires.
The real danger is from above. One ought not to pay any attention to Hitler’s recent line of talk about being the friend of the poor man, the enemy of plutocracy, etc. etc. Hitler’s real self is in Mein Kampf, and in his actions. He has never persecuted the rich, except when they were Jews or when they tried actively to oppose him. He stands for a centralized economy which robs the capitalist of most of his power but leaves the structure of society much as before. The State controls industry, but there are still rich and poor, masters and men. Therefore, as against genuine Socialism, the moneyed class have always been on his side. This was crystal clear at the time of the Spanish Civil War, and clear again at the time when France surrendered. Hitler’s puppet government are not working men, but a gang of bankers, gaga generals and corrupt right-wing politicians.
That kind of spectacular, conscious treachery is less likely to succeed in England, indeed is far less likely even to be tried. Nevertheless, to many payers of supertax this war is simply an insane family squabble which ought to be stopped at all costs. One need not doubt that a ‘peace’ movement is on foot somewhere in high places; probably a shadow Cabinet has already been formed. These people will get their chance not in the moment of defeat but in some stagnant period when boredom is reinforced by discontent. They will not talk about surrender, only about peace; and doubtless they will persuade themselves, and perhaps other people, that they are acting for the best. An army of unemployed led by millionaires quoting the Sermon on the Mount – that is our danger. But it cannot arise when we have once introduced a reasonable degree of social justice. The lady in the Rolls-Royce car is more damaging to morale than a fleet of Goering’s bombing planes.
Index > Library > Essays > Lion > English > E-text George Orwell
The English Revolution
The English revolution started several years ago, and it began to gather momentum when the troops came back from Dunkirk. Like all else in England, it happens in a sleepy, unwilling way, but it is happening. The war has speeded it up, but it has also increased, and desperately, the necessity for speed.
Progress and reaction are ceasing to have anything to do with party labels. If one wishes to name a particular moment, one can say that the old distinction between Right and Left broke down when Picture Post was first published. What are the politics of Picture Post? Or of Cavalcade, or Priestley’s broadcasts, or the leading articles in the Evening Standard? None of the old classifications will fit them. They merely point to the existence of multitudes of unlabelled people who have grasped within the last year or two that something is wrong. But since a classless, ownerless society is generally spoken of as ‘Socialism’, we can give that name to the society towards which we are now moving. The war and the revolution are inseparable. We cannot establish anything that a western nation would regard as Socialism without defeating Hitler; on the hand we cannot defeat Hitler while we remain economically and socially in the nineteenth century. The past is fighting the future and we have two years, a year, possibly only a few months, to see to it that the future wins.
We cannot look to this or to any similar government to put through the necessary changes of its own accord. The initiative will have to come from below. That means that there will have to arise something that has never existed in England, a Socialist movement that actually has the mass of the people behind it. But one must start by recognizing why it is that English Socialism has failed.
In England there is only one Socialist party that has ever seriously mattered, the Labour Party. It has never been able to achieve any major change, because except in purely domestic matters it has never possessed a genuinely independent policy. It was and is primarily a party of the trade unions, devoted to raising wages and improving working conditions. This meant that all through the critical years it was directly interested in the prosperity of British capitalism. In particular it was interested in the maintenance of the British Empire, for the wealth of England was drawn largely from Asia and Africa. The standard of living of the trade-union workers, whom the Labour Party represented, depended indirectly on the sweating of Indian coolies. At the same time the Labour Party was a Socialist party, using Socialist phraseology, thinking in terms of an old-fashioned anti-imperialism and
more or less pledged to make restitution to the coloured races. It had to stand for the ‘independence’ of India, just as it had to stand for disarmament and ‘progress’ generally. Nevertheless everyone was aware that this was nonsense. In the age of the tank and the bombing plane, backward agricultural countries like India and the African colonies can no more be independent than can a cat or a dog. Had any Labour government come into office with a clear majority and then proceeded to grant India anything that could truly be called independence, India would simply have been absorbed by Japan, or divided between Japan and Russia.
To a Labour government in power, three imperial policies would have been open. One was to continue administering the Empire exactly as before, which meant dropping all pretensions to Socialism. Another was to set the subject peoples ‘free’, which meant in practice handing them over to Japan, Italy and other predatory powers, and incidentally causing a catastrophic drop in the British standard of living. The third was to develop a positive imperial policy, and aim at transforming the Empire into a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics. But the Labour Party’s history and background made this impossible. It was a party of the trade unions, hopelessly parochial in outlook, with little interest in imperial affairs and no contacts among the men who actually held the Empire together. It would have had to hand the administration of India and Africa and the whole job of imperial defence to men drawn from a different class and traditionally hostile to Socialism. Overshadowing everything was the doubt whether a Labour government which meant business could make itself obeyed. For all the size of its following, the Labour Party had no footing in the navy, fleet or none in the army or air force, none whatever in the Colonial Services, and not even a sure footing in the Home Civil Service. In England its position was strong but not unchallengeable, and outside England all the points were in the hands of its enemies. Once in power, the same dilemma would always have faced it: carry out your promises, and risk revolt, or continue with the same policy as the Conservatives, and stop talking about Socialism. The Labour leaders never found a solution, and from 1935 onwards it was very doubtful whether they had any wish to take office. They had degenerated into a Permanent Opposition.
Outside the Labour Party there existed several extremist parties, of whom the Communists were the strongest. The Communists had considerable influence in the Labour Party in the years 1920-26 and 1935-9. Their chief importance, and that of the whole left wing of the Labour movement, was the part they played in alienating the middle classes from Socialism.
The history of the past seven years has made it perfectly clear that Communism has no chance in western Europe. The appeal of Fascism is enormously greater. In one country after another the Communists have been rooted out by their more up-to- date enemies, the Nazis. In the English-speaking countries they never had a serious
footing. The creed they were spreading could appeal only to a rather rare type of person, found chiefly in the middle-class intelligentsia, the type who has ceased to love his own country but still feels the need of patriotism, and therefore develops patriotic sentiments towards Russia. By 1940, after working for twenty years and spending a great deal a money, the British Communists had barely 20,000 members, actually a smaller number than they had started out with in 1920. The other Marxist parties were of even less importance. They had not the Russian money and prestige behind them, and even more than the Communists they were tied to the nineteenth- century doctrine of the class war. They continued year after year to preach this out- of-date gospel, and never drew any inference from the fact that it got them no followers.
Nor did any strong native Fascist movement grow up. Material conditions were not bad enough, and no leader who could be taken seriously was forthcoming. One would have had to look a long time to find a man more barren of ideas than Sir Oswald Mosley. He was as hollow as a jug. Even the elementary fact that Fascism must not offend national sentiment had escaped him. His entire movement was imitated slavishly from abroad, the uniform and the party programme from Italy and the salute from Germany, with the Jew-baiting tacked on as an afterthought, Mosley having actually started his movement with Jews among his most prominent followers. A man of the stamp of Bottomley or Lloyd George could perhaps have brought a real British Fascist movement into existence. But such leaders only appear when the psychological need for them exists.
After twenty years of stagnation and unemployment, the entire English Socialist movement was unable to produce a version of Socialism which the mass of the people could even find desirable. The Labour Party stood for a timid reformism, the Marxists were looking at the modern world through nineteenth-century spectacles. Both ignored agriculture and imperial problems, and both antagonized the middle classes. The suffocating stupidity of left-wing propaganda had frightened away whole classes of necessary people, factory managers, airmen, naval officers, farmers, white-collar workers, shopkeepers, policemen. All of these people had been taught to think of Socialism as something which menaced their livelihood, or as something seditious, alien, ‘anti-British’ as they would have called it. Only the intellectuals, the least useful section of the middle class, gravitated towards the movement.
A Socialist Party which genuinely wished to achieve anything would have started by facing several facts which to this day are considered unmentionable in left-wing circles. It would have recognized that England is more united than most countries, that the British workers have a great deal to lose besides their chains, and that the differences in outlook and habits between class and class are rapidly diminishing. In general, it would have recognized that the old-fashioned ‘proletarian revolution’ is an impossibility. But all through the between-war years no Socialist programme that
was both revolutionary and workable ever appeared; basically, no doubt, because no one genuinely wanted any major change to happen. The Labour leaders wanted to go on and on, drawing their salaries and periodically swapping jobs with the Conservatives. The Communists wanted to go on and on, suffering a comfortable martyrdom, meeting with endless defeats and afterwards putting the blame on other people. The left-wing intelligentsia wanted to go on and on, sniggering at the Blimps, sapping away at middle-class morale, but still keeping their favoured position as hangers-on of the dividend-drawers. Labour Party politics had become a variant of Conservatism, ‘revolutionary’ politics had become a game of make-believe.
Now however, the circumstances have changed, the drowsy years have ended. Being a Socialist no longer means kicking theoretically against a system which in practice you are fairly well satisfied with. This time our predicament is real. It is ‘the Philistines be upon thee, Samson’. We have got to make our words take physical shape, or perish. We know very well that with its present social structure England cannot survive, and we have got to make other people see that fact and act upon it. We cannot win the war without introducing Socialism, nor establish Socialism without winning the war. At such a time it is possible, as it was not in the peaceful years, to be both revolutionary and realistic. A Socialist movement which can swing the mass of the people behind it, drive the pro-Fascists out of positions of control, wipe out the grosser injustices and let the working class see that they have something to fight for, win over the middle classes instead of antagonizing them, produce a workable imperial policy instead of a mixture of humbug and Utopianism, bring patriotism and intelligence into partnership – for the first time, a movement of such a kind becomes possible.
The fact that we are at war has turned Socialism from a text-book word into a realizable policy.
The inefficiency of private capitalism has been proved all over Europe. Its injustice has been proved in the East End of London. Patriotism, against which the Socialists fought so long, has become a tremendous lever in their hands. People who at any other time would cling like glue to their miserable scraps of privilege, will surrender them fast enough when their country is in danger. War is the greatest of all agents of change. It speeds up all processes, wipes out minor distinctions, brings realities to the surface. Above all, war brings it home to the individual that he is not altogether an individual. It is only because they are aware of this that men will die on the field of battle. At this moment it is not so much a question of surrendering life as of surrendering leisure, comfort, economic liberty, social prestige. There are very few people England who really want to see their country conquered by Germany. If it can be made clear that defeating Hitler means wiping out class privilege, the great mass of middling people, the £6 a week to £2,000 a year class, will probably be on
our side. These people are quite indispensable, because they include most of the technical experts. Obviously the snobbishness and political ignorance of people like airmen and naval officers will be a very great difficulty. But without those airmen, destroyer commanders, etc. etc. we could not survive for a week. The only approach to them is through their patriotism. An intelligent Socialist movement will use their patriotism, instead of merely insulting it, as hitherto.
But do I mean that there will no opposition? Of course not. It would be childish to expect anything of the kind.
There will be a bitter political struggle, and there will be unconscious and half- conscious sabotage everywhere. At some point or other it may be necessary to use violence. It is easy to imagine a pro-Fascist rebellion breaking out in, for instance, India. We shall have to fight against bribery, ignorance and snobbery. The bankers and the larger businessmen, the landowners and dividend-drawers, the officials with their prehensile bottoms, will obstruct for all they are worth. Even the middle class will writhe when their accustomed way of life is menaced. But just because the English sense of national unity has never disintegrated because patriotism is finally stronger than class-hatred, the chances are that the will of the majority will prevail. It is no use imagining that one can make fundamental changes without causing a split in the nation; but the treacherous minority will be far smaller in time of war than it would be at any other time.
The swing of opinion is visibly happening, but it cannot be counted on to happen fast enough of its own accord. This war is a race between the consolidation of Hitler’s empire and the growth of democratic consciousness. Everywhere in England you can see a ding-dong battle ranging to and fro – in Parliament and in the Government, in the factories and the armed forces, in the pubs and the air-raid shelters, in the newspapers and on the radio. Every day there are tiny defeats, tiny victories. Morrison for Home Secretary – a few yards forward, Priestley shoved off the air – a few yards back. It is a struggle between the groping and the unteachable, between the young and the old, between the living and the dead. But it is very necessary that the discontent which undoubtedly exists should take a purposeful and not merely obstructive form. It is time for the people to define their war aims. What is wanted is a simple, concrete programme of action, which can be given all possible publicity, and round which public opinion can group itself.
I suggest that the following six-point programme is the kind of thing we need. The first three points deal with England’s internal policy, the other three with the Empire and the world:
1. Nationalization of land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.
2. Limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one.
3. Reform of the educational system along democratic lines.
4. Immediate Dominion status for India, with power to secede when the war is over.
5. Formation of an Imperial General Council, in which the coloured peoples are to be represented.
6. Declaration of formal alliance with China, Abyssinia and all other victims of the Fascist powers.
The general tendency of this programme is unmistakable. It aims quite frankly at turning this war into a revolutionary war and England into a Socialist democracy. I have deliberately included in it nothing that the simplest person could not understand and see the reason for. In the form in which I have put it, it could be printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. But for the purposes of this book a certain amount of amplification is needed.
1. Nationalization. One can ‘nationalize’ industry by the stroke of a pen, but the actual process is slow and complicated. What is needed is that the ownership of all major industry shall be formally vested in the State, representing the common people. Once that is done it becomes possible to eliminate the class of mere owners who live not by virtue of anything they produce but by the possession of title-deeds and share certificates. State-ownership implies, therefore, that nobody shall live without working. How sudden a change in the conduct of industry it implies is less certain. In a country like England we cannot rip down the whole structure and build again from the bottom, least of all in time of war. Inevitably the majority of industrial concerns will continue with much the same personnel as before, the one- time owners or managing directors carrying on with their jobs as State employees. There is reason to think that many of the smaller capitalists would actually welcome some such arrangement. The resistance will come from the big capitalists, the bankers, the landlords and the idle rich, roughly speaking the class with over £2,000 a year – and even if one counts in all their dependants there are not more than half a million of these people in England. Nationalization of agricultural land implies cutting out the landlord and the tithe drawer, but not necessarily interfering with the farmer. It is difficult to imagine any reorganization of English agriculture that would not retain most of the existing farms as units, at any rate at the beginning. The farmer, when he is competent, will continue as a salaried manager. He is virtually that already, with the added disadvantage of having to make a profit and being permanently in debt to the bank. With certain kinds of petty trading, and even the small-scale ownership of land, the State will probably not interfere at all. It would be a great mistake to start by victimizing the smallholder class, for instance. These people are necessary, on the whole they are competent, and the amount of work they do depends on the feeling that they are ‘their own masters’. But the State
will certainly impose an upward limit to the ownership of land (probably fifteen acres at the very most), and will never permit any ownership of land in town areas.
From the moment that all productive goods have been declared the property of the State, the common people will feel, as they cannot feel now, that the State is themselves. They will be ready then to endure the sacrifices that are ahead of us, war or no war. And even if the face of England hardly seems to change, on the day that our main industries are formally nationalized the dominance of a single class will have been broken. From then onwards the emphasis will be shifted from ownership to management, from privilege to competence. It is quite possible that State-ownership will in itself bring about less social change than will be forced upon us by the common hardships of war. But it is the necessary first step without any real reconstruction is impossible.
2. Incomes. Limitation of incomes implies the fixing of a minimum wage, which implies a managed internal currency based simply on the amount of consumption goods available. And this again implies a stricter rationing scheme than is now in operation. It is no use at this stage of the world’s history to suggest that all human beings should have exactly equal incomes. It has been shown over and over again that without some kind of money reward there is no incentive to undertake certain jobs. On the other hand the money reward need not be very large. In practice it is impossible that earnings should be limited quite as rigidly as I have suggested. There will always be anomalies and evasions. But there is no reason why ten to one should not be the maximum normal variation. And within those limits some sense of equality is possible. A man with £3 a week and a man with £1,500 a year can feel themselves fellow creatures, which the Duke of Westminster and the sleepers on the Embankment benches cannot.
3. Education. In wartime, educational reform must necessarily be promise rather than performance. At the moment we are not in a position to raise the school-leaving age or increase the teaching staffs of the elementary schools. But there are certain immediate steps that we could take towards a democratic educational system. We could start by abolishing the autonomy of the public schools and the older universities and flooding them with State-aided pupils chosen simply on grounds of ability. At present, public-school education is partly a training in class prejudice and partly a sort of tax that the middle classes pay to the upper class in return for the right to enter certain professions. It is true that that state of affairs is altering. The middle classes have begun to rebel against the expensiveness of education, and the war will bankrupt the majority of the public schools if it continues for another year or two. The evacuation is also producing certain minor changes. But there is a danger that some of the older schools, which will be able to weather the financial storm longest, will survive in some form or another as festering centres of snobbery. As for the 10,000 ‘private’ schools that England possesses, the vast majority of them
deserve nothing except suppression. They are simply commercial undertakings, and in many cases their educational level is actually lower than that of the elementary schools. They merely exist because of a widespread idea that there is something disgraceful in being educated by the public authorities. The State could quell this idea by declaring itself responsible for all education, even if at the start this were no more than a gesture. We need gestures as well as actions. It is all too obvious that our talk of ‘defending democracy’ is nonsense while it is a mere accident of birth that decides whether a gifted child shall or shall not get the education it deserves.
4. India. What we must offer India is not ‘freedom’, which, I have said earlier, is impossible, but alliance, partnership – in a word, equality. But we must also tell the Indians that they are free to secede, if they want to. Without that there can be no equality of partnership, and our claim to be defending the coloured peoples against Fascism will never be believed. But it is a mistake to imagine that if the Indians were free to cut themselves adrift they would immediately do so. When a British government offers them unconditional independence, they will refuse it. For as soon as they have the power to secede the chief reasons for doing so will have disappeared.
A complete severance of the two countries would be a disaster for India no less than for England. Intelligent Indians know this. As things are at present, India not only cannot defend itself, it is hardly even capable of feeding itself. The whole administration of the country depends on a framework of experts (engineers, forest officers, railwaymen, soldiers, doctors) who are predominantly English and could not be replaced within five or ten years. Moreover, English is the chief lingua franca and nearly the whole of the Indian intelligentsia is deeply anglicized. Any transference to foreign rule – for if the British marched out of India the Japanese and other powers would immediately march in – would mean an immense dislocation. Neither the Japanese, the Russians, the Germans nor the Italians would be capable of administering India even at the low level of efficiency that is attained by the British. They do not possess the necessary supplies of technical experts or the knowledge of languages and local conditions, and they probably could not win the confidence of indispensable go-betweens such as the Eurasians. If India were simply ‘liberated’, i.e. deprived of British military protection, the first result would be a fresh foreign conquest, and the second a series of enormous famines which would kill millions of people within a few years.
What India needs is the power to work out its own constitution without British interference, but in some kind of partnership that ensures its military protection and technical advice. This is unthinkable until there is a Socialist government in England. For at least eighty years England has artificially prevented the development of India, partly from fear of trade competition if India industries were too highly developed, partly because backward peoples are more easily governed
than civilized ones. It is a commonplace that the average Indian suffers far more from his own countrymen than from the British. The petty Indian capitalist exploits the town worker with the utmost ruthlessness, the peasant lives from birth to death in the grip of the money-lender. But all this is an indirect result of the British rule, which aims half-consciously at keeping India as backward as possible. The classes most loyal to Britain are the princes, the landowners and the business community – in general, the reactionary classes who are doing fairly well out of the status quo. The moment that England ceased to stand towards India in the relation of an exploiter, the balance of forces would be altered. No need then for the British to flatter the ridiculous Indian princes, with their gilded elephants and cardboard armies, to prevent the growth of the Indian trade unions, to play off Moslem against Hindu, to protect the worthless life of the money-lender, to receive the salaams of toadying minor officials, to prefer the half-barbarous Gurkha to the educated Bengali. Once check that stream of dividends that flows from the bodies of Indian coolies to the banking accounts of old ladies in Cheltenham, and the whole sahib- native nexus, with its haughty ignorance on one side and envy and servility on the other, can come to an end. Englishmen and Indians can work side by side for the development of India, and for the training of Indians in all the arts which, so far, they have been systematically prevented from learning. How many of the existing British personnel in India, commercial or official, would fall in with such an arrangement – which would mean ceasing once and for to be ‘sahibs’ – is a different question. But, broadly speaking, more is to be hoped from the younger men and from those officials (civil engineers, forestry and agriculture experts, doctors, educationists) who have been scientifically educated. The higher officials, the provincial governors, commissioners, judges, etc. are hopeless; but they are also the most easily replaceable.
That, roughly, is what would be meant by Dominion status if it were offered to India by a Socialist government. It is an offer of partnership on equal terms until such time as the world has ceased to be ruled by bombing planes. But we must add to it the unconditional right to secede. It is the only way of proving that we mean what we say. And what applies to India applies, mutatis mutandis, to Burma, Malaya and most of our African possessions.
5. and 6. explain themselves. They are the necessary preliminary to any claim that we are fighting this war for the protection of peaceful peoples against Fascist aggression.
Is it impossibly hopeful to think that such a policy as this could get a following in England? A year ago, even six months ago, it would have been, but not now. Moreover – and this is the peculiar opportunity of this moment – it could be given
the necessary publicity. There is now a considerable weekly press, with a circulation of millions, which would be ready to popularize – if not exactly the programme I have sketched above, at any rate some policy along those lines. There are even three or four daily papers which would be prepared to give it a sympathetic hearing. That is the distance we have travelled in the last six months.
But is such a policy realizable? That depends entirely on ourselves.
Some of the points I have suggested are of the kind that could be carried out immediately, others would take years or decades and even then would not be perfectly achieved. No political programme is ever carried out in its entirety. But what matters is that that or something like it should be our declared policy. It is always the direction that counts. It is of course quite hopeless to expect the present Government to pledge itself to any policy that implies turning this war into a revolutionary war. It is at best a government of compromise, with Churchill riding two horses like a circus acrobat. Before such measures as limitation of incomes become even thinkable, there will have to be complete shift of power away from the old ruling class. If during this winter the war settles into another stagnant period, we ought in my opinion to agitate for a General Election, a thing which the Tory Party machine will make frantic efforts to prevent. But even without an election we can get the government we want, provided that we want it urgently enough. A real shove from below will accomplish it. As to who will be in that government when it comes, I make no guess. I only know that the right men will be there when the people really want them, for it is movements that make leaders and not leaders movements.
Within a year, perhaps even within six months, if we are still unconquered, we shall see the rise of something that has never existed before, a specifically English Socialist movement. Hitherto there has been only the Labour Party, which was the creation of the working class but did not aim at any fundamental change, and Marxism, which was a German theory interpreted by Russians and unsuccessfully transplanted to England. There was nothing that really touched the heart of the English people. Throughout its entire history the English Socialist movement has never produced a song with a catchy tune – nothing like La Marseillaise or La Cucaracha, for instance. When a Socialist movement native to England appears, the Marxists, like all others with a vested interest in the past, will be its bitter enemies. Inevitably they will denounce it as ‘Fascism’. Already it is customary among the more soft-boiled intellectuals of the Left to declare that if we fight against Nazis we shall ‘go Nazi’ ourselves. They might almost equally well say that if we fight Negroes we shall turn black. To ‘go Nazi’ we should have to have the history of Germany behind us. Nations do not escape from their past merely by making a revolution. An English Socialist government will transform the nation from top to bottom, but it
will still bear all over it the unmistakable marks of our own civilization, the peculiar civilization which I discussed earlier in this book.
It will not be doctrinaire, nor even logical. It will abolish the House of Lords, but quite probably will not abolish the Monarchy. It will leave anachronisms and loose ends everywhere, the judge in his ridiculous horsehair wig and the lion and the unicorn on the soldier’s cap-buttons. It will not set up any explicit class dictatorship. It will group itself round the old Labour Party and its mass following will be in the trade unions, but it will draw into it most of the middle class and many of the younger sons of the bourgeoisie. Most of its directing brains will come from the new indeterminate class of skilled workers, technical experts, airmen, scientists, architects and journalists, the people who feel at home in the radio and ferro- concrete age. But it will never lose touch with the tradition of compromise and the belief in a law that is above the State. It will shoot traitors, but it will give them a solemn trial beforehand and occasionally it will acquit them. It will crush any open revolt promptly and cruelly, but it will interfere very little with the spoken and written word. Political parties with different names will still exist, revolutionary sects will still be publishing their newspapers and making as little impression as ever. It will disestablish the Church, but will not persecute religion. It will retain a vague reverence for the Christian moral code, and from time to time will refer to England as ‘a Christian country’. The Catholic Church will war against it, but the Nonconformist sects and the bulk of the Anglican Church will be able to come to terms with it. It will show a power of assimilating the past which will shock foreign observers and sometimes make them doubt whether any revolution has happened.
But all the same it will have done the essential thing. It will have nationalized industry, scaled down incomes, set up a classless educational system. Its real nature will be apparent from the hatred which the surviving rich men of the world will feel for it. It will aim not at disintegrating the Empire but at turning it into a federation of Socialist states, freed not so much from the British flag as from the money-lender, the dividend-drawer and the wooden-headed British official. Its war strategy will be totally different from that of any property-ruled state, because it will not be afraid of the revolutionary after-effects when any existing régime is brought down. It will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellion in enemy colonies. It will fight in such a way that even if it is beaten its memory will be dangerous to the victor, as the memory of the French Revolution was dangerous to Metternich’s Europe. The dictators will fear it as they could not fear the existing British régime, even if its military strength were ten times what it is.
But at this moment, when the drowsy life of England has barely altered, and the offensive contrast of wealth and poverty still exists everywhere, even amid the bombs, why do I dare to say that all these things ‘will’ happen?
Because the time has come when one can predict the future in terms of an ‘either – or’. Either we turn this war into a revolutionary war (I do not say that our policy will be exactly what I have indicated above – merely that it will be along those general lines) or we lose it, and much more besides. Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. Our real forces, physical, moral or intellectual, cannot be mobilized.
Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be mystically the same. It is the bridge between the future and the past. No real revolutionary has ever been an internationalist.
During the past twenty years the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm. It would have been harmful even if we had been living in the squashy League of Nations universe that these people imagined. In an age of fuehrers and bombing planes it was a disaster. However little we may like it, toughness is the price of survival. A nation trained to think hedonistically cannot survive amid peoples who work like slaves and breed like rabbits, and whose chief national industry is war. English Socialists of nearly all colours have wanted to make a stand against Fascism, but at the same time they have aimed at making their own countrymen unwarlike. They have failed, because in England traditional loyalties are stronger than new ones. But in spite of all the ‘anti-Fascist’ heroics of the left-wing press, what chance should we have stood when the real struggle with Fascism came, if the average Englishman had been the kind of creature that the New Statesman, the Daily Worker or even the News Chronicle wished to make him?
Up to 1935 virtually all English left-wingers were vaguely pacifist. After 1935 the more vocal of them flung themselves eagerly into the Popular Front movement, which was simply an evasion of the whole problem posed by Fascism. It set out to be ‘anti-Fascist’ in a purely negative way – ‘against’ Fascism without being ‘for’ any discoverable policy – and underneath it lay the flabby idea that when the time came the Russians would do our fighting for us. It is astonishing how this illusion fails to die. Every week sees its spate of letters to the press, pointing out that if we had a government with no Tories in it the Russians could hardly avoid coming round to our side. Or we are to publish high-sounding war aims (vide books like Unser Kampf, A Hundred Million Allies – If We Choose, etc.), whereupon the European populations will infallibly rise on our behalf. It is the same idea all the time – look
abroad for your inspiration, get someone else to do your fighting for you. Underneath it lies the frightful inferiority complex of the English intellectual, the belief that the English are no longer a martial race, no longer capable of enduring.
In truth there is no reason to think that anyone will do our fighting for us yet awhile, except the Chinese, who have been doing it for three years already(1). The Russians may be driven to fight on our side by the fact of a direct attack, but they have made it clear enough that they will not stand up to the German army if there is any way of avoiding it. In any case they are not likely to be attracted by the spectacle of a left- wing government in England. The present Russian régime must almost certainly be hostile to any revolution in the West. The subject peoples of Europe will rebel when Hitler begins to totter, but not earlier. Our potential allies are not the Europeans but on the one hand the Americans, who will need a year to mobilize their resources even if Big Business can be brought to heel, and on the other hand the coloured peoples, who cannot be even sentimentally on our side till our own revolution has started. For a long time, a year, two years, possibly three years, England has got to be the shock-absorber of the world. We have got to face bombing, hunger, overwork, influenza, boredom and treacherous peace offers. Manifestly it is a time to stiffen morale, not to weaken it. Instead of taking the mechanically anti-British attitude which is usual on the Left, it is better to consider what the world would really be like if the English-speaking culture perished. For it is childish to suppose that the other English-speaking countries, even the U.S.A., will be unaffected if Britain is conquered.
Lord Halifax, and all his tribe, believe that when the war is over things will be exactly as they were before. Back to the crazy pavement of Versailles, back to ‘democracy’, i.e. capitalism, back to dole queues and the Rolls-Royce cars, back to the grey top hats and the sponge-bag trousers, in saecula saeculorum. It is of course obvious that nothing of the kind is going to happen. A feeble imitation of it might just possibly happen in the case of a negotiated peace, but only for a short while. Laissez-faire capitalism is dead(2). The choice lies between the kind of collective society that Hitler will set up and the kind that can arise if he is defeated.
If Hitler wins this war he will consolidate his rule over Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and if his armies have not been too greatly exhausted beforehand, he will wrench vast territories from Soviet Russia. He will set up a graded caste-society in which the German Herrenvolk (‘master race’ or ‘aristocratic race’) will rule over Slavs and other lesser peoples whose job it will be to produce low-priced agricultural products. He will reduce the coloured peoples once and for all to outright slavery. The real quarrel of the Fascist powers with British imperialism is that they know that it is disintegrating. Another twenty years along the present line of development, and India will be a peasant republic linked with England only by voluntary alliance. The ‘semi-apes’ of whom Hitler speaks with such loathing will be
flying aeroplanes and manufacturing machine-guns. The Fascist dream of a slave empire will be at an end. On the other hand, if we are defeated we simply hand over our own victims to new masters who come fresh to the job and have not developed any scruples.
But more is involved than the fate of the coloured peoples. Two incompatible visions of life are fighting one another. ‘Between democracy and totalitarianism,’ says Mussolini, ‘there can be no compromise.’ The two creeds cannot even, for any length of time, live side by side. So long as democracy exists, even in its very imperfect English form, totalitarianism is in deadly danger. The whole English-speaking world is haunted by the idea of human equality, and though it would be simply a lie to say that either we or the Americans have ever acted up to our professions, still, the idea is there, and it is capable of one day becoming a reality. From the English-speaking culture, if it does not perish, a society of free and equal human beings will ultimately arise. But it is precisely the idea of human equality – the ‘Jewish’ or ‘Judaeo- Christian’ idea of equality – that Hitler came into the world to destroy. He has, heaven knows, said so often enough. The thought of a world in which black men would be as good as white men and Jews treated as human beings brings him the same horror and despair as the thought of endless slavery brings to us.
It is important to keep in mind how irreconcilable these two viewpoints are. Some time within the next year a pro-Hitler reaction within the left-wing intelligentsia is likely enough. There are premonitory signs of it already. Hitler’s positive achievement appeals to the emptiness of these people, and, in the case of those with pacifist leanings, to their masochism. One knows in advance more or less what they will say. They will start by refusing to admit that British capitalism is evolving into something different, or that the defeat of Hitler can mean any more than a victory for the British and American millionaires. And from that they will proceed to argue that, after all, democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism. There is not much freedom of speech in England; therefore there is no more than exists in Germany. To be on the dole is a horrible experience; therefore it is no worse to be in the torture-chambers of the Gestapo. In general, two blacks make a white, half a loaf is the same as no bread.
But in reality, whatever may be true about democracy and totalitarianism, it is not true that they are the same. It would not be true, even if British democracy were incapable of evolving beyond its present stage. The whole conception of the militarized continental state, with its secret police, its censored literature and its conscript labour, is utterly different from that of the loose maritime democracy, with its slums and unemployment, its strikes and party politics. It is the difference between land power and sea power, between cruelty and inefficiency, between lying and self-deception, between the S.S. man and the rent-collector. And in choosing between them one chooses not so much on the strength of what they now are as of
what they are capable of becoming. But in a sense it is irrelevant whether democracy, at its highest or at its lowest, is ‘better’ than totalitarianism. To decide that one would have to have access to absolute standards. The only question that matters is where one’s real sympathies will lie when the pinch comes. The intellectuals who are so fond of balancing democracy against totalitarianism and ‘proving’ that one is as bad as the other are simply frivolous people who have never been shoved up against realities. They show the same shallow misunderstanding of Fascism now, when they are beginning to flirt with it, as a year or two ago, when they were squealing against it. The question is not, ‘Can you make out a debating- society “case” in favour of Hitler?’ The question is, ‘Do you genuinely accept that case? Are you willing to submit to Hitler’s rule? Do you want to see England conquered, or don’t you?’ It would be better to be sure on that point before frivolously siding with the enemy. For there is no such thing as neutrality in war; in practice one must help one side or the other.
When the pinch comes, no one bred in the western tradition can accept the Fascist vision of life. It is important to realize that now, and to grasp what it entails. With all its sloth, hypocrisy and injustice, the English-speaking civilization is the only large obstacle in Hitler’s path. It is a living contradiction of all the ‘infallible’ dogmas of Fascism. That is why all Fascist writers for years past have agreed that England’s power must be destroyed. England must be ‘exterminated’, must be ‘annihilated’, must ‘cease to exist’. Strategically it would be possible for this war to end with Hitler in secure possession of Europe, and with the British Empire intact and British sea-power barely affected. But ideologically it is not possible; were Hitler to make an offer along those lines, it could only be treacherously, with a view to conquering England indirectly or renewing the attack at some more favourable moment. England cannot possibly be allowed to remain as a sort of funnel through which deadly ideas from beyond the Atlantic flow into the police states of Europe. And turning it round to our point of view, we see the vastness of the issue before us, the all-importance of preserving our democracy more or less as we have known it. But to preserve is always to extend. The choice before us is not so much between victory and defeat as between revolution and apathy. If the thing we are fighting for is altogether destroyed, it will have been destroyed partly by our own act.
It could happen that England could introduce the beginnings of Socialism, turn this war into a revolutionary war, and still be defeated. That is at any rate thinkable. But, terrible as it would be for anyone who is now adult, it would be far less deadly than the ‘compromise peace’ which a few rich men and their hired liars are hoping for. The final ruin of England could only be accomplished by an English government acting under orders from Berlin. But that cannot happen if England has awakened beforehand. For in that case the defeat would be unmistakable, the struggle would continue, the idea would survive. The difference between going down fighting, and surrendering without a fight, is by no means a question of ‘honour’ and schoolboy
heroics. Hitler said once that to accept defeat destroys the soul of a nation. This sounds like a piece of claptrap, but it is strictly true. The defeat of 1870 did not lessen the world-influence of France. The Third Republic had more influence, intellectually, than the France of Napoleon III. But the sort of peace that Pétain, Laval and Co. have accepted can only be purchased by deliberately wiping out the national culture. The Vichy Government will enjoy a spurious independence only on condition that it destroys the distinctive marks of French culture: republicanism, secularism, respect for the intellect, absence of colour prejudice. We cannot be utterly defeated if we have made our revolution beforehand. We may see German troops marching down Whitehall, but another process, ultimately deadly to the German power-dream, will have been started. The Spanish people were defeated, but the things they learned during those two and a half memorable years will one day come back upon the Spanish Fascists like a boomerang.
A piece of Shakespearean bombast was much quoted at the beginning of the war. Even Mr Chamberlain quoted it once, if my memory does not deceive me:
Come the four corners of the world in arms
And we shall shock them: naught shall make us rue If England to herself do rest but true.
It is right enough, if you interpret it rightly. But England has got to be true to herself. She is not being true to herself while the refugees who have sought our shores are penned up in concentration camps, and company directors work out subtle schemes to dodge their Excess Profits Tax. It is goodbye to the Tatler and the Bystander, and farewell to the lady in the Rolls-Royce car. The heirs of Nelson and of Cromwell are not in the House of Lords. They are in the fields and the streets, in the factories and the armed forces, in the four-ale bar and the suburban back garden; and at present they are still kept under by a generation of ghosts. Compared with the task of bringing the real England to the surface, even the winning of the war, necessary though it is, is secondary. By revolution we become more ourselves, not less. There is no question of stopping short, striking a compromise, salvaging ‘democracy’, standing still. Nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it, we must grow greater or grow less, we must go forward or backward. I believe in England, and I believe that we shall go forward.