Ireland and SubAmericanisation
By Gwydion M. Williams
The English are the second most powerful block in the current ‘Anglosphere’, and would bring it down without bloodshed if they just got sick of it. There is considerable nostalgia for the world of 1945-1975, where England was able to dump its empire and treat itself to a decent Welfare State. They are rightly suspicious of arguments that pensions and health have somehow become an impossible burden for the much richer economy of the early 21st century. There has also been a remarkable anger against Blair from the families of soldier killed in the Iraq war.
Such English discontent can’t easily take coherent form, because most of the left in England refuse to see the 1945-1975 experience as anything to be proud of. But even if it ends up being expressed by fools like the UKIP, an English defection from the Anglosphere might happen over the next 10 or 20 years.
I am intentionally speaking of England rather than Britain. Britain is a geographic expression with a fading political meaning. Scotland rejected Toryism when it became Thatcherite and is increasingly going its own way. Wales never liked Toryism even before it became Thatcherite, but isn’t at all likely to disentangle itself from England. English Puritanism successfully extended itself to Wales, which was mostly drawn into English politics. And in both England and Wales, the Church of England was and is the church of the people. The rival Nonconformist tradition collapsed in the 20th century.
Scotland has very different roots from England, and accepted a form of union without ever being really merged. (I’ll be interested to see how the 2007 Tercentenary gets celebrate or protested at.) Scotland had a home-grown reformation that took its ideas directly from Continental Europe and which tipped the balance within England when a restoration of Roman Catholicism was very possible. The older Catholic cultures in Wales got rooted out by internal forces, mostly Welsh-speaking Protestants. No such process occurred in Ireland. I understand that there was a brief outbreak of Gaelic-speaking Puritanism in the west of Ireland, which might have made Ireland another Wales; but Catholicism fought back at the level of popular culture and extinguished it. In Ireland, there was never a sharp line between Protestantism and British power.
My own origins and experience are part Welsh but rather more English; and since England has the power, England must be the central concern. Wales going its own way is unlikely, and would not have a huge influence outside of Wales. Scotland would make some difference, but it is England that would be decisive. Myths shared by the English and by the Anglo core in the USA underpin the Monocultural Globalisation that the Anglosphere is intent on imposing. A majority of Anglosphere critics of the Bush-Blair line on Iraq remain enthusiasts for the idea of Monocultural Globalisation. They are just a little squeamish about the methods, methods nothing like as rough or dishonest as the Anglosphere has used in the past.
The ‘Wonderful Anglo’ view of history holds that every war fought against the Anglo powers was either wrong or unnecessary. Not every war will fit, of course – you get a distinct evasiveness about the American War of Independence and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Those wars also contravene the cherished Anglo principle that democracies don’t wage war on each other. Or it would if you count Britain as a democracy in those days, which is untrue but also part of ‘Wonderful Anglo’ mythology. The USA’s own civil war is also a source of unease; both sides had governments elected by a clear majority of adult males, even allowing for the fact that slaves had no votes. I suppose that if the Confederacy had managed to secede but the Anglosphere had still come into existence, you would have historians nowadays saying that Confederate independence could easily have been managed without a war.
Ireland and Britain’s role there is an area of unease for the English. Irish people embracing the ‘Wonderful Anglo’ principle is very reassuring. Ireland surrendering its own history and becoming a block within the Anglosphere is unhelpful in the global struggle, as well as bad for Ireland’s own self-respect. Irish people saying that everything in the English rose-garden was actually very lovely boosts is a propaganda gift, and Ireland re-asserting itself as an independent voice would matter. Flattery of the Anglo elite can be very profitable, while truth will make you enemies. But surely truth is more important; a moral obligation to oppose an aggressive assault on historic facts. Compared with dozens of similar wars that have been fought around the globe, Ireland’s War of Independence was fought very cleanly. Ireland’s record is being attacked now, because it was a successful war against Anglo interests, which are now being sanctified for all of the past as well as the present and future.
The Anglosphere’s right to boss the rest of the world depends on a claim of especial virtue for its own tradition. In part the claim rests on ignorance—a lot of US citizens seem to think that their country boldly declared war in 1941 so as to liberate Europe from tyrants whom the Europeans had inexplicably chosen. In fact it was the Wall Street Crash and the subsequent Great Depression that destabilised democracy, for much the same reasons that the USA allowed President Roosevelt to have unprecedented power in the same era. And in 1941, it was Hitler who declared war on the USA. Roosevelt wanted to join the European war, but US presidents must go to Congress to get a declaration of war, which he’d probably never have got. If Hitler hadn’t obligingly short-circuited the checks and balances of the US Constitution, Pearl Harbour might have been followed by a US-Japanese war that was disconnected from the German-Russian war, which Japan never did join.
(By 1941, it was definitely a German-Russian war that was being fought in Europe. To the very end, the bulk of the German army was in the East. The amount of hard fighting that the Western allies needed to push through France and into Germany suggests that it would have been quite impossible without the Russian contribution.)
The Second World War made the British Empire unsustainable. Japanese troops defeating large forces of Westerners made a big impression, as did the capture of the ‘invincible’ fortress of Singapore. By 1945, most English people decided that the Empire was a burden, not an asset. They were also sick of being governed by the elite for whom the Empire had been a big thing, an elite that also identified itself with the Norman conquerors of Anglo-Saxon England back in 1066. There was a degree of mythology in this, certainly, with successful English families inventing a Norman past for themselves. But it was a real factor, and tied in with identifying ‘liberty’ with Magna Carta and then the Parliament devised by Simon de Montfort, ignoring the much more substantial constitutional structures that had existed in Anglo-Saxon England.
Among the English (and the Scots and Welsh also) there was no last-ditch defence of the Empire. Nothing like the stand that the French made in Vietnam and then Algeria; the wars in Malaya and Kenya were aimed at controlling who took over at independence, as was the failed campaign in South Yemen. The English majority robbed Britain’s traditional ruling class of their authority when they stopped taking them seriously or believing that those characters knew what they were doing. But many of them were able to find service in an Americanised world. And more recently to reinvent themselves as members of a global Overclass, a stratum which also includes some rich Irish Catholics. The new Overclass is rather like the elite of the later Roman Empire, when you could have come from anywhere so long as you had assimilated Roman culture, and had enough money.
The global Overclass is centred about the Anglosphere, basically a stable alignment of the USA and Britain, but with Australia, New Zealand and Canada usually included. It has gone beyond the cultural, racial and religious narrowness of the former British Empire, but WASP self-identity lies at the core of it: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with an element of populist protest against the former elite with its claims to Norman ancestry. WASP populism insists that they are as good as those who were above them in the former Imperial hierarchy, but also that they are much better than those who were below them in the former Imperial hierarchy. You don’t get many politicians openly voicing this view, but find a great many Anglosphere politicians quietly angling for that sort of Anglo vote. Without subtly tapping residual racism, the current crop of centre-right politicians would not have won many elections.
So what does the Anglosphere offer? In place of the idealistic equality promised by the United Nations, there is a dominant core of governments who are kept in power by a few hundred million mostly-white voters. The core culture is Anglo, which originally meant English by language and cultural outlook, though other ethnic origins were acceptable if classed as white. It now includes a few others, to avoid looking too racist, but the racial and cultural imbalance is clear. The Republic of India is the world’s biggest parliamentary democracy, but India’s views are marginalised, along with everything else that does not suit the Anglosphere’s immediate needs.
I will not be talking about purely Irish matters, where others are much better informed. But Ireland’s chances of getting independence in the 1910s and 1920s without challenging the British Empire’s legal monopoly of violence is not a purely Irish matter. It was tied up with how the empire was run, including its expensive victory over the Boer republics in South Africa. And the Irish War of Independence was a British defeat, the first major and unambiguous defeat since the American War of Independence. However unsatisfactory Irish Republicans may have found it, the creation of the Irish Free State was a clear failure for the Empire. It was seen as such in the 1920s and 1930s, especially as ‘Free State’ status turned into full independence.
By the mid-1940s, most Britons had had enough of the Empire and were quite willing to see it as an error. In the late 1960s, indeed, the habit in England and Wales was to see it as a joke. The 1960s generation took it for granted that the world had moved on and that the past was dead.
But the past was not dead. It still lurked, and imperialism was falsified and glorified by the ‘paperback tigers’, writers like James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell and the later works of Fredrick Forsyth. In the Sharp novels, you have an upwardly mobile English hero backed by a suitably subordinate Irishman. It shows a different spirit from the 1930s Hornblower novels; instead of an heroic fellow of humble but respectable middle-class origins, you have Sharp as a low-born thug whose position as an officer is always an anomaly. The standard left-wing criticisms of Britain’s role are usually mentioned but somehow never seem to matter. The novels are also an excellent read, and give a fine insight into military matters as they were at the time. But they are part of a much wider process; a destructive process that has spread inequality and does not boost wealth in the way that the 1945-1970 system managed to boost it.
From the 1980s, the past was reinvented as the future. John Major’s ‘back to basics’ was rightly laughed at, even before anyone suspected it was ‘back to basics, front to Edwina Currie’. But mindlessly saying ‘reform’ to justify backward-looking ideas was more successful—you could say that this was always progressive and that the other stuff was just a detour on the grand advance of Anglo culture across the centuries. And whenever it was bloody obvious that the past was another country, it was asserted that the necessary changes would have happened anyway and without the need for those who actually fought and died for them. If it’s good, we’ll take the credit. If it’s bad, we’re not to blame.
I’ve not looked in detail at what Bruton says. But it fits very neatly into the global patterns of Anglo ideology, to which Ireland must now conform if it is to keep a secure place in the privileged ‘Anglosphere’ that dominates global politics. To suggest that Ireland would have got independence without violence is no more sensible than to say that Britain’s North American colonies could have got it. But the USA is boss, and bosses do not need to revise their own history or junk their own legends. Only lackeys do that, and a lackey spirit is clearly widespread in modern Ireland.
No one will be saying that George Washington was wasting his time. Very little is ever said about the American Loyalist tradition. The new USA defined them as traitors because they had stuck to their original allegiance, in colonies that would not have existed without the British state defending them, boosting them at the expense of the Native Americans and also the various French and Dutch settlers. The English government had subsidised its colonies, nurtured them, fought battles for them. The initial protest was ‘no taxation without representation’, and at the time it was not just a slogan. North America could have been retained by wiser British policies, especially by adopting Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion of MPs from each colony, which would also have speeded up the democratisation of Britain. Of course George 3rd and his faction had no wish to see Britain democratised, and might have prevented it had they defeated the colonial revolt.
American Loyalists had a much better case than the equivalent people in Ireland. Yet they were driven out in large numbers from the new ‘homeland of liberty’—five times as many exiles from the American Revolution as from the French Revolution, according to Linda Colley’s book Captives. Someone could do a really subversive film that followed the fate of a few of the Black slaves who joined the Loyalist cause, and whose only hope would have been Canada, as it remained up until the US Civil War. The new USA was born with the return of runaway slaves enshrined in the Constitution, at the insistence of the southern states including slave-owners like Washington and Jefferson. Though some Free Blacks and Native American side fought on the Republican side, far more fought on the Imperial side, and it needs more attention. The USA kept slavery for longer than Tsarist Russia kept serfdom, and if the South hadn’t attempted secession, it is moot when it would have been abolished, or whether history might have take some other course. The actual US tradition is much more about power than liberty. But in the mainstream media, only Irish heroes will get rubbished, along with everyone else who cannot be fitted into the current cultural needs of the Anglosphere.
As the 21st century unfolds, the substantive issue is the USA’s right to ‘SubAmericanise’ the rest of the world, with Britain as a junior partner. During the Cold War, the USA found it wise to act as if it respected other people’s culture, while the Soviet Bloc kept up its own version of Global Monoculturalism till almost the end. But what the USA has done from the First Gulf War onwards shows that SubAmericanisation / Global Monoculture has always been the real aim for the entire political class. US Democrats make jokes like Four More Wars With Bush, but Clinton kept up the persecution of Iraq. He also oversaw the process whereby Serbia was harassed until it finally dropped its efforts to retain some elements of Tito’s socialist system. Kerry’s big idea of how he’d have managed Iraq differently is that he’d not have abolished the Baathist army, whereas Bush’s people must have genuinely believed that Iraq would spontaneously SubAmericanise once the machinery of repression was removed.
Ireland helped destroy the British Empire, but the British Empire is no longer classed as a bad thing, at least not by the USA. It is no longer acceptable to say that the Empire was dropped when ordinary Britons realised that they might be better off without it, just as the Swiss and Swedes have done fine with no colonial possessions at all. Nowadays, the Anglosphere is defined as the only reliable source of freedom in the world, and its origin in British colonialism is made a point of pride.
Since the USA’s culture is wholly derived from the 18th century systems by which the British Empire governed its North American subjects, the USA must rewrite history so as to make British traditions superior to everything else. During the actual Second World War, the USA felt it occupied the middle ground between the British Empire and the Soviet Union. In substance it was the middle ground, with much less class privilege and much more state intervention that Britain had at that time. Also the Tories had no intention of giving up the British Empire: it was only the unexpected victory of the Labour Party in 1945 that began to change things. Britain gave up the Empire and adopted huge chunks of US culture. The Soviet Union refused to move very much, not towards the USA nor in any other direction. If someone like Dubcek had been in power in Moscow in the 1960s, they could have saved the Leninist system, which was fully the equal of the West in those days. But it didn’t happen, and the Soviet decline from 1968 to 1989/91 removed a lot of the pressure that had persuaded rich Westerners that they had to share with the rest of the society.
Britain and the USA took a wrong turn in the 1980s. Part of this wrong turn was a whitewashing of imperialism. Another part was a denial that the massive changes between 1920 and 1970 had been a reaction by the West to a highly successful Soviet system. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the West justified itself as being ‘freer’, because the Soviet system had visibly worked better at transforming backward economies. But how can a ‘Free World’ tell people that they are being too free for their own good? All sorts of freedoms got asserted during the Cold War, that would probably not have been allowed if the USA had been the sole superpower in those days. With African votes needed at the UN, the USA thought it wise to forcibly dismantle the formal and legal segregation that the US South had been developing ever since losing their Civil War. Actual racism was not abolished; the Republicans rescued it under a cover of free-market ideology. Actual ethnic separation in the USA has not been changed much by Civil Rights.
In Britain, the 1960s saw the rubbishing of whatever was still surviving of British ruling class authority. This was a permanent change: Thatcherism was almost completely run by characters who’d have been kept out of ruling-class circles in the days when it still meant something. The way that Thatcherite ‘conservatism’ managed to damage actual British traditions suggests that the former ruling class were quite right to keep such people out—but who’d say so nowadays? New Right ideology hinged on an identification with 19th century capitalism, as well as a wilful muddling of parliamentary government and democratic government. Before 1832, about one tenth of the adult males had the vote, and most of those votes were piled up in a small number of constituencies that had a wide franchise. More than half of the MPs were chosen or appointed by a few hundred rich men. And the 1832 reform only gave the vote to a rich one-seventh, a greedy upper-middle-class that was nastier to those below them than the gentry had ever been.
Only in the 20th century did Britain achieve something like modern democracy. And it went along with a growth in state ownership and welfare, in an economy that was always very different from the abstract capitalism of the economic textbooks. It wasn’t just in the Soviet Union that you never knew what was going to happen yesterday. The West after 1945 assumed that capitalism was dead and that they were building the Mixed Economy, with an acknowledged debt to Soviet practice. (No one liked to mention that it was even more similar to Mussolini’s system, which is why I’ve taken to calling it Democratic Corporatism, to emphasise the link.) Up until the 1980s, the Mixed Economy was the thing, with capitalism and imperialism as unpleasant memories from the dead past.
The view we held in the 1960s and 1970s was that capitalism destructiveness was paving the way for socialist reconstruction. This definitely could have happened in the 1970s – and had Britain gone that way, then a breakdown of Irish Catholic culture would have had very different consequences. Unfortunately most of the Left was obsessed with the problem of how to be Leninist without being Stalinist. It should be bloody obvious by now that you can’t; that the idea of a nice dictatorship of the proletariat is simply daft. Power generally has to be exercised brutally in order to get anything done; and the 1914-18 war smashed the habit of peacefulness. Stalin was simply following through the logic of the Bolshevik seizure of power, and what else could have been done at the time. The Trotskyist answer—shared by many others on the Far Left—has been ‘keep loosing’, a consistent rejection of anything that would involve real power and responsibility. This has been the wonderfully consistent outcome of Trotskyism over the past eight decades. But Trotskyism has preserved itself very nicely, whatever else it has wrecked, so that the immediate prospects are bad.
As I said earlier, from the 1980s, the past was reinvented as the future. This was applied all over the world, including England. British ruling-class authority had originally been undermined by the blatant folly of the 1914-18 war, followed by the puzzling diplomatic zigzags that somehow landed Britain in an even worse situation in 1940. But memories of a visible defeat in Ireland was also important. The 1916 rising strengthened the underlying view that Irishness as a culture just wasn’t compatible with Britishness, however well individual Irish people might fit in. When the Irish War of Independence ended with armed rebels becoming the Irish government, that was visible proof of British decline. It strengthened the notion that it was ultimately futile to try to hang on to territories that did not wish to be ruled. 800 years of effort had failed to solve what Britain regarded as ‘The Irish Problem’, so what long-term hope was there in India or Africa?
The British Empire had begun in Ireland, and was persistently weakened by its failure to fully incorporate Ireland into the British core. Compared to other major Empires, the British Empire was unusual in that it conquered distant lands without subduing most of its near neighbours. The Macedonian kingdom of Phillip and Alexander conquered Greece and Thracia before attacking the Persian Empire. The Romans subdued Italy before moving on to wider conquests. Genghis Khan started out by unifying the Steppe peoples before invading civilised lands. But England found that Continental wars were mostly costly and futile, while ventures outside of Europe often went well. Not always – Charles 2nd tried to build the north-African city of Tangier into the sort of military-trading centre that Gibraltar later became, and he failed. A mix of French and Native Americans frequently defeated much larger British armies during 18th century wars. But France was trying to be a normal empire, while Britain made use of European wars to collect colonies as its reward in the various peace-treaties.
In late 19th and early 20th century, Irish Home Rule was acceptable as a way of making Ireland more useful to the British Empire. Irish independence was never going to happen unless it was a matter of military necessity, or unless the British Empire as a whole was to be abandoned. In the end it did happen by a successful revolt. But without that revolt, would the Empire have been abandoned so easily?
It so happened that Hitler fatally wounded the British Empire, while leaving the Soviet Union much stronger. This was the exact reverse of what he wanted, of course, but history is like that, and extremist actions for almost any cause tend to ruin that cause. The English middle-class and most of the English working-class had never been much involved with the non-white portions of the Empire. Most of them viewed joining the army as a rather disgraceful option, only marginally better than going to prison. There were subcultures within English society where either or both are viewed as normal, of course, but that’s very much a minority tradition. The majority joined up in 1914 and 1939, because they were persuaded that a foreign invasion was immanent. If Hitler had had his airforce drop leaflets in 1940-41 saying he’d be happy to make peace without taking any British territory, he would almost certainly have got peace. Instead his airforce dropped bombs in a rather unwise attempt to break the British spirit—Britons don’t break easily The usefulness of the bomber had also been overrated, with the later US-British terror-bombing of Germany doing much more damage but failing to produce an internal collapse.
Most English people were mostly interested in being English. Chunks of US culture were incorporated, something that was called ‘Mid-Atlantic’ at the time and is now too generalised and normal to need a name. Other stuff was ignored—Private Eye mocked the evangelist Billy Graham as ‘the American God-salesman’, and this was pretty much the general view. The long-standing Puritan traditions of England and Wales simply collapsed during the 20th century, they are gone, whereas their US equivalents have advanced from strength to strength. Anglican Christianity has lost most of its congregations, but you could call Anglicanism the religion that most English people don’t believe in. They don’t much care about it, but when they think of religion they think mostly of Anglican forms. Everything else is seen as foreign and has little popular appeal.
That’s Englishness, with the Welsh functioning in practice as a national minority within England. England need not have become a ‘global player’, and there have been some recent trend to assert Englishness as a distinct entity within Global-Anglo culture, which can no longer be seen as Englishness plus some hangers-on. Anglo culture has become very diverse, and is potentially all-inclusive, though the governments of the core Anglo nations must twist and turn to combine their global role with a need to please the core of mostly-white and somewhat racist voters.
In England, crude hatred of foreigners was moderated by the gentry, a gentry which had a unified British outlook from the early 18th century. In the USA, English society was transplanted without its gentry, which was a mixed blessing. The extreme narrowness of small-town America is based on 18th century Englishness of a sort that is almost extinct in England itself. The two societies have gone in very different directions, and this difference is the major internal weakness in the Anglosphere. The more the ordinary people encounter each other, the less both sides will like each other. It is Cosmopolitan-USA that is admired in England and Wales, a vision of escaping English narrowness. But Cosmopolitan-USA was always something of an illusion. To the degree it actually existed, it depended heavily on dominance by the US north-east and the old elite.
US society democratised itself when Roosevelt’s New Deal came to pieces in the 1960s and 1970s. It was democratised by a change of habits and attitude, and without the populace acquiring additional formal rights—most white males had had the vote since the 1830s, if not before. What happened in the 1970s was that the white majority stopped respecting or electing the old elite. Instead they elected a new ‘Overclass’; people much richer than they were, but enough like them to let the voter think that they too could ‘make it’. Nixon was their sort of person, and Reagan also. You could call it Outer-America and Inner-America: Outer-America being the side that the outside world admired and Inner-America the much larger mass of prejudiced and unhappy people.
The US Republicans have managed for three decades to massaged the prejudices of Inner-America, while eroding it faster than ever. They have managed an unstable ‘United Front of Saints and Sinners’, combining the people who resented everything about the 1960s with those who have applied 1960s lessons in a totally selfish and amoral way. There is a chance that Inner-America might revolt against their global role and turn inward; but I am not hopeful about it. In any case it would be a revolting revolt, an assertion of Inner-American smallness and lack of interest in other viewpoint. But it would also give the rest of the world a chance of escaping SubAmericanisation. The increasing differences between the neurotic religiousness of Inner-American and the relaxed civilised-pagan attitudes of the modern English are the best hope of an Anglosphere split.
I also note that from an English viewpoint, the Ulster Protestants are an oddity and rather more like the USA. I’m surprised that Ulster Protestants have had so little success in mobilising Inner-America for their cause, but perhaps there are more differences than are apparent to someone who stands outside of both societies. Scotland is different again; Scotland’s heritage is Presbyterian, rather different from the dominant Baptist churches of the USA. Most Scots are Lothians, Saxon settlers who got incorporated in the kingdom of the Celtic Scots when most others were absorbed by Wessex. Speaking their own version of English, these Lothians have merged with their Celtic neighbours and formed a distinct entity that uses tartans and other Celtic survivals to express their distinctiveness. The modern nation might well decide to quit the UK, or even to quit the Anglosphere. But I don’t know enough to speculate usefully.
Despite these tensions, the common Anglo heritage has so far held the Anglosphere together. Anglosphere is a word first coined in an SF novel, but which has spread to meet the need for a simple word to describe the new reality. The term ‘Anglo’ began in the USA, to make a distinction between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking culture when the two overlapped, especially after the expanding USA swallowed Texas, California and other territories that had been part of Mexico. The USA needed to define such things, especially as it assimilated tens of millions of immigrants of very diverse origins. This contrasted with the British Empire, which defined its values as Britishness, or sometimes Englishness, with the two not often distinguished by the English majority. Diplomats speak of Anglo-French or Anglo-Japanese dealings; it would sound silly to say UK or ‘uh-kay’, but they could say Britano if they wanted to be fair, and no one bothers. Nelson said ‘England expects’ when he addressed the British Navy at Trafalgar, and this is mostly quoted without comment. In the film version of James Clavell’s novel Taipan, a character who’s supposed to be Scottish is seen proudly proclaiming that Hong Kong will soon belong to England. Actually the Empire always did belong to England, with Scots let in as junior partners because they were useful. The name was an historic accident, coined by Welsh courtiers at a Tudor court which did not forget its Welsh origins and proclaimed a claim to North America based on the legendary voyages of the Welsh Prince Madoc.
The 20th century saw big saw a big shift of power within Anglo identity. It began from a Narrow-Anglo viewpoint that was centred on a racist notion of a superior Anglo-Saxons. The rest of the world was seen as grouped around these superior Anglo-Saxons in a descending hierarchy of white and non-white races. The place of the Irish was low among whites, but of course all non-white races were ranked below every white race, even if some ‘martial peoples’ were viewed as having admirable characters. Non-whites also tended to descend in a hierarchy of how dark they were or were not, though an exception was made for Native Americans, since some of the frontiersmen had had Native American wives. President Andrew Jackson had Native American blood and this was not a handicap. A lot of the actual frontiersmen were Afro-Americans, as were the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ who helped clear away unwanted Native American tribes after the US civil war. But cowboy history ignored all of that until rather recently, and still downplays it. I gave up on Sky Television’s comic-sleaze Western series Deadwood after ten minutes, finding it tedious, but I don’t think I saw a single black face in that time. Checking at their website (http://www.hbo.com/deadwood/cast/) I found 21 named characters, some historic and some invented, but every last one of them white.
Narrow-Anglo culture was centred around the British Empire and its traditional ruling class, the people who viewed themselves as a Norman elite amidst the valued but inferior English mass. Narrow-Anglo culture found some almost-kindred spirits in the WASP elite in the USA, though the differences between the two elites were significant. Among other things, the category ‘WASP’ would include a majority of the inhabitants of the British Isles and was not significant in Britain. ‘Norman blood’, real or pretended, had a major snob value in Britain. I think this bit slipped when North Americans tried to recreate the English class structure
In Europe, the Norman habit was imperial; they were good at inserting themselves as a ruling class and achieved this in their successful reconquest of Sicily from sophisticated Muslims and in the Crusader states in Palestine, as well as invading Ireland. Normans also infiltrated Scotland and later becoming the backbone of resistance to English conquest—the Bruce family were Normans and William Wallace (‘Welshman’) is thought to have had some such link. Scotland became a nation in the course of its successful efforts to throw out the English monarchy, and I suppose the Norman element ceased to be distinct. In English culture, the Norman/English difference isn’t exactly erased even today, and was distinctly stronger in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the British Empire was built.
Up until 1914, the standard English view of the Germans classed them with the Dutch and Scandinavians, a group of Germanic or Teutonic nations of which the Normans—originally ‘Northmen’—were very much a part. Genetic studies suggest that there were never an enormous number of Germanic settlers but that somehow the existing Romano-Celtic culture collapsed and was Anglicised out of existence. English culture must have absorbed a lot of Britons and successfully stripped them of their culture. One indicator is the surprising lack of Britanno-Celtic words in Old English, far fewer than the Celtic words that were absorbed into Modern English from the Irish and the Scottish Highlanders. What continued was place-names; Tom Shippey in his study of the real-world basis for Tolkien’s place-names mentions Chetwode, literally wood-wood, a Saxon ending stuck onto a British sound whose meaning was ignored. Likewise there is a place called Brill, formerly bree-hill, hill-hill.
The belief in a special group of Germanic or Teutonic nations was also the general WASP view in the USA, where large number of peoples from this Germanic group had been included in the WASP elite. In the US, ‘Dutch’ tended to be applied to both Germans and people from the Netherlands, and this was maybe a more sensible usage, Germany is Deutschland. You could call this the ‘Saxon-Plus’ grouping—but in the USA, it was also a matter of having the right religion, which meant a respectable Protestantism. (Baptists were mostly not seen as respectable in the older US schema: it is a measure of the USA’s cultural collapse that they are now much the strongest single grouping). In Britain it was different, there were a significant number of Catholics among the deeper-rooted gentry and aristocracy. There also couldn’t easily be any racial barrier to the Celts, since the gentry and aristocracy had incorporated the Scottish Highland chiefs and their extensive kindreds. There were very few among the gentry who didn’t have some acknowledged Celtic ancestry. There was also a conscious decision in the 17th and 18th centuries that outsiders could be admitted to aristocratic circles if they adapted to the cultural values, and were racially acceptable.
In Britain, ‘racially acceptable’ normally extended to Jews, but not to non-whites. When the British Empire started including huge chunks of India, the British ruling class considered dropping the racial barriers, much as the US elite has been dropping them since the 1960s. There was a genuine attempt to extend tolerance and absorption to the upper class of the Indian subcontinent, with the offspring of princely Hindus and Muslims educated at British public schools. (In British-English, these are fee-paying schools for the elite, distinct from state schools and from the inferior ‘private schools’ described in Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter and which were later suppressed). But in the 19th century, the ruling class was loosing influence. The non-white portions of the British Empire were run by a few hundred thousand people of British origin who regarded racial distinctions as crucial. This narrowness of mind actually doomed the empire, forcing the non-white elite to become enthusiasts for their own traditions and national identities.
Meantime the USA strengthened and intensified racism after the Civil War, with the newly liberated Afro-Americans shut out. Jews also got pushed out of the ‘Saxon-Plus’ elite, when large numbers of East European Jews started arriving. The USA developed a complex racial hierarchy, with the slightly comical situation of each group saying that they are just as good as the groups above them on the pyramid, and also much better than the groups below them on the pyramid. In the 1960s, the whole hierarchical system broke down. It has not yet settled into anything coherent; there are no formal racial barriers but there are many actual barriers, with de facto separation happening in the cities as white people moved to affluent suburbs where very few blacks could afford to join them.
There was little positive hostility to non-whites living in Britain before the mass immigration of the 1950s. But they were never regarded as British, not even if several generations of them had been born in the country. This sort of barrier never applied to the Irish—if some Irish Protestants saw their ‘gene pool’ threatened by other white populations, they were the only people in the British Isles who had such a feeling. Note that the term ‘gene-pool’ applied to a cultural group is racist, old prejudice with new jargon. They are now less likely to say ‘blood’, because it is old-fashioned and because people know about blood-groups and how they cut across differences in skin colour. (Almost every measurable human quality cuts across 19th century concepts of race.)
The 20th century saw a merger of British and US approaches to produce the modern Broad-Anglo approach, in which Catholic Irish are easily accepted if they are willing to treat their Irishness as a marginal matter. This is in line with the earlier inclusion of Irish in an Anglo-Celtic stratum in the USA, while the USA accepted the British approach to the Jews. Britain had decided in the 17th century that it didn’t mind Jews settling in Britain. During the 18th century, the richer Jews were incorporated into the gentry and aristocracy; the Rothschild family were just the best-known of a much wider trend. Nathan Rothschild fraudulently invested money that he’d been entrusted with by a German prince, doing so well that he could make a large personal fortune while still pretending that the cash had been in safe low-yield investments all along. Having got away with it, he and his relatives were welcomed into the British elite.
This was the culture of the British Empire, which however failed to become a truly global culture. English narrowness kept getting in the way of the global-minded British elite, much as Inner-America with its fears and ignorance are an unstable basis for the global ambitions of the US Overclass. What we’ve had from the 1980s is a second-rate system of globalisation. The Soviet system had a much more serious system of globalisation up until the 1960s, when it became incoherent. The West also became incoherent in the 1960s, but sort-of recovered and absorbed many hippy and alternative-society elements into a revised elite. This was the creation of Broad-Anglo culture, heavily dependent on people who had not previously been admitted to the ruling circles. It hinges on the economic power of the USA; the USA is still clever at making a standard and marketable product out of other people’s ideas; witness Microsoft and similar software ventures. A lot of the original ideas about computers were British, and the main US contribution was from Von Neumann, an Hungarian Jew who had fled the rise of Hitler. Without the Jewish input, there would have been much less original science in the USA in the 20th century—and almost no serious political thinking. Bush Junior’s polices have been thought out by ‘neo-conservatives’ who are mostly Jews and who have an uneasy relationship with the Inner-American voters who basically don’t like Jews. Hence the need to pretend that Anglo history is what it was not.
The Broad-Anglo viewpoint depends on rewriting history to make themselves defenders of liberty. What they actually did was take liberties with the rights of the rest of the world.
The Western success after World War Two was based on a system that at the time was generally known as Keynesianism or the Mixed Economy. These days it gets bundled into a general medley of Anglo-capitalist and parliamentary systems that had existed for the past couple of centuries. Which is why I think it good to separate out the 1945-1975 system under a new name, Democratic Corporatism. The link to Mussolini needs to be emphasised, along with the very relaxed view taken of Mussolini and his Fascism by the British elite at the time when their views mattered. Mussolini and Hitler suppressing a democratically elected left-wing government in Spain was appreciated, with Britain and France pretending neutrality while Fascists did the dirty work. If Mussolini had then sided with Britain and France rather than Germany when they quarrelled over Eastern Europe, probably Fascism would still be a respectable ideology and Hitler would be seen as an aberration within it.
The West’s post-1945 Democratic Corporatism wasn’t abolished in the 1980s, it just got skewed towards the interests of the rich. Propaganda about ‘free markets’ is just that, propaganda. No serious politician wants to dismantle the USA’s Military-Industrial Complex, which won the Cold War for the West by developing microchips, jet aircraft, the internet etc. The USA learned how to develop useful ideas via the gigantic military budget, whereas secrecy mostly stifled such cross-connection in both Britain and the Soviet Union. The Military-Industrial Complex was enormously effective and successful. So much so that no US government actually wants to run the economy without state spending or state regulation. But this is ‘economised’ to just the things that directly benefit the rich, with benefits for others cut back as far as the electorate will allow.
The West’s Democratic Corporatism has also got much more aggressive towards local cultures. No one now is seen as ‘free’ unless they are SubAmericanised, junking their local values in favour of a poor copy of US commerce. They got away with it in Eastern Europe, where the various nations had been SubRussianised for decades and would accept some dirt, crime and impoverishment in exchange for more cultural self-expression. In Russia itself, SubAmericanisation is being rapidly reversed; the process has stalled in the Republic of India and the Chinese are quite definite that they don’t want it. Meantime the USA’s crusade against Babylon has indeed changed Arab opinion, but done exactly the opposite of what the USA and Israel were hoping for.
Israeli ‘expertise’ about Arabs reminds me strongly of the kind of expertise possessed by British colonialists about the peoples they ruled in India and Africa. At one level they knew a great deal, and they certainly knew how to take advantage of the local cultural weaknesses. But at a deeper level they knew nothing and fiercely resisted the sort of changes that would have allowed the British Empire to grow into something that could have lasted in the longer run.
Israel unfortunately is almost certainly past the point of no return. More than one billion Muslims will not accept Israel as legitimate without Palestinian agreement, which is probably now impossible. In the 1990s, Arafat might have been able to deliver such an agreement, though not if all he’d got was a set of Bantustans that were deeply penetrated by Israeli settlements and sovereign roads. And in Iraq, Arabs are finally learning how to successfully fight Western military technology. I’d say Israel has another 10 or 20 years left, maybe less. I hope the USA would be willing to accept a few million refugee Israelis. I am quite certain that Britain won’t take anyone who can’t claim at least one British-born grandparent.
Colonial attitudes are decidedly relevant to Ireland, because outside of Ulster, it was very much in a colonial situation before the War of Independence. The Anglo-Irish were of a piece with the colonial rulers; the Wellesleys (Duke of Wellington) just one example of the interchangeable roles. In the accepted English scheme of things, the Irish were white but not Protestant, and had traditionally been placed low down in the spectrum of ‘white races’, whose merits were considered to vary widely. People nowadays need to be reminded of what Narrow-Anglo norms actually were; the actual system that the Irish rebels were fighting against. Present-day Catholic- Irish people would not be being offered seats at the High Table, had they not shown decisively that it was unwise to ignore their demands.
Back in the first quarter of the 20th century, the racial hierarchy still stood within the British Empire. Racist ideas were becoming more popular and lots of serious scientists supported them. In the USA, the Saxon-Plus elite was still basically in charge, though some Irish politicians had won privileges for themselves. Joe Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy, is a good example of the corrupt deals that let a few Irish into the elite while leaving its main values intact. Mostly mis-identified as a self-made man with poor-immigrant parents, Joe Kennedy was actually the grandson of a moderately prosperous Irish immigrant, who left at the time of the famine but whose family were farmers rather than starving peasants. Joe’s father became a very successful bartender and politician. Harvard in those days was biased against non-WASPS, but let Joe in without the proper qualifications because of his father’s political connections. Joe Kennedy’s entire fortune seems to have been accumulated by doing deals that were of no benefit to anyone except himself. If he made some of his money as a bootlegger, that was probably the most useful thing he did in his entire life.
That was the USA, a fluid society where the elite aped the manners of the British ruling class, and weren’t much better at it than an ape would have been. They managed a version of the snobbery and small-mindedness of small-town elites. They never did seem to realise that there were things you couldn’t buy, and too few of them understood that elite privileges were based on a kind of social contract with the rest of society, a system that worked for a few centuries without any exact rule as to what the ‘contract’ was. Still, the British ruling-class system wasn’t that positive, and the failure to find a sensible place for Ireland was a major failing. Back in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth Tudor did make a genuine attempt to draw in the traditional Irish aristocracy into the Tudor elite, much as the Highland chiefs were later drawn in. But this attempt got caught in the crossfire of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, especially since the Irish weren’t used to female rulers, and Elizabeth was also not a legitimate royal heir unless Henry 8th divorce had been valid, which was very moot.
Had Edward 6th had a normal life rather than dying young, he might have successfully drawn Ireland into an expanded 16th-century Britishness, but that wasn’t how history went. Elizabeth’s right to even rule England was questionable, and to calculate on her eventual defeat was quite reasonable. The traditional Irish aristocracy fled or was destroyed, and a transplanted Anglo-Irish never made any organic links with the bulk of the society. This made it rather hard for Catholic Irish to be absorbed into Britain: traditionalists wanted them to keep their accustomed subordinate place, while 19th century radicalism was strongly linked to Protestant Nonconformism, the people whom Parnell correctly identified as the heirs of Cromwell. And more widely there was a mistrust of Catholics, in part because Catholicism before Vatican 2 was a major global rival of Anglo culture.
If a 20th century nation had less than half its 19th century population, that would suggest pretty appalling government. Such a case really exists, of course, Ireland under British rule. Even in England, the government had been trying from Tudor times to cherish the landlords and abolish the peasantry. In England, this was done step-by-step by enclosure, which was rigged to benefit landlords and swindle small property-owners. This was done at a time when industrial cities were absorbing huge numbers of people, and also killing them off through bad health and cheap gin. In Ireland, I don’t suppose they actually planned to abolish the peasantry by mass starvation, any more than Stalin did with the famines during the struggles over Collectivisation. But the potato famine was seen as convenient. The Economist magazine decided that dying Irish were unimportant compared to free market ideals.
“Laissez-faire–a belief that the public good is best served by leaving individuals to look after themselves, since government interference in economic affairs tends to upset the natural checks and balances of wealth-creation. Wilson’s magazine The Economist was to be perhaps the most influential disseminator of this doctrine, through the prism of which it examined and pronounced on the topical issues of the day; its greatest test was to be the Irish famine.” (The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993, by Ruth Dudley Edwards, Page 6).
They saw a mass of unwanted Irish Catholics dying, and they viewed it with the same indifference that they viewed the repeated famines in India during British rule. Given that Irish manpower had always been needed for the British army, this was bloody stupid, as well as amazingly callous. But Ruth Dudley Edwards wholly identifies with these characters and never speaks against them. It seems her origins are Irish, something I hadn’t suspected from reading her Pursuit Of Reason. I read it out of interest in where The Economist had come from, and noticed only that she could lay out facts neatly in her ‘pursuit of reason’, but that reason had escaped her very easily. Or had she confused reason with reasons for praising the rich and powerful? This was mostly The Economist’s line, unable even think straight from a British-Imperial viewpoint. The Empire damaged its reputation through its neglect of Ireland and other mean-minded and rather stupid actions.
Just as colonial officials can ‘go native’, a native can ‘go metropolitan’, start identifying themselves with the superior group. And within Britain, a lot of the radical nonconformists became un-radical and most-conformist as they moved up the hierarchy. So did some Irish Catholics—but far less than if the Famine had been handled by a government that felt that Irish Catholics were worth preserving.
“It was unusual for Wilson to invoke the deity: certainly, when it came to the greatest issue of his editorship–the Irish famine–it was Adam Smith, not Jesus Christ, whose counsel he reluctantly followed.” (Ibid., p 47).
“Did the existence of widespread starvation not prove impractical the abstract principle that a government should not meddle with the subsistence of the people? On the contrary, it demonstrated ‘the propriety of rigidly adhering to non-interference’, for it was interference in the shape of the Corn Laws that had caused the problem in the first place. Similarly, it was no part of a government’s duty to feed any or all of the people. Since its only funds came from taxation, it could feed one section of the population only by depriving another.” (Ibid. p 58)
Lots of Britons also starved during the 19th century, but not those Britons rich enough to pay land-tax or income tax. Of course The Economist has always regarded life as a burden on money, a burden to be eased as much as possible and without concern for the deaths of people they didn’t know. In the 19th century, they represented a middle class that was vastly more prosperous than their 18th century equivalents, and who employed a mass of servants on a scale not seen before or since. Up until 1914, you were not regarded as part of the English Middle Class unless you had at least one servant, and preferably several. These characters were also amazingly cheap-minded, bitterly resentful of the small amount of tax they had to pay, enthusiasts for the workhouse horrors which replaced the relatively generous welfare system that Britain had had when the gentry still dominated. They never did grasp that a shoddy attitude towards the rest of Britain and the British Empire was certain to ruin everything that they cherished.
I understand Ruth Dudley Edwards is one of the Patrons or Ireland’s Reform Movement—‘Reform’ having the standard SubAmericaniser meaning of a mindless return to 19th century values. I hope that the Irish will feel suitable patronised for her strong support for the 19th century starving-off of several million of them.
The book offers no explanation as to how corn laws could have caused a potato famine. In fact there was no connection outside of anti-Corn-Law propaganda: the disaster in Ireland was used to break the power of English farmers, who needed protection from cheap foreign imports. It was assumed that the rest of the world would feed Britain under the protection of Britain’s navy, which could also blockade the enemy’s shipping and cripple its economy. Hence the panic over the German navy in the early 20th century and the critical battles in the Atlantic in both World Wars. A moderate investment in British agriculture would have made Britain much more secure even from a war-waging viewpoint, but that wasn’t how they thought back then. Enormous wealth was being accumulated, but it was split between an unproductive gentry in the countryside and the middle class in the big cities.
The British Empire fell because of chronic short-term thinking. Germany was ignored and patronised when it was a mass of small un-aggressive states, and there was certainly no fear of Britain’s old friend Prussia, the key ally at Waterloo. But Britain found it expedient to encourage nationalism in Italy and in some parts of the Balkans, without thinking where else nationalism might break out. Likewise Britain thought it was clever to build up the Japanese and encourage them against the Russians, without reflecting that they were undermining the racial hierarchies and the idea of white-superiority on which their own empire rested.
The 19th century was the true Age Of Extremes, with a few million selfish white people hogging the wealth created by industry and creating an abnormal gap between themselves and the rest of humanity. The 20th century could have seen further advances in the same bad direction. Only a series of accidents and internal divisions among this elite—seen as an ‘European Civil War by some Third World observers—has allowed a slow and painful equalisation in the 20th century. This has slipped a bit since 1990, but remains vastly better than the situation as it was in 1890.
When one racial or ethnic group has the bulk of the wealth and/or status, attempts at equality can be portrayed as bigoted or racist, at least by those who don’t ask how the original difference happened. Thus in Zimbabwe, because white people had most of the land, it is ‘racism’ to take it away from them. That’s the Alice-in-Wonderland logic of the New World Order; for one racial group to be richer or more powerful is fine, but measures to reduce the inequality are racist. In cases like the Chinese of South-East Asia, it’s hardly disputable that their wealth was due harder work and a more commercial culture. Despite which, I think there is some justification for enforcing equality. You should not ask any human group to be a permanent stratum of inferior people, while also preventing them living their own lives outside of the globalised economy. The British Empire fell because it was built on an attempt to do just that.
The status of Ireland within the British Empire was always uncertain, and the Catholic Irish were always classed as somewhat inferior people. It was accepted that a white race should have its own government, government which was democratised rather slowly for the entire British Isles. From the standard English viewpoint, the Irish had a status as a low-ranking white race that put them well above non-whites. Hindu and Muslim troops were the main basis of British power on the Indian subcontinent, and were also used for other colonial conquests, which was fine for as long as it was another non-white territory. There were strong protests when non-white troops from the Indian army were used in Malta, which was classed as ‘white’. There is actually little ethnic difference between the various peoples of the Mediterranean Basin, but the geographic difference between European shores and Asia/Africa roughly coincided with the Christian/Muslim split, with just a few exceptions. When South Africa got round to formalising racial classifications, they included the Lebanese Christians as ‘white’ while their Muslim neighbours were ‘coloured’. It was all based on 19th century nonsense—not exclusively English nonsense, a big role in separating the Classical Greeks from their deep cultural ties to Egypt and Asia Minor was played by German scholars who were full of racist notions of their own.
As I said earlier, the standard English view of the Germans up until 1914 classed them with the Dutch and Scandinavians, a group of Germanic or Teutonic nations. This changed when a united Germany became a serious competitor from the 1870s onwards. Germany probably hadn’t thought seriously about world domination—if they had, they would have seized the unique opportunity of the 1905 Revolution in the Tsarist Empire, which followed Russia’s shock defeat by Japan. The British Empire had helped Japan, thoughtlessly undermined the notions of White Superiority on which the Empire rested, and in 1905 the Germans might have had a free hand to dismember Tsarism in the way they later did with the Brest-Litovsk treaty. This ‘infamous’ treaty actually split Tsarism into much the same units which emerged when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. This actually happened on the basis of borders drawn by Stalin after World War Two, and in territories that had suffered invasion and massacre during the interim.
Germany might have broken Tsarism in 1905, fighting and winning the war that Marx had been expecting much sooner. It is a pity they didn’t, one of many tragic might-have-been paths that were missed. In actual history, England’s view of Germany changed between 1905 and 1914, ending with a massive and unsuccessful war by France, the British Empire and Tsarist Russia against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The British ruling class found it a convenient alternative to the impasse over Ireland that they had created. The issue had been smouldering for nearly half a century within the politics of the British Isles, with Irish MPs often holding the key balance between Liberals and Tory/Unionists. This went along with a rather slow progress towards modern democracy—only after 1885 did you have more than half of all adult males able to vote within the British Isles, with self-government for white colonies and little or nothing for the non-whites.
Home Rule in 1914 looked likely to bring about a Civil War in the British Isles, with strong objections to Irish Protestants being put under a government which Catholics would inevitably dominate. This was quite as big an issue at the time as the later conflicts over letting white settlers be governed by a black majority in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa, which happened after many retreats and big internal changes in Britain. If the British Empire had remained dominant, the ruling class would have kept broad inequality between human groups, with Irish Catholics still ranking low among the White Races. Giving them control over Superior People in a Home Rule government was definitely a problem, from the standard viewpoint of the British ruling class and also from the standard English view.
The hierarchies were gradually dropped during the anti-Fascist war and then the Cold War. As Brendan Clifford has shown in various articles, Western culture including British culture had been moving in a Fascist direction for some time before 1914 (never mind 1933). This was reversed after the Anglosphere found they needed the Soviet Union to break Hitler’s recreation of the Germanosphere. But having defined the cause as anti-Fascist, it was hard to avoid moving in a genuinely anti-Fascist direction. Defeating the Soviet challenge during the Cold War meant accepting many of the Soviet Union’s achievements—sexual equality, a relaxed view of sex in general, the erosion of inherited class status and the idea of economic planning. Huge chunks of the United Nations Charter were taken from Stalin’s Constitution of the Soviet Union. And if neither the Charter nor the Constitution were ever particularly effective, they did at least define what the world ought to be like, and define it in ways that were still hotly disputed in the 1930s and 1940s.
I very much doubt if the Anglosphere would have dropped its racial hierarchies if it had been anything less than a fight for survival. Or at least a perceived fight for survival: Germany and Austria were seen as a threat because they were forming their own ‘Germanosphere’ in Eastern Europe, giving a stable framework in which a large number of overlapping nationalities could co-exist. This included Jews, and Jews would have done much better in the rest of the 20th century if the 1914 war had been won by the Germanosphere rather than the Anglosphere.
The 1914 war could and should have ended with a quick German victory. It might also have ended in 1915 or 1916 or 1917. Up until Tsarism collapsed, it was the British ruling class that was mainly responsible for the mass slaughter. Germany was quite ready to say that the war was a stalemate, but the populist imperialism that then dominated British culture hinged on an idea of military superiority and could not have survived a war with massive casualties and no visible gains. Popular imperialism was rather shallow, invented since the 1870s and was discredited by 1945. A majority of English people had never felt any strong involvement with the British Empire and were not sorry to be rid of it. But in 1915 and 1916, the British ruling class was ready to carry on with the mass slaughter of the trenches to keep it going. By 1917 they were too weak, but then the USA pitched in and allowed the war to carry on till Germany could be ripped apart and the Germanosphere disrupted. Lenin took Russia out of the war, but the dream of a multinational socialism got confined to former Tsarist territory. East Europe’s complex overlapping nationalities were turned into weak nations full of discontent minorities, just to weaken Germany and ensure an Anglo future.
As others have noted, the small insurrection in Dublin in 1916 saved vastly more Irish lives than it cost. Its context was the global vandalism of the British ruling class, which was ready to sacrifice anything rather than accept that its period of global supremacy had ended. In fact Ireland was not definitely lost to the Empire even then. The British connection was strong enough to make a lot of young Irish men volunteer for the war. As simple a thing as not executing the leaders in 1916 might have made a difference. Or else not letting out the IRA rank-and-file after the war, liberating men like Michael Collins who were unambiguously guilty of armed insurrection and might have been kept locked up for another 20 or 30 years without any legal norms being violated. This baffling and mostly-overlooked decision meant that when Ireland’s voters opted for independence, this could actually be enforced by force of arms. The Boer War had supported the idea that the Empire could be run by military force. Losing Ireland showed that it could not, at least not at a price that England was prepared to pay.
They way the world developed after the Great War does not support the New Right view that every single now-admired thing that Britain and the USA fought against would have happened anyway. It is not just Irish history that is being amended in the light of present politics; the Irish ‘Revisionists’ are a small branch office for a global brand of Untruth. It is a global thesis: everything that is now accepted but which was once opposed by Britain and/or the USA fought could definitely have been achieved without fighting. British and American actions are only decisive when they fought against something that’s not currently approved of. The Irish Revisionists are just one small platoon in a monstrous regiment of misleading historians.
The Anglosphere did not bring democracy to Europe, or to anywhere else. The USA was established as a republic rather than a democracy, and it took a long campaign by Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans to establish that it was in fact a government by the people (‘people’ being just white males, of course). Vastly more important was the French Revolution, which broke the power of the hereditary aristocracy in France and throughout Europe.
By 1914, some sort of democracy was operating in most of Europe, Russia included. The process might have been speeded by a War of 1914 in which Germany had gained a swift victory over the Tsarist Empire. A war of 1914-17 was another possibility, with a negotiated peace giving Germany a dominant position after the February Revolution in Russia. The October Revolution in Russia and the later rise of Fascism happened because the USA joined the war in April 1917, giving Britain the incentive to fight on and inducing the pro-Western Russian government to carry on with the war until the Bolsheviks overthrew them.
Fascism was admired by many in the USA and was treated as useful by Britain in the period 1923 to 1938. Mussolini’s fascism was preferred to Italian democracy, as has been detailed elsewhere. The British ruling class was decidedly undecided about Hitler, seeing him as no more alien than the USA, and far more acceptable than the Soviet Union. In 1938, the Encyclopaedia Britannica treated Hitler as a normal politician with some merits. Before that, Franco’s fascism was actively helped to overthrow Spanish democracy, by a ‘neutral’ blockade that mostly hurt the Republican cause. This was retrospectively justified by the growth of Communist influence in Spain, which would not have happened if Britain and France had not been so biased. And sympathy for Fascism extended as far as giving Hitler everything he wanted during the Czechoslovak crisis, allowing him to add to his original large demands.
The switch in 1938-1939 was a British decision that Hitler was making Germany too strong and had to be fought if he didn’t know his place. His place, from a British viewpoint, was to suppress German communism, and hopefully to lead an attack on the Soviet Union, probably in alliance with countries like Hungary and Poland. Breaking Czechoslovak democracy was worrying but acceptable, not different in kind from what happened in Spain. Authorising a Slovak secession and then seizing the Czech lands was seen as a step too far. He was suspected of trying to rebuild the Germanosphere, the alternative centre of power that the 1914-18 war had been fought to break up. Despite which, a lot of the British ruling class wanted to capitulate after the Fall of France. Halifax wanted it and Halifax would have been Prime Minister in place of Churchill if he had been willing to take the job after Chamberlain quit. The war continued thanks to the odd accident of Churchill being Prime Minister, and having no desire to be remembered in history for having been in charge during the unfolding of a much bigger British disaster than Gallipoli.
The actual war was mostly fought by the Soviet Union. The core of German power was its army, and the bulk of that army was fighting the Soviets to the very end. If Hitler and Stalin had made their own peace in 1943, say, going back to the lines of 1939, it would have been almost impossible for Britain and America to have continued their end of the war. It was tough enough to do it in actual history, with more than half the German army fighting in the East.
As I said earlier, President Roosevelt wanted to join in the European wars. But the US constitution means that Presidents cannot declare war, even though they run them and command the military even in peacetime. So Roosevelt did everything he could to provoke Japan and Germany, getting the attack on Pearl Harbour as a reward. Pearl Harbour sank the battleships that were a point of national pride, but did not touch the core of US sea-power, the aircraft carriers – all of them happened to be out at sea.
War with Japan did not automatically mean war with Germany. Mysteriously, Hitler chose to declare war on the USA, even though Japan had refused to join his war on the Soviet Union. It did give his submarines a brief advantage in US waters and attacking US shipping. But it was still a bloody stupid thing to do, allowing Roosevelt to send massive aid to the Soviet Union and to join the British in various invasions of Nazi territory, beginning with North Africa and extending to Italy.
During the anti-Fascist war and then the Cold War, the British ruling class accepted that their time was over and that they should capitulate to US values. Roman Catholicism was no longer a global enemy but a useful ally against Global Communism. Likewise the USA and Western Europe found it wise to abandon their traditional racism as they competed against Soviet influence.
Toryism survived thanks to Churchill, who actually liked Fascism better than most of his fellow-Tories. To be exact—and this is detailed in Problems of Socialism & Capitalism issue 70-71—he liked Italian Fascism and opposed Hitler because he feared that Hitler was re-constituting the Germanosphere. Churchill could easily figure Hitler’s intentions, because most of it was what he’d have been doing if he were in Hitler’s position. Chamberlain had the viewpoint of a Birmingham city councillor and was very surprised that Hitler wouldn’t settle down to live a comfortable life. But Chamberlain was also more realistic on Britain’s own weakness, thinking that a war would be fatal to those aspects of England that both he and Churchill valued. As was indeed the case: the new Britain that emerged after the war had very different values, and the Empire was the first thing to go.
Back in the 1960s, this was reasonably well understood. The general assumption was that the Western and Soviet systems would eventually merge in a global society where all of the different cultures would be equally respected. It wasn’t impossible, but unfortunately the Soviet Union under Brezhnev refused to move politically and also eroded the very strong economic base that they had inherited from Stalin’s time. In the 1960s the gap was small and closing; by the 1980s things were different and it was possible for the New Right to re-invent the past in the light of their current needs.
If everything good that happened in the Cold War would have happened without the Soviet challenge, while everything bad was wilful evil by the Soviet side, then clearly the Soviets will be left looking very bad and the USA very good. But where is the logic to this analysis? It seems to exist for no better reason than to glorify the winning side, the people with immediate power.
The Western side in the Cold War defined itself as having waged a consistent fight against ‘totalitarianism’. ‘Totalitarian’ was original Mussolini’s phrase, meaning mostly that he was producing a new civilisation, a transformation of European values. He did this in parallel with the Soviet attempt, and people at the time would often bracket Poland and Pulsudski’s heirs with this; the same people whose safety was cited by Britain and France when they went to war in 1939. The Polish experiment was in fact destroyed by that war, but many aspects of both the Soviet system and Mussolini in his first decade were absorbed by the allies in the course of World War Two. I call it ‘Democratic Corporatism’ because that was what it was. It also left out the strong cultural controls of Fascist and Communist systems, which explains why its core values were quite easily overturned by a mix of sleazy commerce and youth rebelliousness in the 1960s.
The formation of pre-1940s West European culture was no nicer than the stuff that went on in ‘totalitarian’ regimes. It was just done more slowly, and mostly at the expense of poor and inarticulate people. Ireland was a particularly blatant case, which is why it is vital to retrospectively clean it up and make it a small little understanding which does not at all reflect badly on England.
Capitulation is based on the apparent success of the Thatcher/Reagan line since 1980. But how real has that success been? The West as a whole has done rather worse over the period 1975-2000 than it did in 1950-1975. A small ‘Overclass’ has got a disproportionate share of the gains – I define this ‘Overclass’ as starting with millionaires and excluding a lot of people who think themselves well off. What has also happened is a disintegration of traditional culture—not just what could be called ‘bourgeois’ beliefs, but householder values as a whole and family/marriage structures that had persisted with variants since the Neolithic.
New Right success has been something of a ‘dead cat bounce’, to borrow a charming little phrases that they use in the financial markets. The meaning is that a market will briefly rally but be fundamentally weak (based, I suppose, on the idea that a cat that fell far enough would bounce up even though it was stone dead). It can look impressive at the time—the Brezhnev Era in the Soviet Union was also a ‘dead cat bounce’, and as late as 1988, they still looked extremely strong.
What we have now is not like Anglo culture in the 1950s, which had the potential to contented reproduce itself for decades and decades, maybe for centuries. I’m not sorry that it broke up, but for now it is broke and we do need to fix it, a task which is quite beyond both New Right and New Labour. A ‘liberalisation’ that includes widespread drug addiction is hardly acceptable. This has spread round the world as part of the latest Anglo trend, along with commercial sex, but I don’t regard commercial sex as abnormal or undesirable in itself. Most civilisations include it in some generally-unobtrusive fashion. The abnormality is the neurotic fascination and revulsions of Anglo culture—most other descendants of Latin-Christian culture worked it out in the 1960s, but Anglo culture didn’t. Anglo culture for the last century has been using sex to sell everything except sex, which is a major deviation from the human norm, not something that can last.
The USA since 1990 has behaved as a global hooligan. The advantage of the US side during the Cold War was that it offered much more choice, whereas the Soviet Union stamped out anything that was out of line. But now it is the USA that is doing the stamping, a global ‘crusade for freedom’, with freedom seen as identical as obedience to the USA. ‘With us or against us’ – the ‘March Of Freedom’ is now decreed to be exactly the same as the progress of the Anglosphere, the British Empire followed by its North American offshoot. Everything else—including Ireland—has to be bundled into this general pattern
Lots of people all over the globe are not letting themselves be bundled. The Chinese saw what happened to Russia and the East Asian ‘tigers’ and refuse to follow Western advice beyond their own immediate needs. India remains the world’s largest electoral democracy without capitulating to US demands. The USA rather liked the former Indian government’s mix of Hindu sectarianism and ‘economic liberalism’, but now Congress are back with the support of several of India’s communist parties. And Iraq, intended as the grand example of the Arabs spontaneously accepting Western values, has instead seen the spontaneous emergence of a whole slew of opposition movements, most of them much more hostile to Western values than Saddam ever was. Rather a bad time, I’d have thought, for the Irish to SubAmericanise and junk their own history.
First published in Labour & Trade Union Review in 2004
I have highlighted the remarks I made about nostalgia for the world before 1945 leading to an exit from the Anglosphere.
What I did not anticipate is that it would go along with the USA also growing sick of its world role. Brexit might lead to a block of populists in the USA and England, no longer trying to impose its vision on the wider world.