Wednesday 6 March 2013

Under The Red Beret

It is a great pity that Tim Stanley links approvingly to Brendan O'Neill's once-a-Trotskyist description of Hugo Chávez as a Bonapartist in the Marxian sense of the word. I understand that Dr Stanley, now a biographer of Pat Buchanan, was also a Marxist in his days chairing Cambridge University Labour Club and contesting his native Sevenoaks for Labour at the 2005 General Election. In which case, he was in the wrong party, and would be more appropriate to it now than he was then. Cheering by "exiles" in Miami is always a very, very, very bad sign.

The only self-styled Bonapartist known to me is his and my mutual friend Fr Alexander-Lucie Smith, who gives his political views on Facebook as "Alliance of Throne and Altar - Bonapartist". Chávez was not very far removed from that. In a standing rebuke to the pretended social conservatives, not least on the Catholic New Right, in what little remains of the American Republican Party and among its Murdoch-influenced wannabes, abortion remains illegal in Venezuela unless there is a threat to the life of the mother.

This is essentially the same law as in the Irish Republic, where there is the lowest maternal mortality in the world. The sentence in Venezuela is six months to two years for the mother, which one would hope were not much enforced, and one to three years for the doctor, or more if the mother dies as a result of the procedure. Venezuela is broadly where Britain was during the generation after the War, with socialistic measures effectively securing Christian-based social norms. It was 20 years into the National Health Service before Britain legalised abortion, and legalisation up to birth was done by the High Priestess of Aggressive Capitalism. Of course.

Moreover, between the drafting stage and that of eventual adoption, Chávez's Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 was specifically amended in order to remove provisions initially included under pressure from American homosexualist organisations of the kind that is now invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference and has its own events addressed by Ann Coulter. Marriage in Venezuela continues to be defined as only ever the union of one man and one woman. Another standing rebuke to the only party, as such, ever to have sought to change that definition in the United Kingdom. If there is ever a neocon invasion of Venezuela, then look out for that one as an expression of Leo Strauss's positive duty of the elite to lie to us in the common herd. It's for our own good, you know.

In the meantime, since Venezuela remains free, look out for the Requiem Mass for her President. Another will be offered in Rome by Cardinal Urosa of Caracas, who is there for the Conclave. Or else he would doubtless have conducted the State Funeral. The State Funeral of a man who was by no means universally loved, and that is a very healthy sign. He was most recently re-elected with 54 per cent of the vote on an 81 per cent turnout. Dictators do not get figures as low as that. Whatever else he was, Chávez was not a dictator. Dr Stanley's emphasis on the breadth and depth of opposition to him makes that point directly.

As for Bonapartism, what to make of René Rémond’s theory of les trois droites, the three French right wings? Of course, Orléanism as bourgeois and economically liberal is the Franco-Whiggery against which stand both the populist traditionalism of the Legitimists and the populist authoritarianism of the Bonapartists. But the only continuation of Legitimism is not in the more-or-less Lefebvrist wing of the Front National and its electorate. Although Gaullism does have obvious Bonapartist roots, just as Boulangism did, yet the popular followings for either and both were and are at least as much Legitimist, especially deep in the countryside.

Especially there, the anti-Gaullist Right is not entirely Orléanist, either; not for nothing did it most recently rally to a man whose name was not merely Giscard, but Giscard d'Estaing. Not for nothing did Philippe de Villers withdraw from the UDF over Maastricht as surely as Charles Pasqua withdrew first internally and then externally from the RPR. And where does anyone think that the popular constituency for an anti-Marxist Socialist Party first came from, or very largely still does come from?

Mitterrand could never decide whether he wanted to be Louis XIV or Napoleon. But he certainly wanted to be one or the other. Deep down, at least, one or the other was what huge numbers of his voters wanted him to be, too. Otherwise, he would never have won. And when he did win, he gave a job to Poujade, in whom the Legitimist and Bonapartist populisms of the Right met, who had endorsed him and who did so again. To all of which, what says François Hollande, who was endorsed, after all, both by François Bayrou and by Jacques Chirac? 

Chávez's red beret, as it is inconceivable that he did not fully understand, has a very particular resonance in the Hispanophone world. It suggests that his concerns were as much Legitimist as Bonapartist, or even more so, since the red-bereted Carlists were the close ideological cousins of the Legitimists as surely as their respective preferred monarchs were close dynastic cousins.

A section of Carlism has also swung firmly to the Left in observing how capitalism corrodes to nought all four of Dios, Patria, Fueros and Rey. Regardless of last night's outcome, the fans of the Royal Madrid Football Club must, or at any rate ought, to be fairly subdued while His Majesty, if they really believe him to be so, lies incapacitated and under pressure to abdicate Whereas the old Stalinists and Anarchists at Atlético will be like coiled springs waiting for him to go, whether by his own hand or by the Hand of God. But at least since 1971, there have been Carlists on both sides.

The difference between them is fundamentally strategic, about how best to adhere and attend to the Classical, Biblical, Medieval and Early Modern heritages that define the traditions deriving from disaffection with the events of 1688, 1776 and 1789. Those traditions emphasise the indispensable role of the State in protecting against the market everything that conservatives seek to conserve. They offer perennial critiques of individualism, capitalism, imperialism, militarism, bourgeois triumphalism, and the fallacy of inevitable historical progress. They uphold the full compatibility between, on the one hand, the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and, on the other hand, the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

Among the expressions of those traditions are the trade union, co-operative and mutual, Radical Liberal, Tory populist, Guild Socialist, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and many other roots of the British, Irish and Commonwealth Labour Movements. Variously, those roots have been embedded in, have been fed and watered by, and have grown into economic and wider patriotism locally and nationally, proud provincialism, worker-intellectualism, and organic working-class culture and self-organisation in town and country.

Don Carlos Hugo and the Carlist Left had to look to Tito's Yugoslavia, a much-mourned entity with no shortage of good points, for the Libertad, Socialismo, Federalismo, Autogestión necessary in order to safeguard, and be safeguarded by, Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey. In Britain, we also had and have much to learn from the past achievements of workers' ownership, self-management and profit-sharing within a multinational state which pursued a strongly multilateral and pro-peace foreign policy while eschewing weapons of mass destruction and transnational military power blocs, and which included both culturally Christian and culturally Muslim places and peoples. Not for nothing did the words "As a Croat and as a Catholic" have to be excised from the official record Tito's words to Pope Paul VI when, in March 1971, the Holy Father received him in audience.

But we never entirely needed the Yugoslav witness in quite the same way, staunchly Anglophile though it was, and perhaps for that very reason: rather, Yugoslavia needed, and knew that she needed, the British witness. Just as we have never needed Gramsci. The insistence on the unity of theory and practice, the rejection of economic determinism and of metaphysical materialism, the celebration of the "national-popular", an organic working-class culture and self-organisation including worker-intellectuals: we already had them all before he was born. Set, within many overlapping contexts in which they were at once moderated and moderating. Like our own Libertad, Socialismo, Federalismo, Autogestión. Not to say, our own Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey.

For the ideological no less than the dynastic cousins of the Legitimists and the Carlists were the Jacobites. Far from the centres of power, among the more or less politically excluded subcultures of Catholics, High Churchmen (and then first Methodists and then also Anglo-Catholics, as well as Scottish Episcopalians), Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers, there persisted an ancestrally Jacobite disaffection with the legitimacy of the Hanoverian State, of that State's Empire, and of that Empire's capitalist ideology.

That disaffection produced the American Republic, where Stuart-granted Fueros were very much to the point, as were such concerns again in the states' demands for the ecclesiastical and other protections set out in the Bill of Rights. In the Old Country, it produced Tory action against the slave trade, Tory and Radical action against domestic social evils, Tory and Radical extensions of the franchise, the creation of the Labour Movement, and the opposition to the Boer and First World Wars.

Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy. It still does. Including in Venezuela. But by no means only there. By no means at all.

1 comment:

  1. Is Stanley one of those who is actually writing Pat's books? They read like they have been stitched together after someone else's research. The one on WWII makes sense even based on secondary sources. Better than anything from the hilarious (and rich) "Sir" Ian Kershaw who is a papist like us.