Sunday 17 March 2013

The Wrong Club

Look at him in this picture, returning the salute. The Archibald Maule Ramsay of the twenty-first century.

The only class war party is the Conservative Party (the only class war party that Britain has ever had, in fact, having inherited both the Tory and the Liberal forms of it), and the only people left in it are the Right Club, viciously stripping the rest of us of everything from healthcare provision to bus services, pricing us out of education and even off the trains, forcing us to work for the Right Club members' companies merely in return for the dole, kicking us out of our homes and even out of our own parts of the country, extorting from us in order to carry on paying their own "bonuses" through their money laundering operations, and all the rest of it.

There is the vintage Red-baiting, reminiscent of both 1930s Far Rights, on which see below, in the blather about "Socialist Labour". There is a party called Socialist Labour. Does Cameron now regard it as the main threat to his own? They are on course to get about as many votes as each other, so perhaps he does. But Cameron's party, unlike Socialist Labour, is most unlikely to beat both the BNP and the English Democrats in every council ward contested by either or both, or to beat the BNP in the elections to the Scottish and Welsh devolved bodies.

If it can get its act together with TUSC, in particular, then Socialist Labour stands a reasonable chance of returning MEPs from the North of England next year. In that event, with Labour and UKIP both likely to do very well and with the BNP finished, both Con Dem parties stand a reasonable chance of returning no MEPs from the North of England next year, from a population considerably larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

It is not about posh people per se. Labour was never the party of anything like the whole of the working classes, nor did those classes ever provide anything like all of its support. Britain has neither a proletariat nor a bourgeoisie in the Marxist or Continental sense, but several working classes and several middle classes.

There was never any incongruity about the presence of middle or upper-class people in the Labour Party, and not least among Labour MPs. Nor about their having come from, and far from cast off, either Liberal or Tory backgrounds. Especially in Labour's early years, those backgrounds routinely included activism, and indeed parliamentary service, on behalf of either of those parties.

Herbert Morrison professed never to have seen any conflict "between Labour and what are known as the middle classes". Aneurin Bevan denounced class war, calling instead for "a platform broad enough for all to stand upon" and for the making of "war upon a system, not upon a class". Both served under Clement Attlee (Haileybury, Oxford, the Bar and the Officer Corps), who was succeeded by Hugh Gaitskell (Winchester and Oxford).

Harold Wilson was a Fellow of an Oxford college, and the son of a chemist and a schoolteacher. Jim Callaghan was a tax inspector. Michael Foot's public school may have been the Quakers' Leighton Park, but it was still a public school, which duly sent him to Oxford; he and his brothers indicated just how far the sons of a provincial solicitor could climb if they were sent to the "right" schools. Neil Kinnock's father may have been a miner, but he himself was a lecturer. John Smith was a QC. We all know about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

And why not?

The Eton College George Orwell Society famously sent three delegates to the People's Assembly Against The War. 10 years on, during which Eton has become big political news, it would be quite a coup to have their successors at the People's Assembly Against Austerity on Saturday 22nd June, at the Central Hall, Westminster, from 9:30am to 5pm. But it would be even more of one if an Eton boy, an 18-year-old voter so that no one could question it, were to speak from that Assembly's platform.

There was no class war in this country under the post-War settlement. There was, I have to give it its due on this, nowhere near as much of one under New Labour, or even under John Major in his way, as there was before and as there has been since. But there certainly is now. Waged, as ever when it has been waged, by only one side, the only side in a position to wage it, although never before, not even in the 1980s, with the sheer viciousness that it is doing so now.

A year ago, 24 per cent of people in this country identified as working-class. After a further 12 months on the receiving end of the class war, that figure is now up to 60 per cent, with more than two years still left to go. We experience this Government, that tells us what we are not, and that in turn tells us what we are. There is no longer a middle class such as many of us would previously have said that we came from. Like a large and thriving private sector, a large and thriving middle class depends on central and local government action. Thanks to Cameron's Class War, there is now only Us and Them. Which are you, and why?

Thatcher went a long way to turning Britain into the country that Marxists had always said that it was, even though before her it never actually had been. Cameron is finishing the job. And then, what? It doesn't bear thinking about. He must be stopped and removed immediately.

As for the Right Club, itself, it was only one of two Far Rights in British politics at the time, both of which have contemporary echoes. The very term "Far Right" was far more commonly used to refer to Churchill and his faction. They were the neoconservatives of their day, complete with a decided, very specific Anglo-American streak which was wholly out of keeping with a mainstream Tory, and wider British, sentiment, fully reciprocated in the United States, which identified the two powers and so not only equals, but rivals.

For Churchill, it is important to remember, was on his mother's side part of the American Anglophile WASP elite, while on his father's side he was part of the Whig oligarchy, descended from Malborough and related to the Spencers. Which is posher? They are about as old as each other, both products of very much the same historical trends, the trends that slightly later bequeathed us the parvenus in the Palace. No wonder that they were, and sometimes still are, given to marrying each other.

Churchill was therefore brought up to treat Britain and America as more or less one country, just as some people now treat Britain and, say, Pakistan as more or less one country, and just as the Royal Family treated Britain and Germany as more or less one country until almost into the present Queen's lifetime.

The importation for marital purposes of American "dollar princesses" and of actual German princesses, or of little more than nominally Danish and purely nominally Greek princes, more than a little resembles the importation of spouses from Pakistan, especially since the "dollar princesses" were sometimes related to their new husbands, while the German princesses were always related to theirs, just as the nominally Greek Prince of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg is his wife's cousin.

But Britain and, for example, Pakistan are not more or less one country. Britain and Germany were not more or less one country. Britain and America were not more or less one country. Britain and America are not more or less one country. Britain and America never will be more or less one country. Any more than Britain and Germany, including under the aegis of the EU. Or any more than Britain and, for example, Pakistan. Not to say, Britain and Israel. Or Britain and the Gulf monarchies, however close may be our historic ties to some of them, though not to all of them, and not really including the big one, which is the American rather than the British sphere of influence in both directions.

Churchill's books of popular and populist history are as Whiggish as their subjects, including both his ancestors and himself. He repeatedly vacillated between the Conservative and Liberal Parties, and he only returned to office in 1951, having lost the popular vote, with the support of the National Liberals.

However, 15 or so years earlier, he had been at the head of a Far Right in internal opposition to a National Government drawn from formations at least nominally, and in some ways rather more than nominally, representative of each of the three political traditions, and sincerely, actively committed to the pursuit of peace through the avoidance of embroilment in the struggle between the Great Dictators for control of Central and Eastern Europe.

He headed  a de facto party that was opposed to the national interest as perceived by the Government, by the main parties both in Government and in Opposition, by the overwhelming mass of public opinion, and for that matter by the King. It was no less so opposed than was the Communist Party, as was to be shown almost comically when the Nazi-Soviet Pact fell apart and the Communists switched from an anti-war to a pro-war position on the spot. And it was no less so than were the various more or less, including fanatically, Hitlerite organisations and networks. In different ways, neither of the main parties was ever fully reconciled to Churchill, Labour not in the slightest, breaking the Coalition while the War was still being fought and winning a huge majority against him.

Nor was public opinion ever reconciled to Churchill, based on his record as a Party Leader at General Elections. He led the Conservatives to near-oblivion in1945, while the War in the Far East was still going on. He saw an unknown Independent take a very large minority of the vote in his own constituency after Labour and the Liberals had declined to put up candidates against him. He led his party to another defeat in 1950. He led it to the loss of the popular vote in 1951, so that he only came back as Prime Minister with minor party support. Even then, he found himself obliged to appoint numerous Ministers either with roots outside the Conservatives or from beyond politics altogether. Nor, for that matter, was the King ever fully reconciled to Churchill.

If Churchill's arrangement in 1951 calls to mind the present Coalition, then his historiography calls to mind that of Michael Gove and his horrendous, hilarious, hubristic History syllabus. That is an exercise in pure Whiggery. Tories, always sceptical and often pessimistic, have in reality important points of contact with the Left on this, as on so very many other things.

The other Far Right, that of the Right Club, corresponded to the strand within paleoconservative thought and action where noblesse refuses to oblige, where upper-class eccentricity tips over into outright madness, where anti-Semitism infests, where a concern for elite culture becomes a contempt for constitutionality and democracy, where a sense of embodying the national character can express itself as alliance with hostile foreign powers against those who are seen as betraying or diluting it, and where exiled or otherwise embittered aristocrats are allowed to fester. It would be pointless and dangerous for those of us who hold or share some or all paleoconservative concerns to ignore or dispute the existence of these tendencies historically, potentially, or as an occasional presence in our midst.

David Cameron and his wretched regime manage to embody and to express both of the Far Rights at the same time. Perish Cameron!

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