The problem of the Establishment mentality – Part 4
This was to have been the final part of my investigation into The Rotherham Syndrome. But I have received a further email from my correspondent Steve S, whose original mail precipitated this series, in which he writes:
I think that’s a pretty valid observation on the mysterious, ubiquitous phenomenon of Establishment treachery. So in this fourth but no longer final part of my essay, I will investigate how the old Establishment class - the elites of the old courtiers, the new industries, and Empire – lost its political foothold. It will now be the fifth - and final - part in which I will focus, finally, on today’s controlling class of thousands of men and women who attach no human value, indeed, scarcely any meaning at all to children of our people simply because they are white victims of Asian Moslem sexual criminals.
It is worth noting in passing that although the context here is British, the latter’s monopoly of control, the common purpose, the hermetic networking, the focus on “modernising” everything via a near-religious progressive obsession, the unnatural preoccupation with racism, the total absence of empathy for kind, and the easy resort to race-treachery are common to political and liberal Establishments and the official mind throughout the West. Rotherham is only an extreme example of how absolute their thinking can be and just how far they are prepared to go to defend their racial proposition. I hope non-British readers will indulge me, therefore, in the following (brief) history of British elitism.
Today’s Establishment is an historically unique and most recent development. It finally flowered managerially and ideologically with the election of New Labour to office in 1997. But let us not forget that for the best part of three centuries the Establishment in Britain was a very different quantity. Certainly, from Waterloo to 1914, its elites were unassailed anywhere in terms of power, wealth, sheer confidence and security. They can be profitably presented in a tri-partite form, the oldest element of which was the landed aristocracy, whose power was expressed and maintained largely through the House of Lords but also through the Whig Party. Then there were the commercial and financial elites of London, including the Jewish banking dynasties. Their ties to the Tory and Whig/Liberal parties in the Commons and in government (principally the former) provided for the pursuit of their interests. To a degree, these two groups represented wholly different and conflicting interests: those of the land and tradition, continuity, paternalism and a somewhat self-serving connectedness to the safely uneducated, rustic labourer; and those of the town and modernity, of expansiveness, of the merchant class, of profit, therefore, and of the revolution of the machine. This was the real division in the politics of the age and, to no small extent, it mirrored the divisions of the American Civil War.
The third element was the new elites of the northern and midland industrial regions – often self-made men who, though as wealthy as the others, possessed no collective instrument of power. Many, though, exercised individual patronage of the Whigs, which might only have been the usual story of new money craving old.
There was much overlap between the first two elements, and perhaps they should be understood not as opposing interests but rather as a conclave of aristocratic and upper-middle class men educated at the best public (ie, private) schools and the top universities, who went on to people the Tory and Whig parties they themselves had fashioned, who created the Civil Service, the City of London and the military and industrial might of Britain, and who governed the largest empire of dominions, colonies, protectorates, and mandates the world had ever seen, and thereby owned the international trade of 450 million people. They were not just pre-eminent in Britain. They were the global elite. And like all elites they were not Platonic philosopher kings but parasites. Ultimately, they were loyal only to their own dictates as individuals and as a class.
To understand their vertiginous descent and the condition of their successors in Britain today we must first examine the existential crisis of this elite, which began to emerge in concrete terms, in my view, sometime after the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 and before the final victory in North Africa at Tunis on 12th May 1943.
The signs were there much earlier, of course. The Great War, the disintegration of the Liberal Party and the political rise of the working man, and the Great Depression had been hammer blows. But they might have been survivable with some Disraelian political nuance and a sufficient period of peace and stability. Instead, it was all too plain from the German re-militarisation of the Rhineland on 7th March 1936 that another war with Germany, and another hammer blow, was coming. The long process of rearmament began that same year, hand-in-hand with a diplomatic effort to find a peaceful way forward or, at least, to buy time. In the course of that, the British and French Governments humiliated themselves at Munich on 30th September 1938, ceding to Hitler the newly-named Sudetanlands. Then, less than six months later, they sat on their hands, whistling innocently, as he invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. The focus switched to Poland. All classes of British society now knew with sickening clarity what lay ahead. HG Wells’s famous aphorism from 1914 – “the war to end all wars” – quickly developed into a term of disparagement, and a blackly ironic commentary upon the sacrifice in the trenches.
By 27th April 1939, when Military Service was re-introduced, initially for single men of 20 to 22 years old, there must already have been a terrible weight of failure and foreboding across the political class. It will only have been compounded by the knowledge that in the preceding decade most of the country had endured an economic depression that was little touched by the upturn in the south after 1932. There was a genuine sense of social ferment given political voice by the Labour Party (the great part of which had stayed out of the national governments of the thirties) and the Trades Union Council. Chamberlain’s National Government bowed to it by curtailing excess working hours under the Factory Act and by much slum clearance. But it all only confirmed the justice of the working man’s cause - the economic and social system had failed him comprehensively. He had little cause to defend it. And yet, that was implicit in what the politicians had to ask him to do when war was declared on 3rd September 1939.
The comprehensive defeat of the BEF in France was written over in the public mind by the Miracle of Dunkirk from 27th May and 4th June 1940, and by victory in the air in September of that year. These defensive triumphs were the last hurrahs for the old values. The leading lights of the Labour Party were now inside Churchill’s National Government, not only pushing at departmental level in every way possible to defeat Germany but taking political advantage of their new positions. The moment, after all, was ripe. This was to be the people’s war. It did not only claim the lives of fighting men on the front-line. Some thirty thousand civilian lives were lost in the The Blitz – the night-bombing of British cities which the Luftwaffe inaugurated on 7th September, 1941 – before the Air Ministry finally ordered its own night offensive (ie, area bombing) on, ironically, Valentine’s Day 1942. The young men who climbed aboard the Wimpeys, Stirlings, Halibags, and Lancs were not at all the educated, middle-class, latter-day knights of 1940 who had hurled their Spits and Hurricanes into battle over southern England. They were the sons of Everyman, and they took terrible casualties. Through the worst of it over Berlin and the Ruhr in 1943 their odds of surviving a tour were less than 50/50. And the costs of war, of course, were borne in treasure as well as life. The people were suffering a huge material privation for the war-cause – far more than Hitler ever felt able to demand from his people. Britain expended more of her national wealth during those six years than any other combatant (and after the war she would receive the least favourable treatment from a US president determined to break British imperial power).
The first concrete sign of a new and, for the Establishment, ominous political consensus came early with the announcement by Arthur Greenwood, the Labour MP and Minister without Portfolio, on 10th June 1941 of an inter-departmental committee which would carry out a survey of Britain’s social insurance and allied services. The result was the momentous Beveridge Report, published on 2nd December 1942. It identified not just poverty but five “Giant Evils” in British society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, disease. None of these could be tolerated in the modern age. All of them indicted the years of Establishment disinterest and inaction. Their eradication could be delivered only through a far-reaching and radical process of welfare reform: care “from the cradle to the grave”.
Among the people this idea proved to be hugely and immediately welcome. The political impetus was already irresistible. It signalled the coming of the end of the old social and economic dispensation. About this the report’s author William Beveridge, an economist, had been perfectly explicit:
The revolution commenced quietly with the reform of the most democratising force in society: education. In June 1943 the Conservative Minister Rab Butler, the father of “new conservatism”, published his white paper titled “Educational Reconstruction”. It began with a quotation from Disraeli:
Five months later a bill was introduced to the House. At its second reading on 19th January 1944, Butler expressed in simple and unassuming language the spirit of the new consensus:
These mild, emollient words masked a stark truth: the consensus had put an end not just to the old social and economic structure or even to the presumption for the elites’ “rightful” place in government. The very idea of class and deference was being questioned no less critically, if less dramatically, than in pre-revolutionary Russia. All down the years from the mid-18th century to the collapse of the Liberal Party, reform had been a debate within the elite’s ranks. Literally by entitlement, access to and possession of social and economic power remained securely in their keeping. Class distinctions were not only marked by the contours of wealth and manners but, incontestably, by breeding, education and Weltanschauung … by palpable human quality, so seeming. But this second German war within a generation, and the popular will to change which its sufferings engendered among the British people, had hollowed out the elites as a political entity with something to say about the future. All that remained to them now was to seek to ameliorate the worst of socialism while mimicking the Labour Party so as to appear friendly towards ordinary working folk and, more importantly, voters.
On 5th July 1945, two months after VE Day and two months before VJ Day, the ordinary working voters delivered Winston Churchill’s Conservatives a sharp slap in the face with the election of Clement Atlee’s Labour Party to office. It was quite unexpected by the Establishment itself, which assumed that the electorate would reward Churchill for guiding the nation to victory. It was also an emphatic electoral message. Labour bagged 47.7% of the vote and a majority of 145 seats – the first working majority the party had won. The way was open to profound and, for the elites, profoundly disquieting social change, taking forwards Beveridge’s agenda in every area. It was an historic moment. The great massifying ideas of the modern age - liberalism, socialism, democracy, and modernism itself – had worked themselves out in the crucible of war, and revealed the old Establishment to be impermanent after all; less a bulwark of past values and more an agent of change itself than it could ever have foreseen or would want to admit.
Labour had campaigned for its victory under the slogan “Let us face the future”. The future for the elites darkened immeasurably in 1947 with the loss of India, which was the keystone of the whole colonial structure. For example, control of East Africa had been predicated on protecting the sea route to India following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. That no longer mattered. But walk away from East Africa and how do you justify staying on in the south?
A suitably Platonic-sounding justification for continued colonisation was found in re-defining it as a facilitator of independence. Native societies would be developed, indigenous elites educated and enlightened so that self-rule, civil order, and a place among the family of happy and productive sovereign nations of the world would become possible. It was utterly self-serving, of course. It was designed to stave off untimely and disorderly exits in the face of native resistance, and to protect commercial interests from local “big men” who were not educated in the British way of doing things. But it did not hide the truth that decolonialism was taking away the last of the elites’ political raisons d’etre. Over a period of less that two decades they had been transformed into a political anachronism by the rising consciousness of the people, expressed as the socialism of the left at home and as nationalism abroad.
The most notable and fateful example of the latter was the Pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. The Suez Crisis of 1956 marked the end of the role of both Britain and France as international powers. Within three months of completing the ignominious withdrawal from Egypt, Charles de Gaulle was signing the Treaty of Rome to establish the European Economic Community. The French political class had new vistas of self-realisation stretching before it. But British politicians were on the outside, and had only a dying Empire and the disparate and purposeless Commonwealth which was taking its place. The emphasis was heavily on the dying. On 3rd February 1960, the Conservative Prime Minster Harold Macmillan made his famous speech in Cape Town, declaring:
Another political fact was that Britan could not find a new future in the EEC without the consent of all six existing members, and one of them - de Gaulle – was not going to have it. In January 1963 he blocked the British application to join (which he would do again four years later). Desolated, Macmillan wrote in his diary “all our policies at home and abroad are in ruins”. The following year Macmillan was gone in the wake of the Profumo Affair, which let slip the mask of the governing class as dull and worthy servants of the public good and guardians of social propriety, and suggested a deep, abusive vice at the heart of power.
Mortified, Conservative MPs stepped backwards and selected as leader and Prime Minister a run-of-the-mansion, little-known aristocrat from the Scottish lowlands who had first entered parliament in 1931 and was now an hereditary peer. His name was Alec Douglas-Home (pronounced “Hume”), The Lord Home of The Hirsel, no less. He looked like a cadaver and betrayed a distinct rigour mortis in his public demeanour. He lasted two days short of a year. The Labour Party under Harold Wilson won a narrow victory in the 1964 election. The sixties were truly here, unbuttoned and on the razzle. The world of the old elites was finally consigned to the past.
But anachronistic or not, parasitic or not, they had served some social use during their time, lending structure, order, stability to society and continuity to government in the long, extraordinary and dynamic age of British Empire. Now there was a vacuum. This would be an age of social, intellectual, and political tumult … shallow self-interest and shallower self-expression ... the pill and sudden sexual freedom ... disastrous socially liberal reforms ... coarse social critique and coarser draughtsmanship in the arts ... internationalism and brutalism in architecture ... industrial decay wrought by weak government, weak business leadership and bloody-minded union militancy ... the cult of youth, pop culture, counter-culture, drug culture, the flight into eastern mysticism ... anti-authoritarianism among the young, reaction to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation, reaction to Vietnam, interminable student sit-ins and demos ... support on campus for terrorism in Northern Ireland and Palestine … support for anything that outraged normal sensibility. Radical egalitarian ideas coursed through the university left, infecting a generation with the sense that everything was rotten and had to be swept away. Moral norms, natural interests and imperatives, loyalties, beliefs were declared “oppressive” or “reactionary” or just “middle-class”. Change was the only value, destruction the only joy, the new the only virtue. The most rampant and pathological elements cried not just “smash capitalism” but “smash the family”, and nobody thought they could possibly mean it or would ever be able to do it.
It was, really, a mad scramble for a vacant crown. As with the tumult of pre-revolutionary Russia in 1917, when several possible paths to the future presented themselves, it was the worst possible ideological elements who would triumph.
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