TBG Conference 2013: Angela Ellis-Jones on The Forces Destroying Britain from Within
by The Editor
Angela Ellis-Jones' address on The Forces Destroying Britain from Within at the Traditional Britain Group's 2013 conference. Video and Transcript
Two centuries ago,the French conservative intellectual Joseph de Maistre recognised that a country can be far more effectively destroyed from within than from without. I’ve often wondered if things could be any worse in this country than they are, if it was deliberately being destroyed from within.The only conclusion that one can come to is that this is indeed happening.
I have been thinking about this for some time. While I can’t provide you with any evidence of a definite plot, I want to show how various ideas, which have been around for over a century, and which have become very influential within our governing class for the past generation, are having a very malign effect on our country. Every important institution in British society – the law, the police,the Civil Service, the Church, the BBC, the education system, the NHS – all these, and many others have become infected by radical left-wing ideas. But they have gained widespread acceptance,because they have been insidiously presented as ‘normal’ and ‘mainstream’: ideas from which no moderate person would dissent. And people who hold the ideas we hold are likewise cast as ‘extremists’. The process of change has been gradual and incremental so that people are hardly aware that it is happening.
One other institution that has been infected with these ideas and similarly ‘hollowed out’ is the ‘Conservative’ Party. Traditionally conservatives have not been very comfortable with ideas. They have thus been unable to understand the nature of the forces arrayed against them, and have succumbed to the very forces they should be opposing. Even our dear Prime Minister, with his much-vaunted First in PPE, doesn’t seem to have much of a clue.
What are these ideas? In the late nineteenth century, the philosopher Nietzsche foresaw what he called a ‘transvaluation of all values’. Exactly what he had in mind is not clear, but I interpret it as meaning that the Western world was about to undergo a radical shift in its values. So radical – indeed, revolutionary - that what was right would now be wrong, and vice –versa. The shift would involve the destruction of the old aristocratic/bourgeois social and political order founded on the rational, responsible individual who should be encouraged to behave well, and punished for behaving badly. Most of the mores, standards and laws of this order would be ridiculed and subverted. The rule of chaotic Dionysus would replace that of orderly Apollo.
In the twentieth century, this prophecy was fulfilled. To understand what has been happening, we need to examine the ideas of two sets of thinkers: the Frankfurt School, a group of Marxist academics who set up the Institut for Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) at the University of Frankfurt in 1924, modelled on the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, and who emigrated to America when Hitler came to power; and Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist who was imprisoned by Mussolini.
The Frankfurt School showed that the class struggle would have to move from the economy -in which it had not been very successful - to the cultural domain. The various writers attached to the School unleashed a flood of destructive criticism on the main elements of Western culture – Christianity, capitalism, authority, the family, patriarchy, hierarchy, morality, tradition, sexual restraint, loyalties, patriotism, nationalism, heredity, ethnocentrism, convention – all of which can be seen as components of conservatism. As a way of destroying these things, they advocated, amongst other things:
1. The creation of racism offences
2. Continuous change to create confusion
3. Encouraging the breakdown of the family by, inter al, teaching of sex and homosexuality to children
4. Undermining of schools and teachers’ authority
5. Huge amounts of immigration to destroy national identity
6. Promotion of excessive drinking
7. Emptying the churches
8. An unreliable legal system biased against victims
9. An excessive amount of dependency on the State
10. Control over and dumbing down of the media
We can all recognise these features of contemporary British society. The only thing missing from this list is the imposition of ‘equality and diversity’! Needless to say, we can thank the Frankfurt School for the bane of Political Correctness, which they spread through the American universities they colonised when they fled Germany.
Gramsci elaborated on how the class struggle should move to the cultural domain. He realised that the existing order had such a strong hold over people because its values were ‘hegemonic’ or dominant: public discourse was couched in terms which upheld the existing order. For this to be overturned, the Left must go on a ‘long march through the institutions’; it must infiltrate all the institutions of the State and civil society and infect them with its values. Once it had done this, it could make its discourse hegemonic. This process, which has been going on since the 1960s in Britain, is now virtually complete.
As we are now aware, all the institutions of the State, even when the so-called ‘Conservative’ party is in office, and most of those of civil society, have been captured for the left. Last year the Law Society cancelled a booking for a one-day conference on traditional marriage at short notice because it offended the Society’s ‘equality and diversity’ policy. The solicitors’ professional body will no longer allow free speech, and has no qualms about breaking a contract!
Very recently, the Girl Guides replaced the oath to ‘do my duty to God’ with the ridiculous pledge ‘to be true to myself’ – whatever that’s supposed to mean. This follows the appointment as Chief Guide of a woman who used to be a leading official of the Family Planning Association - yet another organisation which has deviated from the intentions of its founders. One could give many more examples.
What are the values of the Left? The most pernicious is that of Equality. It is no exaggeration to say that it has become the ruling principle of our society. As long ago as 1917, the Law Lords declared in a case that ‘Christianity is no longer part of the law of England’. Ever since,the British State has been searching for an alternative guiding principle, and by the closing years of the last century it had found it in Equality, a value it proceeded to implement with all the intolerance which one usually associates with a theocratic state. All must bow down and worship this new god, at the risk of losing their livelihood and their property. Nobody in public sector employment is allowed to dissent, and even many of the self-employed are now sucked into this vortex of iniquity. In Nazi Germany there was a word to describe such forced regimentation: Gleichschaltung.
After the enactment of the law allowing ‘gay’ ‘marriage’ this summer - a measure which Cameron proclaimed as ‘one of my proudest achievements’ - things can only be expected to get worse. Expect to see teachers and other public and perhaps even private,sector employees, sacked.
(The Government even refused amendments to the Bill to ensure that this would not happen!) But so exigent are the demands of Equality,that even reason itself must be shoved aside,as we saw from some of the ridiculous contortions the Government got itself into during the passage of the Bill. In America,there have recently been some very disturbing court judgements on the issue of what is ludicrously known as ‘equal marriage’. For the organs of the State to depart from the canons of rationality in an attempt to buttress a flawed ideology is a very serious thing.
Equality is certainly not a conservative idea,but the characteristic idea of the Left.Of the triad of ideas proclaimed by the makers of the French revolution –liberty,equality fraternity – equality is the only one that does not naturally occur ,which is founded on a lie,and which for its attempted realisation therefore requires massive state intervention. Whenever you hear the word ‘Equality’, you know that you are in state- intervention- and -compulsion territory. In case Mr Cameron has forgotten, the characteristic conservative ideas are order,authority and liberty – to be exercised within a moral context. Any real conservative abhors the idea of ‘equality’.S/he is quite comfortable with the fact that there are differences between people,and considers that to describe these differences as ‘inequalities’ is to load the argument in a left-wing direction. Yet as leader of the Opposition Cameron offered little resistance to Harriet Harman’s Equalities Act 2010, and was happy to implement it when he became PM. He had been warned by conservative writers that it was a ‘ticking time-bomb’ of left-wing venom which would enable Labour’s purposes to be fulfilled even if they lost the 2010 election, that would enable them to remain in power, if not in office, but he didn’t care.
Equality has several facets.The aspect of it which is most pernicious is that which overlooks the difference between good and bad behaviour. If everyone is equal, then who is to judge what is good or bad? It is significant that in the late nineteenth century, not only traditional social, but also traditional moral, categories began to collapse at the same time. Writers like HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw criticised not only the class structure of society but also its moral norms,which Marx and Engels saw as inextricably connected. Both social and moral hierarchies were simultaneously threatened. In a socially hierarchical society, it is easier to believe in a hierarchy of value – that some actions are intrinsically better than others. This was recognised by William Clarke, an early Fabian, who in a letter to a friend in 1884 wrote of how Marxist ideologues seemed ‘to desire revolution quite as much for the sake of overthrowing ethics and the spiritual side of things as for the sake of improving the material condition of the people’ (N. and J. MacKenzie, The Fabians, p.42). For Goldwin Smith in 1894, ’That the family and all its affections are closely bound up with property is evident; and the Nihilist is consistent in seeking to destroy property and the family together’. Writing in 1899, Jethro Brown regretted ‘the irreverence which has accompanied the pursuit of national equality’ (p.36) and noted that: ’the pursuit after equality often...displays a mean envy of every form of superiority.
The crusade against class domination tends to develop into a crusade against superior worth’ (p.136).
These trends, palpable only to the most acute observers in the late nineteenth century, became increasingly evident throughout the twentieth century, and have culminated in the morally chaotic society in which we are now living. One of the most powerful conduits through which the idea of equality of worth, and therefore the equivalence of wrongdoer and victim, has entered British society has been the whole system of law enforcement and justice. This would have amazed our C19th ancestors. Over the past decade there have been countless stories of PC police arresting people who have done nothing wrong, and putting them in the cells for several hours while the real wrongdoers go free. For example, there was an appalling case in January 2008 in which Nottinghamshire police arrested a pensioner for shouting at yobs who were stoning ducks in a canal.(Mail,18.1.08). The Daily Mail is full of stories like this, but they are never reported in the left-wing press, in The Guardian and The Independent, which seem to want to deny the reality of the society that their values have created.
In many of these cases, the police, once they have gone to the trouble and expense of arresting someone and throwing him in the cells for several hours, have to admit that there is no case to answer, but other cases go further. In so many cases these days, wrongdoers – provided that they are not middle or upper class, can expect great sympathy from judges, who as a group seem to have undergone a revolutionary change of mindset. How did this come about?
In 1977, the LSE Professor John Griffith, wrote a book entitled The Politics of the Judiciary, in which he showed how the predominantly upper-middle class background of British judges led them to give judgements that were of a conservative tendency. This was a criticism which echoed that made by Winston Churchill when he was a Liberal Minister in the early twentieth century. Little had changed in nearly seventy years, yet within a decade the attitudes of British judges were about to undergo a radical change.
Our judges still come from predominantly upper-middle-class backgrounds, but there has been a sea-change in their attitudes – and this in itself invalidates Griffith’s thesis - which began in the 1980s, and which was very clear by the 1990s. The punitive attitudes towards criminals, widespread among judges even into the early 1970s,were replaced by excessive lenience. Today,on the rare occasions when the utterances of a traditionally-minded judge are reported in the media, one feels as if one has temporarily stepped back into a saner age.
From the late 1970s British law students were exposed to the writings of Ronald Dworkin, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford. In Taking Rights Seriously,another important publication from 1977, the luxuriantly liberal professor bored on about how the law should take rights seriously by treating everyone with ‘equal concern and respect’. None of the traditional loading of the law in favour of the law-abiding and the respectable! Dworkin’s idea of taking rights seriously seems to have been to redistribute rights from the deserving to the undeserving. The traditional canons of justice were to be inverted. The state was to adopt a stance of liberal neutrality as between law-abiding and criminal, a neutrality which often looked more like favouring the criminal.
It is indicative of how little interest the Press has in the power of ideas that, when Dworkin died in February this year, I was unable to interest either the Mail or the Telegraph in an article about his pernicious influence on the law. Or perhaps all that shows is how difficult it is to get anything into the papers if you lack the right connections!
And now British judges can be guaranteed to uphold the rights of homosexuals (who, on latest ONS statistics, amount to 1.5% of the population) above those of people who believe that homosexuality is wrong (on latest British Social Attitudes Survey statistics, circa 30% of the population). In January 2011 Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who refused accommodation to a homosexual couple in their B&B, were fined £3600 by Bristol County Court on the ground that, under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 it was unlawful for them to discriminate whilst offering a service. Just as left-wingers like to describe capital punishment as judicial murder, I think that we can describe this extortion as judicial theft. Whatever became of the maxim ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’?
Even in the privacy of one’s own home, the diktat of the egalitarian State will prevail, thanks to HM Judges. Earlier this month,the Bulls’ appeal ,which was rejected by the Court of Appeal in 2012, was heard by the Supreme Court , which has reserved its judgement. I’m not optimistic about the outcome.
The homosexual claimants’ case was brought with the assistance of the taxpayer-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission – i.e. you and me.On its website the Commission boasts of ‘human rights for all’ but it is oblivious to the fact that it is heavily curtailing Mrs and Mrs Bull’s Human Rights – to offer accommodation in their own home to whomever they wish,as Britons have been able to for centuries. The Commission engaged counsel to argue for one view of human rights,a view heavily biased to the ideas of the Left.
I’ve come to the conclusion that leftists are not even aware of the fragility of the basis of their ‘Human Rights’.
Last year I attended an event at LSE at which Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty was speaking. I later asked her whether she was aware that the Human Rights which she saw as taken-for –granted and ‘objective’ were in fact no more than the distillation of Left-wing prejudices. She seemed genuinely surprised !
Any appeal by the Bulls to the European Court of Human Rights will meet with short shrift. This is the Court that decided that a registrar for Islington Council, who had conscientious objections to registering civil partnership ceremonies, had no right to opt out of this work,even if a colleague was available to take her place. (In this, it upheld the decision of Britain’s Supreme Court). When the Abortion Act was passed in 1967,provision was made to safeguard the position of medical staff with conscientious objections. But that was 1967, when the British state still respected the claims of conscience. In the Islington case the European Court held that it was legitimate for the Council to enforce this policy of equality, even if this meant that the woman would lose her job as a result. And this is supposed to be a Court of Human Rights? More like the Court of Star Chamber which was, in the words of Maitland the great legal historian, ‘not a court of law, but a court enforcing a policy’.
So how did the European Court of Human Rights become fanatical enforcers of the policy of equality? The problem with the European Court lies not in the Convention itself, which was drafted by the Conservative politician Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, who later became Lord Chancellor as Lord Kilmuir, but in the way it has been interpreted since the late 1970s. As the C18th Bishop Hoadley once said,
‘I care not who makes the laws;what matters is who interprets them’.
A pivotal case was that of Marckx (1979) in which a Belgian unmarried mother challenged aspects of Belgian law which treated legitimate and illegitimate children differently. She argued that there should be no such discrimination. All the judges of the European Court except one held in her favour.
The one exception was the British Judge, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice. His judgement deserves to be better known among conservatives because it was the last gasp of a traditionally-minded judge against the emerging tendency of the European Court of Human Rights to subject the Convention to an interpretation heavily biased towards the values of the Left. An interpretation which prioritised the ideology of equality and non-discrimination over that of upholding traditional moral values. Sir Gerald argued that Article 8 of the Convention, which provides that ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’ was intended to protect a person’s home and family from the State’s knock on the door in the middle of the night. It was not intended to deal with matters of family law, or civil status, as Marckx contended and the majority held. And if Article 8 was inapplicable, then any issues of discrimination under Article 14 would not be relevant. Sir Gerald held that the Belgian law was not unreasonable,and that it lay within the margin of appreciation that any government should be accorded – ‘States should be allowed to change their attitudes in their own good time, in their own way,and by reasonable means’.
Furthermore, ’breaches of the Convention should be held to exist only when they are clear and not when they can only be established by complex and recondite arguments – at best highly controversial – as much liable to be wrong as right’ (European Human Rights Reports,vol 2 1979-80).
In the majority judgement in Marckx we can see that what had formerly been viewed through the lens of moral right and wrong was redefined in terms of equality and non-discrimination. One of the functions of marriage was that it clearly demarcated between legitimate and illegitimate, and the stigma suffered by the illegitimate was a powerful incentive to marriage,seen as a social good because it evidenced a commitment to each other of people who intended to produce children.
But the Court did not wish to enquire into the reasons for the taboo on illegitimate birth and its contribution to the stability of society. All it saw was that children born outside marriage were treated differently in Belgian law from those born inside,and that was enough to invalidate the civil status of illegitimacy.
The upshot of Marckx was that the Thatcher government had no alternative but to abolish the status of illegitimacy in the Family Law Reform Act 1987. Not at all the sort of thing that one would expect a Conservative government to do! The result has been a near-doubling in the proportion of illegitimate - or rather non-marital as we are now supposed to call them – births. It is forecast that by 2016, more than half of all births will be ‘outside marriage’. It should be noted that the Belgian law which Marckx sought to overturn was considerably more onerous than anything that existed in Britain at the time,but we were nevertheless forced to change our laws too. Here we see the first example of a process that the ECHR has set in train on several occasions: an erosion of morals and also of state sovereignty (both for the Belgians and for us, in this case).
For as long as civilisation has existed,there has been a strong link between law and morality – until recent times. Societies have recognised that if they want to run smoothly,people should be assumed to be able to make choices, that good should be rewarded, and evil punished. And that the purpose of judges was to be judgemental. If someone had set out to subvert traditional moral notions,they could not have come up with a better means than the way in which liberal judges have interpreted the Convention.
The ideology of equality leaves no room for the making of judgements about character. Whether people have behaved well or badly is nowhere near as important as whether or not they have been treated ‘equally’. To see this in more concrete terms, consider the case a few months ago in which an illegal immigrant who had fathered several children by different women was allowed to stay in Britain under Article 8 ‘right to family life’, (to be granted to all equally,whatever their nationality) despite the fact that there was no evidence that he had any meaningful relationship with any of the women or children. In a traditional interpretation of Article 8, he would have been given short shrift.
As an illegal immigrant, he had broken the law, and would be punished for it with deportation. ’Family life’ would have been interpreted to exclude anyone outside the bounds of marriage.The idea that a man could advance the fact that he had several illegitimate children as a reason for his being allowed to stay would have been laughed out of court: one of the maxims judges used to employ in interpreting the law was: ’no man shall profit from his own wrong’.
Cases involving foreign terrorists are even more serious. The fact that these are our enemies, who aim to kill us, is nowhere near as important as the facts that, to comply with Human Rights law, they must not be discriminated against on grounds of nationality, and that, even if they have been accused of several murders in a foreign country, they cannot be extradited to face justice if there is the slightest possibility that they may be tortured or capitally punished.
In January,our borders will be thrown open to millions of Bulgarians and Romanians, among whom there are significant criminal elements. Again,this has to be done to gratify the great god of Equality: according to the EU, peoples of any EU county should have equal rights to settle in any other EU country,whatever chaos this might cause in the receiving country. One can only hope that this will prove the last straw for the excessively long-suffering British people,who will demand in such large numbers withdrawal from the EU that even the Government will not be able to ignore it.
Now that the Marxists have been joined by Islamic extremists, Britain has never before faced so many enemies within. And never before have our governing classes been so pusillanimous, and so obviously focused on the wrong things,e.g.equality. The imperative to equality seems to underlie most of the things that are wrong with modern Britain: immigration (foreigners must be treated ‘equally’ with Britons), family (recent governments have refused to treat the married family as more important than any other type,on the grounds of ‘equality’), crime (criminals and victims must be treated ‘equally’).The non-judgementalism which is so rife has its roots in a radical moral egalitarianism.
During the nineteenth century, Britain’s finest hour,she was probably a more ‘unequal’ society than at any time before or since. Some of those ‘inequalities’ were rightly ironed out, but there has nevertheless been a price to pay for this in terms of loss of liberty of the individual.
But no attempts by the State to redress what it perceived as unacceptable disparities in the twentieth century can compare with the frighteningly totalitarian attitude it has shown in the past few years, irrespective of which party is in power.Freedoms of speech and association are being curtailed, it is impossible to get or keep a public sector job unless you sign up to the ideology of equality, and to comply with the Equality Act 2010 most private sector organisations are also becoming infested with ‘Equality and Diversity’ officers. Perhaps worst of all,the Judges will invariably decide cases involving issues of ‘equality’ in a way most prejudicial to traditional liberties – and traditional moral values.
For centuries, Britain’s national identity has been inextricably bound to the idea of British liberty and opposition to foreign absolutism,and to pride in the fact that the British people have been far more free than they were in more authoritarian European countries. But no longer. Britain is being destroyed from within. People are vaguely aware that there is a lot wrong with this country, but have little understanding of the ideas which underlie the problems. In this talk I have tried to show, in the limited time available, some of ideas which are having such a pernicious effect on our country. If we are to recover our national greatness, the great god Equality must be dethroned.