Liberty, Nationalism and Patriotism
I listened with interest to the first two videos in the recent series “Chris Tame from Beyond the Grave,” in which Chris discusses immigration. David McDonagh’s dissenting view I also found most interesting.
Unfortunately, there are no transcripts of the videos. So, for the first one, I’ll copy the notes I made on it. “Chris likens immigration to an invasion. The invaders are not acclimatized to, or may even be hostile to, liberal (American readers: libertarian) values and liberal civilization. They might – or might not – assimilate quickly if this was a free market society; but it isn’t. He concludes by describing this immigration as an act of ‘national murder.’” For the second video, I hope David won’t mind me quoting his summary: “Chris says the national state has been justified and he says mass immigration will lead to totalitarianism, to a low wage economy, that mass immigration is not free anyway as we have the welfare state, that it is more like an invasion than mere immigration, as the newcomers are hostile to British culture, that the ruling class has organised this to cow the native workers on low wages and that despotism will be the result.”
I confess I didn’t know until now that Chris near the end of his life had taken such a strong nationalist and anti-immigration stance. At the time he made the video (late 2005) there had indeed, in the previous year or so, been the start of a huge influx of immigrants into the UK. But a high proportion of immigrants at that time were Polish. Maybe some of these Poles, having only recently been freed from communism, were in a sense not acclimatized to liberal values. But at least going by the Polish people I know both here and in Poland, I don’t think the accusation that they are hostile to liberal civilization stands up to scrutiny.
As to Muslims, Chris may perhaps have been on somewhat firmer ground, with the terrorist attacks of July 2005 still fresh in people’s memories at the time. (Since I started writing this, further atrocities have happened in Brussels, which also may well prove to have been the work of Muslims). But I still think it’s wrong to cast aspersions on all Muslims just because some Muslims behave badly. Granted, Islam isn’t a very nice religion. But then, as anyone who has ever read the bible cover to cover will know, Christianity isn’t very nice either.
Chris describes the immigration as an “invasion.” But any invasion must be planned. And that means someone must have planned it. Actually, I think Chris was right on this one. It was planned. And he even knew who did it; for he talks of an enemy class, seeking to destroy our liberal values and our civilization.
My own reading of the entrails is that, sometime around 2000, Blair and co realized that without major change, their welfare state was going to come totally unstuck; and soon enough that they would still be around to face the fall-out. Like any Ponzi scheme, the welfare state requires a constant supply of new useful idiots to survive. With an aging population and a falling birth rate, there were not going to be enough young working people domestically to take up the strain. So, they decided to import the useful idiots they needed from outside. They made coming to work in the UK attractive to potential immigrants. Get enough of them in, they probably thought, and the welfare state might last another generation or so. Long enough, very likely, for them to be safely in their graves by the time shit hits fan. And damn the consequences to the social fabric, or to anything or anyone else; that’s just “collateral damage” from a politician’s point of view.
And more recently, Cameron and co, despite promises to the contrary, have not merely maintained the nett inflow of immigrants, but actually increased it significantly. That’s rather suggestive, no?
Be all that as it may; for me, the most important point in the discussion was made by David McDonagh. That was, “Nationalism and what is now called libertarianism clash.” Or, to put it another way, liberal values are incompatible with nationalism, with the nation state and with its politics. I think David is spot-on correct here.
David simply states this as a fact. I’ll try to add two arguments to support it. One, a society based on liberal values will be a bottom-up society, always upholding the rights of individuals. Such a society will be for the benefit of the individuals who comprise it, not the individuals for the benefit of the society. But nationalism is a top-down ideal. Under nationalism, the nation is everything and the individual, ultimately, is nothing. And democracy – as I’ve explained elsewhere – only makes things worse. Eventually, any state based on nationalism will degenerate into the kind of mess we suffer today, in which a criminal ruling class and their hangers-on claim a “divine” right to do anything they think they can get away with.
The second argument is historical. From the 1820s onwards, in Britain at least, liberal values were in the ascendant. This lasted until about the 1870s, when the rot began to set in; for example, with the state getting its mitts on education, and the introduction of strict liability in criminal law. It was around the same time that nationalism on the Continent really got going, for example in Italy and Germany. The gradual but inexorable decline of individual freedom has been contemporaneous with the period in which the nation state has become the primary political structure worldwide. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
If we agree that liberal values and nationalism are incompatible, and if we want to live in a society based on liberal values, then we are driven to a conclusion which some will find highly unpalatable. That is, that we must reject nationalism and the nation state.
And further; those that are hostile to our liberal values are our enemies. And that is so whether they are native born, foreigners or immigrants. Blair is our enemy. Cameron and May are our enemies. Islamist terrorists are our enemies too, of course. But we must never, ever, compromise ourselves by allowing one set of enemies to play us off against another. And we must never, ever give our support to any state policy or action designed to harm innocent people; nor to any increase in state power that can enable it to increase the harm it does to innocent people.
I myself have indeed come to these conclusions. And so for me “Britain,” when used in a political rather than a geographical sense, is a dirty word (as is “America”); and I want nothing of it. This is perhaps the biggest single issue which divides me from Sean Gabb and most of the other denizens at the Libertarian Alliance. I’m disappointed to find that Chris Tame also seems late in life to have moved over to the dark side on this issue. I can only presume that the ideas he presents in these videos were ones he was still mulling over and had not yet fully thought through; in that case, he would have been able to correct his mistake had he lived longer.
And yet, and yet… Where did those liberal values, by which we set such great store and which were so much in the ascendant for half of the 19th century, come from? The short answer is, they came from the Enlightenment. And where did the Enlightenment come from? The very short (and over-simple) answer is; it came from England and Scotland.
Recently, I wrote a humorous “Brief History of England” in verses of the common metre. One side effect I felt from the process was a strengthening of my feeling of Englishness. Make no mistake; English history, like all political history, is violent, bloody and full of dishonesty and injustice. But I felt myself almost shouting for the very few (relatively) good guys. For King Alfred and Good Queen Bess, for example. For Charles II, who tried hard in an impossible situation; and William III, who was a good guy as long as you were a Protestant. Lack of time prevented me from even mentioning my favourite monarch of them all, William IV. (I think it no coincidence that several pubs in my area are named after him!)
How can it be, I mused, that I, who reject the nation state called Britain, can yet feel a strong sense of connection with England (and Scotland too), and with their culture and their history? The answer I found was this: although I reject nationalism, I do not reject the idea of patriotism.
Nationalism and patriotism are often used as synonyms for each other; I suspect that the confusion is often deliberate. But in reality, they’re quite different things. Nationalism is a feeling of love or respect for a political community; whereas patriotism is a feeling of respect or love for a land or country, a culture and a heritage. It’s no contradiction to reject the first, while accepting, even eagerly accepting, the second.
Consider: When Welsh people sing “Land of my Fathers,” they aren’t talking about some bunch of politicians in Cardiff. They are singing of the hills and the valleys, the sheep pastures and the coal fields (not to mention the rugby fields), and the people who live, and have lived, in the country called Wales. Even more obvious is the difference between nationalism and patriotism for Jews. Before 1914, many European Jews were fervent nationalists for whichever country they happened to live in. Yet for a Jew, the homeland is and always has been the Holy Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. That is why, when Israel was created, it was sited there.
Back to immigration. The way I look at the issue, a state cannot have any right to set borders to keep people out (or in), because the only valid borders are those set by property owners to exclude unwanted people from all or part of their property. So there cannot reasonably be any barriers to individual migration. However, the deliberate planning and fanning of mass migration is an entirely different matter.
Apart from a very few scoundrels, it isn’t the immigrants themselves who are the problem. At worst, they will merely remain useful idiots, or eventually they may leave. At best, many of them will learn to embrace our liberal values, and can become potential allies for the future. The real problem lies with the politicians and cronies that, for their own selfish reasons, ordered (and Chris was right to use the word) an invasion of migrants. They are “people traffickers.” They are the ones that should be rejected by all right thinking people, and punished for what they did.
Let me suggest – tongue only half in cheek – a solution to the immigration problem. All economic migrants who wish to come to the UK, whether from Iraq, or Syria, or Libya, or Poland, or anywhere else – should be accepted, unless they have criminal convictions or are reasonably suspected of involvement with terrorism. But for every immigrant who arrives, we should deport a politician or a bureaucrat to wherever the immigrant came from. Blair should be the first to go – to Iraq, for the same treatment as Saddam Hussein got – and Cameron the second, to Syria to experience the bomb-the-hell-out-of-them policy at first hand.
To sum up: Liberal values are incompatible with nationalism. But liberal values are perfectly compatible with patriotism. Indeed, these liberal values are themselves part of the culture and heritage of the people of England and Scotland; and likewise, of the cultures which are derived from them. So, seeking a society based on liberal values requires rejecting the nation state and the current political order; but it doesn’t require rejecting your sense of country, culture or heritage. You can be a good patriot without having to be a nationalist. And that, I think, has some relevance and application to the matters at hand.