British Politics: Waiting for the Revolution

British Politics: Waiting for the Revolution
By Sean Gabb
(15th December 2016)

I am no political oracle. I am busy. I have two books to finish. If teaching Greek and Latin is not in itself difficult, making sense of the new A Levels is difficult. Therefore, I have ignored requests to comment on the continuing mess of our leaving the European Union, and the banning of allegedly “right-wing terror organisations,” and the new surveillance laws, and whomever our armed forces may presently be killing somewhere in the world. Instead of detailed critique, I have only this to offer for the rest of 2016.

After 1917, the Communists imposed a grim tyranny on what had been the Russian Empire, or those parts of it left by the redrawing of borders in 1919. After 1945, the Soviet Union imposed slightly less awful versions of itself on the whole of Eastern and much of Central Europe. For the next forty years, half of Europe was locked into a system of political and cultural and economic control that had no precedent in European history. Efforts to break free –  in 1956 and 1968, for example – were flattened by immediate Soviet invasion.

Then, on the 7th December 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev, the newish Soviet leader, stood up before the United Nations, and announced that he was withdrawing many of the occupying forces from the European satellite states, and that he would not look unfavourably on political changes within these states.

The speech had no immediate result within the satellite states. The old and ageing men who had come to power after 1945 continued just as before. There was no diminution of censorship or spying. Indeed, the Czechoslovak Government issued a new hundred Crown note, in October 1989, with a picture on it of Klement Gottwald, the first, and undeniably the worst, of the country’s Communist Presidents.

But we know what happened next. The forces of repression available to these men remained formidable for all settled purposes, but not for dealing with sudden dissent in public. No one, except perhaps at the very top, believed the system was either good or durable. Without the ultimate threat of a Soviet invasion, the system had no backing. In one country after another, with barely a shot fired, or a head broken, Communism was swept away on a wave of popular disgust. A quarter of a century later, no one will claim that these countries are positively nice places to live. But they are all an immeasurable improvement on what they used to be.

We may now be in the same position, here in England. I do not know if Donald Trump will be allowed to take office. I do not know if he will be allowed to keep many of his promises. But his election last month was only in part a result of America’s odd constitutional machinery. The somewhat rubbishy generation to which I belong – in terms, at least, of the date on my birth certificate – dominated the West after about 1990. It has discredited itself. It is growing old. It is being laughed out of power by younger men. If Donald Trump is allowed to be in office what he promised to be in the campaign, these younger men will carry forward their revolution. If he is stifled, those younger men will not go away, but will continue their destruction of the established order. Let us suppose even that the election were set aside, and Mrs Clinton were to be made President later this month – does anyone suppose that America would continue to be exactly what it was before last month? I do not.

This brings me to my own country. A few months ago, I suffered one of my periodic fits of enthusiasm for the Conservative Party. Mrs May, I said, was a One Nation Conservative. It was in her interest to take us out of the European Union. There was at least a chance that she would oversee some internal liberalisation. I was wrong. The stream of police state laws continues at full pressure. As for the European Union, I still believe her interest lies in a swift and radical break. But it does seem that neither she nor anyone else in her Government is competent to bring this about. There has been no move away from political correctness at home and neoconservatism abroad.

Even so, the correlation of forces has changed. For all its apparent solidity, the system over which Mrs May presides is brittle. The Referendum held last June was less about whether we should leave the European Union than what we thought of our own rulers. If there is a general election in 2017, I suspect it will show continuing and increasing levels of disaffection. The Conservatives will probably win, but the pattern of votes cast in many constituencies will often be more interesting than who is actually returned.

History is shaped by a combination of grand movements and accidents. If we look at Europe in 1914, we see a set of finely-balanced military alliances set atop a pile of moral and demographic tinder. Anyone shown only this will agree that a general war was likely. But it took that assassination in the Balkans, followed by a month of universal stupidity, before the guns opened fire.

Or, coming forward, the failure of the Soviet system was obvious by 1980. Its implosion, though, was an effect of the unpredictable belief that political could take precedence over economic reform.

I do not know – I cannot know – what will bring down the present order of things in England. But the circumstances within which that order emerged, and that sustained it, are ceasing to apply. Sooner rather than later, it will collapse.

Therefore, I see no reason to bully myself into another moan about data retention, or the jailing of political dissidents. Theresa May has chosen to be our own version of Gustav Husak in 1989. The evil laws she is making are her version of that hundred Crown banknote.

There will be change in England. It will not set everything right. But it is unlikely to be worse than what we presently have.


  • That is a very interesting analysis. Also, I think I still have one of those repellent 100-Crown notes somewhere in the Library. I thought that the successor – the one with a worker-and-peasant on one side and full of factory chimneys – although still awful historiographically, was one of the most beautiful and arrtistic creations of Socialist Realism that I ever saw or handled. It was interesting times in the CSFR, then, Old Man, wasn’t it!

    The outcome, for your predictions, depends on how angry people are, how many are sufficiently angry, where they might be concentrated, and to what extent it is prudent to fear the Police and their increasingly extra-judicial potency. Of course, modern British police-power-trends are not and have never really been much to do with the EU, and are an outgrowth of augmented State Efficiency, worsened since the early 1980s.

  • I think I have about 3 of these in beautiful condition. The art is stunning. Only the 1960s 10-shilling note beats it. It is chilling to recall that the model for the peasant-woman could have been My Dear Wife’s mother….

  • I disagree only on one point, an important detail:

    [quote]”As for the European Union, I still believe her interest lies in a swift and radical break. But it does seem that neither she nor anyone else in her Government is competent to bring this about.”[unquote]

    As much as I despise the Conservative Party – and believe me when I tell you that I really do despise them – I think you are being too harsh on Theresa May, and looking at this objectively, a case for the defence needs to be entered in reply.

    She is competent and will, more than likely, bring about our exit from the European Union. I agree there is incompetence, but it is not of her making. The incompetence is actually on the Leave side of the fence and the blame for the problems with Brexit we now face should be laid at the door of the Leavers.

    The delay and messing around is for two main reasons:

    (i). Leaving the EU will be a difficult and complex affair. A “swift and radical break”, though technically possible, is not advisable. If that was wanted, then we should have planned for it years in advance, with policy papers and constitutional conventions and so on. That did not happen, mainly because the people on the Leave side are not very competent in policy matters. Or to be more blunt and less diplomatic, most of them aren’t very bright. You only have to watch Nigel Farage on Question Time, or really watch him speak anywhere. He is not a brain box. But that’s the type of ‘leader’ that the British like and take to. We’re a very anti-intellectual (or anti-technocratic) people. Farage is not an accomplished practitioner, he is just a leader and a speaker. He doesn’t know anything about the EU. I know more about it than he does and I’ve never set foot in Brussels. In fact, my dog probably knows more about it. This reflects the dearth of intellectual capacity and quality in British politics and in the British media. Farage isn’t a serious person. His answers and explications on Question Time and in other media appearances are shallow and wooden, and aimed at the simple-minded. He’s a clown – albeit a very effective clown.

    (ii). The Remainers, while realising they can’t realistically stop Brexit, want to soften the terms of it as much as possible and ensure that Britain follows something like ‘Plan B’ and stays within the Single Market on some basis. That’s their gambit now. In addition, there is also a serious school of thought within the more liberal part of the Leave camp, led by the North brothers, that is seeking to ensure that Britain pursues a soft Brexit. This is partly for genuine policy reasons and arises from their insight into the political and technical realities, but it’s partly also for ideological reasons, in that the Norths, the THA people, and others like them, are not doctrinal nationalists and disdain any move towards serious sovereigntism due to its implicit racialist undercurrents.

    Don’t read too much into what I am saying. I want us to leave the EU, and I would rather it is done sooner than later, but I don’t believe the conditions now exist for a swift exit and, as much as I dislike them, we can’t blame Theresa May or the present Tory leadership for that. That’s unfair. We’ve made our beds and will have to lie in them. It’s not Theresa May’s fault – in fact, she is a rare light of intelligence and acuity among an otherwise rather dim political and media class, and is probably about the right person to superintend Brexit in the circumstances.

  • Sean. You really surprise me. A member of the Marlborough Research Group only recently declared that they would NEVER again vote Conservative- after all these years?? Ye Gods, how long does it take?

    May I direct you to a very recent edition of UK Column news and an article on Procurement which is essential reading. Behind the Brexit smokescreen things are continuing and are intended to continue as usual!!
    I notice how careful you were to describe Communism. The “fall” of the Berlin Wall and Glasnost (?) was no accident. The EU, set up on the back of two world wars, was created deliberately in the style of the Soviet system, according to Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, so that the Eastern bloc nations could be more easily merged as events permitted. It has all happened as Ben Gurion foretold in “Look” Magazine 1962

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  • Reblogged this on rudolfwordpressblog.

  • Pingback: British Politics: Waiting for the Revolution – PRECES FUNDE, VERBERA TE IPSUM, VELLICA TESTICULOS TUOS, LACRIMAS MOVE, IMPLORA DEOS TUOS (ex libris Bonconte Montefeltro et alii)

  • If we aknowledge demoKracy it is a rigged, heinous game, then all the rest comes down as unmuddied spring waters.


  • The short answer is that she is the Conservatives’ answer to Gordon Brown.

    Watch for more indecision, control freakery and piffling inititiatives that run into the sand. As her failure becomes more obvious, she will retreat into the Downing St bunker, blaming everyone but herself.

    The longer answer is here:

    Not usually a must-read site for me, but this is a perceptive article, which has been validated by events so far. Don’t be surprised if it gets taken down before too long.

    Bartholomew misses it, but of course there is that nasty streak or authoritarianism as well, along with a strange timidity that rejects any scintilla of orginal thought for a lazy “more of the same” attitude.

    So yes, a British Husak as well as Brown rebooted!

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