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Bring Back Food Rationing!

Having never experienced food rationing myself I cannot say what it is like, but I am assuming the experience is not as bad as images suggest. My reasoning is straightforward and can be put in the form of an argument as follows: (1) The National Health Service (NHS) is good; (2) Food is more important than health; therefore, (3) A National Food Service (NFS) would be good. Is there anything wrong with this argument?

Let’s look briefly at the truth or falsity of the premises, before elaborating. A supporter of an NFS, along with many millions of others, would affirm with confidence that the NHS is a ‘good thing’. That is, it is a desirable if not indispensable institution, at the beating heart of our national life, a support and a lifeline for all of us, relatively free at the point of use, providing the full panoply of basic medical services, from care for minor ailments to treatment for serious illnesses and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, broken limbs, disfigurement, deadly infections, and so on. Yes, it is currently in the worst shape it has been in for decades, to the point that in the current election campaign the major parties do not even pretend to mouth slogans such as ‘Twenty-for hours to save the NHS’, so far gone is the patient.

That does not mean the NHS is undesirable, though, does it? Anyway, just suppose it is a good thing for the sake of argument and let’s revisit the premise later. Premise (2) says that food is more important than health, and the truth or falsity of this depends on what we mean by ‘important’. Think of it this way. Although both food and health are quite basic human goods, there is an asymmetry. Without food – by which I mean adequate nutrition, not simply fasting for a bit or going on a diet – you are guaranteed to be unhealthy. But if you are unhealthy, it is not guaranteed you will lack adequate nutrition. Some illnesses make it hard to keep food down. Some illnesses deprive a person of their appetite. But these are exceptions. You can be seriously unhealthy, headed for the grave, and yet still not be suffering from malnutrition. If you are malnourished, however, you will be unhealthy there and then, with no further steps required, no exceptions to be made.

Ask yourself this admittedly remotely hypothetical question: faced with the choice between inadequate food and inadequate health (short of death!), which would you choose? I’d go for inadequate health, thinking that with inadequate food I’ll be unhealthy anyway, so why not just have ill health but at least plenty of food, hoping that I can maintain my strength and give myself a fighting chance against my illness? Again, as a general rule if you have zero food you are dead in a few months. You’d have to have a pretty rare condition – pancreatic cancer, say – to be dead in a few months. If you add not having water to not having food – and I do want to add that since I am classing food and water together when I hypothesise about a National Food Service – you are dead in a few days. Very few illnesses or combinations of conditions kill you in a few days – maybe bacterial meningitis or necrotizing fasciitis.

So yes, of course health is important, but food is just that bit more important.  That said, by ‘important’ in premise (2) I am packing a little more into it than the asymmetry just outlined. I also mean that if there is such an asymmetry, then however society is structured so as to make health care readily available should be similar in key respects to how society should be structured so as to make food readily available. This is how the conceptual connection between ‘good’ in (1) and ‘important’ in (2) should be interpreted. (I could split the argument into sub-arguments to make this crystal clear, but it’s not necessary).

Now, does our conclusion (3) – ‘A National Food Service (NFS) would be good’ – follow from the premises? If so we have a valid argument, and if the premises are true then we have our ultimate goal, a sound argument – to lapse into philosophy-speak. Well, I’ve gestured at the truth of (1) but also said we should just assume it for the fun of the argument. A full defence of (1) would come from the endless literature doing just that – defending the goodness of the NHS. I’ve argued at greater length for the truth of (2) and its connection to (1). Suppose I’ve done the job. Then how could the conclusion not follow? It must, of logical necessity. There is no escape. We need a National Food Service.

Er, do we? The title of this article refers to ‘rationing’. Actually, food rationing is really not something you’d want to experience. Nobody in their right mind wants food rationing, except the crooks who make money off it and are not subject to the rationing themselves. I think I’d rather emigrate than have food rationing – at least as a way of life. So what I really think – and I’m sure you agree – is that food rationing is not something we’d want brought back. And so the prospect of a National Food Service should fill me – and you – with utter dread. If that is the case, then we must do what we philosophers call a modus tollens: I give you an argument pointing inexorably to a certain conclusion. But that conclusion is on its face absurd. You and I won’t accept it. So we are forced by logic to deny at least one of premises (1) and (2). Having already made a pretty good case for (2), we have to deny (1) after all, contrary to the initial ‘for the sake of argument’ assumption. The NHS is not good – not in concept any more than in current execution.

Wait a minute, you might object: I’m comparing apples and oranges. There is no rationing in the NHS! But there is, I insist. True, we don’t all walk around with health care ration books with quotas of medicines or treatments printed on each ticket. But health care is rationed nonetheless, as any fule kno. You get a precious ten minutes with your GP, then you are politely expected to leave (unless things are serious as judged by that GP alone). You cannot get any treatment you want, no matter how effective or promising; it all depends on cost and the voluminous guidance of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Ultimately, who gets what is for the government of the day, acting on the advice of – sorry, I can’t resist – Twenty-First Century Science.™ The details of NHS rationing are there for all to see. This leads to very bad consequences for patients in a multitude of cases, with the example of breast cancer drug Kadcyla being instructive.

A critic of my argument might insist that food and health are dissimilar in important ways that undermine premise (2), the claim that food is more important than health. Recall that my argument is not just that food is prior to health in terms of human well-being, but that because of this its allocation in whatever way society allows should be the same as the way health care is allocated in that society. All things being equal, perhaps that is true. But all things are not equal, says the critic. There is a whole side to food provision that has no health care parallel. There are restaurants, gourmet dining, eating for pleasure, eating as a cultural pastime. Whereas health care is about meeting needs, there is more to food provision than simply meeting needs.

It is not clear to me that there is a disanalogy. Health care also has its niche, exotic, cultural, aspirational side. Think of purely aesthetic surgery – nose jobs, teeth whitening, skin lightening, Botox, hair removal, hair transplants, body modification, and so on. These are all far more about satisfying desires than meeting real needs. They are generally not necessary for health. The critic retorts: ‘then they are not about health care, so why are you bringing them into the discussion?’ My reply: ‘then neither is fine dining or wine tasting part of food provision, so why are you bringing them into the discussion?’ In other words, cheek filler and fine dining stand or fall together. Either both are on the table or neither are. I think it’s more plausible to say they are both on the table as quite remote parts of health care and food provision, respectively. Now, cosmetic surgery is not routinely available on the NHS, except for mental health reasons or if the cosmetic aspect is accompanied by a real functional need (e.g. to breathe clearly). This is well and good. Similarly, in my National Food Service regime, oysters and crab-flavoured ice cream would also not routinely be available (except perhaps if they were essential to nutrition!). These would have to be purchased on the private market.

The critic might try this gambit: health care, the kind of care that doesn’t just maintain health but that keeps you alive, can be astronomically expensive. People can’t generally afford it. Adequate nutrition can be had very cheaply. So people need help from the state with the former but can pay for the latter themselves. My reply is that if this point is a good one, it only favours restricting the NHS to the really expensive treatments, not retaining the kind of all-encompassing, womb-to-tomb NHS we have now. So the critic’s point undercuts their own idea that an NFS is not desirable but the NHS is. Moreover, some staple foods, which millions require for nutrition, are particularly expensive to produce, e.g. rice; these rely heavily on government subsidies, loans, and other price support mechanisms. So why not go the whole hog with food, so to speak, and bundle it into an NFS? Anyhow, the overall cheapness of food argues in favour of an NFS because it is really, truly, hard to believe that an NFS would cost more than the NHS – which is pushing £200 billion in annual cost, that is to say, about £3000 annually for every human being in England. I am having to stretch my credulity beyond breaking point to suppose that universal food rationing would cost anywhere near that much. But I have no method of estimating it. (The last I looked, by the way, £3000 would buy every human being in England a helluvalot of health insurance. Just saying.)

OK, how about the ‘black market’ objection? This says that just as we saw a lot of illegality during wartime food rationing, we would see the same the minute an NFS came into existence. And we don’t want that. In reply, this presupposes we do not see illegality as a result of having the NHS. I’m not talking about dodgy tattoo and piercing parlours or lunchtime liposuctions. I’m referring to ‘medical tourism’, where thousands upon thousands of UK citizens go abroad for medical treatment (234,000 in 2021, with 34,000 foreigners coming to the UK for treatments, stats here; gets the noggin joggin’ doesn’t it?). That in itself is legal, of course, but it is surely the case – data are hard to come by – that at least hundreds, if not thousands, of people are injured by negligent doctors, in dodgy or uncertified clinics, or by illegal procedures abroad. I am not thinking of cosmetic surgery (which is the number one reason for medical tourism) since that is not available on the NHS anyway, but rather of things like orthopaedic surgery and dental procedures (it being notoriously hard to get on the books of an NHS dentist).

It is tough to see a significant disanalogy between health care and food provision when it comes to the idea of a nationalised service – socialism, effectively. If there is none, then either we should go with food rationing or we should dismantle and privatise the NHS. As I said, I’m not a fan of food rationing and I doubt you are. I like my private supermarkets, the abundance of choice, the full range of pricing, the efficient delivery, and the reasonably pleasant shopping experience. (Things are going downhill, to be sure; thanks a bunch, America.) But that’s only the supermarkets. I live near an award-winning cheese shop, an award-winning butcher, an overpriced organic shop, and can get pretty much any food online that I can’t find locally. All in all, I can’t complain. Do I want all this to be turned into a bunch of Stalinist showrooms with tasteful lighting illuminating a few mouldy potatoes? All right already, I’m exaggerating. But you can bet that an NFS would be a sodding awful experience without end (unlike post-World War 2 food rationing, which ended in 1954).

And a privatised health service? I admit, my own experience with the NHS has been pretty positive. Our local surgery is clean, neat and friendly, the local hospital likewise, so again I can’t complain. But that’s my area. Stories abound of shoddy service: paint peeling off the walls, DNRs on anyone over 70 (at least during COVID), old people lying on trolleys in corridors for hours and days on end, people sleeping on the floor, half a day to get seen by accident and emergency, botched maternity care, murderous nurses, sepsis here and sepsis there, often woeful food, radical discontinuity of care, hospitals rated inadequate, a culture of cover-up, bullying, endless negligence payouts, bloated bureaucrats on golden pensions, and so on and on. The word on the street these days about the NHS is not exactly positive.

There is no room to rehash the endless debate over privatised health care. That said, I am not advocating for a fully privatised system anyway. Not even our private food system is without government supplementation, for example free school meals and financial assistance to food charities, not to mention government subsidies for agriculture. In a private medical system, there would be similar government assistance, safety nets, and the like. In addition, just as private food is heavily regulated so as to reduce the risk of contamination, food poisoning, and waste, so a private medical system would also be heavily regulated to ensure basic standards from top to bottom.

The worry that is perhaps most often raised is that whereas food products are commodities and hence subject to commodity pricing, many life-saving medicines and treatments are the result of decades of high-cost research and development, require intellectual property protection, and need to have their costs recouped through high pricing. The hope that I and many others have is that as long as technology progresses, prices will trend downwards and affordability will increase. This is particularly so with the mass production of generic medicines. A hundred years ago, hardly anyone ate steak. And hardly anyone had access to antibiotics. Still, there is a long way to go in light of the Big Pharma quasi-cartel, corrupt regulators and legislators (the old ‘revolving door’), and the artificial stimulation of demand due in large part to a woeful lack of government or private interest in preventive health care – the best health care of all.

No, I don’t want to stand in a queue outside a state-run food dispensary. And I want more than ten minutes with my GP. The logic of not bothering about the latter leads to not being fussed about the former, at least if my reasoning is correct. I think we should reject rationing altogether, outside of war and national calamity. If I want a National Food Service, I’ll head over to North Korea. Thanks but no thanks; I’m off to Tesco for a sirloin.

David S. Oderberg is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Reading; [email protected]; www.davidsoderberg.co.uk; davidsoderberg.substack.com. All opinions expressed are personal and not associated in any way with my employer.


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Relatability and Envy

At the Sky News Q&A, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were asked to reveal something about themselves that would show the real them. Starmer was also accused of being a robot by a voter. Sunak waffled on about his love of sugary food. Starmer basically went on autopilot.

Did it work? No. Both just looked stupid.

It was an unfortunate question really. The problem is that politicians have become obsessed with being relatable. They’ll shed their political image like a snake in order to win a few votes. It can be talking about TV shows, playing sports or just mentioning something from popular culture. They have to look like they’re one of us.

It also ties in with a politics of envy. A number of politicians who are wealthy or come from good families play down their backgrounds or hide from it. The idea that someone from a privileged background can reach the level that they do without envy or scorn is somehow unrealistic in today’s society.

It’s All About the PR

For decades, politics has been a PR game. Who would you have a drink with? Who seems nicest? Who has the best family values? Who is funniest? Policies are put aside in favour of a good photo op and a one-liner that does the rounds on social media.

We’ve seen that in this election, particularly from Sir Ed Davey. He’s had fun going paddle boarding and riding roller coasters. There is no substancing in his messaging, despite the fact that he could make gains from the two major parties collapsing. Whilst the Lib Dems do have a manifesto and probably actual policies, it’s overshadowed by Davey’s antics.

It’s not new either. Even Margaret Thatcher was not immune to it. Aides had her hold a calf for photographers, the poor thing died not long later. David Cameron hugged huskies in snow. Neil Kinnock walked down the beach with his wife. Tony Blair met with Noel Gallagher. Everyone has a gimmick.

The problem is that it is clearly not authentic. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t an animal cuddler. David Cameron isn’t a fan of huskies. Neil Kinnock probably doesn’t do long walks on the beach. Tony Blair doesn’t listen to Oasis. Voters don’t want to see their politicians being hip and cool. They want to see them tackling the issues that we elect them to do.

We all know that the Prime Minister has a job to do. They oversee wars, economic crises, terrorist attacks and natural disasters among other things. The real test of a PM is their response to said issues. Nobody cares about what their favourite book or TV show is when such issues arise. Interviewers often like to throw in a soft question, just like a backbench Member of Parliament mentions a new animal sanctuary in their constituency. It just doesn’t fit.

It also assumes that every politician is one of us. Who cares if they don’t watch much TV? Who cares if they speak Latin or Greek? Boris Johnson, a man with a great love of the classics, would often recite Ancient Greek, but he also showed an affability and relaxed nature that hid this. Meanwhile, David Cameron struggled to look authentic when he wanted to ‘hug a hoodie.’ One lasted six years in office, the other three.

Rich or Poor?

This brings me nicely to my next point. Our nation, or at least the media, seems to not particularly like politicians being open about their privilege. If a politician came from a wealthy family or went to a private school, they are expected to flex their working class credentials.

Take Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Sunak is the son-in-law of a billionaire and wears very expensive items, and is thus wealthy. When asked about this, he points to the fact that his father was a GP and his mother a pharmacist, two respectable middle class professions. Starmer waxes lyrical about the fact that his father was a toolmaker (cue laughter) and his mother a nurse. What he fails to mention is that his father apparently owned the factory and he attended a private school, though through a bursary.

David Cameron suffered from a similar image problem, as did Boris Johnson in some quarters. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher was proud of being a grocer’s daughter and John Major left school at sixteen. Clement Attlee came from a comfortable background, attending a private school and Oxford. James Callaghan came from a working class family and did not attend university. Each of them have varied reputations as politicians.

Contrast this with that of America. Whilst Americans love the idea of the American Dream and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, they also don’t care as much about class, whether upper or lower. Donald Trump has not once hid that he’s from a rich family, and yet he does not see shame from voters over this.

I frankly do not care if a politician came from a northern council estate like Angela Rayner or was the grandson of a duke like Winston Churchill. I don’t care if they went to a comprehensive or Eton, just as I don’t begrudge a parent for wanting to send their child to a grammar or private school. If they can afford private healthcare, then good for them.

If a politician from a comfortable background is asked about this, they should not downplay it. Instead, they should simply say that their parents worked hard and that they want all people to have the same opportunity.

That is not to say that I think the country would be a perfect place if every MP went to Eton and Oxford. I don’t think it would be perfect if every MP went to a normal school and didn’t go to university. We’ve had good politicians from all backgrounds, and we’ve had bad politicians from all backgrounds.

It does not serve us well to be envious of the rich, or assume that all working class people are good ol’ folk. We should not be desperate for a politician to be a big fan of Game of Thrones or like the same sweets as we do. Politicians should not pretend to be something they are not. I’m not voting for a person’s school or their favourite beverage. I’m voting for who I think has the best ideas.

Which, to be frank, seems to be none of them. Hey, at least I know that Rishi Sunak loves Haribo.


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The Impossible as Motivation

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

– Antonio Gramsci

Like all disaffected individuals who supported the Conservatives in 2019, I too find solace in the work of a certain Italian Marxist philosopher and his insights. The simplicity of that quote often speaks to a dormant impulse in the human condition, the belief that things really can change; that, when everything is said and done, we will win. We must, as President Trump once said: “…treat the word ‘impossible’ as motivation.”

In the history of Great Britain, this nation has faced many challenges and many dark days. Those dark days still lay ahead, for that can be assured. Those obstacles within our national politics seem numerous: civil servants, fifth columnists, various media establishments and even entire political parties which claim to represent the interests of the country. Out of this election, it is plain as day. Labour will win, through sheer dullness and the fact that Sunak has clearly given up and not even attempted to try during this race for his own premiership. The reason why people do not like Sunak is because, at his core, he represents ultimately why people do not like Conservatives or politicians in general. They are mostly losers who want to be liked and be seen as important by others; they want to be winner but have never fought truly for anything in their lives. It is for this reason, they are not worthy of any votes or seats. It is not because they have fought and failed, it is that they have never even tried or put up a fight.

From this, the only cure that needs to be given is that of Zero Votes and Zero Seats. Vote Reform now, Cummings later. This can be summarised as voting Reform now to give the Conservatives zero seats, thus ending them (at least, as much as possible) as a political force within Great Britain. Out of this, we should unite around a different right-wing party, one that genuinely seeks to change the direction of the country and prepared to ask and answer the questions that matter. Why are we having these problems? Why are people struggling to buy a house? Why is this country declining?

Following on from this, it is clear that Farage is here to stay and can become a massive nuisance for the administrative state, the state that is allergic to change and remains prestige-orientated. As such, Farage is not the man who will do these things; he is a media personality, not someone who is interested in the nitty gritty of continuing (starting with Brexit) a decade-long (if not century-long) process of fixing the foundational issues of this country. Farage is an Einstein in an Oppenheimer world, it would seem.

Farage understands the need for generating a new excitement around a political issue, he understands that nothing is impossible, even that the mere usage of the word should be taken as motivation. Indeed, his lifelong struggle to get Britain to leave the EU is one such endeavour which, even at the best of times, felt like an ultimately impossible task until it wasn’t. This is not dissimilar to Trump, a figure who isn’t sensitive to the nuance of details, but fundamentally understands the broad picture, why things needs to change, and how to go about doing it.

As such, one hopes that if Reform becomes akin to UKIP, they can become a political force that asks the big questions that the majority of the population want asked. Additionally, Reform should be able to shift the Overton window on a series of issues, bringing them to the forefront of politics from outside of the mainstream political parties. These should range from immigration, the economy, the housing crisis, and the need to dismantle the administrative state.

This being said, like UKIP and the Brexit Party before, when Reform has kicked through the door, it should again vanish. By the end of the decade, Reform should be as important as UKIP is in 2024. Reform should not be here to stay in the long term. Now that it seems possible that Reform will replace the Conservatives, just as the Labour replaced the Liberals throughout the 1920s, allowing them to fully turn their guns on Labour, exposing them as being no better. Of course, Labour is not up to the task of governing and will almost certainly do damage to Britain. Given that Starmer is a wet lettuce of a man, unlikely to last long in post, they’ll have plenty of material to work with.

From this, Reform can generate space for something to be built for the 21st Century, something with real long term vision and purpose. Insert “assorted weirdos” reference here. Indeed, it is rather fitting that the two individuals that are attempting to offer real alternatives to the current issues facing this country are the same two which brought Brexit home (twice if you count the 2019 general election). Now we could realistically see this occur again. Farage’s media personality pushing the core issues into the forefront of British political life, while Cummings dominates the nitty gritty of how to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and securing the real victories. Additionally, both men want the complete destruction of the gate keeping Conservatives and are radically anti-establishment and Westminster, something the vast majority of the electorate share.

Although Cummings has modelled his work on Singapore’s People’s Action Party (I would encourage all to read ‘From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000’), and its stewardship under Lee Kuan Yew, it is another Southeast Asian leader that he should also look at too. Ho Chi Minh (hear me out), and his leadership of North Vietnam, can be summarised as that of revolutionary self-belief and determination. The clinical and principled nature of Singapore, combined with the zealous optimism of Vietnam, would propel the country back into a forward-thinking, functioning 21st Century nation state. It should be hoped that, when Cumming’s Party is ready and the door has been blown open by Farage’s Reform, it too should move into place. A tech-focused, big tent, anti-establishment party that seeks to radically fix the core issues within the country. Radically reduce immigration, tackle the wealth disparity and tax avoidance, and dismantle the permanent administrative state.

In conclusion, Politics is Never Over. Things have returned to being interesting – we could witness another realignment in our national discourse. This should be motivating for people like Farage and Cummings. We can smell blood right now on both Starmer and Sunak, so we must take this chance to end the declinist duopoly once and for all, and scramble to build something in its place thereafter. As Farage stated in a mere four words: “We’re just getting started.”


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The Century of Steel

Imagine a world in which there is no central structure, imagine a world where both the United States and China have fallen from a state of global hegemony to struggling to maintain any internal resemblance of order. This could occur independently of the other nation’s collapse or in tandem with it. What would the world look like? Would another world order emerge or would complete anarchy befall the world writ large? If there isn’t the time or conditions for another unipolar nation to fill this void, in part or in full, we must look for a more divided and unstable world structure. This core concept can be understood as non-polarity, where states cannot order themselves according to any traditional structure. Out of this concept, we could be entering a world of widespread turmoil and interstate violence. This can be understood as the Century of Steel (CoS), a term to help describe and articulate what we could be going through.

In order to understand the CoS, we first must look at Italian politics in the postwar years. The Years of Lead refers to a period of widespread social and political instability and violence in Italy. This period saw terrorism and assassinations become normalised from the 1960s to 1980s, the outcome of which saw government forces triumph and various far-right and far-left organisations disbanded. Notable and symbolic examples of this period include the Bologna Bombing in 1980 and the assassination of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro. A lengthy explanation of this period can be found here.

Now, imagine a globalised version of the Italian Years of Lead taking place through a deglobalising world. Widespread interstate turmoil across nearly all regions of the world could occur. Following this, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the rise of old tensions occur once more from across the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East. From the ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine to the thinning of the Palestinian herd by Israel. The outcomes of this will look like Russia beating Ukraine, with them annexing half the country, followed by Israel becoming a pariah within the Middle East again, ending decades of peace efforts. With the collapse of the current ‘rules-based’ world order and the potential joint collapse of both major superpowers in the not-so-distant future, another avenue of what could happen needs to be explored. 

One of the most underrated academics currently working is that of Yi Fuxian, who has contributed considerably to the topic of demography, especially within the context of the Asia-Pacific. In a recent Diplomat article, Yi argued that any conflict will only exacerbate the ongoing demographic issues between the aforementioned warring nations. As noted with the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, both nations have seen their respective fertility rates drop substantially. Likewise, if war were to break out between China and Taiwan (both nations are in considerably worse demographic situations), this would have disastrous consequences for both nations, regardless of the outcome of the conflict.

“If a Taiwan war breaks out, it will hasten these trends, leading to global instability and even the collapse of the U.S.-led world order… Time is not on the side of China or Taiwan, nor on the side of the United States. The three parties need to show sufficient wisdom and courage to achieve permanent peace across the Taiwan Strait – and avoid dropping off a demographic cliff.”

-Yi Fuxian, The Demographic Costs of a War Over Taiwan, The Diplomat (10/04/2024)

With most of the world now residing in a ‘post-fertile’ world, being below replacement level, there are fewer ‘new’ people entering into this increasingly conflictual world. What a lot of nations have now in terms of manpower is all they will have for many years to come, and when it goes, it goes. If you choose to spend it on conflict, you must accept the fact you will most likely not have anyone to replace them, creating various problems down the line. Moreover, the potential conflicts will only further perpetuate the conditions that caused states to fall into such a demographic rut in the first place.

If we are indeed becoming truly deglobalised, we could see the emergence of a new epoch. Just as the Cold War defined much of the 20th Century, the CoS may define much of the 21st. A ‘century’ of no centralised control being exerted within the world, incapable of regulating and mediating beyond a very narrow and constricted sphere of influence. This will only compound the ongoing issues being faced across the planet. We are entering very dangerous and complex times ahead for every single individual in the world and more conflicts will most likely arise in the following years as a result.


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The Need for Roots by Simone Weil (Book Review)

Born in Paris on the 3rd February 1909, Simone Weil was the youngest of two children born to an intellectual and non-observant Jewish family. Stricken by appendicitis as an infant, Weil suffered from ill-health throughout her short life. Academically brilliant, intense and morally uncompromising, Weil intimidated and bemused those she encountered – her tutor, Emile Chartier, dubbed his otherworldly charge ‘the Martian’. Restless, and intent on understanding life outside of her natural, bourgeois, milieu, Weil spent time as a factory worker and fighting (briefly and ineffectually) for the anarchist CNT/FAI during the Spanish Civil War. Following a series of mystical experiences, Weil found herself drawn to the Catholic Church, though it is unknown whether she allowed herself to be baptised.

Exiled from her homeland during the Nazi occupation, Weil worked for the Free French in London, and there is reason to believe she had been accepted for training by the Special Operations Executive before ill-health intervened. In 1943, weakened by tuberculosis but refusing to eat more than was permitted to citizens of occupied France, Weil succumbed to cardiac failure in a Kentish sanitorium. Her resting place can be found in the Catholic section of Bybrook Cemetery, Ashford.

Weil’s writings have found enthusiasts as ideologically diverse as Albert Camus and T. S. Eliot. Her detractors range from Susan Sontag (for whom Weil was ‘fanatical… ridiculous…’) to her boss Charles de Gaulle, who derided her as ‘crazy’.

L’ENRACINEMENT

In 1942, the Free French invited Weil to submit her thoughts on the regeneration of France, post-liberation. Weil’s paper outlined her vision for the spiritual reinvigoration of her homeland, and is her most systemic treatise on political issues. Published posthumously as ‘L’Enracinement’ in 1949, the book was translated into English in 1952 with the title ‘The Need for Roots’. Originally published by Routledge, it appears in a new translation by Ros Schwartz, under the Penguin Classics imprint.

The Need for Roots is an eccentric and uneven work, too baggy and unfocused to offer a blueprint for political action. Like the best of Weil’s writing, its strength is in the originality of her thought – even where she is wrong Weil is wrong in interesting and original ways. Weil’s analyses, and her critique of the social cost of modernity – rooted in an organicist conception of society – will be of interest to the kind of conservatives who read The Mallard.

RACINEMENT AND DERACINEMENT

‘Roots’ and ‘rootedness’ – ‘racines’ and ‘racinement’ – enjoyed a vogue on the French right before Weil. Maurice Barrès, author of Les Deracines, outlined a republican vision of ‘la terre et les morts’ – the mystical bond shared by a people living on, and working, the land in which their ancestors enjoy their eternal rest.

Weil, ironically perhaps, understands roots in less mystical terms:

‘Human beings have roots by virtue of their real, active, and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape particular treasures of the past and particular expectations for the future.’

For Weil, roots arise organically among people thrown together by circumstance, and are multifaceted – anchoring the individual in, for example, a community, a nation, a professional milieu. Through these spontaneous bonds of language, culture and place the individual finds identity and meaning.

When roots are severed, the individual feels himself estranged, and is deprived of an opportunity to participate in the pursuit of a Good beyond himself. Enracinement provides the individual with meaning – imbuing his everyday relationships with eternal, even supernatural significance.

At a political level, roots give the individual ‘a sense of personal ownership’ of ‘public monuments… and the lavishness displayed in ceremonies’. The rites and rituals of civic religion orient the individual toward the Good, as his culture understands it. The individual witnesses a great ceremony of state – a coronation, or a military parade – and understands that the rite is just as much an expression of his identity as, for example, Sunday Mass at the village chapel. Through racinement, the individual understands himself to be a participant in his culture, and feels that he has an interest in the spiritual and cultural health of his community and nation.  

Deracinement, then, is a spiritual malady, an alienation from one’s culture and the conceptions of the Good that have shaped it. Uprootedness on a grand scale can be occasioned by revolution, military conquest or population displacement. It is interesting to speculate on what Weil would have made of the mass immigration that has transformed Europe in the post-war era.

ROOTS AND NATURAL ORDER

Empathy, for Weil, is the soul of patriotism. It is easier to feel empathy for people with whom one shares bonds of language, culture and place. It is from these bonds of trust and social solidarity that, in a healthy society, order arises.

For Weil roots are the basis of order. Order is the pre-eminent human need – the guarantor of all subordinate needs. In a healthy society, order flows from the bottom-up; a product of ‘compassion’ and trust. This naturally-arising order is distinct from the ‘top down’ constitutional politics of liberalism.

Freedom, like order, cannot be imposed upon a people, rather it must emerge from among them. This is perhaps Weil’s most important lesson for the contemporary right. No western libertarian cites Somalia and Haiti as an ideal for his society to follow, despite both countries’ longstanding traditions of limited (or at least, weak) central government. It is not sufficient to simply limit the reach of the state. Rather, certain social preconditions, principally a culture of mutual trust, must exist if a free, orderly society is to flourish.

Whereas man under liberal democracy understands his relationship with the state formally, in terms of ‘rights’, through ‘enracinement’ the individual understands the interrelatedness between his rights and the obligations that he owes his fellows:

‘A right is not effective on its own but solely in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds.’

LEFTISM: A POLITICS OF ROOTLESSNESS?

Liberalism, founded on a universalistic conception of human nature and the absolute sovereignty of the individual, is hostile to rootedness, and thus the organic ties of heritage, culture and place in which healthy identities are founded. And, as Weil observes, uprootedness has the dangerous quality of propagating itself.

Marxism, Weil suggests, is not merely driven by uprootedness, but seeks its universalisation – the reduction of everyone to the status of the proletarian. For Weil, uprootedness was exemplified by the industrial working class of her day; condemned to repetitive and physically exhausting labour, and forced to live in unlovable slums.

Industrialisation elevated the material standard of the common man, but did so at tremendous spiritual cost. The lot of the peasant was hard, but he at least enjoyed the consolations of meaningful labour and a life lived among natural beauty – often on land worked by his ancestors. The proletariat, by contrast, are inescapably aware that they are interchangeable cogs in an economic machine.

The strange revival of Marxist (or at least Marx-ish) politics in the post-Soviet era can be understood as a manifestation of alienation. It is not that Marxism offers a compelling alternative to the current order; rather, Marxism retains an enduring appeal to the uprooted. When people feel estranged from their culture, they desire its destruction. It is not enough for the Communist to triumph over the old order, he must destroy all vestiges of the past. Witness the mad vandalism of the Cultural Revolution, or, in our time, the toppling of statues by those who have been taught to consider western history as uniquely shameful.

In our era ‘deracinement’ manifests in many ways. Witness the proliferation of bizarre sexual subcultures; notably ‘trans’ and ‘non-binary’ identities; among educated left-leaning whites. Ersatz identities such as these provide a sense of belonging and an opportunity to pursue imagined ‘Goods’, in the form of liberation and ‘social justice’. But they thrive on angst and guilt – and propagate the dangerous idea that fulfilment is impossible without radical transformation of the self and society.
   
Contemporary uprootedness takes other, less dramatic forms: a tendency (found on both left and right) to confuse one’s personal and political identities, for example, or an exaggerated identification in the struggles of peoples very unlike one’s own. Alienated from their own political culture, Zoomers often fail to appreciate the cultural specificity of foreign issues – or, conversely, to map American racial politics onto their own (this writer recalls one especially pathetic incident in which demonstrators in London, protesting the homicide of George Floyd, an incident that occurred on another continent, chanting ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ at unarmed constables of the Metropolitan Police).

The European right, too, is tainted by the uprootedness of the modern world. Witness the awe in which post-war ‘conservatives’ have held America, a land of uprooted individuals, where history is shallow and order proceeds from the top down in the form of a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.

WE NEED ROOTS

Weil’s most important lesson for the conservative movement is that man has needs beyond the economic. She stands against an era in which:

‘money and the state have come to replace all other bonds of attachment.’

An authentically conservative politics should define itself against the reduction of people to mere economic units; and towns, regions, countries as mere places. We are the custodians of the institutions and traditions that we have inherited. The triumph of capitalism over feudalism has undoubtedly improved life in material terms; but capital, unchecked, uproots peoples from traditional ways of life, destroying communities and cultures. As Weil argues, the destruction of the past is ‘perhaps the greatest of all crimes’, for, once destroyed, the past can never truly be recovered.

The ills that Weil identified in her own age have grown more acute in the post-war era, thanks both to the moral revolution of the 1960s and the triumph of the market in the 1980s. It is a sad but inescapable fact that ‘conservative’ parties, today dominated by different flavours of free-market liberal, have played their role in accelerating this process of deracination.

Conservatism – authentic conservatism – offers a politics that understands men as more than the sum of their appetites and ambitions. Weil’s prescient vision of European revitalization deserves a new audience on the right. It is time for conservatism to rediscover its roots.


Photo Credit.

Mania by Lionel Shriver (Book Review)

Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, Mania, imagines a world in which the concept of intelligence has become taboo. ‘Dumb’, ‘stupid’, ‘moronic’ and every other synonym that might adequately describe the mentally deficient have become unspeakable terms of offence, while IQ tests and entrance exams alike are outlawed on the grounds of elitism. Idiots are not a protected class, however, because the prevailing ideology posits that idiots simply don’t exist. In this egalitarian utopia, everyone is equally smart. To suggest anything to the contrary is to commit a hate crime punishable by professional ruin and social ostracism.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Mania is a pointed parody of the socio-political logic of what Shriver, in a recent piece for UnHerd, described as the ‘collective crazes’ of the last decade: transgenderism, #MeToo, Covid lockdowns and Black Lives Matter. Her journalism has tackled each of these movements individually and collectively, but Mania is her first work of fiction to deal with the twin forces of political correctness and cancel culture head on. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that her recent novel, The Motion of the Body Through Space, featured as part of its subplot a diversity hire whose incompetence leads to the breakdown of the transport system in Hudson, New York – which landed Shriver in hot water during a promotional tour of the book. But critics will struggle to condemn Mania as offensive. For while the novel is implicitly critical of radical progressive politics, the Mental Parity movement is a squarely fictional creation. Even in the fragile political climate of 2024, the foolish remain fair game as an object of ridicule.

Mania’s characters are recognisable archetypes of any cowed and paranoid society. Plucky, witty and dangerously opinionated, Pearson Converse is one of Shriver’s most autobiographical protagonists, mirroring everything from the author’s overbearingly religious upbringing to the rebellious mentality it imprinted on her. Her defiance in the face of the Mental Parity movement makes Pearson a black sheep in polite society, but stems from a desire to protect her two eldest children, a pair of prodigies who in any other age would have a bright future lined up for them. It is the third child, Lucy, who, having grown up in an age in which Mental Parity has become the mainstream, constitutes an unlikely antagonist, blackmailing her mother and policing her language and behaviour. It is telling that Lucy’s ideological and cognitive equivalents throughout Mania are the teachers, politicians and television presenters, and that perhaps the only other thing they have in common is an unmerited power over those who dare to speak out.

But the real conflict that rages like a dynamo from Mania’s first pages to its dramatic conclusion is more nuanced, more complicated than a simple black-and-white battle between critical thinking Davids and knuckle-dragging Goliaths. Despite Pearson’s career as a university professor, the book focuses less on the shadowy cabal of academics pulling the strings of Mental Parity than on those who are complicit with the regime, or merely undecided. It is complacency that drives a wedge between Pearson and her comparatively apolitical husband, Wade, whom she accuses of ‘sit[ting] this whole thing out on the sidelines, watching, or declining to watch.’ Far more sinister is the character of Emory, Pearson’s lifelong pal, whose position on the whole thing is not neutral but ambiguous. What makes Emory particularly villainous is not that she is a believer, but that she is a non-believer, prepared to manipulate the burgeoning climate of paranoia for her own gain, advancing her career as a talkshow host by producing disingenuous op-eds on microaggressions or thought crimes and thereby embodying, by Pearson’s account, ‘the intelligent face of stupid’.

As Emory rides the coattails of this movement, Pearson’s own career – not to mention her family life and reputation – begins to spiral. Her first brush-in with the tyrannical power of Mental Parity comes when she assigns her literature class a novel that the self-anointed censors have exorcised from the Western canon. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of last year’s American Fiction, in which Monk, a black professor, writes on the class blackboard the name of a Flannery O’Connor story, only for a blue-haired white girl to object that she finds the title – ‘The Artificial Nigger’ – offensive. Monk is laid off from his job as a consequence. Pearson doesn’t quite lose her job for assigning Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to her class, but the stunt earns her the resentment of colleagues and students both, as well as a stern warning. What leads to her eventual dismissal is her later deployment of the word ‘retard’ during a tirade in class. Typically, the scene is filmed by every student in the class and uploaded to the internet. 

Pearson is not even safe within her own home, which she considers a sanctuary of normality – only for Lucy to report her to social services. As a result, Pearson is required to take a six-week Cerebral Acceptance and Semantic Sensitivity class, with the aim of weeding out elitist language from her vocabulary: 

Considering that ‘grasp’ could convey mastery some people lacked, we should instead ‘grip’ or ‘seize’ our coffee mugs. ‘Command’ could also mean an unjustifiable sense of intellectual dominion, so in a position of authority we should issue an ‘edict’ or ‘direction’. Admiring classifications such as ‘savvy’, ‘scholarly,’ and ‘erudite’ couldn’t help but imply the existence of benighted characters who exhibited none of these qualities, so if we were hell-bent on acclaiming colleagues, we should keep to wholesome, simplesorry, uncomplicatedcompliments such as ‘I like you’ or ‘That is good.’

If the attempt to jettison every contaminated word in the English language seems overkill, recall the institutional scramble only a couple of years ago, in which colleges across America issued ‘harmful language’ lists to students, singling out problematic obscenities such as ‘field’, ‘blackboard’, ‘straight’, ‘American’ and – you guessed it – ‘stupid’. Shriver herself conducted a highly entertaining takedown of this phenomenon for the Spectator. One gets the sense that this sterile dumbing down of the English language is what irks her the most, since the straitjacket of minimally offensive newspeak could not be further from the vibrancy and elasticity of the author’s own style. The unfortunate fact for her enemies is that Shriver is one of the most capable writers around. Her insights are profound and her prose is lucid, every sentence an immaculately crafted marvel of colloquial lyricism.

There is a disconcerting familiarity to the events of Mania, which echo some of the more maddening episodes of the last few years. From Sherlock to Columbo, films and TV shows which are seen to promote the notion of ‘cleverness’ are taken off air and removed from circulation. And a campaign to rename the city of Voltaire gains traction, since the views espoused by the author of Candide are no longer in step with those of its residents. 

In a conversational aside we learn that the rest of the world thinks the West has lost its marbles. It’s clear that Shriver has borrowed liberally from the events and controversies that have defined the zeitgeist, but Mental Parity is a creation all her own. Indeed, the titular mania is such a powerful force that it has the effect of sidelining all other social justice movements. Anders Breivik receives public sympathy after murdering 69 members of the Norwegian Workers’ Youth League for exhibiting ‘less than spectacular intelligence’. Not only is the concept of Islamophobia absent from political discourse, but Western society’s fascination with race itself has become blessedly passé – to President Obama’s detriment. ‘Nobody gives a crap anymore about his being a black president,’ Emory states, when the Mental Parity movement is still in its infancy. ‘He’s a know-it-all president. It’s death.’ His replacement is the ‘impressively unimpressive’ Joe Biden, acclaimed for his ‘delectably leaden’ speaking style. But when even the doddering ineptitude of a potentially demented president proves insufficient to satisfy voters, the Democrats find a new champion in the form of Donald Trump. Across the pond, meanwhile, the UK’s decision to leave the EU becomes a win for progressivism, given the tendency of many Remainers to demonise Brexiteers as stupid.

The good thing is that this imagined mania is so much worse – and therefore more entertaining – than any of the real manias currently afflicting the Western world. Thanks to the Mental Parity movement, food produced in the US is no longer safe to eat, nearly all fatalities in the armed forces are caused by friendly fire and a brain drain has left America stunted, handing China and Russia the keys to world domination. 

But while Mania is funny, razor-sharp and extremely readable, it’s also eerily realistic. For the seeds of Mental Parity may already have been sewn, and not just in the soil surrounding the R word. Universities are increasingly eschewing standardised examinations, while columnists wage war against the very idea of meritocracy. What’s more, in a further affront to the English language, last month it was announced that a new version of Scrabble was being released with simplified rules, in order to make the game ‘more accessible for anyone who finds word games intimidating’. If Lionel Shriver’s alternative history becomes the actual future, this fine novel will be the first for the chopping block. Read it while you still can.


Photo Credit.

Kino

Is it Possible to Live Without a Computer of Any Kind?

This article was originally published on 19th May 2021.

I am absolutely sick to death of computers. The blue light of a screen wakes me up in the morning, I stare at another computer on my desk for hours every day, I keep one in my pocket all the time and that familiar too-bright glow is the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. Lockdown undoubtedly made the problem much, much worse. Last year, a nasty thought occurred to me: it might be the case that the majority of my memories for several months were synthetic. Most of the sights and sounds I’d experienced for a long time had been simulated – audio resonating out of a tinny phone speaker or video beamed into my eyes by a screen. Obviously I knew that my conscious brain could tell the difference between media and real life, but I began to wonder whether I could be so sure about my subconscious. In short, I began to suspect that I was going insane.

So, I asked myself if it was possible to live in the modern world without a computer of any kind – no smartphone, no laptop, and no TV (which I’m sure has a computer in it somewhere). Of course, it’s possible to survive without a computer, provided that you have an income independent of one, but that wasn’t really the question. The question was whether it’s possible to live a full life in a developed country without one.

Right away, upon getting rid of my computers, my social life ground to a halt. Unable to go to the pub or a club, my phone allowed me to feel like I was still at least on the periphery of my friends lives while they were all miles away. This was hellish, but I realised that it was the real state of my life – my phone acted as a pacifier and my friendships were holograms. No longer built on the foundation of experiences shared on a regular basis, social media was a way for me to freeze-dry my friendships – preserve them so that they could be revived at a later date. With lockdown over though, this becomes less necessary. They can be reheated and my social life can be taken off digital life support. I would lose contact with some people but, as I said, these would only be those friendships kept perpetually in suspended animation.

These days large parts of education, too, take place online. It’s not uncommon now in universities, colleges and secondary schools for work and timetables to be found online or for information to be sent to pupils via internal email networks. Remote education during lockdown was no doubt made easier by the considerable infrastructure already in place. 

Then there’s the question of music. No computers would mean a life lived in serene quiet; travelling and working without background sound to hum or tap one’s foot to. An inconvenience, maybe, but perhaps not altogether a negative one. Sir Roger Scruton spoke about the intrusion of mass-produced music into everyday life. Computer-produced tunes are played at a low level in shopping centres and restaurants, replacing the ambient hum and chatter of human life with banal pop music. Scruton believed that the proper role of music was to exalt life – to enhance and make clear our most heartfelt emotions. Music today, though, is designed to distract from the dullness of everyday life or paper over awkward silences at social events. He went so far as to say that pop consumption had an effect on the musical ear comparable to that of pornography on sex.

The largest barrier, however, is the use of the internet for work. Many companies use online services to organise things like shift rotas, pay and holidays and the entire professional world made the switch to email decades ago. How feasible is it to opt out of this? Short of becoming extremely skilled at something for which there is both very little supply and very high demand, and then working for a band of eccentrics willing to accommodate my niche lifestyle, I think it would be more or less impossible. Losing the computer would mean kissing the possibility of a career goodbye. 

Lockdown has also sped up the erosion of physical infrastructure required to live life offline as well as accelerated our transformation into a ‘cashless society’. On average, 50 bank branches have closed every month since January 2015, with over 1000 branch closures across the country in the last year alone. It also seems to have wiped away the last remaining businesses that didn’t accept card payments. The high street, already kicking against the current for years, is presently being kept alive by Rishi Sunak’s magic money tree while Amazon records its best quarter for profits ever. It’s no mystery to anyone which way history will go. 

I’m lucky that my parents were always instinctively suspicious of ‘screens’. I didn’t get a smartphone until a good way into secondary school and I got my first – and only – games console at the age of 16. I keenly remember getting a laptop for my birthday. I think my parents gave it to me in the hopes that I would become some kind of computing or coding genius – instead, I just played a lot of Sid Meiers Civilisation III. My dad would remind me that nothing on my computer was real, but that didn’t stop me getting addicted to games. If it wasn’t for my parents’ strong interventions I would likely have developed a serious problem – sucked into the matrix and doomed to spend my youth in my bedroom with the blinds down.

All year this year I have wrestled with my media addiction but been unable to throw it off. I told my friends that I was taking a break from social media, I deactivated my Twitter account, I physically hid my phone from myself under my bed, and yet here I am, writing this on my laptop for an online publication. When I got rid of my phone I turned to my computer to fill the time. When I realised that the computer was no better I tore myself from it too… and spent more time watching TV. I tried reading – and made some progress – but the allure of instant reward always pulled me back.

I’m not a completely helpless creature, though. On several occasions I cast my digital shackles into the pit, only to find that I needed internet access for business that was more important than my luddite hissy-fit. Once I opened the computer up for business, it was only a matter of time before I would be guiltily watching Netflix and checking my phone again. It’s too easy – I know all the shortcuts. I can be on my favourite time-absorbing website at any time in three or four keystrokes. Besides, getting rid of my devices meant losing contact with my friends (with whom contact was thin on the ground already). Unplugging meant really facing the horrific isolation of lockdown without dummy entertainment devices to distract me. I lasted a month, once. So determined was I to live in the 17th century that I went a good few weeks navigating my house and reading late at night by candlelight rather than turning on those hated LEDs.

And yet, the digital world is tightening around us all the time. Year on year, relics of our past are replaced with internet-enabled gadgets connected to a worldwide spider web of content that has us wrapped up like flies. Whenever I’ve mentioned this I’ve been met with derision and scorn and told to live my life in the woods. I don’t want to live alone in the woods – I want to live a happy and full life; the kind of life that everyone lived just fine until about the ’90s. I’m sick of the whirr and whine of my laptop, of my nerves being raw from overuse, of always keeping one ear open for a ‘ping ’or a ‘pop’ from my phone, and of the days lost mindlessly flicking from one app to the other. Computers have drastically changed the rhythm of life itself. Things used to take certain amounts of time and so they used to take place at certain hours of the day. They were impacted by things like distance and the weather. Now, so much can occur instantaneously irrespective of time or distance and independent from the physical world entirely. Put simply, less and less of life today takes place in real life. 

The world of computers is all I’ve ever known and yet I find myself desperately clawing at the walls for a way out. It’s crazy to think that something so complex and expensive – a marvel of human engineering – can become so necessary in just a few decades. If I can’t get rid of my computers I’ll have to learn to diminish their roles in my life as best I can. This is easier said than done, though; as the digital revolution marches on and more and more of life is moved online, the digital demons I am struggling to keep at arm’s length grow bigger and hungrier.

I’m under no illusions that it’s possible to turn back the tide. Unfortunately the digital revolution, like the industrial and agricultural revolutions before it, will trade individual quality of life for collective power. As agricultural societies swallowed up hunter gatherers one by one before themselves being crushed by industrial societies, so those who would cling to an analogue way of life will find themselves overmatched, outcompeted and overwhelmed. Regardless, I will continue with my desperate, rearguard fight against history the same way the English romantics struggled against industrialisation. Hopeless my cause is, yes, but it’s beautiful all the same.


Photo Credit.

What I’ve Learnt as a Revolutionary Communist

This article was originally published in November 2021.

I have a confession to make. 

A few months ago I was made an official member of the Revolutionary Communist Group after being involved as a participating supporter for about a month and a half. The RCG are, in their own words, Marxist-Leninist, pro-Cuba, pro-Palestine, internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist. They believe that capitalism is causing climate change, which they refer to as the ‘climate crisis’, and that socialism/communism is the only way to avert catastrophe.

They believe that the twin forces of imperialism and capitalism work today, and have been working for hundreds of years, to enrich the Western capitalist class by exploiting the labour of the proletariat and plundering the resources of the ‘Global South’. They publish a bi-monthly newspaper entitled ‘Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!’ which acts as an ideological core around which centre most of the groups discussions.

After two months of twice-weekly zoom calls, leafleting in front of busy train stations and protesting in front of embassies, I was finally invited to become an official member. I rendezvous-ed with two comrades before being taken to a door which was hidden down a dark alleyway and protected by a large iron gate – certainly a fitting location for a revolutionary HQ. Inside was an office and a small library stocked with all manners of communist, socialist and anti-imperialist literature including everything from Chavs by Owen Jones to The Labour Party – A Party Fit For Imperialism by Robert Clough, the group’s leader. 

I was presented with a copy of their constitution, a document about security and a third document about sexual harassment (the RCG has had issues with members’ behaviour in the past). It was here, discussing these documents for almost three hours, that I learnt most of what I know now about the RCG as an organisation and the ecosystem it inhabits. 

The RCG is about 150-200 members strong with branches across the country – three in London, one in Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, Glasgow and Edinburgh and possibly more. In terms of organisation and decision-making they use what they call ‘democratic centralism’ – a sprawling mess of committees made up of delegates that appoint other committees that all meet anywhere between once every two weeks and once every two years. They’re also remarkably well funded, despite the fact that their newspaper sells for just 50p. They employ staff full time and rent ‘offices’ up and down the country. They draw income from fundraising events, members dues, newspaper and book sales and donations (both large and small).

Officially, the RCG is against the sectarianism that famously ails the Left. However, one zoom call I was in was dedicated to lambasting the Socialist Workers Party who, I soon learnt, were dirty, menshevik, reactionary Trots. We referred to them as part of the ‘opportunist Left’ who routinely side with the imperialists. 

The RCG doesn’t generally maintain good relations with many other major leftist groups. Central to RCG politics is the idea of a ‘labour [small L] aristocracy’ – a core of the working class who have managed to improve their material conditions just slightly and so work against the interests of the wider working class, suppressing real revolutionary activity in order to maintain their cushy positions. The RCG sees the Trade Union movement as the bastion of the labour aristocracy. They see the Labour party also as their greatest enemy – ‘the single greatest barrier to socialism in Britain’.

The RCG takes issue with the SWP specifically over their attitude to Cuba. They believe that most Trotskyists are too critical of socialist revolutions that have occurred in the past and so are not real communists – after all, no revolution will be perfect. The RCG’s issue with the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) is that they resent how the CPGB claims to be the main organisation for communism in this country and uses its coziness with the trade unions as a signifier of legitimacy. However, the RCG believes that this makes the CPGB not much more than an extension of the Labour party, which it despises. 

The CPGB-ML (Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist-Leninist), on the other hand, are much closer politically to the RCG. They also share the same view on the Labour party. However, the CPGB-ML has recently taken a loud anti-trans position and so the RCG wants nothing to do with them.

Socialist Appeal are a group that has organised with the RCG in London before but the two do not get along due to, once again, the former’s (until recent) support for the Labour party every election. The RCG also shares views with Extinction Rebellion but XR now no longer wants anything to do with the RCG because of the RCG’s insistence on selling its communist newspaper at every event its members attend. The RCG insisting on trying to recruit members at every event it attends, including events co-organised with other groups, is a major source of friction and one of the reasons nobody wants to organise with them. It’s also one of the reasons why the RCG has stopped organising with LAFA – the London AntiFascist Assembly. 

LAFA, I was told, are a chaotic bunch. They staunchly oppose all forms of hierarchy and make decisions on a ‘horizontalist’ basis. In true anarchist fashion, there are no official leaders or ranks at all in LAFA and decisions are made sort of by whoever takes the initiative. Unfortunately this means that those who become unofficial leaders in the group are accountable to absolutely no-one because they are not technically responsible for anything, and naturally issues arise from this quasi-primitivist state of affairs. Ironically, this makes the London AntiFascist Assembly kind of based.

Interestingly, one organisation with which the RCG has never had any problems is Black Lives Matter. The RCG and Socialist Appeal were (apparently) the only two groups out on the streets in solidarity with BLM last summer – BLM even allowed RCG members to speak at their events. The RCG enjoyed quite a close and amicable relationship with BLM right up until BLM decided at the end of last summer to effectively cease all activity, with the reason given to the RCG being just that ‘the summer has ended’. Presumably, the bulk of BLM’s activist base either had to go back to school or just got bored. 

Although the RCG strictly prohibits any illegal activity at any of its protests, one clause of the constitution is ‘a revolution clause’ requiring members to leave their jobs and move house at the discretion of the RCG. I was told this clause has never been invoked and isn’t expected to be invoked for decades at least but is there in case a genuine communist uprising were to take place somewhere in the country and RCG leadership decided that it needed members to move into the area to help. The RCG is intent on staying firmly on the right side of the law for the foreseeable future – supposedly until class consciousness is raised to such a level that the time for revolution arrives. Whether or not history will pan out the way they think it will, only time will tell.  

Perhaps most curious was the group’s confused stance on lockdowns. They are fiercely pro-lockdown and pro-mask, but also highly critical of the government’s approach for reasons that are quite vague. Why a communist organisation would want to place unprecedented power in the hands of a government – a Tory government no less – that it thinks operates as the right arm of global capital is beyond me. When I brought this up, a lone voice of dissent in my branch, I was told I had made a ‘valid point’ and that the group needed to discuss the matter further, but that was it. The only explanation I could arrive at was that unfortunately the RCG, and I think the Left generally, are deep in denial about being anti-establishment.

The RCG’s modus operandi is the weekly stall: three or four communists will take a table and a megaphone to a busy location and try to hand out leaflets and sell copies of the FRFI newspaper. The idea was that people whose values loosely align with those of the groups could be contacted and organised by way of these stalls. The law of large numbers means that these stalls are curiously successful – one two-hour stall at the weekend can sell a dozen newspapers and enlist a handful of people to be contacted by the group at a later date. The process of collecting people and funnelling them down the contact-member pipeline is a slow one with a low success rate, but they’re relentless.

Interestingly though, I believe their decades-old activist tradition is actually one of their biggest weaknesses. Ironically, so-called progressives are stuck in the past. The RCG has a very minimal online footprint – it uses its profiles on twitter and Instagram only to post dates for upcoming events. The RCG have so much faith in their traditional method of raising ‘class consciousness’ (translation: spreading communism) that they’re losing the internet arms race and thus their grip on young people – their traditional base. The fact that the group has a large proportion of older members might have something to do with it.

However, Leftists are good at street activism – they’ve been doing it for decades. Leftist activist groups have ingrained in their traditions social technology – sets of practices, behaviours and attitudes – that have developed over time and that their opponents would do well to familiarise themselves with, like looking at the homework of a friend (or in this case, an adversary).

The RCG believes that it is one of very few, maybe even the only, Leftist group in Britain today committed to maintaining a substantial street presence. One of the conditions for membership, after all, is promising to attend at least one street protest a week. The RCG no doubt take their activism seriously, with a comrade even describing the group to me as being made up of ‘professional revolutionaries’. They believe that they are growing and will continue to grow in strength, propelled by financial and then ecological crises. They are very excited for the collapse of the Labour party, which they believe is all-but imminent, because they think it will cause swathes of the Left to lose faith in a parliamentary means of achieving socialism and take to the streets, where the RCG will be waiting for them.

My time as a revolutionary communist has been challenging but what I’ve learned is no doubt valuable. I strongly encourage others to do as I have, if only just for a few weeks or so. Join your local leftist organisation – pick a sect, any sect! Expand your knowledge, see a different perspective and gain skills you might not gain anywhere else. Speak to people with a completely different viewpoint from yours and learn how they think, you’ll be a slightly better and more knowledgeable person for it.

Quote: Leftists are good at street activism. They have ingrained in their traditions social technology that have developed over time and that their opponents should familiarise themselves with.


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Britain’s Fifth Column

A fifth column is “a group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or working for its enemies.”

We have a problem that is acknowledged but gets little to no serious attention in the official political or media spheres; the growing Islamic base that has been imported into this country. Given the above definition, it might seem absurd to imply that these people are a fifth column, seeing as we don’t appear to be directly at war, but we are. I would not call this a cold war as there are many thousands of victims of its adherents living among us in Britain currently. To do so would be to diminish their experience, something our traitorous state has done more than enough of.

Islam is its own self-contained religion and civilisational structure. By allowing this population to grow, we are fostering an ideology that will only seek to grow and supplant our society because that is what their god demands. Islam has been allowed to run parallel to our society by our cowardly state permitting Sharia courts, turning a blind eye to polygamous marriages, and generally leaving these guests to their own devices as they overtake British cities. While deplorable and deeply distressing, this has so far been contained, not so much any more. The Islamic community is breaking out, it’s establishing a significant voting bloc and this heralds a dark omen for things to come. In a great twist of irony, it seems Labour will be the first to fall foul of this new political development.

Contrary to their minority position, the Islamic community in Britain has a relatively tight grasp on small businesses in corner shops, barbers, hot food takeaways, off-licences, and petrol stations. They’ve also got an increasingly large share in drug dealing, likely facilitated by these interconnect, all hours, businesses, where cash is king and electronic fraud is missed. HMRC doesn’t have the resources to deal with such matters effectively, often fearing accusations of bigotry and being threatened with violence whenever they try to conduct their investigations. This is where Mohammed Hijab’s (a real name I’m told) bizarre TV comments about blasphemy against Islam not being tolerated by “Muslim gangsters” likely come from. We’ve seen this before, from the murder of Kris Donald to the grooming gangs. The community sheltering the vile perpetrators, in my mind, damns them. The religious extremists and the cultural criminals go hand in hand.

The more odious elements of Islam in Britain claim they have conquered Britain – that is, being imported by our traitorous elite and living off welfare. Make no mistake, this is not Mohammed taking Mecca from the pagans, these people are arrogant welfare queens that the state protects and cajoles at every opportunity. Where is this arrogance coming from? Is it their status beyond criticism? The enshrining of Islamophobia as an ultimate crime against “Modern British Values” is certainly a problem. We have Muslim MPs almost brought to tears in Parliament for mean words while White children up and down the country are groomed and raped by adherents of their ideology and culture, fanatic or otherwise; crocodile tears from a vile community that not-so-secretly laughs about the modern woes of the native British.

Muslim gaslighting doesn’t end in Parliament. Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed put out a bizarre video a few years ago in which National Front types went door to door ethnically cleansing Muslims from England. I thought this to be a particularly bizarre thing to do when you consider the terrorism rate, per capita, of the Islamic vs British community. To me this was a tell in his thinking, it acknowledges that fundamentally they are at war with us. Riz also starred in the film Four Lions, which follows a hapless Jihadi’s attempt to carry out a terror attack in the UK. The film, while amusing, does paint these men (other than the grossly unsympathetic White convert) as sympathetic in their idiocy, with Ahmed’s character leading his less bright friends astray. Outside the context of the film, I find this portrayal to be unrealistic. The average second-gen or third-gen Muslim youth sincerely hates Britain, its history, and its people. They’ll prioritise and take the side of foreign conflicts over any domestic issue concerning the British nation. The most they’ll interact with British culture is through the superficiality of sport.

Moreover, there is a bizarre Africanisation of British Muslim culture, Ali G was a send-up of this, but Cohen seemed to back away from this obvious interpretation for whatever reason. Drug culture, speaking in a pseudo-Jamaican patois (to steal from Starkey) mixed with Muslim conventions, producing a particularly unpleasant and idiotic-sounding dialect. A glorification of crime, violence, and importantly terrorism pervades this culture. We’ve seen this play out across the pro-Palestine demonstrations happening over recent months. To quickly touch on drug culture, cannabis is a major drug among this group. People like Peter Hitchens get the relationship twisted. They assume that cannabis is the cause of terror, not that these people engage in drug culture because they are themselves a criminal and subversive element in society. Do drugs exacerbate their hatred? I wouldn’t doubt it, but the hatred is before the imbibing of wicked poisons.

This is all an incredibly dangerous mix that the state and security services seem to barely be able to keep a lid on. Despite their protestations that right-wing terrorism is the biggest threat, this is clearly nonsense. Islamic terror threats outstrip right-wing ones by miles, even with the vast population difference. This can also be seen in the police’s reluctance to police the entrenched Muslim community. What are they so afraid of? My guess is terroristic violence. To cow in the face of such a threat is basically to guarantee you will hand the country to Islamists.

What is to be done about this? Ideas have been floated about banning certain aspects of the religion to encourage them to self-deport but again, this relies on enforcement by the state which it is both unwilling and incapable of doing. I would propose a ban on the production, import, and sale of ritualistically slaughtered meat as that would be the easiest to enforce without confrontation. Businesses would be shuttered, products would be impounded at customs, and we would stand firmly on the side of animal rights. It’s reprehensible to me that Britain should take a step backward in this regard to placate alien desert religions. Naturally, this ban would affect the Jewish community, but that’s a sacrifice we will need to make for the future of Britain. The Jewish community is particularly robust and progressive when it comes to issues of wrestling with God, and I’m sure they’d find a way around our new law.

Less practical solutions have been offered; recently I’ve seen people saying that public prayer should be banned in response to mass Islamic worship in London. This is a nonsense approach that would only affect our beleaguered Christian community and would likely not be enforced fairly. Some have suggested banning cousin marriages. Whilst well-intentioned, the main thrust of my objection to such a policy is that we haven’t had to ban it for it to no longer be practised in this country (outside the Muslim community and presumable other outliers). Simply put, we’d be creating a nationwide law for an imported subset of the population. It’s not the thin end of the wedge of tyranny, but it does point to the ridiculous codification of a multiracial society.

Groups are so vastly different in outlook and disposition that you need to make the detrimental illegal for it to appear to function. Perhaps we should take it as a sign that people who willingly marry their cousins and as such have the largest disabled community in Britain shouldn’t be living among us. Britain does not exist to serve as a eugenic uplift scheme for foreign people who cleave to a religion that orders them to supplant us. On an entirely different and less targeted front, the deportation of economic net negatives would substantially reduce the Islamic population of Britain, but the problem of Islam would remain, albeit at perpetual minority levels.

Approaching last Christmas, we saw the usual warning of terror attacks rolled out for many festive markets and events that are happening across the country. If you attend any of these markets, you will likely notice the ethnic make-up of the security and the broken English with which they communicate. It’s not lost on me that many of these men are of African, non-Muslim, extraction however many are of Muslim origin and I find it entirely insane that threats from Islamic terrorism would be policed by fresh off-the-boat Muslims. We have a growing force of non-white imported security, increasingly used by businesses because they are cheap and a state which seeks to enforce anti-white laws, which is worrying. Their conduct is poor, and their obvious biases and unfamiliarity with Britain can’t be ignored.

In a recent clip, a piano player is aggressively harassed by foreign security. Is the proliferation of such people across the UK security sector related to the housing of fighting aged illegals now being overseen by two of the biggest private security companies Serco and G4S? It’s certainly a question worth asking. It is not without reason that it could be expected for such people to end up in the official police forces of Britain eventually. Standards in policing have been dropping for decades, if things are not reversed, I imagine we will start seeing these people transition into the force within the decade.

To me, this is all part of the plan, the expansion of the police state. Contrary to Telegraph hacks, the police state is already here. This great panopticon of Modern Britain, with its pervasive speech laws coupled with the new ‘diverse’ religiosity, forms a tyranny of leftists and racial mafias over the native population. As with everything in Modern Britain, the “elite” have made a vast miscalculation. Creating such a system will be subverted and controlled by the most vocal, violent, and united community. Without a doubt, that community is the Islamic one. While they are still a minority, they will increasingly wield disproportionate, anti-democratic, power over us all. It’s a horrific reverse colonialism where we, the native British, have been entangled in a web of increasingly complex and restrictive laws that all but guarantee our disempowerment. The Tories are utter traitors and completely politically spent for not seeing this and not doing anything about it for their fourteen years in power. Hopefully, they’ll be destroyed at the next election and a new, vigorous, and unapologetically nationalist force can rise to lift us out of this predicament decades of political incompetence and deliberate malice have brought us to.

I do not believe Islam will take over Britain is guaranteed, I do not believe that things are too far gone. Britain is broken and while Islam is germinating in this environment it’s entirely imported. For the most part, the White British converts we see are the most broken of outsiders, with fringe academics constituting a bizarre exception. Most people in Britain look at the Islamic community with rightful derision. They may not express it openly but in their hearts, they see it as a thuggish religion of petty criminals and child rapists. This is the version of Islam that the immigrants have brought to our shores, the blame is squarely on themselves and they alone shame their Ummah. Indeed, Arab Muslims in states like the UAE or Saudi often wonder why we have let such people settle in our lands, a favour they do not permit to their “brothers and sisters.”

In order to prevent this growing Islamic problem in Britain, we must acknowledge the interconnected nature of this religion, from how drug dealers and home office employees are all working together to advance their faith and racial groups within that overarching religion. We are constantly told to take people on an individual basis, but time and time again in Modern Britain this has shown to be dangerously faulty reasoning. It’s outdated and only conceivably worked when the country was homogenous and dwelt under a Christian understanding. Those days are gone. In an irreligious and deracinated Britain, we are at the mercy of monolithic minorities who use the law to cudgel each other and especially the native population.

I had said in a previous piece that I was unsure of the civilisational war proposed by the counter-jihad movement, and I still hold that belief. I do not believe in siding with foreign interests outside of Europe that seek to interfere in the Islamic world instead of focusing on problems at home. The priority is removing Islam from Britain and more broadly Europe, not fighting Israel’s wars or throwing our lot in with Zionists. The European and Islamic civilisations should be separate and distinct.


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Relatability and Envy

At the Sky News Q&A, both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were asked to reveal something about themselves that would show the real them. Starmer was also accused of being a robot by a voter. Sunak waffled on about his love of sugary food. Starmer basically went on autopilot.

Did it work? No. Both just looked stupid.

It was an unfortunate question really. The problem is that politicians have become obsessed with being relatable. They’ll shed their political image like a snake in order to win a few votes. It can be talking about TV shows, playing sports or just mentioning something from popular culture. They have to look like they’re one of us.

It also ties in with a politics of envy. A number of politicians who are wealthy or come from good families play down their backgrounds or hide from it. The idea that someone from a privileged background can reach the level that they do without envy or scorn is somehow unrealistic in today’s society.

It’s All About the PR

For decades, politics has been a PR game. Who would you have a drink with? Who seems nicest? Who has the best family values? Who is funniest? Policies are put aside in favour of a good photo op and a one-liner that does the rounds on social media.

We’ve seen that in this election, particularly from Sir Ed Davey. He’s had fun going paddle boarding and riding roller coasters. There is no substancing in his messaging, despite the fact that he could make gains from the two major parties collapsing. Whilst the Lib Dems do have a manifesto and probably actual policies, it’s overshadowed by Davey’s antics.

It’s not new either. Even Margaret Thatcher was not immune to it. Aides had her hold a calf for photographers, the poor thing died not long later. David Cameron hugged huskies in snow. Neil Kinnock walked down the beach with his wife. Tony Blair met with Noel Gallagher. Everyone has a gimmick.

The problem is that it is clearly not authentic. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t an animal cuddler. David Cameron isn’t a fan of huskies. Neil Kinnock probably doesn’t do long walks on the beach. Tony Blair doesn’t listen to Oasis. Voters don’t want to see their politicians being hip and cool. They want to see them tackling the issues that we elect them to do.

We all know that the Prime Minister has a job to do. They oversee wars, economic crises, terrorist attacks and natural disasters among other things. The real test of a PM is their response to said issues. Nobody cares about what their favourite book or TV show is when such issues arise. Interviewers often like to throw in a soft question, just like a backbench Member of Parliament mentions a new animal sanctuary in their constituency. It just doesn’t fit.

It also assumes that every politician is one of us. Who cares if they don’t watch much TV? Who cares if they speak Latin or Greek? Boris Johnson, a man with a great love of the classics, would often recite Ancient Greek, but he also showed an affability and relaxed nature that hid this. Meanwhile, David Cameron struggled to look authentic when he wanted to ‘hug a hoodie.’ One lasted six years in office, the other three.

Rich or Poor?

This brings me nicely to my next point. Our nation, or at least the media, seems to not particularly like politicians being open about their privilege. If a politician came from a wealthy family or went to a private school, they are expected to flex their working class credentials.

Take Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Sunak is the son-in-law of a billionaire and wears very expensive items, and is thus wealthy. When asked about this, he points to the fact that his father was a GP and his mother a pharmacist, two respectable middle class professions. Starmer waxes lyrical about the fact that his father was a toolmaker (cue laughter) and his mother a nurse. What he fails to mention is that his father apparently owned the factory and he attended a private school, though through a bursary.

David Cameron suffered from a similar image problem, as did Boris Johnson in some quarters. Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher was proud of being a grocer’s daughter and John Major left school at sixteen. Clement Attlee came from a comfortable background, attending a private school and Oxford. James Callaghan came from a working class family and did not attend university. Each of them have varied reputations as politicians.

Contrast this with that of America. Whilst Americans love the idea of the American Dream and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, they also don’t care as much about class, whether upper or lower. Donald Trump has not once hid that he’s from a rich family, and yet he does not see shame from voters over this.

I frankly do not care if a politician came from a northern council estate like Angela Rayner or was the grandson of a duke like Winston Churchill. I don’t care if they went to a comprehensive or Eton, just as I don’t begrudge a parent for wanting to send their child to a grammar or private school. If they can afford private healthcare, then good for them.

If a politician from a comfortable background is asked about this, they should not downplay it. Instead, they should simply say that their parents worked hard and that they want all people to have the same opportunity.

That is not to say that I think the country would be a perfect place if every MP went to Eton and Oxford. I don’t think it would be perfect if every MP went to a normal school and didn’t go to university. We’ve had good politicians from all backgrounds, and we’ve had bad politicians from all backgrounds.

It does not serve us well to be envious of the rich, or assume that all working class people are good ol’ folk. We should not be desperate for a politician to be a big fan of Game of Thrones or like the same sweets as we do. Politicians should not pretend to be something they are not. I’m not voting for a person’s school or their favourite beverage. I’m voting for who I think has the best ideas.

Which, to be frank, seems to be none of them. Hey, at least I know that Rishi Sunak loves Haribo.


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The Impossible as Motivation

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

– Antonio Gramsci

Like all disaffected individuals who supported the Conservatives in 2019, I too find solace in the work of a certain Italian Marxist philosopher and his insights. The simplicity of that quote often speaks to a dormant impulse in the human condition, the belief that things really can change; that, when everything is said and done, we will win. We must, as President Trump once said: “…treat the word ‘impossible’ as motivation.”

In the history of Great Britain, this nation has faced many challenges and many dark days. Those dark days still lay ahead, for that can be assured. Those obstacles within our national politics seem numerous: civil servants, fifth columnists, various media establishments and even entire political parties which claim to represent the interests of the country. Out of this election, it is plain as day. Labour will win, through sheer dullness and the fact that Sunak has clearly given up and not even attempted to try during this race for his own premiership. The reason why people do not like Sunak is because, at his core, he represents ultimately why people do not like Conservatives or politicians in general. They are mostly losers who want to be liked and be seen as important by others; they want to be winner but have never fought truly for anything in their lives. It is for this reason, they are not worthy of any votes or seats. It is not because they have fought and failed, it is that they have never even tried or put up a fight.

From this, the only cure that needs to be given is that of Zero Votes and Zero Seats. Vote Reform now, Cummings later. This can be summarised as voting Reform now to give the Conservatives zero seats, thus ending them (at least, as much as possible) as a political force within Great Britain. Out of this, we should unite around a different right-wing party, one that genuinely seeks to change the direction of the country and prepared to ask and answer the questions that matter. Why are we having these problems? Why are people struggling to buy a house? Why is this country declining?

Following on from this, it is clear that Farage is here to stay and can become a massive nuisance for the administrative state, the state that is allergic to change and remains prestige-orientated. As such, Farage is not the man who will do these things; he is a media personality, not someone who is interested in the nitty gritty of continuing (starting with Brexit) a decade-long (if not century-long) process of fixing the foundational issues of this country. Farage is an Einstein in an Oppenheimer world, it would seem.

Farage understands the need for generating a new excitement around a political issue, he understands that nothing is impossible, even that the mere usage of the word should be taken as motivation. Indeed, his lifelong struggle to get Britain to leave the EU is one such endeavour which, even at the best of times, felt like an ultimately impossible task until it wasn’t. This is not dissimilar to Trump, a figure who isn’t sensitive to the nuance of details, but fundamentally understands the broad picture, why things needs to change, and how to go about doing it.

As such, one hopes that if Reform becomes akin to UKIP, they can become a political force that asks the big questions that the majority of the population want asked. Additionally, Reform should be able to shift the Overton window on a series of issues, bringing them to the forefront of politics from outside of the mainstream political parties. These should range from immigration, the economy, the housing crisis, and the need to dismantle the administrative state.

This being said, like UKIP and the Brexit Party before, when Reform has kicked through the door, it should again vanish. By the end of the decade, Reform should be as important as UKIP is in 2024. Reform should not be here to stay in the long term. Now that it seems possible that Reform will replace the Conservatives, just as the Labour replaced the Liberals throughout the 1920s, allowing them to fully turn their guns on Labour, exposing them as being no better. Of course, Labour is not up to the task of governing and will almost certainly do damage to Britain. Given that Starmer is a wet lettuce of a man, unlikely to last long in post, they’ll have plenty of material to work with.

From this, Reform can generate space for something to be built for the 21st Century, something with real long term vision and purpose. Insert “assorted weirdos” reference here. Indeed, it is rather fitting that the two individuals that are attempting to offer real alternatives to the current issues facing this country are the same two which brought Brexit home (twice if you count the 2019 general election). Now we could realistically see this occur again. Farage’s media personality pushing the core issues into the forefront of British political life, while Cummings dominates the nitty gritty of how to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and securing the real victories. Additionally, both men want the complete destruction of the gate keeping Conservatives and are radically anti-establishment and Westminster, something the vast majority of the electorate share.

Although Cummings has modelled his work on Singapore’s People’s Action Party (I would encourage all to read ‘From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000’), and its stewardship under Lee Kuan Yew, it is another Southeast Asian leader that he should also look at too. Ho Chi Minh (hear me out), and his leadership of North Vietnam, can be summarised as that of revolutionary self-belief and determination. The clinical and principled nature of Singapore, combined with the zealous optimism of Vietnam, would propel the country back into a forward-thinking, functioning 21st Century nation state. It should be hoped that, when Cumming’s Party is ready and the door has been blown open by Farage’s Reform, it too should move into place. A tech-focused, big tent, anti-establishment party that seeks to radically fix the core issues within the country. Radically reduce immigration, tackle the wealth disparity and tax avoidance, and dismantle the permanent administrative state.

In conclusion, Politics is Never Over. Things have returned to being interesting – we could witness another realignment in our national discourse. This should be motivating for people like Farage and Cummings. We can smell blood right now on both Starmer and Sunak, so we must take this chance to end the declinist duopoly once and for all, and scramble to build something in its place thereafter. As Farage stated in a mere four words: “We’re just getting started.”


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The Century of Steel

Imagine a world in which there is no central structure, imagine a world where both the United States and China have fallen from a state of global hegemony to struggling to maintain any internal resemblance of order. This could occur independently of the other nation’s collapse or in tandem with it. What would the world look like? Would another world order emerge or would complete anarchy befall the world writ large? If there isn’t the time or conditions for another unipolar nation to fill this void, in part or in full, we must look for a more divided and unstable world structure. This core concept can be understood as non-polarity, where states cannot order themselves according to any traditional structure. Out of this concept, we could be entering a world of widespread turmoil and interstate violence. This can be understood as the Century of Steel (CoS), a term to help describe and articulate what we could be going through.

In order to understand the CoS, we first must look at Italian politics in the postwar years. The Years of Lead refers to a period of widespread social and political instability and violence in Italy. This period saw terrorism and assassinations become normalised from the 1960s to 1980s, the outcome of which saw government forces triumph and various far-right and far-left organisations disbanded. Notable and symbolic examples of this period include the Bologna Bombing in 1980 and the assassination of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro. A lengthy explanation of this period can be found here.

Now, imagine a globalised version of the Italian Years of Lead taking place through a deglobalising world. Widespread interstate turmoil across nearly all regions of the world could occur. Following this, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the rise of old tensions occur once more from across the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East. From the ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine to the thinning of the Palestinian herd by Israel. The outcomes of this will look like Russia beating Ukraine, with them annexing half the country, followed by Israel becoming a pariah within the Middle East again, ending decades of peace efforts. With the collapse of the current ‘rules-based’ world order and the potential joint collapse of both major superpowers in the not-so-distant future, another avenue of what could happen needs to be explored. 

One of the most underrated academics currently working is that of Yi Fuxian, who has contributed considerably to the topic of demography, especially within the context of the Asia-Pacific. In a recent Diplomat article, Yi argued that any conflict will only exacerbate the ongoing demographic issues between the aforementioned warring nations. As noted with the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, both nations have seen their respective fertility rates drop substantially. Likewise, if war were to break out between China and Taiwan (both nations are in considerably worse demographic situations), this would have disastrous consequences for both nations, regardless of the outcome of the conflict.

“If a Taiwan war breaks out, it will hasten these trends, leading to global instability and even the collapse of the U.S.-led world order… Time is not on the side of China or Taiwan, nor on the side of the United States. The three parties need to show sufficient wisdom and courage to achieve permanent peace across the Taiwan Strait – and avoid dropping off a demographic cliff.”

-Yi Fuxian, The Demographic Costs of a War Over Taiwan, The Diplomat (10/04/2024)

With most of the world now residing in a ‘post-fertile’ world, being below replacement level, there are fewer ‘new’ people entering into this increasingly conflictual world. What a lot of nations have now in terms of manpower is all they will have for many years to come, and when it goes, it goes. If you choose to spend it on conflict, you must accept the fact you will most likely not have anyone to replace them, creating various problems down the line. Moreover, the potential conflicts will only further perpetuate the conditions that caused states to fall into such a demographic rut in the first place.

If we are indeed becoming truly deglobalised, we could see the emergence of a new epoch. Just as the Cold War defined much of the 20th Century, the CoS may define much of the 21st. A ‘century’ of no centralised control being exerted within the world, incapable of regulating and mediating beyond a very narrow and constricted sphere of influence. This will only compound the ongoing issues being faced across the planet. We are entering very dangerous and complex times ahead for every single individual in the world and more conflicts will most likely arise in the following years as a result.


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A Brief History of US Student Politics

‘Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’

These chants outside of the White House haunted Lyndon B. Johnson throughout his presidency. He would sit in the Oval Office with his head in his hands as the chants wafted through the walls. When his son-in-law Charles Robb sent in a tape from Vietnam, Johnson buckled against the table and looked as though he was in tears. For the loud Southern Jackson, who took great pleasure in towering over and intimidating others, this seemed like quite a big deal. 

This is not about Johnson, however. This is about the students who protested him and the Vietnam War. This is about the students who protest now and any time.

An American Education

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and is classed by many as the oldest institute of higher education in the United States. Throughout history, the Ivy League colleges (Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell) have been considered the most elite, though others have made quite the showing. Between them, the Ivy League colleges have educated fifteen US presidents. They’ve also educated many Supreme Court Justices, Governors and members of Congress.

Throughout early American history, the Ivy League and other elite colleges were almost exclusively for white, wealthy men. Colleges for women did exist, such as the female equivalent of the Ivies, the Seven Sisters, though they came far later. Colleges for African-Americans also came later, such as Howard and Tuskegee.

Cornell began to accept women in 1870, but it took until 1983 for all of them to admit women, with Columbia being the last.

Minority men were able to attend earlier and more frequently, with Yale being the last to accept black students in 1964.

Despite more diversity in terms of the student body, Ivy League colleges see students of the wealthy 1% overrepresented. One in six Ivy students have parents from the top 1%, and they are 34% more likely to be accepted than students with the same scores but from less wealthy backgrounds. The children of these parents are also more than twice as likely to attend elite universities- the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Duke and Chicago.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Whilst protests and activism were not unknown prior, the 1960s saw an explosion in it.

The decade was one of great social change, perhaps the greatest since the 1860s. Firstly, there was more of a focus on youth. TV, radio and movies began to cater to teenagers. Bands like the wholesome Beach Boys and sassy Beatles saw teenage screaming along. As incomes expanded, college enrollment doubled between 1945 and 1960, doubling once again by 1970.

There was also less social and cultural hegemony than before, something that Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority sought to exploit. The Civil Rights movement was at an apex as students sat at segregated café counters and took integrated buses to register African-American voters in the Deep South. Second-wave feminism saw women demand access to birth control, abortion and equality in the workplace. As students moved away from their generally conservative homes, many became embroiled in a more progressive political atmosphere.

Perhaps most impactful in terms of lives was the Vietnam War. Action in the Asian nation had significantly escalated, particularly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.

Students in particular were opposed to the draft. College students could receive deferments, but they were in the target conscription demographic of being young and healthy and unmarried, though the marriage deferment ended in summer 1965. One of the most notable forms of protests saw students burning their draft cards.

They were also active in the protest movement as a whole. College campuses became hotbeds of political activity. Students also joined protests and demonstrations.

There were varied reasons as to why students in particular were opposed to the war. Some echoed the popular sentiment of many that it was war thousands of miles away that did not have anything to do with America. Others believed that American soldiers were killing innocent civilians. Some thought that the money would be better spent elsewhere or that war in general was wrong.

One college that became a centre of counterculture politics was UC Berkeley. The California university became a hub of activism and protests regarding Civil Rights, free speech and Vietnam.

Most of the decade saw passionate but peaceful protests in the area, but this changed. In April 1969, students at Berkeley set up an informal encampment in People’s Park, scuppering a plan to turn it into a public space. On the 15th May 1969, police arrived to turf the squatters out. This, combined with a nearby college protest, saw around 6,000 people turn out at the park. The police eventually opened fire, killing San Jose resident James Rector as he watched from the roof. Many others were injured; one man was blinded. California Governor Ronald Reagan called in the California National Guard.

There had been a notable protest at New York’s Columbia University a year before. Black student protestors had asked white protestors to protest separately, which they did, segregating it on racial lines. Some of the students occupied the administrative Hamilton Hall, holding Acting Dean Henry S. Coleman hostage.

In another protest that year, students at Morehouse in Atlanta held the board of trustees. One of those students was a young Samuel L. Jackson.

Sixties Assassinations

Adding to the students’ cynicism were the assassinations of four famous men, all of whom were generally admired by students.

The first was John F. Kennedy in November 1963. Kennedy had been a proponent of college education and had been a point of fascination for young people, mainly due to his relative youth compared to other politicians.

The second was Malcolm X, the firebrand minister for the Nation of Islam and advocate of civil rights. He was slain in February 1965.

The third was Martin Luther King Jr, the well-known minister who advocated for civil rights via peaceful means. He was killed in April 1968.

The fourth and final one was Robert Kennedy in June 1968. He had entered the Democratic race for president as an anti-war and liberal alternative to unpopular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson.

Death At Kent State

One of the most tragic events of the student protest movement came in May 1970.

The Sixties was over and new president Richard Nixon had promised law and order. Meanwhile, America was expanding military operations in Vietnam by entering neighbouring Cambodia. This caused immediate controversy in the anti-war movement. Several hundred students at Kent State in Ohio were protesting this. Residents and police officers had been concerned about potential repercussions in the community, and the Ohio National Guard was called.

The National Guard attempted to disperse the crowd through tear gas and other means, but this failed. Protestors began to throw rocks and other projectiles at them before being herded away. Near a hill, some of the officers started to open fire. Four students- two men and two women- were killed. Nine others were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralysed.

Images of the event, including the famous picture of a horrified teenager standing over one of the bodies, caused even more riots and protests across the nation. 100,000 people marched on Washington a few days later, leading to Richard Nixon famously talking to protestors in the middle of the night at the Lincoln Memorial.

Post-Sixties

Whilst the chaos of the 1960s gave way to a relatively more peaceful 20th century, activism and protests still remained. College Democrats and College Republicans have both been popular hubs for the partisan-minded students. Politicians regularly attend speeches and rallies, especially when they’re supported by the students.

As a rule, colleges tend to be on the left of the spectrum, in both faculty and students. Exceptions to this tend to be religious institutions like Bob Jones and Liberty University.

Issues that have arisen include the Iraq War, climate change, school shootings, race, gender, sexual assault and rape and military engagement in general.

The Current Protests

On the 7th October 2023, Israel was surprised by an attack by Hamas. People were murdered, missiles were fired and civilians taken hostage. In response, Israel had gone all out on Hamas. As a result, there have been numerous deaths and injuries in Palestine. Many people have been made homeless or have needed to evacuate from their homes. Some have flooded into neighbouring Egypt. Neither Palestine or Israel are safe.

Sympathy for the deaths of innocents have been widespread, but there is a huge difference in opinion regarding Israel. Protests have happened in major cities across the world, with the pro-Palestine side occupying most of that space. London for example has seen weekly protests since October.

The issue has become a massive one in America. Historically, the American government has been a strong supporter of Israel. Joe Biden has given assistance to Israel, but seems to want incumbent Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu out. Internally, there is debate amongst the legislative branch. Pro-Palestine and anti-interventionist politicians have come together to stop aid to Israel. Others wish to help it more.

It’s also been dynamite for college campuses. Coast to coast, north to south, university students have been protesting non-stop since October. The Ivy League colleges have been the centre of the protests, but other elite and notable colleges such as Stanford, Berkeley, Northeastern, NYU, Ohio State, and Emerson have seen student activism.

Students have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in the area. Regarding their own colleges, they ask for the institutions to break all ties to Israel, especially regarding financial gifts.

The protests themselves have been controversial. The shouting of ‘from the river to the sea’ is seen as a call to action against Jews, as well as the calling of a global intifada. Flickers of anti-semitism have allegedly been seen in these protests, despite the bulk of participants proclaiming they oppose Zionism, not Jews. Some Jewish students have participated in the protests, whilst others feel unsafe. Classes have been called off and students have been forced to study online.

Encampments have been put up on several campuses. Some have been cleared by police whilst others remain. These encampments are made up of tents, donated food and other communal activities, all of which are subject to rules. Whilst the protests remain mainly about Israel and Palestine, they tend to bend towards anti-capitalism and progressive ideology.

New York’s Columbia University has been the establishment most in the news. On the 17th April, a number of Columbia students started an encampment. Whilst the encampment was torn down by police the next day, it was rebuilt and protests continue. Students report difficulty getting to class. Arrests and suspensions have also been made.

Student Kyhmani James became the subject of media attention following comments regarding the murder of Zionists. He filmed a video of himself talking to the administration in an attempt to get his views across. Unfortunately for Mr. James, he has been kicked out of Columbia.

The Response

America’s 1st Amendment is very strict on the freedom of speech and assembly. That being said, law enforcement and university officials are more than a little tired of it. Students have been arrested, suspended and even expelled. Three college presidents have sat before Congress- Mary Magill of UPenn, Sally Kornbluth of MIT and Claudia Gay of Harvard. Magill resigned in December 2023, and Gay followed in January 2024 after a plagiarism scandal.

Some presidents have been tough. The University of Florida sent out a very clear letter to protestors telling them which behaviour was appropriate and what would get them kicked out. Florida State turned on the sprinklers. Northeastern University got the police to clear the encampment, saying that the use of ‘Kill the Jews’ crossed the line. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis promised to expel any protestors who joined mobs. Even Columbia, the home of the most infamous protests, allowed the police in to tear down the encampment.

It doesn’t look like this is going to go away anytime soon. What some call a win for free speech is what others call going ‘too far’. As parents look away from the Ivy League to less elite but still reputable universities, one wonders if it’s a case of rich kids with too much time on their hands and no problems of their own. Is it that or a genuine example of solidarity with Palestine? Whatever the case, America’s campuses remain on metaphorical fire.


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The War on Pubs, Part I: Taylor’s Conquest

The war on British pubs is as old as the British pub itself, so much so it can barely be classed as an emerging tendency. The government’s dislike of the pub is a fact of life and measures to undermine its prosperity and role in society are widely disliked but are rarely contextualised in political commentary beyond the Covid pandemic, relatively recent demographic changes, and the last fourteen years of government.

After the end of WW2, Britain seemed to be largely self-sufficient when it came to producing ingredients for beer, something it hadn’t achieved for the best part of a century. Protectionist measures enabled near-autarkic levels of barley production whilst wartime reserves of hops were sold for cheap on the domestic market. Of course, post-war economic pressures made investments more necessary and demanding, whilst imports (especially from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Ireland) were set to become more frequent. Nevertheless, an end to rationing, combined with the implementation of tax cuts in the mid-to-late 50s, one of the few helping hands to pubs since the birth of Modern Britain, which contribute to an increase in beer production and consumption. All things being far from perfect, Britain’s pubs could’ve expected much worse coming out of the most destructive war in history.

Indeed, Britain’s flourishing post-war beer market hadn’t escaped the notice of Edward Plunket Taylor. Famously a breeder of racehorses, coming to be recognised as a major force behind the development of the Canadian horse-racing industry, the tycoon’s family also owned Brading, a brewery in Ottawa founded in 1867. Using the loosely coinciding repeals of prohibition throughout various parts of the US and Canada as a springboard, Taylor merged Brading with another Canadian brewery to form Canadian Breweries in 1930. In pursuit of sheer scale, Taylor consolidated several smaller plants into a handful of larger plants and standardised his line of products, whittling his number of brands down from roughly 100 to six. By 1950, Canadian Breweries controlled 50% of Ontario’s beer market. Having subdued most competition at home, Taylor was well-positioned to turn his focus to foreign conquest.

Being well over 200 years old at this point in history, criticisms of the tie system weren’t new, and they weren’t to vanish in the coming decades, but it did provide an initial barrier to Taylor’s imperial aspirations. As pubs could only sell beer produced by the brewery they were tied to, Taylor realised he’d have to infiltrate Britain’s breweries before he could infiltrate its beer market. Aiming to acquire a 25% stake in every publicly traded brewery in Britain, Taylor sought to gain a foothold in the same way he had come to dominate the Canadian market: through the purchase and merging of smaller and unprofitable breweries. In 1967, Taylor merged Bass Brewery and Charrington United to form Bass Charrington, then the largest brewery in Britain with 19% of the beer market.

Taylor’s aspirations and manifesting success sparked a merging frenzy not seen since the relaxation of beerhouse regulations in the late 19th century and the emergent ‘Beerage’, leading to the rise of ‘The Big Six’, Britain’s six largest brewing companies: Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish and Newcastle, Watney Mann (also known as Grand Metropolitan), and Whitbread.

Whilst Taylor had managed to upend Britain’s brewing market, the tie system continued to incentivise against territorial trespassing between brewers. As such, the mergers occurred largely (albeit far from exclusively) along geographic lines. Allied Breweries and Bass Charrington were more concentrated in the Midlands and the North, both having central breweries in Burton-upon-Trent. Courage originated in Southwark with properties across the South, whilst Watney Mann originated in London with clusters in and around the capital. Fittingly, Scottish and Newcastle were based in Scotland and the Northeast, especially Edinburgh and Newcastle, whilst Whitbread originated in central London, maintaining a sizeable presence in the West End, stretching off into the southwest and much of Wales.

Counterbalancing the instinctual desire to compare The Big Six to feudal barons, their pubs were more clustered than rigidly delineated. Indeed, each brewer was a national entity and desired to expand their control of the overall market. Still, it was the emergence of these large-scale brewers which sparked concerns among small business of a cartelised industry, one in which independent brewers were fighting for an increasingly austere slice of the market.

Initial attempts to curtail the growth of these large brewers lacked momentum. Both with the government and most of the public considering the size of these brewers to be a non-issue. At the very least, it was ‘small beer’ compared to other matters which directly affected pubs and breweries in more gruesome ways. A survey carried out by the Consumers Association showed only 1% of consumers factored in beer prices when it came down to choosing a pub. Simply put, pubs were (and remain to be) more than economic hubs of rational decision-making, but markers of communal identity which provide a sense of place and evoke a sense of loyalty; something to support in a period of inept and lacklustre political leadership.

As for pub owners, many valued The Big Six (and the tie system more generally) as a way of ensuring a steady supply of beer, business, and a livelihood. Far from a barrier to entry, it was seen as the exact opposite, acting as an extension of the quasi-paternalist system which had existed prior to Taylor’s landing on English shores.

Nevertheless, the fears of independent brewers were far from unfounded. By the 1970s, roughly 80% of Britain’s beer supply was controlled by The Big Six, along with roughly 75% of brewer-owned retail, and 85% of ‘loan ties’ – arrangements in which pubs that aren’t directly owned by a Big Six brewer exclusively stock their products and other supplies for discounts and loans. By 1989, the top five best-selling beers had 20% of the total market whilst the top ten had a comfortable 30%.

Also, it became increasingly clear to many pubs that large, cut-throat corporations were not spiritual successors to small, local, historically rooted breweries. The sense of mutual dependency which existed between pubs and the latter was practically non-existent between pubs and the former. Needless to say, an individual pub had more to lose from being untied than any one of The Big Six.

Inflated beer prices were a direct consequence of this arrangement. Between 1979 and 1989, beer prices increased by 15% above the retails’ price index and the tax cuts of the immediate post-war period had long been offset by some of the highest beer duties in Europe. Even if the price of beer was comparatively less important to consumers than the social element of pubs, the financial pressure on customers to buy beer from their local’s tied brewer was far from ideal in a period of stagnating wages and rising inflation.

Pubs which weren’t tied to The Big Six were also routinely shafted by predatory pricing, in which the major brewers would temporarily lower their prices to undercut and destroy independent establishments before increasing their prices to consolidate their financial dominance in particular area. This practice was especially harmful to rural pubs, which were more likely to be independent and less economically secure than urban pubs, courtesy of a continuing trend of rural depopulation.

However, whilst the cost of beer wasn’t a pivotal concern, the wavering quality of beer was a growing source of frustration for pubgoers. Practically impervious to market forces, The Big Six were able to push less-than-appealing products onto the consumer through advertising backed by a steady and plentiful flow of cash. Courtesy of organisations like CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), Watney’s Red Barrel became shorthand for the extortionately priced yet wholly unremarkable (if not always terrible) concoctions one could expect from companies perceived as too big to care about the quality of their products.

Overall, the relationship between breweries and pubs was less comparable to ‘aristocratic’ noblesse oblige and more akin to the terror of mobsters and strongmen, whose promise of security wore thin as they threatened pub owners with financial ruin should they defy their heavy-handed demands. In Hobbesian terms, they were demanding obedience from people they were increasingly disinterested in protecting. This state of affairs created a seismic reaction which would change the trajectory of Britain’s pub and brewing industry, albeit not necessarily for the better; a reaction not from the market, but from the state.


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With Friends Like These…

“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Lord Palmerston’s famous adage is typically divorced from its context, especially when used in discussions regarding Britain’s foreign policy, or lack thereof. Delivered as part of a speech in the House of Commons in 1848, the then Foreign Secretary was responding to an argument put forward by one of his most consistent and outspoken opponents, Thomas Anstey, Irish Confederate MP for Youghal.

Over a decade after Poland’s incorporation into the Russian Empire, Anstey maintained intervention in support of the rebels, seeking to establish an independent Polish state, was both a feasible operation and a moral imperative which the government of the day – especially Palmerston, who was still foreign secretary during this period – absconded in favour of non-interference, despite previous suggestions to the contrary. According to Anstey, this amounted to, among other things, a betrayal of Poland and, by extension, their sympathetic ideals.

Accounting for the particular circumstances in which Palmerston was operating, primarily seeking a basic balance of power across the continent, maintaining a preference for less-absolutist models of government without a frothing desire to see them imposed at the drop of a hat, the essence of his shrewd foreign policy stems from the realisation there is no equivalence between interpersonal and international relations, due to the second-order consequences which come with maintaining such agreements:

“…When we are asked why the British Government have not enforced treaty rights in every case, my answer is, that the only method of enforcing them would have been by methods of hostility; and that I do not think those questions were questions of sufficient magnitude in their bearing on the interests of England, to justify any Government in calling on the people of this country to encounter the burdens and hazards of war for the purpose of maintaining those opinions.”

“It does not follow, when a Minister announces in Parliament an intention to perform a public act, that it is to be considered like a promise made to an individual, or by one private man to another, and that it is to be made a reproach to him if the intention be not carried out.”

Indeed, the maintenance of certain opinions under specific circumstances simply isn’t worth it. The opinions we value, whether written in parchment or spoken over the airwaves, and what we are prepared to do to maintain them, form the essence of our political loyalty. Unfortunately for many in Britain’s political class, even its nominally right-wing constituents, their political loyalty seems to lie with Israel. Berating any criticism or lack of enthusiasm as an act of betrayal, the British people are expected to view their interests as secondary to the interests of the Israeli government, all else being unthinkable.

However, much to their aggravation, Britain’s cooling support for Israel has only accelerated these past few days after a convoy of three vehicles, each displaying the World Central Kitchen (WCK) logo, was attacked whilst returning from a humanitarian mission to Gaza through a deconflicted zone; a route agreed with the knowledge and consent of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The affected British nationals were working as private military contractors tasked with protecting the convoy and providing medical support. By all estimations, not exactly frothing Hamas-adjacent anti-semites motivated by Islamism or Palestinian nationalism. Worse still, the convoy contacted the IDF after the first vehicle was hit, but to no self-preserving avail.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Israelis has taken liberty with the lives of British nationals, although it’s perhaps the first instance in which the disregard of the Israeli government and its supporters has been made so blatant. The IDF’s chief of staff released a less-than-sincere-sounding apology, claiming the attack was an accident, which chef José Andrés, WCK’s director and co-founder, evidently didn’t find convincing, noting the attack took place over considerable distance, never mind in an area tightly controlled by the IDF.

Benjamin Netanyahu responded in a similar vein, stating occasional civilian casualties were part-and-parcel of war and the overarching mission to keep Israel safe. Whilst not technically untrue, it’s also part-and-parcel – even if not an iron law of reality – for states to alter their relations in accordance with their interests, often in unexpected ways; those who are allies one day are rivals the next. As such, I’m sure Netanyahu would be very understanding if Britain ceased all arms exports to Israel, especially if we had a few security concerns, so to speak.

The Israeli government’s sense of entitlement when it comes to Western support is hard to ignore. David Mencer, Israeli government spokesman and former director of Labour Friends of Israel, affectively stated Britain was obliged to continue supporting Israel as doing otherwise would constitute a betrayal of liberal democratic values. In Mencer’s own words: “You’ve got to take our side.”

Indeed, Britain had great sympathy for the Israelis following the attack on October 7th and a military response from Israel was thought to be expected and justified. It is essentially different to claim Britain has a moral and political responsibility to secure the existence of the Israeli state from its enemies, whatever that entails. In any case, this whole debacle suggests two things about Israel, both of which should inform the UK’s future relationship. Either Israel is too incompetent to be considered a reliable ally or too malicious to be considered an ally at all.

However, despite growing suspicion, mainstream criticism of the Israeli government and its agencies has yet to attach itself to the national interest or any loosely-related concept. Sir Alan Duncan’s comments on “pro-Israel extremism” at the highest echelons of government, citing the conduct of various ministers and politicians, resulted in accusations of anti-semitism and a near-immediate disciplinary inquiry from the Conservative Party. At first glance, this looks like one of several increasingly confident pockets of dissent at the heart of the establishment. In reality, it’s the more puritanical believers in the liberal rules-based international order pointing out the internal contradictions of the status quo.

The likes of Lord Dave and Sir Alan aren’t posturing against Israel out of ‘realpolitik’; they aren’t aligning against the Israeli government for nationalist reasons, but for internationalist ones. In their mind, Britain should distance itself from Israel for the sake of conforming to international law to a greater extent than it already does; it has very little to do with a state being so entwined with a foreign government that it can barely condemn attacks on its own citizens, undermining the most basic interest of any modern state: the protection of its people.

At bottom-level, their understanding is an extension of their bizarre idea of domestic affairs. Parliament amending and breaking the law are one in the same; as an entity, law is stagnant and cannot be ‘constitutionally’ changed, at least not to any political degree. Likewise, the breaking of treaties, for whatever reason, is a violation of international law and therefore necessarily bad. Alas, just as men must tear muscle to build more to gain bodily strength, states must tear laws and treaties to create new ones to gain political strength, at home and abroad.

This line of thought is straightforward and popular enough. In fact, it may explain some of the strongest support for Israel among certain sections of the public; older, Conservative and Reform-voting types with the Union Jack and the Star of David in their Twitter bio.

Accounting for the obvious fact many use support for Israel as proxy for domestic concerns pertaining to the rapid growth of Britain’s Muslim population, doubling as an implicit anti-racist credential by aligning with a historically-persecuted minority group, I suspect a considerable amount of Israelophilia among Britain’s old can be attributed to Mossad’s response to the 1972 Munich Massacre; a 20-year global hunt for Black September soberly titled Operation Wrath of God. Their first impression of Israel, as portrayed by a sensationalist mass-media machine at the height of an international event, is that of a rabidly nationalist state which spares no expense when it comes to pursuing its goal and eradicating its enemies.

The fact Israel didn’t catch the main culprit of the massacre is of secondary importance, what matters is the will and perception of the Israelis was evidently more attractive than whatever the British state was doing. At this time, Britain was enduring some of the worst years of its post-war history, encumbered with economic stagnation, social unrest, and an impotent political class with no perceivable willpower or solution. Sound familiar? As many will recall, similar flickers of admiration were visible following the early response of Israel to the October 7th attack, reigniting a love for a certain determination which our own foreign policy lacks.

Of course, this only accounts for the inclinations of a broadly defined, misguided but well-intentioned demographic of everymen. The political fetishism of Israel among Britain’s centre-right commentariat and policymakers (literal fetishism in some cases) defies any comparable justification. Outside of building the largest possible electoral coalition against Islamism, it seems to be a bizarre fixation.

In short, condemning the actions of Israel committed against our country may feel like a condemnation of the type of politics many of us desire, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true: it is one of many steps required towards the realisation of a sovereign, self-interested foreign policy.

Palmerston was right, there is no fundamental equivalence between interpersonal and international relations, but there is one similarity worth remembering: trust is the basis of all relations. We trust based on our perceptions of others, our experiences with them and others like them; we make informed guesses, leaps in the dark, as to whether or not we should make ourselves open and vulnerable for the purposes of co-operation and friendship. If our knowledge of another changes, it impacts our ability to trust them. Sometimes this strengthens trust, sometimes it weakens it, and if trust is weakened to such an extent, whether chipped away by routine transgressions or destroyed outright by a single, deeply callous act, one is forced to reconsider their relations.

This is true of both people and states, and following the most severe form of disregard from our so-called ally, after all we felt and done for them, without expectation of reimbursement or lavish praise, it is time we reconsider our relationship with Israel; not towards Palestine, but to our own, independent national interest. They haven’t allowed our co-operation and friendship to disrupt the pursuit of their perpetual interests, it’s about time we do the same.


Photo Credit.

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