Mark Steyn on Britain and Europe
Monday, 13 July 2009
from National Review (July 6, 2009 issue)
Are you getting just a teensy bit tired of the ol’ “Whither The Right?” navel-gazing? Even with our good friends at The New York Times, The Washington Post et al so eager to offer helpful advice, there’s a limit to how much pondering of conservatism’s future a chap can take. So how about, just for a change, “Whither the left?”
Exhibit A: The European parliamentary elections. The Continent’s economy has taken a far bigger clobbering than America’s: Capitalism is dead, declared Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. In France, President Sarkozy agrees, while being careful to identify the deceased as “Anglo-American capitalism”. And woe betide any Continental foolish enough to have got into bed with it: In Spain, the unemployment rate is 17 per cent and rising.
In theory, this ought to be boom time for lefties. As their jobs, homes and savings vanish, the downtrodden masses should be stampeding back to the embrace of the Big Government nanny’s apron strings. Instead, the Euro-left got hammered at the polls, the center-right survived, and a significant chunk of the electorate switched to the “far right” – the various neo-nationalist and quasi-fascist parties cleaning up everywhere from Northern England to the Balkans. My favorite of these new and mostly unlovely groupings is Bulgaria’s Attack party, mainly because of its name. I would suggest the Republican Party adopt it, but no doubt within a month or two the latest Bush scion would be claiming to stand for a Compassionate Attack movement, and governors of coastal states would be declaring themselves fiscally attacking but socially surrendering, and the whole brand would go to hell.
Perhaps it’s just as well. On closer inspection, Europe’s “far right” doesn’t seem to go very far at all. The British National Party’s parliamentary victories are a very belated breakthrough for Fascism, for which in Britain there were few takers back in the Thirties. So what do they stand for? Well, they won’t accept blacks or Asians as members. Typical right-wing racists, eh? Also, they want protectionist laws limiting the import of foreign goods. And they favor giving workers shares in their bosses’ companies. And they want to nationalize the public utilities, railroad companies and so forth. Economic protectionism. Worker cooperatives. State ownership. Boy, these right-wing nuts with their crazy ideas on free market capitalism.
If the British elections are beginning to sound like the dinner-theatre production of Jonah Goldberg’s book, you’re right – if by dinner you had in mind tripe, pork scratchings and mushy peas washed down with 14 pints of brown ale and a knife fight. Economically, the BNP is the Labour Party before the Blairite metrosexual makeover, and its voting base comes all but entirely from the old white working-class abandoned by “New Labour” in its pursuit of more fashionable identity groups. Of course, economic protectionism is not its principal appeal. But yoke economic protectionism to cultural protectionism, and you’ve got an electorally viable combination. These are bad times, but they’re not just bad economically. According to a YouGov poll, the average BNP voter is a manual worker with an annual household income of 27,000 pounds – or about 2,000 pounds less than the national median. Two thousand quid isn’t to be sniffed at, but it doesn’t explain why these voters were willing to take a flyer on an openly racist party universally reviled by the media and political class and banished from public discourse.
England has (or had) a three-party system: Labour, Liberals, Tories. But on any number of issues – the European Union, immigration, crime, the remorseless one-way multiculturalism under which what were homogenous white working-class communities 40 years ago Islamize ever more rapidly with each passing day – on all these issues, the big three parties plus the BBC and the rest of the elites are in complete agreement: We don’t want to talk about it. Since the election, the grand panjandrums of the Palace of Westminster have been competing to out-Lady Bracknell each other in professing how “horrified” they are by the BNP’s success. Such protestations are invariably accompanied by ostentatious recital of their own multiculti bona fides, nicely parodied by Ed West in The Daily Telegraph: “I was just saying how awful the BNP were to my Polish cleaner yesterday. She agreed, as did my Chinese nanny, Wen or Yen, or whatever her name is. My Brazilian catamite wasn't that bothered.”
If 15 per cent of the US electorate had voted for the American Fatherland Front or some such, you’d never hear the end of it from Le Monde and The Guardian and all the rest. But the Euro-elites have adjusted to the knuckledraggers’ lese-majeste, and are already congratulating themselves on holding the “far right”’s vote down to the low double-digits. It won’t be that low next time, but they’ll adjust to that, too. You can’t blame ‘em: It’s easier to do that than re-thinking your entire worldview, never mind trying to figure out anything you could actually do about these issues. I doubt the new kids on the block will be able to do anything, either. But, for a while, there will be votes in impotent rage, and the economic-&-cultural protectionism twofer will eat deep into the mainstream left’s base. They in turn will not change – for, in Britain and elsewhere, they have determined to celebrate diversity even unto societal death.