Sunday, 5 June 2011

Holism, White Whines & Multiculturalism.

 The White Whine.

In 1968 Enoch Powell delivered the notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech in which he speculated that "in 15 to 20 years time the black man would have the whip hand over the white man." The speech is often invoked by the radical Right as prophetic of the "failures" of multiculturalism, with it's liberal ideas of tolerance, diversity and equality. So whenever there is a suicide-bombing we are reminded that "Enoch was right" supposedly. Enoch Powell was the first to remind us he was right in 1981 when he saw the riots of Brixton and Toxteth. Coincidentally these riots were the result of the economic policies of Margaret Thatcher, which Powell had supported and actually promoted for years. So the calls for voluntary repatriation from Powell provided a cover for the consequences of monetarism, when mass-privatisation and deregulation lead to the devastation of the working-classes there is a need for a scapegoat. For Powell it was clear that the scapegoat had to be black.

Today it is typical to hear about the "multicultural experiment" that began in the 1960s or vaguely after WW2 with a massive influx of immigrants from the West Indies and later India. Actually the tradition of the British Empire was to allow all people loyal to the British monarchy into the country and it was only when the Attlee administration introduced the Nationality Act that this practice became formal. Enoch Powell believed that his speech might put Ted Heath on the spot, a situation from which he might then capitalise on. If the Conservatives failed to defeat Labour in 1970 Powell could have challenged Heath's leadership and then lead the Party on a populist ticket against Wilson in '74. Instead, Ted Heath marginalised Powell and won the General Election. Ted Heath pushed through the Immigration act of 1971, which restricted immigration even further than the Commonwealth Immigrants act of 1962 - which had restricted immigration to people who had been allocated work vouchers - and immigration was almost put to a complete stop.

It is often forgot that Enoch Powell was a monetarist and a proponent of small government, which has made him influential amongst Thatcherites. So he was no fan of Europe, budget deficits and immigration, but Powell was a fan of the privatisation of public services. Powell was born into the lower middle-class, he joined the army and aspired to become the Viceroy of India without serving on the battlefield. After Indian independence Powell drew up a plan to reconquer India. Powell was also a classicist and served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in Northern Africa in the Second World War, it was not a heroic service though it was marked by an amusing incident in which he burned his moustache when trying to get a fire going. Though Powell did think he was the right kind of man to rule over millions of black people. He hated Neville Chamberlain for selling Britain out, not for appeasing Hitler specifically, and was always deeply troubled by the decline of Britain as an imperial power. In a nutshell, the 'Rivers of Blood' speech was a white whine and nothing more.

On a regular basis we still hear the white whinging today about immigration, even as we are entering a pensions crisis which may be avoided through immigration. The presupposition of such whinging is that the liberal doctrine of multiculturalism has been imposed by the state through mass-immigration for decades which has undermined British values and led to division in society. Immigration has not been left to flow without a stop for decades, it has been opened up and closed before being opened up a little bit and closed once more. The class divisions in British society are far bigger than 'cultural' divisions created by immigration. As for British values, there were never any to begin with and that is because there has never been a British nation. The notion of multiculturalism has never been a consistent part of policy. But it has merely been talked about an awful lot whilst partially initiated only as far as the tendency of the market is towards pluralism and relativism.

A Community of Communities.

The liberal conception of multiculturalism is insufficient, putting aside cultural relativism as it's disturbing manifestation in South Africa is too often overlooked. Officially apartheid was initiated to separate the multitude of tribes and ethnic groups into Bantustans in order to prevent such groups from "drowning" in white culture. The racist hegemonic nature of multiculturalism was not obfuscated in South Africa, rather it was taken to its most logical conclusion and the African National Congress were labelled "terrorists" by the regime. The cynical liberal wisdom was supplanted with white nationalism and we can see this in Holism as propagated by Jan Smuts. Holism held that the world is composed of wholes, each of which constitute a grand system that can sustain and stabilise itself. The stability of the system was guaranteed by the arrangement of wholes, provided each whole remained in the right place the system could be maintained. Every whole is made up of small wholes which are evolving and will inevitably come together to form larger wholes until finally becoming part of a single unified whole.

At the time Holism provided a justification for British imperialism and racial segregation. The Empire was the self-organised system; the wholes were the lands colonised along the way. To guarantee the order of such a system it was imperative that the wholes be kept in place. The essence of Smuts' argument was that the blacks have to be kept in their place otherwise the natural order will be disturbed beyond repair, from whence the idea of the Bantustan comes. The liberal vision of multiculturalism offers us a conception of society as a community of communities, each with a distinct identity and set of moral values which is appropriate to that community. Then we find ourselves witnesses to the condemnation of homosexuality in one community and the election of politicians by another community to defend gay rights. In the Netherlands we have seen the gay community rally behind the nationalists against the Muslim community in this way.

Typically there is no mention of the white community in all of this, but that is not because multiculturalism is racist to white people as the reactionaries claim. The notable similarities between liberal multiculturalism and Apartheid proves such a claim absurd. The presupposition of multiculturalism is that the white community is hegemonic, it is the dominant community into which all other communities can be meshed neatly. In multiculturalism it is the neutral framework which protects each culture so that it can thrive in its appropriate way. The Harm Principle is invoked as a way of setting limits to such 'thriving', but even the limits of the Harm Principle are not clear enough and we find ourselves demanding the average Muslim to become a white middle-class liberal. Because liberalism works best when everyone is a fucking liberal! The forces of the market lean towards pluralism, but these same forces require a reaction against such pluralism in order to defend the market as Enoch Powell demonstrated.

There is a genuine need for a common project which is universal in nature, international in scope and radically egalitarian all at once. In Tahrir Square there was a common struggle against Mubarak which united Muslims and Christians. There have also been instances in which Muslim women in traditional dress and lesbian Jews have been brought together in protest against the Israeli government. These are just glimpses of what is possible at a societal level of solidarity. The liberal form of multiculturalism offers a decaffeinated Other, a Muslim community without a Muslim community. The nationalists drive this to it's logical conclusion and call for bans on the veil, halal meat and so on in defence of freedom. To put it bluntly the dichotomy of the debate is shaped by the contradictions of the economic system and the way fascists respond to such contradictions from a managerial perspective. We need to make radical changes if we want to construct the universalist alternative to multiculturalism and fascism.

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