Sunday 27 April 2014

The Lanchester Review: Setting A Tone, Not A Line

The Right is in crisis following the collapse of the neoliberal economic order and of its neoconservative geopolitics. The Left is in crisis due to the second collapse of Marxism in as many generations, namely that of Trotskyism in the form of neoconservatism.

No one seems to know how to address such questions as the global economic crisis that began in 2008, the prolonged aftermath of the events of 11th September 2001, the rise of Asia, the redefinition of the European Union and of the United Kingdom’s relationship with it, and the redefinition of the United Kingdom and of the identity of each of its constituent parts.

However, attendance to what were once the largely ignored and marginalised phenomena of environmentalism, feminism, Third World liberation movements, the influence of tendencies such as Black Power and Black Consciousness, and the use of homosexuality as a mark of individual and collective identity, has opened up the space for attendance to what are largely ignored and marginalised phenomena today.

Those include the Classical, Biblical, Medieval and Early Modern heritages that define the traditions deriving from disaffection with the events of 1688, 1776 and 1789.

Those traditions emphasise the indispensable role of the State in protecting against the market everything that conservatives seek to conserve. They offer perennial critiques of individualism, capitalism, imperialism, militarism, bourgeois triumphalism, and the fallacy of inevitable historical progress.

They uphold the full compatibility between, on the one hand, the highest view of human demographic, economic, intellectual and cultural expansion and development, and, on the other hand, the most active concern for the conservation of the natural world and of the treasures bequeathed by such expansion and development in the past.

Among the expressions of those traditions are the trade union, co-operative and mutual, Radical Liberal, Tory populist, Guild Socialist, Christian Socialist, Social Catholic and Distributist, and many other roots of the British, Irish and Commonwealth Labour Movements.

Variously, those roots have been embedded in, have been fed and watered by, and have grown into economic and wider patriotism locally and nationally, proud provincialism, worker-intellectualism, and organic working-class culture and self-organisation in town and country.

This sensibility includes a strong affinity with the recent historical reality of workers’ self-management and profit-sharing within a multinational state which included both culturally Christian and culturally Muslim places and peoples, and which enjoyed vast global influence while resolutely pursuing peace and eschewing transnational military power blocs.

Opposition to the shameful British role in destroying that (rather Anglophile) multinational state first began to bring back together the traditional British Right and the traditional British Left, each of which found itself excluded from consideration and debate.

“Identity politics”, as if there could ever be any other kind, are being appropriated, deployed, transformed and transcended by heterosexual males, by Christians, by the White British ethnic group, by those who identify specifically as English, and by people of mixed ethnic heritage.

It is now possible to listen directly to the voices of all parts of the world. The old have never been so energetic, their numbers and expectations having increased enormously. The young are as energetic as ever, and politically more so than in at least a generation, technology having made them better-organised than ever before, while other trends have greatly disadvantaged them compared with their recent predecessors.

The mass anti-war movement has also become the mass anti-cuts movement, both of which are anchored on the Left but reach deep into Tory Britain on conservative principles of foreign policy realism and the use of State action to defend organic communities against unbridled capital.

This list is very far from being exhaustive.

The United Kingdom is uniquely well-placed to host these discussions, being the bridge between Europe and the English-speaking world, being the heart of the Commonwealth, being the home of the British Council and of the BBC, and being possessed of the world city.

Our critique of Whiggery predates any Counterrevolutionary movement on the Continent, because it predates any Revolution there or in North America. Our Left is itself deeply rooted in the anti-Whig subcultures.

Predating Marx, it long predates Gramsci in meeting and transcending his aspirations. Like that of the traditions which produced it and with which it exists in constant creative tension, our Left’s very existence is a standing contradiction of economic determinism and of metaphysical materialism.

By never compromising either the theoretical or the practical, and by drawing on the fine arts and on the humanities, on the social sciences and on the natural sciences, on elite culture and on popular culture, on “religious” material and on “secular” material, engagement with these and related ontological, epistemological, ethical and aesthetic resources will help to restore the possibility of an economy and a society, of a common culture and a polity, of a Right and a Left.

David Lindsay is the Founder, Proprietor, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Lanchester Review.

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