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Roots of Radicalism

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HOW OUR RULERS WIELD POWER

STEVE BRADY

IN BRITAIN a ruling elite - the Tory, Labour and Liberal Party leaderships, the higher Civil Service, and the rest of what is loosely termed 'the Establishment' - has maintained an ideology - the so-called 'liberal consensus' - for many decades now in spite of a public opinion which, as opinion polls repeatedly show, rejects it. And they have done so without, in the main, that public noticing.

The public believe instead that “it's a free country innit?" and that through the democratic process their views prevail. If their views actually are to prevail, they must be disabused of this illusion. To acheive that, we must lay bare the nature of how that unnoticed power is wielded, of how our rulers rule.

Political power may be defined and exercised in a number of ways. The simplest and most direct was summed up by the social scientist R.A. Dahl in his 1957 paper 'The concept of power' (Behaviour Science, vol 2) thus: "A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do". Or, of course, stop B doing something that he would otherwise do - the power Police forces exist to wield.

This sort of direct, crude power, wielded by 'the Establishment' ruling 'the State' through the police apparatus is the aspect Nationalists thus far have tended to concentrate upon: the apparatus of the political police, Special Branch / MI5, and the direct legal muzzles placed upon free speech - the Race Relations / Public Order / Official Secrets Acts.

But as I have argued elsewhere ('State repression - is it inevitable?' Vanguard, issue 5, Jan. 1987, pp.8-9) such crude force is not the principal means of political control, the principal obstacle to freedom of debate outside the officially defined parameters.

Certainly some such debate is thus inhibited: there are ways of criticising the State and its policies which, quite simply, can get their authors and/or publishers thrown into jail. There are verifiable, factual statements which we cannot print in this magazine without real fear of arrest. In the past newspaper columns consisting simply of lists of items culled from the national media have landed the Editors of such factual compilations in Court.

But nevertheless such limits on freedom, though very real and worthy of note by the "it's a free society, innit?" types are not the main means by which power is wielded and freedom is limited in our society. As I argued in my article cited above, in practice an outright ban on dissident groups is unlikely in the foreseeable future, unless fools provoke it, and the existing restrictions, though irksome, can be circumvented without significantly impeding the effectiveness of our presentation of our case to the public.

Indeed, the existence in itself of such restrictions would serve to reinforce, not weaken, our case in the public mind. If it reached the public mind.

There is the rub. For there is another, subtler kind of power. Power which controls not actions directly but the perceived options from which the actions decided upon are chosen. As the political scientists P. Bachrach and M.Baratzput it (Power and Poverty: theory and practice, Oxford University Press, New York, 1970, p.7): "Power is ... exercised when A devotes his energies to creating and reinforcing social and political values and institutional practices that limit the scope of the political process to public consideration of only those issues which are comparatively innocuous to A. To the extent that A succeeds in doing this B is prevented, for all practical purposes, from bringing to the fore any issues that might in their resolution be seriously detrimental to A's set of preferences."

Their central point is summed up thus: "to the extent that a person or group - consciously or unconsciously - creates or reinforces barriers to the public airing of policy conflicts, that person or group has power".

Or, as C.F. Schattschneider put it (The Semi-Sovereign People: a realist's view of democracy in America, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1960, p.71): "All forms of political organisation have a bias in favour of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others, because organisation is the mobilisation of bias. Some issues are organised into politics while others are organised out".

CLASSIC EXAMPLE

A classic example in Britain of "organising an issue out of politics" is, of course the race/immigration issue. The most radical transformation of the composition of the nation in British history was simply "organised out" of politics. At every election since the Empire Windrush docked in 1948 the major parties colluded to ensure that "race was not an issue in this election".

Any person or group who broke ranks on this, such as Peter Griffiths when he won Smethwick for the Tories in 1964 explicitly on the Immigration issue, or anti-Immigration pressure groups and Nationalist parties, was subjected to "the mobilisation of bias". The Prime Minister Harold Wilson described Griffiths as "a Parliamentary leper", which was nothing to the media bile unleashed continuously to this very day on political parties formed explicitly to offer voters an alternative to multiracialism.

The aim of those in power was summed up by then Labour M.P for Birmingham All Saints Brian Walden when he gloated, on hearing that the anti-Immigration Tory and "leper" Griffiths had lost his seat in the 1966 General Election, "We have buried the race issue". As it is still being buried, by explicit collusion - no 'Hidden Hand' or Vast Conspiracy need be invoked - between the three wings of the one System comprising our "democratic" Parliament.

Enoch Powell: a classic example of a politician who was 'marginalised' by the Establishment because of his views.

Anyone who doubts this need only peruse the House of Commons Hansard for 20th July 1990, when the Bangladeshi colony settled in London's East End was being debated. In an air of cosy amity among Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats totally at odds with the usual Parliamentary Punch and Judy slanging match, but typical of every race-related debate in the Commons for forty years, spokesmen for all three parties fell over themselves to agree and concur with each other on how welcome these Immigrants were and what a great contribution they were making to our society, as if these Bengalis were Lenin being debated in the Supreme Soviet circa 1980.

Tory Home Office Minister John Patten congratulated Labour front-bench spokesman Peter Shore explicitly because he "never plays politics with the race issue" - i.e. it is an issue to be, in Schattschneider's words, "organised out of politics".

That has been the way in which power has been wielded to force multiracialism on Britain against the peoples' will. Not by jailing critics of the System position on the issue, but by excluding the issue as far as possible from the agenda of perceived public debate, the opposing position is made irrelevant. It does not need to be crushed.

Those few critics who try impolitely to raise the issue can be dealt with. Ideally ignored. If that is impossible, because they are too prominent or distribute their views too widely, then marginalised as 'mavericks' like Enoch Powell if they operate alone and unorganised, or excluded from a public hearing by the 'mobilisation of bias' as organised anti-Immigration groups have been.

In the latter case, the speakers are simply branded by the media as 'Nazis', 'thugs', 'skinheads', 'bigots', and 'morons' - branding which itself can create a vicious circle as marginalised groups attract marginalised people and image risks becoming reality, a trap we must firmly guard against.

But once the media mark of Cain is in place, the public will do the dirty work of repression itself. Such critics are still 'free' to speak, but no one is listening, it is not 'the State' directly which denies anti-Immigration groups the right to book meeting places openly under their own names like anyone else. Nor is it 'the State' which denies periodicals like Vanguard the access to distribution through newsagents which its counterparts enjoy in France, Germany, indeed most European countries where the System's grip is less pervasive than here.

It is pub landlords, distribution service managers, newsagents, who decided to deny such groups access to their facilities. A denial based not on revulsion at the views they express - great care has been taken to ensure they have never heard the views they express - but on revulsion from a sedulously crafted media image. From the character of Alf Garnett erected explicitly to ridicule one side of the immigration debate which the System power brokers ensured never took place to the TV and tabloid 'exposés' of that side, the aim is to ensure that the public is mobilised to police itself on the issue, to forge its own mental shackles.

'Racism' is portrayed not as an option, even one held by a minority, but as something ridiculous and disgusting. It's open, above all it's organised, adherents not as participants in a debate - there has been and is to be no debate - but as creatures beyond the pale - described in terms as 'scum', 'vermin' and so forth which are found nowhere else in mainstream political discourse - to be shunned. Above all not to be heard fairly, lest all too many agree and the holders of power be genuinely challenged.

SUBTLY

The agenda is defined, bias is mobilised, power is wielded, freedom is circumscribed. But all subtly, all so the public do not realise they are not free. Indeed, so the public are induced to forge and fit the bars on their own cage. Bars cutting them off from the organised expression of what many of them think.

Where cruder bars are required, the iron fist is wrapped in the velvet glove of weasel words. For example, the law was amended so that overly outspoken dissidents on the immigration issue, instead of risking a conviction under the Race Relations Act - thus risking bringing the existence of such an act to possible public notice and - Heavens forfend! - the possibility of debate - now face conviction under the Public Order Act for 'inciting racial hatred'. 'Race Relations' being words implying 'pro-Immigrant' in the public mind, whilst 'Public Order' means peace and quiet on the streets and no-one likes 'inciting hatred'. Thus subtly are the shackles forged.

The ultimate aim, however, is that no shackles will be needed. The public will not think heretical thoughts, let alone act on them. To that end, bias is openly and proudly mobilised by the media, in the education system and elsewhere to 'promote tolerance', 'oppose racism', and so on. All very laudable, were these not weasel words actually meaning to impose acceptance of a multi-racial society on a populace which was never asked if it wanted it.

But even if it succeeds, even if the majority of the public agrees with its rulers that, to cite the example I have been using, there is no race issue, will the people then be free? Hardly! To induce the people to will what their rulers want is an inversion of democracy.

As Steven Lukes rightly asks (Power: A Radical View, MacMillan, London 1974, p.25): "Is it not the supreme and most insidious exercise of power to prevent, to whatever degree, from having grievances by shaping their perceptions, and preferences in such a way they accept their role in the existing order of things, either because they can see or imagine no alternative to it, or because they see it is natural and unchangeable, or because they value it as divinely ordained and beneficial? To assume that the absence of grievance equals genuine consensus is simply to rule out the possibility of false or manipulated concensus by definitional fiat. What one may have here is a latent conflict, which consists in a contradiction between the interests of those exercising power and the real interests of those they exclude".

This conflict is inherent in the manipulated shadow-show which is Britain's pseudo-democratic, and profoundly unfree modern society. A manipulation which reaches its crowning achievement in mobilising those who otherwise see through it against each other. The academics I have quoted above incisively laying bare the true nature of power in modern 'democracies' would term themselves, for the most-part, 'Left-wing'.

The most glaring example of the abuse of that power in modern Britain, on the immigration issue, has been against those who would be popularly characterised - though not by themselves, mostly - as 'Right-wing'.

But instead of those who perceive the process allying with one of its major victims they allow themselves to be manipulated into helping the process along, against those victims. The genuine radicals who allow themselves to be mobilised as 'anti-fascists' seem unable to perceive that they themselves are participating in an abuse of power by rulers whereby they use one set of critics to police the streets against another set of critics, in a pointless side-issue in which whoever 'wins', freedom loses.

If we are to expose the way a status quo was created and is maintained in defiance the popular will, if we are to prise our rulers' hands off the levers of power and those levers where they belong, in the hands of the British people, then all those seek to do that must themselves avoid manipulated to maintain the status and the rulers', power. In particular, they must avoid being used, as the 'Left' in particular has repeatedly allowed itself to be, to organise other opponents of the system out of the political debate.

Just as we have understood that we must not be used, if ever we were, as the goon squads of Capital to enforce its power, as the Trotskyists in defiance of all evidence still insist is our objective, so they must understand that they must not be used in exactly the same way by them against us. Only when they have understood, as we have, that such manipulation is aimed at keeping them in power and both of us - and the people as a whole - out, and rejected being used in this way, will they become part of the solution than part of the problem.

Then - profound as our differences may be in other areas - we can both work to put power where we both agree it should be - the hands of the people, not our rulers. Let the people, fairly and fully presented with the facts and issues, in a free society in which debate is genuinely open to all, decide for themselves!