By Andrew Brons
ONE CAN sometimes define a phenomenon most effectively by explaining what it is not! So it is with economic and political theories.
We are not Marxists and we are not Capitalists. That scarcely needs to be said; but how does our analysis of, and prescription for, industry and its relationship with the Nation and society, differ from those of our rivals?
Are we really the last resort of Capitalists, who will seek and receive our support in their hour of crisis, as the Marxists would claim? Or are we the 'right foot of socialism' as suggested by laissez-faire (and not so laissez-faire) Conservatives? We are, of course, neither; but that does not mean that we make the fatal error of rejecting in advance any analysis that contains superficial similaries with those of our opponents. Both schools of thought have among their adherents, some apparently intelligent men and women. That is largely attributable to the fact that all but the strongest are inclined to follow intellectual fashions rather than thinking for themselves, but that is, by no means, the whole answer. Both analyses (as distinct from their conclusions and prescriptions) contain a grain ― but no more than a grain ― of truth.
However, we must first reject unequivocally the main tenets of each: the descriptions and predictions of the Marxists; the implicit prescriptions of the Capitalists. Both are confusingly called 'materialism' but they are of a greatly different kinds.
We reject the Marxist belief that human consciousness and social structures have their ultimate origins in changing economic relations and that a future change in economic relations will lead to a new human type and to a new society free from antagonism of any kind. We reject the Capitalist prescription that political man must make way for economic man and that our decisions, personal as well as political, should be made on economic grounds; that we should live in order to work, rather than work in order to live.
Marx said that man in Capitalist society is 'alienated' in a number of different but related ways. He is alienated by a division of labour that undermined a man's totality. He is alienated by inhuman working conditions. He is alienated from the product of his own labour, because that product does not answer his own needs, nor even the needs that are truly experienced by others, but is merely put on the market to procure profit for the entrepreneur. That alienation is, according to the Marxists, the inevitable result of an equally inevitable and immutable historical process. It will, say the Marxists, disappear with the elimination of the private ownership and possession of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
The Marxists' account of what they call 'alienation' in a Capitalist system contains some truth but its errors are fundamental; not the least of which is the fact that Marxist theory does not prescribe/predict any course that will resolve that 'alienation'! An elimination of the private ownership and control of the means of production will not only fail to resolve the contradictions of Capitalism; it will serve to reinforce and aggravate them. The 'alienation' suffered by people in a Capitalist system is the product of changing economic relations only in so far as changing economic relations are found to be at variance with unchanging and indeed unchangeable human natures. Thus 'alienation' can be seen to be the product, not of economics, but of biology. Furthermore, we do not accept that the particular pattern of economic changes that we have seen, is the mere unfolding of a pre-ordained social pattern. All structures are the product of our biologically-determined natures and the exercise of a will that is ultimately free as to thought and behaviour, if not as to nature. Finally (but perhaps most important to the formulation of an industrial ideology and policy), 'alienation', as described by the Marxists, results from the fact that in a Capitalist system most people have already been divested of private property; not because of the existence of private property itself. The fault is not that too much property is in private hands; it is that it is concentrated in the hands of too few people.
Capitalists say that freedom is a concomitant of property and, in a sense, they are quite correct. It is a great pity that they do not take that principle to its logical conclusion. If private property is individually and socially beneficial ― and we, unlike the Marxists, think that it is - it must follow that the greater the number of property owners, the greater the virtue. We value private property and we value it sufficiently, not to be content to see it restricted to the few who own the bulk of industrial, commercial and landed property. We see property providing the link between ourselves and the product of our labour. We see it as a guarantee of our freedom from the arbitrary action of employers, unions, or bureaucrats. We see it as symbolic (particularly when applied to domestic property) of the integrity of the family. However, of greatest importance, we see the break up of the biggest concentrations of wealth as a guarantee of the sovereignty of the Nation ― a guarantee of its freedom from interference by sectional interests. Only a truly sovereign government can protect the whole Nation.
The suggestion that an absence of government intervention, in some way, leads to the preservation of 'competition' (i.e. widely distributed property) and perhaps that it even leads to the development of 'competition where none existed, is simply not consistent with experience. Absence of 'interference' leads not to healthy 'competition', still less to widespread enterprise. It leads to mergers; to the cartel; to the oligopoly; to the monopoly. There is a very real sense in which unfettered private enterprise leads to the destruction of private property, as surely as does nationalisation.
Capitalism has not only eroded the freedom of those individuals who have lost their independent property. It has also eroded the sovereignty of government. Sovereign government cannot co-exist with big business unless it is prepared to merge its identity with that of the business interest. Capitalism and national independence cannot co-exist.
It may be thought that as believers in the natural inequality of men we should at least accept as inevitable vast inequalities of wealth and industrial and commercial holdings and perhaps even greet such inequalities as desirable. It is certainly true that the inherent inequality of men ― inequality of intelligence, of energy and of greed for material wealth ― would, by itself, lead to great inequalities of wealth and to the accumulation of factors of production in the hands of fewer and fewer people ― particularly over many generations. However, there is another important cause. Initial concentrations of wealth inevitably beget further even greater concentrations, because the economic power provides a key to political power which in turn enables the law to be changed to facilitate even further accumulation. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of existing landowners that resulted from the seizure of Church lands by the Crown during the Reformation (and their subsequent redistribution) undoubtedly increased the political and economical power of those people. That political power enabled them to add still further to their wealth by the enclosure movement over several generations. The increased economic power that resulted was translated into further political power during the Eighteenth Century when the big landowners like the Duke of Newcastle finally secured control over the House of Commons (through the control of 'pocket boroughs'). Thus the great concentrations of wealth in the Eighteenth Century had their origins in the Sixteenth Century. In the same way, the political victory of the bankers in 1688 was translated into the economic victory of 1694 (the establishment of the Bank of England and of the National Debt). The inter-play of the economic and political power of the bankers throughout the last three hundred years has resulted in their unrivalled position of power today not only in the 'Capitalist' West but also in the 'Communist' East.
However, the acceptance of great concentrations of wealth as a fact does not mean that we must welcome them as desirable. Furthermore, to accept something as an inevitable tendency does not mean that we accept it as plainly and simply inevitable. We are certainly not passive determinists. As Nationalists, we are resolved that we will not accept as inevitable any structure of society that threatens the sovereignty of the Nation ― and therefore the freedom of us all.
We have said that we do not accept as desirable vast inequalities of industrial and commercial wealth, although we accept as inevitable an underlying and persistent tendency towards greater and greater concentrations. However, that does not mean that we are obsessive egalitarians seeking equality as an end in itself. We do not wish to reward the slothful equally with the industrious; the dull equally with the enterprising. Industry and enterprise must be rewarded if they are to be forthcoming. We are certainly not seeking a Utopian society in which there is anything like exact equality; nor even one in which income and wealth are computed exactly, according to man's needs. We are concerned to achieve three things:
First that every one of our nationals, healthy or infirm, clever or stupid, can enjoy a standard of living that is reasonable with regard to the expectations of our society ― providing only that the able are willing to work, if work is available.
Secondly that the sovereignty of the Nation State, the freedoms of its nationals and the interests of its sections, are protected from the encroachments, conscious and unconscious, of the Money Power.
Thirdly, that our nationals should be reintroduced to private property, either as proprietors of their own small business or (in the case of industries in which economies of scale begin to operate at a low level of capital) joint owners through share ownership in the industry in which they are employed.
Andrew Brons, was Chairman of the National Front in 1981, when this article was published. He was later to become a Member of the European Parliament.