An inadequate critique of Britain’s immigration woes—and of the BNP

Peter Hitchens writing in The Daily Mail goes on at some length about how awful and disgusting the BNP is and how both Labor and the Tories have inadvertently empowered it by suppressing any discussion of immigration. Unfortunately, Hitchens’s own analysis of the immigration issue is overly complicated and not terribly useful. Instead of getting at the core of the problem, which is non-discrimination as the guiding philosophy of the modern West, as expressed in the mass immigration of unassimilable peoples, he launches into a rather complex economic explanation. The welfare state, he writes, produced a working class that was no longer willing to work hard at low level jobs; the elites needed people willing to take on those jobs (although why only the elites would care about this he doesn’t make clear); Third-World and Eastern European immigrants fitted the bill; anyone who opposes this policy is called a racist; and that has opened the door to the BNP who don’t mind being called racists because they are.

As I said, the explanation is complicated, it’s centered on welfare policies and economics, and it certainly would not make it easy for most readers to understand the immigration invasion and how to oppose it. Hitchens touches the edge of the real problem—the liberal ideology of non-discrimination and anti-racism—when he condemns the elites’ brutal use of the racism charge to silence any dissent. But the racism charge is not the essential thing about anti-racism. The essential thing about anti-racism is the belief that racial and cultural distinctions do not matter and that it’s evil to think that they do; it is the belief that the whiteness of the British nation renders it morally illegitimate, and requires that Britain be changed into some other kind of nation. And that view is held, not just by the elites, but, explicitly or implicitly, actively or passively, by the whole society, as least as far as public discussion is concerned, which is the only discussion that matters politically. People may gripe about this or that aspect of the anti-racist orthodoxy, but they make no argument against it. Of course the silencing of debate by the elites makes the situation much worse. But, again, PC intimidation is not the main problem. The main problem is an ideology that most people either embrace or accede to, which means that it can only be solved when they renounce that ideology. Such self-criticism and renunciation remain impossible so long as the elites are made the scapegoat. This is what Hitchens does not understand.

As I’ve said in my criticisms of Mark Steyn, it is not enough to complain that PC is preventing Europeans from addressing the Islamization problem. Suppose PC vanished tomorrow, what would Steyn, free from PC, propose doing about Islamization then? He doesn’t say. He has no agenda beyond attacking the left. (Not that Hitchens is as bad as Steyn, of course, since Hitchens does call for a cut in immigration, though he’s vague about how big it should be.)

Just as immigration at bottom is not caused by leftist elites imposing something on Britain they don’t want, it is also not caused by socio-economic factors leading to a labor shortage. If the British had still cared about their country and culture, if they had still thought that their uniqueness as a nation was precious and worth defending, they would not have admitted a mass influx of unassimilable Third-World and Eastern European immigrants onto their shores, no matter how pressing the apparent labor shortage may have been. They would have found some other cure for the shortage, as the Japanese did.

Hitchens’s reasoning is typical of conservatives who complain about the symptoms and consequences of liberalism, but never confront liberalism itself from a principled ground distinct from liberalism. With this kind of weak conservatism, the kvetching about the left is endless, the battle with the left is never joined, and the left just keeps moving forward.

While Hitchens despises and fears the BNP (he urges that voters in today’s local elections withhold their support from the two the main parties and from the BNP), the BNP at least have an argument that goes to the real issue: the British are a people and a culture; immigration is destroying that people and culture; immigration must be stopped and reversed. If Hitchens wants to stop the BNP, he has got to make an argument at least as good as theirs. He has not done that here.

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Jeff in England writes:

Well done as the English love to say. Hitchens like Steyn is a populist writer but not exactly a deep thinker. Still, I like him and know him personally. It seems obvious to me (and you) but so called “conservatives” are at least partially “liberal” in the UK though Hitchens is not the most obvious example. Did you get my other forward, telling how black (and Asian) people may be voting for the BNP due to fears about crime and out of control immigration. In addition, please keep in mind for your readers, that the BNP is NOT a conservative party as such… rather it’s more of a populist party. Leaning towards a working class type of socialism with even some green thrown in. Keep in mind too that Moseley [the British fascist in the ‘30s] was a leftist/socialist as were many in his movement. The point is that all parties in the game here in the UK are basically “liberal” as opposed to “conservative.” There are individual exceptions within these parties to that scenario but in the broader picture of things it is true to say that there is no real conservative party here in the UK.

William M. writes:

Very good piece on immigration and the BNP. A question: you say that “The main problem is an ideology that most people either embrace or accede to, which means that it can only be solved when they renounce that ideology. Such self-criticism and renunciation remain impossible so long as the elites are made the scapegoat.”

Do you mean by this that if excessive immigration is blamed on elites’ desire for cheap labor, etc., that people will not think about the ideological reasons that have led to the situation?

LA replies:

Yes, that’s what I mean. If our side keeps saying, “Those elites, they just want immigrants for cheap labor,” while refusing to face the fact that all those immigrants were admitted on the basis of the belief (a belief unchallenged by us) that race and ethnicity and culture don’t matter and that it’s evil to think they do, then (1) how can the immigration be opposed, since we will still be called racist for opposing it (even if we only oppose it for economic reasons) and we will have no answer to that charge; and (2) how can the immigration be decisively stopped and reversed, since even according to the immigration opponents the problem is not the immigration of unassimilable people (a category that under anti-racist orthodoxy cannot even be conceptualized), but the immigration of low-wage workers. Without criticism of the anti-racist ideology that drives immigration, and the articulation of a counter-ideology of traditional nationalism, the immigration problem cannot be met or solved.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 04, 2006 12:04 AM | Send

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