Change is always very difficult to see when you’re living through it. The most significant thing about the narrative of British post-war history is the sense of living in a post-historical country. Seeley, in The Expansion of England, discussed nations like Holland or Sweden floating in the amniotic fluid of decline. The situation was not necessarily unpleasant, but political life shifted inwards and became more parochial. Elections in Britain could once be swayed by Bulgarian atrocities, or the Boer War. Modern elections are kept within narrow and technocratic bounds, in which mostly indistinguishable parties fiddle about with stamp duty, or NHS reform. One is tempted to repeat the spurious anecdote about Switzerland having five hundred years of peace and producing nothing other than the cuckoo clock. But the lack of focus on foreign policy is important. A nation which is inward looking will not produce figures like Drake or Raleigh.
But even as the demographic change to come spreads into our consciousness like a half-apprehended nightmare, public life remains astonishingly calm. Think tanks release reports about the British economy in 30 years time, or the long-term consequences of pension plans in 50 years. Liam Fox talks about ‘the glorious joy of free trade’ and the wonderful future of our manufacturing industries. The languid assumption is that life in 2050 will be much like life now, or in 1980, or any of the post-war decades. The only difference, looking back, will be our funny-looking cars, clunky old-fashioned decor and wacky style choices. So much of modern political life is predicated on this third-rate liberal millenarianism; like rebooted Whiggery without any of the intellectual rigour.
Part of the difficulty is that most of our politicians were raised in the immediate post-war era. Even the younger ones came of age in the 80s or early 90s. Once people settle down and have children, they start to construct their own little micro-culture, cut off from the immediate channel of modern life. Most people’s impressions of the world are formed during their early adulthood. This isn’t a modern problem: very few British politicians were able to predict the rise of Prussia in the mid-19th century. Men like Lord Palmerston who had been raised during the French wars were incapable of altering the impressions of their youth. France had been all-conquering in their 20s, and so they unwittingly accorded to France an importance out of proportion to its actual worth. Keynes remarked that most politicians were the slaves of some defunct economist. Most men are slaves to the zeitgeist of twenty, thirty or forty years ago. Viewed from that perspective, when racial problems were confined to a few troubled areas, there is very little to worry about.
Most people are therefore incapable of confronting the future. The politics of 50 years hence will be conducted mostly on ethnic lines. Either the Labour Party will become the implicit party of non-whites, or explicitly racial parties will be set up by Pakistanis or whichever ethnic group controls an area. The Conservative Party might end up as the default white party. Politics will become simultaneously more and less parochial. For the first time in a thousand years, we will have to start thinking of ourselves as a beleaguered minority.
A good test case for the future of Britain is Northern Ireland. Ulster is a very civilised place and one of the last untouched parts of western Europe: we won’t get anything as nice. But all political decisions, whether exercised by government, or by individual voters at the ballot box are motivated by ethnicity. Both sides are fairly evenly matched. Ruth Dudley Edwards has an amusing anecdote about the traditional English attitude to Northern Ireland, with an earnest Englishman telling members of both sides ‘ Surely everyone is right? Can’t we find some sort of middle way?’ and receiving stony silence in return. Ulster is either part of the United Kingdom, or part of the Republic. Compromise is impossible and peace between the two sides is essentially a negotiated truce, rather than a lasting settlement.
This marks the distinction between Existential and Secondary politics. Secondary politics are political decisions which have no direct bearing on the survival of your ethnic group. This is more of a framework than something actively pursued. In a homogenous country like Japan, almost all political decisions are of this nature. Nor is it a question of importance, or civil strife: the Great Reform Bill and the Magna Carta were secondary political events. If the Young Pretender had successfully driven George II out of Britain, it would not have threatened the survival of the British people. The English tendency towards moderation is a product of ethnic homogeneity. If your opponents are part of your tribe, you can more or less trust them with power and political life becomes a form of ritualised duel. This is why attempts at exporting this system end in failure.
Existential politics are the sort of politics which exist in a multi-ethnic society. In Northern Ireland, both sides are forced to govern with each other. As a result, politics becomes a messy struggle. Both sides use access to power to enrich their own group, whether this is something as petty as siphoning money off to flute-bands, or doling cash out to teach Irish lessons. Arlene Foster, the current First Minister, used a heating scheme to enrich Protestant farmers at the cost of £400 million pounds! Political life becomes larceny on a grand scale, and the public finances are approached with the same attitude as a farmer has to his milch-cow. These things seem unimportant compared to some political decisions. But when refracted through a different prism, these petty acts become part of a constant fight for political power and advantage. Both sides might cooperate in dividing up power, or in arranging fixed quotas, but every act taken is related to the survival of the group.
I doubt we’ll get anything so comparatively straightforward. But this is the best case scenario! Barring a huge change in our people, we will be reduced to fighting for every little advantage we can possibly find. Every symbolic act of dispossession will be fought, like blacks complaining about cultural misappropriation. Most political life in the third-world is like this. We are in danger of shifting from complacent Micawberism to trivially negotiating about Morris-dancers in blackface. We have to accept that our people will not wake up out of their own volition. I doubt that minority status will jolt them into resistance, any more than whites in Leicester, Birmingham or Bradford were jolted into doing anything other than fleeing as rapidly as they could.
We should never underestimate people’s willingness, even in our movement, to gull themselves into complacent optimism. It isn’t going to be all right. If we do manage to seize power then it will involve things that I don’t want to discuss on this blog. The cost for breaking out of the comfy, post-historical mould will be very high. We will likely experience things that our ancestors have not experienced since the 17th century; scenes that would have been recognisable to Gildas or Alfred the Great. Even if we win, we will probably experience the greatest chasm in our historical continuity since 1688. It rather puts all of those long-term forecasts and pension plans into perspective.