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P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
7.3 (Summer 2007)
Ends of the West
Marxism, Multiculturalism, and Free Speech.
By Frank Ellis.
Council for Social and Economic Studies, 2006. 107 pp. Paper.
Reviewed by Mark Wegierski
Frank Ellis is a former Lecturer in Russian at Leeds University who himself became embroiled in a “political correctness” scandal of the type which he discusses in this book. When Frank Ellis’ off-campus statements in opposition to unrestricted Third World immigration into Britain became widely circulated at his university, he was placed in an untenable situation and was ultimately forced to negotiate an early retirement settlement.
Ironically, the study of modern languages is an area where strict merit might be easier to determine than in most of the humanities. Indeed, it may be a discipline where certain “objective criteria” are more possible than in some other areas of the humanities—either a person knows the given language at a very high level, or he doesn’t. Also, it is relatively easier to evaluate knowledge of a given language without the possibility of accusations of bias. Frank Ellis has without question a strong facility in the Russian language, and has read widely in Russian and Soviet literature. Thus it should have been easier for him to defend his scholarly credentials.
During the time of the scandal, many students of different races had said that Dr. Ellis had always been very helpful and courteous to them. This is important to note, because it is presumed today that someone who, for example, argues in printed writings that there are differences in aggregate levels of black and white intelligence must invariably be a bigot, and treats black people with disdain or outright contempt.
It behooves us to remember, in a distinction which Frank Ellis doubtless upholds, that politeness is not political correctness. Indeed, it could be argued that people can usually be more naturally polite to each other, only if they are secure in their respective identities. Yet the whole emphasis of “political correctness” and its multifarious measures like “Anti-Racist Education” would seem to be—as Frank Ellis argues –an attempt to render nearly all of traditional Western civilization as utterly hideous to “decent” human sensibilities. There is the refusal to consider the idea that one can probably be more naturally polite to people without having to hew to the multifarious dogmas of political correctness.
The Canadian traditionalist philosopher, George Parkin Grant, had argued that only “by loving our own” can we come to any appreciation of a more universal good. Thus, the only real basis for a more properly ethical behavior towards the so-called Other can only be in an initial love of one’s own. Obviously, that love can be eventually refined and reflected upon, but it must begin with a core of determination and passion.
Frank Ellis advances two main ideas in this book. The first is that “political correctness”, as it exists today, can trace its ultimate origins to Lenin and Mao. The second main thought is that “freedom of speech” is truly the central concept of Western civilization. What Frank Ellis sees as the attenuation of freedom of speech today will be disastrous for the West, he believes.
Frank Ellis is without a doubt in opposition to the various current-day strictures of “political correctness”. Looking back in history, he finds that Lenin and Mao (and the systems they created) can be seen as prefiguring an obsessive focus on the “correctness” of one’s ideological attitudes. He cites numerous documents from Lenin and Soviet Communism, and Mao and Chinese Communism, that obsess over such notions of “correctness”.
Frank Ellis is without doubt also in opposition to what he calls the Left. Thus, he sees a thread of continuity between the ugly, totalitarian Left of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism and what he sees as the ugly, totalitarian Left of “political correctness” and multiculturalism.
In the reviewer’s opinion, this attempt to establish Lenin as the father of political correctness, may be a bit overdone.
Lenin and Mao and the systems they created are seen by Ellis as unquestionably hideous, evil, and repulsive. While there certainly are people in the West who defend Lenin and Mao today, one can relatively easily point to tangible evil on the part of Lenin and Mao (e.g., their apparatus of coercive repression, producing millions of deaths) that most persons would accept as evil. There has also been the attempt by some Western Marxists to contrast the good Lenin vs. the bad Stalin. One also hears arguments that while Lenin and Mao may have committed considerable evil, their intentions were good, and that they were struggling against hideous established orders.
Where many people would immediately part company with Frank Ellis is in his attempt to associate the worst aspects of the Soviet and Chinese Communist Left with the current-day Left in the West, and especially with multiculturalism. Some would say that this type of move parallels the attempts by some on the Left today to associate the right-wing in Western societies today with Hitler and Nazism.
In the reviewer’s opinion, Frank Ellis may see the current-day Western Left as a bit too monstrous and outwardly totalitarian. This may prevent him from seeing just what the attractive aspects of left-wing thought to some people may be, and what some of the real motors of the widespread popularity of the current-day Western Left may be.
When Frank Ellis asserts that white people form the overwhelming majority of the population in the United Kingdom today, it is difficult to see how that huge majority can be so totally browbeaten by the comparatively small percentage of visible minorities (this is a term of official usage in Canada ).
In the reviewer’s opinion, it is more important to come to an understanding of the dynamics of increasing self-deprecation among white people than to dwell excessively on the dynamics of anti-Western and anti-white feelings among the minorities who are, to a large extent, just following their self-interest.
The guilt-ridden white liberal is a bit of a broad stereotype, and it is important to understand how many quite “normal” (as they would style themselves) people can come to embrace something akin to those views.
The reviewer thinks that one of the most important points to be made is that the current-day Western Left emphatically believes itself to be about “liberation”—not about prohibitions on free speech and free expression. One of the early 1960s groups called itself “The Free Speech Movement”, and one of the slogans of Paris ’68 was, “It is forbidden to forbid.”
In the reviewer’s opinion, the main motor of the spectacular success of the Western Left since the 1960s has been the apparent promise of sexual nirvana for everyone, something which certainly included young, straight white males in the 1960s and 1970s, although that focus of sexual libertinism has become somewhat muted in the last few decades. Indeed, it could be argued that for considerable numbers of straight white males today, the chief aspect of sexual freedom is only the simulacrum of widely available “porn”, strip-joints, and escort services—as opposed to substantive relationships with women that grow increasingly strained as radical feminism becomes ever more prominent in society.
It could be argued that the almost direct sexual appeal of the Western Left since the 1960s has motored forward its spectacular political successes. It often takes a considerable amount of prior social conditioning to resist that siren’s call of sexual pleasure. It takes considerable sagacity to realize that the promises of sexual nirvana for everyone could be disastrous for society in the long run. Now, to some extent, the sexual revolution has turned against straight white males, so some of these persons may be looking to some forms of more traditional identity.
The triumph of the sexual revolutions has also been accompanied by the triumph of a consumerist, consumptionist society, driven by mass-media. The fact is that the vastly increasing economic living standards of Western societies since the 1960s are often credited to the current-day system. Some social critics have suggested that the current-day system is in fact a “managerial-therapeutic regime”, which has its own capitalist, wealth-producing Right—and therapeutic Left—neither of which authentically represents the real traditions of either the Left or the Right.
Do most people in Western countries today necessarily pay that much attention to the strictures of “political correctness”? In most cases, there seem to be some simple obvious rules to follow, some of which could be construed as mere politeness, rather than necessarily “political correctness”. Most people probably think the system is quite wonderful because they credit it with giving them highly pleasurable and prosperous lives without having to hew to what are today seen as the ridiculous strictures of traditional religion.
The situation in the academic setting is, of course, considerably different, as far as the saliency of “political correctness”, but most persons in the general population probably think that “the excesses” and “weirdness” in the universities (especially in the humanities and social sciences) are irrelevant to the continuation of the current-day Western engine of economic growth and technological progress and prowess. It could be argued that the number of people who deeply concern themselves with what is going on in the humanities and social sciences departments of universities is relatively small.
Most people identify the current-day system with the provision of pleasure and prosperity, and do not see it as some kind of monstrous conspiracy to dispossess the white majority. Insofar as the current-day system continues to be economically successful, it is not likely to encounter massive resistance from the majority population.
However, mass, dissimilar immigration into Western societies may be introducing certain stresses which even a highly buoyant economy will not be able to address—or which may indeed weaken the current-day Western engine of economic growth and technological progress. Insofar as the current-day Western economies truly move in the direction of economic decline, one can probably easily imagine that various massive anti-immigration and so-called nativist movements will almost certainly arise. By economic decline here, one would mean a considerable contraction of the economy over a number of years in a row.
People today rarely consider that the typical Western economy has been growing an average of about three percent per year for decades. Considering that the growing economy implies increasing consumption of finite natural resources, extrapolating the consequences of ever-continuing economic growth on a finite planet can be frightening.
Another idea is that the eventual social consequences of a philosophy of extreme sexual pleasure—especially as expressed through various manifestations of an increasingly debased pop-culture—will tend to have an increasingly disruptive effect on Western societies. Today, it can be seen that a “birth-dearth” is enveloping many Western societies, including those that have traditionally been considered as highly prolific ( Spain , Italy ). Mass, dissimilar immigration will exacerbate the consequences of a “birth-dearth”. It is also possible that the societal consequences of a philosophy of sexual liberation will in the end be so catastrophic—that there will occur a return to more traditional mores out of a sense of pure revulsion. It is possible that society will become so decayed that parents will find it difficult to impart to their children just the sense of good—as opposed to a good such as that represented in traditional Christianity. Ironically, it may become increasingly difficult to maintain notions of any kind of behavioral restraint—even those of “political correctness”—in a society increasingly driven by vulgar nihilism.
To the extent that some sectors on the Left are aware—sometimes acutely—of what could be called the crisis of late modernity, the most obvious and easily discernible element of nominally left-wing philosophy that addresses this crisis is environmentalism and ecology. In his book, Frank Ellis does not discuss environmentalist and ecological thinking as a major aspect of what is considered “the Left” today. Yet it is frequently environmentalism/ecology that allows many typical Western left-wingers to make a sort of alchemical transformation of their outlook from obvious self-deprecation, and an attitude concerned only with the pleasure and prosperity of the moment, to an outlook that claims to be taking the most conservationist, most long-term outlook on human existence on this planet.
Observing the massive surge in environmentalist/ecological trends, especially in 2007, should prompt some traditionalist conservatives to recall that there are obvious ecological elements in genuinely traditionalist thought, such as that most notably represented by J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, and E. F. Shumacher. It’s clear that environmentalism/ecology is now the most obviously, popularly attractive element of what is considered “the Left” today.
The reviewer feels that Ellis did not take enough of an accounting of the possibly more attractive elements of left-wing thinking today, hence his critique sets up a bit of a “straw-man”—focussing on the very worst aspects of both Marxism-Leninism and Maoism—and then projecting these very worst aspects onto the current-day Western Left.
The criticism given may be so overdrawn and overwrought that it tends to induce incredulity at times. Even if one has considerable sympathy for the gist of Frank Ellis’ arguments, it is important to properly distinguish between the substantially different apparatus of conditioning and control in “soft totalitarian” vs. “hard totalitarian” systems. While it is possible to argue that “soft totalitarianism” is even more insidious in some ways than “hard totalitarianism”—because it is far less obvious to its subjects—it stretches credulity to think that current-day Western societies are but a step away from re-instituting the Gulag.
Frank Ellis’ arguments could strongly benefit by looking at Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World rather than George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as a close approximation of current-day Western societies (or rather perhaps the direction in which they are tending). By the parallels to Brave New World, the reviewer does not mainly wish to refer to the genetically based caste-system, but rather to the abolition of God, family, and history that is one of the central aspects of that dystopia. It is not too often remarked that the dystopian society depicted in Brave New World is driven by a “Freudian Left” understanding of human psychology. Aldous Huxley shows us that the hypothesized society is centered on the virtually unrestricted fulfillment of human sexual passions that begins almost in infancy. A very careful reading of the book reveals horrors upon horrors that may be a bit obscured in a superficial read-through.
Obviously, the widely-known dystopia to which Frank Ellis’ writings are closest in spirit is Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints, which depicts the apocalyptic consequences of mass Third World immigration into the West. Nevertheless, Aldous Huxley’s work should also be instructive.
Like Jean Raspail, Frank Ellis sees himself as a dedicated defender of the best of Western civilization against multifarious threats. In the reviewer’s opinion, the book would have been stronger had it introduced certain qualifications in its unrelenting critique of the Western Left. Nevertheless, Ellis does identify the obvious sickness of soul in at least part of the current-day Western Left, which Jean Raspail had identified in his book, and continues to refer to in his recently published pieces.
It could be argued that among the current dangers encroaching upon the West is the possibility of a situation where the long-running, civilized, more reasoned debate between the more authentic representatives of the Left and the Right in the West will no longer be possible. Some have indeed argued that the current clash of civilizations might actually end in a disastrous defeat for the West, especially in some Western European countries. Others have argued that the “soft-totalitarian” dynamic in the Western Left will itself result in various apocalyptic-dystopic outcomes.
Whatever happens, the upholding of genuine freedom of speech—especially for those expressing currently unpopular views—will without a doubt be one of the most important elements of endeavoring to prevent being enveloped by the very worst future outcomes.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian journalist based in Toronto. He has frequently contributed essays and book reviews about pop-culture and politics to Praesidium, most recently in this year’s Spring edition (see v. 7.2, pp. 35-43).
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