|What We Think||October 1999: Degrees of treason|
Recent exposures of left-wingers in Britain who passed on information to the Soviet Union and its satellites have led to a whole spate of newspaper articles and TV programmes on the subject of treason and what constitutes it - with focus again on the activities of notorious commie sympathisers like Burgess, McLean, Philby, Blunt, Blake, Cairncross and numerous others. What made these people tick? Just how contemptible was their behaviour? Should we try to see their actions through their own eyes rather than in accordance with conventional criteria of patriotism, loyalty and duty?
It is of course true that these things - and their opposites - can be subject very much to personal interpretation. In the climate of post-war Britain, 'loyalty', for instance, came to mean allegiance, not just to the nation itself, but to the wider concepts of the 'Atlantic Alliance', the 'Free World', 'Democracy' and whatever other collectivity or abstraction to which it was assumed, often quite unthinkingly, British interests must be aligned. From such assumptions grew the converse view: that any action which helped Soviet Russia, whether in large or small ways, constituted treachery and stood, axiomatically, to be condemned.
But perhaps it was this very vague and somewhat ideological picture of where duty stood, and where consequently treason stood in relation to it, that led a number of highly intelligent people to become confused over their loyalties and to commit actions that earned them the condemnation of the vast majority of their fellow Britons. Were patriotism and loyalty to have remained simple concepts - a matter of allegiance to the nation-state of which one was part - such confusion might have been avoided, or at least greatly reduced; and such acts earning the epithet of treason might have been reduced correspondingly. But because 'patriotism' in the second half of the 20th century came to mean something vastly more complex, requiring as it did allegiance to entities extending far beyond the nation-state, and to ideas and institutions manifestly full of flaws, the automatic authority it should enjoy became diluted, and men and women - particularly the more intelligent - underwent struggles of conscience which in times of clear thinking would most probably never have arisen.
As just one instance of the moral dilemma, many, faced with a choice of allegiance between the liberal-capitalist West and its supposed communist adversary, undoubtedly decided that the former, in all its decadence and corruption, could make no automatic claim on them. When it came to the latter, on the other hand, the strictly superficial perception of the Soviet World which was the only one allowed in so-called 'democratic' circles - a perception which strictly excluded any understanding of the true origins of communism, let alone a discussion of the identity of its architects - could easily seduce the idealist by the simple formula of the grass always being greener on the other side of the hill!
It must also always be remembered that the people succumbing to this seduction grew up and were educated in an environment which taught them to reject all the old certainties on which patriotism was based. The major universities in the Thirties and thereafter preached the 'out-of-dateness' of national loyalty, pride, sovereignty and identity - even that those things were positively 'evil'. Remember that the obsession of the intelligentsia of those times was, first, 'stopping fascism' and later, when that objective had been achieved, making sure that it never rose again. With 'fascism' becoming the label slapped on every expression of healthy national feeling, what country was there left to which progressively minded young ladies and gentlemen could be loyal? And what betrayal of country could there be which might act as a barrier to ideological indulgence by these mostly spoilt brats of the bourgeois classes?
Finally, when all is said and done, can we assert without fear of contradiction that favours, many of them quite small, done to the Soviets constituted worse crimes against Britain than policies carried out at the level of government, in perfect legality, which have opened our borders to massive Third World immigration and ensnared our nation in the tentacles of European Union? Has the passing of secrets to the Kremlin done more damage than the gutting of British manufacturing industry and the selling out of what's left of it to foreign capital? Were, and are, the Burgesses, McLeans and Philbys greater practitioners of national treachery than the men and women whom we have elevated and honoured for their part in these developments?
And considering the world role of the United States over the past half-century, a world role which has at many points been anti-pathetic to British interests, can we say that those Britons who have served the Soviets have betrayed their country to any greater degree than those politicians who have jumped obediently through the hoops held by whoever might be the current occupant of the White House.
This is not to cast any halos round the heads of our squalid and rather pathetic Soviet agents; it is only to get their misdeeds in accurate perspective.
East Timor: now globalists go well and truly into orbit
Up to about a month ago, scarcely anyone in Britain had ever heard of East Timor, a tiny place at the far south eastern tail-end of the group of islands known as Indonesia. Perhaps even fewer would have imagined that what was going on there justified the intervention of British armed forces, already impossibly stretched by existing commitments, of which the lunatic occupation of Kosovo was just the most recent. But no, our 'global' obligations - the 'ethical foreign policy' which commits us to poke our noses into whatever conflict in which it might be the whim of the 'inter-national community' (meaning the New World Order) to involve us - dictates that we march off to the other side of the world in yet another pointless and wasteful adventure.
What is actually at stake in East Timor? It's the old story. A rebel group, dissatisfied with living under the sovereignty of the country of which it is part, wants to break away. In this case the country is Indonesia, but it might just as well be Serbia, Iraq or Bongo Bongo Land (as the Late Alan Clark might have said). Somehow, according to New Labour, it's always got to be Britain's business - well, actually, not quite always. For some reason, the Palestinians under Israeli domination seem to be a different case. But let's not digress...
The big problem seems to be that the Indonesians, like the Serbs but not like today's British, are not taking kindly to the idea of any part of their country being taken away from them. They happen to hold to the very old-fashioned notion that when a rebel separatist movement threatens their country with dismemberment the appropriate action is to use armed force to stop this happening. It is in fact what nations who have not gone out of their minds generally do.
It is alleged by the British press that Indonesian troops, in putting down the revolt, have committed brutalities. Well, the press always says that, doesn't it? (except of course when the troops are Israelis). In all probability, the brutalities, like those in Kosovo, have not been all one way. But for reasons not yet known to us peasants back in Britain who aren't privy to the conferences of the great and the good of the said 'international community', it is the brutalities committed against the East Timor rebels, and not those committed by them, that we must all get hot under the collar about.
So far, the British commitment of forces to East Timor has been, in the words of our 'ethical' Foreign Secretary, "a token one." That doesn't mean that it won't escalate - though just where the troops would come from in that event has not yet been explained, nor indeed probably even thought of.
The important thing is that British politicians can continue to "feel good," to look the 'international community' in the eye and proudly assert that Britain is doing her bit for freedom and democracy, wherever they may be under threat.
Yes, even in East Timor!
A unfortunate skeleton in the cupboard
Michael Portillo has always represented, to us, everything that is most repulsive and loathsome in the Tory Party politician. The quintessence of the grasping political careerist, the younger Michael thought it clever and upwardly-destined to pose as a right-wing hard-liner. Hence his stomach-churning exhibition on the 1995 party conference platform when, figuratively, he donned the combat jacket of the SAS, cast himself in that tradition, and flayed all the wet, liberal and politically correct icons. Such was the manifest phoniness of the whole act that even most of his fellow rightists in the party wondered where to hide their faces.
But Michael got a rude shock when in 1997 the voters turned him out at Enfield Southgate. In the almost unendurable seclusion of life outside the political limelight, he had time to think about his future. And here, it seemed, a little goblin visited him and told him he must reinvent himself.
What followed was Michael ditched his image as a man of the hard right and came out as a touchy-feely liberal. At the 1997 Tory Conference he gave an indication of the vision he had seen on his own road to Damascus, placing particular emphasis on the need for a revision in attitudes to 'gay rights', saying:-
At the time, Portillo-watchers assumed that all that had happened was that Michael's nostrils had scented the availability of a new bandwagon that was more rewarding to jump onto than the old one on which he had been travelling before. However, as things turned out there was rather more to it than that.
Last month, the cat came out of the bag. A former student friend from Michael's Cambridge days appeared on the scene and was about to disclose that he and Michael had had an 'intimate' relationship for a number of years. Michael, knowing what was about to hit the fan, pre-empted the disclosure and 'outed' himself. Yes, he said to the media, he had had a homosexual affair with the said friend, but all that was now far back in the past.
But can such things ever be "far back in the past"? Well, one person who apparently thinks so is right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens. In a Spectator article generally deprecating Portillo, Hitchens described his 'gay' fling at Cambridge as a 'non-issue'. He continued:-
"I think homosexual acts are wrong. However, having done many seriously wrong things myself and fearing that I will do many more this side of the grave, I cannot believe that this is a political issue or even my business. I think it is absurd and stupid to define people by what they do with their sexual organs... It is also a long time ago. I am only worried that... the Kensington and Chelsea Tories (where Portillo is bidding for adoption. Ed.) will be bullied into endorsing Mr. Portillo for fear of being labelled 'homophobic' if they don't. It would be quite disastrous for British politics if these distant pecadillos came to dominate the selection process."
Mr. Hitchens, with whose writings we tend to find ourselves increasingly in agreement, just does not seem to have got the point. He speaks of homosexuality in the days of a person's youth as nothing worse than an experimental sniff of cocaine or a prosecution for drunk driving - a bit of stupidity that one grows out of but no more than that. If only it were so simple!
Speaking for ourselves, we regard anyone, of whatever age, who could for two seconds feel a physical attraction to someone of the same sex, let alone give vent to that attraction in a sexual act, as perverted - that is, not normal and not, in the fullest sense of the word, healthy. This is not to say that such a condition is the fault of the person afflicted with it, but only that such a person is not suited to hold any kind of public office nor wield any kind of authority or power over other human beings. This was the wisdom of our ancestors, and there were thoroughly sound reasons for it. Those on what Mr. Hitchens, in another part of his Portillo article, calls "the Serious Right" ought to understand this ancestral wisdom and embrace it. There are many reasons why the Kensington and Chelsea Tories should not adopt Michael Portillo as their candidate in the coming by-election there, but if none of these other reasons existed the mere fact of his homosexuality, whether past or present (and the distinction has not been explained), should rule him out once and for all. Yes, this is homophobic. It is also common sense.