[Peter Brimelow writes: Nearly forty years ago, I was immensely impressed with The New Totalitarians a brilliant study of Swedish political culture by Roland Huntford, making the point that totalitarianism, in the sense of complete political control of society, can be brought about by bureaucracy as well as brute force. (To my amazement, this book's influence on my own book on Canada, The Patriot Game, is cited—currently—in its Wikipedia entry.) Sean Gabb reports here that it's coming soon to another common law country near you—Britain. Indeed, the British government's current drive to force the anti-immigration British National Party to admit immigrant minorities to membership is the very essence of totalitarianism: no private sphere can be allowed; in Mussolini's words "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state". This is why the passage of the so called Hate Crimes legislation, lauded by President Obama in his recent State of the Union address, was such a disaster—yet almost unopposed by the Beltway Right. It's happening there. It can happen here.]
At the moment in Britain, the Labour Government's Equality Bill is completing its progress through Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is to bring all the various "equality" laws and rulings made since 1965—race, sex, sexual preference, age-based, religious, etc—within a single statute, and to enable a single scheme of enforcement, the quasi-judicial Human Rights Commission. It also tightens these laws so that such "discrimination" as has continued to exist will be made illegal.
The exact meaning of any proposed law is hard to judge in advance. We need to see the final Act of Parliament. We need to see the hundreds of pages of regulations that it enables through its delegated legislation sections. We need to see how it will be enforced by the authorities, and how the courts will rule on its interpretation.
But outlines of the law are already reasonably clear. It is, for example, illegal for a Jewish school not to accept gentile children. It is illegal for a Christian hotelier to refuse to let two homosexuals share a bed together. It is illegal for an employer to exclude job candidates who belong to a group of which he might—for whatever reason—disapprove, or to confine recruitment within those groups of which he does approve. The same applies to landlords.
It is also illegal for the British National Party to confine its membership to those it regards as indigenous to the British Isles—an unmistakeably totalitarian violation of the principle of freedom of association.
After a recent rare defeat in the House of Lords, the Government will not be able to force religious schools to employ teachers who are outside of or hostile to their religious values. But this defeat may be reversed when the Bill returns to the Commons in the next few weeks. Or it may be reversed by separate legislation. As said, a law cannot be exactly understood until it is in force.
Even so, the Equalities Bill must be regarded as one of the most important measures in the consolidation of what can only be described as the British police state, which has been emerging since the election of Tony Blair and his "New Labor" allies in 1997. (For more details, see my monograph Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, downloadable for free here).
The problem with opposing this sort of law is that opponents can be smeared as opposed to equality in general, or even as bigots. This has completely cowed the opposition Conservative Party, which has offered only token resistance. (My own Libertarian Alliance's opposition statement is here).
Needless to say, this is an illegitimate tactic. As with freedom, everyone nowadays believes in equality. The real question: what is meant by "equality"?
This means that everyone should be equal before the law. A married woman should not lose the right to own property, unless she agrees in advance. A Roman Catholic should not be prohibited from inheriting under his father's will. An atheist or Jew should not be denied justice because he will not swear as a witness on the New Testament. Everyone should have the same right of access to the courts. Everyone should have the same rights to freedom of thought and speech and faith, and to freedom of association, and to freedom from arbitrary fine or imprisonment.
And that is it. The liberal tradition does not insist that everyone should have the same right to a job, or residential letting, or service in a restaurant or hotel. No one should have the right to be loved or accepted by others.
If the owner of a business puts a note in his window advertising that he will not deal with Jews or homosexuals, or the disabled, that is his right. As a libertarian, I would regard this kind of announcement with distaste, and I might refuse, because of it, to deal with that business. But that is the limit of proper disapproval. It is not a matter for interference by the authorities.
Now, I have argued so far as if I assumed that the projectors of the Equalities Bill were people of good intentions but limited understanding. But I do not assume this for a moment. The people who rule my country are best described as evil. They have not been led astray by bad ideas. Rather, they are bad people who choose ideologies to justify their behaviour.
There are ideologies of the left
These are not ideologies, however, of which those who now rule us in Britain have ever taken the smallest notice.
These people began as state socialists. When this became electorally embarrassing, they switched to Politically Correct multiculturalism. To the extent that this is becoming an embarrassment, they are experimenting with totalitarian environmentalism. But whether in local or in national government, their proclaimed ideologies have never prevented them from working smoothly with multinational big business, or with unaccountable multinational governing bodies.
It is reasonable to assume that, with these people, ideas are nothing more than a series of justifications for building a social and economic and political order within which they and theirs can have great wealth and unchallengeable power. Their object has been to deactivate all the mechanisms that once existed in Britain for holding its rulers accountable to the ruled.
And that is what they have been doing since the Labour Party won the 1997 election. To a degree that foreigners do not often realise, Britain has, during the past 13 years, been through a revolution. This has been brought about by the Labor Government and by its collaborators in the MainStream Media, in the civil service and judiciary, and in big business.
They have swept away the constitutional settlement of the 17th century. Our Ancient Constitution may have struck outsiders as a gigantic fancy dress ball. But it covered a serious and very important fact. This was an imperfect acceptance of the claim by Colonel Rainsborough, leader of the radical Leveller faction in the English Civil War, that "the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he". It allowed this country to be at once highly conservative in its institutions and, at the same time, free.
All this has gone. Since 1997, we have had a bewildering 4,000 new criminal offences created—many dealing with censorship of speech and publication. They are usually enforced by a summary—and often arbitrary and even corrupt—process.
The traditional courts and their procedure have also been transformed, so that no one whose legal education ended before 1997 has the faintest idea of how to enforce his rights. We have been made formally subject to the European Union. The country has been deliberately flooded with immigrants, as former Blair speechwriter Andrew Neather recently boasted. And the purpose of mass immigration has been to break up the solidarity of the ruled.
I was born in a free country. People could speak as they pleased and live without constant supervision. If a policeman knocked on my parents' front door, their only worry was that he might have bad news.
I now live in a police state. Recent legal reforms have completely displaced common law protections and all offenses are now arrestable. If I am accused of so much as dropping a sweet [VDARE.COM: U.S. = candy] wrapping on the ground, I can be arrested and taken to a police station. There, I shall have my fingerprints and a DNA sample taken. Even if I am released without charge, these records will be kept indefinitely. They will also be shared with several dozen foreign governments, who will often regard presence on a DNA database as evidence of a criminal record.
The natural response is that sensible men do all that is needed to avoid any police attention. That means prompt obedience to commands that may have no legal basis. And what is that but a police state?
The Equality Bill is simply another step in the consolidation of this new order of things. It is a bribe to those groups—Muslims, Gays, racial minorities—whose electoral support is needed to keep Labor in power. It is one more excuse for making victims of known dissidents.
Above all, it is another message sent out to all of who is boss.
The only "equality" the rulers of Britain are working towards is equal fear of them—and of what they can do to us.
Dr. Sean Gabb [Email him] is a writer, academic, broadcaster and Director of the Libertarian Alliance in England. His monograph Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back is downloadable here. For his account of the Property and Freedom Society's 2008 conference in Bodrum, Turkey, click here. For his address to the 2009 PFS conference, "What is the Ruling Class?", click here; for videos of the other presentations, click here.