This Sunday it will be exactly 40 years ago that Enoch Powell, a then 55-year old Conservative member of the British Parliament and a former government minister, gave a speech in Birmingham. It became know as the “Rivers of Blood speech” because it referred to a verse from the Roman poet Virgil prophetizing “wars, terrible wars, and the Tiber foaming with much blood.” The Tiber is the river that runs through Rome.
Mr. Powell warned for the danger of unlimited immigration by people from a culture entirely different to Britain’s. He referred to one of his constituents, a middle-aged working man, who had told him a few weeks earlier: “If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country [...] I have three children […] I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them all settled overseas.”
Mr. Powell added that “hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking” the same thing. He said that areas of Britain were “undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history. […] It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.” He warned that by the year 2000 there would be 5 million to 7 million immigrants and their descendants in Britain, around one tenth of the population: “Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.” He claimed that, if Britain wanted to survive, it was urgent to stop further inflow “without delay” and get the aliens to leave again. A re-emigration policy had to be “adopted and pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies.”
As a result of his speech, the politician was branded a racist and sacked from his position in the Conservative Party. Mr. Powell, who died in 1998, remained ostracized for the remainder of his life, and beyond. Last November, a Conservative candidate for parliament was forced to resign after he wrote in an op-ed piece that “Enoch Powell was right.”
Nevertheless, it does appear that Mr. Powell was right. Though according to a report of the British House of Lords published last month, the data about the stock of immigrants in the UK “are seriously inadequate,” the British government estimates that there are almost half a million migrants residing illegally in Britain while the foreign-born legal inhabitants of the country currently account for 10 percent of the population. More than 1 million foreigners have legally settled in Britain in the past decade.
As Mr. Powell pointed out forty years ago, increasing numbers of native Britons are fleeing their country because they no longer consider it “worth living in for [their] children.” Last year Liam Clifford, director of Global Visas, a consultancy which assists people who want to leave, pointed out that the number of emigrants is rising dramatically while “the main reason for these people leaving the UK is the over-stretching of services caused by inbound immigration to the UK.” The same phenomenon can be witnessed all over Western Europe. In Germany and the Netherlands more natives are currently moving out than immigrants moving in. Those who leave no longer feel at home in their own country.
Next month, Europe will remember – and celebrate – the “revolt of May 1968” when leftist students in France and elsewhere rioted against Western society and traditional morality in favor of socialist collectivism and moral and cultural relativism. Though, as Mr. Powell recognized, the working class at that time were already beginning to suffer the consequences of Europe’s refusal to defend its national and cultural identity, the “mentality of ’68” only exacerbated these problems instead of tackling them “without delay.” The fact that Europe’s elites are about to celebrate “May 1968” shows that this mentality is still prevalent.
Hence the topic of the inundation of Europe by foreigners fundamentally opposed to its traditions and values is still as big a taboo as it was when Enoch Powell raised it. A whole range of “anti-discrimination” legislation has been voted in order to assure that it remains so. In his speech, Mr. Powell warned that “There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it ‘against discrimination’, whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong.”
They are still as wrong in 2008 as they were in 1968. While Europe praises the ideologues of ’68 as visionaries, it refuses to heed the warnings of the one true visionary of that ominous year. But, as Mr. Powell himself realized, his warning that “rivers of blood” would await Europe if it did not act was bound to fall on deaf ears: “People are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: ‘If only,’ they love to think, ‘if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.’”
This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on April 16, 2008 .