G.C. Wallace, the last of the mainstream Southern Populists, always claimed that there wasn't a “dimes worth of difference” between Republicans and Democrats. Wallace's quip is also a beginning theme from Dr. Sean Gabb's book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back [on-line for download or purchase at http://www.libertarian.co.uk/]. Gabb offers an ideological explanation for the current British social-political environment, and then offers suggestions as to how the situation may be reversed. Although ostensibly writing about Great Britain, Gabb acknowledges that his insights hold throughout the West. At the time of writing Tony Blair's government, described as an “evil” regime, was in power. However Gabb recognized in Blair nothing original, but simply, “a working out of principles established before 1997. There was no break in continuity between the Blair and the Thatcher and Major Governments. It is notorious that no bad act of government since 1997 has been without precedent.” One often asks why, if governments and parties change, the course of social-political events never appreciably does? It is because, as Wallace noted above, political parties, whether Labour or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, typically share similar foundational cultural assumptions and goals. Gabb writes, “We can imagine a Conservative Government. It is much harder to imagine a government of conservatives.” Here, then, begins Gabb's historical analysis.
For Gabb, Western democratic politicians can never be counted upon to change much of anything since they do not possess absolute power, but rely on a “wider community” providing advice and consent. We know them as civil servants, school teachers, the unelected bureaucracy, business interests, and media outlets all forming a “ruling class” that usually, but not always, includes the politicians, or the elected government. Gabb admits that his notion of a ruling class is nothing new or original, but is simply the extended group possessing shared interests. And in their embrace of a “shared body of ideas” the group delimits how social-political questions can be framed. In the extreme, certain ideas can always be downplayed, ignored, or in instances of particularly dangerous ideas, suppressed by sanction. Gabb explains how, in and of itself, this arrangement is not particularly sinister inasmuch as regime stability is normally desired by the citizenry. However, once a ruling class ideology turns against the existing consensus, and once the ruling class begins transforming a regime into something not originally intended or wanted, problems arise.
The British tradition has been that of liberal democracy, but by the late 1970s the ruling class became fundamentally at odds with traditional liberal political thinking, and all conservative institutions. In order to effect changes the ruling elite began a program of “reshaping” citizen thinking. Also, it was necessary to hold thought more important than action. How? The so-called Neo-Marxist Rescue Hypothesis. That is to say, with dogmatic (historical) Marxism on the wane, revolutionaries demanded a new formulation. Here, Gabb cites three seminal thinkers: Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and Michel Foucault:
According to their reformulation of Marxism, a ruling class keeps control not by owning the means of production, but by setting the cultural agenda of the country. It formulates a “dominant” or “hegemonic” ideology, to legitimize its position, and imposes this on the rest of society through the “ideological state apparatus”—that is, through the political and legal administration, through the schools and universities and churches, through the media, through the family, and through the underlying assumptions of popular culture.
None of this wholly relies on overt state coercion, but rather a “systematic manufacture of consent.” What was previously controversial, or what was once considered culturally subversive is now, through the overt action of ruling class manipulations, taken as normal. Using a Maoist metaphor, Gabb places this “long march through the institutions” as beginning, perhaps ironically, from about the time of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, or in the mid 1960s. Dominant Western cultural revolutionary themes consist of the usual suspects: racism, multiculturalism, feminism, the normalization of homosexuality, equalitarianism and so forth. What is remarkable, though, is that while state sanctions may play a role in later stages of what elsewhere has been termed “Cultural Marxism” (Gabb does not employ this terminology), it is the general citizenry's internalization of this new way of thinking that creates the ground for whatever subsequent sanctions may be necessary for those “just not getting it.” Older citizens who, in private, may express completely antithetical (that is, traditional) views will, when confronted openly, proclaim their support for new cultural norms. On the other hand, having been already schooled within the revolutionary milieu, the newer generation understands “instinctively,” and needs no convincing. For them, “new ideas” are self-evident, and not new at all. At the same time, Gabb holds that the ruling class, for their part, may well be completely cynical.
...since our new rulers spent their younger years denying these truths, they are quite willing, now they are in power, to act on the belief that they are not true. Because they believe that tolerance is repressive, they are repressive. Because they do not believe that objectivity is possible, they make no attempt at objectivity. Because they do not believe that justice is other than politics by other means, they are politicizing justice. Because they believe that liberal democracy is a facade behind which a ruling class hides its ruthless hold on power, they are making a sham of liberal democracy.
Nations, taking the word in its traditional sense, are incommensurate with Neo-Marxism. This is because nations are comprised of more or less homogenous, like-minded groups founded within a shared organic tradition. The break-up of the nation-state is, because of that, essential. In fine, Neo-Marxism wages a “war against the past.” Traditional culture becomes deprecated, and those hitherto associated with the tradition must be made to feel both ashamed of and responsible for the crimes of their fathers. Self-criticism in the form of agonizing over racism, colonialism, sexism, environmental degredation, and all the rest is required, but the guilt can never be assuaged. Guilt is a means of self-control.
Also, the process relies upon language manipulation. A “blurring of distinction” promulgates. The “right wing” is associated with Hitler, therefore men as disparate as David Irving, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and Enoch Powell are associated with Nazis. On the other hand, the left are described as progressive, reformers, modernizers, etc. Too, traditional terminology must be modified in order to express a desired goal, and in order to keep the majority confused. We see examples in the transition from colored, Negro, black, People of Color, to African-American. Or, in a transition from homosexual to gay, to lesbian and gay, and now a mere acronym, LGBT (with the reflexively associated word, "pride"). Gypsies are Roma, and in print, gender neutral language must be enforced. All this has the effect of shutting down debate, and making one conform to the new rules. Often one never knows the rules of speech since rules can always change. Finally, the word “racism,” really a meaningless word that can mean anything, exists as the ultimate accusatory tool used for proscribing thought.
Operating within a Neo-Marxist agenda the media, both news and popular, create a distorted reality that few question because it is simply “the environment.” We routinely view minorities acting in roles they rarely occupy in reality, and behaving in ways they rarely do in day to day life. Minority crime is downplayed, while crime against any protected class is highlighted. In many cases the media conflates majority thought and speech with actual violent behavior. We mention an example of this situation in the recent Arizona shooting where, from all accounts, the actions of a mentally unstable man is blamed on “right wing” speech. Gabb points to the sinister nature of such obvious fraud. Because it is so obviously false, those believing it can only accept the notion by way of passionate faith, and faith is most difficult to penetrate by reason.
The second half of the book is less an analysis of the ground of the Neo-Marxist program, but Gabb's own prescription for counter-revolution. This requires a more in-depth review than can be offered here, especially with Gabb's questionable embrace of certain aspects of the welfare-state and his seemingly pro-Islamic attitude. At the end, however, Sean Gabb wakes his reader. He reminds us that England is not facing a revolution. On the contrary, the revolution has taken place, and it is a big question as to whether counter-revolution can ever succeed. The author is not sanguine about working within established political parties because both parties have accepted existing Neo-Marxist ideology to one extent or another. And this brings us back to George Corley Wallace, and whatever one can expect for one's political dime.