An ideology may have its attractions, but that does not explain why it becomes the ideology of an elite. Innumerable ideologies, sacred and profane, have come and gone without achieving such a status.. Sometimes, as with the French and Russian Revolutions, a dramatic event catapults a group with a particular ideology into power, but in a country such as Britain with a very long tradition with representative government, the ideological capture of an elite has to be by more subtle means. The answer lies in the self-interest of the elite which emerged after the Great Reform Act when the balance of power began to shift from the landed aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. That elite gradually evolved into a broader middle class movement which in turn is evolving into a supra-national class, a class which is closely bound up with big business.
“I just think that a lot of modern corporate capitalists — the managerial class basically — has no loyalty to any country anymore, or any particular values other than the bottom line.” (Pat Buchanan quoted by Daniel Brandt in his article “Class Warfare” in issue 13 of Namebase Newsline -http//www.namebase.org/news13.html).
Buchanan is grasping a demon which he only dimly apprehends. What is happening is vastly more significant than simply gaining economic advantage. We are presently witnessing the creation of an international class of plutocrats who care for nothing but their own class. They have the potential to form a true international aristocracy. If that happens, the imperfect democratic control the masses have been able to exert over their elites in the past century will end. The prime tool for the creation of such an international aristocracy is “free trade”.
There are parts of Western elites which are reluctant to embrace “free markets” and “free trade”, but the general economic trend is clear: the internationalist, globalist creed is the dominant philosophy when it comes to trade and increasingly the idea of laissez faire in the domestic sphere is being accepted in practice if not always in overt political policy.
Why have Western elites moved from the socially oriented nationalism which dominated most of the twentieth century to laissez faire driven internationalism? The answer is simple: internationalising politics gives them greater political control. Laissez faire with its add-ons of mass migration and the emasculation of the nation state provides a means to subvert the power of the masses to restrain the abuses of elites through democratic control.
From the point of elites socially oriented nationalism was an aberration. In most circumstances throughout history the wishes of the mass of a population have been of little or no account in any formal sense. The masses made their presence felt through rioting – the historian Lewis Namier memorably described the government of 18th century England as “aristocracy tempered by rioting” – and social disturbance or as catspaws in the service of elite members who wished to rebel. An elite took note only when they were frightened enough – the creation of a form of national public assistance by the Poor Law of 1601 is a classic example of such behaviour.
Eventually, representative government evolved to the point where the masses began to have a direct say in the political process through the vote. The elite as a group did not welcome this but felt it could not be resisted. It was not democracy to be sure but elective oligarchy, which was buttressed by elite constructed devices to exclude new entrants into the political process such as first past the post voting, election deposits and a very strong party system. Nonetheless, once the franchise was broadened the masses were able to exercise a large degree of democratic control because politics was still national and a political party had to respond to the electors’ wishes. The elite resented this control over their behaviour as all elites do and looked around for a way to diminish democratic influence. They found the means to do it through internationalism.
In a sovereign country elected politicians cannot readily say this or that cannot be done if it is practical to do the thing. That is a considerable block on elite misbehaviour. So elites decided thatthe way round this unfortunate fact was to commit to treaties which would remove the opportunity for the electorate to exercise control.
A most notable example is the Treaty of Rome and the subsequent treaties which have tied its constituent members into the EU. Vast swathes of policy are no longer within the control of the EU members because of these treaties. Add in the treaties tying Britain to the UN and the WTO and the commitment of every mainstream British party to them, and democratic control has essentially gone.
But internationalism is not simply a bureaucratic elite device to weaken democratic control, it is a sociological event in itself. An elite thinks of itself as a separate group, a group which may in some circumstances extend beyond national boundaries and jurisdictions. The medieval aristocracies of Western Europe thought themselves part of a chivalric whole. When Charles I of England was executed in 1649 the monarchs of Europe were horrified because they thought it would set an example for other royal killings.
The ruling elites in the First World today have a class interest which binds them more closely to one another than to the people they rule. Indeed, there is arguably a greater sense of international elite solidarity than ever before. This is because modern communications allow people, goods and ideas to move with an unmatched ease. Because of this the international class can constantly revitalise and extend their group solidarity.
The advantage to the elites of this culturally based international solidarity underwritten by many personal elite relationships across national boundaries, is that it allows them to weaken even further their dependence upon their immediate (native) populations, because not only does a particular national elite have a ready made excuse for not doing something – “Our treaty obligations will not permit it” – but the personal relationships and the growing sense of class solidarity increases the confidence and hence the willingness of the various national elites to act ever more in the international elite class interest. Indeed, the more they are together and the more they act together, the more natural it will seem.
It is important to understand that elites are not engaged as a group in a conscious conspiracy against the masses. What happens is that the psychological and sociological forces which press upon us all push the elite to adopt policies which always lead to their retention of power.
It is not difficult to see how this happens. All human beings have a powerful ability to write a narrative in their heads which will persuade them that they act not from self-serving or disreputable reasons but honourable and socially useful ones. The consequence of this is that while individual members of an elite will consciously comprehend the likely effect of their ideology, the majority will simply accept their ideology at face value. This helps to bolster and stabilise the elite’s position because no secular elite ideology ever overtly states that the masses will be disadvantaged if the ideology is followed, and in the case of formal democracies, theideology positively claims to materially better society as a whole. This will emotionally reassure most elite members, who will bolster their acceptance of the ideology through inter-elite conversations – if most or all those in a group are positive about something, that is most powerful social reinforcer.
It is important to understand how we got into the present mess. Despite the widespread ignorance of and economic theory and history amongst the elite , it wasn’t primarily an intellectual failure amongst those with power but one of character. Some failed to act rationally because of their inability to resist the laissez faire ideology, others failed because they feared the consequences of speaking out against the elite ideology, some failed because they had a vested interest in maintaining a system which paid them well.