Sean Gabb reviews Wayne John Sturgeon’s Albion Awake Mystical Anarchism and the National Quest for an Alternative Britain.
“The current British State has just as much authority as it is able to compel. It is beyond reforming. All the other European states and the American system are entering much the same crisis of legitimacy. Most states in the Islamic world have already collapsed, or are on the verge of collapse. The Asian states seem to command little affection, but are accepted because everyone in the East wants to be just like us. The African state system is a standing joke. The world might easily be a better place on the whole if the whole state system were simply to be abandoned and replaced by a patchwork of micro-polities.”
I begin with my apologies to the author. He sent me a copy of this book months ago. Keith Preston had said I would be a useful reviewer. I said I would review it. I promised I would review it. Then I got even busier than usual, and went into one of my periodic depressions. I never quite forgot the promise. But I did break it, and must now record how ashamed I feel, and how this has contributed to my depression.
For a flavour of the book, and perhaps a summary of its contents, take this, from p.78:
Today there is the need to develop a true ‘anarchism of the third way’, a holistic, tribal and folkish communalism based on ecology, regionalism and decentralisation. Anti-fascist but also anti-leftist. Today we have a system where economic liberalism is married to cultural Marxism, the individual is isolated and rootless, a passive consumer and non-participant in the post-democratic sphere. In national anarcho-syndicalism, individuals can freely associate with and organise themselves into occupational groups, guilds or syndicates which can then connect the individual to the whole body of society organised into a co-operative enterprise through both workers and bosses self-management and mutual collaboration of the means of production and in the public and the nation’s interest.”
I see no point in criticising this statement of belief. I think it would be more honest if I were to give my own counter-vision. I believe in England and the English Constitution as they were conceived by the mainstream Whigs between about 1688 and 1886. To be specific, I believe: in a strong but limited central state based in London, and comprising Crown, Lords and Commons, together with an established national church; that the limitation of the English State should lie in a combination of independent courts and a sense of restraint in a largely hereditary ruling class; and that the better classes among the people should be keenly aware of their ancient rights, and both able and willing to combine to preserve them from any encroachment. I take it as natural that the other nationalities who occupy the British Isles should be mostly left alone, so long as they accept English primacy. I also take it as natural that the resulting United Kingdom should lord it over very large parts of the world.
You can laugh, but this is what I honestly believe, and this is what I have always believed. Every scheme I write up of radical change, every demand for freedom of speech and association, every denunciation of multiculturalism and political correctness – all of these terminate in the recreation of England as it used to be seen, and possibly sometimes was.
Sadly, what I want is off the menu. The moral and physical bases of the old order have been swept away. The ruling class is degenerate. The people are ruined. Economic change and mass-immigration have changed the whole nature of the country. In my more sensible moments, I turn to my consolation belief – that technological progress will undermine the foundations of the current order of things, and that free market societies will emerge to carry forward the hope of a liberal civilisation in new forms.
It is in my more sensible moments that I tend to think there is something in Mr Sturgeon’s vision. I dismiss his greenery out of hand: there is no impending natural disaster, and the natural world is to be seen as a vast treasure house to which we have given ourselves the key and that we have the right to do with as we find convenient. I am also too soaked in the thought of the eighteenth century to take his mysticism with a straight face. Even so, we seem to face a choice between a totalitarian state and a collapse into inter-ethnic civil war. Perhaps we face both at the same time. We do need to find some other way through our troubles. Perhaps radical decentralisation – or what the followers of Hans-Hermann Hoppe call “universal secession” – is that way.
The current British State has just as much authority as it is able to compel. It is beyond reforming. All the other European states and the American system are entering much the same crisis of legitimacy. Most states in the Islamic world have already collapsed, or are on the verge of collapse. The Asian states seem to command little affection, but are accepted because everyone in the East wants to be just like us. The African state system is a standing joke. The world might easily be a better place on the whole if the whole state system were simply to be abandoned and replaced by a patchwork of micro-polities.
I say “on the whole” because large parts of the world might easily get worse than they already are. As directed by Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi State had it bad points. On the other hand, most people knew where they stood. They could worship as they pleased. They could have a drink. Their daughters could put on western clothes. The various successor regimes have far less to recommend them. Turning to our own case, I would not like to live in one of Mr Sturgeon’s green communes. I like high technology, and have a grudging respect for big-business capitalism. I like railway trains with power points for me to plug in my computer. I like buying food at Sainsbury. I even rather like being able to look down on some of my neighbours.
This being said, Mr Sturgeon is not suggesting that anyone should be forced to live as he wants. His ideal world seems to be a place where he and his friends can have social credit and self-sufficiency, but people like me can carry on having ceramic crowns on glass-fibre rods screwed into our jaws. His world is not a place where any one scheme of things is imposed on all – no feral social workers to tell us our children are watching too many things on YouTube, no armed bureaucracies to bully us out of smoking and drinking, no robotic police to arrest us for speaking our minds or to stop us from keeping guns in the house. I can easily imagine that the parts of his world settled by me and people like me would be considerably better.
In short, there is room for dialogue between most kinds of libertarian and the national anarchists.
I turn to the appearance of the book. This is lamentably defective. The front cover uses a Gothic font so impenetrable, and so merged into its background colour, I had to open the book to read its title. Also, the paper is bound against the grain, and the pages kept shutting on me.
Never mind that, however. Here is a closing thought. In terms of both structure and guiding assumption, the present world was called into being by England – though both England and her daughters are all much decayed. Perhaps, in considering Mr Sturgeon’s idea of radical decentralisation, we should recall the words of John Milton: “Let not England forget her precedence of teaching Nations how to live.” This time, we might do a better job.