This text continues the transcript by V. S. of Jonathan Bowden’s interview at the Union Jack Club in London on Saturday, November 21, 2009, after his lecture/performance on Punch and Judy. The title is editorial.
Question: Is it really viable to adopt protectionist economic policies when all our natural coal and gas reserves have been depleted for so long?
Jonathan Bowden: I think what you do is you adopt attenuated ones. Life is partly a war of position. Total autarky is completely ridiculous. That’s Hoxha’s Albania. But if you allow yourself to have no industrial base at all and you don’t make anything then you are heading for the knacker’s yard. I remember Reagan once said, “Oh, we don’t need a productive industrial base.” What does he think an economy will ultimately be based on if you don’t actually physically make anything? Somebody drove me through the industrial districts of Liverpool, and there was one factory making bouncy castles, and that was it.
So, you need a mix. You need to bring things in from outside. You need to exclude foreign influence. You need to manage and manipulate things to your own advantage. Economics is, in part, a form of warfare, and you need to take that attitude. The Japanese and the Chinese have that view. They synthetically adopt different strategies—protectionism, semi-autarky, allow things in, pump priming, militant libertarianism—if they perceive it to be in their national interest at any one time. These are tactics that you use not shibboleths.
The Friedmans of this world, the Hayeks of this world, and the Keyneses of this world believe that people will go to the barricade for a theory about how the economy should be run. These are just tactics, tactics that governments and statesmen and senior economists and industrialists and capitalists use. You know, George W. Bush has introduced militant state socialist measures to save Western fiscal capitalism. He’s adopted measures to the Left of the American Socialist Party, and he’s a Republican market militant who’s fought those Left-liberal measures all his life. But when it faced collapse the state had to take it over. So, I see economics as a matter of tactics not of morals and not really of what politics is about.
Q: In relation to the current economic, environmental, and immigration crisis in the West, if radical political change does not happen what are your predictions?
B: A mess! And dog eat dog in an unpleasant way, but then life is like that anyway, up to a point. It will be a bang or a whimper as the West moves into the next century and more. Life and mankind’s nature abhors a vacuum, so there will always be new forces coming up.
I think it’s 1909 writ large a hundred years on. If you stood in 1909, you’ve got a First World War to come (what a joy!); you’ve got the Depression to come and the Roaring Twenties before; the reaction to the first war and then the bust that follows it; you’ve got the rise of fascism and communism; you have a second war; the whole of the last half of the last century is reacting to the devastation of the Second World War, at least within the West; you then have a Cold War, which is hot in the Second and Third World, very much so, but the West is in a state of stasis with the Soviet bloc; you have the unpeeling of Soviet communism, and now we’re in a new world where we are.
I think as we sit here in 2009 we face a radical future, a radical future that has many possibilities and many dangers. There’s a book called Yockey’s Imperium written in the middle of the 20th century. I agree with some of it. I don’t agree with some of it. It’s partial. It’s written in its time. Nevertheless, the introduction is written by a man called Willis A. Carto, a veteran of the American far Right, and Carto believed with Spengler that a new authoritarianism would come after collapse, but later he revised his view, a sort of self-revisionism, and he rather worryingly said that thinks it might end in anarchy and in chaos.
And these societies are heading for anarchy. Strangely, socialism moves towards communism and communism moves back towards socialism on the Left flank, but liberalism moves towards anarchism, which is technically to the Left of communism. Forget the anarchist theory, forget even an individualist like Stirner or a social anarchist like Bakunin and [unintelligible] or Kropotkin, forget the theorists. Just sort of chaos and the attempt to keep it from one’s door.
If there is not major energies put into cultural and social and national renewal in Western societies, the reality is a sort of negative Venezuela where a rich man’s daughter goes to the shops with the blokes next to her with an AK-47, writ large. Private estates, gated estates, private areas that are guarded. It’s already well on the way to happening. You know, you swipe a card through one of these devices, and the gate opens. There are security systems all around. People have got hired heavies to go anywhere if they’ve got anything to protect, namely something to lose, that means somebody can take it off them. If you’ve got nothing to lose nobody’s going to take it off you. So, the rich are always alone and always in fear. The loneliness of the rich.
So, it’s sort of Blade Runner, really. Fantasies always tell the future. That’s what the future will be like unless there’s a move for social redemption. Put another way, the redemption will become individual, and individuals who are strong and individuals who can make money and individuals who are intelligent will just subtract, which is the process that is of course well under way. They will subtract from the rest. And they’ll just look out for themselves and their families, and they’ll be all right, at least they think they will be. And everyone else will be in a sort of pit.
Isn’t there a comic called 2000 AD?
Q: Judge Dredd.
B: And wasn’t there the rival series, the more Left-wing one, Nemesis, where the humans are the villains? The humans live in these enormous skyscrapers called termite hills . . . termitescapes . . . termite towers. And there’s a man called Torquemada, who’s a sort of fascist Catholic sort of thing who runs the whole thing with a big pointy hat. It’s all ridiculous, of course. But the idea of these humans living in great blocks milling around and, as Torquemada’s first wife says, “Their lives are so unimportant.” I think for those who are shut out of capital and great wealth it would be like those urban landscapes in Manchester with the millionaire looking down on the heroin addict.
Q: So, how does a sane person exist in a mad society like that?
B: Well, you sort of go some place else, I think, or go somewhere else within one’s own mind, but people will find a way to exist. Humans are endlessly adaptable. You find your own way. Indeed, that’s what people are doing. They’ve largely privatized their own lives. They’ve got asocial attitudes. They don’t think in political terms anymore. People aren’t interested in politics anymore. They’re sick of Labour. They just want to get them out and get a new lot in to manage what’s going on a little bit better as they perceive it. The reason they want them to better is just because it’s a change. It’s like someone needs a holiday after a lot of work. Change is as good as a rest. It’s not a brilliant way to run a country, but when you allow the masses to decide who should rule in that sort of a way I’m afraid you’ll get that.
But life’s totally open. Anything can change. A man could have an idea, not with a typewriter anymore now, but with a computer on his own in a room alone, a laptop and the world can change. Everything is possible. Our group believes that it’s all open. Everything is still possible. We’re here. We’ve had some nice wine and crisps. It’s not always totally as bad as everyone thinks. The changes that need to happen are moral and mental and spiritual. If they happen, enormous changes can occur. If they don’t happen, not much will happen.
But I’m an optimist. Most Right-wing people are pessimistic introverts, and I’m an optimistic extrovert. I’m not an individualist in the complete social and philosophical sense at all, because we’re all part of society and somebody made these shoes and this tie and even this symbol [his odal rune pendant], you know, we’re all sort of interconnected, but I do believe you live your own life, and you have a bit of pleasure on the way. I don’t believe in misery. Misery is for bores. I don’t believe in that.
Q: So, you wouldn’t say optimism is cowardice then?
B: No. I don’t agree with Spengler. Spengler’s a classical pessimist. He’s an introvert, and he’s a great thinker, but he’s nervous about the future. Of course, ontologically, the future is death, but one of the first moments in life is to overcome one’s fear of death. Most people are terrified of death. They can’t even mention it. They’re paralyzed. Religion tells you death isn’t the end. I don’t believe death is the end, but whether there’s anything conscious afterwards I don’t know, and nobody does.
I believe one’s life is a bullet passing through screens and you hit a screen you can’t pass through and it’s over. So, I believe you go on.
A bishop came to our first meeting. There was a debate afterward where he was asked questions, and somebody said, “Do you believe that God is love?” And he said, “Yes.” I wasn’t chairman of the New Right then. Jonathan B— was. I put my hand up and said, “If you want to call it God, the divine, the energy in all things, the force that created the universe, nature, whatever you call it, I believe it’s fury not love.” And he said, “I don’t agree.” And somebody else said, “But yes, where is the love in your system then?” I said, “Love is creation. If the world’s being created by a force and by a force that knows not itself as it does it that’s the greatest form of affection you could ever have, isn’t it? To create all this?”
So, I don’t believe in misery. You know, most of the other racial groups on this Earth don’t believe in misery. I believe one should go forward. It’s integration that we need. Stoicism, integration. We’ve got very miserable ones down in the mouth, and I don’t agree with all that. I know things are in quite a mess, but it’s because we’ve adopted views which are counter-productive and views which are destructive and views which can be reversed. If we really decided to reverse them it would all change very quickly. It’s whether we really want to or really wish to go through the pain that will be involved in that.
But, you know, woman goes through a lot of pain in giving birth to one child. This always has to be remembered in our male way of looking at things, that there are other forms of strength, there are other forms of power and those are good because they’re based on natural processes. There’s quite a lot of women involved in Right-wing politics, actually, and that’s because they sense there’s a danger to their group, and it’s instinctual. It’s not really theoretical, but it’s a response, and that’s a good thing.
No, I believe in the future. I’m a progressive, you see, in a strange sort of way. I just want to progress somewhere else. Nietzsche’s a progressive who wants to go on with inequality. The modern world’s happened. We’re in it.
I suppose the best answer is when somebody asked me, “Why do you like modernist art?” And I do, at least in part, whereas most Right-wing people on the whole can’t stand it. I said, “Because it’s ferocious! And because it’s here, and we’re alive now!” And because it’s non-dualist, and because it’s purely for intellectuals. That’s why the masses don’t like it. And because it’s sort of energetic and slightly horrid. They said, “Oh, that’s not very democratic, is it?” But why? Why be democratic?
If I was on the Turner Prize committee, I’d say, “Well, let’s take these ten criminals and hang them, and we’ll photograph that and we’ll make a Turner Prize exhibit with that!” Damien Hirst can stick his thumbprint on the edge of it and say, “It was my idea anyway, mate!” You know, the man who got an E in A-level art and that sort of thing. I’d give them a Turner Prize that they wouldn’t like. So, that’s my sort of attitude towards things.
Somebody once said to me, “We must blow up the Mandela monument,” outside the NFC or wherever it is on the South Bank. The one that was raised to two levels because somebody tried to do that 25 years ago and the other one that was raised by 400,000 pounds of subscription in Parliament Square because, of course, he’s become a secular saint. I said, “No, don’t do that! Just paint it white and have a dickey bow tie on it with a big red nose, and on Red Nose Day you press a button and the tie goes around and so on, and you’ve made a mockery of him, you see. You’ve engaged in détournement. You’ve turned the thing around.
The Right will only defeat the Left and the Center if it’s more creative, more energetic, more radical, more intelligent, more sassy, cooler. That’s the only way we’ll win. The trouble with Right-wing people, on the whole, is they’re sort of pessimistic, slightly unimaginative. They’re deeply conservative people. They’re very decent people, but they’re conservative. You’ve got to be more radical than that.
I’m a very conservative person, but I’m also a revolutionary. You need the two combined, you see. That’s why I call myself a revolutionary conservative, which most people think, “What is he talking about?” But it’s true. That’s what I am really. The irony is when I was in Griffin’s party I was by far one of the most Right-wing people in it, and that’s not a stupid statement at all. It was strange actually. It went from extreme Tory . . . Because when I turned up many of them thought I’d be an ultra-reactionary in their terms, and I ended up almost an ultra in that party, but in a different way to the others, because they just judge it there’s the civic nationalists, the populists, and the nativists, and the fascists. That’s the range within the party, if one speaks honestly. I didn’t entirely fit into any of those categories.
I think it’s good not to. Why do people always want to fit into these categories, these boxes that people have marked before they’ve even turned up? I don’t see the purpose of all that. They’ve got to find new syntheses, new ways of doing things, new ways of acting and thinking. The Right did that, you see. It was a totally alternative current from 1880 onwards to about 1920. It was also a counter-cultural current. The whole counter-culture in mid-Europe was on that side then. The counter-culture we understand now is the one that fed into the ’60s and the gradual movement through the institutions of the Blair generation is the ’60s coming to power. Greg Dyke in the BBC, Blair in government. It had all been prefigured by people before, but that’s the key generation who are 60 now and were 20 when it was all kicking off in the 1960s. This sort of stuff. A bit different, but that sort of range of ages. Brown is right at the edge of it in age terms. There are younger people still in the Cabinet and seeking to replace them from other parties.
But the ’60s revolution is a cultural revolution, not really an economic one, but a cultural and social revolution and it needs to be reversed or changed. The energy can be taken and changed and moved in a new direction, you see? Everything’s about energy. Master it, control it, and you can control the world.
Probably a good moment to stop actually.