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|From: Irish Foreign Affairs: Editorials|
|Date: December, 2015|
Editorial Back to Fundamentals
Back to Fundamentals
When a Russian passenger airliner was bombed out of the Arabian skies by Islamic State, the fearless and tasteless Charlie Hebdo made sick jokes about it.
But, when a much smaller number of people were killed in Paris by Islamic State a few weeks later, Charlie Hebdo went Jingo.
There is something particularly repulsive about the nationalist sentimentality of French rationalist internationalists.
The French Revolution proclaimed Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and declared that the Rights of Man should rule the world—that is, the rights of Man as an abstraction, Man in general, Man without national attributes. But it was all bogus. The rights of man proved to be the Rights of Frenchmen.
Laurence Sterne made a Sentimental Journey to the Continent and remarked that "they do these things better in France", or words to that effect. But that was before the Revolution.
England, through the pen of Edmund Burke, repudiated the French Revolution and the Rights of Man. Burke declared the Rights of Englishmen. He did not believe in "Man"—and his disbelief in the existence of Man as a political animal without national distinctions has yet to be refuted by events.
Burke proclaimed the Right of Englishmen in a world that was largely inhabited by others. The only general political right he acknowledged for all and sundry was the right to be governed. It was not to be expected that the Others could govern themselves as well as Englishmen did. But it was necessary that they should be governed, and they should be let get on with it as long as they were not causing a disturbance in the world, and as long as England did not need to interfere with them for its own development.
France acts at variance with what it supposes to be its principles when it tries to act Imperialistically as England acts, and it cannot act as England acts because England acts in accordance with its exceptionalist and exclusivist principles.
Burke gave eloquent, philosophical, expression to English particularism—to the English Sonderweg. But he did not invent it. It was the active principle of English life long before him. It was already there in the theocratic Republic of Oliver Cromwell and his Secretary of State, John Milton the poet. It seems to have begun with the gentry spawned by Henry the Eighth’s Revolution of Destruction—the political event called the English Reformation. Those gentry, created and cut loose by the half finished Revolution/Reformation, became a distinctive social element in English political life during the reign of Elizabeth. They wondered what the world was all about. And they discovered the Roman Empire and shaped their imaginations to it.
Another element in the disrupted society went Biblicalist under Elizabeth. It came to power in 1641, conceiving of itself as a direct agent of God in the world.
Cromwell, who was himself a strong Biblicalist, and imagined that God was telling him what to do, found himself in the 1650s caught in an attitude of indecision between those two products of the Reformation, Jerusalem and Rome. The populace, deprived of the familiar political scenery of the Monarchy, were not settling down. The gentry urged him to restore the Monarchy with himself as King. The Biblicalists let him know that he would not live long if he did so. They were intent on establishing the Fifth Monarchy as a theocracy ruled directly by God.
They had a majority in Parliament and they voted to replace the Common Law with the Mosaic law. The Common Law was seen as being necessary to the gentry. Cromwell saved the gentry by dispersing Parliament—of which he was the Protector. He died a few years later, leaving his son as ineffectual dictator of an incoherent Parliament. Poor old Milton was in despair. He could not understand how something that was so simple to do had all gone so badly wrong.
When General Monck put the ‘Commonwealth’ out of its misery by acting behind the back of Parliament and bringing the son of the executed King home from France, and letting him execute the executioners of his father, Milton escaped into turgid theological fantasy about Heaven and Hell.
Thirty ears later James II introduced freedom of religion, and he was overthrown by a combination of the gentry and the Protestant fundamentalists. An accommodation between the two was then worked out, under which the gentry governed the state as a ruling class, with a nominal Monarch, while the Biblicalists had the free run of what might be called civil society, in which the slave trade played a great part.
That arrangement lasted until 1832, when Jerusalem was finally admitted to the corridors of power in the new Roman Empire. And both strands made for the unquestioned exceptionalism of the English state.
The British Empire was made by the sceptical ruling gentry, supported by the theocratic Protestant passion of the populace. Active anti-Catholicism, which was sustainable on a base of either philosophical scepticism or fundamentalist Biblical belief, was the religious bond between them. The building of a world Empire required the disabling of strong European states. These states, fortunately, were Catholic in culture and religion, so gentry liberalism and middle class bigotry ran happily together with regard to Europe.
"Balance of Power" was the English strategy for disabling Europe and leaving England a free hand in the rest of the world. The meaning of the Balance was that the strongest European states should be balanced against each other by judicious English intervention. None of them was allowed to establish the kind of dominance in Europe that England established over Scotland and Ireland.
And England itself was not part of the balance. Its purpose in keeping European states balanced against each other was to free itself for the establishment of unbalanced English power in the world at large. This was made explicit in its naval policy. The Royal Navy had to be kept stronger than the combined Navies of any likely combination of political enemies. Britannia must rule the waves. It achieved Naval dominance from the Seven Years’ War in the mid-18th century and maintained it until the Second World War.
The ruling class of gentry knew how and when to make war advantageously and how and when to make peace advantageously as the fruit of war. At least that was the case for about two centuries and a quarter—until 1914, when it launched a World War deliberately, but rashly, and fought it as a moral crusade to the destruction of the enemy states, instead of feeling its way to an advantageous peace, as it had always done in the past. This appears to have been due to the great increase in the political influence of the Biblicalist middle class and respectable working class, who had been admitted to the corridors of power in a series of electoral reforms, beginning with that of 1832.
The 1914 War was fought wildly and recklessly to the point of destruction of the enemy states (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey), and one of Britain’s major allies, Russia. Italy was drawn into the War by lavish British promises of Austrian territory, but was destabilized in the moment of victory by refusal to let it occupy what had been promised.
The War was not won by the Alliance with which Britain started it. It was a victory snatched from the probability of defeat in 1918 by the intervention of the United States, which displayed in battle a fighting quality equal to that of the Germans.
The European War was a distraction for the United States. The enemy it had had in mind for a generation was Japan. In the 1850s it had sent warships to Japan, forcing it out of its centuries-long isolation, and then a generation later it had begun to regard invigorated capitalist Japan as its next enemy. But, by 1916, it had made an immense economic investment in the British war effort, supplying it with arms and lending it the money to buy the arms. If Britain lost the War, the American investment in it would have been lost. So America went to war in Europe and preserved Britain as its debtor state. But that made it the ally of Japan—or at least the ally of the ally of Japan.
In 1919 the USA chose not to exert its power for the purpose of compelling Europe to make a settlement in accordance with the principles it asserted when going to war. German interests appealed to it as the state which had won the War to take responsibility for organizing the peace, but it chose to let the dependent European victors, Britain, France and Italy, determine the peace settlement.
This allowed Britain to be the world Superpower for a further generation. It dominated its European Allies of the War in the peacemaking. It prevented France, which had borne the main human cost of the War on the Entente side, from establishing the secure Border with Germany that it wanted It vetoed the French attempt to end Prussian influence on Germany by breaking up the German state of 1871 and establishing Rhineland and Bavarian states—a policy which had been implicit in Britain’s own war propaganda. And it vetoed the promised incorporation of the Dalmatian coast into the Italian state.
Britain had scarcely escaped defeat at the hands of Germany (on which it had declared war) than it began to play Balance-of-Power politics against France. If France had got what it wanted from the peacemaking, it would have been established as the hegemonic Power in Europe, and would therefore have become Britain’s enemy once more, as it had been before the unification of Germany. Britain did not wait for this to actually happen. It acted pre-emptively against it.
Britain was apparently back in business as the world Superpower. Its Empire had been increased substantially by the War and, while it set up the League of Nations to keep the idealists happy, it put it very much in second place to the Empire in the handling of world affairs.
So it was Full Steam Ahead! once more. But the Empire had been holed below the water.
It had previously fought wars on credit, and had prospered both from the credit and from judicious peace-making. But the credit had never before taken the form of a massive loan from another state on which it had become dependent militarily as well as financially.
The euphoria lasted a very short time. The US gave it time to pay its money debts, but it quickly insisted that it break its alliance with Japan, or else the US would engage in a Naval race with it. It backed down, decided not to renew its profitable Treaty with Japan, and thereby marked Japan down as a probable enemy.
Modern Crusading, as a major force in the directing of world affairs, began in 1914 when Britain entered the European War and boosted it into a World War whose declared purpose was to destroy the source of Evil in the world and inaugurate Perpetual Peace.
The World War of 1914-19 was Britain’s first middle class war. The Boer War, which had ended twelve years earlier, had been fought in the old-fashioned way by aristocratic officers with restless lower-class elements as infantry. But it also saw the start of direct middle class engagement in war, with the raising of a middle class regiment by the City of London.
The 1914 War took on a middle class character right from the start.
War on Germany had been on the agenda for about ten years. It began with the setting up of the Committee of Imperial Defence by Tory Arthur Balfour, soon after his policy of replacing landlordism with peasant proprietorship in Ireland had been set in motion.
Balfour twice asked the CID to investigate the possibility of a German invasion of Britain. The Committee twice reported that a German invasion was impossible in practice. It described the quantity of shipping that would be needed to convey a German Army to the British coast, said that Britain would have knowledge of the assembly of such shipping as soon as it began, and was certain that the Royal Navy would destroy any invasion force at sea long before it got near the British coast.
About 30 years ago I applied in the State Paper Room of the old British Museum for a report of a speech by Balfour on the Freedom Of The Seas—which he rejected outright—and was given instead, either accidentally or because someone behind the scenes thought that I should see them, a folder of the typed minutes of CID for that period. Balfour’s attempt to raise a scare about British vulnerability to German invasion was dismissed as groundless by the CID.
But Balfour’s concern, of course, was not about the danger of a German invasion. He had decided that it was necessary for Britain to make war on Germany, and therefore he suggested that Germany had the intention and the ability to invade Britain.
I was unable to get copies of those Minutes. Photographs by phone did not exist then. Many years later, after the British Museum Library was moved to the British Library, I tried to get another look at them, but could not locate them.
As I was reading them, it occurred to me that Erskine Childers’ novel, The Riddle Of The Sands, was an attempt to refute those CID Reports by imagining a way in which a German invasion force could be assembled secretly. Childers was a well-connected insider in British ruling circles. He had been active in raising the City regiment for the Boer War. He had written a volume of the Times History of that war, and had defended the Concentration Camp policy by which the Boers were brought to admit defeat. Then he became a Liberal Imperial advocate of Irish Home Rule within the Empire. He ran guns for the Irish Volunteers in the Summer of 1914, in response to the arming of the Ulster Volunteers. The guns were hardly landed when he was off to fight the Germans for four years. During those years he appears to have sickened of the Empire.
He became a very effective propagandist of the Irish Republican Government elected at the end of the War, editing its Irish Bulletin under British military occupation. When the British Government succeeded in splitting that Republican Government and manipulating it into war against itself, its Irish allies—Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith—bore a venomous hatred against Childers and their successors executed him on a trumped-up charge.
When an Empire goes astray, as the British Empire did in 1914-19, bizarre things happen.
British planning for War on Germany began after the Liberal Party won the 1906 Election, and after the old-fashioned Gladstonian leader, Campbell Bannerman, retired in 1908, handing over the leadership to H.H. Asquith, R.B. Haldane, and Lord Grey—who had come out as active Imperialists during the Boer War.
When the opportunity for war presented itself in July-August 1914, there was a British Expeditionary Force ready to be carried to a pre-arranged place in the line in France at a couple of days’ notice.
But it seems that the kind of war Britain fought in 1914 was not the kind of war it had planned for, and that the cause of the deviation from the plan was the antagonism into which British ruling circles had fallen on the issue of Irish Home Rule.
The Government was without a War Minister at the critical moment, because of the Curragh Mutiny. The officers at the Curragh, some of whom had been central to the secret military preparations being made with France for war on Germany, told the Government in March 1914 that they would not let the Army be used to impose a Home Rule Act on Ulster against the resistance of the Unionist Volunteers. The War Minister, Seeley, negotiated with the mutineers, and pacified them with a guarantee that they would not be required to act against an Ulster resistance. This was necessary because there were bigger things at issue than Irish Home Rule. The Army had to be kept loyal, even at the price of appeasing disloyalty on a domestic issue, because you never knew the moment when it might be needed for the Big War.
But the guarantee given by the War Minister to the Curragh Mutineers, necessary though it was, was also a clear breach of Government policy on the Home Rule issue.
The party-conflict in Britain in 1914, Liberal versus Unionist, had reached a degree of antagonism not seen since the Whig coup exactly 200 years earlier. The Unionist Party, equal in size to the Liberal Party, had organized outside of Parliament to prevent the implementation of an Irish Home Rule Act carried through by a Liberal Party that was only the Government because it had the backbench support of the Irish Party—a party which refused in principle to take part in the Constitutional government of the state.
The back-bench members of the Liberal Party and the members of the Irish Party had grown close during the two-year conflict over Home Rule, and both were predisposed against Balance of Power war in Europe.
When War Minister Seeley resigned after conciliating the Curragh Mutineers, the Prime Minister did not replace him but became his own War Minister. The war planning of the CID, under instruction by the inner group of the Liberal Government, was being done behind the back of the Liberal Party membership. A trusted Imperialist, but one with good Liberal credentials, was needed for the War Office. It seems that such a man was not easy to find.
The weeks between the Curragh Mutiny and the Declaration of War were a busy time for the Prime Minister/War Minister. In order to remain in Government, he had to maintain apparent progress towards Irish Home Rule while at the same time warding off the civil war that was lurking in the Home Rule issue.
On July 26th a crowd that was carrying the Volunteer guns landed by Childers at Howth into central Dublin was shot into by the British Army and three were killed, while over thirty were injured. What the consequences might have been if the Great War had not descended on the situation is anybody’s guess.
The first definite military move towards war in Europe was the Russian mobilization the day before the Bachelors Walk shooting. Other mobilizations followed predictably. During these days Britain played the part of ineffectual peacemaker. For political reasons it had to delay entry into the war until the German Army crossed the Belgian frontier.
It was well known that Germany, caught within the Franco-Russian alliance, had a plan to outflank the French defences by a march through Belgium. What Britain should do if that happened was discussed in the British press before it happened. The opinion of the Liberal papers was that it would not be sufficient reason for Britain to enter the war. The Liberal Government had to find a way of sweeping aside this opinion, and a German march through Belgium was all that was in prospect.
The "violation of Belgium" was necessary to the British Government as a cause of war. It would declare war because Belgium had been "violated". But, in order that Belgium should be "violated", the German Government could not be allowed to suspect that this was the British state of mind. The"violation of Belgium", which was to be presented as a wanton outrage against "international law", must be allowed to happen. And, in order that it should happen, the German Government must be deceived about British intentions. And it was deceived.
The British war was then launched as a great moral crusade—a moral crusade facilitated by moral duplicity.
Britain drew Italy into the War in 1915, against the opinion of both the Socialist Party and the Vatican, by appeal to right wing nationalist irredentism, and with the assistance of a renegade from Socialism, Mussolini. Italy was promised large chunks of Austrian territory for joining the Entente—and some of the promises were actually kept.
At the end of the War the Italian Prime Minister, attending the Versailles Conference, observed with astonishment that the British seemed to believe their own moralistic War propaganda—
"When our countries were engaged in the struggle, and we were at grips with a dangerous enemy, it was our duty to keep up the morale of our people and to paint our adversaries in the darkest colours, laying on their shoulders all the blame and responsibility of the War. But after the great world conflict, now that Imperial Germany has fallen, it would be absurd to maintain that the responsibility of the War is solely and wholly attributable to Germany…" (Franco Nitti Peaceless Europe, 1921, p33).
But that was what Britain did.
The combination of disinterested concern with high moral principle, which is always the British posture, with pragmatism in action, which is always the British mode, disconcerts lesser nations. John Bruton, the former Irish Taoiseach and a strong Anglophile, became aware of it when he became a senior figure in the politics of the EU and he doesn’t know what to make of it.
In 1919 Britain acted in the way described by Nitti. It acted out of a disinterested concern for the application of the destructive morality that was implicit in its war propaganda, and it made a mess of Europe. Then it reverted to pragmatic action within the mess, subverting the Settlement it had insisted on, though never calling it into question and advocating a revision of it.
The purpose of the Versailles Settlement was to disable Germany. But the disabling of Germany went with the enhancement of France. Britain did not want French power restored so it began to connive at German breaches of Versailles conditions in the mid-1920s. Then in the 1930s it engaged in an open collaboration with Hitler which restored Germany to the status of a major European Power. And then, having broken up Czechoslovakia for Hitler, it declared war on him over the comparatively trivial issue of the transfer of the German city of Danzig to the detached segment of the German state in East Prussia.
It declared war on Germany again but it did not wage war against it. It offered a Treaty to Poland which it never had the intention of honouring. Poland was left to fight alone in the opening battle of Britain’s second World War of the half-century. With Poland out of the way, Britain tried to make war on Russia in alliance with Finland, but failed. When Germany responded, in May 1940, to the Anglo-French declarations of war on it, Britain withdrew its Army from France after a few weeks, and left the French to fight alone.
When France, deserted by its Ally, which had led it into war against Germany, and occupied by the German Army, made a settlement with Germany which provided for the maintenance of a French Government in part of the country with Germans occupying the rest pending a settlement with Britain, the British cried "Betrayal!" and made war on France
From June 1940 to June 1941 Britain "fought alone". That’s what the mythology says. But it did very little fighting. It did not have the will to fight the war it declared. Its desertion of France in June 1940—"Dunkirk"—was met with a great collective sigh of relief at home that there would not be another Somme.
With the Royal Navy still ruling the waves in June 1940, Britain did not need to call off the War it had declared in September 1939. Neither did it need to fight it. It could just keep the War going with very little cost to itself—but at great cost to others.
A British victory in the war it had declared was out of the question after the ‘betrayal’ of France in June 1940. But there was also little prospect of a British defeat, either by invasions of the homeland or loss of the Empire—which it continued to oppress and exploit. So Britain maintained its declaration of war, engaging in some bombing exchanges with Germany.
Its war policy was to spread the War by interventions which led to defensive German occupations.
Intervention in the Italian/Greek War of 1940-41 led to German intervention in support of the Italians, and to the German occupation of Serbia and Greece, and to the establishment of a jubilant Croat state under German auspices.
The USA was appealed to, but its mind was on Japan. It bided its time, knowing that it had the ascendancy over Britain. Again it sold armaments and lent it the money to pay for them. But it was immune to British moral propaganda.
The great aim of the policy of spreading the War was a German/Russian War. If that had not been in prospect, the policy would have been futile, and would no doubt have been discontinued. Churchill’s great achievement was to maintain a war situation in Europe, while doing very little fighting, until the German/Russian War came about.
Other peoples had suffered from the British policy of spreading the War, and suffering was to be magnified a thousandfold by the success of the policy, but the British maxim was, The worse, the better.
Churchill did not start the War. He would not have been allowed to. He was too much of a warmonger on principle, and had too little relish for moral humbug. All he did was to maintain Chamberlain’s declaration of war during the year after Dunkirk, doing so from a position of relative security.
For that modest achievement, he has been puffed up to the status of a Great Man on whose actions History turned. We read, for example, in the Cork Examiner, in a review of a biography of Frederick the Great, that "In the 'great man' pantheon of European history, Frederick… stands alongside Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Churchill" (Prof. G. Roberts of UCC, 29.8.15).
The War passed out of Britain’s hands when it betrayed France, and vilified it, in June 1940.
The French democracy made a provisional settlement with Germany, pending a withdrawal of the British declaration of war. General de Gaulle defected from the French Army in order to project a myth from which France was to be re-invented and was impatiently tolerated by Britain as he created the Free French Army in exile. The Free French had no hope of taking control of France from the German occupation and the Vichy democracy, but neither had the Imperialist British who despised De Gaulle. The game of war had passed into other hands. The British, who "stood alone", and the Free French, maintained a token involvement in the War while creating myths for the post-War era. The War ended with the defeat of Germany only because it became in substance a war between Germany and Russia.
Britain and the Free French had a presence in the post-War settlement of Europe only because the USA decided that the moment had come to exert its will in Europe. If the US had given priority to the war with Japan, which it had provoked with ultimatums with which Japan could not comply, what became known as ‘the West’ would probably not have existed. It was US involvement that enabled Britain and the Free French to be in France and Western Germany when the Russians arrived in Berlin.
The Cold War between the British and French, who had started the war with Germany but had failed to fight it with purpose and energy, and Russia, which defeated Germany, began simultaneously with the defeat of Germany.
Churchill, the hero as well as the creator of the post-War myth of the War, sometimes stood back from the mythology in order to make a blunt statement of facts—being in that respect less Churchillian than the Churchillians. He reasserted after the War that the basic enemy of all that he stood for was Communist Russia. And his History of the War contains strong hints that it was foreign policy bungling by the Empire between 1919 and 1939 that led to a second Anglo/German War, instead of war with Russia.
He had wanted to make war on Russia in alliance with Germany in 1919, instead of humiliating Germany to Russia’s advantage. Then he had praised Fascism as the force which had saved capitalist civilization from Communism—and he never apologized for it. (The Churchillians avert their minds from it.)
It was sheer bungling by the Empire that brought about the absurd alliance of British civilization with its fundamental enemy against an enemy which, properly handled, would have been an ally. Then, when the accidental Fascist enemy was defeated by the fundamental enemy who had become an ally, Churchill would have made war on this obnoxious ally if he had had the means of doing so—which by this time was the nuclear bomb—and the necessary freedom of action, meaning independence of the USA. He had neither.
Fascism had quickly become the general political system of Europe west of the Soviet Union, following Britain’s irresponsible declaration of a war which it did not have the will to fight in earnest. Resistance to Fascism in Europe was slight. Europe could not, or would not, have freed itself from Fascism—which was a compromise between capitalism and socialism.
Europe was freed from Fascism by Communism, even in the part that the Communist advance did not reach—the power of the German Army having been met with the greater power of the Red Army in Russia and being driven back systematically before the USA shepherded the British and Free French back on the Continent.
To the minor extent that some Power other than Russia played a significant part in defeating Germany, that Power was the United States. Its intervention in the War brought about what came to be called Free Europe. And Free Europe did not include those parts of Europe which lay within the sphere of the Power that had resisted Nazi Germany and destroyed it.
Free Europe was capitalist Europe. But Free Europe had not freed itself, and it was not capitalistically vigorous.
The post-1945 Capitalism of Free Europe, and of Britain, was created by the United States, which still asserts proprietorial rights over it.
As far as the reconstruction of Europe after 1945 had an internal source, it lay in the movement of Christian Democracy, based on Catholic social policy, which had not collapsed into Nazism, as German Protestantism did, but which was not laissez-faire capitalist either. It eased the transition from fascism to liberal democracy restrained by a "social market", and it constructed the political alliance of France, Germany, Italy and Benelux which evolved into the European Union.
The post-War alliance had the economic object of making a protectionist Europe self-reliant, and the political object of ensuring that Britain could never again play balance-of-power games with the states of Europe. For a generation Western Europe held to these objects. During that generation it was led by politicians who had experienced the inter-War handling of Europe by Britain. Then, in the 1970s, Britain was admitted to the alliance—and, naturally, it set about subverting both of those objects. And it has succeeded to an extent that seemed very unlikely only 25 years ago, with the result that Europe no longer has any idea of what it is.
Western Europe united while Britain was recovering from the consequences of its 2nd World War of the half-century. A united Europe is incompatible with British interest, therefore Britain has been working tenaciously at dissolving it.
Observation of Britain’s methods at close quarters in Europe shocked the Anglophile, John Bruton, whose Anglophilia followed from a baseless idealism. What shocks him is that Britain retains its own sense of destiny and works full time on it.
What other state in Europe now has a sense of destiny? Ireland once had it but has lost it. And likewise with the EU. And Ireland, knowing no better, helped Britain to dissolve the European sense of destiny.
In a state without a sense of destiny, politics can only be a hand-to-mouth affair. But European politics under British handling seems to be reaching a point at which hand-to-mouthism will no longer be possible.
If Britain feels it has done enough damage to the EU from within and decides to leave it, Ireland will have to decide whether it has reverted to the status of West Britain or still has a will of its own lying fallow.
As to Britain, it is incapable of being European.
England is a State, not a people. The people have, for centuries, been continuously re-shaped to serve the purposes of the State.
About 300 years ago Daniel Defoe (the Whig politician who wrote Robinson Crusoe) published a satirical poem called The True Born Englishman. The great secret about the true-born Englishman was that he was a European mongrel. Defoe was the loyal follower of a Dutch King. A few years later the true-born English had a German King. And it was a Donegal Gael, John Toland, who went to Germany for the Whigs to find a King for them.
The influence of the English State, like that of the Capitalism which it brought into being, acts as a solvent on values.
The Reformation enacted by the English State was essentially a solvent of values. It was in that respect utterly unlike the Luther Reformation, which asserted values and preserved them.
The English Reformation lay behind the American Revolution, which in turn lay behind the French Revolution. Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution on the ground that its influence was destructive. He did not care to trace the English influences on the French, or the destructive influence of the English Reformation on England itself. These would have been dangerous lines of thought for somebody who was not only born in Ireland but was almost an Irishman. The furthest he could go was to comment favourably on Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister, who tried to calm things down after two centuries of destructive revolutionism.
But Walpole’s son, Horace, who is dimly remembered as a Gothic novelist, was less inhibited, and, in his correspondence about the French Revolution, he comments:
"What hundreds of thousands of lives did the Reformation cost? And was it general at last? What feeling man would have been Luther if he could have foreseen the blood he should occasion to be spilt? For Calvin, he was a monster…" (30 April 1791).
That may have been the truth of the matter for the Continent. But for Ireland, an island beyond an island, what was monstrous was the eclectic mix of Luther, Calvin and Rome in the English Reformation State, which did not repudiate the principle of Papacy when detaching itself from Europe but reasserted it in extreme form when it proclaimed itself to be an Empire and forged a totalitarian unity of Church and State such as Europe has never known, and set out on its centuries-long campaign to destroy Irish life.
The world is being driven back to fundamentals by the way it has been conducted by the USA, Britain, and Anglicised Europe since they won the Cold War. Foreign policy has all but ceased to be a matter of making choices within a widely-accepted consensus about basic things.
The turning-point is identifiable. It happened when the Calvinist underlay in the British State took command of the conduct of the war that had been prepared by the ruling class, which for two centuries had been fighting wars to improve Britain’s position in the conflicts of interest which arise naturally in the world, and fought it as a total war of Good against Evil.
Reasonable conduct in pursuit of advantage became impossible when the spectre of Evil was raised, and there was a reversion to Calvinist, or Zwinglian, absolutes in a political culture which had prided itself since the early 18th century on having left such things behind it.
"Mobs can destroy a government for a time, but it requires the greatest talents and the greatest firmness—nay, and time too, to recompose and establish one". England used to know that. Or its ruling class, when it had one, knew it. Even Horace Walpole knew it. And even the despised Rousseau knew it—despised by the Irish Establishment in its Eoghan Harris era, in imitation of English fashion: see his conservative advice to the Poles. But now England acts with France in destroying states and raising mobs to take the place of states. And it professes moral outrage when the consequences of its destructive actions re-act back on itself.