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|From: Church & State: Editorials
|Date: July, 2010
Civil Partnership: The Enlightenment Proceeds
|The destruction of the family as the means of reproducing the species was implicit in the Enlightenment proclaimed in Europe over two centuries ago.
It was declared that individuals were ends in themselves. If they were ends in themselves, then they were under no obligation to submit to social arrangements conducive to the continuation of the species.
England dissented from the European Enlightenment, and made war on it when the Enlightenment took the form of the French Revolution.
The French Republic proclaimed Enlightenment values as the Rights of Man. It defended itself successfully against the military combination got together to destroy it. Voltaire's satirical joke then became the dominant fact of life in Europe: "This animal is dangerous: when attacked it defends itself". By defending itself against the traditional order of Europe, it made itself a threat to Europe.
England, in the voice of Edmund Burke, rejected the idea of any general Rights of Man. Burke held that Rights were particular to national societies and that the universal Rights of Man proclaimed by the French Republic were a danger to the particular arrangements England had made for itself under the rule of the gentry who came to power after the 1688 coup d'etat. Burke's only dissent from the Particular Rights established in the life of this English state was against the Penal Laws applied against the Catholics who were the vast majority of the population in the Irish region of the state.
Burke preached a Crusade for the Rights of Englishmen against the Rights of Man that France was propagating in Europe. Pitt launched that Crusade, and it was sustained for twenty years by the Pittite Whig/Tories shaped by the ideology of Burke.
French ideology was given its most rounded expression in German philosophy during the generation of the French Revolution. But the Enlightenment proved to be the ideology of capitalism. And it was in England that capitalism was being established as a system around which society was formed. In France, and still more in Germany, Enlightenment was a body of ideas held as principles by a stratum of intellectuals that did not hold political power. Developments occurring in actual life in England were reflected in ideology on the Continent, and those reflections were were denied in England itself. (It is not always a good thing to know what you are doing.)
England prevailed. Neither the French Republic, nor Napoleon's Empire which carried with it so much of the Republic, was allowed to find a settled place for itself in Europe. England, by means of its financial power, its Navy, and a small Army, kept Europe at war until the reactionary forces were restored everywhere. Europe became monarchical again in 1815. And the Spanish Inquisition was restored in Spain with the blessing of England.
'Legitimacy' was in power throughout Europe. Legitimacy was what the French Revolution had subverted. An international order was established to ensure that Legitimacy could not again be undermined by a freethinking rebellion here or there. Burke had triumphed.
But capitalism had grown apace in England during the long war against France. And the power of England in the world had grown. English capitalism had become a world force. Arrangements which had served it once became obstacles to it now. Protection had served its purpose. Free Trade became the order of the day for the progressive element—the element standing for the free development of capitalism. The great slave-labour camps in the Caribbean, which had been indispensable to English economic development for more than a century and had therefore been unquestionable, came into conflict with the development of Manchester capitalism, using free labour at home. Slavery, which had been criticised only by a handful of eccentric and irresponsible individuals all through the 18th century, was now found to be an abomination, defended only by a handful of eccentrics.
When France was defeated, Enlightenment ideology was put under curbs by a new European order of things master-minded by England. And then England set about undermining the European international order it had just established. It found that elements of the Enlightenment, which it had just threshed, were required by its own capitalist development. And it found that a united Europe was something it did not want either, even though it was united in a reactionary order it had itself put in place. And Castlereagh, who had organised Legitimist Europe into a system at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, began the work of undermining that system before he got around to cutting his throat in 1822.
England took off into the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838 with a powerful agitation, the like of which has never been since. And there is a sense in which it could be said that nothing much has happened since, other than the expansion of that agitation. The Anti-Corn Law agitation is "the world in which we live in".
Implicit in that agitation was complete individualism—the breaking down of traditions and societies into a uniformity of atoms in a global market. And one of the traditions to be broken down was the gender division.
In the homelands of the Enlightenment, France and Germany, where it was the ideology of hard-thinking intellectuals, traditional life was not destroyed systematically. It was in England that that was done—and in the USA: but the USA, a society built on multiple genocide, there was never a traditional society.
Germany still lives very largely in traditional ways, even though it was in Germany that the Enlightenment was most intensively developed as a philosophy, eg, Kant and Fichte, with Fichte as a systematic Kantian. Enlightenment notions sprang up naturally enough in Koenigsberg—a city which Kant never set foot outside, and which was abolished in 1945.
It was a city of the Hanseatic League. Hanseatic cities were trading cities without hinterlands. Speculation in them was not held back by difficulties involved in the governing of nations.
The first criticism is Kant's philosophy was made by a fellow-citizen of Koenigsberg, Hamman, who went on a commercial mission to London, became aware of the social dimension of Enlightenment there, and decided it would not do.
Kant lived a very proper life in the detached commercial environment of Koenigsberg. He did nothing but write and lecture and take sedate evening walks to keep the blood circulating. Hamman lived and his thoughts were subject to the requirements of living. He contributed four children to the reproduction of the species, whom he conjugated illicitly with his "hamadryad"—his nymph from the peasantry. He took account of nature, and looked on custom as second nature—as nature speaking in human life. For Kant nature was "a chasm in thought". Hamman knew that Kant's destructive Critique produced by the application of Pure Reason would not do. And Kant knew it too, because he went on to write a Practical Reason, in which all that he had destroyed was restored. But it was the Pure Reason that became part of the capitalist development driven by England. And it was in England that religion and custom were destroyed as actual facts of life and mediums of thought.
The coup de grace was given both around 1890 by Robert Blatchford, perhaps the most influential socialist propagandist there has been in the England language. Blatchford's first idea was to base socialism on the remaining traditional life of England, and to revive Merrie England. Then he saw that capitalist development had applied a scorched earth campaign to tradition and that nothing remained to be built on. And he saw that all that made life tolerable for the mass proletariat of England was the capitalist plunder of the resources of the world to feed and entertain it. So be became an advocate for an even stronger royal Navy. And, with custom and tradition gone, religion became nonsense, so he swept that away too with his mass circulation pamphlet, Not Guilty. All Dawkins and Hitchens are doing is picking at the corpse made by Blatchford.
This world without custom or religion—this English world—cannot be the world at large. It dominates the world at large in order to live off it, but the world at large cannot live like that, because that form of life is exploitative and needs regions to exploit.
Ireland was once part of the world at large with relation to England. In the last twenty years, it came close to being part of the English world, though a dependent part. At present it is rather lost.
The fact that England and the USA have taken in large numbers of immigrants is often described as a virtue, as hospitality. It arose in fact from material necessity. This should be obvious in the case of the USA, where a small, belligerent, colony exterminated the peoples of half a Continent and brought in people of their own kind to fill the empty spaces. In England the need arose from the decline in reproduction.
Bernard Shaw—Lenin's "good man fallen among Fabians"—observed that the English working class cut down on its rate of reproduction in the mid 19th century in order to increase the market value of labour-power, while capitalist development required an expanding labour force. The shortfall was made good by immigration. There has been mass immigration into England since the mid-19th century—beginning with people fleeing from the induced starvation of the 'Famine' in Ireland—with no proportionate increase in the overall population, which has grown very slowly indeed.
In the old Political Economy there was some rule about Demand and Supply balancing through their reciprocal relationship. Demand bought what was there, having been created by the production of what was there. But the Imperialist development of English capitalism—which had developed within an Imperialist framework—brought about a geographical and human separation between demand and supply. England demands: Asia and Africa supply.
England is above all else a state. It is a state that is prior to the people in it. And it is a state which, by purposeful use of military, financial and industrial power over many generations, has arranged that most of the rest of the world should supply it with goods and people.
It used to be said that the Family was the unit of society or of the state. That remains the case in much of the world. But in England the condition in which the family is a social unit have been done away with. When people can be imported and knocked into shape there is no need for families. Strong-minded individuals can still produce cohesive families, but they are no longer produced naturally by the custom of the country.
Another English socialist of the late 19th century had a vision of the future that might result from the progressive element in late Victorian culture, and he worried that the danger with ideals was that they tended to be realised.
The implicit ideal of individualist uniformity is the single-person household. and single-person households are the growth sector of society (so to speak).
The Chair of the Institute of Directors in England, Ruth Lee, said a couple of years ago that the decision whether to have children is an individual life-style choice, and that the state should take no account of the family in its economic arrangements. And who could argue the matter against her, beyond uttering a sentimental regret that it should be so, and a wish that the thing should not be stated as baldly?
The family has been dissolved on the ground that it is economically irrational. The bonds of marriage have been so loosened that the ceremony is now little more than occasion for display. One could now marry a different person every year if one could afford it.
When Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto a hundred and sixty two years ago, they were denounced as preachers of Free Love by a capitalist middle class setting out on its historic adventure, having only just achieved globalist free trade with the repeal of the Corn Laws, and still imagining itself to be Christian. (The Corn Laws were repealed by a Government of Tory gentry on the pretext that it would save the Irish from the 'Famine' by enabling them to buy cheap food. But what it did was hand over the world to a capitalist middle class with boundless ambition.)
The authors of The Communist Manifesto replied that it was not their aim to establish free love in place of the family, but that the free trade capitalism that had just been unleashed would in its development destroy marriage and the family. and it has done so. Is marriage a la mode not a kind of free love?
Individuals combine and recombine at will into transient couples. When doing so, some go through the form of signing an easily-broken 'contract of marriage' at each change. Many others do not. An Act has now been passed in Ireland, establishing a 'civil contract' as a kind of marriage substitute for couples who could not bother making a formal marriage, even with the easy availability of Divorce.
Around the time of The Communist Manifesto another book was published at the other end of the political spectrum: The Ego And Its Own by Max Sterner—meaning the Ego and its property. The future was truly grasped by the title of that book.
Forget about the two becoming one flesh etc. That belongs to the era of darkness and superstition, in which humanity has lived from the time of its origin until—— well, really, until now.
The Ego is the unit of society. It has its rights—it has its property. And the property rights of Egos which neglect to make a marriage contract to safeguard property when engaging in liaisons must be safeguarded on their behalf by the state. It also provides for settlements about children.
And the rights of other, propertyless, Egos to support by propertied Egos who are so careless as to form liaisons with them must be cared for.
The new Act establishes implied contracts after the event for individuals with so little of the sense of citizenship that they could not be bothered to make a dissoluble marriage contract when engaging in their liaisons and thus put their property at risk. And property is sacred.
The same Act also provides a kind of marriage contract for asexual relations between couples, where there is no possibility of children being produced.
When President Clinton said "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", we assume that he took expert advice in the matter and told what he took to be the truth. What he did with her was to get her to suck him off—and children are not conceived in the stomach. Sexual activity is the activity through which children are conceived—or at least are conceivable.
Homosexual marriage strikes out the very idea of marriage as it has been understood through the millennia, by separating it in principle from reproduction. From that vantage point, homosexual relations are only a kind of play. But, since marriage had been undermined anyway in the heterosexual sphere, and the rearing of children is increasingly being taken in hand by the state, why not have mimic homosexual marriage?
Some of those who put the Bill through the Dail gave the assurance that homosexual marriage is out of the question. But those who pushed for it have it very much in mind. And the wind is with them. Property is sacred regardless of sex.
The view of this matter expressed here is one that we put close on forty years ago in discussions with various homosexual pressure groups. Some of them agreed with it, others held that biology had nothing to do with it, and assured us that the crude method of reproducing the species by impregnating women would soon be obsolete. (G.B. Shaw in his play about the future, Back To Methuselah, expected that eventually people would be hatched in eggs outside the body and reproduction would become more rational and tasteful.) But those discussions were always conducted reasonably, whether there was agreement or not.
However, an encounter with a homosexual group which owned a bookshop in Cork was not so reasonable. The group took offence at some passing remark in an article and threatened that, unless an apology was made, our publications could no longer be sold by them. We published letters on the offending article from Kieran Rose, who made the going for the present Act, and from the Secretary of the group, but we could see no grounds for an apology.
They said, in that case, our publications were out of their shop. We said, So be it. And so it has been ever since.
And political censorship by shopkeepers in Cork was and is nothing unusual.
The Enlightenment Proceeds (Civil Partnership). Editorial