In 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors, following the death of George Floyd in the United States, in the name of “standing up to racism” and “equality”, damaged monuments, tore down statues and vandalised historical buildings all across the United Kingdom.
These actions were not random. As the Heritage Foundation noted: “The BLM organization is employing the well-known Soviet practice of purging history […] they want wholesale submission to their devastating ideology”.
Instead of defending the national heritage, the response from many UK politicians was largely in agreement with these protests, with 59% of the members of the House of Commons tweeting about Floyd’s death using the “Black lives matter” between May 26 and June 10. Politicians weren’t the only ones who showed support for this organisation, or its self-proclaimed fight for equality. From academics, scientists and teachers to athletes, celebrities and journalists, people from across important cultural institutions have embraced BLM and its aims.
While some of the protestors undoubtedly were concerned with people suffering injustices based on their skin colour or faith, or any other prejudice, at the core of the BLM movement lies the philosophical doctrine which, when put into practice, resulted in tens of millions of deaths and the devastation of livelihoods of many more millions of people in numerous countries. We are talking here about Marxism and its variations that, when applied, is transformed into communism. Importantly, communism, as Thierry Wolton explained in his 3,000-page study of the phenomenon, every time it was implemented, its form was “tailored” to fit the particular country over which it was imposed.
BLM’s allegiance to the Marxian faith can be seen not just through their actions (one of its founders declared she is a trained Marxist) but also on their website, in the section entitled “What we believe”, which they subsequently deleted when commentators began pointing out BLM’s intention to break up the family, something which both the Bolsheviks and the Maoists have done.
Furthermore, by reading that section, the use of the dialectical, a Marxist tool borrowed from Hegel to divide and conquer, can be seen in the way they portray themselves and the world around them: “America is the home of the free (thesis). America was founded on slavery (antithesis). Therefore, America must be changed into something different (synthetises)”. To reach the synthesis, Marxist tear down the culture through relentless and ruthless criticism to make room for their ways. “Marx saw criticism of the system itself as the vital first step in remaking the world” explains James Lindsay, and those who oppose these criticisms often face backlash.
However, BLM is part of a broader Marxist movement with totalitarian tendencies called “Wokeness” which has spread across key institutions such as education, art, politics, justice, journalism and even science. This ideology of “Wokeness” has been relentless in attacking every cultural pillar of the Western world.
Mark Avis, a New Zeeland academic, has done an excellent job at tracing the roots of the Woke to the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century in two essays: Wokeism: A New Fascism, Nazism or Marxism? and Comparison of Wokeism and Other Evil Ideologies. I have also done an in-depth analysis of this ideology in two publications: Why many young Westerners hate Hitler but are unsure about Stalin? and Creating the “New Man”: Marxist Re-education under Communism and in the West today.
How much and for how long can a country’s culture endure before it is being so torn down by its critics that it can no longer be a useful source for a common identity of a people? And, if this collapse happens, what do we, those who live in the Western countries like the United Kingdom, stand to lose?
My home country can serve as a case study in answering the first question.
I immigrated to Sheffield (England) in 2011 from Romania, where I was born and grew up. Two key reasons for taking this step were economic opportunities and better education, especially at the university level. Why though were these two things not present in my home country?
Romania today is a country without national identity, without a sense of and respect for individual freedom or rights and without an economic future. This is the direct result of more than 40 years under a Marxist ideology (Bolshevism) and excessive corruption following a revolution that did not severe the ties with the old communist regime which survived in the mentality of most politicians and bureaucrats.
Between 1947 and 1989, the communists persecuted religious people and institutions, eradicated economic prospects through collectivisation, censored everything that was deemed dangerous to the communist ideology, imposed double speech through rhetoric backed by fear, destroyed art and monuments, terrorised the population through the secret police, demanded punishment for historical sins, indoctrinated the young and re-wrote the past.
There are many books that document what happened in Romania under the Marxist regime in detail. For reference I recommend the following three: The Stolen Church by Andrei Ratiu, Povestea Elisabetei Rizea din Nucsoara (The Story of Elisabeta Rizea from Nucsoara) by Elisabeta Rizea and Vertebre romanesti. Marturii ale rezistentei anticomuniste (Romanian bones. Confessions from the anti-communist resistance) by I. Catalui, A. Cristodulo and V. Mitric-Ciupe. Alternatively, you can read about the re-education programme from the Pitesti prison, also called the Genocide of Souls.
The cultural assault that Romania endured was long lasting and brutal. Of course, Britain (and more broadly the Western world) is not facing something of such intensity. However, some of the dynamics mentioned above are at play today all across the West.
We’ve already seen the close parallels between the “Woke” actions of the BLM movement (tearing down statues, vandalising monuments and of attempts to “purge” history) and what the communists did in Romania. Here are a few more disturbing examples that draw further similarities.
Double speech (a by-product of double think) under the Marxist regime meant that communist authorities would explain how the Party desired and worked towards the good of all people while spreading fear and committing atrocities and human rights violations. They would stab you while smiling and ask you to apologise for being stabbed.
The same mechanism of saying one thing but doing the opposite can be seen in many actions taken by those who embraced the “Woke” ideology. “Both Cambridge and the Booker Prize claim to be defending free speech while simultaneously cancelling people they disagree with” writes The Telegraph in an article entitled “The double-think of the woke elite blinds them to their own ridiculousness”.
Furthermore, here is what Sergiu Klainerman, a professor of mathematics at Princeton who grew up in Romania under Ceausescu, recently stated about the “Woke” ideology:
“Unlike the traditional totalitarianism practiced by former communist countries, like the Romania I grew up in, this version is soft. It enforces its ideology not by jailing dissenters or physically eliminating them, but by social shaming, mob punishment, guilt by association, and coerced speech.”
After over four decades of cultural onslaught from Marxist ideology, the only thing that remains today of Romania is a country with only a name but without a national identity.
Here in the West, we are not there yet. Nevertheless, new technologies, such as social media, make radicalisation possible far easier and faster than in the past. This makes the threat from this far-left doctrine tangible and urgent. It is perhaps not necessary for “Wokeness” to attack British (and Western) culture for four decades before it weakens its role in serving as a common oasis of identity for those who were born on these lands. The more generations that are born in a country with a vague past, one which is no longer a nation but a place without characteristic values and traditions, the more likely will be that the cultural heritage is eventually lost.
This brings us to the second question: what values and traditions are we standing to lose?
Although better economic prospects and a degree for a good university were important factors in immigrating here, so were the values and institutionsof the society I hoped to call home.
For example, the preference for self-governance and the opposition to absolutism are two of the most significant British traditions, on which the greatest experiment in human history (the United States of America) was founded upon. From these two traditions springs a passion for personal freedom and ardent opposition against state coercion.
There are other cultural aspects which we should cherish, such as the common law tradition, the value of fair play, the gentleman and sartorial history, great institutions of education like the universities from Oxford and Cambridge, founded on a thirst for knowledge and a quest for the betterment of mankind and, last but not least, patriotism, or love for the land on which one is born. It is forever important to remember that Britain stood alone against Hitler following France’s defeat – despite many attempts to eradicate this fact from the so-called revisionists (see below).
“Britishness itself is under attack from those who want to rewrite our history” reads a headline from a recent article published by The Telegraph. However, a historian for The Guardian wrote gleefully: “Don’t worry about ‘rewriting history’: it’s literally what we historians do”. This is sad and wrong. As the work of Giambattista Vico and Isaiah Berlin demonstrates, we should understand history as it was, not interpret it through the lenses of today’s intellectual fashions which distort the reality of the people who lived long before us: Britain’s past has sins and achievements, like the past of any other nation.
We can protect British values and traditions by preserving and understanding the past, not purging it. As Alexander Stoddart recently explained, culture is communion with the dead. As such, when we defend Britain’s cultural heritage, we also defend the works of John Stuart Mill, Roger Scruton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Francis Bacon, Stephen Hawking and of other British people who have made great contributions to our civilisation and who are no longer around.
Importantly, the Left’s savage attacks on British and Western values have been made possible because the Right, especially the conservatives, for so many years have been cowardly quiet with a few exceptions that include Sir Roger Scruton, writer and journalist Douglas Murray, historian David Starky and Conservative MP Michael Gove.
However, most of the dandies on the Right have been blinded by the financial fruits of globalisation (a force that has helped destroy the cultural identity of Britain and of other nations). I have met many people in the City of London – all capitalists, of course, with a taste for culture and art (the fruits of a civilisation that is vanishing) – who gladly did business with companies that rooted for the Chinese Communist Party, for globalisation, for financialisation and viewed the brutal attack on individual freedom during the 2020 US election as a joke. These are the sort of people who love to preach their alliance to higher ideals – like beauty, truth and good – but are too cowardly (or rather incapable in some cases) to understand the need of defending, let alone to actually defend, these ideals.
On this side of the political spectrum we can also include the Right-wing grifters which are hungry for re-tweets and “likes” on social media but who have a very superficial agenda that does not really seek a reformation of the current society into one which virtues such as truth, beauty and good are aspired towards; rather they want to make money while virtue signaling how patriotic and pro-West they are. Meanwhile, the far Left has managed to finally provoke what looks to be a similar response in its radicalism on the Right’s more extreme elements, the Neo-Integralists, who are arguing for authoritarian remedies to a totalitarian threat (the Woke). I wrote a piece recently on the rise of the Neo-Integralists and their core arguments – The Far Left is Here. The Far Right is Coming..
However, British values are part of a broader repertoire of traditions which we should carry forward: those of the Western culture, centred upon the idea of individual freedom of pursuing one’s path and of thinking and speaking freely, built on the ancient Roman and Greek civilisations, improved by Christianity and abandoned by Europeans for the idea of material progress at any cost.
“The great ideas of the West—rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, equality before the law, freedom of conscience and expression, human rights, liberal democracy—together constitute quite an achievement, surely, for any civilization”, writes Ibn Warraq.
This collection of virtues is what we are standing to lose. Marxist ideologies, like “Wokeness”, and organisations, such as BLM, attack these values and institutions, aiming to destroy them without providing any alternative: their aim is simply to eradicate (not to reform) the current world. In the absence of a common sense response that is concerned with anything other than upholding these virtues and defending the British and Western heritage, the radical Left already won.