wrote about it. The fact that there were now more poor than there had been before they could hardly regard as a good thing — how could two miserable people be better than one? Not surprisingly, the observers could not bring themselves to realise that the initial increase in the standard of living was being manifested as more people, rather than as more things. This misunderstanding they then compounded by the complaint that these people were being exploited by having to work to main- tain their subsistence. Yet these same people would never have been born, or have survived, were it not for the very system that was now “exploiting” them. Something of the same atti- tude can be seen in the neo-Malthusian great and good of our own time as they contemplate the fecundity of the “Third World”. Even the realm of statistics, where the birth of a child i s m a r k e d d o w n a s a m i n u s a n d t h e b i r t h o f a c a l f a s a p l u s , h a s been affected. 1 9
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
It now time to contrast the operation of the two revolutions. The political one — in France — was set in motion by ideo- logues who thought they knew what they wanted and what they were doing. What they got was their own destruction, a mili- tary dictatorship and twentyfour years of war. The industrial one — in Britain — was initiated by an unknown conglomerate of inventors, businessmen and financiers, with politicians dis- tinctly absent and political change held in abeyance. They had no aims beyond the simple ones that have motivated people at all times — to better their own condition.
Two systems could hardly have competed in better experimen- tal conditions. At the end of the experimental period the result was plain to see. France, by its politics, had made enemies of
every nation on the Continent. Britain, by its enabled those nations to liberate themselves.
economy, had France, even
when states build
mobilizing her own resources (and those of her client- and allies) behind a continental “Berlin Wall”, failed to an industrial economy. Yet what did this continental
super-state lack power? Instead,
that Britain had — coal, iron, Napoleon led her young men to
timber, water- their deaths in
counterproductive conquests; since the young scripts, it was a percentage of all classes that
here, Britain had the advantage; her rank and file predominantly from the bottom of the social scale,
Wellington’s “scum of the earth, enlisted for drink”). f i c e r c l a s s w e r e s t r i c t l y v o l u n t e e r s a n d W e l l i n g t o n h a d gard for their ability — or educability. 2 0
... BUT FRENCH REVOLUTIONS KEEP HAPPENING ...
The Bourbons who returned to France in 1814, and, after Napo- leon’s Hundred Days, again in 1815, were said “to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing”, but the aphorism might have been applied to France as a whole. A revolution in 1830 got rid of the Bourbons; another in 1848, of the Citizen King Louis Philippe; another in 1851 — or was it a coup? — installed Napoleon’s nephew as Napoleon III. Just to make things worse after he lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and abdicated, there was another revolution that failed (the Commune), put down with much bloodshed.
... AND BRITISH REVOLUTIONS DON’T
Not only did Britain not have any revolutions; it grew more prosperous. This may have been a “bourgeois revolution”, but if so it was one unconnected with politics, which continued to be the province of the upper classes with centuries of inherited tradition of governing the country and the money to afford it
( M . P . s w e r e n o t p a i d a n y t h i n g u n l e s s t h e y w e r e m i n i s t e r s u n t i l well into the twentieth century). 2 1
TWO HUNDRED YEARS OF UNLEARNT HISTORY
It may not be too much of an over-simplification to say that the unlearnt lesson of the history of the last two hundred years has been that political revolutions, indeed political theories, have been failures and, to a greater or lesser degree, resulted in human misery. Colossal examples have been the Communist revolutions in the Russian Empire and China (as revolutions) and Nationalism, Socialism and National-Socialism (as theory). Even democracy (“the worst form of government — except for any other” as Churchill put it) has its pitfalls. As long as a hundred years ago, a generation or so after it had been estab- lished in Britain (for men, at least), the historian W.E.H. Lecky noted that a democracy stood in danger of being bribed by d e m a g o g u e s w i t h i t s o w n m o n e y o r w o r s e , t h e m o n e y o f i t s p o l i t i c a l o p p o n e n t s . 2 2 plant. It is also notoriously difficult to trans-
WHY THE POLITICAL PURSUIT? — POLITICIANS KEEP BUSY
So why does the process, this search for some political pana- cea, continue? Why is it always going to work properly next time? Once again we must examine our two systems.
The political system has developed firstly to regulate how a society works and how its members interact with each other (“internal relations”) and secondly to deal with other societies, similar or different (“external relations”). It is constantly at work because apparently something always needs to be done; indeed, there is quite a strong feeling that a politician should c o n c e n t r a t e o n p o l i t i c s a n d a b s o l u t e l y n o t h i n g e l s e ( a P l a t o n i c concept, as those who have read The Republic will realise). Otherwise, what is he getting paid for? It can be seen at once that with the tasks defined above a political system can expand to include any aspect of life and no one can deny that this has been the trend everywhere, regardless of the philosophy on which the local system claims to be based. 2 3
... BUT INDUSTRY DELIVERS THE GOODS
By contrast, the industrial system (increasingly allied with science) although it has to run in parallel with the local politi- cal system, operates in a manner which is at once more dis- persed, pervasive and most important of all, continuous. Its “purpose” is to create a demand for goods or services in ex- change for money. The public votes on its suggestions with its purse, or, more exactly, with its multitude of individual purses. Overwhelmingly, technological advance and the products it has brought have arisen from this source. People now own goods and use facilities which they could not have known even a few decades ago that they would ever want, let alone demand of any politician. Although it is true that some of these have been produced by or with state participation, most of what the state has interested itself in has been weaponry and its ramifications.
POLITICS IS ABOUT DIVIDING UP THE CAKE ...
It here we reach the crux in the contrast between the two sys- tems. From the time when political systems were evolved by communities and populations to deal with other ones and with their own members, the underlying assumption has been that total amount of resources available to be shared by members of a state, or between a state and its neighbours was a fixed quan- tity. For one to gain, another must lose. Every distribution in- volves a “Zero Sum Game”. There is a cake to be divided up. To this day there is enough of this attitude about for it to be almost dignified as an instinct. Even a child has a strong sense