When growing up, I suffered the delights of totalitarianism first hand.
That experience, while crippling in many ways, was also helpful. It left me with a lifelong love of freedom, loathing of totalitarianism, sensitivity to its manifestations and a realisation that no country is immune to this blight.
Watching the mob attacking and injuring policemen, befouling statues in Parliament Square and Whitehall, and trying to burn the British flag at the Cenotaph may be seen as anarchy and hence a harbinger of totalitarianism to come.
The choice of defaced statues is curious. Gen Haig, Allied commander during the First World War, may at a stretch be seen as a hireling to British colonialism. But Abraham Lincoln’s racial offences aren’t immediately obvious. After all, he led a fight against slavery, ostensibly at any rate.
And Churchill inspired and led one against the most racist modern regime. True, I’ve met some people who believe that Britain backed the wrong side in that war. However, that belief usually comes packaged with some others that are unlikely to appeal to the BLM crowd.
It takes many adhesives to glue a nation together, and one of them is surely respect for the nation’s history, signposted and highlighted by heroic figures like Churchill. Spray-painting WAS A RACIST on his statue makes it clear that large swathes of the British population don’t identify with their nation and feel no allegiance to it.
That, as far as I’m concerned, entitles the government to invoke the ancient principle of protectio trahit subjectionem, subjectio projectionem (protection entails allegiance; allegiance, protection).
If some people deny allegiance to the Crown, the embodiment of the nation, they forfeit the right to its protection. The most visible protective document is the UK passport, and its possession has always been contingent on loyalty.
That was, for example, the principle that led the Nazi collaborator William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) to the gallows in 1946. Though a US and Irish citizen, he used a British passport to travel to Nazi Germany, where he became the leading Anglophone propagandist.
Despite having got that passport on false pretences, Joyce was under the protection of the Crown on his travels and could therefore be judged as a traitor to it. Had he used one of his other passports, he would have got off with a small fine. On the same principle, I think HMG should withdraw its protection, and hence British passports, from the spray-painters.
However, their manifest disloyalty may presage totalitarianism, but isn’t yet totalitarianism in itself. The slogan SILENCE IS VIOLENCE, on the other hand, is totalitarianism at its purest.
When I lived in Russia, I was a dissident, but not the most outspoken one. However, I always got in trouble with every tier of authority, all the way up to the KGB. That happened even when I kept my hatred of the Soviets to myself.
I realised why that was. For there exists a vital difference between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Both enforce acquiescence, but only the latter demand vociferous sycophancy.
I was more or less ready to offer acquiescence or at least a credible pretence of it. But I balked at vociferous sycophancy, knowing that it would have killed my soul, leaving me with no right to self-respect.
Yet silence wasn’t good enough for the authorities. They too treated it as tantamount to violence against the regime – and violence begat a violent response.
That’s why, when I see this sinister slogan, I shiver with terror – on top of the revulsion I feel at the sight of the revolting mob. I fear for the country, not so much for myself: if the KGB couldn’t force me to toe the line, then this lot certainly won’t.
But their very insistence that everyone should make transparently cretinous noises along the BLM lines, while perhaps also ‘taking the knee’, brackets them together with the KGB, Mao’s Red Guards and Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. How long before they begin to respond to this putative violence with the real kind?
All the rioters need is the power to enforce their totalitarian demands. That they haven’t yet got. But any confrontation between law and lawlessness is a zero sum game. The more power does one side have, the less has the other.
Our law enforcement is demonstratively impotent in the face of mob violence, which empowers the mob no end. God only knows how far they’ll go this time if certain of immunity. One thing for sure: next time they’ll go even further.