Ralph Miliband


The Politics of Contemporary Capitalism

(Summer 1958)

From The New Reasoner, No.5, Summer 1958, pp.39-52.
Downloaded with thanks as a PDF from the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

I. Fascism and Liberal Democracy

Men of property have always disliked democracy. The gay and the splendid, as Robert Owen aptly called them long ago, have always feared popular participation in politics. There is no instance where, as a class, they have not opposed the coming of universal suffrage. And there are numerous instances of their efforts to destroy representative institutions altogether when those institutions appeared to constitute a real threat to their power, property and privileges.

Fascism in Germany and Italy [1] remains the most extreme example in this century of the anti-democratic propensities of the gay and the splendid. Hitler and Mussolini did not conquer power. It was offered them by those who had held it until then, but who no longer felt able to wield it unaided. For all its complexities, and they were innumerable, Fascism was beyond all else a gigantic protection racket run by the Fascists for their elites. The fee was substantial, much more substantial than the Fascists’ customers had expected. But since the Fascists fulfilled their part of the contract by destroying parliamentary institutions, independent trade unions and left-wing parties, the customers paid, and went on paying without much demur down to and including the last stages of the War. There were Germans who fought the Nazis even when the Nazis seemed invincible. Germany’s traditional elites were not conspicuous among the inmates of the concentration camps.

Of course, Fascism presented itself as a doctrine of social revolution, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois as well as anti-democratic. Many Fascists themselves did believe this and some, like Ernst Roehm, even paid with their lives for their mistake. For a mistake it certainly was. When the victorious Allies entered Germany in 1945, after the Nazis had held undivided power for twelve years, they found there an economic and social system not basically different from that which had existed before 1933. Much certainly had happened in and to Germany in those twelve years; but much more to people than to property. [2] And the same is true of Italy, over an even longer period of Fascist rule.

The thirties were haunted by the threat and then by the reality of Fascist aggression. But millions of men and women in those tortured years were equally haunted by the fear that local elites, impelled by the same motives which had driven their German and Italian counterparts to an alliance with political gangsterism, would seek to replace liberal regimes by suitably adapted ‘national’ variants of Fascism. It was, until General Massu prompted our memories, difficult to recall how urgent that threat seemed at the time, how real the belief that the destruction of liberal democracy would be the almost inevitable answer of ruling classes at bay to challenge born of a decaying order. The air of the thirties, as a fading literature testifies, was thick with warnings that ‘it could happen here’.

It has, since the end of the war, been fashionable, even among some who were then themselves the loudest prophets of disaster, to dismiss these fears as childish fancies or pathological nightmares. This was conveniently to forget how many top people were soft on Fascism in those years, and that there did then exist among them a compelling, often an overt, sympathy for a political system which was not only dedicated to the destruction of Russia, the true embodiment of barbarism, but in which people as well as trains ran on time, in which labour was ‘disciplined’, left wing parties crushed and social subversion decisively beaten back.

It was also to forget that it had ‘happened here’ – in the case of France for instance. For it was not least the anti-democratic propensities of the French traditional elites which made it so easy for them to accept defeat in 1940, in many cases to welcome it. Defeat made Vichy possible, and Vichy meant a restoration of social discipline of which the Third Republic had proved incapable, and a strengthening of social hierarchies which had been equally beyond its powers. Defeat at least guaranteed that nightmares like the Popular Front of 1936 would not recur. Following much the same reasoning, substantial segments of the ruling orders of the rest of Occupied Europe would not have found it very difficult to reach permanent accommodation with Hitler’s New Order, had that New Order endured.

But Hitler was defeated. A war was won which was not begun for democracy but which was waged in its name. And no sooner did that war end than conflict with Soviet Russia, interrupted by a fortuitous alliance that was always more apparent than real, was resumed, also in the name of democracy, democratic values and democratic institutions. Over the last two decades, not a day has gone by in which the spokesmen of the West have not loudly proclaimed their devotion to liberal democracy, their love of representative institutions, their fierce determination to preserve the so-called open society.

These protestations could not but arouse profound scepticism. For the same ardent devotees of democracy showed- no hesitation in supporting and allying themselves with regimes which were on any reckoning, the very antithesis of democracy. [3] Nor did they hesitate to destroy governments issued from popular suffrage; they certainly showed themselves capable of grimly undemocratic behaviour, as for instance in Indo-China, Algeria, Malaya and Kenya.

And most recently, the ease with which French parliamentarians have surrendered to the threats of rebellious Army men and political adventurers demonstrates yet again how much suspicion should attach to the liberal rhetoric of so many of the self-professed champions of freedom and democracy.

Nevertheless, it is true that the authoritarian propensities of the men of power, property and privilege have been greatly subdued since the War within their own societies. The threat of Fascism has lain dormant everywhere in Western Europe since the War, and even lay dormant in France until recently, despite conditions of permanent and acute malaise. The fundamental reason for this, I submit, is that parliamentary regimes have proved far more compatible with the paramount interests of the gay and the splendid than was thought likely in earlier days.

It is with some of the more important elements which have gone to make up that compatibility that I now propose to deal.

II. Western Communism

The political attitudes of the gay and the splendid, and the political strategy of those who speak for them, are largely determined by the view they take of the dangers they face from the left. And the most important fact about the left in Western Europe since the end of the War (there has been no left in the United States since 1948) is that it has come nowhere near to presenting a really serious threat to the established order.

Every Western Communist Party, save the British, came out of the War greatly strengthened. In Italy and France, they were, at the time of liberation, the largest and best organised of all parties. And they were also armed. Yet, any Communist attempt to seize power at the time would have resulted in a civil war in which the Communists’ opponents would have enjoyed, as in Greece, the full military support of Britain and the United States, while they themselves would not have been able to count on help from the Soviet Union. As Stalin is said to have once remarked in one of his more candid moments: ‘The trouble with the French Communist Party is that France has no borders with Russia’. There were other considerations, internal and external, which made the Communists reject ‘adventurist’ policies at the time of liberation, but this was most probably the main one. Instead, they accepted the offer of a share of power in post-war governments.

This seemed to represent a major Communist advance. In fact, the gain was almost wholly to the other side. For it immediately neutralized the Communists as a source of discord at a critical time by trapping them into the constricting net of constitutional respectability. It compelled them to play second-fiddle in non-Communist orchestras, and to play from a score to the composition of which they had made no more than a marginal contribution. As in all their activities, they threw themselves into their new role with inordinate zeal, proudly proclaimed themselves the parties of post-war reconstruction and subordinated all else to that task.

But, to vary the metaphor, the house they so diligently helped to rebuild was the old house, with much the same foundations and much the same architecture. True, the workers were given somewhat roomier quarters in it; but it was the old house all the same.

The Communists knew this well enough. But, given the impossibility of seizing power, there was precious little they could do about it, except to go back into opposition. And this they felt to be highly undesirable since they believed that the share they had obtained in the running of the house was only the prelude to their taking over the whole management.

But this too was illusory. For Communist participation in postwar coalitions could not represent in France or in Italy, as it could and did represent in Czechoslovakia, the first stage in the Communist’s capture of power. It was the prelude to their exclusion from it. So long as they were badly needed to provide the disciplined co-operation of the working classes in the task of reconstruction, they were tolerated if not actually welcomed. But once they could be dispensed with, they were dismissed and thrown back into habitual, and largely ineffective, opposition.

Communist parties have never come near to achieving a parliamentary majority, either alone or in conjunction with dependable allies. Nor has industrial agitation for political purposes proved effective in Western Europe since the War. The Italian Labour Movement under Communist leadership showed that it could very nearly paralyse economic life in Italy for a period of twenty-four hours in protest at the attempted assassination of Palmiro Togliatti. But the difference between this and a revolutionary break-through remains immense. The French Communist Party was able to lead a vast strike movement, attended by a good deal of violence, in 1947. But there was never any question of its being able to turn this into a bid for power.

The sober fact is that the French and Italian Communist Parties the others are not worth mentioning in this context-have not only failed to be serious contenders for power in the post-war years: their total positive impact on the politics of the period has been remarkably small. The French Communist Party has not caused any French Government to deviate, however so little, from its commitment to the American alliance. It has not been able to force any French Government to end the colonial wars in which France has been continuously engaged since 1946; and it has not been able to wrest significant economic concessions for the working classes since 1947.

Both parties have, of course, had to contend with repeated electoral manipulations expressly designed to rob them of a parliamentary representation proportionate to their popular following. But these manoeuvres, if only because they have not been particularly effective, do not begin to explain the relative political impotence of Western Communism.

Nor is it sufficiently explained in terms of the Communists’ more obvious shortcomings. These have not prevented them from gaining and retaining millions of votes since the end of the War, or from continuing to command the dedicated allegiance of hundreds of thousands of their members. However spectacular their vices, there is no reason to believe that these would, in themselves, have been sufficient to repel many more voters and supporters, were it not for the basic fact which is at the core of the Communist weakness and predicament, and that is the fact that there has existed in every West European society a majority of people who would simply not support a Communist-led social revolution, whatever the Communists might say or do.

Communist social revolution is frozen in Western Europe. And it is frozen not only for internal reasons, but also for external ones.

III. America in Europe

External reasons in this context primarily means the role of the United States in Europe since the War.

Few things have given the elites of Western Europe a greater sense of security than the knowledge that the United States, in pursuit of its own interests, could be wholly relied on to come to their help should they be threatened with left-wing ‘subversion’ from within. In that sense, America has been an admirable substitute for Fascism in Western Europe. For it has supplied local legitimists with a degree of contingent strength vis-à-vis the left which they themselves were not confident they could muster. The variety of pacts and alliances which now bind the United States to every country of Western Europe (and practically all the countries of the ‘free world’) are far less important for the promise of help against foreign aggression which they contain than for the promise that the United States would help the forces of legitimacy to resist ‘internal subversion’, a usefully elastic term, which might mean very different things in different contexts.

There is no sane Western politician who has lost a night’s sleep over his country’s exposure to a Russian military attack. But the same politicians have only been able to view with relative equanimity the internal challenges they have confronted, or feared they might confront, because of their certain knowledge that, come what might, they would not be abandoned by the United States.

But the United States since 1947 has done much more than guarantee Western European legitimacy against any possibility of Communist revolution. It has also played a major role in producing a wholly artificial but extremely pervasive shift to the right in European politics; most obviously by its contribution to the total isolation of the Communist parties within their own countries.

How far American pressure was actually responsible for the expulsion of Communist ministers from post-war governments, and how far American help to these governments was made conditional upon such expulsion cannot at present be ascertained with final, documented precision. But it is certainly difficult to doubt that the continued exclusion of Communists from any share of political power, however marginal – and Communist parties have long asked for little more – has not only been due to the hostility, fear and suspicion they evoke among other parties, profound though these feelings have been.

It has also been due to an absolute American veto, to which the other political parties have willingly submitted. And the creation of NATO has obviously made any absorption of Communist parties into the normal process of politics on the pattern of 194547 a matter of the most extreme difficulty.

In countries like Italy and France, where they are the parties of the working classes, this has not only falsified the operation of parliamentary government; it has also meant in effect that the working classes, so long as they continue to support their Communist parties, are permanently prevented from having any share in the shaping of their countries’ destinies. They are in a state of permanent internal emigration.

But America has had a profoundly conservative impact even on countries with negligible Communist parties This is a story which remains to be written. But it is clear, at any rate, that the forms which American aid to Europe took in the post-war years was more of a hindrance than a help to the renovation of European capitalism. It bought off discontent at a price which the local economies were in no position to pay without drastic reorganisation; and it thus made it the easier to put off that reorganisation to the indefinite future. Furthermore, it paved the way for the enlistment of Western Europe in a cold war which, as I shall argue presently, has greatly contributed to the strengthening of legitimacy.

But America, for all its power, could not have played the role it has had it not been for the eager co-operation which it has received, from social democracy on the one hand, and from the traditional local elites on the other.

IV. The Role of Social Democracy

Social democracy has been at the very centre of European politics since the end of the War. It badly needs a proper sociology, the more so since it is a very much more complex phenomenon than either its devotees or its critics on the left have ever allowed.

Any such sociology would have to include as one of its main themes of (analysis the permanent contradiction between social democratic promise and social democratic achievement.

The promise, always, is of social revolution, of the disappearance of capitalism and its replacement by the collective ownership of the means to life, of the creation of the classless society and the humanisation of social relations through the diffusion of the co-operative ethos; and so on.

At no time has social democracy formally renounced these aims. Its own image has never been that of a movement content to administer society or to minister to its more immediate ills.

Parties, however, must be judged not by what they say, but by what they do, particularly when they have been doing it for a quite considerable period of time. And the scarcely controvertible fact is that social democracy, in the light of its achievements, has been about lots of things, but not about the disappearance of capitalism. This, as Harold Laski used to say, it has been glad to view in the perspective of geological time.

What it has been about mainly is making life more tolerable for the working classes within the ambit of the capitalist system. It has been about health, housing, education, wages, industrial relations, social insurance, old age pensions, state intervention in economic life; and also, though not without hesitation, about the public ownership of basic utilities – something which the gay and the splendid themselves, in the conditions of contemporary capitalism, view with little real disfavour.

What this means is that social democracy, for most of its existence, has been primarily engaged in political brokerage between labour and the established order. This is a function which is of crucial importance to modern capitalism, and it is not one which can be properly performed by trade union movements alone, save in the special circumstances of the United States. Twentieth century capitalism requires political, as well as industrial brokerage, on a continuous and organised scale. It requires a political party which can provide the working classes with a convincing promise of real concern for their well-being, yet sufficiently integrated into the established order to make and keep a reasonable bargain.

Social democracy has always been willing to make a bargain. It has become progressively more involved in and part of the politics of capitalism. Its leaders have, ever more frequently since the War, held out eager hands to hold a baby they had not fathered, towards whom they were supposed to nurse hostile feelings, but for whose well-being they have shown a concern as tender as that of its natural parents. They have been regular, even welcome members of predominantly anti-socialist coalitions. They have held office alone, as in Britain, with large parliamentary majorities to support them, without ever seeking to use office for the purpose of achieving a radical transformation of existing patterns of property ownership and control. And they have, out of office, been ‘loyal’, ‘responsible’, ‘constructive’ oppositions, concerned with nothing so much as with reassuring their opponents that they could be trusted not to disturb the foundations of a capitalist order of society, in the event of their being returned to office.

It has not been an altogether easy role to play. Social-democratic parties have always included socialist minorities who have regularly sought to push their parties away from orthodoxy and in the direction of socialist change. This has often produced bitter intra-party battles. But the notable thing about these battles is not their occurrence, but their outcome. Victory – at least so far – has always rested with the social-democratic Establishments. These have always managed to retain command of the party machines, the party leadership, and, most important of all, the command of the allegiance of the majority of the rank and file.

This last fact, points to a cardinal fallacy in socialist denunciations of social-democratic leaders. The fallacy lies in the attribution to those leaders of the sole responsibility for the orthodox postures of their parties, the implication being that these parties would be militantly pure were it not for the political and intellectual turpitude of their leaders. This is too simple. The process is too general and deep to be explained in these personal terms alone. In a complex but potent dialectic, the social democratic Establishment is both the source and the reflection of its clientele’s attunement to capitalist regimes. It expresses both the dissatisfaction with and the acceptance of those regimes by its rank and file. [4]

The social-democratic Establishment has remained afloat on a wave of social amelioration which, whatever the means, has been proved possible within the framework of capitalism. If absolute pauperisation had been an inevitable feature of the system, it would have perished long ago in a series of revolutionary convulsions, or, alternatively, it would have, had to be maintained by means of wholesale repression. And even if the thesis of relative pauperisation were held to be more plausible, the accent would still have to be on ‘relative’ rather than on ‘pauperisation’. Nor would the validity of that thesis distract from the reality of social reform in the postwar era, or from its importance in making politically possible the orthodox postures of social-democracy.

Even so, orthodoxy in home affairs has been as nothing in comparison to social-democracy’s eager acceptance since the War of foreign policies defined, in their main outlines, by those who speak for conservatism and legitimacy.

Here too, social-democracy has never ceased to pay tribute, in a very blurred sort of way, to the concept of international solidarity and to proclaim its attachment to ideals which transcend the narrow categories of the ‘national interest’. But in this, as in other regards, concrete action has consistently belied announced intentions. Nowhere has social-democracy embarked on distinctive foreign policies; at no time have its orthodox leaders shown any real willingness to think out what a foreign policy based on socialist premises must mean in an age dominated by the antagonism between the United States and Soviet Russia.

This failure has been most clearly manifested in social-democracy’s unqualified support for the Atlantic alliance. The leaders of social-democracy have never seemed much troubled by the fact that the dominant partners of that alliance have been, on their own loud admission, inspired by a social philosophy diametrically opposed to their own, or supposedly their own. They have consistently endorsed an American strategy wholly based on the premise that the Russian military menace was a fact, rather than a convenient myth. Their devotion to NATO, the modern version of the Holy Alliance, has been almost religious in its intensity. And there is surely something significant in the fact that the present Secretary-General of NATO should be the former leader of Belgian social-democracy.

Whatever more or less plausible arguments may be advanced for this social-democratic commitment to American leadership, its net result has been enormously helpful to the forces of conservatism. Without the acceptance by social-democracy, in fact if not in words, of bi-partisanship in foreign affairs, it would have been much more difficult to embark on a massive military effort designed to make of Western Europe an advance bastion of American military power; or to obtain popular acquiescence in a nuclear strategy which suggests ever more clearly that its architects are now well past the threshold of rationality.

And, in a larger context, it would have been very much less easy, without social democracy’s willing co-operation, to take the sting out of parliamentary and representative institutions, and to reduce to trivial proportions the critical role which these institutions are supposed to fulfil in a democratic regime.

V. Towards Illiberal Democracy

As in the case of social-democracy, there is a traditional image of liberal democracy. That image is a composite one; it includes the responsibility of the rulers to the ruled and the narrowing of executive prerogative; the subordination of the military to the civil power; the free access to accurate information and open government openly arrived at; the continuous debate of affairs by an alert electorate; freedom to disseminate dissent; the free and effective choice of genuine policy alternatives.

Of course, accounts of liberal democracy, like descriptions of socialism, have always been written in the optative mood. But democrats have always believed that universal suffrage, social reform, the growth of education, the development of the labour movement and the escape of the working classes from helot status must inevitably hold out the promise that image and reality must, sooner or later, come to terms with each other.

Fascism in the inter-war years showed that capitalist regimes held the possibility of a drastic alternative to these expectations. The evolution of liberal democracy since the end of the War now suggests that there is another alternative, less drastic than Fascism, yet very different from the image which liberal democracy has of itself.

No political system wholly relies on coercion; liberal democracy has done so less than most. Some governments seek total conformity; liberal democracy does not. It rests, so we are told, on consent; its life is debate. What does this mean today, in real life?

Consent used to be thought of as the affirmative response of the individual citizen to the rationally presented policies of his government. Whether that kind of consent has ever been more than an edifying myth is neither here nor there. What is quite certain is that it is a myth now. Consent is nowadays, and on an unparalleled scale, the result of engineering, of sloganized reiteration, of proof-by-repetition. All governments whatever their complexion, are now highly skilled at this business and are constantly getting better at the techniques of thought manipulation.

Superior persons often argue that this is ‘inherent’ in the age of mass politics. This is very comfortable. For if it is ‘inherent’, nobody is responsible, except the swinish multitudes who stubbornly refuse to lift themselves to those plateaus of civilised political discourse upon which their betters would supposedly wish to dwell. In fact, elites, whatever they may wish for themselves, do not wish for clarity and the rational discussion of issues. They have a vested interest in confusion, triviality, plausible misinformation and secrecy. Truth may not be revolutionary but it is awfully inconvenient. If it cannot be suppressed altogether, it can at least be smothered beneath half truths which conceal total lies.

It is in a climate of encouraged triviality and induced confusion that the public debate of affairs now proceeds and provides the appearance of freedom without endangering the reality of power. For it is less and less upon the outcome of public debate that actual policy making, particularly in the realm of foreign and military affairs, now depends. Formally democratic governments now have a freedom of action which democracy is explicitly intended to deny them.

Two interrelated factors have greatly contributed to this debasement of the democratic political process. One of them is the progressive militarisation of Western societies, made inevitable by the emergence of the Cold War as the dominant fact of national and international life. It is as sound an axiom as any in politics that military and democratic values are antithetical. But its validity has been massively reinforced in an age where strategy and science are closely allied, and when both feed on secrecy.

Science in our time has made possible a marvellous increase in the human capacity to understand the nature of the physical universe. But it has also, in the very act of extending knowledge, enormously widened the gap between the knowledge of the few and the ignorance of the many. The more some know, the less most do; the greater the knowledge, the greater the ignorance. Here is relative pauperisation with a vengeance. This would be bad enough in itself, and it would urgently call, at the very least, for a drastic redefinition of the basis of modern education. But mass ignorance, in the age of the Cold War, is not only about science; it is also about science at the service of collective death. Alienation in our time has acquired a new dimension. But it is not only alienation from scientific reality; it is also alienation from military-political reality.

This is not something which governments view with alarm. On the contrary they are much concerned to encourage it by insisting that ‘the public interest’ (an exquisitely ironical phrase in this context) requires absolute secrecy in the determination of affairs which are now, in a frighteningly literal sense, matters of life and death.

Alienation also breeds a sense of impotence, a paralysing feeling that the issues are too big, too complex, too terrible, for meaningful participation in policy-making. It is conducive to the private life. Most people want peace; but in the ceaseless din of conflict, they yearn for peace and quiet. The greater the danger, the greater the temptation to seek refuge in privacy from an intolerable burden of choice. Gardening thus becomes an ever more popular hobby.

The Cold War has also eased democratic pressure in other regards. The emergence of a permanent enemy has, Orwell-wise, proved an enormous boon to conservatism in that it has given a new plausibility and a new lease of life to the notion of national unity in the face of a common peril. This is something legitimists are always preaching, which is hardly surprising since the unity they advocate is always on their own terms. Conservatism needs perpetual Dunkirks. The Cold War is a useful substitute for the real thing. And the fact that the permanent enemy is also both the embodiment and the active exponent of social revolution, of an alternative social system, has made it the easier for conservatism to give to the advocacy of fundamental social change the vague aura, and, in places, the precise character of ‘disloyalty’ or worse. Loyalty is another one of those elastic terms which has been usefully stretched in the post-war era. At its tautest, it now means an unquestioning acceptance of, and a dedicated allegiance to, all the major policies and arrangements which happen to suit our rulers. To question these policies is somehow evil, treasonable, anti-national. It is, of course, true that the meaning of loyalty is not permanently as taut as that. But this should not cause anyone to underestimate how far it has now been stretched; nor how much the insistence upon ‘loyalty’ has corrupted the political climate of liberal democracy by encouraging basic conformity (i.e., acceptance of the notion that socialism is evil and the strategy of the Holy Alliance good) as the safest posture for the good citizen.

There are other means of discouraging dissent and the modern liberal state is generous in their use. It has now a highly extensive internal spying system; it opens letters, taps telephones, denies passports, confiscates ‘subversive’ literature, dismisses its employees on suspicion of past, present and future ‘disloyalty’; and much else besides. Nor are these activities improvised, temporary expedients. They are permanent, institutionalised, bureaucratically rationalized techniques. They do not amount to Fascism, the police state or tyranny in the classical sense. They merely signify the steady erosion of freedom, a continuous exercise in the habituation of society to governmental techniques which shock to-day and become part of the landscape tomorrow. There is no longer a qualitative break between liberalism and straightforward authoritarianism. As they say, it’s all a matter of degree. Up to third degree.

VI. Conclusions

Societies, we have learnt, can live half-free. But it is an illusion to think that the political equilibrium which has existed in Western societies since the War is a stable one, that it represents a lasting answer to the multitude of tensions by which these societies are beset. Recent events in France make it unnecessary to labour the point.

Sometime in the last few years, the post-war era came to an end, with the twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, with the failure of the Suez expedition, with the launching of Russian satellites, with the discovery that the American economy had not, even with the massive support of armaments expenditure, concluded a final alliance with prosperity. And it seems as certain as anything can be in an uncertain world that the economic viability and growth of the Communist bloc will be a dominant feature of this post post-war era, that the frightful investment of the Stalinist age will pay growing dividends. Which means, in the vocabulary of our epoch, that the Communist threat will grow.

One answer to this threat is to blow up the planet, a contingency which is now by no means excluded. Another is to seek comfort (certainly not security) in the manufacture and improvement of weapons of war, which increases the likelihood of collective death. But even if it does not bring collective death, the dynamics of the Cold War must produce an ever greater erosion of democracy within Western societies. Both cannot permanently coexist.

On the other hand, the end, or even the slackening of the Cold War would not remove the social, economic and therefore political tensions at large in Western societies. In many ways it would increase them in that it would confront traditional elites with internal pressures which the Cold War helps to ease. The example of France shows how soon men of power, privilege and property everywhere would then discover anew the vices of representative government and seek to act upon their discovery.

The gay and the splendid must either do away with representative government; or they must try to debase its meaning and narrow its consequences. That is the law of their existence. It is a bad law But it can only be abrogated by the transformation of the economic and social structures upon which their political power rests.


1. There were important differences between Italian Fascism and German Nazism. For my purposes, however, Fascism and Nazism are interchangeable terms.

2. Except the property of the Jews, and most of that was absorbed by property owners. The Fascists never even formulated any laws of Ventose.

3. Unless of course it is argued that any regime, however foul, which is also anti-Communist is by definition democratic.

4. The following of social democratic parties varies from country to country. In Britain, it remains predominantly working-class in character. In France, on the other hand, much of it is made up of a frayed white collar lower middle class whose temper and disposition are profoundly hostile to any kind of social change which implies what might be called a genuine popularisation of society. It would be interesting to trace how far the change in following of the SFIO since the War has been responsible for the degeneration of that party, a party which had once Jaurès as its leader and now has Guy Mollet.

Last updated on 11 July 2010