On September 28, Lady Thatcher - formerly Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Great Britain - delivered an important speech to Conservatives assembled in Washington, D.C., for the purpose of taking stock. Lady Thatcher puzzled over the odd combination of current political indicators which seem to confound other observers as well. On the one hand, the Soviet Union is no more and Socialists from Tony Blair to Bill Clinton have adopted much of the rhetoric long associated with Conservatives. The natural deduction is that "Socialism - The Idea" has lost. On the other hand, Socialist parties have recently won elections from Britain to Hungary, and all fundamental institutions of America - as well as of Britain - are threatened by forces from within and without.
Lady Thatcher then lists the various threats to our institutions, from the Constitution through Language, Family and Defense, all the way to National Identity. She calls for a "Defense of the West" in response. It is confounding indeed. If Socialism has lost, who or what is threatening our way of life? Against whom do we defend "The West?"
Most of us have watched police stories in which the sketch artist is given a photo and asked to produce a series of drawings which show how the person in the photo might look at different ages, with hair and other features also changed. These then are circulated nationally, or through Interpol, leading to the apprehension of the suspect. What if we have been searching for the "wrong person" at the wrong places? What if the passage of time and the current choice of appearance make the entire "package" look different?
Perhaps we have been staring at old photographs where Socialism wears the uniforms of the Red Army, or the SS - or the shiny leather jackets both Nazi and Soviet paramilitary units preferred. Perhaps we think that Socialism currently sports the straight blue garb of Mao, or battle fatigues with a khaki cap and a Havana stuck in its mouth. And we keep peering in the distance with binoculars.
But "Socialism - The Idea" did not come from Russia, China, or Cuba. And it did not start out to exterminate people, or to confiscate their possessions. It began hundreds of years ago as philosophy in books, written mostly in French and German. It began by declaring human reason capable of comprehending, evaluating and arranging the affairs of the world. It continued by prescribing exactly how the affairs of the world ought to be run. Next, advocates of "The Idea" took it upon themselves to decide who had come by their possessions in a "good," and who in an "evil" way. From there, it was just one step to taking away people's possessions so that the wise could then distribute them "fairly." In time, it was found that certain people best be eliminated altogether.
Killing entire classes of human beings based on "philosophical" considerations was introduced in the French Revolution of 1789. Adopted as a way of "life" by Russia as of 1917, it reached a particularly abhorrent phase during the years 1939 through 1945 in Germany.
But what if the killings and the wholesale confiscation of people's possessions were the convolutions of adolescence? Lenin, after all, called leftist thinking "Communism's Infantile Disorder." What if we are still looking for the insurgent youth destroying all in his path, when in fact today's protagonist is a calm and purposeful adult, going about his business with the agenda now freed from the "errors" of immaturity?
For the agenda itself, Lady Thatcher confirms, has not changed in two centuries. The primary target has always been the unique system of laws in the English-speaking world, reaching back to the Magna Carta of 1215, expressed in the Constitution. (France, now in its Fifth Republic, has yet to come up with a structure that lasts.) Our rule of law makes people free and, according to Socialist doctrine, free people "cannot be trusted" to behave. Hence the need for speech codes and hiring quotas.
The next target has always been national identity which had come so naturally to England, and which America acquired in 1776, at the moment of its founding. (There was not even a "Germany" until 1871, and they had to start from scratch yet again in 1991.) Our national identity includes the English language - embodiment of our institutions - a common culture, family life based on a shared morality, and a defense establishment of unfailing loyalty and unbeatable strength. No good to those who want to change the world.
Whether for reasons of ideology, a score to settle, or misguided good intentions, those who have chosen the Socialist road have always wanted to change the world and the behavior of people, as President Clinton confirmed in his "tobacco" speech of September 17. In that sense it is immaterial whether Russia is Communist or not because Russia never was interested in changing anything - it simply used "The Idea" to conquer more territory. On the other hand, French and German thinkers, from Rousseau to the Frankfurt School, have had an obsession with changing everyone's behavior. Confiscating property, eliminating millions were means to that end. What if means come and go, but the agenda remains?
We watch every day as the search for "social justice" replaces the rule of law, as group privilege replaces individual rights, as redistribution replaces guaranteed property, and as national identity is eliminated in favor of "diversity." Is that not the same agenda as before? Do we still declare victory?
And is it really "The West" we need to defend? France and Germany, after all, represent unalienable parts of Western Culture. What if the conflict is confirmed as one between two opposing views, both Western?
And what if peering in the distance with binoculars has kept us from noticing that which surrounds us from every side?