[Continuing from Part One which you can find here.]
In this respect, Churchill’s post-War speech about the need for a unified Europe has frequently been cited as showing his early support for the idea – indeed, it commands a prominent position on the European Commission’s website – but Churchill had just led the fight for a free Europe, and it seems strange that he would wish to see Europeans, freed from the Nazi yoke, willingly submitting to German economic domination in a super-state, however well meant. What exercised him was the fall of the Iron Curtain across Europe, and the need for European nations to unite against Communism; Churchill had fought tirelessly against it since the Russian Revolution, only reluctantly accepting the Soviets as allies because without their help the War against Hitler would have been lost.
When arrangements were being made for his funeral – code-named ‘Hope Not’ – Churchill insisted he did not wish French President Charles de Gaulle to attend, recalling their War-time clashes, but seemingly the Duke of Norfolk pleaded with him that this might damage the UK’s attempts to join the European Economic Community, attempts which de Gaulle opposed. Churchill eventually agreed – but only on condition that the funeral-train would leave from Waterloo rather than Paddington. To Churchill the historian, the famous Battle marked an earlier European liberation, whose connotations would not be lost on de Gaulle – and of course it was one splendid, final joke.
Churchill did not die until 1965, but Chesterton died in 1936, having warned against appeasement and having predicted a Nazi-Soviet pact. In contrast the international socialists that both men opposed saw it as their patriotic duty to criticise England, and George Orwell noted the strange anomaly that English left-wing intellectuals were the least patriotic in Europe. In August 1941 he said that for 20 years they had been trying to destroy patriotism, and ‘if they had succeeded’ they might now be ‘watching the S.S. men patrolling the London streets.’ Of course, the internationalists always saw a European super-state as a stepping stone to world power.
Brexiteers have been accused of racism – and so, belatedly, have Churchill and Chesterton. Both were born in 1874 and raised in a climate of opinion in which it was doubted that non-white peoples were capable of self-government; Chesterton’s patriotic vision inspired Ghandi, while Churchill famously dismissed him as a ‘seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir… striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace’ – a dig at the conventional lawyer’s belated espousal of ‘native’ dress in a bid for authenticity. Churchill was an Imperialist who honoured the historic role of Empire, while Chesterton was an anti-Imperialist; but neither was a ‘racist’ as now understood. Neither wished to invade other people’s countries, they merely wished to defend their own, which they saw as superior only by virtue of the history of its right actions, not the ‘blood’ of its inhabitants, although the shedding of that blood in the right cause was not something to be lightly disregarded.
The patriotism of the average Brexiteer has nothing to do with blood in the racial sense – as Churchill argued, a man cannot help how he was born, but he can help his actions – although it does have something to do with soil, and with prizing one patch of soil above all others. That does not mean that we wish to attack foreign peoples; on the contrary, it helps us to appreciate their attachment to their own soil. Neither does it mean insularity – a bizarre accusation to make against a sea-going nation and one, moreover, that has embraced every foreign cuisine, not to mention every foreign footballer. Granted, we are not good at learning foreign languages, but the fact that the rest of the world is better at learning English should tell us that the influence of England on the world has not been entirely negative.
Sadly, this is not the opinion of English opinion formers – those whom David Goodhart, in ‘The Road to Somewhere’, calls the ‘anywheres’, who are coming to dominate our culture to the detriment of the ‘somewheres’. Roger Scruton, in ‘Where We Are: The State of Britain Now’ observes that those who reject the human need for a home and for traditions feel nothing but contempt for those who embrace their individual homes and national culture; that such ‘Oikophobes’ now predominate in the universities and the media, their elitist attitudes interpreting patriotic sympathies as xenophobic or racist. ‘Oikophobes’ often look to supranational organizations like the UN and the EU to impose their worldview on a reluctant populace – an approach starkly at odds with the idea of democracy.
It is not racist to want a sensible and sustainable approach to immigration; to prioritise the admission of genuine refugees and committed, conscientious economic migrants rather than those who arrive illegally. Wealthy ‘anywheres’ might support a ‘free for all’ policy to keep them supplied with cheap labour, but there is no evidence that hard-working immigrants support a constant supply of ever-cheaper labour that would merely succeed in depressing their own wages.
To be a citizen of everywhere is to be a citizen of nowhere. If we are to be stewards of the world, we must start with the patch of soil on which we’re standing, rather than despising it and setting our sights on everyone else’s patch in order to make it conform to our progressive priorities – using our economic clout to force poor countries to legalise abortion, same-sex marriage and transgender laws. That is exactly what the self-proclaimed ‘anywheres’ do, using the fruits of the despised capitalism to impose their prejudices on more ‘primitive’ cultures. But cultural imperialism, backed by economic imperialism, is not much different from the old Imperialism for which we are now told we must apologise.
It does not take too much imagination to guess what Chesterton would have thought of the undemocratic – indeed, anti-democratic – European Union; a gigantic taxing, legislating, bribing, bullying, runaway gravy train, crushing everything in its path. As a supporter of Empire, Churchill would doubtless deplore the way in which the interests of the Commonwealth have been thrown under the bus to accommodate the demands of ‘fortress Europe’. As we face the slings and arrows of a vengeful Brussels and the cunning of British elites determined to overthrow Brexit, the courage of both men in refusing to bury patriotism under a hail of sneers is exactly what we need to stiffen our resolve. Chesterton is now being considered as a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, but at the very least, both patriots should be acclaimed as secular patron saints of Brexit.
Ann Farmer, Chesterton and the Jews: Friend, Critic, Defender (Angelico Press, 2015); The Bulldog and the Underdog: Churchill, Religion and Eugenics (unpublished, 2013).
See: G. K. Chesterton, The Patriotic Idea; ‘In Defence of Patriotism’ (The Defendant (1902)).
Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1948).
Martin Gilbert, Churchill and the Jews (London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2007).