Written ten years before the people's revolt of 2016, so hopefully now no more than a 'might have been', unless of course the Remoaners succeed in undermining the democratic will of the people
Review of a book discovered near an old, blue police box
Li Yimou appraises 'The Death of Britain' by Chen Zhou, published in Beijing 20th January 2112
Historians specialising in the demise of the West have long anticipated the publication of Zhou's companion volume to his 'The Death of the United States of America', that many consider, together with William Shirer's twentieth century work concerning another great democracy France, 'The Collapse of the Third Republic', provide a definitive assessment of the end of the Western democratic nations, which took place between the outbreak of the first great world war in 1914 and the destruction of the American cities in 2050, shortly after the beginning of the 21st Century wars of religion. A few academics also wish to include Shirer's 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' but it is generally agreed that the German nation, coming late to the table of world powers, and possessing all the immature arrogance of adolescence, did not qualify for inclusion, as its democracy was too shallow, and of too short a duration.
The period covered by Zhou's new work is not familiar to non specialists, as the general public is more aware of the events of the latter part of the last century, when the great religious upheavals led to the final eclipse of the older world powers and the consolidation of Chinese hegemony, only temporarily challenged by our fellow Asian nation, India. However, for those who do study the period, it is still often a matter for amazement that a great nation, which began the 20th Century as the world superpower, was on the winning side in two great world wars and, together with her allies, pushed Soviet Russia to collapse, should have, just a few years later, tamely submitted to be absorbed into,the single European state created from the European Union, when the EU constitution was enforced in 2010. Of course, the fact that Britain is once more a separate nation, following the collapse of the United States of Europe in 2029, means that many do not even realise that for nearly twenty years, it was merely a province of the latter. Nevertheless the damage done to its economy and democracy by the years of incompetent rule by Brussels apparatchiks means that it, together with all the other victim states such as Germany and France, never has, and never will, recapture its prosperity, or be regarded as a major nation again. Thos of our citizens who contribute to the various charities set up to assist the inhabitants of the unhappy lands of Europe are only too well aware of how low is the standard of living of the latter now and can hardly believe that these people were once regarded as the richest section of mankind.
Zhou analyses the reasons which led to the British to so lose their confidence, and then their nation, devoting over two hundred pages to economic factors alone. He shows how the struggle of the second great war had reduced the nation to penury and that it took years, partially aided by American support, for the economy to recover. Over a period of twenty years the British politicians threw away the country's leading position in, inter alia, aircraft, car manufacturing and satellite development thanks to short sighted budgetary decisions. Unfortunately for the British the damage done by this post war period was not merely physical, but psychological, as it helped to create the paradigm within which their political class set the course for the future and it is this, above all else, which was responsible for the eventual debacle. Naturally the great social changes which took place in the second half of the 20th Century, the rise of technology, the demographic shifts in population, and the course of international events, all played their part, but Zhou illustrates the way in which so many of these reinforced the trends set in motion by those who held the power in the country and made it less and less likely that the fact that the nation had set its foot upon the wrong path would be recognized, and corrected before it was too late.
It is impossible in a short assessment to cover all these factors, and the reader must go to the book itself for the details. However Zhou's final conclusions point the finger firmly at the British political class and a short summary of this area captures the lessons which are to be learnt from the demise of Britain. The political system of that nation ensured that, despite the efforts of those who saw the realities of the world more clearly, only one of the three existing main political parties would ever be in a position to change direction but, for different reasons, none ever did so. The Labour party came to power after the second world war but its laudable efforts to establish a socialist society were undermined by the parlous state in which the economy had been left by the costs of the fight, and the party's eventual rejection by the electorate undermined its beliefs in its principles to the point that, when it did again achieve sustained power at the end of the century, it had long been captured by those who placed self interest above all else and never tried to fulfil the aims of its founders. The Liberal Party, a remnant of that party which had once governed Britain, lost its way on the wilder shores of unrealistic ideals, in particular a stubborn adherence to the view that European integration was to be welcomed and, after its transformation into the Liberal Democrats emulated the medieval Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire, in becoming neither liberal nor democratic, proving the truth of the old saw about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
There was new party, UKIP, which did see the trap into which the nation was being led, but the electoral system prevented them from achieving power in time, and it was the Conservative Party which was always the most culpable, failing even in its primary duty to conserve the nation. Although its greatest leader, Churchill, had led the fight to defeat the fascists, he had always been regarded as a maverick by his party, whose real face was that of the pre war Baldwin, Prime Minister of the largest empire on Earth, who admitted that he did not understand foreign affairs, Chamberlain, the most incompetent, and pusillanimous holder of the post of PM, whose betrayal of the peoples of Czechoslovakia was only partially washed away when Britain finally defeated Hitler, and later by those who knowingly chose to deceive the people as they sought to submerge the nation into the single European state. The worst of these was Edward Heath, whose obsession with the European project was disastrous for the nation.
The two great questions which Zhou addresses are these: why did the political class so betray the nation and why did the media and the people not prevent them from so doing. In answering these he reveals the guilty parties and presents all nations with a warning.
With a few honourable exceptions the politicians abandoned all real belief in ideological principles and instead sought their own personal advancement. They saw the European project as one which would enhance their own career paths and provide them with lucrative employment, both while in elected office, and thereafter. In reality those whom the post second war generation had rightfully derided as spivs took control and sold their nation for their own personal benefit. Democracy had evolved into a system where it was not conflicting world views which contested with each other but merely sets of self interested groups, who had more in common with each other than with the people they purported to represent.
During the period in question the developments in technology ensured that the media became omnipresent but the simultaneous decline in education standards, although much denied by foolish people, and fierce competition in the press and electronic fields, ensured that those who presented the world to the electorate were ill informed about the realities of what was being done by the political class, while at the same time obsessed with the prurient to the exclusion of almost all else.
However the ultimate blame must be laid at the door of the people themselves for they allowed the old trick of bread and circuses practised by the Emperors of ancient Rome to blind their eyes to what was being done until it was too late. Too many were content to disinterest themselves in politics, beyond the occasional comment on the private lives of politicians, and refused to listen to the warnings given by those who could see what was happening. That they much regretted it later changed the eventual result not one whit.
The scientists who administer the great world computer in Beijing assure us that the old fantasies of the 20th Century science fiction writers that parallel universes exist where history took different turns are untrue, so there are no world where Britain did not die. However, as even the layman knows, the computer can also predict, with a 78% accuracy, what might have happened had different decisions been taken. Zhou reveals that, when questioned as to which direction history would have taken had the mid 20th Century politicians shown a belief in the nation, and its position at the centre of the Commonwealth and the English speaking world, the computer states that what contemporaries described as the 'Anglosphere', an alliance of democratic and peace loving nations, would have become, and remained, the main force in the world. Worse for the British people this outcome could been have been achieved as late as the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century had their politicians seized upon the failings of the single European currency, and the first attempt to impose a European constitution, to turn their back upon the whole project and returned to the path the nation should never have left. We here in modern China may give thanks that they did not do so, otherwise our nation would not now be pre-eminent in the world.
In conclusion Zhou's work is both to be recommended to scholars of the period in Europe's decline, and to the people as a warning of what happens if personal self interest is allowed to take precedence over the good of the whole community. Despite the evolution of our state from its original Marxist principles to the nation we know today, the Chinese people have never lost sight of this fundamental truth, and we must wish that this always remains true, otherwise we too might suffer the fate that overcame the British and European peoples a century ago.
Beijing 7th March 2012