James Burnham oor die inkrimping van die Weste

Deel op

Elkeen kan self besluit of die volgende aanhaling ‘n hipotetiese beskrywing is of ‘n situasie uitbeeld wat werklik êrens op die aardbol bestaan:

“Suppose I believe that men of a certain color, size or shape, or in some other way physically marked off as a group, are in point of fact distinctly inferior, on average, to other men in their ability to create and maintain a civilized society. I might still think that this inferior group and its members should be equal in certain respects to all other men: equal as moral beings and equal before the law, let us say. And I might still judge it proper that exceptional members of the inferior group should be free to rise to whatever social level might be consonant with their talents. But it would be imprudent, and manifestly dangerous both for society and for the inferior group itself, if as a group – no matter how large, no matter if it were a sizable majority of mankind – it were granted the same share as superior groups in running things: if, in other words, the inferior group were granted political equality. By the hypothesis of its inferiority, it could not be expected to run things as well, and it might run them very badly indeed.

“Of course, even if I share the liberal belief that in objective fact all groups are equal in civilizing potential, it still does not follow that I must accept liberalism’s political conclusion. I might continue to want my group to have more than its arithmetic share in running things, simply because it is my group, or because that’s the way it’s been for a long time and things might get worse if big changes were made” (James Burnham, Suicide of the West: An essay on the meaning and destiny of liberalism, New York: Encounter Books, 1964/2014, 406p; Amazon Kindle $11,39, 1591).

James Burnham (1905-1987) was aanvanklik ‘n aanhanger van Leon Trotski (1879-1940) maar is vroeg in die Tweede Wêreldoorlog ontnugter deur Josef Stalin (1879-1953) se imperialistiese ingesteldheid. Reeds in 1940 het Burnham teen kommunisme en mettertyd ook teen sosialisme gedraai. Van 1929 af het hy wysbegeerte aan New York University doseer maar hom al hoe meer in ekonomiese sake geïnteresseer. Sy bekendste boek, The managerial revolution: What is happening in the world (1941), karteer die verloop en moontlike toekoms van kapitalisme. In ‘n ander boek, The struggle for the world (1947), het hy, anders as wat tans dikwels gedoen word, nie wêreldmagsbalans bepleit nie, maar die vestiging van die oppergesag van die Weste teen die bedreiging van kommunisme; ‘n wêreldwye magsblok van nasiestate, maar nie ‘n wêreldregering nie. Burnham was in 1955 ‘n stigtingsredakteur van die hoogaangeskrewe meningstydskrif, National Review, “die bybel van Amerikaanse konserwatisme.” Hy het algaande ontluik as ‘n gerespekteerde openbare intellektueel. In hierdie hoedanigheid het hy regsgesindes soos Samuel Francis (1947-2005) beïnvloed.

In hierdie rubriek beperk ek my aandag tot Burnham se 1964-boek waaruit die bostaande aanhaling kom. In die vroeë jare sestig het swartes met hulle sogenaamde burgerregtebeweging grootskaalse chaos in Amerika gesaai. Dit is teen hierdie agtergrond dat Burnham se ontleding van die liberalisme en die evolusie daarvan verstaan kan word. Hy kon geen werklik bevredigende boek oor die liberalisme opspoor nie. Met sy kenmerkende insig en toewyding het hy ‘n teks gelewer wat steeds as van die bestes, in die sin van duidelik en gesaghebbend, oor die liberalisme beskou word.

Volgens Roger Kimball se inleiding “Burnham promises ‘the definitive analysis of the pathology of liberalism.’ At the center of that pathology is an awful failure of understanding … ‘the will to survive'” (385). “In his view, the primary function of liberalism was to ‘permit Western civilization to be reconciled to dissolution'” (400). Volgens Burnham “the primary issue before Western civilization today, and before its member nations, is survival” (385). Kimball meld Burnham se intellektuele integriteit en sy weersin in totalitêre regering, veral kommunisme. Hy het die Weste beskou as “a precious heritage to be defended” en kommunisme as “a murderous tyranny to be defeated” (313). “Appeasement was merely a prelude to capitulation” (326), soos ons in 1990/94 ervaar het. Burnham het vryheid en demokratiese realisme beklemtoon; nie demokratiese despotisme nie: “the tendency of democracies to barter freedom for equality” (169). Hy het geen erg aan politieke korrektheid gehad nie en skryf bv: “African nations were really ‘half-formed pseudo nations'” (176). Volgens hom kom demokrasie in die praktyk neer op regering deur ‘n minderheid. “The primary object of every élite, or ruling class, is to maintain its own power and privilege” (305).

Burnham se tema is die inkrimping van die Weste. “In AD 1914 the domain of Western civilization was, or very nearly was, the world. True enough, in many regions the Western dominance was only external; the local societies had not been Westernized, or only superficially so; the peoples were subjects rather than citizens of the West. But, still, the West held the power” (464). “With the end of the Second World War, the rate of Western disintegration quickened” (500). George Orwell (1903-1950) het beweer dat Burnham met mag gepreokkupeerd was (275). Maar Afrikaners weet deesdae hoe onontbeerlik politieke mag is en hoe katastrofaal dit is as sodanige mag verkwansel word.

“Over the past two generations Western civilization has been in a period of very rapid decline, recession or ebb within the world power structure. I refer here to the geographic or what might be called ‘extensive’ aspects only. I ignore* the question whether this decline is a good thing or a bad thing either for the world as a whole or for Western civilization itself; whether the decline in extensive power may be accompanied by a moral improvement like the moral rejuvenation of a man on his deathbed” (485). “It is not self-evident that in shrinking quantitatively the West is morally deteriorating” (569). Hou in gedagte dat Burnham se boek oorspronklik in 1964 gepubliseer is. As die Weste tydens kolonialisme moreel werklik sleg gevaar het, soos ons deesdae moet aanhoor, was daar ‘n moontlikheid van morele herlewing toe hulle na hulle tradisionele geografiese gebiede terugbeweeg het. Maar veral na 1964 is die Westerse lande deur miljoene immigrante uit die Derde Wêreld sowel kultureel as moreel gerysmier. Kolonialisme word deesdae graag veroordeel, maar die weerslag daarvan in die vorm van nie-Westerse inkommers word grootliks verswyg of selfs geprys, veral in liberalistiese geledere. [* Dit is ‘n voorbeeld van Burnham se “spare and neutral” formulerings (562) waarvoor hy bekend was.]

“What we mean by ‘Western civilization’ may be defined in terms of the continuous development through space and time of an observable social formation that begins (or is revived – the distinction is irrelevant to the present purpose) about the year AD 700 in the center of western Europe; in terms of certain distinctive institutions; in terms of certain distinctive beliefs and values, including certain ideas concerning the nature of reality and of man” (493). Westerlinge het ‘n wêreld- en lewensbeskouing wat verskil van dié van nie-Westerlinge. Vir Westerlinge is hulle eie benadering en siening beter as dié van andere.

Die “shrinking of the West [since 1914] comprises two phenomena that are in at least one respect different in content: (a) the ending of Western domination over a non-Western society; (b) the ending of Western domination within a society and region that have been integrally part of Western civilization” (506). Nigerië is ‘n voorbeeld van (a) en Suid-Afrika en Algerië is seker die prominentste voorbeelde in Afrika van (b); maar daar is ook Rhodesië/Zimbabwe en Suidwes-Afrika/Namibië. “There are many Westerners who find this distinction to be a proper criterion for moral judgment: the ending of Western rule over a non-Western society (‘liberation’ or ‘decolonization,’ as it is usually called), they deem right and good; but they are less happy, even grieved, at the collapse of Western rule within a plainly Western area” (513). In die geval van Suid-Afrika was die politieke bevryding van swartes in 1994 terselfdertyd die politieke kastrasie of verslawing van blankes. Dit is hierdie belangrike onderskeid wat die blanke mikro-geeste in die NP-onderhandelingspan nooit werklik besef het nie. “Over the past two generations Western civilization has undergone a rapid and major contraction – it still continues – in quantitative terms of the relative amount of area and population it dominates” (520). “We are therefore compelled to think it probable that the West, in shrinking, is also dying” (555).

“Even today, when the Western domination has been cut to less than half of what it was in 1914, Western economic resources – real and available resources – and Western military power are still far superior to those of the non-Western regions. The disparity has lessened – though not nearly so much as masochistic columnists would lead us to think – but it is large enough to define a different order of dimension” (592). Dit toon dat om aan Westerse eienskappe reg te laat geskied, dit kwalitatief beoordeel moet word en nie bloot kwantitatief nie. Desnieteenstaande kan gesê word dat die fundamentele verskil tussen die ou en die nuwe Suid-Afrika is dat eersgenoemde aan kwalitatiewe maatstawwe gekenmerk is en dat die plaaslike samelewing sedert 1994 deur kwantitatiewe oorwegings oorheers word, vandaar die minagting vir gehalte, bv meriete; nie-wit groepverwantskap word hoër as persoonlike verdienstelikheid geag.

Teen die einde van die eerste hoofstuk skryf Burnham: “We must therefore conclude that the primary causes of the contraction of the West – not the sole causes, but the sufficient and determining causes – have been internal and non-quantitative: involving either structural changes or intellectual, moral and spiritual factors. In one way or another the process involves what we rather loosely call, by a kind of metaphor, ‘the will to survive.’ The community of Western nations has possessed the material means to maintain and even to extend still further its overwhelming predominance, and to beat off any challenger. It has not made use of those means, while its position, instead of being maintained or extended, has drastically shrunk. The will to make use of the means at hand has evidently been lacking” (613). In Suid-Afrika het iets soortgelyks in die jare negentig gebeur. Die blanke bewind het oor uitstekende veiligheidsmagte (weermag en polisiediens) beskik, maar hierdie magte is aan bande gelê en doelbewus deur die Nasionale Party-regering geneutraliseer ter wille van grondwetlike “onderhandelings” met terreurgroepe, wat geblyk het ‘n rookskerm te wees, nie vir die beloofde magsdeling nie, maar vir verraderlike magsoorgawe.

“This book is a set of variations on a single and simple underlying thesis: that what Americans call ‘liberalism’ is the ideology of Western suicide … liberalism has come to be the typical verbal systematization of the process of Western contraction and withdrawal; that liberalism motivates and justifies the contraction, and reconciles us to it” (642). Ook die ondergang van die blanke bewind in Suid-Afrika kan aan die geestelike kanker van liberalisme toegeskryf word. Die gelykverklaring en kwantifisering van mense en die ignorering van kwalitatiewe oorwegings is onderliggend aan liberalisme; ook die kweek van onregverdigbare skuldgevoelens en die toepassing van ‘n onfeilbare resep om Westerse beskawing te vernietig, naamlik ongekwalifiseerde algemene stemreg in ‘n eenheidstaat sonder groepregte vir die etniese minderheidsgroep wat die uitnemendste prestasierekord het.

In die res van die boek kontrasteer Burnham polities links en regs deur die terme ‘liberalisme’ en ‘konserwatisme’ te gebruik. Maar dit is ook nodig om tussen die oorspronklike 18de eeuse liberalisme van die Verligting en sy hedendaagse variasie te onderskei. Tradisionele liberalisme was nie naasteby so beskawingsvernietigend soos neo-liberalisme nie. Burnham skryf “from some time in the 1930s [neo-liberalism] has been the prevailing American public doctrine, or ideology *… a substantial majority of those who control or influence public opinion is liberal” (722). “They speak the same ideological language as their progressive confrères from other continents” (779). Later noem hy liberalisme ‘n sindroom (928). [* “An ideology the primary function of which is not to state truths but to adjust attitudes” (2185).]

Burnham onderskei tussen “liberty – national independence and self-government” en “freedom of the individual” (2826). Aanvanklik was die hiërargie van liberalistiese waardes: “Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Peace” (2842). Deesdae is dit: “Peace, Justice, Freedom, Liberty” (2851). Dit toon in hoe ‘n groot mate tradisionele liberalisme en neo-liberalisme verskil, bv “the … shift of stress from national sovereignty to internationalism” (2851). Hedendaagse konserwatiewes kan geneig wees om die volgende hiërargie te verkies: “Liberty, Freedom, Peace, Justice” (2859). “Nearly all liberals – and most non-liberals also, for that matter – invoke the name of Freedom the way a drill sergeant invokes his favorite obscenity. It takes closer study to find out just what they mean by that term” (2911).

“All liberals agree, without debate, that racial segregation in any school system is wrong and that government ought to prevent it” (807). “‘In our day,’ it seems to a liberal, ‘nobody but a madman, fascist or crackpot would really question whether democracy is better than aristocracy and dictatorship, whether there ought to be universal education and universal suffrage, whether all races and creeds deserve equal treatment, whether government has a duty to the unemployed, ill and aged, whether we ought to have a progressive income tax, whether trade unions are a good thing, or peace better than war'” (828). Hierdie lysie toon hoeveel liberalistiese leerstellings deesdae sonder meer as korrek aanvaar word pleks van oor alternatiewe te besin.

Later voeg Burnham ander kenmerkende liberalistiese leerstelling soos die volgende by: “We have a duty to mankind; that is to men in general. The United Nations … is a step in the right direction … Wealthy nations … have a duty to aid the less privileged portions of mankind … Corporal punishment … is wrong. All nations and peoples … have a right to political independence when a majority op the population wants it … There are no significant differences in intellectual, moral or civilizing capacity among human races and ethnic types” (858). Volgens liberaliste kan alle mense deur opvoeding verbeter en nader aan volmaaktheid omvorm word (1017). Daar word aan vooruitgang geglo (1084), vandaar die benaming “progressiewes” vir liberaliste. Gelykverklaring is deel van liberalistiese geregtigheid (1317). “My present objective, then, is to exhibit modern liberalism as a more or less systematic set of ideas, theories and beliefs about society” (958).

Liberaliste beklemtoon “the errors and injustices of the past … Thus liberalism is anti-traditional. I rather think that the attitude toward tradition furnishes the most accurate single shibboleth* for distinguishing liberals from conservatives, and still more broadly, the Left from the Right” (1152), vandaar liberaliste se pleidooie vir verandering (1159) of hervorming (1174), oftewel transformasie. “The conservative, in contrast, tends to stress continuity rather than change, and what might be called ‘renewal’ rather than reform – especially drastic and rapid reform – or revolution” (3172). Die liberaliste in die Americans for Democratic Action “are at pains to protest that our real ‘enemies’ are not wicked people or nations or creeds, and certainly not the Soviet Union or communism, but hunger and racial discrimination; the real war is the ‘war against want'” (1261). [* Sjibbolet … (1) Wagwoord, herkenningswoord aan die uitspraak waarvan ‘n mens vreemdelinge herken; vgl Rigters 12:4-6 … (2) Uiting of handeling wat aandui of iemand tot ‘n bepaalde klas, groep of party behoort of nie” (HAT).]

“What liberalism notices as the evils of society – crime, delinquency, war, hunger, unemployment, communism (if this is judged an evil), urban blight, etc – are the results of ignorance and faulty social institutions or arrangements. The effective method for getting rid of the evils is therefore to eliminate the ignorance (by education) and to reform the institutions. It follows as a corollary that we have no rational basis for ‘blaming’ criminals for their crimes, teen-agers for their muggings and rumbles, soldiers for wars, the poor of India or Egypt for their hunger, the non-working for their joblessness, the city dwellers for the decay of their city, or the Communist Party for communism. They cannot be blamed for being ignorant, for not having been given a proper education; nor for the faulty institutions into which they were born. Since no one is to blame – except society, with her shady past – there is no ground for a retributive theory of punishment, for ‘vengeance,’ as liberals call it. Our aim in the treatment of delinquents, criminals, soldiers and communists must be to educate, or re-educate, them into good, that is liberal, citizens; and meanwhile to improve the bad conditions – slums, poverty, lack of schoolrooms, lack of democracy – that produced them. These conceptions lead quite naturally to what we may describe as a ‘permissive’ attitude toward erring members of the community – particularly when they belong to racial, religious, caste or economic groups less privileged than the general average (ie suffering more, as liberalism would explain it, from the faulty arrangements) – and to a ‘social service’ mentality” (1339).

Burnham het ‘n verweer teen hierdie liberalistiese dogmas. “If ignorance and bad social arrangements explain crime, war, hunger, racial riots, urban blight and so on, and thereby relieve the individual mugger, soldier, jobless adult, berserk Negro and unwed mother of direct responsibility for their behavior and its consequences, then the well-to-do citizen who gets mugged, the generals, landlords, merchants, bankers and even white segregationists ought also, by the same logic, to be relieved of their burden of personal guilt: they too, in their own manner, are merely unfortunate products of the bad conditions into which they were born and the inadequate education they received” (1367).

Dit behoort duidelik te wees waar die aandrang vandaan kom dat blanke Suid-Afrikaners heropgevoed moet word. Ook dat regeringsmag gesentraliseer moet word, maar “there is no reason why democratic centralization should stop with the single nation. Modern liberal doctrine tends naturally toward internationalist conceptions and the ideal of a democratic world order based through one mode or another on the majority will of all mankind” (1487). “To the liberal it has become self-evident that ‘national sovereignty is an outworn concept’ … Any form of isolationism and regionalism is obsolete. The nation that would save itself must subordinate its immediate interests to the maintenance of a peaceful, stable and just world” (1494). Die stemme wat deesdae opklink dat Suid-Afrika moet verafrika, is eintlik ‘n pleidooi vir ‘n halfwegstasie tot pad na algehele internasionalisering. “Patriotism and nationalism … are non-rational and discriminatory” (1583).

Ek het hiermee in Burnham se boek gevorder tot by die heel eerste aanhaling in hierdie rubriek. Dit sou ‘n onbegonne taak wees om al die interessanthede wat die outeur kwytraak in hierdie rubriek te noem. Hy meld bv: “Unqualified, universal franchise – especially where the electorate includes sizable proportions of uneducated or propertyless persons, or cohesive subgroups – tends to degenerate into semi-anarchy or into forms of despotism (Caesarism, Bonapartism) that manipulate the democratic formula for anti-democratic ends” (2322). Ook: “Whether or not sub-groups of humanity defined by physical or physiological attributes differ congenitally and innately in civilizing potential, they do differ in their actual civilizing ability at the present time and are likely to continue so to differ for as long in the future as is of practical concern” (2347). Verder: “Human beings … are hierarchical and segregating and discriminating animals … There is always apartheid” (2527). “The attempt to get rid of all discriminations, all apartheid, is illusory” (2534). Om (sinvol) te kan lewe, is dit noodsaaklik dat ons ons onderskeidingsvermoëns nie net behou nie maar ook verskerp.

Ek het onlangs gelees van ‘n skoolkind wat by die skool in groot moeilikheid beland het omdat sy die wens uitgespreek het dat apartheid moet terugkeer. Daar is skynbaar geen begrip meer vir die moontlike voordele van apartheid of die nadele van gedwonge rasse-integrasie nie. Burnham skryf: “This expanded freedom for the Negro is obtained only at the cost of a decreased freedom for white children and their parents” (2953). “In the United States, the spread and stricter enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and regulations, both State and Federal, are progressively limiting my freedom to hire whom I choose, to decide whom to sell to or buy from, to associate with whom I please, to choose my neighbors, and so on, as well as to determine what sort of school I want my children to attend” (2968).

Liberaliste se “main enemy is to the Right” (3552). Eintlik is daar “no enemy to the Left” (3552). Dit is so omdat liberaliste en kommuniste in groot mate soortgelyke ideale het. Byvoorbeeld, in Suid-Afrika het hulle hulle kragte teen die blanke bewind saamgesnoer. Daar is selektiewe moraliteit. Volgens die liberaliste moes sanksies teen Suid-Afrika ingestel word maar nie teen kommunistiese Kuba nie (3645). “The poor and oppressed … gain an immunity from the moral condemnation that is reserved for the powerful and privileged” (3652). In die praktyk is daar dikwels eerder ‘n graad- as ‘n aardverskil tussen liberalisme en kommunisme. “Liberalism is infected with communism in the quite precise sense that communism and liberalism share most of their basic axioms and principles, and many of their values and sentiments … Liberals and communists are, most of the time, against the same things and persons … What communism does is to carry the liberal principles to their logical and practical extreme” (4881). “Communists seem not much more than liberals with guts” (3743). “The communist and liberal programs agree on most of their negative or destructive proposals. From the communist point of view, the liberal program is the communist program at a preliminary stage in the dialectical unfolding of the revolution” (4762).

Burnham kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat liberalisme negatief en destruktief is (4700) en beter in opposisie as in regering funksioneer. “Liberalism is not equipped to meet and overcome the actual challenges confronting Western civilization in our time” (4694). “Liberalism is better out of power than in power; better at changing than preserving; better at destroying than building” (4727). “The crucial present challenges are, I believe, three: first, the jungle now spreading within our own society, in particular in our great cities; second, the explosive population growth and political activization within the world’s backward areas, principally the equatorial and sub-equatorial latitudes occupied by non-white masses; third, the drive of the communist enterprise for a monopoly of world power” (4776). Sedert 1964 het die bedreiging van kommunisme internasionaal afgeneem maar in Suid-Afrika is dit nog springlewendig in die ANC.

Burnham haal ‘n Amerikaner aan wat skryf “we [are] civil righting our civilization to death … [we] are told that as culturally handicapped victims of society the criminals had every justification for committing their crimes … the increasing savagery of the savages among us … We’re in more danger than the pioneers ever were. When night fell, they closed the gates of the stockade. They knew the savages were outside. Nowadays when night falls, we know we’ve got them roaming around inside with us. What’s worse, they’re armed, and we’re not” (4790). Burnham skryf: “In the parks of our great cities, exactly as in all jungles, honest men may no longer move at night; when the sun goes down they must stay near the fires, while the beasts prowl” (4832).

“The familiar one-man, one-vote principle … implies, by simple arithmetic, the subjugation of the West: the members of Western civilization are a small minority … The economic egalitarianism of the liberal ideology implies … the reduction of Westerners to hunger and poverty *… liberals … dream [that] the one-man, one-vote principle to achieve freedom, peace and justice, and economic egalitarianism means plenty for all. But that is ideological fantasy” (4846). “In the soul of liberalism, and in the Western civilization that liberalism has permeated, this logic works like a spiritual worm, corrupting the will of the West to survive as a distinctive historical entity, easing the dissolution of the West into the distinctionless human mass” (4853).

[* Burnham redeneer soos volg: “‘Equality’ … becomes a less simple notion when submitted to the gloss of the dialectic. If I have a thousand dollars and you have none, equality means that you gain five hundred dollars and I lose five hundred. If I have ten acres and you are landless, five are taken from me, by the principle of equality, and you get five. But the real relation is still more disturbing. If I have enough to eat and you are starving, equality may mean that we both go hungry” (3995). Die ANC-regering wat aan ons opgedring is, beoog presies dit: die verdeling van plase in die besit van blankes in die helfte, sodat swartes die helfte (gratis) bekom.]

Watter teenmaatreëls kan getref word? “There would have to be a rejection, in particular, of the quantitative reduction of human beings to Common Man; and the reassertion of qualitative distinctions. Quite specifically, there would have to be reasserted the pre-liberal conviction that Western civilization, thus Western man, is both different from and superior in quality to other civilizations and non-civilizations … And there would have to be a renewed willingness, legitimized by that conviction, to use superior power and the threat of power to defend the West against all challenges and challengers” (4860). “Negroes have incorporated force among their methods,” gevolglik “direct counter-force must be brought into the game” (4949). Byvoorbeeld, teen die huidige plaaslike studente-onrus behoort daar streng opgetree te word.

“Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide … all of this book is merely an amplification of this sentence” (5010). In Suid-Afrika het die liberaliste in die Nasionale Party en die kommuniste in die ANC suksesvol saamgespan om die blanke bewind te beëindig. Niemand kan met reg beweer dat beskawing sedert 1994 plaaslik ‘n hupstoot gekry het nie. Vernietiging en verval is aan die orde van die dag.

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