Let me take you back to seventeenth century
England. Here we are, in the year 1647, to be exact. The Civil War between King and Parliament is over, with a victory for the latter, except that it was a victory that was no victory. The laws of the land have been flattened, the constitution wrecked. We are in a political vacuum into which all sorts of ideas are drawn. One idea is universal manhood suffrage.
Now we are in Putney, the headquarters of the New Model Army, rapidly turning into the power brokers of the nation. These are the men who defeated the king in battle. Now some of them, the most radical, want a political reward for their efforts. A series of debates are held concerning the future shape of the constitution.
The grandees, headed by Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, his son-in-law, are shocked by a one man one vote suggestion. So far as Ireton is concerned this is not next door to anarchy; it is anarchy. No man, as he put it, has a right to a share in disposing of the affairs of the kingdom if he does not have a permanent fixed interest in the kingdom. That is to say, if he does not have any property. Voting, in such circumstances, would lead to chaos.
Where do I stand in the debate? To begin with, as a woman, I don’t count. Even the most radical of the Levellers did not consider the prospect of universal suffrage. But notwithstanding this, and taking on a manly guise, I am on the side of Ireton. A rapid extension of the suffrage at this stage in
England’s history would have been disastrous. It would indeed have resulted in anarchy, urged on by the demagoguery of the age.
Now we are back in the present day. To suggest that democracy might equal anarchy is a rarefied and heterodox opinion. There is no place now for the likes of Henry Ireton. But he was quite right: in certain circumstances mass suffrage is disastrous; mass suffrage can lead to the destruction of a nation, given into the hands of ruthless demagogues. Mass suffrage turned the Eden of Rhodesia into the Hades of Zimbabwe.
Now I’m in really dangerous territory. Racist, fascist, imperialist, the cry rises. How could anyone suggest that a white minority government was better than black majority rule? But the suggestion has been made, and not just by me. “It would have been better if whites had continued to rule because the money would have continued to come”, said one man, “It was better under
Rhodesia. Then we could get jobs. Things were cheaper in stores. Now we have no money, no food.”
Oh, an unregenerate old white racist, you might conclude, nostalgic for a vanished past. Nostalgic, certainly, but this ‘racist’ happens to be black, one of many yearning for a nation competently managed by a tiny white elite rather than destroyed and oppressed by a tiny black elite. For years now the modern Levellers have been at work, levelling
Zimbabwe to the dust.
My thoughts here were brought on by a piece in Taki’s Magazine (Thanks, Calvin!) Headed One Man, One Vote, One Catastrophe, it’s by Hannes Wessels, born a white Rhodesian and transformed into a displaced Zimbabwean. For some that will be enough to discount what he has to say, those who are generally blind to uncomfortable facts. I’m guessing that these will be white liberals in the main, rather than the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, like the man quoted above, suffering under black ‘majority’ rule. Actually, and paradoxically, the real racists are those who weigh such questions in terms of colour. It’s alright to be oppressed just so long as the oppressors have the same complexion as the oppressed.
Wessels points out that Ian Smith, the one and only prime minister of independent
Rhodesia, tried to tell the world that universal suffrage at that stage in the country’s history was the door to disaster. Instead he called, like a modern Henry Ireton, for a qualified franchise based on merit not race. Democracy could not be rushed in a place with no concept of the practice, where the majority had no understanding of the complexities involved. Political maturity takes time.
But the world would not listen. Urged on by one brutal black dictator after another, with no sense of the irony involved, the world condemned
Rhodesia and Smith; the BBC condemned him in its uniquely unreflective way. Unable to withstand the pressure, Smith gave way. The result was the flawed 1980 election, which brought Robert Mugabe and a coterie of criminal gangsters, masquerading as ‘freedom fighters,’ to power. They have been there ever since, displacing whites and brutalising blacks. Rhodesia died but so, too, did Zimbabwe, a protracted and painful process.
Wessels article is not simply a reflection on past disasters. It contains a warning;
Now many Americans and Europeans are having to confront the same paradigm. As the demographic winds of change blow stronger, the number of illiterates and itinerants grows at an alarming rate. Those that contribute the least to the common good seem set to seize and retain power at the expense of the minority that contributes the most. All this is thanks to the seemingly sacrosanct principle of “one man, one vote.” But just as in
Rhodesia, that minority dares not voice its displeasure at this development for fear of being condemned to the special dungeons reserved for those committing the cardinal sin of “racism.” And they can be sure of this punishment because of the mainstream media, which so cunningly manipulates the minds of the millions of simpletons who have the vote and therefore the power to elect those who will serve their destructive purpose.
Let me bring Henry Ireton back to life. There he is, looking over the sad wreckage of
Zimbabwe, looking at the anarchy brought on by ‘democracy.’ There he is, sadly nodding, seeing his past fears given present form. He might very well meet murder on the way; he wears a masque like Mugabe.