No Predestined History

A couple of transcripts from things I was listening to yesterday. The first is Robin Aitken talking to Peter Whittle about the culture of the BBC:

RA 9:50: It’s what I call cultural Marxism. I think that what the progressive left in the UK has taken from Marxism is the idea that history is a one-way ticket and there’s no getting off the train, that the end destination is a progressive destination – their definition of progress, by the way – and that this is an ineluctable process, so there’s no stopping it. And so in this mindset we will arrive in a federal Europe; we will arrive in a country which is completely atheistic and a country which has lost all sense of natural patriotic pride in itself. All that is to be subsumed in a greater self. That’s what I mean by cultural Marxism, the idea that that is a destination which is certain to arrive at some point.

I think it’s nonsense, actually. I don’t believe in the Marxist interpretation of history. I think that any rational observer of history over the past 200 years can see that there have been sudden jolts, sudden turnings in the road, and that’s the way history is: it doesn’t go in a straight line to a predestination.

Is there anything particularly Marxist about the idea that history has a destination, and proceeds much like a train along a railway line, and all aboard the train know that it left Paddington station half an hour ago, and has just left Reading, and next stop is Swindon in 20 minutes time?

There seem to be a lot of people who think like this, and very few of them are Marxists, as far as I know.

And yet everyone has had the experience of being on a train which comes to a halt, and remains halted for hours, and so is well behind schedule.

Remainers are people who fully expected, like passengers on a train, to arrive at the next scheduled stop, and to arrive on time. But now, with the train having stopped, and indeed slowly reversing, nobody knows what’s going to happen next, and there is no predestined history.

The second transcript is of Martin Durkin in conversation with Brendan O’Neill, and is again about Brexit and the EU and its regulations:

MD 4:30:  …The intelligentsia. And we don’t like talking about the intelligentsia for the most part in Britain and America because it sticks in the craw, the idea that there is a group of people in society who do the thinking on behalf of the rest of us. They feel much more comfortable in Europe. They’ve got a tradition in Europe of having a class of intellectuals who have power and do the thinking and regulating on behalf of everybody else. It’s this intellectual class that forms the Brexit class, and they define themselves against the market in many ways. The market is vulgar and commercial and yucky… They’re above all that. And a large part of then derive their income and their power from the State. They’re in jobs that are paid directly or indirectly by the State and they are jobs which are indirectly or directly related to regulation and planning and organising. Regulation is their job, so they see regulation as a good thing, and that is regulation of the rest of us, because they see themselves as above us. And they are very snotty about people who have St George flags outside their houses and who drive white vans… They see the free world beyond the reach of their organisations and their jobs as messy and anarchic and in need of ordering – by them. And for them the EU was their project. The EU was this vast regulating body made up of people like them who have very nice incomes and who are largely beyond accountability from the masses, whose job is to look after the masses, to look over them, to regulate them, and so on and so forth.

Once again this is about things being expected to go according to plan. The planners draw up timetables, schedules for when things are supposed to happen, for when the train is supposed to arrive in Swindon.

And the world seems to be divided into people who plan everything they do, sometimes for decades in advance, and people like me who hate making plans, and feel that plans impede the free flow of events, It was one of the things I hated about school, that it had a strict timetable of classes, and between these classes there was a strict timetable of meals and compulsory games and church services, usually with bells signalling the start and end of them. School holidays, by contrast, were largely devoid of scheduled events, if I could arrange it, and they were bliss.

It was Brendan O’Neill who remarked, somewhere in this conversation, in response that he thought that the Liberal Intelligentsia were neither liberal nor intelligent.

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5 Responses to No Predestined History

  1. slugbop007 says:

    Speaking of trains and schedules, Mr. Davis:

    When I visited England in late September, 1976, I discovered that London was a paradise for classical music enthusiasts. There were concerts and recitals everywhere in the city with many of the world’s best musicians and orchestras, nearly every day of the week. Several months before my trip a new recording of Prokofiev’s 8th Piano Sonata was released by Deutsche Grammophon, performed by Russian pianist, Lazar Berman. When I saw that he was scheduled to perform this sonata in London on a Sunday afternoon in early December I couldn’t believe my luck. The day of the concert my Cotswold girlfriend and I were in Birmingham. We took a train to London that was scheduled to arrive with two hours to spare before the 3:15 concert time. Halfway through the journey, the train slowed down, dawdled, then stopped moving. No reason was given for the delay except for an intercom message assuring us that we were still on schedule. We finally arrived in London around 4 P.M., nearly two hours behind schedule, hailed a taxi and arrived at the concert hall just in time for the beginning of the second half of the recital, a performance of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes. Thanks to British Rail, Linda and I missed Lazar Berman’s performance of Prokofiev’s 8th Piano Sonata. The poster for that concert is still intact, on a table in my living room, just beside my turntable.


  2. slugbop007 says:

    A recent anti-cigarette butt campaign in Montreal claims that one filter can pollute up to 500 liters of water. Have you heard of that one before? If I looked it up somewhere I’m sure that I would be bombarded with pages insisting the same claptrap and would find a dissenting opionion.What to do?


  3. waltc says:

    This sentence in the second quote confused me: “It’s this intellectual class that forms the Brexit class…” Seems to me it forms the Remainer class, so…what’m’I missing?

    As I’ve maybe mentioned in other contexts, in college I took a course in International Politics with a known Marxist professor. His final exam was to write an essay disproving Marxian theory–that part about socialism’s inevitability. IIRC (and college was long ago) Marx didn’t think it was a straight line. Instead, he applied the Hegelian Dialectic–that it would take many swings of the pendulum (left-right-left etc) to arrive at the utopian stasis, aka the end of history. In any case, I disproved the inevitability (don’t remember how) and got an A-. (I guess that was far enough back in history that it was safe to contradict a Marxist and not be expelled.)

    • Frank Davis says:

      I see your point. Somehow or other I missed it. I’ll have to listen again, and see whether he actually said Remainer or anti-Brexit rather than Brexit.

      UPDATE: I listened again, and he did say Brexit. Now I’m confused too.

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