Marxism, Multiculturalism, and Free Speech, by Frank Ellis,
Washington, D.C. : Council for Social and Economic Studies, 2006, paperback, price/availability: enquire at email@example.com, 107 pp.
ISBN 0-930690-60-5, reviewed by Mark Wegierski
This book is published with a plain beige paper cover. The publisher, Roger Pearson, located in the U.S capital, is generally considered controversial. Nevertheless, one should surely suspend judgment as to the appearance and provenance of the book, as it could not have appeared under the auspices of a “main stream media” publisher.
Frank Ellis, a former Lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies at Leeds University, himself became embroiled in a “political correctness” scandal of the type which he discusses in this book. When his off-campus statements in opposition to unrestricted Third World immigration into Britain became widely circulated at his university, he was placed in an untenable situation, and was ultimately forced to negotiate an early retirement settlement.
Ironically, the study of modern languages is an area in which strict merit should be easier to determine than in most of the humanities. Indeed, it is a discipline in which certain “objective criteria” are possible – either a person knows the given language at a very high level, or he doesn’t. Also, it is relatively easier to evaluate knowledge of a given language without the possibility of accusations of bias. Frank Ellis has without question a strong facility in the Russian language, and has read widely in Russian and Soviet literature. Thus, it should have been possible to defend and uphold his scholarly credentials.
During the scandal, several students of different races said that Dr. Ellis had always been helpful and courteous to them. This is important to note, because it is presumed that someone who argues that there are differences in aggregate levels of black and white intelligence must inevitably be a bigot, and treat black people with disdain or outright contempt.
The whole emphasis of “political correctness” and its multifarious measures like “Anti-Racist Education” is – as Frank Ellis argues — an attempt to make all of traditional Western civilization appear hideous. Yet it behooves us to remember that politeness is not political correctness. Indeed, it could be argued that people tend to be naturally more polite when secure in their respective identities. As the Canadian traditionalist philosopher George Parkin Grant maintained, it is only “by loving our own” that we can come to any appreciation of a more universal good. The real basis for a more properly ethical behavior towards the so-called Other can only be in an initial love of one’s own.
Frank Ellis advances two main ideas in this book. The first is that the ultimate origins of “political correctness” as it exists today can be traced to Lenin and Mao. The second idea is that “freedom of speech” is the central concept of Western civilization*. What Frank Ellis sees as the attenuation of freedom of speech today will therefore, he believes, be disastrous.
Looking back in history, Ellis finds that Lenin and Mao (and the systems that they created) prefigured the obsessive focus on the “correctness” of one’s ideological attitudes. He cites numerous documents from Lenin and Soviet Communism, and from Mao and Chinese Communism, to this effect. He sees a thread of continuity between the ugly, totalitarian Left of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism, and the ugly, totalitarian Left of “political correctness” and multiculturalism. In the reviewer’s opinion, however, this attempt to establish Lenin as the father of political correctness is somewhat overdone.
Some Marxists have contrasted the “good Lenin” vs. the “bad Stalin”. One also hears the otiose argument that while Lenin and Mao’s actions were evil, their intentions were good, and that they were struggling against oppressive orders. But while there certainly are people in the West still prepared to defend Lenin and Mao, one can point relatively easily to tangible evil on their part– that is, to an apparatus of coercive repression, and vast numbers of deaths.
The issue on which commentators might part company with Ellis is his association of the worst aspects of the Soviet and Chinese Communism with the current-day Left in the West, and especially with multiculturalism. Some would see this move as analogous to efforts on the Left to associate the alt right with Nazism.
In the reviewer’s opinion, the author fails to appreciate the attraction of elements of left-wing thought to certain people in the contemporary West because of his unwavering hostility to Communism. The Western Left emphatically believes itself to be about “liberation” – not about prohibitions on free speech and free expression. One of the early 1960s groups called itself “The Free Speech Movement”, and one of the slogans of Paris ’68 was “it is forbidden to forbid.”
Ellis notes that white people form the overwhelming majority of the population in the United Kingdom today. It is difficult to see how that huge majority could be browbeaten by the comparatively small percentage of visible minorities (a term of official usage in Canada). Put differently, it is more important to understand the dynamics of self-deprecation among white people, than to dwell excessively on the dynamics of anti-Western and putative anti-white feelings among ethnic minorities. Although the guilt-ridden white liberal is something of a stereotype, it is vital to understand how so many “normal” people have come to embrace such views.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the main motor of the spectacular success of the Western Left since the 1960s was the apparent promise of sexual nirvana for everyone. However, mass, dissimilar immigration into Western societies is now producing stresses which even a buoyant economy will not be able to absorb and which may weaken the current-day Western engine of economic growth and technological progress. If the Western economies were to experience significant economic decline, one can envisage the emergence of ever more powerful anti-immigration and nativist movements.
Notwithstanding one’s sympathy for Frank Ellis’ arguments, it is important to distinguish between the substantially different apparatus of conditioning and control in “soft totalitarian” vs. “hard totalitarian” systems. Although “soft totalitarianism” is arguably more insidious than “hard totalitarianism” – because it is less obvious to its subjects — it beggars belief that current-day Western societies are but a step away from re-instituting the Gulag.
Obviously, the dystopia to which Frank Ellis’ writings are closest in spirit is Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints – which depicts the apocalyptic consequences of mass Third World immigration into the West. Like Raspail, Ellis considers himself a dedicated defender of Western civilisation. Ellis highlights the obvious sickness of soul of the current-day Left, which Jean Raspail also identified in his seminal book.
One of the dangers facing the West is the distinct possibility that civilized debate between the more reasonable representatives of the Left and the Right will cease to exist. But whatever may ensue, support for genuine freedom of speech – especially for those expressing currently unpopular views – will remain pivotal.
*Editorial note – Jordan Peterson has advanced a somewhat similar argument
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher