Adriel Kasonta: You have described yourself as a Burkean conservative. In that sense, knowing your work and the fact that the thought of Edmund Burke is a constant source of inspiration to a true blue Tories, would not be more accurate to refer to you as a High Tory? How would you define this, distinct from the mainstream British conservatism, political and social approach?
Peter Hitchens: I loathe the term ‘true blue Tory’ and reject the label ‘Tory’ in any form. You must understand that I despise the British Conservative Party, regard it as the main obstacle to conservatism in my country and am most anxious to separate myself from it. Edmund Burke was in fact a Whig.
Kasonta: Your conservative persuasion has not always been the case, that is why I would like to quote the father of modern Poland and former socialist, Jozef Pilsudski, who once said: “Who wasn’t a socialist in his youth for sure will be scum when he’s older.” How would you then refer this to your early life and short, but quite intense (as you’ve started at the age of 17) rendezvous with socialism, and being a Trotskyist?
Hitchens: I am bored to tears by this question, which I have answered so many times in previous interviews that I will just have to refer you to the internet.
Kasonta: Having been introduced to the socialist movement by your older brother, and coming from quite liberal household – your mother was one of the few mothers who went out to work in the early 1950’ – may be an interesting story of getting “the disease,” but what I actually find enormously interesting is when was a turning point in your life, which made you “totally immune from it,” and why have you decided to denounce your previous beliefs in favour of the current convictions?
Hitchens: There was no such turning point. A change of mind is a slow thing, which grows silently, often while the person involved is only partly conscious of his doubts, and when he is conscious of them, resists them. It took many years. There was no single incident.
Kasonta: Daniel Oppenheimer’s new book titled “Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century,” which was published in April this year, tells the stories of six major political figures, who by abandoning the left and joining the right reshaped heavily American politics in the twentieth century. Among them we are finding your older brother – famous left-wing thinker Christopher Hitchens. How have you managed to co-exist with each other since the moment each of you mastered different political views, and became an intellectual icon in his own right?
Hitchens: My brother never joined anything which could be called ‘the Right’. He remained a Marxists and an admirer of Leon Trotsky till the day he died. People who classify him as having been on the right do not understand the ways in which revolutionary Marxism has altered since the collapse of the USSR. Intelligent revolutionaries, whose main aims have always been internationalist, globalist and multicultural, now seek to pursue their aims through supranational bodies, such as the EU, and interventionist liberalism, such as that now practised by the USA.
Kasonta: Interestingly enough, the other great figure also mentioned in Oppenheimer’s book is Ronald Reagan, who was a close friend of Margaret Thatcher – the person who has been accused by Professor John N. Gray of destroying traditional paternalistic Toryism in Britain. Having said that, which political movement in your opinion was more destructive to the traditional conservatism in Great Britain: Thatcherism or Blairism?
Hitchens: I think they were about equal. Mrs Thatcher’s economic liberalism destroyed industry and the strong communities which depended on it, Blairism destroyed the constitution and opened the border. But there was a third culprit, the permissive revolution sponsored by Roy Jenkins during the 1964-70 Wilson government, which destroyed traditional marriage, turned abortion into a form of contraception, eviscerated the laws against drug abuse, and removed the principle of punishment from the criminal justice system.
Kasonta: Toryism differs from what passes for conservatism today – the very idea which by embracing liberal laissez-fair capitalism is more adequate to be called “neoconservatism” – and is not represented adequately by the British Conservative Party or the Republican Party of the United States. Why therefore Conservative Party in the United Kingdom still uses this term as a label for its movement, which began fading about the time of the 1832 Reform Bill?
Hitchens: Because it fools a lot of people into voting for it, under false pretences. I think it should change its name to ‘New Labour’, which would be more accurate. But you can see this might lose some votes.
Kasonta: It was Benjamin Disraeli, who in his famous Crystal Palace speech in 1872 and later as Prime Minister tried to reach a working class voters. And though he met with some success, sadly the Conservative Party became gradually more responsive to industry and commerce. On that note, do you think that this is the main reason why today this country has “the best government that hedge funds can buy”?
Hitchens: The Conservative Party has always been a wholly unprincipled machine for obtaining office. Because it has no ideas of its own, it adopts the spirit of the age. Hedge Funds were the obvious place to turn for money in 2015, so that’s where they turned.
Kasonta: The 2016 London mayoral election will be held on 5 May 2016. The Conservative candidate is Zac Goldsmith, who is perceived as a Eurosceptic, antiglobalist and environmentalist. Bearing in mind that the natural environment has always been of great importance to Tories, who have an aversion to needless exploitation of natural as well as human resources, would you give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe he is giving a glimmer of hope for the restoration of Toryism in the Party?
Hitchens: No. The man-made global warming cult is startlingly uninterested in measures to make actual immediate improvements in the environment, such as discouraging our current wild overuse of private motor cars. It is a pseudo-religious pose, and unconvincing.
Kasonta: Only one month later will take place the most important and topical political issue for the British voters, which is the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. However, the “In/Out” debate have been extremely dominated by what Burke would describe as “sophisters, economist and calculators,” who are ardent supporters of “staying in.” With President of the United States Barack Obama, the top US general and former CIA chief David Petraeus, major UK and European voices having a support of almost all UK cabinet – including the Prime Minister, who seems to have a very clear vision about the British future under Brussels continuing supervision – what is in your opinion the possibility (if any) of reaching out to the British people with a message addressing the relevance of cultural, political and religious factors in this significant debate?
Hitchens: None. Referenda are festivals of lying an outrage against the British constitution. The only way out of the EU would have been through the destruction of the Tory Party (which is committed to EU membership) and its replacement by a party committed to secession. I argued for this for many years, and was rebuffed by my fellow conservatives. But this opportunity has now been lost, in my view forever. It is by no means clear that Britain, after nearly 50 years as a subject province, could function as an independent nation or economy. As Parliament, the civil service, the media and the legal system are overwhelmingly dominated by supporters of EU membership, a referendum vote to leave (in my view possible but unlikely) does not in any way guarantee that this country will actually leave, a process that would take at least 10 years of hard and determined bargaining.
Kasonta: What is in your opinion the future of the British Monarchy and the Anglican Church – which are a cornerstone of the British identity – in the age of rapid globalisation, which gives the foundations to the materialistic basis of society championed by the “economic man,” who just like Whigs favour the supremacy of easy to persuade Parliament and more religious toleration?
Hitchens: Both are dead and are sustained only by past reputation. They just haven’t realised it yet.
Kasonta: Is it possible that the monarchy in Britain could be completely abolished, as it is gradually becoming an irrelevant factor in its public life, due to the fact of being perceived as a relic of the past by the highly nihilistic pressure groups in this country?
Hitchens: I see it as very likely. The British people are no longer adult enough, or educated enough in their own history, to understand the nature and importance of constitutional monarchy. It is not at all irrelevant. Its authority and prestige are harmless in the hands of monarchs. Transferred to politicians, that authority and prestige will be very dangerous.
Kasonta: Duringa conference on Europe organised by Harper’s Magazine in October 2013, Professor John N. Gray said that “half of 21st century Europe is being sacrificed in order to solve the 20th century German question.” Two years later, you have shared the very same views at the Keel University lecture titled “The new confrontation with Russia: Is the EU the continuation of Germany by other means?”, supporting your arguments with an impressive knowledge of history – referring among many to Adam Tooze’s book titled “The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931.” Knowing you have been a foreign correspondent in Moscow for more than two years (just when the Soviet Union was collapsing) – currently having quite a time during the debates on Poland, Ukraine, Russia, and Europe with Edward Lucas from The Economist, who obviously neither agrees with Gray nor with you on the matter – would you agree that the reason why Ukraine is so important and vital to the European Project led by Germany is not because of the West’s concerns over social condition of Ukrainian people, but because of its economic importance in subjugating Russia, which is rejecting its externally engineered fate of an eternal consumer of the foreign industry services and products, and on the other hand preserving the country’s economic independence?
Hitchens: Not in subjugating Russia, but in turning Russia into a minor state, rather than the major regional power it still is.
Kasonta: Former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Poland, Roman Dmowski, who saw the aggressive Germanization of Polish territories controlled by the German Empire as the major threat to Polish culture, expressed the following statement in his publication titled “The Ukrainian issue” (1930): “There is no human power capable to prevent the situation, where detached from Russia and transformed into an independent state Ukraine will not become an international assemblage of racketeers, who nowadays feel very tightly squeezed in their own countries: capitalists and seekers of capital, captains of industry, technicians and merchants, speculators and schemers, thugs and organizers of any kind of prostitution…All these groups, with the assistance of smarter, more skilled in business Ukrainian people, would produce guiding layer, the elite of the country. But it would be a special elite, probably because of the fact that no country could boast such a rich collection of an international scoundrels.” How accurate was his prediction, and what are the chances of these groups to ultimately succeed in their goal to secure the invented by them New Economic World Order – perceived as a remedy to the economic turmoil of the First World War – which (bearing in mind Ukraine’s importance to the Russian security) may eventually cause another “Cold War”?
Hitchens: It is a remarkable prediction, but I personally think that a viable and law-governed Ukraine is possible, that the Ukrainian people (who have suffered enough from bad leadership and foreign intervention) deserve that and that if outsiders stop meddling in Ukraine for their own ends, this might come about. I hope so.
Kasonta: Exploring further the “Cold War” narrative, and knowing that you were also a foreign correspondent in Washington, I would like to ask about your opinion on Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, passed by the U.S. Congress and sent to the Senate in June 2015, which instructs country’sDirector of National Intelligenceto conduct a major “assessment on funding of political parties and nongovernmental organizations by the Russian Federation and its security and intelligence services informer Soviet states and countries in Europe.” Moreover, under the powers given by the act’s section 338, James R. Clapper (known for his sympathy towards the plans of arming Ukraine forces against Russia) is going to assess if Kremlin supports increasingly popular EU-sceptic movements in continent. On that note, would you agree that the real “special relationship” is not between America and Britain, but America and Germany, which is perceived by Americans as a major power in Europe?
Hitchens: The real special relationship is between the USA and Saudi Arabia. All others pale beside it. The ‘special relationship’ between the USA and the UK is more or less mythical.
Kasonta: If it is true, “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” scenario for British workers seems to me to be very realistic. Would you agree?
Hitchens: I have no idea. I am not sure anyone much wants British workers these days, though. Our education system has seen to that.
Kasonta: Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as a counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966–68 and was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977–81, reminded us in his book titled “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives” on the importance of Ukraine in terms of classifying Russia as a major or marginal power in the world. Therefore, do you believe there is any chance of normalizing relations between the West and Russia, or countries like Poland are simply bound to follow George W. Bush’s mantra, saying “You’re either with us, or against us,” which fruits will be most certainly visible during the upcoming NATO summit in Poland this summer?
Hitchens: It’s not looking good, but events in Syria may have lessened the US desire to pick quarrels in eastern Europe.
Kasonta: Do you share the sentiment with many decent American conservatives, who perceive Donald Trump as a “healer” of the Republican Party, and therefore America’s future foreign policy?
Hitchens: No. Mr Trump is not a conservative.
Kasonta: Yale Richmond wrote a book entitled “Cultural Exchange and the Cold War: Raising the Iron Curtain,” where he grouped Russians into two distinct camps:
“Westernizers, recognizing Russia’s backwardness, have sought to borrow from the West in order to modernize. They have regarded Russia as a political entity that would benefit from Western enlightenment, rationalism, rule of law, technology, and manufacturing and the growth of a Western-style middle class. Among the Westernizers have been political reformers, liberals, and socialists.
Slavophiles have also sought to borrow from the West but have been determined to protect and preserve Russia’s unique cultural values and traditions. They have rejected individualism, and regarded the Orthodox Church, rather than the state, as Russia’s leading historical and moral force. As admirers of agricultural life, they were critical of urban development and industrialization. Slavophiles, moreover, sought to preserve the ‘mir’, the traditional Russian agricultural commune, in order to prevent the growth of a Russian proletariat. They preferred Russian mysticism to Western rationalism. Among the Slavophiles have been philosophical conservatives, nationalists, and the Church.”
On that note, knowing your tendency to describe Russian President as a “sinister tyrant,” to which group you would assign Putin, and statesman of which mentioned political persuasion is most desirable in your opinion when it comes to Russian prosperity and security?
Hitchens: I think Mr Putin is a clever and ruthless Machiavellian who was angered by the humiliation of his country in the Yeltsin years but has no discernible ideology or belief beyond a visceral patriotism. He is sustained in power partly by ill-informed Western beliefs in Russian aggression and a ‘new cold war’, because the resulting silly hostility increases his domestic popularity and so strengthens him. He is also kept in office by the grave problems of autocratic systems in a self-righteous age, which make it extremely difficult for leaders ever to leave power peacefully, or to retire. If they do so, they are very likely to be hurried off to some international courtroom. So they don’t.
Kasonta: Finally, I would like to ask if “one of the happiest, fairest and kindest societies which has ever existed in this imperfect world” will prevent in two months’ time the abolition of its Great country, or will it be a date of “the burial of a great and civilized nation”?
Hitchens: Oh, the burial took place some time ago. I am working on an inscription for the headstone.
Peter Jonathan Hitchens is an English journalist and author. He has published six books, including “The Abolition of Britain,” “The Rage Against God” and “The War We Never Fought.” He is a frequent critic of political correctness, and describes himself as a theist and Burkean conservative. Hitchens writes for Britain’s The Mail on Sunday newspaper and is a former foreign correspondent in Moscow and Washington. He works as a foreign reporter and in 2010 was awarded the Orwell Prize. He is the younger brother of the late writer Christopher Hitchens.
Oryginalna wersja wywiadu w języku angielskim została zamieszczona na prośbę Petera Hitchensa.