Friday, 24 June 2011

Revolution - or permanent anarchy? GK Chesterton on the Suffragette strategy

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"The objection to the Suffragettes is not that they are Militant Suffragettes. On the contrary, it is that they are not militant enough.

"A revolution is a military thing; it has all the military virtues; one of which is that it comes to an end. Two parties fight with deadly weapons, but under certain rules of arbitrary honor; the party that wins becomes the government and proceeds to govern. The aim of civil war, like the aim of all war, is peace.

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"Now the Suffragettes cannot raise civil war in this soldierly and decisive sense; first, because they are women; and, secondly, because they are very few women. But they can raise something else; which is altogether another pair of shoes.

"They do not create revolution; what they do create is anarchy; and the difference between these is not a question of violence, but a question of fruitfulness and finality.

"Revolution of its nature produces government; anarchy only produces more anarchy. (...) You can only knock off the King's head once. But you can knock off the King's hat any number of times. Destruction is finite, obstruction is infinite: so long as rebellion takes the form of mere disorder (instead of an attempt to enforce a new order) there is no logical end to it; it can feed on itself and renew itself forever.

(...)

"It is exactly this unmilitant quality in the Suffragettes that makes their superficial problem. The problem is that their action has none of the advantages of ultimate violence; it does not afford a test.

"War is a dreadful thing; but it does prove two points sharply and unanswerably--numbers, and an unnatural valor. One does discover the two urgent matters; how many rebels there are alive, and how many are ready to be dead.

"But a tiny minority, even an interested minority, may maintain mere disorder forever.

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"The working objection to the Suffragette philosophy is simply that overmastering millions of women do not agree with it. I am aware that some maintain that women ought to have votes whether the majority wants them or not; but this is surely a strange and childish case of setting up formal democracy to the destruction of actual democracy.

"What should the mass of women decide if they do not decide their general place in the State? These people practically say that females may vote about everything except about Female Suffrage."

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The Unmilitary Suffragette, from What's Wrong with the World by GK Chesterton, 1910

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Comment:

A tiny minority, even an interested minority, may maintain mere disorder forever - this is a striking recognition, a century ago,  of the methods of the Left which have led to political correctness: rule by the tiny minority.
 
Obstruction is infinite: so long as rebellion takes the form of mere disorder there is no logical end to it; it can feed on itself and renew itself forever - well, yes indeed.

You can knock off the King's hat any number of times - how can such behaviour be stopped (especially when it is tacitly approved by the King's rivals)?

Modern society seems unable to deal with this kind of stubborn, unrelenting disorder by any means other than yielding.

Presumably, the only effective methods would be judged too harsh to be acceptable in modern society: hence tiny minorities of really persistent troublemakers get their way, sooner or later.
 
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