George Walford: Unexpected Support

We don’t always realise how widespread is the concern with the problems and relationships tackled by s.i. One sometimes feels that, at least for the earlier ideologies in the series, it has all been said, and well said; all we need do is to assemble the pieces. Here we turn to Loss and Gain a novel by John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman, first published in 1848 (a year more often remembered for other reasons); the OUP “World’s Classics” edition of 1986. In the first extract Newman speaks of what we now recognise as the primal ideology:

When, then, men for the first time look upon the world of politics or religion, all that they find there meets their mind’s eye as a landscape addresses itself for the first time to a person who has just gained his bodily sight. One thing is as far off as another; there is no perspectiVe. The connection of fact with fact, truth with truth, the bearing of fact upon truth, and truth upon fact, what leads to what, what are points primary and what secondary, – all this they have yet to learn. It is all a new science to them, and they do not even know their ignorance of it… Thus they have no consistency in their arguments; that is, they argue one way to-day, and not exactly the other way to-morrow, but indirectly the other way, at random. Their lines of argument diverge; nothing comes to a point; there is no one centre in which their mind sits, on which their judgement of men and things proceeds. This is the state of many men all through life; and miserable politicians or Churchmen they make, unless by good luck they are in safe hands, and ruled by others, or are pledged to a course. Else they are at the mercy of the winds and waves; and, without being Radical, Whig, Tory, or Conservative, High Church or Low Church, they do Whig acts, Tory acts, Catholic acts, and heretical acts, as the fit takes them, or as events or parties drive them. And sometimes, when their self-importance is hurt, they take refuge in the idea that all this is a proof that they are unfettered, moderate, dispassionate, that they observe the mean, that they are ‘no party men,’ when they are, in fact, the most helpless of slaves; for our strength in this world is, to be the subjects of the reason, and our liberty, to be captives of the truth. (pp. 15-16)

In the next passage Newman’s hero, a likeable, easy-going young student of divinity who later, (an outcome rather lacking in surprise for the modern reader) becomes a Roman Catholic, has come into contact with the ideology succeeding the primary, the one in which concern comes to extend beyond personal affairs and the obligation to think responsibly begins to be accepted. He finds it:

more or less antagonistic to his own favourite maxim, that it was a duty to be pleased with everyone. Contradictions could not both be real; when an affirmative was true, a negative was false. All doctrines could not be equally sound; there was a right and a wrong. The theory of dogmatic truth, as opposed to latitudinarianism (he did not know their names or their history, or suspect what was going on within him) had in the course of these his first terms, gradually begun to energise in his mind. (p. 27; compare the argument of The Logic of Religion IC26).

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Mick Brown writes that there are “only” 11,000 members of the British Communist Party. Also, that Marxism Today has a circulation of 15,000 (Sunday Times, 5 April 87).

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Our own response to queries, from pollsters and others, about our voting intentions, is that given by Disraeli to enquiries about his religion:

How will we vote? Why, the same way as all sensible men.

And which way is that? Ah, sensible men never tell.

And when pressed to recommend a book we fall back on Lincoln:

“Those who like this sort of book will find this to be the sort of book they like.”

from Ideological Commentary 29, September 1987.