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Rivers of Blood:
Remembering Enoch Powell
(June 16, 1912–February 8, 1998)

3,253 words

Editor’s Note:

This is the full text of Enoch Powell’s famous “Rivers of Blood” speech to the Annual General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre, Birmingham, England, April 20, 1968.

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature. One is that by the very order of things such evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred: At each stage in their onset there is room for doubt and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By the same token, they attract little attention in comparison with current troubles, which are both indisputable and pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future. Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: “if only,” they love to think, “if only people wouldn’t talk about it, it probably wouldn’t happen.” Perhaps this habit goes back to the primitive belief that the word and the thing, the name and the object, are identical. At all events, the discussion of future grave but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular and at the same time the most necessary occupation for the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it, deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after.

A week or two ago I fell into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalized industries. After a sentence or two about the weather, he suddenly said: “If I had the money to go, I wouldn’t stay in this country.” I made some deprecatory reply, to the effect that even this Government wouldn’t last forever; but he took no notice, and continued: “I have three children, all of them have been through grammar school and two of them married now, with family. I shan’t be satisfied till I have seen them settled overseas. In this country in fifteen or twenty years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation? The answer is that I do not have the right not to do so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that this country will not be worth living in for his children. I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else. What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands are saying and thinking — not throughout Great Britain, perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history.

In fifteen or twenty years, on present trends, there will be in this country 3.5 million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to Parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s office. There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of 5 to 7 million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns, and parts of towns across England will be occupied by different sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would constitute the majority. It is this fact above all which creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take, action where the difficulties lie in the present but the evils to be prevented or minimized lie several parliaments ahead.

The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: “How can its dimensions be reduced?” Granted it be not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 percent or 10 percent. The answers to the simple and rational question are equally simple and rational: by stopping or virtually stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.

It almost passes belief that at this moment twenty or thirty additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week — and that means fifteen or twenty additional families of a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre. So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family with spouses and fiancées whom they have never seen. Let no one suppose that the flow of dependents will automatically tail off. On the contrary, even at the present admission rate of only 5,000 a year by voucher, there is sufficient for a further 325,000 dependents per annum ad infinitum, without taking into account the huge reservoir of existing relations in this country — and I am making no allowance at all for fraudulent entry. In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay. I stress the words “for settlement.” This has nothing to do with the entry of Commonwealth citizens, any more than of aliens, into this country, for the purposes of study or of improving their qualifications, like (for instance) the Commonwealth doctors who, to the advantage of their own countries, have enabled our hospital service to be expanded faster than would otherwise have been possible. These are not, and never have been, immigrants.

I turn to re-emigration. If all immigration ended tomorrow, the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective size of this element in the population would still leave the basic character of the national danger unaffected. This can only be tackled while a considerable proportion of the total still comprises persons who entered this country during the last ten years or so. Hence the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party’s policy: the encouragement of re-emigration. Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with generous grants and assistance, would choose either to return to their countries of origin or to go to other countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills they represent. Nobody knows, because no such policy has yet been attempted. I can only say that, even at present, immigrants in my own constituency from time to time come to me, asking if I can find them assistance to return home. If such a policy were adopted and pursued with the determination which the gravity of the alternative justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter the prospects for the future.

It can be no part of any policy that existing families should be kept divided; but there are two directions in which families can be reunited, and if our former and present immigration laws have brought about the division of families, albeit voluntary or semi-voluntarily, we ought to be prepared to arrange for them to be reunited in their countries of origin. In short, suspension of immigration and encouragement of re-emigration hang together, logically and humanly, as two aspects of the same approach.

The third element of the Conservative Party’s policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority. As Mr. Heath has put it, we will have no “first-class citizens” and “second-class citizens.” This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendants should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow citizen and another or that he should be subjected to inquisition as to his reasons and motives for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it “against discrimination,” whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong. The discrimination and the deprivation, the sense of alarm and resentment, lies not with the immigrant population but with those among whom they have come and are still coming. This is why to enact legislation of the kind before Parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match on to the gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said about those who propose and support it is they know not what they do.

Nothing is more misleading than comparison between the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American Negro. The Negro population of the United States, which was already in existence before the United States became a nation, started literally as slaves and were later given the franchise and other rights of citizenship, to the exercise of which they have only gradually and still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which knows no discrimination between one citizen and another, and he entered instantly into the possession of the rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment under the National Health Service. Whatever drawbacks attended the immigrants — and they were drawbacks which did not, and do not, make admission into Britain by hook or by crook appear less than desirable — arose not from the law or from public policy or from administration but from those personal circumstances and accidents which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and experience of one man to be different for another’s.

But while to the immigrant entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country. They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighborhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. On top of this, they now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by Act of Parliament: a law, which cannot, and is not intended, to operate to protect them or redress their grievances, is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

In the hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received when I last spoke on this subject two or three months ago, there was one striking feature which was largely new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational and often well-educated letter, who believed that they had to omit their address because it was dangerous to have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they would risk either penalties or reprisals if they were known to have done so. The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing among ordinary English people in the areas of the country which are affected is something that those without direct experience can hardly imagine. I am going to allow just one of those hundreds of people to speak for me. She did give her name and address, which I have detached from the letter which I am about to read. She was writing from Northumberland about something which is happening at this moment in my own constituency:

Eight years ago in a respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner) lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked hard and did well, paid off her mortgage, and began to put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after another taken over. The quiet streets became a place of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants moved out.

The day after the last one left, she was awakened at 7 a.m. by two Negroes who wanted to use her phone to contact their employer. When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but she always refused. Her little store of money went, and after paying her rates, she had less than £2 per week. She went to apply for a rate reduction and was seen by a young girl, who on hearing she had a seven-roomed house, suggested she should let part of it. When she said the only people she could get were Negroes, the girl said “racial prejudice won’t get you anywhere in this country.” So she went home.

The telephone is her lifeline. Her family pay the bill, and help her out as best they can. Immigrants have offered to buy her house — at a price which the prospective landlord would be able to recover from his tenants in weeks, or at most in a few months. She is becoming afraid to go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed through her letterbox. When she goes to the shops, she is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies. They cannot speak English, but one word they know. “Racialist,” they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed, this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And is she so wrong? I begin to wonder.

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are willfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word “integration.” To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members. Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of color, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavor is bent in that direction. But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one to boot.

We are on the verge of here of a change. Hitherto it has been force of circumstance and of background which has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible to the greater part of the immigrant population — that they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures towards integration which normally bear upon any small minority did not operate. Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of action domination, first over fellow immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly. The words I am about to use, verbatim as they appeared in the local press on 17 February, are not mine, but those of a Labour Member of Parliament who is a Minister in the present Government.

The Sikh communities’ campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker. Whether practiced by one color or another it is to be strongly condemned.

All credit to John Stonehouse for having had the insight to perceive that, and the courage to say it.

For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organize to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existence of the United States itself, is coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect. Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it will be of American proportions long before the end of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.

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  1. Nova Rhodesia
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Incredibly prescient. I can remember thinking about a decade and a half or so ago that things might not be working out, in terms of race relations, in the United States as we had hoped that they would. I thought that if our nation was swamped with Hispanics that, well, at least Europe will still be there. When I started to see that Europe also was suffering a deluge of alien people, I became truly horrified.
    And now here we all are.

  2. Dr ExCathedra
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Blacks are our foster adolescents from a previous marriage.

    They range between being totally and entitledly dependent on you for $20 and the car keys, as well as providing the funds for all their new clothes and technology and entertainment and drugs.

    And then telling you to stay out of their damn room and that they hate you and you’ll never understand them and you have ruined their lives.

    And that you’re not their father anyway so why do they have to pay attention to your old White ass.

    But they refuse to leave home.

    Your neighbors and your family and your pastor all tell you to be more compassionate and to remember how privileged you are and how much “the young people” are suffering.

    Your wards trash their bedroom and then break the nice things in your living room, ripping up your grandparents’ pictures. And then they demand $100 and take the car keys and refuse to return them because you owe it to them for making them so unhappy.
    They complain that they are the victims of the piece but you’re the one trapped in Hell.

    • Alexandra O.
      Posted June 17, 2020 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      Brilliant, down-to-earth reality assessment of the mess we find ourselves in. This is exactly what we are up against, except we have millions of spoiled step-children in America, who are making our lives hell. I think we really need to find some legal loopholes in the segregation laws, and use them to our benefit, or we’ll end up like the old lady in the post.

  3. Vehmgericht
    Posted June 16, 2020 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    When reading Powell it is interesting to reflect that certain Caribbean immigrants of a nineteen fifties and early nineteen sixties vintage (the so-called ‘Windrush Generation’) who did not manage to regularise their immigration status in an entire half century of residence in Britain are presently suing the British Government!

    They are aggrieved that the Home Office had the audacity a few years ago to query their circumstances and even managed to deport a few of them. This is now a major scandal and held to be indicative of Britain’s inveterate institutional racism!

    The government is too terrified to make the obvious point that perhaps these persons could have shown a basic sense of civic responsibility, if not actual initiative, in sorting matters out in the ample time available to them. But of course our supposedly ‘white supremacist’ establishment is so terrified that a person of colour may have his or her nose put out of joint that total abject capitulation, accompanied by public self-flagellation and ample compensation to the ‘victims’ is again on the cards.

  4. Gweilo Guy
    Posted June 17, 2020 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Prophets in their day seem mad until …

  5. Jeanie Hammer
    Posted June 17, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    A great man not in his time but definitely in our time.

  6. Alexandra O.
    Posted June 17, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard to believe that this was written in 1968, just when all our worst problems with our new civil rights laws were beginning to show us the extent of what we had agreed to. Now, 50+ years down the road, not a thing has changed, but has only gotten worse. And Powell was the only one warning of the future. England is now overrun with immigrants, legal and not, and it’s not a pretty sight. Anywhere you travel in the world, you are surrounded by these problems and their effect on once beautiful countryside and metropolitan spaces. Even Churchill is being dethroned — how long before all the museums will be filled with graffiti?

  7. Lord Shang
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a follower of Enoch Powell since I first learned of him in the 80s. Clearly, the greatest British statesman after Churchill (and I’m being somewhat conventional, speaking of the largeness of the man on the historical stage, not necessarily the qualities of his intellect, judgment, or character: Churchill’s vanity may well have destroyed the West’s last chance to survive what was already apparent to prescient men as the accelerating racial contraction in Occidental scope and power). Powell, it should be noted, however, was never as good as he could or ought to have been, esp on race. He was something like America’s Pat Buchanan, a true, mainstream conservative who recognized that disallowing colored immigration invasions was a foundational part of any conservative agenda. OTOH, and again as with Buchanan, he was weak (after his heroism of 1968) wrt the issue of what is properly to be done once such invasions have already occurred (ie, forcible removal and repatriation). This was less excusable in Powell’s case, as America has been, from one perspective, multiracial from the beginning, whereas Powell’s view that England was a white ethnonation was obviously correct – and thus the moral case for forcible nonwhite repatriations was and remains always far stronger for white European than white diasporic nations.

    Still the Rivers of Blood speech is one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by a conservative, esp in the post-WW2 era. The first line alone is a classic statement, and should be memorized by every young white person.

    • Lord Shang
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      A quick internet search dredged up this short article about Powell’s political philosophy. I think it is an excellent and very fair summation, and thus I copy/paste it in its entirety. Please read it, for beyond the parochial elements unique to Britain, it is a wonderful distillation of the core principles of conservative nationalism (ie, the synthesis of Anglo-American conservatism with ethnonationalism) [note: I bracketed the core alleged principles of Powell by series of capitalized Xs] :


      December 04, 2018

      By Robbie Shilliam

      The spectre of Enoch Powell has regularly been conjured in debates over multiculturalism, immigration and Brexit, not least of all in the decision by the BBC earlier this year to broadcast a reading of the famous “rivers of blood” speech on its 50th anniversary. Oftentimes, Powell is invoked as a moralistic interlocutor: one’s purported proximity to Powell is indicative of one’s degree of racism. In this contribution, I would like to take a different strategy of engagement.

      I wish to approach Powell as more than a rhetorician or ideologue of racism. I also want to apprehend Powell’s influence beyond those political figures on the right who have self-avowedly embraced him. Instead, I want to engage with Powell as a capable intellectual who crafted a distinct and enduring political philosophy. In what follows, I utilize various speeches and texts of Powell in the 1960s and early 1970s in order to lay out ten fundamental premises and propositions of that political philosophy. The purpose of doing so is to help assess the degree to which the current debate owes an intellectual debt to Powell in terms of its analytical framing rather than simply its moral character.


      1. Powell not only opposed the preservation of the British Empire but argued that English nationhood had never in any way been modified or changed by Empire. The “nationhood of the mother country”, asserted Powell, “remained unaltered through it all, almost unconscious of the fantastic [imperial] structure built around her” (Heffer 1998, 337).

      2. Powell apprehended English nationhood in terms of heredity. “National consciousness”, argued Powell, “is transmitted from generation to generation by a process analogous to that of inheritance. Even while it is transmitted it changes, yet remains the same” (Schofield 2015, 182). Those generations who lived through Empire were now, in its end days, coming “home” again, to “discover affinities with earlier generations of English” who had lived before the “expansion of England”. For Powell, this affective “coming home” was driven by a “curiosity of finding ourselves once more akin with the old English” (Heffer 1998, 337).

      3. In Powell’s estimation, national heredity was demonstrated by cultural character and constituted by political culture. The English man could not suffer “the safety, ease and irresponsibility of servitude”; he was bound instead to pursue “freedom… [and] the responsibilities and the opportunities, which are inseparable from it” (Powell 1970). For Powell, this orderly independence, so characteristic of the English man, was safeguarded by deference to the political culture of parliamentary sovereignty. When Henry 8th declared his imperium, Powell argued, “since then no law has been made for England outside England … and the whole subsequent history of Britain and the political character of the British people have taken their colour and trace their quality from that moment and that assertion” (Ritchie 1978, 34). Indeed, for Powell, the British nation distinguished itself in world history due to the uninterrupted longevity of its Parliament.

      4. And yet the cultural matter of English nationhood was congenitally racialized by Powell as white (Anglo-Saxon) stock. Specifically, Powell arranged the diverse populations of the British Commonwealth by reference to varying political proximities to whiteness. For instance, Powell considered Commonwealth citizenship to be a “legal fiction” created by the 1948 Nationality Act. And he bemoaned the ascription of “our nearest European neighbours” as aliens at the same time as “myriad inhabitants of independent countries in Asia, Africa and the New World were British, indistinguishable from native-born inhabitants of these islands” (Powell 1966). Moreover, Powell never presented Anglo-Saxon members of the Commonwealth as a national threat in the same way that he did “coloured immigration”. When speaking of those population groups who did not, in his estimation, wish to integrate, Powell famously proclaimed that “their colour marks them out” (Powell 2007). The English were for Powell categorically “a white nation”; a child born of Indian parents in Birmingham was not English but Indian (Powell 1970). Moreover, Powell defined the “coloured” population as including children with only one white parent, hence further demonstrating his racialization of cultural heredity (Powell 1971).

      5. Powell therefore identified the threat to English nationhood at empire’s end primarily in terms of non-white arrivals from the Commonwealth. For Powell, the “ever-increasing settlement” of such persons, especially as an English-born yet “alien element” (Powell 2007), threatened the national heredity. To be clear, Powell understood this threat primarily in terms of heredity, that is, the unsullied reproduction of the white family unit. Tellingly, Powell was especially concerned with miscegenation via the arrival of “unmarried persons” (Powell 2007); he wished them to be returned to their own kith and kin overseas. Additionally, Powell famously conjured the effect of non-white settlement in neighbourhoods in terms of “wives unable to get hospital beds in childbirth, [and] children unable to get school places..”(Powell 2007).

      6. The eugenic threat of empire, posed by immigration, was at the same time a cultural threat to the English character. “Imperial delusion”, claimed Powell, encouraged the English people to “consume what we have not produced” (Powell 1963). Such contrived dependency upon the riches garnered from empire threatened the orderly independence characteristic of the English whereby “on our own ingenuity, effort and husbandry alone depends what this nation .. can achieve and enjoy” (Powell 1963).

      7. Race relations legislation in Britain functioned as a wedge by which empire’s pathologies – even at empire’s end – were to be induced into English nationhood. For Powell, the Race Relations Act of 1968 legally supported the minoritization of the racialized majority, such that the white English were “made strangers in their own country” (Powell 2007). But not only was Powell voicing a eugenicist concern over the diminishing white stock. Race relations, for Powell, also undermined the inherited culture characteristics of the English, especially its proud tradition of orderly independence. In this regard, race relations legislation denied the English man the right to “discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow citizen and another” (Schofield 2015, 213).

      8. Powell chose to frame the pursuit of social justice as an issue of racial demography rather than structural socio-economic inequality. In terms of its consequences, Powell placed redistributive economic policies in the same basket as race relations legislation (see Powell 1963). That is, both imperial decadence and welfare, for Powell, weakened the English character and the principle of orderly independence. A corollary of this argument was that Powell articulated class relations through a populist analytic. The “quite ordinary working man” referenced in the Rivers of Blood speech spoke, effectively, for “every class within [the nation]” (Powell 1963). In this respect, Powell’s choice of consistently framing social justice via a racial demography was inescapably – and intentionally – a populist framing of the grievances of the racialized majority.

      9. To question whether the “ordinary” English population could had [sic] legitimate grievances qua a racialized majority was proof of one’s elitist mendacity. Because of its intractably populist grammar, Powell presented his analytic of racial demography as a common sense to “ordinary people” who knew “without being lectured” that the nation faced first and foremost a racialized demographic challenge (Powell 1963). Powell claimed that the “enemy” had “mastered the art of establishing a moral ascendancy over his victims and destroying their good conscience” (Powell 1970). A key purpose of this conspiracy, Powell claimed, was to shut down political debate by attributing “prejudice”, “racialism” and “un-christian” sentiments to any critique of the analytics of racial demography (Powell 1970). Moreover, Powell considered the guiltiest of elites to be politicians and educationalists, especially those who argued to, the contrary that, in the global context of the late 1960s, “rioting and arson [by minorities] is due to dissatisfaction over housing and employment” (Powell 1970).

      10. For Powell, membership of the EEC was to be adjudicated by reference to this populist framework. Powell endorsed cultural and economic relationships with Europe, but not political ones. Entry into the EEC would induce a new political dependency, a replacement of the old imperial handicap. It is instructive to note that, in seeking to engender a “candid conversation” about “our own country” when his fellow politicians were too timid to do so, Powell associated his line of argument with the Ian Smith’s contemporaneous project to preserve Rhodesia’s quasi-apartheid regime against the move towards decolonization. “Let me start with a Unilateral Declaration of Independence”, stated Powell: “we do not need … to be tied up with anybody” (Powell 1969). What was at stake in EEC membership was never, straightforwardly, British sovereignty. Powell’s Euroscepticism was part of a project set upon redeeming English nationhood from imperial and racial contaminants and dependencies.


      These ten premises and propositions are linked by a clear logic that, when articulated, provides for Powell’s political philosophy. Here it is: English nationhood has a heredity that is categorically separate to its imperial history and legacies; this nationhood is constituted by the political culture of parliamentary sovereignty, demonstrated by the cultural character of orderly independence, and inherited exclusively through white (Anglo-Saxon) stock; non-white Commonwealth immigration therefore threatens the integrity of this heredity in terms of racial mixing, the diminution of reproductive potential for white families, and the corruption of English cultural character; anti-racism legislation further erodes the integrity of this heredity; hence, the threat to English nationhood can only be adequately addressed by an analytic of racial demography; moreover, to focus, analytically, on structural inequality runs the risk of delegitimizing the grievances of the racial majority by legitimizing the grievances of racial minorities; finally, political membership of the European union must also be assayed through the same analytic of racial demography and concern for the purity of English nationhood guaranteed by Parliamentary sovereignty.

      Certainly, the interpretation of an intellectual project is always open to question and critique. I am, though, equally certain that any serious scholar of Powell would agree that each of the ten points I have listed are predominant – or at least important – in his political thought.

      The final question, then, is this: to what extent and in what ways do current debates over ethnic diversity, multiculturalism and immigration accord to, resonate with, promote, or tacitly accept the cardinal points of Powell’s political philosophy? A series of moral arguments and policy prescriptions can, of course, be logically arrived at from these premises and propositions. But I am principally concerned with returning current debate to first principles. Moralising over metropolitan elites versus provincial communities, Fabians versus Blue Labour, or Thatcherites versus Red Tory is of secondary importance to the fact that an analytic of racial demography – however it is deployed – is fundamentally Powellite. Clarity over current political-philosophical positions will enable an even greater clarity of the political and ethical stakes at play in intellectual debate.


      Heffer, Simon. 1998. Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
      Powell, Enoch. 1963. “The Duties of the Tory Government and Nation.” POLL 4/1/1 Speeches.
      ———. 1966. “Extract from Speech at the Memorial Hall, Harrow.” POLL 4/1/2 File 4.
      ———. 1969. “Extract from Speech to the Conservative Women’s Rally, Clacton.” POLL 4/1/2 File 4.
      ———. 1970. “Speech at Turves Green Girls School.” POLL 4/1/6 Speeches.
      ———. 1971. “Speech to the Carshalton and Banstead Young Conservatives.” POLL 4/1/7 File 4.
      ———. 2007. “Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech.” The Telegraph, November 6, 2007, sec. Comment.
      Ritchie, Richard. 1978. Enoch Powell: A Nation or No Nation? Six Years in British Politics. Kingswood: Elliot Right Way.
      Schofield, Camilla. 2015. Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press.

      Robbie Shilliam is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.

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