‘The rivers of Zimbabwe will run red with blood’: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United Kingdom on 2011-11-15 20:34Z by Steven

‘The rivers of Zimbabwe will run red with blood’: Enoch Powell and the Post-Imperial Nostalgia of the Monday Club

Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume 37, Issue 4 (December 2011)
pages 731-745
DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2011.613691

Daniel McNeil, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

In his influential account of post-colonial melancholia, Paul Gilroy suggests that contemporary reports of violence in Southern Africa reveal Britain’s inability to work through its grim history of imperialism and colonialism. Gilroy’s study links recent discussions of tragic Southern African themes to Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968. However, it does not mention Powell’s critique of Britain’s ‘post-imperial nostalgia’ in a speech about Rhodesia later that year. This is not entirely surprising – the Conservative Central Office did not disseminate Powell’s call for Britons to move beyond sentimental attachment to ‘kith and kin’ in Rhodesia, and Rhodesian sympathisers in the Conservative Monday Club attempted to work around Powell’s refusal to support the ‘White Commonwealth’. Moreover, Powell opposed non-white ‘communalism’ whether he was emphasising the importance of the British Empire to English identity or challenging the ‘harmful myth’ of empire as an English nationalist. Consequently, this article uses archival material relating to the Monday Club and the Rhodesian Ministry of Information in order to document three of the main strands of post-colonial melancholia that apply to Powellite figures on the right who defended (white) minority rule in Rhodesia and/or demonised (non-white) minority cultures in the United Kingdom. The first main strand of post-colonial melancholia involves the belief that racial intermixture will lead to violence and economic instability. The second emphasises the importance of strong white rule to limit racial violence and industrial retardation. The third attempts to contest and then seize the position of victim, alleging one set of standards for the ‘civilised’ West and another set of standards for ‘failed, incompetent and pre-modern states.’

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