“I have for a long time looked upon the Conservative party as a body who have betrayed their trust; more from ignorance, I admit, than from design; yet clearly a body of individuals totally unequal to the exigencies of the epoch, and indeed unconscious of its real character,” – Benjamin Disraeli, in his novel, Coningsby, appalled by the Conservative Party’s indifference to soaring social inequality in the mid-nineteenth century in Britain.
In his subsequent novel, Sybil, where he railed against the emerging “two nations” – “between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws,” – he articulated a future conservatism that could manage to address not the etiolated dogmas of its past, but the urgent practical demands of the present:
In a parliamentary sense, that great party has ceased to exist; but I will believe that it still lives in the thought and sentiment and consecrated memory of the English nation. ( . . . ) Even now it is not dead, but sleepeth; and, in an age of political materialism, of confused purposes and perplexed intelligence, that aspires only to wealth because it has faith in no other accomplishment, as men rifle cargoes on the verge of shipwreck, toryism will yet rise from the tomb over which Bolingbroke shed his last tear, to bring back strength to the Crown, liberty to the Subject, and to announce that power has only one duty: to secure the social welfare of the PEOPLE.
No, Disraeli was not a Communist; he was a Conservative who saw the rapaciousness of unfettered, ascendant capitalism as a direct threat to constitutional and social order. I find myself returning more and more to Disraeli these days, for reasons David Simon would understand.