The View From Olympus 13: Two Parallels

Historical parallels are simultaneously risky and useful. The risks are two. First, events seldom, if ever, follow exactly the same track twice. Two situations that look very much alike at the outset may reach entirely unlike destinations. Second, parallels may be applied to situations that are entirely dissimilar, either from ignorance or out of a conscious effort to deceive. The neocons’ repeated spotting of “Munich in 1938” in circumstances that have nothing whatever in common with Munich is a mixture of both.

But historical parallels are also useful, which is why we continue to draw them. While they cannot give us answers, they can spur us to ask the right questions. They alert us to look for factors and dangers we might otherwise miss. They can help us avoid making the same mistake twice, though we can always make new mistakes.

Two current situations bring two different historical parallels to mind. The first situations is the growing friction—it is not yet a crisis—between Japan and China over the islands the Japanese call the Senkakus. The parallel is the crisis of July 1914, which led to World War I. Now as then, no Great Power’s vital interests are at stake. The islands are uninhabited and occupy no geographic choke point. Russia received no benefit from Serbia, and the House of Hapsburg had no shortage of archdukes (though Franz Ferdinand was especially able and would have made a fine emperor). Now as then, what is at stake is pride. China wants to show the world she can no longer be humiliated, and Japan is no longer willing to play the role of defeated power. In 1914, Austria (with good reason) was fed up with Serbia tweaking her nose, and Russia wanted to avenge her humiliation by Austria in the Bosnian Annexation Crisis of 1908 (a humiliation Russia actually inflicted on herself through her foreign minister’s incompetence).

The warning the 1914 parallel offers is to us, as an ally of Japan. Just as it was madness for Europe to go to war over the death of an Austrian archduke and Vienna’s resultant ultimatum to Serbia, so it would be insanity for the United States to go to war with China over three islands. Japan is no more a strategic asset to us than Serbia was to Russia; now as then, the “ally” is a strategic liability, not a benefit. Unfortunately, now as then, Washington is allowing a useless alliance to drag us toward a potential war where we have no real interests at stake. Washington has said that if fighting erupts over the Senkakus, we will act militarily in support of Japan. Could this be viewed in Tokyo as a blank check similar to that Berlin gave Vienna, and Paris had already given St. Petersburg? Indeed it could. One hopes Washington understands that this is one parallel we very much do not want to play out any farther than it has already gone, which is to say too far.

The other interesting parallel is that between the war in Syria and the Thirty Years’ War. Like the Thirty Years’ War, the war in Syria is spreading. It is drawing in outside powers. It is driven by a mixture of state and religious motives. It has let loose forces that make a compromise peace extremely difficult. As in 1648, it may be that when peace finally comes, it will be peace of exhaustion. And there may be a whole lot more war to come before the combatants reach that point.

The caution that the Thirty Years’ War parallel raises is for outside powers, including the United States and Russia. The warning is, let this burn out locally, however long that may take. Do not get directly involved, because doing so will not shorten the conflict but lengthen it. Syria and its surrounding region will suffer more, not less, if outside powers use it for their battleground. “Humanitarian intervention” today has its parallel in intervention in support of co-religionists then, and it is no more likely to benefit those it is intended to benefit. By some accounts, the Thirty Years’ War reduced Germany’s population from 16 million to 6 million.

From a Fourth Generation war perspective, he Thirty Years’ War parallel points to something else as well. The Thirty Years’ War began as a contest between religious sects and ended up as a war between states acting on the basis of national interests. The war in Syria began as a war to control a state but has already morphed into a fight between religious sects. Just as the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 established state dominance, so could it be that the war in Syria will end by sweeping away the region’s states in favor of entities based on religion, such as caliphates? As I said, historical parallels help us ask questions, not answer them.

Hate!

If cultural Marxists have not already accused TraditionalRight of “hate,” they will. Why is it inevitable? Because in the vocabulary of cultural Marxism, “hate” is any open defiance of cultural Marxism. And TraditionalRight exists in part to defy cultural Marxism in as many ways as it can.

Most, if not all, ideologies have their own vocabularies. They take existing words and give them their own definitions, thus creating a code through which they can send two different messages simultaneously; one to other believers in the ideology and another to unsuspecting average citizens. When cultural Marxists accuse someone of “hate,” they tell most people “these are nasty, violent individuals or organizations,” while to other cultural Marxists the label means “this or these are dangerous enemies.” Cultural Marxism will tolerate a certain amount of criticism, but it is terrified of open defiance because it threatens to undermine the psychological conditioning that is the basis of its power. If someone can walk up to their clay idol and break off its nose, why should anyone fear it?

An example of the use of this kind of code by ideologies occurred at Dartmouth College a few years before I arrived there as a freshman in 1965. The college sponsored a debate between the famous socialist Norman Thomas and Dartmouth history professor J.C. Adams on the subject, “Does the Soviet Union want peace?” Thomas quoted one Soviet document after another calling for peace. J.C. Adams demolished him by opening the official Soviet dictionary and quoting its definition of peace: “The state of affairs prevailing under socialism.” In Soviet coded speech, “peace” had become another word for conquest.

So it is with “hate” in the mouths of cultural Marxists. “Hate” is any defense of Western culture, the Christian religion, the white race, men, or heterosexuals. Why? Because cultural Marxism labels all of these as evil, the equivalents of “capitalists and landlords” in the vocabulary of the old, Soviet Marxism. A member of one of the inherently evil groups need not do anything wrong to be condemned; they are damned simply by what they are. The only acceptable behavior from any member of a condemned group is endless, groveling apologies for daring to exist. Anything else is becoming “an enemy of the people” in economic Marxism or “hate” in cultural Marxism.

There is a wonderful irony here. Cultural Marxists themselves are haters of the first order. They hate the West, religious faith, white men, heterosexuals, non-Feminist women, conservative blacks, any ideology or set of beliefs different from their own, all of history (“oppression”), sexual morals—the list is endless. But none of this hate qualifies as “hate,” because it proceeds from cultural Marxism. On the contrary, it represents virtue. If this all sounds like Newspeak from 1984, it is.

When cultural Marxists accuse TraditionalRight of “hate,” we open a bottle of champagne. It means we are doing our job—and yours. We are defying a hideous ideology, one that seeks to overturn every natural relationship and destroy all that is true, good, or beautiful. And we really, really hate that.

The View From Olympus 12: States and Gangs

The spread of Fourth Generation war means that as we watch states exit the world stage left, we will see gangs entering from stage right. This phenomenon is visible to some degree almost everywhere.

El Salvador is a country where the process has gone so far that in many areas, the gangs are more powerful than the state. The Sunday, October 6 New York Times carried a story on how El Salvador successfully dealt with the gang problem, at least for a while. It made a deal with the gangs.

“Making a Deal With Murderers,” by Oscar Martinez, tells how gang violence virtually destroyed the life of the people of El Salvador:

“The year 2011 was one of the deadliest since the end of El Salvador’s civil war in 1992. There were an appalling 4,371 murders—11 people killed every day. With 70 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, it was one of the most violent countries in the world…

The cause of the bloodshed was no secret: the war between the rival gangs Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha.”

Both gangs, interestingly, got their starts not in El Salvador, but in southern California. Of course, the American answer (for other countries as well as itself) was and remains more effective law enforcement.

That is the best answer to all Fourth Generation threats—where it is possible. But in El Salvador, as in a growing number of countries, it was not possible. The state was simply too weak relative to the gangs.

So, the Times reported, the government did the next best thing: it negotiated with the gangs. It denied doing so, but the Times reporter is quite confident it did. The main thing the government seems to have offered to gangs, in return for lowering the level of violence, is better prison conditions. The Times story stressed how important that is:

“The prison issue is hugely important to the gangs: sooner or later gang members end up there, and gang operations are largely run by the leaders inside, where the conditions are truly filthy and inhumane.”

In return, the gangs did lower the level of violence. El Salvador remains a violent place by our standards, but the Times piece estimates that the partial truce had saved more than 2000 lives.

As states continue to weaken, more and more of them will confront rising gang violence and consequent declining civic order. The state’s first responsibility is the maintenance of order. It was for that purpose the state arose, and if it cannot do the job its legitimacy will vanish.

The question then becomes how to restore order. The only possible answer is, by any means that will work. If the state is still capable of it, bloody repression has much to recommend it. But a growing number of states will not be capable of it, either because they are too weak physically or because the state leadership is too weak morally. At that point, the Salvadoran answer may be the right one: cut a deal.

Making a deal with powerful gangs is what the late Roman Empire had to do. That did not end entirely well, but it had no alternative. Modern states, some of them, will also have no alternative. It is better to make a deal that reduces the violence than to let it rage unchecked. The latter course merely results in the emergence of another stateless region. A weak state is better than none.

Why You Need Traditionalism

Introduction

The American Traditionalist Society is being developed. Part of its mission is to evangelize modern people with the good news of the wisdom of the ages, so that they can tune in (to their sense that something is wrong), turn on (to the life-giving traditionalism) and drop out (of the liberal, modernist establishment.)

To this end, I offer the following essay, designed to catch the eye of potential recruits. Subsequent essays will develop the theme further.

Why You Need Traditionalism

“Traditional” sounds old-fashioned. It sounds like the discredited—or at least unfashionable—ways of the past. That was then; this is now. Why do I need traditionalism?

“Traditional” also sounds like bondage. It sounds like people forced to do their duty, like it or not. Forced to honor kings, priests, and other non-democratically-chosen authorities. In the modern world we’re free. Why do I need traditionalism? Because if you follow contemporary ways then you do not—and cannot—have what you need most in order to honor God and live well. Only through traditionalism can you get what you need.

So what is traditionalism? The word usually denotes a way based on a tradition, but we mean something richer and deeper. Traditionalism is a way that connects man to the true order of the world. Because man is man, and not animal, he must live within an order. And if this order deeply violates the true order of the world, as the orders of the Western nations currently do, then man cannot live well, in either his personal life or his society. In order for man to live well he needs traditionalism, for traditionalism is knowing and participating in the true order of the world.

Although the true order is God-given and therefore not changeable by man, the concrete expression of the social part of this order in the life of a people varies from group to group, from nation to nation. Each people expresses this order in its own way, and this is why although there is only one God-given order, there are many different traditions. If you are an American, then, you need American traditionalism.

Since traditionalism is thought to be a type of conservatism, our advice is diametrically opposite from contemporary thinking. Contemporary authorities say that traditionalism is to be opposed because it makes you subservient: Perhaps to a tradition you did not freely choose, or a tyrant god who doesn’t even exist, or the white people who allegedly still rule America for their benefit at the expense of everyone else.

Like every great lie, this belief contains an element of truth. Traditionalism opposes the radical freedom that is the ideal of the modern world because when man is radically free he is also lost. To live well, then, man must be under a tradition and an authority greater than himself. And traditionalism supplies this need.

To live well (like a human being rather than an animal or a demon) man needs, among other things:

  • Knowledge of the God Who is the ultimate cause of all being, truth, goodness and beauty. But contemporary thinking denies that one can know God.
  • True religion, through which man can know and have friendship with God. But contemporary thinking denies that it is even possible for a religion to be true.
  • True morality, through which man can know how to live a righteous life, and also know that he is a sinner who needs salvation through Jesus Christ. But contemporary thinking denies the reality of almost all moral truths, and it denies the principles by which any moral truth can be known with certainty.
  • Knowledge of the first principles of philosophy, through which man can understand the basic nature of the world he inhabits. But contemporary thinking denies the reality of true philosophy, claiming instead that science is the highest form of knowledge.
  • A family and nation to belong to and participate in, without which man is lost. But contemporary thinking denies that family and nation have any objective existence, or that they ought to be honored and protected.

The list could easily be extended. Anything beyond the physically tangible and the immediately obvious is denied by contemporary thinking, or at least it is said to be purely subjective. According to contemporary thinking, you can believe it if you want but it’s nothing more than your personal preference.

But observe that if it’s just your preference then it isn’t real. You could have chosen to believe or participate in the opposite of what you chose, and this opposite choice would have been equally valid. And something that could just as well have been its opposite isn’t real, for reality has definite characteristics that do not change with the whims of man.

And since, according to contemporary thinking, anything transcendent (i.e., beyond the mundane) is not real, human life is ultimately (that is, in reality) nothing but social atoms choosing arbitrarily, and we are left with the contemporary world, in which God, religion, country, morality and honor do not exist, a world in which individuals are demoralized and societies are malfunctioning. This is the horror of the modern, non-traditional world. (True, many people believe in these transcendent elements, but according to the official narrative of Modernity, these people are fooling themselves. And the overall progress of society is always toward the actualization of this official narrative, as our leaders continually smash institutionalized intolerance and promote diversity.)

How then can you reconnect with the order you need to live well? How can you escape the nightmare of the contemporary world? Know first that you cannot save yourself. You are too small. You need to discover, believe and participate in something larger than yourself, something that connects you with the realities that the contemporary world denies: God, true religion, family, nation, and so on. You need the traditionalism of your people.

Traditionalism is not just adherence to a tradition, for there must be a reason why we adhere to it. More basically, traditionalism is knowing and living in accord with what many thinkers call the order of being. Contemporary thought holds that the world is only a physical realm in which any meaning or order that transcends the physical is arbitrarily projected by man. And since this order is arbitrary, man can change it whenever he wants. But contemporary thought is mistaken. The world contains a God-given order that pre-exists man, and that he knows primarily through intuition, his faculty of knowing basic truths without a process of formal reasoning.

What are the elements of this order of being? It contains, among other things,

  • The physical world, with its scientific laws of matter and energy.
  • The biological world, with plants and animals (including man in his animal dimensions), with laws of life and death, birth and growth, male and female.
  • The social world, with its moral, psychological, political and economic laws, with individuals, families, clans, associations, nations, rulers, and governments.
  • The spiritual world with God, angels and demons, Heaven and Hell, creation and miracles, and spiritual laws.
  • The religious world, with priests and pastors, Scripture and creeds, religious acts, and laws of sin and repentance, salvation and damnation.
  • The intellectual world, with metaphysical and epistemological principles, schools of thought, disputation and proof.
  • The aesthetic world, with beauty in all its varied manifestations.

The reader will note that some of these elements appear to be man-made. Man creates social, religious and intellectual orders. Each nation creates its own unique orders. But there are proper ways to create them, within limits established by God.  Man is not free to redefine what is proper without the disastrous consequences we see all around us.

To live well you must begin to know this order and its unique expression as the traditions of your people, and you must seek to live in accordance with it. You must search for those who know this order and learn from them. You must seek out like-minded persons with whom you can share your life. And most importantly, you must seek to know God through Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins and having faith in Him.  This is the life-giving traditionalism that you need.

 

This essay was originally published at The Orthosphere, a Christian Traditionalist journal. We are grateful for the contribution.

Person and Bloodline

According to the Indo-Aryan tradition, a human being can and should be more than just an “individual”, a replaceable socio-physical atom with a limited existence in space and time. The concept of an “individual” relies on the lowest common denominator among human beings (breathes, has a body, exists in space and time, is Homo sapiens, has “human rights”), but the goal of an “individual” must always be to develop a personality (i.e. to become unique, to become different, more, than other individuals).

The Bloodline

The difference between the Indo-Aryan and the post-Christian view of humanity lies not only in the distinction between individual and person. The Indo-Aryans also viewed the presently living man as a link in a long chain that connected the ancestors to their descendants, both biologically speaking and in a tradition that was passed on from one generation to the next. Many bloodlines could be traced back to the gods (some royalties claimed to be descended from Odin and Zeus. A more recent incarnation of this is the theory of a “Jesus bloodline” that was spread by The Da Vinci Code, and obviously appealed to many readers).

The bloodlines were unique, and qualitatively different. They were not seen as replaceable; every time a bloodline died out, it was a sad event. Further it was important to keep the bloodline “pure”, i.e. to not deprave it by having children with people of a lower caste, bad character, etc. This can partially explain the custom of arranged marriages, the bloodline was seen as too important to be adventured by the whims of young people.

The concept of honor also falls under this. It was something a person to a great extent shared with his bloodline and his kindred. This in turn explains the phenomenon of honor killings, where one physically tries to remove a “source of dishonor” (something which I’m certainly not trying to defend, as it goes against my fundamentally anarchic views. To disown an offspring is one thing, but to kill your own children goes against normal instincts and is most common in cultures centered around shame). The worship of ancestors is also easily explained when one relates it to the concept of bloodlines.

What’s happened in modern times is that the bloodlines have been forgotten. Historyless individualism has made us see ourselves as short-lived atoms, with no history and no future. The result is that mere urges, comfort and trends decide if, and with who, a person continues his bloodline. Countless bloodlines have as a result of this died out, sometimes with an aborted fetus as the only trace left of it. Countless bloodlines have also been depraved, where pure human garbage has been allowed to infiltrate them (“I know he beats both me and the kids mom, but I’m so in loooove”). The genetical insight that our ancestors expressed in a mythical form with the concept of bloodlines has, paradoxically enough, been completely forgotten in an age where human biology as a science has in fact reached new heights.

And in the cases where bloodlines are being continued more or less unharmed, it is today a purely biological issue. There are no traditions being passed on, no stories of the ancestors, no rites, no ideals.

 

This article has been republished from Archeofuturist, a Radical Traditionalist blog from a European perspective.

The View From Olympus 11: How Raids Can Work

Last weekend’s raids in Libya and Somalia by US special operations forces raise a question that has long bedeviled similar raids in Afghanistan. Can they work strategically? That is to say, can they bring us closer to a favorable outcome in our war with the Taliban and al Qaeda?

The answer, at present, is almost certainly no, at least so far as the Taliban is concerned and probably not against al Qaeda. The reason is that operational art, the key linkage between the tactic of raiding and the desired strategic result, is missing. As a result, we have defaulted into the usual approach of a Second Generation military, a war of attrition. The Taliban has too much depth in personnel to be vulnerable to a war of attrition. Al Qaeda, as a much smaller organization, has less depth, but so far it has had enough to make up its losses, including that of Osama bin Laden. We are left playing what the troops call a game of whack-a-mole.

Is there a way we might inject operational art into raiding and thereby make it strategically meaningful? I think there is.

The answer must begin with recognizing that a “spec op” is only a real special operation if it works on the operational level of war. Otherwise, we are misusing the term “special operations” for what are merely the tactical actions of military SWAT teams.

That in turn requires understanding what “operational art” means. Operational art is that link between tactics and strategy. Its practitioner decides what to do tactically, and how to use tactical events (including sometimes defeats) to strike as directly as possible at an enemy’s strategic center of gravity, a “hinge” in the enemy’s force that, if struck, can cause him to collapse. Inherent in operational art is economy of force: ideally, you only fight tactically when doing so is operationally meaningful, i.e., it holds the potential to be strategically decisive (of course, the enemy sometimes makes you fight when you would rather not). Determining why, where, and when to fight tactically on a strategic basis is the essence of operational art.

A campaign or war of attrition is the nullification of operational art. It seeks strategic victory merely by fighting tactically wherever and whenever possible. In contrast, operational art lies at the heart of Third Generation maneuver warfare.

An excellent example of a true special operation undertaken by a Third Generation military is the abduction of Admiral Horthy, the regent of Hungary, by German special operations forces (they coined the term: Sonderverbände) in World War II. Germany had received correct intelligence that Admiral Horthy was about to change sides from the Axis to the Allies. This was a strategic threat to Germany. Not only would a number of Hungarian divisions turn from allies into enemies, Hungary’s Balaton oilfields were one of Germany’s last petroleum supplies.

The German answer was a special operation, led by the famous commando Otto Skorzeny, that kidnapped Admiral Horthy. It involved almost no tactical fighting, but it was decisive. Hungary remained a German ally.

If we apply operational art to raids against al Qaeda (and to a lesser extent the Taliban, who are rapidly becoming yesterday’s problem as we leave Afghanistan), what does it suggest we do? Again, mere attrition of random al Qaeda leaders is not likely to bring a strategic decision. However, more sophisticated targeting of our raids could.

Like all militaries (including our own), al Qaeda has a few competent leaders and lots of less competent or incompetent ones. Putting incompetent or non-competent leaders into key al Qaeda positions could well be strategically decisive because it could lead al Qaeda to destroy itself. Therefore, our raids would become true special operations if we carefully targeted al Qaeda’s competent leaders while intentionally not targeting the incompetent or non-competent ones. Our operational goal would be to create vacancies that would allow the incompetent leaders to move steadily upward in the organization.

Obviously, this requires very good intelligence to know who in al Qaeda is competent and who is not. But we would at least be asking the intel boys an operational question, not merely a tactical one, i.e., where is someone, anyone, we can go after.

Will it work? No one can ever know a result beforehand in war. But operational art at least opens the door to strategic success, whereas its absence leaves us playing whack-a-mole. We have not defeated a Fourth Generation opponent through attrition yet, and there are no signs we are about to do so. Who thinks, wins.

On Libertarian Universalism

Statue_of_liberty

The libertarian worldview is based on the idea that every individual has a set of rights, which no one can take from him/her. This means that the state’s restrictions on individual freedom in most cases are seen as illegitimate. There are several forms of libertarianism; anarcho-capitalism, objectivism, minarchism, individualist anarchism and others, and they stem from different philosophical traditions but reach more or less the same conclusions.

I see these libertarian currents as incarnations of the Indo-Aryan longing for freedom and Norse “individualism”. My Norwegian ancestors were proud, strong and independent, and almost 70 years of social democracy has not been able to change this completely. But just like other incarnations of old ideals, such as nationalism and socialism, libertarianism lacks something from a traditional perspective.

Apoliteia

First we must establish that there are two kinds of traditionalists, two different attitudes towards the modern world. Both assume that the modern world is fundamentally bad, that we are living in the darkest phase of the Kali Yuga. There are however two ways of reacting to this, and Julius Evola expressed both in different stages of his life (James Mason expressed it in the most simple way: “Total Dropout or Total Revolution”). The first reaction is the ksatriya-reaction, full-scale revolt against the modern world, even political. Through his involvement in Italian Fascism and WWII, Evola demonstrated this reaction. The second reaction is more resigned, and was given the name apoliteia by Evola. Here, he contends that the Kali Yuga still has many years left in it, and that it’s unrealistic to try to fight it. The only thing one can try to do is to live a traditional life in the midst of it, and since there are no political movements worthy of support, one should distance oneself from politics (apoliteia).

ride the tiger

I don’t agree with Evola’s later, more resigned analysis. There are many signs that the current world order has developed inner contradictions that will lead to its collapse in relatively short time, demonstrated especially by Marxists such as Immanuel Wallerstein (Third World immigration with its resulting ethnic conflicts, the lack of a hegemony to replace the United States, etc.). Thus, fighting the current system is not only a necessity in order to call oneself an ariya, it is also completely realistic.

Anyway, an interesting question that arises from the apoliteia perspective is which society is the best one to live in. Social democracy, totalitarianism, theocracy? This is where libertarianism becomes interesting, as a libertarian society offers a traditionalist the freedom to be himself and search for enlightenment/initiation in his own way. No thought police will come knocking on the door of the traditionalist when he has dared to express his thoughts on race or gender roles. No thought police will fire the traditionalist as soon as the media has “exposed” him as an anti-democrat (as the libertarian ideology itself is anti-democratic, i.e. opposed to the right of the majority to take away the rights of the individual). No benevolent nannies/politicians will imprison the traditionalist as soon as he, as part of his search for enlightenment, has tried the effects of marijuana.

From this fact, there are strictly practical affinities between a libertarian worldview and a traditional one. In many cases traditionalists will have great use of strong libertarian lobby groups, and in fact the libertarians have use of a number of traditionalists spreading their ideals about mature, honorable, and independent people as well (for freedom to work, the human material must have some degree of quality). As a traditionalist, one can also feel respect for the libertarians when they stand up to the state and the nanny mentality, and say: “I am a grown up, honorable person. I am fully capable of taking care of myself and answer to the consequences of my own actions. I don’t need a nanny state to take care of me”, as this is closer to the attitudes and human ideals of our ancestors.

Revolt against the modern world devolution

Moreover, a libertarian society offers a framework which also traditionalism can function within. But it is just a framework, which can be filled with anything, and there is a great risk that many people will use it to defend their “choices” of purely animalistic lifestyles (“eat, shit, fuck, die”).

Ethnicity and progressive collectivism

But my objection to a libertarian worldview is its anti- or a-nationalism. It sees ethnicity as a non-issue, or a strictly private issue, something which can and should be kept separate from politics (for example, many libertarians defend an open border policy, something which from a traditional perspective would lead to the doom of the people and is thus a very strange, self-destructive and anti-popular position). To protect your kin and people is an important part of tradition, and to silently watch your people march towards certain doom is simply not honorable.

Empirical evidence clearly demonstrates that keeping ethnicity and politics separate is impossible, neither is it possible to, from a “selfish gene”-perspective, “distance yourself” from your group. Geneaologists, who have mapped the movements and fates of different genes throughout history, have found that in-group competition is not the most crucial factor in regards to what genes have survived and spread, it is the competition between groups. Genocide, displacement and silent extinction, this is what history has looked like. Those who want to protect the future of their own genes and their own bloodlines, are forced to protect that of their own people as well. And the research on “ethnic nepotism” also shows that this is exactly what human beings do. We have developed instincts and cultures (“group evolutionary strategies”, for those that have read the works of professor Kevin MacDonald) that makes us feel kinship with those who look like us, as they are also highly likely to share our genes to a greater extent. And those that we feel kinship with, we favor, in order to favor the survival of our own genes (note that phenomena like suicide bombings can also be explained from this perspective. Even if a childless person blows himself up, the genes of his relatives, which he shares, will live on).

identitarian

The conclusion is, of course, that he who thinks he can “distance himself” from his group is in fact sadly mistaken, and has a lesser connection with reality than the “bigots” that he often implicitly wants to distinguish himself from. What consequences does this have for libertarian a-nationalism, when we have established that ethnic nepotism is inborn? Well, first we realize that we can’t be so certain that every group in a libertarian society will “follow the rules.” Groups that are numerous but not as economically well off, will take advantage of their strength in numbers to force advantages for themselves, and then the political arena will be reborn, maybe even the state (and maybe even an ethnic state). This is a very clear tendency throughout history, we can see it in Uganda where native Africans banished Asians which they saw as having become too rich. We can see it in Germany where the Germans turned against the Jews which they saw as “unfairly” successful, or in the US and the entire Western world where “minorities” force changes to their own advantage through politics and/or rioting. Such is the reality of ethnic relations, such is human nature. When people don’t see the rules as being to their advantage, and if they are numerous enough, they change them. Even if I saw ethnicity as a non-issue, there are many people that would disagree with me, and on the contrary see me as an “unfairly privileged Western man”. The circle closes, and those that tried to distance themselves mentally become the socio-economic losers when other, more self-conscious groups take away their privileges.

multiculturalism

This article has been republished from Archeofuturist, a Radical Traditionalist blog from a European perspective.

The View From Olympus 10: 4GW Strengths and Weaknesses

Al_shabab_soldier

Al Shabab’s assault on a Kenyan shopping mall illustrates some of the strengths of Fourth Generation Islamic forces. One, they can carry out acts of terrorism that undermine a state’s enthusiasm for war against them. Second, and more dangerous in the long run, they can push a government into responding to terrorism by moving toward a national security state. Why is that more dangerous? Because a national security state regards every citizen as a potential threat and treats them accordingly. That undermines the state’s legitimacy, and Fourth Generation war is above all a struggle for legitimacy.

I probably don’t need to point out that 9/11 and subsequent (minor) incidents of terrorism have brought a growing national security state to America. It is not a coincidence that Americans express ever-increasing detachment from and hostility toward their own government. Who can try to board an airplane without feeling like a suspect? That diminution of the US government’s legitimacy is a bigger victory for al Qaeda than the damage and casualties inflicted on 9/11.

But if we step away from the horror show generated by incidents such as that in Kenya, we can see a larger narrative of the weakness of most Fourth Generation Islamic entities (there is one exception; Hezbollah): they cannot govern.

In Egypt, a year of government by the Muslim Brotherhood was so disastrous that the people widely welcomed a coup. The September 16 New York Times reported of the funeral of a leading Islamist killed by the military, a funeral in a small, rural town, that

It is customary for the community to gather behind the family for the procession to the graveyard. Mr. Abdel Aal, however, was greeted with epithets—someone called him a dog, someone else an infidel. One family even held a wedding at the same time, something unheard-of.

“Pure” Islam’s failure to govern is weakening Fourth Generation Islamic organizations throughout the Middle East. The French succeeded (for a time, anyway) in Mali because the puritanism of the 4GW Islamic fighters had alienated their local allies. In Syria, that same puritanism has brought popular demonstrations against al Qaeda-allied forces in towns they control, even though demonstrators are often beaten or shot. Al Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu and other Somali cities because the locals so loathed its puritanism that they welcomed foreign troops, something that seldom happens. The American “surge” in Iraq only succeeded because al Qaeda in Iraq had alienated its local Sunni allies, again by its “pure” interpretation of Islam.

The first rule of politics—and like all war 4GW is political, though not wholly so—is “Don’t lose your base.” Over and over again, Islamic 4GW forces win militarily, but then lose because they alienate their base.

Why do they keep repeating this mistake? I suspect they do so because they cannot not do so. The kind of people they recruit as fighters are overwhelmingly puritans. Who else but a fanatic will become a suicide bomber? You cannot tell puritans to moderate their behavior, and the behavior they impose on others, because that would instantly make them “impure.” If the leadership of an Islamic 4GW organization tells its fighters not to enforce their version of Islam, they desert to another, more “pure” 4GW entity. Because of the ever-fractionating nature of 4GW, there is no lack of alternatives.

Puritanism is ever thus, and cannot be otherwise. An exchange between a Royalist and a Puritan during the English Civil War in the 17th century comes to mind. The Cavalier said to the Roundhead, “Ours are the sins of men; drinking and wenching, but your sin is the sin of the Devil; spiritual pride.”

All this is an old story in the Islamic world, and should come as no surprise to those who make American foreign policy, except that they are children who believe they can make the wold anew. In a monograph titled “Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam,” (Johns Hopkins University APL, May, 2002) Michael Vlahos laid out the age-old cycle. Islamic puritans arise, who accuse the local Islamic rulers of “corruption.” They create and lead a movement to restore “pure” Islam, and succeed in taking power. They then discover that pure Islam cannot govern, and have to compromise. That makes them “corrupt” so the cycle begins anew.

The fact that one 4GW Islamic entity, Hezbollah, has not fallen into this trap should draw our attention. Could this have something to do with the fact that it is Shiite and the others are Sunni? Not being a scholar of Islam, I don’t know. But it is a question scholars of Islam could usefully investigate.

In the meantime, repeated failures of Sunni 4GW entities to govern tells us what we should do to defeat them: leave them alone. They will alienate their base and destroy themselves, if we just give them time to do so. If we intervene, the usual result will be to push the locals toward the puritans in order to oppose us. Even where foreign troops have been welcomed, their welcome usually wears out quickly, and their support for one or another local “government” undermines that government’s legitimacy.

To borrow a wonderful phrase from Admiral Raphael Semmes CSN, we should leave be “the cockatrice’s egg that hatched forth the Puritan.” The cockatrice will foul its own nest soon enough.

The View From Olympus 9: Sea Change

by Carlos Latuff via occupyaipac.org
by Carlos Latuff via occupyaipac.org

Congress did not vote on attacking Syria, but everyone knows the Obama administration would have lost. The last whip count I obtained, on the Friday before Russia brokered a deal, showed 229 House members announced against or leaning against, 25 announced for or leaning for. In the Senate, the majority leader postponed a vote because he did not have a majority.

This marks a sea change of the first magnitude. The opposition to another war in the Mideast was led not by liberal Democrats, but by Republicans. The permanent war party headed by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham was left turning slowly in the wind. This is all the more remarkable because the feared Israeli lobby, AIPAC, was in favor. Republicans had to defy Israel, the neo-cons, and the Pentagon (a friend told me he heard a three-star Army general say a week before the deal, “I really hope this Syria operation is a go because it would help us defend our budget.”), and they did.

What suddenly put some spine into all the Republican jellyfish? The folks back home. Luckily, the run-up to war coincided with a Congressional recess, so Member of Congress were home listening to their constituents. Overwhelmingly, the people said “no more stupid wars in the Middle East that kill our kids for nothing.” Friends on the Hill told me calls and emails were very heavy and ran 96-98% “no.” Some offices received not a single call or message asking for another war.

This is a sea change because it is a major change in outlook by the Republicans’ base. The first rule of politics is “Don’t lose your base.” If you do, you’re done. The base, especially out here in the Heartland, overwhelmingly said “no.” Republican Members of Congress dared not ignore that.

Not only did the permanent war party lose its base, so did the Pentagon. If we are not going to fight more unnecessary overseas wars, why do we need the world’s most expensive military? Were our armed forces sized only to defend us, the defense budget could easily be cut by at least half.

This fact too is now on the radar screen of many Republican Members of Congress. Rightly, they see endless deficits and rising debt as more of a threat to the country’s future than any potential overseas opponent. They know we cannot balance the budget, begin to reduce the debt, not raise taxes and still pour around a trillion dollars a year into the national defense budget function (that’s Budget Committee language for all national security spending).

One big question remains: Will the public’s aversion to an attack on Syria carry over to a possible attack on Iran or war with China? Here in the Heartland, I think it will. We’ve seen too many kids come home in a box or a wheelchair, watched too many trillions (not billions) poured into the sand.

A period of peace and retrenchment could open the door to the military reform our armed services urgently require. We have a couple million good guys trapped in terrible systems, systems that drain away all thought about war, all initiative and moral courage, and reward only the institutional corruption that puts defense budgets above defending the country. Peace could give us a chance to drive the moneychangers out of the temple of Mars.

No Country For Old Politics: Redefining Left vs. Right by Paul Gottfried

The task before me is explaining with appropriate distinctions and qualifications “What is right and what is left?” For those who wish to avoid the harangue of an activist, let me assure them that I do not equate “conservative” with Republican or with the viewing habits of FOX News devotees. Being a Republican and dutifully reciting party talking points is for me no sign of being on the right; nor is a disinclination to do either indicative of being on the left.

A classical or essentialist Right is hard to find in the contemporary Western world, where journalists and other assorted intellectuals rush to denounce its bearers, or even partial bearers, as “fascists.” That may be one reason that such types rarely come into public view, outside of certain European parties that have been able to survive in a multi-party electoral system. Being on the essentialist Right is deadly in an academic or journalistic milieu that is shot through with quintessential leftist values. There are isolated intellectual groups in the US that exhibit evidence of a right wing gestalt, but these groups are usually cut off from the movement-conservative mainstream lest they endanger “conservative” institutes or publications by expressing improper anti-leftist ideas. This is entirely understandable, given the prevalence of leftist influences in Western societies—and given the extent to which the establishment non-left has absorbed leftist values and attitudes that come from existing in a predominantly leftist environment.

The non-left or the official Right pushes what it considers to be distinctive “conservative” positions that often have nothing to do with the essentialist Right and which are often not even true. Since many of my writings deal with this tendency, I won’t bore my readers with more of the same. But in opposition to a widespread misconception, I would argue there is no reason to define the Right as that side that asserts “values” in opposition to the Left, which is “relativistic.” I have never ceased to be amazed at how persistently and even obsessively the Left fights for its “values.” Leftists clearly believe in a certain vision of universal equality and although one might differ with them over their highest value and over the havoc it wrecks on what used to be a bourgeois Christian society, there is no doubt that a moral vision drives the Left. It is also foolish to define the Right as willing to move mountains to bring “human rights” to the entire world. Both the notion of human rights and the mission to impose them universally emerged from the classical Left, going back to the left wing of the French Revolution. The fact that such a global mission is now thought to characterize the Right underscores the utter confusion into which the drawing of right-left distinctions has been allowed to drift.

Finally, one does not join the essentialist Right by wishing to get off the train of Progress just before it arrived at our present situation. As a practical position, one might find the civil rights legislation of the 1960s less intrusive than its later additions or an earlier phase of the feminist movement less offensive than what has been called by its critics “gender feminism.” I would be the last to question someone’s right to choose a less drastic (as opposed to a more extreme) form of government social engineering, given the available choices. But one does not display one’s attachment to the Right by making such choices, save by the standards of a Left, which is perpetually trying to move everything further into its energy field.

There is also the problem of an inflated use of “conservative,” a term that is applied to whomever the media bestows it on. This certification simply increases our semantic problem. Each time I see an adolescent blogger or pubescent columnist introduced to the viewing public as a “leading conservative,” I crack the same joke to whoever is around: “I wonder whether this teenager is a follower of Burke or Maistre.” By now “conservative” signifies whatever a gaggle of journalists or news announcers decide it should mean. Journalists by virtue of taking Republican policy positions are also described as conservative theorists, although I am still struggling to find out what exactly makes such people “conservative” or “theoretical.” Presumably by defending the record of the last GOP president, one gains recognition from other journalists as a “conservative” deep thinker.

On a practical level, I can sympathize with libertarians, who think that we have “too much government,” and I have given my vote more than once to proponents of this stance. Moreover, when libertarians speak of “limited” government and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, they almost always catch my ear. The problem begins when someone rises to defend libertarian ethics or libertarian anthropology. The notion of individuals defining their values and identities, while inhabiting an imaginary state of nature, has never struck me as convincing. I’ve noticed in opposition to this libertarian worldview the impact that social and cultural forces have had on our lives. These are the forces that we do not choose to be influenced by, but which shape our beings and belief systems. In any case we bring with us a pre-existing context, even if we persist in believing that we create ourselves ex nihilo or by dint of will—and even if we sometimes retain the option of making significant choices.

Even more relevant to my argument, there is nothing right wing or even vaguely conservative about the way libertarians approach the question of liberty. Unlike the essential Right’s understanding of Aristotle or Burke, what libertarians understand as freedom is a universally shared good to which persons everywhere are entitled by virtue of being individuals. Although I would not prohibit others from espousing such a view, I’ve no idea what renders it specifically right wing. The classical conservative and rightist view of liberty (and there is a historical distinction between the two) flows from the legal implications of someone’s standing in a particular society, held together by shared custom and distributed duties.

From this view, which opponents of the French Revolution devised as a defensive argument, came a concept of socially situated liberty that has nothing to do with the current libertarian idea. What libertarians are pushing is a recognizably leftist position, which presupposes or implies the idea of universal equality and even universal citizenship. Those who could appreciate this classical conservative position, such as Russell Kirk, Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddhin, and Robert Nisbet, were understandably turned off by libertarian pronouncements. They contradicted what these thinkers recognized as socially true and which smacked of principles issuing from the French Revolution. Again I am speaking here only about libertarianism as a body of dogma. I have no quarrel with the often salutary results that may arise from libertarian-minded citizens railing against administrative tyranny.

Having gone through this list of what a conservative or rightist would not believe, perhaps I should now indicate the real article. In the preface to his anthology of essays, Liberalism Ancient and Modern, Leo Strauss sets out to define the essentialist conservative worldview circa 1960. Its exponents “regard the universal and homogeneous state as either undesirable though possible, or as both undesirable and impossible.” They do not like international bodies, which they identify with the Left, and “look with greater sympathy than liberals on the particular or particularist and the heterogeneous.” This honest, accurate definition seems all the more remarkable given the fact that Strauss’s disciples have often worked to make American conservatism synonymous with a crusade to spread what they consider universal democratic values.

What Strauss said about “conservatives” would apply to the genuine Right, yet his definition should be expanded for the sake of completeness. The Right affirms inherited hierarchy, favors the particularistic while being suspicious of the universal, aims at preserving social traditions wherever possible, and opposes the Left by every means at its disposal. The Left takes the opposite positions on the first three points out of a sense of fairness, a passionate commitment to the advancement of equality, and a universalist conception of human beings. Whereas the Right believes that what Aristotle defined as the order of the household, marked by elaborately defined distinctions, is “natural,” the Left views non-egalitarian arrangement with revulsion. Leftists are delighted to call on state managers and judges to abolish anything faintly resembling such a hierarchy.

The view that the Left thinks of us as interchangeable individuals, who can be programmed to behave in a certain way, may be a bit of an overstatement. Yet something like this idea informs the leftist project. All good societies from a leftist perspective are what Michael Oakeshott called “enterprise associations,” frameworks of human interaction in which all members are encouraged or forced to think and act alike. The Left seeks to create or impose such associations (the more extensive the better), and not just because leftists crave power. I think much better of genuine leftists. They are committed to removing social, racial and gender inequalities and the more control they can accumulate, the easier it becomes for them to reconstruct or recode those who resist their plan. German social theorist Arnold Gehlen was struck how among younger Germans in the 1960s a common defining characteristic was “hypermorality.” Contrary to the misconception that such youth who frequently turned into militant antifascists had no morality, Gehlen noticed their hysterical moral zeal. This he ascribed not only to their reaction to the Nazis, depicted as German conservatives, which German educational institutions instilled. Gehlen also linked this culture of moral indignation to the detachment of its bearers from any traditional communal association and to the war in Germany, starting with the postwar occupation, against national identity.

Lest there be any confusion on this point, it seems necessary to distinguish here between highest principles and instrumental goods on both sides of the ideological spectrum. In the case of the Left there are many values that permeate its discourse, depending on the circumstances, scientific truth, secularism, freedom, etc. Leftists may in fact value all these ideals but do so in relation to their utility in advancing the Left’s highest good, which is universal equality. Thus “science” is to be promoted to the extent that it can be made to unmask the supposedly reactionary force of Christianity, which sanctions gender distinctions and privileges heterosexual marriage.

In the nineteenth century the Left opposed organized religion because it was allied to the aristocracy, or what it saw as an oppressive capitalist class. Religion, and more specifically Christianity, was also seen as standing in the way of social change that intellectuals were working to achieve. The Left also values freedom, but as Linda Raeder and Maurice Cowles show in biographies of John Stuart Mill, reformers who once embraced “liberty” and science may have espoused them as a means toward a higher end. In Mill’s case (and in this respect he may not have been unusual among Victorian reformers) science and liberty were valued as tools for emancipating the victims of traditional ideas from the shackles of “superstitions.” Mill, as Raeder explains in John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity (2002), looked forward to a world of scientifically engineered Progress, in which women would be “emancipated from bondage.” In this age of perfected humanity, released from the chain of the past, presumably everyone would think like a feminist, social democratic reformer.

But science remains instrumental for the Left in terms of the pursuit of the emancipation of women and other egalitarian projects. If someone today were to point to research evidence about genetic disparities between genders or ethnic groups, the hapless performer of this faux pas would have no future in academic life or government. Biological science may be called on, but only for the proper ideological ends, that is, for those egalitarian purposes that are to be fostered in today’s predominantly leftist political and academic culture. In the same way the theory of evolution is fine for the Left as long as it can be directed against religionists.

But this hypothesis about change in the natural world becomes more problematic as soon as someone turns to a forbidden subject, say, the rootedness of gender differences that have been necessary for the perpetuation of human as well as animal life. I need not dwell on the dogmatic as well as selective character that evolutionary theory has assumed for the Left, a subject about which the philosopher of science David Stove has written an instructive work, Darwinian Fairytales (Encounter Books, 2006). Stove is particularly interested in the mythic as opposed to scientific aspects that evolutionary theory has assumed among intellectuals and journalists. And his book highlights this theory’s value as a polemical tool.

Although not as dishonest as the other side, the Right embraces its own version of an instrumental good. Having sometimes defined itself as the political expression of the doctrine of original sin, the Right has a heavy investment in traditional forms of Christianity, just as the Left does in its (manipulated) conception of science. There is no evidence that many of the great conservative theorists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, starting with Burke, were orthodox Christians. Nonetheless, their political worldviews would have been unthinkable without some Christian theological foundation.

The hierarchy they defended came out of the Catholic Middle Ages, in which feudal relations were intertwined with sacral significance. Worldly command corresponded to the order of the Church, which was ultimately based on the structure of Roman authority. The notion of human fallenness was invoked in an empirical as well as theological fashion to drive home the point that human beings do not have the capacity or right to reinvent themselves and their social contexts. Indeed such experiments were sinful or hubristic and likely to result in disaster. Traditional conservatives were fond of quoting Romans 15 which affirmed that “all authority is from God. It is not for naught that God delivered the sword into the hand of the magistrate.” Needless to say, the “arche” or authority here invoked by conservatives was one that was handed down over the generations.

The Left too benefited to some extent from being rooted in a Christian heritage, and the German philosopher Nietzsche scorned this religious influence as the source of the “slave morality” that animated feminism and egalitarian democracy. While the Right saw in Christianity a justification for settled authorities, the Left drew from it something far different; the vision of a world in which “the first would be last” and “the meek would inherit the Earth.” Such ideas of “social justice” could be derived from the Hebrew prophets, the Gospels, and the sharing of worldly possession in the primitive church. Unlike the Right, however, the Left hid its debt to the Western religious tradition, claiming that what it taught was scientifically grounded or came from secular sources. This denial of paternity has gone so far that Marxists and Cultural Marxists have tried to root out any explicitly Christian influences in their societies. Rarely has one seen a more dramatic working out of the Oedipal Complex. The modern Left, as Christopher Dawson and Mircea Eliade have both observed, would be unthinkable outside of the distinctly Christian (even more than Judaic) matrix in which it was formed.

Right and Left both have historical identities and essentialist definitions and it may be necessary to go into both sets of characteristics in order to make sense of our reference points. It is usually mentioned in a discussion of this type that the distinction between right and left was formalized during the French Revolution, in accordance with where political factions were placed in the National Assembly. Those who favored further revolutionary change were assigned to the left side of the amphitheater; and those who felt the process of change had gone too far and might have to be reversed sat on the right side. In the (classical) liberal July Monarchy, set up in 1830 and overthrown to make way for the French Second Republic in 1848, there were two major parliamentary factions; a party of resistance and a party of movement. This distinction encapsulates what many see (in an oversimplified fashion) as the basic difference between right and left: one is the party of standing pat or making only necessary changes while the other is trying to push a process of change already initiated that carries us away from the past.

But there was also a more ideologically based division that entered European politics; and it was reflected in what parties in England, Germany, France, and other European countries came to stand for in the course of the nineteenth century. These divisions were socially based and driven by differing visions of the social good, and they separated the parties of the aristocracy, peasantry, and established churches on the right from the self-styled liberal parties of the ascending bourgeoisie in the middle to the socialist and social democratic parties of the urban working class on the left. As the German-Hungarian sociologist Karl Mannheim shows in Ideology and Utopia and Das Konservative Denken, the political-social forces that became significant in the nineteenth century were accompanied by distinctive world views. They were ideal constructions to which partisan positions became inseparably linked. Although it was typically intellectuals who constructed these Weltanschauungen, those for whom they were devised recognized in them their values and interests. Over time these theoretical architectonics came to give meaning to their collective identity.

The traditional Right stood for an agrarian way of life, with a traditional authority structure and was typically allied to the Catholic Church or Protestant state churches and entrenched monarchies. This conservative Right looked mostly to the past for what Richard Weaver calls its “vision of order,” but it was also willing to offer assistance to the urban working class, which was then becoming a “social problem.” The conservative Right felt no reservations about seeking an alliance with those at the bottom of the social ladder; and it did this at least partly in reaction to the leaders of commerce and industry, who were members of an upper middle class that was replacing the aristocracy as the dominant political and social force.

It is not at all surprising that the data Karl Marx cited in Capital to prove the growing impoverishment of English workers came from accounts collected by the Tories. A party of landowners, Anglican clergy, and Oxford dons, the Tories had no qualms about detailing (and possibly even exaggerating) the suffering of those who were subject to their political foes in the Liberal Party. Tories were quite willing to have the state impose limits on the working hours of factory laborers and put child labor on the road to extinction. But, as the career of Benjamin Disraeli proves, standing firm for tariff protection for English grain and the English squirearchy could not damage a Tory political career in the mid-nineteenth century. Disraeli, who styled himself a “Tory democrat,” and who favored an alliance of the English Right with the working class, rose to political prominence in the 1840s as an opponent of the repeal of the Corn Laws, the effects of which was to keep the price of bread higher for the urban poor than would have been the case if foreign grain was available at lower prices.

All political-ideological groupings in the nineteenth century had social foundations without which they were unthinkable. Thus liberalism was the “idea of the bourgeoisie,” just as socialism developed among the working class, with assistance from intellectuals eager to bring about radical social change. Although conservatism has its origin in modern European history as a reaction to the French Revolution, while the Left defined itself initially as a defender of this revolutionary process (together with the rationalist thinking that supposedly fueled the engine of Progress), the sides that were taken were both social and ideological. Indeed these two sources of identity traveled together. Treating the bearers of worldviews apart from the concrete forms they took as social and political groups would have seemed bizarre, except for a reason that Mannheim happily furnishes. Reflective theorists, like Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Adam Müller, Benjamin Constant, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx, created the foundations for what became distinctive ideological worldviews; and as Mannheim notes, these constructions assumed an existence of their own, independently of the historical circumstances that gave birth to them in the early nineteenth century.

Essential to the directions in which the Right and the Left have been moving for several generations, and perhaps since the dislocations produced by the First World War, has been the uncoupling of these concepts, worldviews, and value systems from their original social grounding. Ideas that were once attached to classes and ways of life have been cut loose from their original associations and taken on changing forms within a succession of movements. Sometimes those who invoke what are already untethered worldviews look for the old reference points. Thus Kirk, Nisbet, Weaver and M.E. Bradford all point back to classical conservative societies in which their visions were grounded. Some of these theorists have tried to make at least some connection between their experienced or idealized order and what has survived of the past in our contemporary society. Such attempts however were never entirely convincing and have become less so in the present age, in which social traditions have become even weaker than they were fifty years ago.

There is of course the additional problem that the US was founded in the eighteenth-century as a liberal republic and does not have what Burke called an “ancient constitution” similar to the one found in Europe. The social world that gave birth to classical conservatism was a lot more ancient or medieval than the society that American conservatives set out to defend. One could of course find in the American past some landed aristocracy or clusters of reactionary patricians, but those who owned slaves or indentured servants or who expressed grim Calvinist theology would not be attractive to a society that values Progress and mobility. For good reason most invokers of America’s classical conservative pedigree, like Kirk, Allen Tate, M.E. Bradford, and Richard Weaver, have been men of letters rather than students of political history. They have provided a moral-aesthetic vision rather than detailed histories.

The Left has faced a similar problem to that of the Right, when its worldview became uncoupled from its nineteenth and early twentieth century social framework. The Left has ceased to be a movement of the urban working class, fighting for higher wages or nationalization of productive forces. In the last quarter of the twentieth century the European Left has become occupied by most of the same forces that have come to dominate it here: lifestyle radicals, cinematic celebrities, public sector employees, ethnic minorities, feminists and academics. Cultural Marxists have replaced real Marxists; and the protests of aggrieved feminists and gays have become far more important for the Left than the complaints of unemployed factory workers.

There is no doubt that Communists in power persecuted religious institutions harshly. They did so because they thought independent churches were threats to Communist political power and because Communism, like American liberalism, turned atheism or secularism into a state religion. But the social values of the Communist leadership and the moral attitudes it worked to propagate among its subjects often had a bourgeois appearance. Despite early experimentation in free love, the Soviet Union came eventually to instill in party officials a strict social ethic. Annie Kriegel in what is the authoritative history of the French Communist Party shows a residual Catholic influence in the way the party cadre viewed women and marriage well into the 1960s.

If the traditional French Communist party were still around, its members in all probability would have marched in the demonstrations against the legalization of gay marriage which took place in Paris in early spring. Recently the Israeli Marxist Israel Shamir, who now lives in Paris, denounced in his newsletter (April 2013) the decadent bourgeois supporters of gay rights. At the time I proclaimed to a friend only half-jokingly “This is a Marxist I would vote for.” Shamir praises Lenin for treating dismissively “women’s issues,” and he commends the Russian communists who already in the 1980s were “interacting” with the Orthodox Church “to stop the attempt to enforce the gay agenda.” Next to our “conservative Republican” journalists who have come out for gay marriage, Shamir and Lenin seem almost medieval in their views of the family.

Despite its changing forms, unlike the Right, the Left has remained politically and culturally potent, and a recognizable variant of its worldview has prevailed throughout the onetime Christian West. Part of the Left’s strength, as I began this essay by stating, can be seen in how thoroughly its ideas have seeped into what pretends to be the Right. One encounters the Left’s worldview even in what claims to be resisting its advances.

In the present dispensation, the Left holds all the good cards. Universalism, equality, human rights and managed democracy will all likely continue to be the dominant political shibboleths. Freedom will be allowed to survive to whatever extent it can be made compatible with equality. Christian institutions will be tolerated to whatever extent they teach the required values and instill obedience to a leftist state. This will happen partly because the modern state has expanded its power at the expense of intermediate institutions, including churches and communities. But this takeover has also happened, at least in part, because of the totality of the leftist vision, which embraces and works to reconstruct all aspects of life. The Left strives to expand its power not because its advocates are greedy for government favors, although admittedly there are rent seekers in its ranks and government plums that some leftists hope to see distributed. The true Left, unlike party hacks who simply want jobs or freebies, is profoundly principled. Unfortunately leftists hold principles that become toxic when carried to ever more chilling extremes. And they no longer have to worry about being stopped, if present trends continue to unfold.

The Right is far more splintered than the Left. It has few institutions or societies that it can form or reform; and even worse, it has no identity that all its current would-be occupants could recognize as their own. The Right is not only untethered but has a variety of groups fighting to define it. Although the real or essentialist Right may scorn the media-invented Right, these mainstream dwellers have the advantage of getting into nationally televised discussions. These designated “conservatives” enjoy at least some journalistic acceptance when they appear as the respectable opposition. They do not dwell on abstract concepts but provide sound bites in an age of mass communication. But the success of this artificial Right relative to a truer one arises from other circumstances as well: the non-accepted, non-aligned, or classical Right (call it what one may) cannot agree on what defines its “rightness.” Different groups within this contentious camp are holding on to fragments descended from an original worldview. Further, the warring groups point to different lost opportunities that led to their current marginalization.

It would not be an exaggeration to claim that all these divided groups can claim some association with a primal conservative worldview: cultural traditionalist, rightwing anarchists, imitators of the European revolutionary right, and Christian theocrats. Some elements of the original conservative worldview continue to shape all these groups, although not necessarily the same fragments, together with differing fateful dates for when everything was believed to have gone off the skids. We are not speaking here about the Right in its original context, as the worldview that accompanied the birth of European conservatism. We are looking at the end of a process, the one in which a particular worldview, once having been separated from its original home, was selectively absorbed into a variety of movements.

Although the groups or movements within this Right continue to shun each other like rival Anabaptist or Hasidic sects, they are united by three characteristics. They all reveal some conceptual link to the original conservative worldview, when they defend inherited authority, appeal to (now broken) traditions as the source of community, and emphasize rooted identities. These groups share an instinctive dislike for the Left’s highest value, which is equality, and each is reacting to the lack of restraint with which the Left implements that value. But the marginalized groups on the right cannot agree on a strategy that all of them might pursue to push back what the Left considers to be social “Progress.”

The Left has a vision, but the Right does not. The Left believes fervently in the triumph of a Religion of Humanity, based on a universal state, in which the human condition can be standardized and homogenized through sensitive management. The Right, by contrast, has no picture of a happy future. In this sense it is different from those conventional Republicans who wish to go back to the halcyon days of Bush Two or perhaps to the glory days of the Reagan administration. The true or essentialist Right simply wants to stop an unfolding process and if possible, reverse it. Although a precise vision of order was inherent in classical conservatism, it has disappeared from the Right and has now been replaced by a sense of desperation.

This continuing loss of ground is disheartening for those who are struggling against a hostile age, and comparable developments have overtaken the independent Right, or those groups that comprise one, in some European countries. In Germany at the time of national reunification in the early 1990s, the national Right vibrated with excitement over the prospect of a unified country. Germans would at last be able to put off their sackcloth and ashes and no longer have to view themselves as a pariah nation. Their defining moment would not be their defeat in 1945, and they would no longer have to hear about the “burden” of their entire history, as a prelude to Auschwitz. They would once again be a proud, unified nation, as they were in 1871, and one that is free of both Nazi and Communist totalitarians.

Never did any Right miscalculate so badly. Former Communist functionaries and agents of the Communist secret police streamed into government positions in the Federal Republic, exchanging their pro-Soviet Communist identities for Cultural Marxist ones. A Party of the Left became a major force in German politics made up of hastily disguised Communists like Gregor Gysi. Indeed even the current chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, turns out to have been an obliging Communist, almost up until the moment when the Berlin Wall fell.* Hoping to protect themselves against the anxieties voiced by Western journalists and politicians about a resurgent German nationalism, German chancellors from Helmut Kohl to Merkel have unstintingly funded a government-organized “crusade against the Right.” This enterprise has been little more than a witch hunt directed by embattled leftists, including longtime Communists. No politician making a career in Germany would express patriotic sentiments too loudly or suggest that he or she is not eagerly awaiting the further absorption of Germany into the EU. Culturally and socially German elites have pushed their country dramatically toward the left, since reunification.

The reason is that even what may start out as propitious moments for the Right can be rapidly turned in the opposite direction without the resources to take advantage of historical situations. Throughout my career I have earned the reputation of being a spoil sport when talking to members of the genuine Right and I expect this presentation will be seen as one more illustration of the obvious. What I would say in my defense is there is value in assessing one’s obstacles before trying to climb a mountain. Today I have called to your attention the obstacle course that lies ahead for those who would forge a rightist alliance. Needless to say, I wish you success, as an engaged observer, in trying to negotiate this Herculean task.

*An explosive new book on Merkel’s career is Das Erste Leben der AM by Ralf Georg Reuth and Günther Lachmann (Munich: Piper Verlag, 2013).