21 November 2012

The Red and the White 4: Conservatism of the Atlantic and the Steppe

It was not a month ago that Mormon presidential candidate and faux conservative Mitt Romney called Russia “America’s number one enemy”. Vladimir Putin quipped that he was grateful to Romney for making his foreign policy decisions so easy should Romney be elected—decisions which include missile deployment and relationships with Syria and Iran. More importantly, though, Romney has revealed that the mainstream of “conservatism” in America—the brand that has been hijacked, only to be largely abandoned, by the Republican Party—has not been able to adjust its mental structures for the post-Cold War world. It still believes in a basic American Exceptionalism and Liberal Triumphalism, in which the individual reigns supreme and the West has triumphed over Russian communism solely because of innate superiority of our democratic principles and economic prowess. In this view, it is Obama who is to blame for Russia’s resurgence, and no inherent quality of the Russian people which has allowed them, like the Chinese, to assert themselves culturally, politically, and economically on the world stage.

Americans have much to learn from the Russian conservatives who are largely
No intelligent person - let alone a
conservative - should find it difficult to
explain this man's defeat.
responsible for this cultural and political resurgence of their Motherland. The failure of American conservatives to see that US economic weakness does not equate to Chinese and Russian economic success, but that superior cultures will rise as inferior cultures fall—a lesson that Solzhenitsyn was among the first to try to teach the West from Russia. Conservatives in the West cannot help but feel as though we have abandoned our core cultural roots in Christendom and European identity in favour of a new, Liberal religion and atomised identity to fit with the “global future”. Looking at the demographic and social collapse of Europe and her cultural colonies in Australia and the Americas, it is not difficult to see that for Westerners there is no “global future” for us – something the Whites realised in 1917 when they found no support against Bolshevism from their former “allies” in the Atlanto-Liberal world.

Right now there is a developing cleavage in the Western world between what has hitherto been regarded as “mainstream” conservatism—namely the moderate sort of pragmatic conservatism of the US Republican Party and, increasingly, the British and Canadian Conservative Parties, as well as the German Christian Democrats and others like them—and the principled, culturally- and spiritually-aware conservatism represented not only by “fringe” movements like the French Nouvelle Droit and “Paleoconservative” thinkers like Sam Francis and Pat Buchanan, but also Roman Catholic and Traditional Anglican political movements to counter the aftermath of the “sexual revolution”—especially the legitimisation of the abnormal and perverse. If this schism continues at its present pace, those true conservatives of a traditional mind will leave behind their liberal counterparts altogether, and the “conservatism” of the Republicans and Libertarians, Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats, will become merely another part of the Liberal Tradition that has been forming in the Western world for at least two centuries.

In a way, then, what is happening is less a breaking away of “radical” conservatives from “mainstream” conservatives, but a merging of “mainstream” into the Liberal establishment, and the abandonment of Christian Tradition in favour of a new Liberal Tradition rooted in low-church Protestantism and Materialism, expressed most fully in the social institution of the Welfare State. “Radical” conservatives of real moral fervour and principled objection to equality and the Welfare State are merely remaining the same as they (we?) have ever been. However, this remaining the same has also led them to forget what it means to be a truly vigorous social, political, and cultural phenomenon. Only in Russia, where the Gulag was the school, has the vitality of cultural conservatism remained alive, and it is therefore from to that corner that Western Conservatives must look for their grounding if they do not wish to merely merge into the Liberal establishment and abandon their basic Christian morality and conservative principles.

What, ultimately, this may mean is the abandonment of Western identity insofar as it means a Liberal identity, and the relocation of Conservatism into a milieu more culturally and morally sound. This is, I imagine, why many radical right-wing thinkers have abandoned Euroscepticism in favour of a reinterpretation of European unity. We must recall, as Marc Bloch observed, that even in the days of Otto the Great and Charles Martel, scribes spoke of a unified “European civilization”. The forces of Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours were called “Europeans”—not Franks, not Germans, but Europeans in the face of the Saracens. Likewise, Otto the Great was called the saviour of European civilization when he defeated the Hungarians in the 10th century. There is, therefore, a far longer legacy of a European identity among Western Christians than there is of a national identity—itself an outgrowth of Liberal ideas prevalent in the Enlightenment. Western Conservatives have the opportunity to look to Russian Conservatism and Eurasianism as an example of a Conservative trans-nationalism that is neither internationalist, nor cosmopolitan, nor egalitarian, but rather particularistic, traditional, and hierarchical.

We recall Hilaire Belloc and his declaration that “Europe is the Faith”—Dugin has already said as much of Russia: “the state should align itself with the model of Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy must take an active part in the social life, economic life, and I would say, in the political sphere.” He may as well have already said “Eurasia is the Faith”. Such an attitude speaks to what Spengler regarded as the trait of being “passionately religious in a way we Western Europeans have not been, indeed could not have been, for centuries” in his address to Rhenish business men in February of 1922. He added that, “as soon as this religious drive is directed toward a goal, it possesses an immense expansive potential. Unlike us, such a people does not count the victims who die for an idea, for it is a young, vigorous, and fertile people.” This is in the very midst of Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat! How accurate his image of Russia was even then is only now apparent. He declared that “Dostoyevsky stands against Tolstoy as a symbol of the future against the present… Tolstoy, and not Marx, was the leader to Bolshevism. Dostoyevsky is its future conqueror.”

Tolstoy and the other great Russian authors (except Gogol and Dostoevsky) were “hardly pillars of church and state” who were “in political opposition”—the symptom Solzhenitsyn observes as the approval and protection of “freedom fighters”: “public opinion guarantees that their lives will be safe, that their cause will be given publicity, that they will be held in decent confinement—that is, until other terrorists come an rescue them. A society for the protection of terrorists indeed! There was such a society in Russia before her collapse: we too have trodden this fatal path.” These men were rebels, revolutionaries, malcontents: their opponents were defenders of conservatism and tradition. While I still advise caution, and shrink from saying that Dugin is a model to be emulated uncritically, it still remains that today the “radical” voices in Russia are all supportive of the Orthodox Church and the stability of the State—while “conservatives” in the United States preach the absence of a state rather than its correction, on the basic assumption that no government is better than bad government. It seems obvious which of the two is closer to traditional Conservatism.

We have the chance to learn from the Russian right-wing (of which Dugin is but one example) what we have forgotten of our own Conservative tradition. In the words of G.K. Chesterton,

“People have fallen into the foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”

No comments:

Post a Comment