The Democratic Mirage, Part I

IT IS A PRINCIPLE as well known as it is rarely plumbed, that what stands nearest to us is for that reason hardest to perceive with clarity and perspective. It appears to our eyes large, too large to comprehend the whole form of it, and too real and immediate to conceive of its true temporality and transience. And so we rest complacent with our awareness of but bits and pieces of it, here and there. In some cases—as that which we will here consider—it does not even suffice to say that “one does not see the forest for the trees,” for in a very real and pertinent sense, one does not know of the existence of the forest at all. But it is equally true that without the whole, without the form, one sees everywhere and always only—skin.
      Speaking practically, in our day nothing in all of the West stands nearly so “near” to us as democracy. Leaving aside those who lived beneath the last (and mildest) manifestations of Soviet Communism, no one today in the West has ever known anything but; democracy is to all practical purposes the only alternative, the unique political form, the sole morally acceptable society, of which we are aware. The alternatives to democracy—are simply not alternatives; and those who aim for them are surely either in some fundamental way ill of mind or spirit. It is understood—it is never so much as called into question—that democracy is the best possible kind of government, either in the sense of being the ideal form of human society, desirable in itself, or else in the sense of being the practically best form. By this latter understanding, which one might call the pragmatic argument in favor of democracy, no form of government can be taken as ideal, insofar as all are flawed and more or less susceptible to corruption, but democracy is the “least of all evils,” the lesser devil of the human political pandemonium. Or, as Churchill so famously put it, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms which have been tried from time to time.”
      But be one’s stance what it may, no matter what one’s reasons might be for defending democracy, it is taken for granted that one ought to defend it; to wish for or to strive for any other kind of government today, is to indulge in a species of heresy. All licit critiques of the present system amount to suggestions for its perfection, never for its substitution.
      It is to be presumed then that we are all of us more or less informed as to the principles of this most desirable system—else we should not know its points of superiority over all other possible regimes. Such understanding can come only from a profound and comprehensive analysis of democracy as a system, together with a thorough comparative analysis of democracy with respect to the other possible forms of government. It is most suggestive that such analysis can be most surely found in antiquity in the classic philosophers—the same philosophers who to a one rejected democracy as one of if not the worst of all possible regimes. Some centuries ago it was still possible to find competent critics of contemporary democracy, as Alexis de Tocqueville and Joseph de Maistre. In contemporary times, meanwhile, one looks in vain for such a study. There is no doubt that there have been, in late years, dedicated analyses of democratic forms, but they have almost none of them been really super partes in the fundamental sense; they almost always take as their point of departure the presumed desirability of one democratic regime or another. They depart on a note of advocacy and triumphalism, and this presupposition vectors all their subsequent investigations. One can to some extent exclude the anarchists and the communists from this critique—though it would remain to be seen to what extent they are something other than the mere extremification of democratic principle. There have also been as of late competent works from the point of view of the Right which have better taken democracy to task, and even sought to reevaluate certain “outdated” historical forms. One thinks for instance of Julius Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World, and in a more qualified way the work of Alain de Benoist. The present work, it is needless to say, is to be located squarely in that latter tradition; it is anything but an apologia on behalf of democracy. It proposes on the contrary a radical thesis: democracy does not exist.
      This of course appears on the face of it absurd, insofar as we speak daily of “our democracy” and in countless ways reference it, even in commonplace events like “voting” or “watching the news” or “protesting,” etc. Let us then be more specific. It is surely true that a system of government exists and has existed which goes by the name “democracy,” and which arises in its own distinctive forms and qualities. Yet upon careful review, it appears that one of the most distinctive of those qualities, from an objective standpoint, is the enormous distance really standing between the beliefs of its citizens as to its modes of rule and its mechanisms of power, and its true modes of rule and mechanisms of power. Democracy is not at all what it is taken to be by most of those who live beneath its sway. It does indeed “exist”—but it does not exist at all as it is thought to exist. Everything which is commonly believed about it is contradicted by its reality, and is thus revealed either as a lie or a delusion. To that extent, democracy is nothing better than a figment.
      Only as we see the truth of our situation, can we possibly hope to withstand the pressure of coming times.
      Let us begin then with the conventional understanding. Democracy in this or any time must be taken to mean the rule of the many, be this many understood as a unified people or an atomized mass. In our own day this basic conception of democracy is elaborated with other conceptions of laws or institutions, but it is clear that the political kernel at the bottom of all democracies everywhere is and must be some concept of more or less limited popular will. There can be legitimate or illegitimate restraints on this will; all legitimate restraints are such as preserve or purify it in order to benefit “the people”; all illegitimate such as curb or frustrate it in order to benefit some ulterior power.
      It would be well for us to pause here, for we have already made a statement which ought make us wonder. For what is the nature of these legitimate limits on the popular will? An example of this would be, for instance, the constitution of a nation that established the fundamental law of the land, which no determination of the people, no matter how unanimous, should be permitted to overthrow. The justification of such a system from a democratic point of view is certainly that a structure of over-arching law is necessary for the right functioning of democratic institutions—and few democrats, no matter how thoroughgoing they might be, would dispute this. Yet this is tantamount to admitting a fundamental defect of democracy qua democracy, so endemic to it that it makes the pure realization of democracy equivalent to the clear endangerment of the same. This is indeed so fundamental a problem that democracy evidently cannot be permitted to exist as democracy, but must be tempered by so many non-democratic means. And this should already make us wonder—is democracy really so desirable as it is made out to be?
      Indeed, this is really the force of what might be called the classic Enlightenment form of government, which—if its prime theoreticians, practitioners, and founders are to be given credence—was never supposed to be democracy, but rather republic, meaning that system by which the basic flaw of democracy (its tendency to dissolve through the factional use or misuse of the popular will) should be tempered, constrained, and controlled through institutional obstructions to the unrestricted will of the demos. That is to say—to the degree to which republican government presently rules our societies, democracy does not.
      Well might it be responded here that we are in truth living under “indirect” or “constitutional” democracies, which are nothing other than the institutional perfection of democracy. Indeed, to prove the basic democratic justice of such institutions, one might even bring forth that fantastic tall-tale known as the “social compact,” which is nothing other than a complicated sophistication on every natural origin of human society—a theory invented toward the tendentious end of justifying an Enlightenment scheme of government, when that scheme was still tender in its revolutionary infancy. But even supposing that this “social compact” is something other than an inebriated liberal illusion, it can do nothing to belie the basic problem: democracy is supposed to be perfected by means of “indirect” democracy, which represents nothing but a limitation of the basic democratic principle. Against all of this one must surely respond that the “institutional perfection” of any given system surely cannot come through contradiction of that system’s defining principles—that one treats here, not of perfecting democracy, so much as domesticating it. And as any beast tamer will tell, the domestication of wild animals always means also their denaturaing.
      But let that be as it may. Let us for the moment accept the premise here proffered by the defender of democracy and proceed whither it might lead us.
      There are two essential pieces which must be analyzed in any study of representative government: the popular will, which is the basis of its legitimacy, and the representatives of that will, which are the agents of its realization. Both of these powers are constrained within the boundaries premised by the law, which exists (as is generally claimed and as we are presently allowing) toward the perfection of the democratic principle.
      With this in mind, we shall commence our investigation with an analysis of the representatives of indirect democracy.

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Charlottesville and the Right

A DEGREE OF SERIOUS SELF-REFLECTION on the part of the Right is called for in the wake of the Charlottesville debacle—word which I use advisedly. To my mind, this event has displayed, with undeniable urgency, the lack of self-clarity on the part of the Right at least in the United States, but perhaps also abroad, its striking dearth of awareness of itself, its right purposes, its position in this contemporary world, as well as a dispersion of will and an incapacity for disciplined unity which might be acceptable in any movement of the “diverse” left, but which in the Right we must regard as intolerable symptom of a deeper ailment.
      We begin, as it were, with the aesthetic side of the matter, which will already betray much about the problem as such. We look at these photographs of the event, and we ask ourselves—what, finally, are all these people doing together? Neo-Nazis flaunting the symbols of a bygone era; young, well-dressed men of the “Alt-Right”; survivalist types wearing camouflage and touting improbable arms—what brought all these men together, finally? (Apart, of course, from the statue of a long-dead general.) “Unite the Right,” and very well. But—what is the Right?
      Put simply, what do these men all have in common with one another, to say nothing of with a common conservative? In the case at hand, it would seem that what they have in common is precisely the will to conserve. But that is evasion of the fundamental problem. An American conservative, for example, wishes to conserve the American way of life, which means politically, the Constitution—precisely that which a thoroughgoing Fascist seeks to repudiate. It is evident then that there can be no “uniting” of such men; they disagree with each other on the fundamentals.
      What really “united” all these varied figures, then, was not at all “conservation,” but rather opposition—opposition to the way things stand, opposition to the attempt to eliminate the visible monuments of our past, opposition to the leftward tendencies inherent in modern politics. And that is well and good, save that opposition, in and of itself, can neither conquer nor certainly prepare for what follows conquest. One wants an affirmative basis, a positive point of reference, a “toward which” and not merely an “away from which.” That can come only from a clear idea of the essence of the “Right.”
      Then, to ask it again—what is the Right?
      Here is what it is not, not in our day and time: it is not—conservation. There is nothing left to conserve today. The Right cannot do other than reject the historical course by which we have been brought to our contemporary extremities. Because it alone of contemporary worldviews is consistent in its rejection, it cannot do other than reject Enlightenment principles to their roots, as containing within themselves mold-like the seeds of decay. The Right is a critique of modernity, and with it, all modern forms and tendencies.
      That leads us to our next point. What were all these “right wingers” doing, moiling about this Charlottesville park in the first place? Why, protecting a statue, protecting history, protecting the vestiges of what was in many ways a nobler past. And well enough. But—how? Why, democratically, through protest. Ah! That is quaint! The anti-Enlightenment playing at democratic agitation! No doubt no surer way can be found for attaining its ends.
      “Well? It’s worked for the communists, hasn’t it? And the feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement—you name it!”
      Surely. But better to ask ourselves—where were all those movements tending? Modernity is nothing but a river; it goes ever down. And all these movements, which without doubt have had their successes in the public arena—do you know what they all had in common? They were all of them marching downhill in advance of the flood. But that is precisely the opposite direction of that which we would take.
      The Right cannot win “democratically” if it is fundamentally undemocratic; and if it is “democratic,” then it is nothing at all.
      “Well—but what does it hurt us to try?”
      I hope that a few pointed questions shall be quite sufficient to exorcise us of these false and misguiding hopes. In the first place: do we really trust the press to give us a fair hearing in the wake of this or that “protest” of the Right? And do we really trust the government, or the police which it commands, to protect us, rather than, say, to set us up for any number of accidents which can be used as the pretext for actions against us? But of course, the answer to both these questions must be a resounding no. Then whatever were we hoping to accomplish? And how is it possible that we can stand so stunned in the wake of events, looking back on what has happened as if it were utterly unexpected? And now there is talk that it was all a set up, and that perhaps even the car incident was a “false flag.” We do not necessarily believe all such suggestions, but what is important is how eminently believable they really are. Such things have happened; what else was Ruby Ridge, or Waco? And if the powers that be are inclined to besmirch us in such a way, and to seek out excuses for our undermining, why ever give them the chance?
      Of course, the deed is done, and there is no going back. We can at present only do precisely what the left would do in such a moment, and what it is always doing: seek to profit from events, whatever their character might be. That requires however a degree of perspicacity, and I am troubled by the signs of its lack. There has even been talk that nothing better could have happened for the Right than a Charlottesville, precisely for the fact that the fallout from it will alert the world to how unjustly we are treated. I invite these commentators to peruse the headlines of any major news organization they please (Fox not excluded) to see what has most recently been said about Charlottesville. We hear talk of a “collapse of the narrative,” but I have yet to see any justification for such an idea, and shall be most curious to hear what will be said about it after President Trump’s latest dithering.
      So far as the public is concerned—and here I mean of course the majority, still nursefeeding on the sopped bread and honey-laced venom of our national press—the Right now has blood on its collective hands. And this is not even surprising to anyone who gets his worldview from CNN and MSNBC, for they “know” that the “right is violent,” while the “left is peaceful”—quite against the abundant evidence to contrary, which that same press diligently suppresses and inverts at every turn. We have thus been wily enough to organize an event which could do nothing but confirm the public judgement of us. There is nothing marvelous in this fact. What is marvelous is that any of us can now stand amazed, muttering numbly that “we have been played.”
      Indeed we have, and that is a game which we will never win if we do not learn to be clever enough to break its rules. For it is a game made for our losing. Gather together unknown men who may be unstable or who may be in the pay or influence of our opponents; hurl them against their enemies, who by their own proclamation have not the least qualms about instigating violence; oversee the entire affair by a government hostile to everything we stand for which has no scruples about setting us up; filter the outcome through the mainstream media, not one piece of which is in our hands, and not one figure of which would be disappointed to see us crushed—do all of this, I say, and I can guarantee the outcome every time. Anyone who expects anything else should really ask themselves how and why.
      Which leads us finally to the one thing that will surely be remembered about this event: namely, the “car attack” by James Alex Fields, Jr. I lay aside the question of what really caused Fields’ act, if it were a moment of rage or panic or what have you. That question is utterly extraneous to the matter at hand. The question is—how could the Right have permitted any public event which could so easily lead to such an end as this? How could we set ourselves up in such a manner? It has been protested that no one on our side even knows who this James Alex Fields is—precisely! Far too little was known about this event, from start to finish. We still know far too little about it. And that is no one’s fault but our own.
      The Right is commonly associated with military discipline—would this were more than mere rumor! But we, who are at least far from wishing ourselves otherwise, should really ask ourselves as to the nature of this putative connection. What is it about the Right that lends it to ideas of martial virtue and discipline? It is clear it can be nothing other than the fact that the Right rejects the idea of human equality; the Right acknowledges the differences standing between man and man, and would build a society which reflects those differences.
      Then let us finally ask ourselves what “democratic protest” has to do with such a notion, and how we can possibly hope to attain such an end as we have set for ourselves by ignoring its very principles. We must begin comporting ourselves by the standards we have set, else we shall never manage to “get out of Charlottesville.”

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