September 15, 2017 by John Bruce Leonard
Charlottesville and the Right
Update: The author is happy to report that the mistakes made at Charlottesville have not befallen men incapable of learning from them. Recent events clearly demonstrate that a new tack has been taken, and the model for an “activism of the Right” which has been displayed is most welcome, and, to this author’s eyes, is of indispensable merit in the present struggle. Nonetheless, the author leaves the following article as it was written, for it contains reflections which he continues to believe are worthy of careful consideration from the point of view of the Right. Were he to rewrite it now, the tone should change appreciably, but the substance should remain largely the same.
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. More yet: this was to be a “non-violent” protest. Non-violence presupposes that one is willing to take blows without responding in kind. Yet what self-respecting man of the Right is so willing? Do we not adhere openly to an idea of honor which mandates that we defend ours and our own, and that looks with suspicion, not to say scorn, on “turning the other cheek”? What does it mean to “non-violently protest,” then, amongst crowds of the decidedly violent antifa?
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.”