What Is To Be Done?

A young reader from Scandinavia came to see me a month ago in order to talk strategy.  Since then he has had a few meetings with conservative organizers and plied me with questions about tactics.  In particular he wondered how we might make use of emerging "stars" in the media and social media.  Here is the response (amplified a bit) I wrote today.

I have taken some time to answer your queries, because I believe you have started at the wrong end.  That is a very conservative habit, unfortunately.  Conservative activists begin with the premise that we need to elect conservatives and then hope they will carry out their mandate.  This overlooks what used to be known as Stan Evans Law.  Stan's law was essentially an observation, put in the form of a question:  Why is it, whenever one of our people gets in a position to do any good, he becomes one of their people?

You make several good tactical suggestions, which could be quite practical if they were implemented,  but, before devising a set of tactics, one has to have a strategy in mind, and before one can devise a strategy, there must be an objective or set of objectives that determine our course, and, before establishing objectives, one first has to have a set of principles which make the objectives not only desirable but worth the effort to attain them.

To take an analogy, suppose we were getting in a boat with the vague objective of going somewhere to have a good time.  We'd have to know what kind of good time we wanted to have.  Fishing?  Relaxing at the beach?  Visiting historical monuments and soaking up 'culture'?  If this last, then which culture.  Let us say South Italian Catholic culture, infused with ancient classical civilization.  We might say, head for Siracusa and then begin plotting our course, deciding on how big a boat, what provisions to take, what sort of crew we'd need.  Could we communicate with the natives, if we did not speak Italian?  Could we appreciate the monuments if we were ignorant of Greek religion and architecture?

If we were conservatives, we'd just get in the boat, cast off, and wonder why we got stuck in the Bermuda Triangle.

Briefly, what are the objectives in organizing a conservative political movement?  Is the goal to re-establish a movement that would lead to a political victory that would accomplish more than the Reagan-Bush administrations did in their 12 year reign?  Or is it something else?  And if it is a right-wing victory, in whose interest and for what motives would that be desirable?  To answer that, one would have to be clear about what is wrong with the leftist regime and why, because only then it would be possible to to design a plan of attack.
By and large Anglo-American and North-European conservative parties and movements have  pursued a two-track strategy:  Their first and most urgent objective is to halt or at least slow the apparently inexorable leftist advance, at least on key fronts such as the growth in the size and scope of government.  The second is to work toward restoration of some imagined happy time in the past—generally speaking, this is usually the world of one’s childhood or early adulthood.  When I was working with conservatives, they always seemed to hanker after the Eisenhower years.  Now, most of their pious wishes are prefaced with, “When Ronald Reagan was President…..”
The flaws in such strategies are pretty obvious.  Most obvious is that they are rooted only in nostalgia or folklore, not in the realities of power or the realities of human nature.  This leads to the second flaw:  They simply don’t work.  They never have, they never will.
The so-called Right never knows what it wants.  The Left, by contrast,  knows what it wants:  Continuing success in eliminating human distinctions and in obliterating the past.  Naturally, this requires a never-ending pursuit and increase of the power of the state over its victims.  Even high school English teachers and Midwestern Democratic state legislators are dimly aware of this and while two years ago, they might have supported same-sex marriage and opposed transgender rights, they are now on board with the transgender movement and will soon be championing the equal rights of all mammals.
Or whatever other nonsense their pop culture sensibilities are stimulated by.  It doesn't matter.  They are the Epicureans, who argued that it does not matter which scientific explanations of natural phenomena are correct, because what matters is to reject supernatural explanations and eliminate religion.
So, when ask about tactics, I say: We must begin with strategy, and any real ‘conservative’ strategy will include the following elements:
1) A serious anthropology, that is, an understanding of human nature and its potential.   Marxism failed because they shut their eyes to the universality of private property and hierarchies rooted in status.  Democratism in its modern form especially fails because democrats, capitalists, liberals, libertarians all misunderstand man’s social nature and fail to acknowledge the realities of power.  Machiavelli is an excellent corrective.
2) A serious historical grasp of revolutionary history that does not fall back on cliches about 1960’s radicals or Communists.
3) A hierarchy of priorities—social, ethical, economic.  To draw up such a hierarchy, one has to keep in mind both what is most important—these days that would seem to be the need to distinguish humanity from other forms of life—and what can be actually accomplished.  For example, the welfare state is a blight on Western societies but its elimination may not be practicable until other objectives can be attained, such as the marginalization of non-contributing and hostile elements of society, such as aliens who consume vast resources and serve as a voting block in support of the Left.

Until we are clear about these elements, any talk of rolling back the revolution is useless.  There are no historical analogies that will serve us in our current misery, because conservative tactics in the past have always failed.  As I used to tell people until they were sick of hearing it:  When Jimmie Carter was President, any talk of homosexual rights was ridiculed even by most Democrats.  By the time George H.W. Bush was leaving office, it was acknowledged by both parties that homosexuals were possessed of distinctive rights not possessed by straight people.

On all the most important fronts, those twelve years were a far worse diaster for the American people than any other similar period of time.  Yes, the growth of government spending was temporarily slowed--big deal!--and the Soviet Empire finally collapsed.  The Bolsheviks, as evil and crazy as they were, were far less evil and crazy than the current leadership of both major parties in the United States.  That is why Stalin's  heir is now idolized by so many American conservatives.  Sure, he is a crook and a murderer and a tyrant, but he, unlike the Clintons, McCains, and Grahams, is not an enemy of normal humanity.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. Robert Reavis says:

    Nostalgia is used today to mean sentimental, emotional and yearning for days gone by or the happy days that the future any future time will soon bring. John Paul II used it in this way in one of his documents allowing the wider use of the traditional Mass and breviary to those sentimental types always emoting about days gone by.
    I always argued with people wanting a return to the 1950s golden age of their spirited youth but try not to do that anymore. But the truth of the matter is nostalgia comes from “noston” (home) and “algea” (pain, distress, woe). It’s quite literally Greek for “homesickness”.
    The pagans knew that a home was worth fighting for and unlike Robert Frost , a very deserving place for human beings. They were groping towards the full revelation that The way home is suffering. And it’s suffering not to be there yet. “And I, when I shall be lifted up, will draw all things to myself.” And in normal circumstances and human understanding, not entirely of this world. I could add the hearth or the heart ( smoke rising from a chimney ) as part of the home and even Sacred Heart in achieving a warmth against the darkness without being redundant but words and meanings change and to restore anything today becomes quickly nostalgic in its worst form.

  2. Frank Brownlow says:

    Judge Reavis — On plain, literal homesickness, do you know Stevenson’s poem in the Songs of Travel, “Wandering Willie,” set by Vaughan Williams & beautifully sung by Thomas Allen? Then on the other kind, of which literal homesickness is a type or analogy, I always go back to Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee.” (fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.)

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    Wandering Willie arrangements by Stephenson and others you mentioned were quite beautiful . Thanks for the suggestion