Sunday, November 11, 2018

Z-Man, Whittaker Chambers, Principles

Recently,  Z-man put up a post, Learning from the Past, which I felt deserved some comment. I like Z-man, he's one of the sharpest tools in the shed but the post itself was intellectually incoherent and illustrates just how conceptually confused the Right is when it comes to an understanding of itself.
Similarly, paleos were prone to negotiating with themselves. The endless debating over principles is really just an excuse for not moving forward. It may not be intentional, but that is the result. When the conqueror sets out to sack a city, the one thing he never does is wait until he has a detailed administrative plan for managing the city after the siege. The winners of life never lose sight of this truth. Principles are the things you create after the victory to lock in your gains and give the people a reason to celebrate your dominance.

Another thing that all forms of conservatism in the democratic era have struggled to understand is the role of the pseudo-intellectual trimmer. These are the sorts of people who attach themselves to right-wing movements, and immediately begin working to turn them into useful losers. A good recent example of this is Ross Douthat, who thinks the goal of his tribe is to infiltrate populist movements and then purge them of anything useful, turning them into a uniform that poseurs like himself can wear in the morality play.

This is exactly what happened with the Tea Party. What started out as an authentic white middle-class revolt was quickly hijacked by charlatans. In fact, the grifters arrived so quickly it looked like the Normandy invasion. These types of people operate in the same way English pirates operated in the age of sail. That is, the people in charge give them a free pass, as long as they meddle in the affairs of dissidents. The Right has never figured out how to defend itself from this attack or even tried to understand it.
Now here's the problem; how do you pick who is the pseudo-intellectual trimmer, what's your metric?  What exactly makes Douthat so toxic? Z-man bemoans the influx of underminers but undercuts any corrective principles to identify them.

One of the big reasons why the Right has never been able to defend itself from undermining attacks is because the current definition of the Right seems to be simply "not Left", and that is a stupid definition. Defining yourself by the negation of your enemies principles doesn't exactly reality calibrate you. Being against stupid doesn't automatically mean smarts, because there is always the possibility of being stupid in another way.  And most for most of the 20th Century that exactly what the Right was doing, it was being stupid in its own way. Understand this and you'll understand why the Right has been on a century losing streak.

Because what exactly is "the Left". How does it differ from the Right? Once you start drilling down a bit deeper into the distinctions things aren't as they seem.

It's a shame that Whittaker Chambers doesn't get much love these days because he is deep, really deep. In fact I'd go as far to say that he really needs to be understood as the American Right's only ever political mystic.  Emerging from the cultural and spiritual abyss of the early part of the last century he saw what the shit-fight of the 20th Century was really all about:

What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. The rags that fell from me were not only Communism. What fell was the whole web of the materialist modern mind—the luminous shroud which it has spun about the spirit of man, paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of his soul for God, denying in the name of knowledge the reality of the soul and its birthright in that mystery on which mere knowledge falters and shatters at every step. If I had rejected only Communism, I would have rejected only one political expression of the modern mind[Ed], the most logical because the most brutal in enforcing the myth of man's material perfectibility.
The important line here is "only one political expression" implying that there were other forms of materialist political expression.  This is the key insight.  Chambers recognised that modern materialism could morph into different political forms, different forms which would superficially appear to be mutually incompatible and yet on foundational principles ultimately the same.  Chambers understood that when a Communist fights a Fascist the outcome doesn't matter because materialism wins in the end.  This is why the Left never loses even when the "Right " wins, because the modern Right is merely a differently dressed version of the Left.

The average person doesn't see this is because he is a cognitive miser and judges political ideologies on superficialities instead of foundational principles. They judge on gut instinct instead of reasoned principle.  The sad fact of life is that most conservatives are cognitive misers of a conservative temperament. As long as someone waves the flag, kicks out the wogs and keeps taxes low he becomes part of their club, never mind the fact that the managerial state continues to expand and his freedom becomes slowly diminished. Better managerialism does not get you out of this trap.

Chambers understood perfectly well how to defend the Right from being undermined because chambers understood what this battle was all about. He could not, for instance, ever ally with the Libertarians because he knew that they were selling the same progressivist rubbish, albeit in a different packaging.  His evisceration of Ayn Rand comes from a deep understanding of the philosophical principles from which her ideology arouse. They were the same principles which underpinned Communism, Fascism and  Radical Liberalism. He would have loathed the Neocons.

Unfortunately for Chambers, he was one of the very few people who saw this and that's why he was so despondent, famously stating that he was joining the "losing side" after defecting from Communism. He was literally a lone voice in the Right intellectual wilderness of the mid 20th C.  The key principle that Chambers, Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky  had discerned was the 20th Century was going to be a fight between those who saw man as a child of God and those who had cast God out.

The other guy who has a lot to teach us is George Orwell. My impression of Orwell is that while he was not the smartest of men he had that great, but rare, virtue of being intellectually honest and would modify his beliefs in light of the facts. While he, temperamentally, always remained a socialist his intellectual honesty led him to repudiate the contemporary expressions of political Socialism/Communism.  He recognised the other great principle that separates the Left from the Right was Truth.

When Chambers left the National Review he famously told Buckley that he "was not a conservative but a man of the Right."  Chambers understood that the conservative movement had it own pretty lies and he wanted no part of it. From Z-Man again:
They spend a lot of time rehashing old fights and discussing the things they fought, like the Civil Rights Act or the Reagan amnesty, but they always seem to stop at the water’s edge when analyzing these things. It’s almost as if they agree with the Left that these policies were inevitable, due to the tides of history. Part of it, of course, is the losing side never wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on their own failures. Even the humbling experience of being hurled into the void is not enough to overcome ego. We see that on our side of the great divide, where some alt-right figures simply cannot come to terms with the fact that they screw up a lot.
I think there are many people on the Conservative/Dissident/Alt-Right who prefer their pretty lies to the Truth. Belief in "Race Realism" requires one ignore a fair chunk of reality.  IQ fetishists have to explain away why Hi IQ people do dumb things.  Push some of the stupid ideas out there to the limit and they become self-repudiating and start resembling those of the Left.  Hence the stepping back from the brink and the gradual acquiescence. Many of the Right are really crypto Leftists.

Still, I'd give the Paleo's some respect. They were given a bum deal.  The American Constitution, as a stand alone document, was a product of radical Enlightenment thinking with all the errors that entailed, and the only reason why it "worked" was because of the legislative "correctives" that were enacted soon after, and the relatively homogeneous cultural outlook that the U.S. had until the 1960's.  The Paleos who in the whole were reality-calibrated were tasked with defending the indefensible. No wonder that they couldn't real-think to the limit while defending American founding principles.

The "principles" are incompatible.


Bruce Charlton said...

@SP - I agree; and this was pretty much the view I reached back in 2010-11 when I was writing Thought Prison. All modern mainstream Western politics is of the Left (implicitly utilitarian, this worldly), and has been for several generations.

The Left is in its essence materialist, anti-Christian, pro-damnation; it is on the side of the demonic forces and against the divine; and that is its only coherence. The Left is negatively-defined by what it opposes.

Aside from that - it is continually mutating and evolving - to seek the most effective means of destroying The Good. At one time the Left idealised the native, white, working class *man* as 'The Proletariat'- but currently that group is just-about the most victimised of all. This change shows the oppositional nature of the Left. The same applies to its 'principles' which comes and go, are invented and discarded, as expedience dictates.

The triumph of the Left is the progress in eradication of Christianity (and the spirit) from all public discourse and major social institutions - including the subversion and inversion of the mainline Christian Churches, so that churches have now changed sides; and are 'net'/ oveall Leftist and anti-Christian.

But the Left has within it a range of opinion and support, and self-interest groups - much like the different sections, the warring factions, of the government bureaucracy; and these are the various political parties.

So Fascism, Communism, National socialism, Labour parties, Liberals, Conservative, Libertarians, and nationalists are all like different - rival - officies within a single state bureaucracy -- and the same applies to the social systems such as politics, government, th emedia, health, education, law, police, the military and the big Western churches - all are part of the same, Leftist, system - linked via their bureaucracies.

Genuinely to oppose Leftism can only be to-be-religious; and to regard religion as the proper root of life. Tere is then the choice of religion.

But Christians cannot, now, equate Christianity with a church - or else they are just back inside the Leftist loop. And if they do stay inside a church, they will need to discriminate; to reject much or most of what that church advocates.

The Social Pathologist said...


I think we need to have a quite strict definition of what "Left" actually means. As far as I'm concerned it really does mean philosophies which ultimately have their basis in radical Positivism. It's this radical positivism which makes it anti-Christian.

The triumph of the Left is the progress in eradication of Christianity

Yes, that is the ultimate aim.

Genuinely to oppose Leftism can only be to-be-religious; and to regard religion as the proper root of life. Tere is then the choice of religion.

To a large degree yes. I do think though that there is a branch of Agnosticism which is compatible with Christianity. Men like Anthony Daniels and Roger Scruton exemplify this. The core issue a man has to believe in is the Truth even if he doesn't have faith or proof of God. If a man does not believe in Truth then his is not of the Right.

But Christians cannot, now, equate Christianity with a church

I have to mull over this a bit.

MK said...

B: But Christians cannot, now, equate Christianity with a church
SP: I have to mull over this a bit.

We've only had 500 years to "mull this over". Results? Conclusive. Taylor's "A Secular Age" is a good explanation of it all; secularism is Western Christian development that arose from the Reformation. Sure, guys like Bruce are not without religion but if the Church is merely one option among others we merely have the cult of the individual. And as I've pointed out many time, we see a massive demographic implosion following these men over many generations. How many children are born into families without some institutional church? So now we get Africans (and Mormons and Muslims) who haven't forgotten this. God is clever but never malicious.

Western types have a difficult time allowing all men full freedom of conscience (like God clearly does) whilst yet holding each individual "going their own way" fully accountable.

St Ignatius (where the bishop is, so is the Church), pray for us.

Hoyos said...

We don't really have an option to not have a church and if believers could still meet under Diocletian and the Karashitans in Japan, we know we're not really there yet.

It's like chess, if you're in check you can block, attack, or move. If you can't do any of those you're lost. So far traditional conservative thinking doesn't really want to think this way. We need to be prepared, luckily our enemies aren't exactly coy these days, we know where we're headed and we need to be prepared; even to leave if possible.

Elections aren't going to fix it, evangelism might.

Jonathan said...


Fortunately, Bruce jumped in and said some of the things I was going to say. I'll add that the secular right always winds up finding themselves back on the left, because the left is the inevitable destination of positivism/materialism. I gather that Nietzsche and perhaps Dostoyevsky saw this clearly even in the 19th century, and I think Father Seraphim Rose articulated it especially clearly in his short book "Nihilism".

Just as the left is defined primarily by its opposition to God (as Bruce points out) and his qualities of Good, Truth, Beauty, and Virtue, much of the modern right is defined primarily by its opposition to the left, which makes the right even more incoherent than the left. For the right to beat the left, they have to be grounded in something coherent, starting with a rejection of positivism/materialism, a belief that the fate of our souls is more important than maximizing our pleasure and minimizing our suffering, and an understanding of what brings our souls to God and what separates us from God.

MK said...

J: For right to beat the left, have to be grounded in something coherent...

Sure. But I can see this not happening yet the right "holding their own" with enough freedom to survive and raise families to fight another day (say the Trump model). To avoid the way of the USSR or Venezuela in the next few generations? I'll take it. Life ain't perfect.

The Social Pathologist said...


I do think we need to have a Church--Christianity is a social religion--and there is such a thing as a Christian fellowship it's just that I'm not sure that the current Churches are really up to the task and are fully representative of Christianity. I'm increasingly of the opinion that my own denomination, Catholicism, has some serious problems in it, though I still think it the "most correct" of the Churches.


Elections aren't going to fix it, evangelism might

Yep. Better managerialism is not the answer.


Just as the left is defined primarily by its opposition to God

But so is the secular Right. They differ from the Left only with regard of how to best implement materialism. Their battle with the Left is one of technique not fundamental orientation.

For the right to beat the left, they have to be grounded in something coherent, starting with a rejection of positivism/materialism

Yep, this is why principles matter. The problem is that Secularism and Christian Realism, while they have some overlap, are at a fundamental level opposed in priniciple. A "good" Secularlist is going to be anti-Christian, no matter if he is from the "Right" or the "Left" Even a "tolerant" secularist is not going to give primacy to Christian Truth claims and so what happens in the end is that a Right secularism results in a Liberalism with ultimately destroys societies. For "liberalism" to work it must be "constrained" within Christian limits .

Life ain't perfect.

The problem with the Trump model is that it is a stay in execution not a commutation of the death Sentence. Trump has bought time, not revolution.

As difficult as it is Hoyos is right, politics won't solve this,we need a new evangelisation.

Hoyos said...

Later thought, also the reason it worked was that the quality of the American people was of a highly committed Christianity combined with serious ruggedness of the frontiersmen, the whalers, etc. Honestly, how many poor Calvinist/Protestant countries were there anyway?

Dykeward said...

"Belief in "Race Realism" requires one ignore a fair chunk of reality. IQ fetishists have to explain away why Hi IQ people do dumb things."

I think more than this, racial realism is in many situations irrelevant unless one wishes to accept that one should live in a hierarchical globalised structure where the brightest get given access to the spoils.

Are those population groups of lower average IQ somehow separated from their own self-interest? Were Aboriginals expected to welcome in those who would territorially replace them? If one reads Chua's World On Fire, were those less economically successful populations beholden to welcome in 'market-dominant minorities' (Chinese etc) to run their own cultures?

Sadly with many of the 'IQ fetishists' IQ is all, not other types of ancestral, biological or cultural compatibility to the extent of effectively promoting biological trading-up to other higher IQ group (shades of Chris Brand, here).

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