A familiar phenomenon in dissident circles is for the super-black-pilled to come out of the woodwork, anytime someone suggests reforming the system in any way. They will properly inform the reformists that the current system is beyond hope. Either the problems are past the point where reform can work, or the system is so corrupt reform is impossible. There is a sense in some corners of the dissident right that even talking about engaging politics is corrupting. This Spandrell post is an example
Another spin on this is to write-off all political actors as gatekeepers, assigned by the state to prevent dissidents from changing minds. The alt-right boys tend to go down this road, finding a way to describe figures like Nigel Farage as insufficiently authentic, because they hold some positions they don’t like. These guys are super-black-pilled on Trump right now, because he turned out to be a politician. It is another way of rejecting engagement in politics, as a pointless and possibly complicit activity.
This is an age old problem for outsider politics. Radicals in the past argued that engagement in formal politics was an endorsement of those politics and as a result, a sellout of the movement. There are still some IRA-types holding out against the Good Friday Agreement. Various communist movements in South America would suffer from schisms, because one faction wanted to join the political process as a party, while the other faction wanted nothing short of a communist revolution.
The salient question for modern dissidents is whether dissidents should engage in formal politics. Was it a good thing for Nigel Farage to win the EU elections, or did it prevent something better from happening? Is it better for Trump to win in 2020 or will it just prevent progress on dissident causes? In the case of Trump, since it is a future issue, is it better for dissidents to back some other candidate, in order to demonstrate to white voters that fake nationalism is a loser and can never be tolerated?
The answer becomes even more complicated if you accept, as is the case for most dissidents, that there is no electoral way out of the troubles created by electoral politics. That is, the solution to liberal democracy is not at the ballot box. The ballot box is the problem, so its perpetuation is a continuation of the problem. Logically, participating in the democratic process means perpetuating that which you oppose. Even if that is not correct, and it is not correct, there is that sense of hypocrisy hanging over it.
There’s also an unspoken truth that plays a big part in the debate. Politics is a form of ritualized combat. The groups form up, lock shields and do battle. For those in the groups, there is that sense of shared suffering and shared triumph that can only be achieved in group activity. For dissidents in America, for example, to participate in Trump’s campaign, feels like a temptation. They are getting the short term joy of that group activity, at the expense of the long term goals of their movement.
The danger of disconnecting from conventional politics, whether in the formal sense, as in elections, or the informal sense, as in meta-politics, is self-ghettoization. This has always been the problem with white identity politics in America. It has existed as a sub-culture that is out of tune with the rest of white America. Whenever they pop up in public, they seem weird and alien. In Europe, far-right politics suffered the same problem, usually devolving into fascists cults without a coherent reason to exist.
So, there is the dilemma. On the one hand, engaging in conventional politics runs the risk of expending energy on pointless and discouraging ventures that could possibly corrupt the movement and the dissidents. On the other hand, not participating runs the risk of becoming a weird sub-culture that has no impact on the culture war. Instead, it becomes a reason to do nothing, but congratulate one another on their isolation from the dominant political culture. Either road appears to be a dead end.
The reason this dilemma exists, is dissident politics, at least in America, has never matured beyond the juvenile state. In the post-war years, Buckley-style conservatism started as a legitimate reaction to radicalism, but never matured beyond a parlor game, so it was easily co-opted. The reaction to it, paleo-conservatism, went down the engagement path, but was always reactionary in nature. It never matured past being a long critique of liberal democracy. It was commentary, rather than a movement.
In contrast, the New Left that emerged in the 1960’s, from the remains of communist movements in the prior generation, did mature past this point. As a result, it was able to engage in politics, as the corrupter, rather than the corrupted. At the same time, it was able to stand apart from politics, providing a long running argument against it. The New Left was successful as a political movement because it had a clear agenda, taking over the institutions, and a clear purpose, to turn those institutions into weapons.
Modern dissidents, of course, face a very different battle space than the leftists of the past century. The New Left faced an establishment that was more or less sympathetic to at least some of their goals. They also could free-ride on other movements like black civil rights and the anti-war movement. They were also working in an industrial state, not a technological surveillance state. These are all critical differences that make the New Left a bad example for modern dissidents.
Still, it is a starting point for dissidents. The movement has to mature past the point of confusing activity with goals. A mature and self-aware movement will instinctively understand that the agenda is fluid and immediate, but also subservient to the larger goals of the movement. For example, if supporting a particular candidate weakens the opposition or advances some small part of the agenda, then engaging in politics is correct. If there is nothing to be accomplished in a given cycle, then sitting it out is correct.
The point being is that for a mature dissident movement, politics, whether reformists or adversarial, are about the larger goals. Trump winning election is not an end, but one of many opportunities to weaken the resolve of the people in charge and rally those who oppose them. Once that utility has been extracted, then the political activity of supporting Trump loses its value. This is true of activism and meta-politics. The goal is always to weaken the resolve of the other side, while boosting the spirits of dissidents.
The radical’s long march through the institutions was not implacably dogmatic. They compromised and adjusted, doing what they must to win each small battle, often turning defeat into a bloody-shirt to rally the faithful. Dissidents will need to make a long march through white bourgeois culture. It is not about capturing the institutions, but about capturing the foundation upon which they must rest. The New Left scaled the walls to capture the city. Dissidents will need to tunnel underneath it.
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