Like so many words, phrases and labels, the terms Left and Right have been so abused that they no longer have literal meanings. Instead, they are charged with partisan and moral meanings. The obvious example is how Progressives use the term “right-wing” as an epithet, synonymous with evil. Even those who try to use the terms in rational ways struggle with useful definitions. Are libertarians on the Left or the Right? They tend to side with the Left, but they claim to be on the Right.
The origins of the terms are not much help either. We get these labels from the French Revolution. The Right were those who supported the king in the French National Assembly. They sat to the right. Those in opposition to the king sat to the Left. The West no longer has monarchists and America has not had Royalists since the 18th century. Even the monarchist parties in Europe are not in favor of bringing back monarchy in the 18th century sense of it.
Of course, those opponents of the monarchy in 18th century France were not Marxists or Bolsheviks. They were republicans and democrats in the classic sense. We don’t have those anymore either. The modern Left makes lots of noises about democracy, but it is just an ornament. They decorate their language with appeals to democracy and popular governance, but that’s just so they can pretend to be the cutting edge of the general will, the vanguard of the people.
Then you get into the touchy subject of the interwar years. Dumb people say the Nazis were left-wing because they had the word “socialist” in their name, but even dumber people say they are on the right because they were antisemitic. In the context of their historical moment, they were on the Right, as they were nationalists and they existed as an opposition to Bolshevism. Even so, much of their program overlapped with what the Bolsheviks were offering.
Libertarians also present another problem. They like to think of themselves as the fullest expression of classical liberal thinking. They also claim to be the polar opposite of communists and socialist. In theory that is plausible. As a practical matter, they are never in opposition to the Left and usually support their social agenda. The only practical politics we see from libertarians is the undermining of any organized resistance to the Left.
There’s also another problem with placing libertarians on the Right. It is the same problem you see with fascism. They are ideologues. Instead of starting from the reality of the human condition and human organization, and then creating a politics rooted in those realities, they start from the end and work backwards. Libertarians and fascists imagine their ideal society and then assume if it is somehow imposed on society, it will alter the nature of man and human organization.
That gets to the heart of Left and Right. Russell Kirk famously said that conservatism is the lack of ideology. In the context of his time this was a very good definition, but it is not entirely true. Conservatism is a collection of ideas and ideals, but what it lacks is a dogma. Conservatism lacks a set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. Instead, the underlying truths of conservatism lie in the nature of man, which is open to debate and analysis.
This is why modern Progressives have suddenly turned on science, particularly the human sciences. Those people with Darwin fish on their Volvos, now have climate change and diversity stickers on their Audis. They used to wave around their imagined love of science as a gorgon’s head against what they claimed was the superstition of Christianity. Now they wave around the superstitions of multiculturalism to ward off empirical truths about humanity.
This framing of Left and Right as dogma versus pragmatism also helps explain why America is suddenly convulsed by multicultural terrorism. For at least a generation, we have not had a political Right. When Bill Buckley first got started, he and his fellow conservatives were in that classical tradition. Read his early work and feels like it is from another planet. No one in the current conservative ecosystem would dare write such things. Russel Kirk remains a forgotten man.
As Sam Francis predicted, the conservative movement Buckley started was eventually assimilated into the Progressive order. Since the end of the 1980’s, maybe the 1990’s, conservatism has simply been an ornament on the Progressive moral framework, a flashing light to distract the people. America finds itself under assault by drug addicts, lunatics and deviants because the doors to the asylum have been left open for at least a generation now.
Fukuyama famously declared that the end of the Cold War and the triumph of liberal democracy in the West was the end of history. In reality it is was the end of a particular historical epoch. The final vanquishing of a conservative opposition, not the end of the Cold War, was the end of that history. The war between dogmatic idealism and the human condition that started with the Age of Reason came to an end with the triumph of liberal democracy.
This is why we see western societies in a crisis. Those radical elements toppling statues and screaming in people’s faces at restaurants need a leash that can only come from a serious opposition. The radicals won, so there is no opposition, either intellectually or physically. The radicals are now like bees at the end of summer when the queen dies. They are flying around trying to do what they are programmed to do, but just end up living out their time in a trash barrel.
It is also why we see the Left desperately trying to conjure a new Right, a new bogeyman they can attack. By any reasonable assessment, Donald Trump is a political moderate. He is the New York City version of Bill Clinton, which is why he was a big supporter of Bill Clinton. Despite this obvious reality, the Left has painted him as a tyrant. The lack of a genuine Right has reduced them to pretending Trump is Hitler and his supporters and brown shirts.
The question now is what comes next. Most people on this side of the Great Divide want to believe this is the Bolshevik Revolution all over again. The conventional conservative is sure the Left are the real Nazis. Maybe without an opponent, the Left punches themselves out and collapses. Maybe the inanity reaches a point where a genuine conservative response begins to take shape. Alternatively, maybe it is simply the end of Left and Right. The Left won.
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