Note: I have a final word on car buying the financialization of the car business behind the green door. The regular Taki post is up as well. Comments about it can be made here, as Taki no longer has a comment section.
The political reactionary is an essential component of left-wing mythology, going back to the French Revolution. In fact, most reactionaries are an invention of Left, so they always have an enemy. It is why they tend to go on murder sprees once they gain control of the institutions. The hunt for counter revolutionaries and running dog reactionaries provides fuel for permanent revolution. Once the revolution runs out of enemies, the revolution loses energy and collapses in on itself.
Even though the term reactionary has been abused by the Left, used as a slur against critics and opponents, it does not mean there are no reactionaries. The Thermidorian Reaction was a real thing. The Restoration of the French monarchy was, in part, a reactionary development. The restoration of the monarchy after the death of Cromwell could be classified as a reactionary event. After all, Charles II did order the body of Cromwell to be disinterred and displayed in chains.
While the Left owns the term, political reaction is not just a right-wing phenomenon nor is it strictly political. It can be argued that socialism and communism are reactions to the Industrial Revolution. After all, it was the Marxist who popularized the term. It was an 19th century pejorative for the current state of the world at the time. Various forms of socialism were a reaction to the sudden growth of a new class, who gained their wealth and power through the acquisition of industrial capital.
Narodism, which was a socialist movement in pre-revolutionary Russia, was a reaction to both the rise of capital and tsarism. The Narodniks, as they were called at the time, were a form of agrarian socialism rooted in the idea that the wealth of Russia was in the peasantry and small craftsman in the countryside. Initially, they were a reaction to the size and scale of the tsarist system of rule. They soon evolved into a reaction to the growing power of capital, just like other socialists of the age.
The interesting thing about the Narodniks is they were more than just a political or economic movement. They were a cultural movement as well. Faced with the sheer size of the tsarist system and the rapid cultural changes promised by the growth of industry, their response was to go back to the cultural roots of the people. The term Narodism comes from the word “narod”, a word equivalent to volk, which is a term familiar to most on the dissident right.
This is something relevant to this age. The technological revolution has allowed the managerial state to grow into something inconceivably massive. We live in an age in which there is little privacy. The eyes of the system are everywhere, even in our homes and in our private conversations. There is no way to escape the unblinking eye of the surveillance state. One force behind the current unrest is the growing sense that all of us are subject to the unwanted gaze of the managerial state.
Another aspect is the rise of the new class. Like the sudden appearance of the capital class in the industrial revolution, we suddenly have a new powerful class that gained its power and wealth through the capture of information. This new class did not get rich by building a better mouse trap. They got rich capturing an information bottleneck or a monopoly of some information service. Michael Bloomberg literally got rich from a monopoly on information to the financial service sector.
Another parallel to the Narodniks we are seeing is the “back to the people” approach by the various tribes on the dissident right. The Narodniks adopted the traditional clothing of the rural people and worked hard to portray themselves as the vanguard of the authentic Russian people. We see something like that on the dissident right. There is a desire to return to a more authentic way of living, rooted in local community. Like the Narodniks, the dissident right is more cultural than political.
The thing is though, the argument in favor of the Narodniks being reactionary falls apart when you look at their overall goals. They may have wanted to “return to the people” in a cultural and spiritual sense, but they did not want to return to a past system. Their program was a departure from the past and present. A proper way to describe what they imagined was something like a return to a point in the past and a do-over back to this point, but with a different set of choices.
This is something that kicks around the dissident right. There is an understanding that there is no going back. Even if you could restore things back to some point in the past when things were better, the roots of the present lie in that past. Liberal democracy is the fruit of American history. A do-over would most likely lead us right back to where we are now. In this regard, modern dissidents are more realistic than the Narodniks in that there is no idealized past or population at the center.
In this regard, civic nationalism is closer to modern reaction. They have created an idealized and largely fictional past. It was a series of innovation by their enemy that sent the country off course. They believe that if we just return to “our constitutional principles” everything will magically get back on the righteous path. Not only do they want to rip the past seventy years from the history books, but they would also like to remove all of the history that makes their imagined past plausible.
One last note on the Narodniks relative to this age. For the most part, the movement was a failure in that it failed to achieve any of its goals, other than the assassination of the Tsar in 1881. Their effort to educate and train the peasantry into a revolutionary force was a failure. The Narodniks were mostly urban intellectuals who had no understanding of the peasants. The assassination of the Tsar lost them whatever support they had among the people.
What they did, however, is lay the groundwork for what came next. Their idea of building an alternative base of power outside the system was adopted by 20th century revolutionary movements. Their tactics also informed others. Their organizational style and use of small group tactics were also a forerunner. Their ideas on generating debate outside what was allowed was an important contribution. They understood that the people needed to be reconditioned before they could challenge the system.
This is the final parallel to modern dissidents. Much of what goes on in dissident politics is a debate about challenging the prevailing orthodoxy. While we do not have peasants in the traditional sense, we do have them in a spiritual sense. Rewiring how they think of themselves and the system that created them, the “converting normie” thing, is an important part of dissident politics. Like the Narodniks, this must happen in small groups using non-traditional tactics to work around the system.
This is why the Narodniks and modern dissidents would fall outside the traditional definition of reactionary. The initial energy is a reaction to the changes in the culture brought about by rapid innovation, but there is no desire to return to the past. Instead, these movements are pre-reactionary and proto-revolutionary, a transition phase in the response to the current age. Dissident politics is a rejection of the modern and what created it, with a vague understanding of what comes next.
A new year brings new changes. The same is true for this site as we adjust to the reality of managerial authoritarianism. That means embracing crypto for when the inevitable happens and the traditional outlets are closed. Now more than ever it is important to support the voices that support you. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you prefer other ways of donating, look at the donate page. Thank you.
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