by Francis Lee for The Saker Blog
‘‘A party of order or stability, and a party of progress and reform, are both the necessary elements of a healthy state of political life’’. Wise words – John Stuart Mill. But unfortunately not the reality in the present political dispensation. (1)
It is interesting to note that the current global political and social turbulence has been both cause and effect of deep social and political shifts in the body politic. In addition, these subterranean disturbances have also been accompanied by a strange melange of rank stupidity and quasi-religious fanaticism. The nouveau regime of monied interests consisting of the alliance of financial, political and corporate power is now mobilising to impose a radical new global order. These political/economic centres of power have also been given the imprimatur of legitimation by the controllers of the propaganda apparatus – the mass media and its priesthood.
However, there seems to be a general lack of understanding with regard to the nature of the perpetrators of this ongoing political project and its (reactionary) set of end-goals. This distinctive feature of the present crisis has not received much in the way of a characterisation as a political phenomenon and is in need of serious analysis. Strange to say that what appears to be a revolutionary movement, that is, a political upheaval from below with the object of overthrowing tyranny, is, in the present instance, a movement (coup-putsch) from above whose object is to establish it. It is this new order which is being foisted on society from above by those who have used their social and economic power and position to break apart the old order which was established during the Bretton Woods Conference (1944) and consolidated after WW2.
The Great Reset – as it is now called – is a de facto class-based counter-revolutionary movement which involves the political and economic apparatus and its overseers and is directed toward the expropriation of the masses and an imposition of naked class rule. However, what is notable is that many of the opponents of the above reactionary movement who tend to be conservative (small c) intellectuals seem disposed to conflate the Great Reset with the French, Russian, English, and American Revolutions – in short between revolutions and counter-revolutions. Granted, theirs is a well-argued position but it seems to miss the obvious political nature of elite rule by, and composed of, privileged class forces. The conservative analysis also tends to identify what we have been, where we are, and how we got here, but doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of where we might be going. There appears to be an almost religious impulse at the bottom of most conservative philosophy: to wit, man is a fallen angel, imperfect and always will be from being guilty of original sin. Even Sigmund Freud weighed in with this dual aspect to human nature, i.e., Eros and Thanatos (see Civilization and its Discontents).
The Conservative Ideology
Without wishing to seem cavalier I think that the conservative position can be briefly stated as follows: According to this outlook the French revolution, indeed all revolutions, lead to bloodshed, anarchy, and mayhem as well as the many other evils which were brought about by lifting the lid of a political Pandora’s Box. In one sense this certainly is the case. But then comes the great conservative non-sequitur: namely, that all revolutions must fail due to the imperfections of human nature. And apparently the world should stand still at contemplate their collective navels at this political juncture! But there is no reason to believe this will always be the case, and in addition that it is more of a political assertion than a matter of fact. Furthermore it doesn’t leave much room to engage in political change from those who have most to gain from it and who are, by hook or by crook, involuntarily disengaged from any genuine peaceful road to change by the existing swindle mechanisms which are managed and controlled by a decadent ruling elite.
Edmund Burke – 1729-1797 – The Conservative:
The archetype of conservative political philosophy in this respect was Edmund Burke. In his Reflections of the Revolution in France, Burke, the Irish Whig politician was to put forward the most widely read summation as to why revolutions fail. Published in 1790 the Reflections, Burke argued that the French Revolution would end disastrously because its abstract foundations, purportedly rational, ignored the complexities of human nature and society. Further, he focused on the practicality of solutions instead of the metaphysics, writing: “What is the use of discussing a man’s abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In this deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor”. Following St. Augustine and Cicero, he believed in “human heart”-based government.’’
Nevertheless, and in somewhat way strange manner, he was contemptuous and afraid of the Enlightenment, inspired by the writings of such intellectuals as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, who disbelieved in divine moral order and original sin. Burke’s view was that society should be handled like a living organism and that people and society are limitlessly complicated, leading him to conflict with Thomas Hobbes‘ assertion that politics might be reducible to a deductive system akin to mathematics.
As a Whig, Burke advocated central roles for private property, tradition, and prejudice (i.e. adherence to values regardless of their rational basis) and to give citizens a stake in their nation’s social order. He argued for gradual, constitutional reform, not revolution (in every case, except the most qualified case), emphasizing that a political doctrine founded upon abstractions such as liberty and the rights of man could be easily abused to justify tyranny (sic) … and so on and so forth.
Other conservatives have argued in much the same vein. One such, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten – I think it might have been Thomas Carlyle – sums up the conservative philosophy in simple terms: ‘What is, is right.’ For the orthodox conservative, therefore, we must prostrate ourselves before the spirit of the ages, for therein lies true wisdom and good conscience. Hmmm?
Thomas Paine (1736-1809) – The Radical
Mr Paine came from a more radical political tradition. He argued that the current generation needs to be in control of their society, and not under the control and tutelage of a society formed by the past generation, most of which is dead. He argues,
“The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in any man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” He attacks Burke’s motive, saying Burke never believed there would even be a revolution because the French lacked the spirit and the fortitude, “but now that there is one, he seeks an escape by condemning it … Every act and every generation must be free to act for itself, in all cases as did the ages and generations which preceded it.’’ (2)
‘’Whether a man reflects on the condition which France was in from the nature of her government he will see other causes for revolt than those which immediately connect themselves with the person or character of Louis XVI. There were, if I may say so express it, a thousand despotisms to be reformed in France, which had grown up under the despotism of monarchy, and became so rooted as to be in great measure independent of it. Between the monarchy and the parliament, and the church, there was a rivalship of despotism, besides the feudal despotism operating locally, and the ministerial despotism operating everywhere. But Mr Burke, by considering the King as the only possible object of revolt, speaks as if France were a village, in which everything which passed must be known to its commanding officer, and no oppression could be acted but what he could immediately control. Mr Burke might have been in the Bastille his whole life, as well as under Louis XVI and Louis XIV and neither one nor the other had known that such a man as Mr Burke existed. The despotic principles of the government were the same in both reigns, though the dispositions of the men were as remote as tyranny and benevolence. (3)
Paine is arguing that these revolutions from below – taking The French Revolution as a prototype – had to be understood in the social and political context that gave rise to such an explosive rebellion. The masses do not make revolutions at the drop of a hat or as if they had nothing better to do. When the steam cooker blows its top it is because the valve had been screwed down too tight for too long. Such is the logic of all revolutions in recent years (other than the fake colour variety). The Iranian revolution of 1979 was, like it or not, another peoples’ revolutionary upsurge which fundamentally changed the existing order – i.e., the western controlled Shah and his SAVAK murderers – for good. And why shouldn’t the Iranian people throw off the yoke of imperialist rule – a despotic regime whose power was mediated through western imperialism’s local vassals?
The Royalist/Aristocratic class rule in France, summed up by the ‘Let them eat cake’ ancien regime, typified the disposition of the old order, and was overthrown in a peoples revolution, and the fact that Edmund Burke wasn’t too keen on it, it was nonetheless a genuine revolution from below; an expropriation of the power and position of the aristocratic ascendency.
In England in the 17th century a conflict arose between who should rule: Parliament or the King. A revolution and civil war between Parliament and Charles 1 began in 1642 which Charles lost as a result of the military victories of the Parliamentary New Model Army led jointly by Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax at crucial battles – Marston Moor in 1644, and Naseby in 1645 – this was also a revolution. King Charles then lost his head – quite literally – in 1649, for Treason. The war raged on as a Scottish army was defeated at the battle of Dunbar and until 1651 with the final battle of Worcester – when the Royalists effectively threw in the towel – which was another (final) victory for the Parliamentary forces. In passing Thomas Fairfax’s descendants migrated to America and settled in Virginia, there is a suburb in Washington which bears their name – Fairfax.
It is also worth mentioning in this respect that a great number of millenarian, political, religious, and quasi-religious movements were quite common in this period. These were comprised of inter alia Baptists, early anarchist groups, the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Quakers. There was much radicalism in the land, and although a period of Reformation followed, Parliamentary sovereignty was eventually established and represented a massive step forward for democracy and ordinary folk.
One would have to ask the question of which of to-day’s conservatives among us whose side would they be on during these upheavals? Cromwell, Fairfax, Parliament and the New Model Army, or the King sitting on his throne, immovable, and granted godly rights to remain there forever by the deity?
Revolution and Consolidation
However, as was the normal historical pattern the usual explosive period of revolutionary fervour was followed by a partial reformation to the earlier status quo. But the push back was never as far back as from its original starting point. The great German social theorist, Max Weber (1864-1920) put it very succinctly when he noted that charismatic authority was over time replaced by legal-rational authority. Most of the gains of the revolution which had now lost its momentum were nonetheless embedded in the new social order. So Charles 1 was replaced by Cromwell who in turn was replaced by Charles 2 but the divine right of Kings was gone, and was ultimately replaced by Parliamentary democracy, Mao Tse Tung was replaced by Chou En Lai, Trotsky was replaced by Stalin. (4)and on and on.
Which brings us to the American revolution. This anti-imperialist Revolution was both an ideological and political event which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The American settlers, with help from England’s arch-enemy the French, whose fleet had bottled up the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.* In the Thirteen Colonies the American militias defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and by so doing gained independence from the British Crown and establishing the United States of America, the first modern constitutional liberal democracy. The Continental Congress declared King George III a tyrant who trampled the colonists’ rights as Englishmen, and they declared the colonies free and independent states on July 2, 1776. The Patriot leadership professed the political philosophies of liberalism and republicanism to reject monarchy and aristocracy, and they proclaimed that all men are created equal.
Unfortunately in contemporary America, the money-changers – who were the bête noir for FDR – have not only gained access to the temple but have actually taken it over, lock stock and barrel. Worse still the anti-imperialism of a prior era has given way to a dangerous, rampaging, rogue elephant of contemporary American imperialism. But this is not necessarily the end of the story. For good or ill the great wheel of history turns. The last 2 centuries have been tumultuous and uncoordinated affairs and unkind to any of those who wished to lead a quiet life. But like the man said.
‘’Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given, and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.” (5)
Men make history, history makes men, as Marx noted. But it would appear that present-day conservative thinkers apparently prefer to abstain from history making – a dirty, shoddy business – and retire into an aloof detachment, and taking Voltaire’s advice to cultivate their gardens. This is of course the position of all conservative elites and their paid-up servant polemicists. In the case of the British Empire such elites consisted of Cecil Rhodes, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Balfour, Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Alfred Milner, Lord Nathaniel Rothschild et al, (see Mathew Ehret – works, in this respect.)
Their apologists were the tribe of conservative scribes past and present including Burke, Hobbes, Ortega Y Gasset, De Maistre, who basically made a living by the simple proclamation that ‘‘All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.’’ This as enunciated in Voltaire’s novel Candide. But such a view is now associated principally with the satire, and so is almost never used sincerely. However it is used to describe this kind of all to common complacent self-assurance that apparent injustice or other evil could not be avoided or was somehow necessary in the grand scheme of things. And that seems to be the essence of conservatism, ancient and modern.
Contemporary spokespersons include (deceased and current) inter alia Michael Oakshott, Peter Hitchens, Peter Lavelle, Roger Scruton, Robert Nozick, Ayn Rand (a particularly toxic specimen) and so forth, the list is extensive. These are often intelligent and literate people, but alas, they seem to spend most of their time agonising about the state of the world and then advocate doing nothing about it. But this is wholly consistent with the entire conservative philosophy. It seems to be an almost monastic calling among conservative thinkers and intellectuals. But history won’t let them rest. The West’s decaying and decadent elites are determined to enforce their will on their respective societies by an all-encompassing and total putsch from above – the Great Reset no less. Yet the conservatives still contend that the world is in the process of being over-run by a revolution carried out by the sans-culottes and énrages of George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, The Atlantic Council the Council For Foreign Relations, The Silicon Valley giants, Google, Apple, Facebook, Visa, The Federal Reserve, The IMF/World Bank The Financial Times, The New York Times Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Uncle Tom Cobley and All. I have even heard Soros described as a ‘Cultural Marxist’ (sic!) – words fail one! But this is the level of political illiteracy to which we have unfortunately descended. Revolutions are no easy option and,
“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.’’ (6)
(1) John Stuart Mill – On Liberty, Chapter 2 Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.
(2) Thomas Paine – The Rights of Man.
(3) Paine – Ibid.
(4) Max Weber – Economy and Society – Ibid.
(5) Karl Marx -The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
*On this day in history, August 30, 1781, the French fleet arrives at the Chesapeake Bay to assist the Americans in their assault on British General Charles Cornwallis and his 9,000 troops at Yorktown, Virginia. The arrival of the fleet under Admiral Francois-Joseph Paul, the Comte de Grasse, played a decisive role in the British defeat at Yorktown.
(6) Thomas Paine – December 1776.