Temptations of right-wing socialism

[My time has been sucked up lately by a do-nothing internship I was accepted in, in which I spend most of my time smoking my pipes. My tin of Peterson Irish Flake is nearly finished, so I need to restock with some cheap over-the-counter shag cuts, the only thing that’s available ’round these parts. But it’s also not entirely devoid of educational value, either. Anyway, here’s a brief addendum to the last essay…]

There comes a point in every rightist’s intellectual development where they hit upon the elephant in the room concerning political economy: “Wait a minute, capitalism eradicated feudalism… this means capitalism isn’t traditional… muh Whigs, 1688, Dutch maritime republicanism, classical liberalism and Cobdenism vs. the Tories… what am I supposed to believe in now?!”

Congratulations, Marx already knew this. He devoted an entire section in Capital, vol. 1 to it: part 8, and even gave it a cool name: “primitive accumulation.”

(This leads to the laughable articles that pop up every now and then where someone tries to give a “right-wing rehabilitation” of Marx — I’m thinking of Kerry Bolton here at the moment, — to show us the “based Marx” hiding underneath.)

There are several ways of getting out of this. The most common is some form of fuzzy populism that is high in adversarialism and critique, but poor in all else. Often this ends up becoming a mirror image of the same juvenile utopianism that you’re supposed to be against. “We would all be colonizing Mars if it wasn’t for niggers and Jews” is one particularly colorful manifestation of this. Another example is Hubert Collins’ “An Immodest Proposal for Ending the Opioid Crisis.” Capitalism sucks, it is reasoned, particularly because of coolie migrant labor, but after we get rid of them it’s all #YesWeCan from that point on. We resolve the dilemma of going past classical liberalism at the price of gutting the fundamental insight of conservatism, which is: “No, we can’t.”

A second way is to resurrect some of these weird esoteric ideologies from the past that never caught on, like guild socialism, national syndicalism, distributism, solidarism, or something else. More often than not these aren’t even fully formed ideologies, but gut-feelings with a clumsy layer of analysis added afterward. Style over substance is the norm here, and the favorite tactic of the philosophe — to assume away the inconvenient because by definition in my paradise there will be no problems (“There will be no scarcity because there will be no property!”) — is quite frequent. I’m not going to be addressing distributism here by the way, as that’s a long subject.

Of course, socialism pretty much holds the intellectual monopoly on anti-capitalism, and so naturally the third way is to go all in with the filth and become a socialist-but. Socialist BUT also a gay space fascist. Socialist BUT no darkies in my bathhouses. Socialist BUT nationalist (the two are related, anyway). Socialist BUT the kikes get the gas. Etc. etc.

The end result of the latter path is someone like Alain de Benoist, who is this bizarre pagan ecohippie that likes Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein and doesn’t even regard himself as “right-wing” anymore — at least he’s honest about his identity. All in all, a pox to his petty noble lineage.

This is the cancer of Third Positionism — pinkos and commies who have convinced themselves that they ain’t. See e.g. Derek Holland of the National Front shilling for Gaddafi and Khomeini, which is ultimately Mazzinian national-liberationism taken to its horrific end of “Any towelhead who speaks out against America and Israel is our guy.” In my mind, there is nothing more contemptible than a pan-European nationalist shedding crocodile tears for the poor oppressed Palestinian brown people. That type of schlock is believable coming from a sincere multiculti egalitarian, but from anyone else it’s obviously contrived.

This post isn’t about non-socialist alternatives to capitalism, but rather to set the record straight on the classical counterrevolutionary position on socialism: it’s rotten to the core, and cannot be salvaged. Actually this is trivially obvious if you know that right-wing politics is the politics of class distinction, and that any bunk about producers-versus-idlers, unity of the working class, emancipation from class exploitation, etc. is an open threat to the classic ständisch principle of “With classes three God filled the world; As best as best can be; One class must teach, another feed, The third ’gainst wicked lads must strive.” (Erasmus Alberus, 16thc.)

But in practice it isn’t obvious, so on we go with the quote mining…

A little aside, though: there’s been plenty of cross-pollination between New Left and so-called “Old Right” in American history. Russell Kirk voted for Eugene McCarthy in 1976. There was a small segment of the New Left that appreciated the populism of George Wallace’s presidential campaign, as Pete Hammill who wrote in the New Left monthly Ramparts: “Wallace and the black and radical militants … share some common ground: local control of schools and institutions, a desire to radically change America, a violent distrust of the power structure and the establishment. In this year’s election, the only one of the three major candidates who is a true radical is Wallace.” Add in Carl Oglesby of the SDS. Murray Rothbard himself penned an essay called “Left and Right” where he (correctly) identified rightism as being throne-and-altar conservatism and that his libertarianism is of the left. Even in his racially charged paleo phase when he tried to downplay his earlier New Left affiliations, he had no time for Toryism.

Exhibit A is Cristóbal Botella, who was involved with Ramón Nocedal’s Catholic integrist party, a faction who were separate from but shared many commonalities with the Carlists. His 1895 monograph El socialismo y los anarquistas was one of the finest anti-socialist works of the fin-de-siecle, up there with the likes of Gustave Le Bon. Alongside its scholarly attention to detail, socialism is summarized as “in favor of the destruction of property and family, erasing all distinctions and all that represents substantive and independent units,” and that sociologically after 1848 it had converged into a workerism whereby “[socialism] began by stating that work is the only factor of production, the only element of productive virtue, the only source of wealth.”

Juan Donoso Cortes’ position ought to be well-known. In the Essays, he characterizes liberalism and socialism not as opposite poles but as a continuum. “Those two schools differ not in ideas, but in daring.”

“That apothegm of his, that property is robbery, has captivated the French by its originality and ingenuity. It will be well for our neighbours to know that this apothegm is of ancient date this side of the Pyrenees. From Viriatus to our own days, every robber that takes to the road, on presenting his gun at the breast of the traveller, calls him a robber, and takes from him all that he has because he is a robber. M. Proudhon has done nothing but still his apothegm from the Spanish robbers, as they rob the traveller of his purse. As he presents himself in spectacle to the nations as original, when he is only apostle of the past, he calls himself the prophet of the future.”

“Placed between property, which is the thesis, and communism, which is the antithesis, he seeks the synthesis in non-hereditary property, without remarking that non-hereditary property is not property, and consequently his synthesis is no synthesis . . . When, to formulate the synthesis — which is to comprehend on one hand authority, which is the thesis, and liberty, which is the antithesis — he denies government and proclaims anarchy; if by this he wishes to say that there is no government, his synthesis is nothing but the negation of the thesis, which is authority, and the affirmation of the antithesis, which is human liberty; and on the contrary, if he means that dictatorial and absolute government is not to reside in the State, but in society, in that case he does nothing but deny the antithesis and affirm the thesis, deny liberty and affirm communistic omnipotence. In either case, where is the reconciliation?”

The Orthodox theologian Sergei Bulgakov identified socialism as a member of the apocalyptic tradition. Bulgakov drew a distinction, however, between eschatology and chiliasm. “Socialism is the apocalypse of the naturalistic religion of man.” The difference between the two modes of apocalypticism overlap with the differences between Judaism and Christianity, with socialism’s place in Jewish chiliasm:

The Jewish apocalyptic is all fulfilled with expectations of the expected, but not yet come messiah, whereas in the center of the New Testament Apocalypse is already the Messiah, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus, who has come. The first from the advent of the Messiah expected the advent of the messianic kingdom and the overcoming of the world and historical tragedy. In the second, after the coming of the Messiah, the aggravation of the world tragedy, the new efforts of the struggle of evil with good and the great successes of evil, the community of faithful persecutors, the tormented, must be armed with patience. The whole perspective of the messianic kingdom and rest, the kingdom of God on earth, is falling into this newly unfolding and even wider abyss of world tragedy. In the background, the prospect of eschatology, but already with its Christian certainty, still remains – the Apocalypse ends with a fiery eschatological appeal: to her, come, Lord Jesus! Obviously, all the former messiahology, all hopes associated with the earthly kingdom of the Messiah, are rejected here, freed from national limitations, overcome in their sensory-chiliastic interpretation. With new force, the insolubility of the historical tragedy within history is affirmed here. The Jewish Apocalypse and the Christian Apocalypse unite only eschatology, with the images that precede it: the Antichrist and the last torments and temptations. Thus, between Judaism and Christianity, the abyss lay, and this was soon expressed in their mutual alienation, shifting into persecution: at a time when the most active Jews expected a chiliastic messiah, preparing the way for him by a political and social revolution, the early Christian communities were not only apolitical, but also in a completely unremitting mood, with desire and expectation of the immediate end of the world, the second coming, the final eschatological revolution…

Antoine Blanc de Saint-Bonnet was a fascinating writer. He was possibly one of the first modern sociologists, but remains largely uncredited and certainly unread. This is because his sociology was inextricably linked to his Catholicism and revelationism. Moreover, his style was often quite acerbic. Saint-Bonnet was a man who Carlyle could have only wished to be. I mean that Saint-Bonnet’s prose often hits like a knife being thrusted into your heart, but at the same time Saint-Bonnet did not display the same madness in verbosity that Carlyle did. Carlyle will drift aimlessly where Saint-Bonnet’s terseness makes his violence more methodical and effective.

From Chapter XXIII of La Douleur (On Pain), the folly of emancipation-by-decree:

…Man is born a slave to nature. He is exposed to hunger, diseases, bad weather, innumerable dangers; he is especially prey to laziness, to all appetites; and everywhere it is the product of virtue, labor and capital in their various forms, which makes it free. To wish to emancipate him by a decree would be, by a decree, to render him intelligent, moral, and prudent in his enjoyments. Our freedom does not come from others, but from itself. To pretend to give it would be to prove that we ignore both the nature and the purpose, positively divine.

His most polemical work, though, is probably Restauration francaise. And here he has a lot to say. At one point he declares strongly that “socialism is only the fall of civilization” at around p.202, having already established that:

a) firstly, it is driven by envy: “By the effect of his fall, man is in a state of envy. When the people first heard these words: ‘Property is theft,’ they have felt the justifying reasoning of what was dormant in them since they lost the Faith. And his conscience thus made, they walked at one stroke in the Revolution.” [p.167];

b) secondly, that the bourgeoisie are properly the first socialists: “The bourgeoisie is simply socialist. It maintains in religion and morality precisely the principle from which socialism deduces its economic practice. When the bourgeoisie says that it is not socialist, it knows very little what it says, it does not know what it thinks. It is socialist even by the economic root. Listen to them speak of the invasions of the Church, the encroachments of religious orders, a better distribution of capital, its mobilization, mortgage banks, public finance, credit expansion, etc., etc. — as many pledges offered to socialism.” [p.176];

c) thirdly, and this one from Chapter XVII requires emphasis:

There are no economic questions, there are only moral questions.

Take away a few hours of labor, and if man is immoral, instead of employing this leisure in favor of his soul, he employs it in disorientations that consume his body.

Find the means of increasing the wages, and if the man is immoral, instead of devoting them to the welfare of his family, he intoxicates his senses.

Give more political liberty, weaken penal laws, and if man is lost, he will do more harm.

Multiply the banks of loan, since these are your ideas, to offer recklessly money to the land, and generally the farmer will be more indebted.

Orestes Brownson — possibly the only true conservative America ever had (but did not deserve), the apostate from Transcendentalism who became a fierce Catholic man-of-letters — was no less scathing in his essay on Socialism and the Church (Jan 1849):

Socialism, by its very principle, enslaves us to nature and society, and subjects us to all the fluctuations of time and sense. According to it, man can attain to true good, can gain the end for which he was made, only in a certain political and social order, which it depends on the millions, whom the individual cannot control, to construct, and which, when constructed, may prove to be inconvenient and inadequate, and require to be pulled down and built up again. The individual, it teaches us, can make no advance towards his destiny but in proportion as he secures the cooperation of his race. All men must be brought down or brought up to the same level before I can go to the end for which my God made me ; each man’s true good is unattainable, till all men are prepared to take “a pull, a strong pull, a long pull, and a pull altogether,” to attain theirs ! This is slavery, not liberty. Nay, it denies the possibility of liberty, and makes slavery the necessary condition of all men. Is not he a slave who is chained to nature for his good, or to a social organization which does not exist, and which depends on the wisdom, the folly, the passions or instincts, the whims or caprices of other men to create or to destroy ? Who can deny it ? He only is free, he only knows what freedom is, who tramples the world beneath his feet, who is independent of all the accidents of time and space, of all created beings, and who has but to will and all heaven is his, and remains his, though the entire universe fall in ruins around him.

I think that’s good enough for a quick snap back to reality.

This still leaves the open question of what you’re supposed to expound.

I recommend political lesbianism.

10 thoughts on “Temptations of right-wing socialism

  1. Pingback: Temptations of right-wing socialism | Reaction Times

  2. Yes, this question has vexed us all for quite some time. Mark Citadel had a post on his blog before it went private called something like “Traditional Economy” that did a superb job of analyzing some possible alternatives to the communism, socialism, capitalism, corporatism blah blah blah debate.

    Personally, I think this question is far, far more important than many of the other questions the right concerns itself with. If the correct form of political economy is not hit upon, the whole state and society around it will end up being warped by whatever sort of economic behavior that form of political economy encourages. This is what people who want “mixed” forms of state, society, and economy do not understand. You might say that “we never meant for capitalism to result in bug-man neoliberalism” or “cant we have socialism in a kingdom?” Sorry no you can’t. Capitalism inevitably will lead to what we see today, just as communism inevitably led to what it did. It is impossible for certain forms of government or states to coexist with certain forms of political economy. Just look at the Russian Empire, as soon as it let capitalistic elements enter its economy, people were advocating for the monarchy’s destruction within a generation.


  3. Interesting topic. This was my stab at the same topic, back in 2016:


    My hope at that point was to get people to distinguish between what signal they are sending (or trying to send) when they criticize “muh capitalism”, and what concept they are trying to discuss. The first-order goal for the right should be to breakdown the convergence of all economic issues onto a single L v R axis; second-order goal should be to get people to distinguish between economic policies that reflect empirical hopes/predictions, and those reflect important basic concepts (that pervade economics and spill over into many other realms as well); hammering out the difference between people with different views on sub-components of economics and on particular problems is far, far away.

    For emphasis: unification of subcomponents of economics into “socialism vs capitalism” = LvR should be resisted and disaligned, fragmentation of basic concepts into “muh capitalism” = neutral technical analysis should be resisted and reassembled, and the basic principle recognized as a possible marker for right-wing perspective on society in general. The example I give in the tweet thread is Hayek’s essay “defending capitalism”; capitalism is a composite pseudo-issue that should be broken up, and I imagine at least a few authentic right-wingers will take positions on either side of each sub-component, but the line of thinking Hayek uses is very powerful, *and not only in economics*, and it’s plausible to think that anyone who can’t or won’t respect that analytical technique central isn’t on the right.

    Off-topic: for Marx my 2ç is that there are only three uses for him: (a) the political constellation he discusses in the Manifesto, with reactionary aristocratic socialism etc., is counterintuitive to most people trapped in the present, so it might be a useful starting point. (b) conversely his actual political program is amusingly close to every other progressive program, and deciding what conclusion to draw from that is important. (c) Feuerbach and his generation were extremely important to the development of the normie liberal worldview, but are no longer read; I’m divided on whether to advise people to read Feuerbach or Marx’s earliest published work as an entry point into this transition. (But plausibly it is better to ignore Marx entirely as a form of mental hygiene; encouraging people to read any part of Marx makes it more likely they’ll read the parts that delude/addict weak minds.)

    Have you blogged before about Saint-Bonnet? I can’t place him relative to the major figures of his time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • > encouraging people to read any part of Marx makes it more likely they’ll read the parts that delude/addict weak minds


      > Have you blogged before about Saint-Bonnet? I can’t place him relative to the major figures of his time.

      Not yet. I promised Michael Rothblatt a while ago that I eventually would, but I don’t know when.

      Liked by 1 person

      • >Not yet. I promised Michael Rothblatt a while ago that I eventually would, but I don’t know when.

        I must admit that I like this bit that you’ve posted. It reminds me of Saint Nikolai Velimirovich’s criticism of modern charities that (I’m paraphrasing) “teach children the reading without caring what it is that they will read, and that feed the bodies without caring what they will do with them.”


    • Economic disagreements used to be disagreements about value. What is more valuable, to preserve the current way of life, or get labour-saving machinery that will ease the burdens of life but at the same time cause labour dislocation and thus destroy the previous way of life? That was the gist of Traditionalist anti-capitalism. But that ship has sailed back in 19th century. Today, there’s no way of life to preserve, so it boils down to: policy A will make everyone materially wealthier, policy B will make everyone happier, policy C will decrease inequality, policy D is because it is just, or a favourite in NRx circles — policy E will improve our country’s geopolitical position!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Incidentally: your hypothesis that the likeliest precursor to progressivism is Stoicism has the authority of Dilthey behind it (perhaps you were aware)

        [As I type this I suddenly can’t remember whether you were the one who pointed this out, or the one who expressed incredulity; apologies if I got it backwards.]


  4. Pingback: Conservatism, the social question and the idea of a socialist monarchy | Carlsbad 1819

  5. Pingback: The Ordnungszelle Option | The Zeroth Position

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