Some ironies and curiosities of right-wing history

Interesting examples I’ve collected from my notes that defy common expectations or seem farcical — the common theme weaving them together is some variation of “right-wing politics undermining right-wing politics.” Note that “right-wing” is a term used relatively and with notice of its shifting goalposts.

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Kaiser Wilhelm I on the eve of the March Revolution

Or rather the future Kaiser Wilhelm I. At the time, he was still Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. This is from a letter he wrote on March 28, 1848 to London before his temporarily exile there, sourced from an article by Karl Haenchen entitled “Kaiser Wilhelms I. Bericht über die Berliner Märzrevolution 1848,” originally published March 1938 in the Weiße Blätter (not the same as the earlier expressionist journal Die weißen Blätter) — the premier German monarchist journal of its day. Hell, probably the only one? They didn’t mind the First Reich, they could swallow their pride for the Second, but the Third was right out.

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The transition from Prussian conservatism to German nationalism

Yesterday’s geopolitical exigencies are today’s sacred national traditions, and anyone who touches them is committing cultural genocide. So they say.

The Junkers of their day were debating all the hot issues then in vogue. These included such riveting questions as whether their descendants (i.e. you) would be subjects of composite dynastic states that emerged as results of centuries of succession conflicts, appanages, condominiums, purchases, partible inheritances and other obscure devices from a pre-Westphalian era when states were treated like real property (with the occasional revision by such a thing as a Congress of Vienna)… OR, would they be free and independent citizens of sovereign nation-states?

They chose the latter, and today your daughters are being raped by refugees.

Hey, all good things come with trade-offs.

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Hegelianism is not Prussianism

One of the most flagrant and offensive misconceptions about Hegel is that he was a conservative theoretician of the Prussian state. This is offensive not so much because it misrepresents Hegel, but because it misrepresents the thought of the Prussian conservatives who passionately fought ideas like his until the ultimate downfall of classical, Maikäferei Prussian conservatism come German unification. There were certainly some Hegelians on that front, such as if I recall correctly Heinrich Leo, Johann Eduard Erdmann and Hermann Wagener (the latter dramatically defecting to the Bismarck-worshipping Freikonservativen by the 1870s), but basically none of them ever conflated Hegelianism with Prussianism.

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Smash the liègeoise

But it would be desirable in this respect, ecclesiastics and seculars, nobles and bourgeois, to unite, to make one family, for all but one public fund. and that all contribute in proportion to their property and their faculties. For this purpose a general meeting would be necessary; it would be necessary to put aside any esprit de corps which tends only to bring several states into a state by diversifying interests; which is the greatest of the political evils. It was quite anxious that all of them were devoting themselves to Patriotism; else then no sacrifice would be worth it, or rather there would be no sacrifice to make! Then the barriers of trade disappeared, then the equality between the poor and the wealthy increased the general prosperity.

— From a pro-Liege Revolution pamphlet, illustrating the frivolity of liberal nationhood and equality before the law more generally

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The Old New Left: Student Radicalism in the 1930s

Ho Chi Minh! Ho Chi Minh!

There has long prevailed a certain exceptionalism about the 1960s. It all went so well with the decade prior, with Father Knows Best on the air… and then, the Yippies are nominating a pig for President, “free love” reigns freely indeed, and the Jews sell America out in 1965. Except really big this time around.

It wasn’t that exceptional, not even the youthful vitality. For there was a student radical movement contemporaneous (sometimes collaborating with) the New Deal some 30 years before. It has been swept under the dust and much of it thrown into the memory hole, but it’s a fascinating little episode. It’s the link between Old and New Left, as these terms tend to be used. Grounded on class analysis, but with very strong concerns for racial equality and fighting fascism.

Common wisdom is that America could never swallow the social-democratic pill like Europe. Yet in an interview with former American Student Union (ASU) leader Joseph P. Lash, he confided that FDR was “accomplishing social reforms beyond the dreams of most of the Socialists of Europe.”

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