The Emergence of Conservative Populism in Europe: Possibilities and Limitations

The recent victory of Giorgia Meloni and her party, Fratelli d’Italia, leading a coalition described as “conservative,” in Italy, is the latest episode of the advance in the nations of Europe of parties and movements that we qualify as “conservative populism.” Obviously, in Spain, the reference of this type of party is Vox. In this article we intend to analyze the possibilities and limitations of these political forces from the ideological perspective of a radical and sovereignist Hispanism, with a reasoned and reasonable criticism.

First of all, we will shred the stupid accusation, repeated ad nauseam by both the champagne Left and the liberal Right, that these parties are “fascist.” To do so, we will analyze what fascism really was, and bearing in mind that this term can have two real meanings: Mussolini’s regime in Italy, which ended with the defeat of that nation in World War II; or also, in a much more generic way, a set of political movements that occurred in Europe and Latin America in the interwar period and that, with some exceptions, also disappeared after World War II.

Regarding the accusation, also repeated ad nauseam, of being “ultra-right” or “extreme right,” we are not going to bother, since these terms are authentic “flatus vocis,” without any real content. In the usual political chatter we have heard how the PP, C,s, ETA, Catalan separatists, judges and the sumsum corda were accused of being “extreme right”. For the sake of mental clarity, we will not enter into this debate.

Italian fascism, from which comes the generic name given to other similar movements, was born as a split on the left of the Italian Socialist Party, of which Mussolini was a prominent leader. The main point of belligerence was Italy’s intervention in World War I, a thesis defended by Mussolini and his supporters against the “pacifism” of the Socialist International. Once the war was over, and Italy was among the victorious powers, the interventionists considered that it had not received, on the part of the other victorious powers, the economic and territorial compensation to which it was entitled.

All this ended up provoking the split, and the formation of the “fascios di combatimento” first, and later of the National Fascist Party, absorbing a good part of the so-called “national syndicalism,” of Sorelian inspiration, and also the nationalists of Corradini, of a more conservative tendency. In the images of the famous “March on Rome,” all the Fascist leaders accompanying Mussolini were people who came from Sorelian syndicalism.

Italian fascism always perceived itself as a revolutionary movement, opposed to liberalism, and which differed from Soviet communism by opposing the Nation as a political subject to the social class. Although on coming to power the movement became more moderate and “right-wing,” to the point of tolerating the monarchy, these revolutionary premises were always present, and re-emerged with force in the proclamation of the Italian Social Republic, even in the midst of the World War and with the Allied invasion of Italy.

The fundamental characteristics of this regime were:

  1. Single Party: the National Fascist Party.
  2. Corporate economic regime. Although there were state enterprises, private ownership of the means of production was admitted, but with rigid state control. Corporations brought together unions and employers with state presence and control.
  3. Secularism. The regime was NOT confessional, although it respected Catholicism as the majority religion. This secularism was not an obstacle for the signing of the first Concordat with the Holy See, with the recognition of the Vatican State.
  4. Expansionism. The regime was in favor of colonial expansion in Africa, hence its intervention in Abyssinia.
  5. Vague appeals to the heritage of Rome, and affirmation of the Mediterranean against the Anglo-Saxon.

Curiously, the only major movement outside Italy to claim the term “fascist” was Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, which was also born out of a split in the Labor Party.

It is evident that none of these elements, beyond vague appeals to national sovereignty, is present either in Giorgia Meloni’s party, or that of Salvini, nor, much less in Vox. We can only find echoes of state interventionism in Le Pen’s Rassemblent National. And this is so for two reasons—first because their ideological sources have nothing to do with each other (none of these parties comes from the left); but, above all, because the political, economic and geopolitical conditions of today’s Europe have nothing to do with the Europe of the interwar period.

Let us first analyze the conditions in which these political forces have emerged. We will then look at their successes and limitations, and finally, the possible positions of dissident movements in the face of the emergence of these forces.

From our point of view there is a fundamental event, which completely changed the political paradigm, which is the collapse of the USSR, and which opened the doors to ideological post-modernity, and which gave wing to the project of a unipolar world, with the USA as the hegemonic power, and the “end of history” as an aureole myth.

However, before this fundamental event, there are a series of issues to comment on, of events that mark the path in some way. The first was the appearance of the so-called Frankfurt School, which began to take shape in the years prior to World War II in the Weimar Republic, but which reached its maximum influence in the 1960s, and whose most paradigmatic representative was Herbert Marcuse.

The thinkers of this school were all of Marxist formation, although most of them militated in the German social democracy and not in the communist party; but they made such a deep criticism of Marxism that they emptied it of content. Their thesis was that the working class had become bourgeois and lost its revolutionary potential; and, consequently, it was necessary to look for new revolutionary “subjects” in the oppressed minorities and/or those who, because of their way of life, questioned the “status quo”: women, homosexuals, immigrants, students. In fact, the path of abandoning the class struggle and the beginning of the so-called “partial struggles” began.

These ideas were the theoretical basis of the so-called “May ’68” student revolts in many universities in Europe and the United States. Although the movement arose in “progressive” American universities, such as Berkley, it had special repercussions in France. It should be noted that, in France, the movement was driven by situationists (anarchists), Trotskyists and Maoists, but never had the support of the PCF loyal to Moscow.

This movement was hardly revolutionary. It responded to the demands of capitalism to generate new consumer habits, and to combat traditional morality, which had become an obstacle to mass hyper-consumption. The foundations for the consumerism, hedonism and nihilism that characterize postmodernity began to be consolidated in this movement.

Another fundamental event occurred in the 1980s, with the emergence of political neoliberalism under Ronald Reagan in the USA and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Neoliberalism, as a reform of classical liberalism, had been incubating since the 1940s (Walter Lippmann Colloquium, Montpelegrin Society), Hayek being one of its most important theoreticians. Its political subject is to be found in the individual, but not in the rational-Cartesian individual of classical liberalism, but in the post-individual consumer. Contrary to classical liberalism, neoliberalism considered that the market was not a spontaneous phenomenon, and advocated an “interventionist” state, in the sense of acting to create these market conditions.

On the other hand, this neoliberalism advocated abandoning all Keynesian and social protection policies, since it conceived social life as a struggle of “all against all,” and considered that social protection policies encouraged laziness and irresponsibility.

The fall of the USSR opened up an excellent scenario for these proposals. Capitalist states no longer needed to prove that their workers lived better than those in socialist countries. Liberalism, mutated into neoliberalism, had been left alone when the main referent of socialism collapsed; it no longer had to present itself as a political theory or justify itself.

The collapse of the USSR meant the end of the Cold War, and gave rise to the United States to cherish the idea of a unipolar world, subject to its empire. As a consequence, we had a series of phenomena:

  • The increasing pressure of international organizations, which were nothing more than tentacles of the Anglo-Empire, on the sovereignty of states and peoples.
  • The increase of immigrationism, whose function, apart from providing cheap labor and creating social dumping, is to dilute the identities of nations and peoples.
  • The domination of globalism and its vicarious ideologies (Agenda 2030) over the media, educational programs, universities, cinema, television series, in an increasingly suffocating proportion. Globalism is a sort of synthesis between neoliberalism, social democracy and the champagne left, which allows it to present and perceive itself as left-wing and “progressive,” but it is nothing more than a tentacle of the Anglo-empire.
  • The consolidation of the EU as a political-economic branch of the Anglo-empire for the control and submission of Europe and NATO as a military branch of the same.
  • Economic sanctions, isolation and destructive war against any state that tried to oppose globalism: aggression against Iraq, Serbia, Syria, Libya by the USA and its allies/vassals. Economic sanctions against Poland and Hungary. “Warnings” from van Der Leyden to the Italians of what can happen to them if they do not vote “correctly.” Humiliation of Greece, etc. The current war against Russia is part of these processes.

All this has generated in many European nations significant pockets of discontent in large sectors of the population. The destruction of the middle classes, the conversion of the proletariat into the “precariat,” the growing fiscal pressure that does not translate into improved services, the feeling of conservative sectors of the population that their values are constantly criminalized, the problems generated by uncontrolled immigration, insecurity and delinquency, the growth of the squatting phenomenon—and the inability of the left, social democrats or champagne lefists to channel this discontent, as they are part of the System that has provoked it.

In this context, the conservative and populist parties and movements have had the ability to capitalize on this discontent. With all their differences, which they have, parties such as Meloni’s, Salvini’s, Le Pen’s, Vox or Alternative for Germany (AfD0 have ridden their electoral successes on these sectors of the population that felt orphaned of representation.

However, it is one thing to channel discontent and quite another to have the capacity to act on its causes. This capacity depends on the real power that one has; but also, and above all, on the proposed objectives.

In political action we must distinguish between what we want to do and what we can do. It must be understood that, many times, the deficiencies and the distance between proposals and realities respond to this lack of power; but if what has been achieved is in line with what is desired, the political action is correct. A sovereigntist government, such as the Hungarian government, confronted with the European Commission, may have to give in on some things, but this is not due to a lack of will, but to a lack of power. We cannot deduce that this government has betrayed its objectives, but simply that it has not been able to fulfill them.

Now, in this case, my concern is not about the distance between objectives and achievements, but about the objectives themselves. All these parties agree in demanding from the EU more sovereignty for the states and less interference in their internal policies. This differentiates them from the liberal-conservative parties, such as the PP, which are absolutely surrendering national sovereignty to the Eurocrats. This is a very laudable objective, even if it is not entirely achieved, since it is to put a spoke in the wheels of globalism. Another objective is the development of a “cultural war” against the ideologies of the 2030 Agenda, and it is also very laudable, even if it is not 100 percent achieved.

However, none of these parties has clearly and distinctly demanded that the EU develop policies of its own outside of U.S. interests. None of these parties has viewed NATO as a threat to sovereignty equal to or greater than the EU itself. And, consequently, none of these parties has called for NATO’s exit from the nation in which they operate. And this is what is worrying.

The current situation, the war in Ukraine, the sanctions against Russia, the energy crisis, the sabotage of NS2, lowers many masks and has turned the cards upside down. Meloni rushed to affirm her support to Zelensky. Le Pen is silent. Vox, through the mouth of Rocio Monasterio, has accused Russia (against all logic) of sabotaging the NS2, while Santiago Abascal in a tweet (unless it is a fake) claimed that “the climate lobbies were financed by Russia.” It is best not to talk about the Poles. The only ones who have taken dignified positions, against sanctions against Russia, have been Orban and Alternative for Germany.

I insist. The worrying thing is not that they are not able to get their respective countries out of NATO; the worrying thing is that they do not even propose it—that they do not consider NATO a threat to sovereignty; that they do not see, or do not want to see, that all the ideological garbage of the 2030 Agenda, which they fight, comes from the USA; that it is an instrument of globalism, and that this globalism is nothing more than the ideological alibi of the Anglo-empire.

Having said all this, I am now going to focus on the Spanish case, that is, on Vox. There is a very interesting book by Pedro Carlos González Cuevas, Vox, entre el liberalismo conservador y la derecha identitaria, in which he advances the theory of “las dos almas de Vox” (the two souls of Vox). According to this theory, there would exist in Vox a liberal sector (sometimes extreme liberal), Atlantist, close to the American “neocon,” and another more sovereigntist sector, more interventionist in economy and closer to the identitarian approaches. I agree with this theory, but with an addition: it is evident that the liberal sector is the one that controls the party.

This duplicity, which in the future may generate crucial tensions, with an evident predominance of the liberal sector, not only affects ideological and international positions, but also national political action and strategic alliances.

A Hispanist and identity-based policy, for example, would be incompatible with being the crutch of the PP, since in the designation of the main enemy, fundamental in all political action, the PP-PSOE tandem, the two-party system and in general the 78 Regime, would be pointed out, and an alliance with the PP would be as unthinkable as with the PSOE. On the other hand, if we start from the extreme liberal premises, the designation of the enemy is different—the left and the nationalists are pointed out, and the PP is considered as a natural ally, to be “right-winged.”

It is evident that Vox’s strategy is the latter, which shows the absolute predominance of the liberal sector. This could end up having dire consequences from the electoral point of view, because if the electorate ends up seeing Vox as a simple crutch of the PP, it will end up transferring votes to the major party. The worst thing that could happen to Vox is a PP-Vox coalition government, since experience shows that in these cases the big party eats the little one.

But it must also be recognized that there are militants, middle managers and even deputies in Vox who are not on this line. If in the future their influence in the party were to increase, the party could change some of its positions in a notable way. I would also like to clarify that these ideological tensions have nothing to do with the Macarena-Olona affair. The tensions that this lady has provoked are framed in a matter of “ego” and personal ambitions, without any ideological dimension.

José Alsina Calvés is a historian and philosopher who specializes in political biography, the history of science and the history of ideas and edits the journal Nihil Obstat. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.

Guilty Pleasures: More Blokes: Farlowe, McKuen, Blunstone And Ward

Chris Farlowe, Rod McKuen, Colin Blunstone and Clifford T. Ward aren’t exactly celebrities; the sole exception is McKuen who nonetheless died relatively obscure and unjustly patronised. The first three have remarkable voices in utterly different ways, whilst the fourth was a singer/songwriter of minor genius.

McKuen was a later discovery for me – he was never particularly big in Britain, and is probably the guiltiest of these pleasures. Only Farlowe had a Number One, a record that remains, alongside “Bridge over Troubled Water,” “Dancing Queen” and “(Too-Rye-Ay) Come on Eileen” (but not “Hey Jude”), one of my favourite tops of the pops.

This happened the week that England won the 1966 football World Cup, to the delight of Mr and Mrs Broadbridge, teaching Germany another lesson lest they forgot. The song in question was “Out of time,” a Jagger/Richards composition which from the opening strings playing those stirring chords, you know would be a winner.

The lyrics address a tiresome ex-girlfriend who needs to be told she’s so last year:

You don't know what's going on
You've been away for far too long
You can't come back and think you are still mine.
You're out of touch, my baby
My poor old-fashioned, baby
I said, baby, baby, baby, you're out of time.

Poor thing! Farlowe has been labelled a one-hit wonder but several singles made the lower chart reaches and the album “The Art of Chris Farlowe” (and it was art) sold respectably. “Ride on baby,” which had nothing to do with lawnmowers, was too much of a carbon copy to succeed, but an earlier Jagger/Richards song, “Think,” should have been a lot bigger.

Farlowe is white, but he definitely sounds black. His voice tends towards the rasping and gritty, it’s tough, it makes no attempt whatsoever to endear or charm, which is part of his integrity but does nothing for his popularity. Nor is Farlowe’s stage presence or appearance heart-warming: with his narrow set eyes and long nose, he looks like a lean 1960s London gang leader who would either have beaten up Francis Bacon, or would have been requested to do so with cash inducements.

Farlowe later got into strife for selling Nazi regalia in his antique shop, compounding the image problem, and yet when you see him on rare video footage sharing the stage with his idol, Otis Redding, he commendably holds his own. He’s a good match for the Father of Soul James Brown himself in his rendition of “It’s a man’s world.” But the title: can you see the problem? He doesn’t shake hands with our heart, so much as stomp on it. “We’re doing fine” drips with relationship tensions:

Everybody wants to know
If everything's alright
I guess they thought by now
We'd had a great big fight
No no no no no…

Farlowe protests too loudly. The grim way he sings it suggests that a rather horrible fight had indeed taken place, or else was highly likely to do so. Years later (1988) guitarist and Pre-Raphaelite art collector extraordinary, Jimmy Page, plucked Farlowe out of relative obscurity to sing several tracks on his album “Night Rider.” Page has always had impeccable taste and knew what he was doing. “Hummingbird,” a Leon Russell cover far superior to the original, shows that Farlowe had lost none of his old tricks:

The gulf between Chris Farlowe and Rod McKuen is akin to blue cheese bordering on rancid, and strawberries and cream. Rod is an old flirt, a cardigan clad charmer, at least in his now rather excruciating TV specials which were hugely popular in North America half a century ago. Yet his songs about love and loss are something else: melancholy, sometimes even bitter. Oh, that husky, raspy voice! Technically it is god-awful, and came about after Rod had irreparably wrecked his vocal chords in 1961. But like our friend Bacon painting the backs of his canvases, Rod shrewdly made a virtue out of this.

If you like the overpraised Tom Waits, you can’t credibly dislike Rod, and I would even say much the same about Leonard Cohen. Yet Rod seems destined to go down in history as “the king of kitsch” and it was a sad reflection on today’s philistinism that his vast personal archive was scattered and sold, rather than acquired by the Harry Ransom Center…

Rod McKuen.

You “Rodophobes” should look at yourselves. You people would protest, but you’re the victims of left-liberal genre and cultural snobbery. You can’t even claim the high moral political ground, for Rod’s liberalism was impeccable and his fight for gay equality utterly laudable. He famously combined his composing and performing with poetic aspirations, and the slim volumes which now turn up in car-boot sales, perhaps accompanied by their late owners’ lava lamps and kaftans, once sold in millions.

Many people’s minds—and I would venture to say not a few ageing academics’ minds—were opened up to poetry thanks to Rod, but he has received singularly little thanks for this. He’s a bit too homespun, predictable and lower middlebrow, a wannabe Charles Bukowski. Posterity, as I say, has been ungrateful, but a poetic sensibility unquestionably infuses Rod’s many memorable songs.

Some of the best are tributes to Rod’s Belgian mentor and friend Jacques Brel, which he translated. The much-recorded ‘If you go away’ is something of a signature song, surpassing almost every other cover version (no thanks, Neil Diamond):

If you go away on this summer day
Then you might as well take the sun away
All the birds that flew in a summer sky
When our love was new and our hearts were high
When the day was young and the night was long
And the moon stood still for the night bird’s song
If you go away, If you go away, If you go away…

I know, I know. My personal favourite is “Seasons in the Sun,” the reflections of a dying man. Please ignore that Canadian Terry Jacks’s icky and cheesy cover, and instead appreciate Rod’s mordant and angry rendition. Its poignancy is accentuated by the barest of acoustic guitar accompaniment and you don’t forgive or forget the cheating Françoise easily:

Rod could of course write (and perform) no shortage of admirable songs in his own right. Frank Sinatra knew what he was doing in recording “A Man Alone,” an album entirely based on McKuen, and not unusually it is rated far more highly by popular opinion than by jaded critics. “Love’s been good to me” is the standout track and Rod’s version holds its own against the infinitely greater formal perfection of Sinatra’s singing. Rod may have gone away, but his brittle talent and charm live on for me at least:

Like many people, I sometimes fantasise about singers, what they might be like and what their intellectual pursuits might be. With the late Robert Palmer, so studied, stylish, sophisticated, suave, witty and ever experimental, I felt that he must have enjoyed the fiction of Sterne, Thackeray and possibly Gide. No such luck: he was evidently at his happiest getting up at night and working on his Airfix model aircraft kits (just as Rod Stewart famously loves his train set). Perhaps my illusions would be likewise shattered by any putative meeting with Colin Blunstone.

Colin Blunstone at the CBS launch of Ennismore, 1972.

When I listen to his singing, I feel he is incapable of the common, vulgar, unrefined or uncouth. This is a voice which, before it broke, would have surely made him head chorister at the local St Albans Cathedral or even one’s alma mater, King’s College, Cambridge. The same adult voice was an integral part of the appeal of the Zombies, those pioneers of Prog, whose breathily beautiful “She’s not there” and “Time of the season” were surprising but deserved chart toppers in the US. American audiences are far less familiar with, but would surely not be disappointed by, Colin’s solo career from the early 1970s onwards. Here, Prog yields to superior, sensitive pop. I remember one of my contemporaries in the sixth form (11th grade) describing how he had been reduced to tears by “Caroline goodbye”:

Saw your picture in the paper
My, you're looking pretty good
Looks like you're gonna make it in a big way
Oh, I always knew you would
But I should have known better, yeah
And I should’ve seen sooner.
There's no use pretending
I've known for a long time your love is ending
Caroline goodbye
Caroline goodbye.

It’s that emotional generosity moving me (and my mate), perfectly meshed with that perfect sounding tenor. How could anyone in their right minds chuck Colin, who is as good looking as that voice? And it would be Caroline (a classy name half a century ago), rather than Sharon or Tracey: Colin, you are middle-class Home Counties and I like you very much for that.

Colin’s biggest hit was a cover of Denny Laine’s lovely song “Say you don’t mind” (I remember a music critic remarking how he would immediately smile whenever he heard it playing). Colin’s tenor attained powerful falsetto heights, corresponding yet again to the emotional… tenor. Oh, and those strings!

I realise that I've been in your eye some kind of fool
What I do, what I did, stupid fish I drank the pool
I've been doing some dying
Now I'm doing some trying
So say you don't mind, you don't mind
You'll let me off this time.

I forgive you anytime, Colin, but I can’t speak for Caroline. The voice is perfect, the songs likewise, and sometimes quite complex (“How can we dare to be wrong?”) and I continue to remain as baffled as I was half a century ago as to why he wasn’t a megastar:

How could people “fail to see” as Colin rhetorically asks in this song? But I get the strong impression that Colin is relaxed and contented with the recognition that he does get, and again he has my admiration. In fact, I feel a fan letter coming on:

Dear Mr Blunstone,
I’m in my 60s and average looking. I like church architecture and Prog Rock and like you grew up near St Albans. Well, I’d like to tell you that for many years, I’ve just loved your singing and your songs…

Next singer, please!

As one of Clifford T. Ward’s obituarists has observed, his best songs—and there were a fair few—synthesised a fine grasp of pop melody with genuine poetic sensibility. An awful lot of English art before those ghastly, self-advertising Young British Artists, and a comparable amount of literature, celebrated the homely, the domestic, the everyday and the low-key. Woe betide anyone who mistakes this for insipidity.

Clifford T. Ward.

Ward epitomised these qualities. He first hit the charts as a Worcestershire schoolteacher with “Gaye,” which enchanted me as a sensitive and uncertain 17-year-old, and no, it is not about liberation of one’s sexuality. But my personal favourite has to be “Scullery.” North American readers perhaps need to be told that this is an offshoot of the kitchen in an English home, where you wash your smalls or dirtier pans. Clifford T’s perfect enunciation perhaps makes any reproduction of his lyrics otiose, but I hope you too marvel at how he makes the humdrum poetic:

You're my picture, by Picasso
Lighting up our scullery
With your pans and pots and hot-plates
You'd brighten up any gallery
If I could paint a different picture
Leafy lanes and flower scenes
Buttermilk, your cooking mixture
You still have ingredients that make you shine
And when you take your apron off I know you're mine…

This was inspired by his wife, Pat, whom he knew from their schooldays. One would love to create an idyll around them and their four children living in a picture-postcard ivy-clad cottage, but the reality was far sadder. Clifford T. was diagnosed in his early forties with multiple sclerosis, and took many years to die.

From his stage persona, he seems the very embodiment of sensitivity and sweetness, but a tell-all biography sadly blew that image to smithereens and though this was surely aggravated by pain, he emerges as hectoring and self-centred. Yet, to quote Prog Rock band the Nice, ars longa vita brevis, and there remains much to cherish in Clifford T’s songs. “Home thoughts from Abroad,” itself of course a quotation from Robert Browning’s famous poem, and the gorgeous “The best is yet to come,” are both cases in point:

Obviously, Clifford T. had no truck with punk rock, and the feeling was mutual.

Truly, he could be deemed a cult figure: his shyness meant that he loathed live performance, and yet he and Pat were legendary for making fans cups of tea if they called round. This was utterly in character with the aforementioned domesticity and decency. I’d like to think the same fans would go on to do brass rubbings in a local church on the same trip, but I fantasise.

People who matter in music jolly well knew he was special: these included Elton John (“Your song” is very Clifford T), Paul McCartney, whom historian Dominic Sandbrook rightly lauds as the greatest Beatle, while Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, Art Garfunkel and Judy Collins all recorded cover versions of his songs. Clifford T. died aged 57 in 2001 and I am pressing for his inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Mark Stocker is an art historian whose recent book is When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971.

Featured image: “Colin Blunstone-The Zombies,” by Thomas Leparskas, 2020.

The Rise Of Ordinary People

This month we are so very pleased to present this interview with Christophe Guilluy, the French geographer and author who coined the now-famous term, “peripheral France,” by which he means the vast disconnect between ordinary people and the ruling elites, not just in France but in the entire West. Monsieur Guilluy is the author of the recently publishing, Le temps des gens ordinaires (The Time of the Ordinary People). This interview comes at the courtesy of Christophe Geffroy, the founder of La Nef, the well-known Catholic review.

La Nef (LN): What brought “ordinary people” back into the forefront?

Christophe Guilluy (CG): I have been working on the issue of fractures in French society for twenty years and what struck me is the emergence of a new phenomenon, especially with the wave of populism in the West. This is the work of the little people who do not represent a fraction of society – but are the majority of the population, hence the idea of ​​”ordinary people”.

Christophe Guilluy.

A social re-composition, reformulation from below is taking place. In France, the example of the Yellow Vests is significant – we are not dealing with a specific category of the people – but with the entire population – the one that earns less than 2000 euros per month – they are workers, peasants, independents , private and public employees, young people, old people, men, women. In short, the complete opposite of the atomization of society about which we are constantly being told and which stems from a technocratic or even advertising vision .

These ordinary people have been “invisible” since the 1980s – ostracized; and despite everything, they are recomposing into a powerful, fundamental movement, which goes beyond the political realm, and extends into culture – in the literary field, for example, with the novel by the Goncourt-prize winner Nicolas Mathieu in 2018 (And Their Children After Them).

It is in this sense that I speak of the empowerment of these populations. We are here facing a particular moment of re-composition from below of people who were invisible previously and who have now become essential. And this can be seen everywhere, in France but also in Great Britain (with Brexit), and in the United States (in the case of Trump), etc.

LN: What is the difference between these “ordinary people” and the “peripheral France” of your previous works?

CG: They merge, of course, to form an increasingly large majority bloc. They were once the middle class which is now declining and has therefore disappeared as such. What they have in common is awareness of the negative effects of globalization, both economically and culturally.

They understand that they can no longer be in a phase of social ascent in the years ahead, and they do not feel represented by the system and its elites. Hence the need to take charge and think of another economic model – an alternative to that of globalization, deindustrialization, the collapse of the welfare state, open borders and unchecked migratory flows.

LN: You write that this resurgence owes nothing to anyone: how is this possible, and what does it have to do with the emergence of populism?

CG: To understand this, we have to go back to the 1980s and what Christopher Lasch called the secession of the elites. With globalization, the higher echelons have gradually isolated themselves in a world apart, well protected, causing massive secessions, economic, social, cultural, to such an extent that today we come to the paradox that the large metropolises, which define themselves as territories open to others, have become closed citadels, inaccessible to ordinary people.

Faced with this secession from the world above, we witnessed a form of empowerment of the ordinary people – not because they wanted to, but simply because they had no choice if they wanted to continue to exist. . It is in this sense that this movement owes nothing to anyone.

As for the link with populism, it is simple: ordinary people not being represented anywhere, not in politics, media or culture. So, they took advantage of the spaces they could occupy and populism is one of them.

Far from being manipulated by populists, I think on the contrary that it is ordinary people, in no way fooled, who use populism to their end. We had a good example of this with Brexit in Great Britain. It reveals a strong and tenacious political intelligence – ordinary people will not change their minds.

LN: How does the delegitimization of the popular classes operate in media debates?

CG: In tune with the social and cultural realities of the nation, the diagnosis of ordinary people contradicts the demiurgic vision of the progressive camp, which is why it is systematically delegitimized. It is enough to see the contempt with which the representatives of the Yellow Vests were treated in the media.

For the first time, we had a massive social movement that was not supported either by the intellectual world or by that of culture; while in the past social movements always enjoyed active support in both these circles. It is a violence that is very strong, unprecedented and major, which says a lot about the divide between the top and the bottom.

LN: You show that “the intensity of the quesion of identity is correlated with the social context,” but you hardly address the question of Islam in the suburbs. Why?

CG: I always try to make sure that i not repeat talking-points which most often only serve to fuel media debates and short-lived verbal declarations. For my part, I try to think of things more broadly – the question of tensions of identity – by going back to basics: multiculturalism and immigration. The first thing we can get into is the regulation of migratory flows, because there are problems of integration and therefore also of Islam.

We have destroyed the models of assimilation and integration, on the one hand, because the elites have abandoned them, but also because of the downgrading of popular, common categories which are no longer cultural references for new immigrants. Indeed, the latter did not assimilate by discovering the values ​​of the Enlightenment or by reading Molière, but by wanting to resemble their neighbors, workers or employees from working-class backgrounds. Because these people were economically integrated, culturally respected and were referents to the world above.

However, this desire for resemblance disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s. And today no immigrant wants to identify with popular categories labeled as “deplorable.” In this context, newcomers have no reason to abandon their culture and values. And when they are in the majority in certain regions, it is ultimately their culture that prevails.

I think it is important to remember that the demand for immigration regulation does not come only from “little white people” (an absolute trap expression which aims to marginalize modest backgrounds), but from the vast majority of the population and immigrants themselves – we can clearly see it in Seine-Saint-Denis.

It therefore seems to me that the real fight about this issue is about managing and regulating migratory flows. This is where the real work lies, if we want to stay in the real world and really act.

LN: You explain on several occasions that the progressive ideology is just another way to serve the market – that its function is to “consecrate the advent of an unequal model and is destructive of the common good.” How has this come about?

CG: Jean-Claude Michéa has clearly shown the alliance between economic liberalism and cultural liberalism, between right-wing liberals and left-wing liberals, to impose market logic everywhere. Thus, progressive ideology shattered the middle and popular classes.

For the first time, the world on top does not assume its dominant class position – it needs to dress its class struggle in positive ideals, such as, anti-racism or ecologism, which are just so many means by which to impose its preeminence by giving itself, in addition, a moral value – who will be for racism or pollution? Which allows the dominant class to annihilate its opponents by accusing them of these evils.

LN: How do you see the future?

CG: Thanks to ordinary people, a renaissance has taken place that will translate politically and culturally. The main themes of ordinary people are in fact very predominant: employment, re-industrialisation, borders and immigration control – this cannot fail to change, even if the political offer is now facing a blockage – but it can go very fast like in Great Britain.

This movement will not stop. Our old model is exhausted. Symbolically, it is interesting to see that 80% of Parisian executives want to leave the capital and no longer support the lifestyle that was designed for them, hyper-concentration, hypermobility, being uprooted

A political and economic system cannot endure, if it does not benefit the greatest number. Either our elites will refuse to see this and switch to a form of soft totalitarianism – or the demands of ordinary people are going to be finally taken into account.

LN: Thank you, Monsieur Guilluy.

The featured image shows, “The New Bonnet,” by Francis William Edmonds, painted in 1858.

Populism Versus Trumpism – The Way Forward

One of the greatest ironies, or perhaps tragedies, of history is that whenever a people seek freedom, they end up forging their own chains. For populists, one such chain is Trumpism. Not the man, of course, who has been made into a caricatured strongman syllogism by the media – but the catch-all phrase itself, which is used to demonize, belittle and humiliate all those whom the elite do not like, those who are the wrong kind of people, decried as being unfit for “modern society.” Labels, as we all know, are very helpful when it comes to categorizing people, especially the “undesirable,” who must either be retrofitted or silenced, lest they besmirch the pristine majesty of “progress.” And this process of refurbishing humanity is then presented as the highest form of morality. You see, the elite must always be better than us.

I had hurriedly spoken of all this in my previous article, which the Postil was so very kind to actually publish, and I must also here thank the many, many kind souls that responded to what I wrote, both positive and a few negative as well. I had expected simply to be ignored! And many wanted me to expand further on my brief remarks about heroism, remarks that I had made within the context of populism. What follows, then, is about heroism of the people – and here I must acknowledge Beethoven who set the precedence, when he wrote the Eroica, his Third Symphony.

But first there is need for clarity. What does “Trumpism” actually mean? First, it is nothing more than a convenient way to express condemnation or hatred for anything to do with Trump – because he is the Boogeyman of anyone deemed “cultured,” “learned,” “sophisticated,” “refined,” and all those moral things that the elite seek to be but are not. Second, and more importantly, Trumpism is the grand fable of evil itself, hence the four years of endless hysteria (an apt term for a hyper-feminized world). Thus, Trumpism means racism, provincialism, idiocy, vulgarity, and so forth – but it has also wrongly come to mean populism and nationalism.

Of course, “Trumpism” is a term not defined by Trump himself; rather, it is a term created to define him. It is the Wunderwaffe in the hands of those who hate him. Nothing will ever change this narrative. That is his legacy. And in it has been swept up into populism, so that Trumpism is also defined as “populism.”

Thus, the immediate challenge is to untangle populism from Trumpism, because the one has nothing to do with the other. Certainly, Trump has mentioned, “the movement,” “our movement,” or even “the movement we’ve built.” But he has never really defined what he means by “the movement.” Perhaps, he has his own version of “Trumpism,” one no doubt tied up with wanting to see America “great again,” but only under his leadership. Fair enough. But such a “movement” is not populist, because Trump is not a populist, even though he often uses populist rhetoric (for political gain). He is a neoliberal who wishes to do what all neoliberals do – manage from the top down.

For those of us who actually are populists, the real “movement” has nothing whatsoever to do with Trumpism, and is, in fact, a very old one. This means that emotional attachment aside, populism must break clean from Trumpism, no matter how alluring the siren-song of the “Office of the Former President” and Trumpian “think tanks.” Why? Very simply because populism fails whenever it is tried up with the fortunes or ambitions of one man. Populism must remain with the people – it must remain organic, from the ground up.

So, let us get rid of the notion that somehow Trump invented populism and that populism “belongs” to him, as his “movement.” Populists supported him because he said he would further their cause. That never happened, of course. To highlight the necessary distinction between Trumpism and populism, let me quote extensively from an article by William A. Peffer, the Kansas Populist (People’s Party) Senator. The article dates from 1898.

First, Peffer speaks of why populism is necessary:

“The suspension of specie payments forced the government to adopt a new monetary policy, and the ignorance and prejudices of lawmakers afforded bankers a tempting opportunity, of which they promptly availed themselves, to use the public credit for purposes of speculation. Our currency was converted into coin interest-paying bonds, the word ” coin” was construed to mean gold, and the minting of silver dollars was discontinued. The general level of prices fell to the cost line or below it, and the people were paying seven to ten per cent, annual interest on an enormous private debt. Personal property in towns and cities was rapidly passing beyond the view of the tax gatherer. Agriculture was prostrate. Farmers were at the mercy of speculators; the earth had come under the dominion of land lords; forests and mines were owned by syndicates; railway companies were in combination; wealth and social influence had usurped power, and the seat of government was transferred to Wail Street.”

Sound familiar? The syndicates of our age are the tech giants, the crony capitalists, the supranational agencies. Peffer continues…

“These abuses were fruits of our legislation. Congress had forgotten the people and turned their business over to the money changers. Both of the great political parties then active were wedded to these vicious policies which were despoiling the farmers and impoverishing the working classes generally… a new party was needed… And hence it was that the People’s party was born. It came into being that government by the people might not perish from the earth. It planted itself on the broad ground of equality of human rights. It believed the earth is the people’s heritage and that wealth belongs to him who creates it; that the work of distributing the products and profits of labor ought to be performed by public agencies; that money should be provided by the government and distributed through government instrumentalities so that borrowers might secure its use at an annual charge not exceeding two per cent., which is equal to two-thirds of the net average savings of the whole people.”

Peffer then describes where populism belongs on the political spectrum…

“[The People’s Party’s]… principles were essentially different from those of the other great parties on every fundamental proposition. Republicans and Democrats were given to old ideas in politics and law. Formed for altogether different purposes, they did not take kindly to any of the proposed reforms that would change established policies… in case of resistance [their]… right may be enforced by the use of military power, if need be.”

And, then, Peffer gives the definition of what populism is all about…

“Populists… believe that every child has exactly equal rights with those persons who were here when he came; that he is entitled to a place to live, and that, equally with his fellow-men, he is entitled to the use of natural resources of subsistence, including a parcel of vacant land where he may earn a livelihood. Populists believe that the interests of all the people are superior to the interests of a few of them or of one, and that no man or company of men should ever be permitted to monopolize land or franchises to the exclusion of the common rights of all the people or to the detriment of society. They believe that what a man honestly earns is his, and that the workman and his employer ought to have fair play and an equal showing in all disputes about wages. They believe that railways and canals, like the lakes and navigable rivers, ought to belong to the people. They believe that money, like the highway, is made to serve a public use; that dollars, like ships, are instruments of commerce, and that citizens ought not to be subjected to inconvenience or loss from a scarcity of money any more than they should be hindered in their work or their business by reason of a shortage in the supply of wagons, cars or boats. They believe that the people themselves, acting for themselves through their own agencies, should supply all the money required for the prompt and easy transaction of business; that in addition to silver and gold coin, government paper, and only that, ought to be issued and used, that it should be full legal tender and that there should be no discrimination in favor of or against anything which is allowed to circulate as money… It will be seen that every proposition in this code is intended to be in the interest of the great body of the people and in opposition to class distinctions.”

Lastly, Peffer looks beyond 1898:

“Conditions will not improve under the present regime. Times will get no better. Stringency and panic will be here on time again and again as of old, for neither Republicans nor Democrats offer a preventive. They do not seem to know what ails the country and the world. High tariff is but heavy taxation, and free silver alone will not give work to the idle nor bread to the poor. The case needs heroic treatment, just such as the People’s party proposed.”

All we have to do is replace “free silver with “universal income,” and the populist message is no different.

This little exercise is simply meant to show that Trump does not own populism – and when he wore its mantle, he did not value it, and let it drag in the swamp of political corruption. Perhaps he could never distinguish populism from “popularism.”

But, along with Trumpism, there is another chain that binds populism- that of the left-right paradigm which is hawked by the hucksters of the elite to forever sow dissension among the people. It is liberal against conservative, communist against capitalist, left against the right… and so goes the cant. But notice that in the “grand struggle” between Antifa and the Patriots – Jeff Bezos keeps making more and more money. We hate – they profit.

Another populist, Huey Long, had this to say about all this in the 1930s: “God told you what the trouble was. The philosophers told you what the trouble was; and when you have a country where one man owns more than 100,000 people, or a million people, and when you have a country where there are four men, as in America, that have got more control over things than all the 120 million people together, you know what the trouble is.”

Thus, the great “themes” of populism have remained unchanged over the past 120-plus years since Peffer put pen to paper. What he spoke of is what we still speak of, namely:

  • Nations are people; nations are not political systems
  • The people are holders of true power
  • The socio-economic clamp of the elite over the people must be loosened
  • The people must stop tolerating their slavery

A word here also needs to be said about “nationalism,” a term that is also much-maligned, as it is wrongly associated with ”Nazism” (but that is a discussion for another time). Nationalism means tending the welfare of the nation. Why is that wrong? And a nation is the collective of the people who consent to tend the territory they inhabit. That link with Nazism was fabricated by academics after Word War Two. So, should we let academics define and control how we are to live?

But when the elite deploy phrases like “Trumpism,” “nationalism,” “populism” they are effectively stripping people not only from the human community but from the territory of the nation itself. This disenfranchisement means that the academically imagined place that is “America” (the land of endless progress) has no room for anyone classified as a follower of Trumpism, because such a person has no legitimacy in public space. But this argument is also the Achilles’ heel of the elite (some may call it their arrogance) – for whenever people are denied legitimacy that is precisely the strength of populism, which solely exists to right this wrong. Nations need righteous anger – and lots of it.

Now, here is where heroism comes in. How is populism to be divested from Trumpism? The latter has no future because it is tied up with one individual; the former has a strong future because it is the very life of the people. Some might, at this point, object that I am making assumptions about a monolithic entity that I call “the people.” So, let me clarify.

The world as we now know it is vertical – there are those at the top, and those that live “below the salt,” as it were. It is no longer about management of the political arena, with two teams that call themselves the “left” and the “right,” and may the best man win. Rather, as Peffer observed long ago, “people are superior to the interests of a few.” This is why I say that the distinction between the left and the right is no longer valid, let alone relevant – for the elite (those at the top) treat both the left and the right the same way, even though it may not seem like it. Thus, for example, the massive destitution that now lies before us, because of the Covid lockdowns, which the elite very effectively manage (“for our own good”), makes no distinction between the left and the right. Joblessness and despair are not party players. Left or right, we are all poorer and the more hemmed in by relentless social engineering, that is, “the Great Reset.” Left or right, our humanity is dissipating because we now prefer to deny each other’s humanity – and we call that “morality.”

And once again a few things to consider:

  • Do not think voting will make you free. It cannot. It only empowers those perpetually entrenched in the system.
  • Do not tie your hopes and expectations to the political fortunes of one man, or even one party.
  • Do not believe anyone who tells you that change can happen from the top down. That is always a lie.
  • Do not trust the government. It has no interest in you. (Now with technology and voting machines, it does not even need your vote).

Society is all about consent. When a citizenry finally learns to withhold it from the elite – and also abandons all their institutions created to enslave us – only then will the people break free. But withholding consent requires high heroism, because often it means fighting all alone, without recognition, without praise.

If you are ready to fight many Goliaths, with whatever you have right now, no matter how meager your strength or ability, without reward, you are a populist. You are the real hero. Do not let the media label you. Be fearless, for the future will never belong to Goliath.

C.B. Forde lives in a rural area, where he still practices what he preaches.

The featured image shows, “The Village Dabce,” by Pieter Breughal the Elder.

January 6th: Requiem, Heroism And Renewal

To those engaged in the decades-old fight against globalism, what occurred in Washington, DC, on January 6th 2021, comes as no surprise. Defeat and tragedy are expectations when the individual must, with unending heroism, contend with institutional power – which in its vastness is both disconcerting and frightening.

But then, no one ever said that heroism was easy. Being heroic means being very lonely, for just when you think you are surrounded by supporters, you find that you’re all alone and must fight alone. Being heroic means never quitting, that you reach deep down inside yourself to tap into strength with which to overcome insurmountable odds, because there is no one to help you. Being heroic means starting all over again when everything falls apart because there are no other options. All this is clearly summed up by Winston Churchill’s observation: “Success is a series of failures.”

What happened on January 6th was certainly heroic – the people asserting their will on those that seek to rule over us. However, as often happens, the people were also betrayed by those who acted as their leaders. When push came to shove, said leaders were well-ensconced in their various safe-places.

But first the defeat and the tragedy. I know several people who went to Washington. Their expectation was that the man whom they had implicitly trusted was gathering them in the capital because he had a trump card up his sleeve, which he would at last reveal – and that he would at long last bring down the hammer to finally right some of the wrongs. In other words, people who came in their hundreds of thousands to Washington – came seeking justice. It was not a show of force, but a show of unity against the tightening vise-grips of tyranny.

Instead, what awaited the people was grim tragedy. Sure, there were fiery speeches, with the right phrases shouted to elicit cheers. Demands were made from those present (“You’ll never take back our country with weakness – you have to be strong!”). Of course, no one explained to the crowd why it had been gathered, let alone what was expected from it, and what being “strong” meant.

But a lot of steam was let-off. And that was it. And that was the only point of the entire exercise. There was no card up any sleeve. Heck, there wasn’t even a sleeve. Once the speechifying was done, the leaders expected everyone to just go home. The cast of thousands was no longer needed; it had served its purpose of being useful props in the grand theater of bravura and aggrandization. The same people I know, who attended, afterwards told me – they felt used.

It was more of the usual. Politicians who talk the talk, but are MIA when it comes to doing something. It’s one thing to speechify. It’s quite another to make what you said in the speech reality. There is an old Latin saying, acta non verba (deeds not words). But then who knows Latin any more… Better to spout than to believe.

Every crowd gathers for a reason – and when that reason is missing, there is confusion, followed by frustration and then anger. That is what happened on January 6th, for there was no real purpose to the huge gathering. It was all just to “demonstrate” some vague show of “strength” to an elusive foe. At best, it was a “feel-good” moment. At worst, it was a grand betrayal of the people.

But the dynamics of what occurred next is very telling. We have all seen the videos of people storming the Capitol and being met with police who did not hesitate to use pepper spray, flashbangs, clubs, and a bullet in one instance. Of course, throughout the summer when BLM and Antifa rioted and burned down cities and businesses, the police shot no one – because the rioters were the right type of human beings. In fact, the police was nowhere to be see and so cities burned and some 30 to 40 people died.

January 6th had to be different, because the wrong crowd had gathered. The police were prepared and ready to use all force necessary – and so four people were killed. In the rapidly shifting dynamic of the headless crowd, the vacuum of being leaderless is quickly filled by haphazard action. The violence only happened because those that had organized the rally had no interest in actually leading it – and so people did what seemed sensible – and this led to the tragedy.

When people got inside the House, they milled about in front of the Chamber, inside which police and security personnel stood behind barricaded doors, guns drawn and aimed at the crowd (who were unarmed).

Suddenly, a solitary shot was heard. A woman, with a Trump flag draped around her, crumbled to the floor. She had been shot in the neck. Here is a video, which is vey graphic (discretion is advised). She likely died on the spot, murdered by a security man inside the chamber who can be seen quickly lunging forward and firing. Why did he feel it necessary to use lethal force? Was he commanded to do so? Why did he chose this woman to fire at? She was targeted, because he only fired the one shot and then vanished. Who knows if the truth will ever emerge? Regardless, the video evidence of the crime is very clear.

The victim’s name was Ashli Babbit, a married, 14-year US Air Force veteran, who had completed four tours of duty. The poignancy is replete – here was a woman who fought for her country and who was then murdered in the halls of her Congress. There were no regrets, however – because she was the wrong type of human. And, of course, the police shot nobody, and no guns were drawn, when the right type of humans stormed the Capitol. “Justice” is always swift when meted out to the wrong kinds of humans.

It is alleged that the other three were killed as a result of police action. But that remains to be seen. A policeman also died; it is still unclear as to how.

If anything good can come out of all this misery, it’s this – there can be no alliance between the system of politics that currently exists in all Western democracies and populism. Why? Because the ideology that fuels the system is progressivism (which is always wrongly labeled as something other than what it really is – why that is an interesting question). And progressivism is innately anti-human, for it must continually overcome those that are deemed regressive. People always get in the way of progress, and so they must be steamrolled.

This is why there are now growing calls to “cleanse” America of “Trump supporters,” who have long been labeled as regressive. This is not rhetoric. This is the very root of progressivism. Those that stand in the way of progress, must be overcome or destroyed. In this ideology, humans come in two types – those that are either for or against progress. That is the logic behind violence against Trump supporters – first dehumanize, then destroy. This is now understood as “protecting democracy.”

Society is a great big petri dish in which all kinds of social engineering must forever be implemented in order to demonstrate that progress is indeed being made. This is why the propaganda for “progress” is so relentless.

It’s a simple dynamic really – but a dynamic that is also very poorly understood, and therefore very difficult to fight, let alone defeat. In fact, most people believe in progress and cannot imagine life without it. Things always must get better, and we must use politics to that end. This is also the tragic mistake made by most populists. They do not understand that progressivism is the true enemy of populism – not “Marxism,” “communism,” or “socialism” (whatever these terms still mean). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that populists are forever fighting chimeras.

So, what is the way forward now? It is pointless describing what is wrong, while never saying what to actually do about it. Most people are lost in the playhouse of such description – it keeps everyone busy, while the world is controlled by others. Has that not been the grand theme since 2016 – endless griping about how corrupt everything is, “the swamp,” with no one stepping up to the plate and actually doing something about it? The fact is you cannot use the system to destroy the system. The sooner populists realize that – the further ahead they will be.

To make sure that the deaths of the four MAGA-martyrs are not in vain, this is what populists must do, or start to do. This isn’t easy. Nothing is ever easy – the problem is so vast that populist victories must be small, and they must be incremental.

Here is what I suggest…

Stop complaining. Yes, we all know how bad things are. No one needs more descriptions of how things are falling apart. Of course, it is always easier to criticize than to build. But make an effort to offer hope and encouragement. Don’t traffic in despair. There is a great hunger for vision. True leadership is not about uttering the right slogans and talking point. True leadership is about teaching how to build. In fact, despair is the real “swamp” that is drowning populism.

Stop feeding the beast. Politics is irreparably broken and endlessly corrupt. It cannot be fixed by electing “better” candidates. Instead, learn to create micro-communities. Find ways to grow your own food, create your own electricity, set up your own schools. Learn to control your own lives, rather than relying on the government. Government-control is always tyranny. Build shadow economies so you can stop feeding the system with your taxes, your effort, your ideas and your labor.

Stop being compliant. The system does not work for your benefit. It exists to dominate you. Find ways, no matter how small, to resist. Learn to mark your independence by becoming truly ungovernable. The easiest way is to stop funding political parties with your money. And for Heaven’s sake – do not vote for any of their candidates. Why support the elite who have no interest in you? Unite against their governments, their systems. If you must be political then pool your talents and start a populist party and try to win local elections with your candidates. This is the long-march. Do not look for instant solutions – because there are none.

Stop supporting crony capitalism. Learn to be entrepreneurial. Understand the function and purpose of big money, and find ways and means to subvert it. The easiest way, for example, is to stop supporting mega-corporations – they are all tyrannical. This may sound like complete heresy, but cancel all your social media accounts. Stop shopping at big-box stores. You’ll be the happier for doing so. Do not let large companies define the meaning of your life.

On a positive note, get in the habit of looking for beauty, say, in music, in painting, in gardening, in woodworking. Add to the beauty of the world – no matter how small. Do not let mega-corporations hijack your time.

If, as many are predicting, January 6th is the start of a revolution – make sure it’s the right one. Do not get sucked into the rhetoric of others, who will use you for their ends.

Also, make sure you understand that true revolutions are not political; they are moral and spiritual. Good politics can only be the result of good morals. Looking for good politics first is a fool’s errand. There must be something unchanging and constant to guide human destiny. That is true populism, which clearly understands that human worth can never be defined by political agency.

It’s a tough slog ahead. We will need a lot of populism to get through it. Do not lose your way. Do not lose hope. Build your own populism. That is true liberty. That is true heroism.

C.B. Forde, a former academic, lives in a rural location, where he practices what he preaches.

The image shows, “Der Sämann” (“The Sower”) by Albin Egger-Lienz, painted in 1903.

I Am A Hongkonger!

The 2019 social movement in Hong Kong has amazed me in many ways. For one, it has evolved quickly and fluidly into a series of leader-less, internet-empowered campaigns.

Many have dubbed it, the “Be Water Movement” – for it is fluid as
water, in that protesters are flexible in their response to the police in front of them. The movement is hard as ice, in that protesters have vowed to resist injustice and defend their good cause by all means. And the movement is like steam, in that it remains shrewdly elusive in order to avoid arrest by authorities, and then later re-emerge.

This strategy has allowed the protesters to stay resilient for an extended period of time. But why did these protests happen? Prior to the handover, in 1997, China offered the people of Hong Kong a new idea, which has now become a hollow promise, of “one country, two systems.” Many had doubts, some decided to leave, but more chose to stay because they loved Hong Kong and thus wanted to believe in the promise.

Since the handover, the Chinese have been aggressively asserting their influence – politically, socially, economically, demographically and ideologically. And it appears that this interference has only accelerated since President Xi took power.

In fact, the ruling elite of Hong Kong have been completely transformed by two decades of such interference. Government leaders, appointed officials and legislators readily kowtow to the commands of the Chinese, with no concern for the wishes of the local people. For example, the latest survey saw Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive, fall to merely 15 percent of public support.

But despite overwhelming public dissatisfaction, those in authority seem to care even less about the people, because they were not chosen by the people but were handpicked by the Chinese. As such, Hong Kong functions under a fundamentally flawed system of governance that is bound to fail – because it no longer reflects the will of the people.

As a result, China has been piling up layers of oppressive policies, one after the other, policies which are implemented by the Hong Kong government. The purpose of these policies is restriction of freedoms and the undermining of autonomy. Thus, the education system is now pro-China; unjustified and needless infrastructures projects are hastily approved; pro-democracy legislators and candidates are disqualified; and all social activists are given overly harsh sentences.

The younger generation, in particular, feel helpless and are therefore desperate. They realize that “one country, two systems” is a big fat lie. There will be no freedom of speech. There will be no freedom of the press. There will be no freedom of assembly and association. There will be no true democratic elections. There will be no independent judiciary. The “rule of law” has quietly been replaced by the “rule by law.”

As the saying goes, bad money drives out the good. Simply put, Hong Kong
will not be Hong Kong any more
. It is losing its vigor; it is dying, and it is going to succumb to being a second-class Chinese city.

This protest movement is in many ways a war, a war between democracy
and authoritarianism
. It is a war of dignity and values. Pragmatically speaking, protesters also know that they will be defeated in the end. But they have no other option than to fight. If a woman is about to be raped does she simply beg for mercy? What option is left her? She still will cry out and resist with her last bit of dignity.

The protesters fight and resist, not because they know they will win. They fight because of their dignity. They fight because they believe in freedom and democracy. That essentially sums up their spirit.

The Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, once said, “If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg.”

So, who really stands with these “eggs,” these protesters, who now smash themselves against the Chinese wall? And, for how long will support for their cause last? As we know, it was the extradition bill that sparked the protests. This bill would force anyone in Hong Kong, who did anything politically inappropriate in the eyes of the communist regime, could be extradited to China, to face dire consequences.

Fear of such a law is legitimate, as there have already been notable cases of mysterious disappearances, forced extraditions, unlawful detainment, torture, as well as coerced confessions.

Some people still choose to turn a blind eye, wishfully thinking that they are going to be safe, as long as they do not rock the boat. These people are tagged as “Blue-Ribbons” – those who side with the establishment.

However, the protests have “politically awakened” large segments of the population, who now question the system and the government. And these questions are quickly uncovering the many lies and the propaganda. They do not want to live in a “police state;” and many of these people are now coming out to express their outrage. They are tagged as “Yellow-Ribbons” – those who side with the protesters.

Typical protests now range from 1 to 2 million; and they are mostly the Yellow-Ribbons. To put this in perspective, Hong Kong has a population of 7 million.

If it were not for the young protesters fighting against all odds, the extradition bill would have easily passed. Nevertheless, the government remains adamant and continues to dismiss all legitimate and reasonable requests of its own people.

The police also continue to mistreat protesters each and every day. Their use of excessive force is now common-place. For example, on July 21, 2019, hundreds of mafia gangsters marched on the streets of Yuen Long (a northern suburban district), chasing innocent people, beating them, and intimidating them. It is likely that they were collaborating with the police, for while the mafia was on the street, there was no police to be found anywhere. And the emergency hotlines were jammed.

This terrorist attack, for that was what it was, was inflicted on the people to instill fear and to silence the public. None of the mafia members, of course, were caught, let alone prosecuted, despite wide-spread video evidence.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong is still freer than Mainland China, at least for the time being. It has not yet put up the so-called Chinese “Internet Great Wall,” which means that there is still free access to international, online information.

However, Chinese propaganda has long penetrated all mainstream media as well as various online communities in Hong Kong. Biased reportage, fake news and malicious assaults are endemic. Protesters try their best to filter the disinformation, by “fact-checking” news and rumors received.

But it is hard to “fact-check” everything. Truth and judgment will inevitably be clouded, given the constant bombardment of disinformation. It is harder to trust any information at hand. This also makes it harder to trust any people. Everyone becomes wary of each other, lest they be betrayed. There is fear of retribution, since China is always watching. Freedom from fear has been the first victim of communist propaganda.

Even at this moment, as I write this article, I am fearful of what might happen, of what the consequences might be of what I am now writing. Telling the truth often demands a fearful price.

What lies ahead for Hong Kong is also fearful – which lends greater poignancy to the protesters – for all Hongkongers what comes next is Cultural Revolution 2.0.

The Chinese Communist Party has never changed. It never respected human rights, and never allowed liberty to its own people. Tibet is the perfect example of what happens when China comes in and takes control.

And the Cultural Revolution 2.0 has already begun – all protesters have been labelled as violent terrorists and subversives; Hong Kong culture is being dismantled and destroyed. This what China does to minorities who refuse to kowtow. Just look at what is being done to the Uyhgurs.

What is most disturbing is that the world itself is silent, except for rare expressions of disapproval, such as, the Human Rights and Democracy Act for Hong Kong, which seems more politics than actual, real help for Hong Kong. In fact, as China grows stronger, Hong Kong will grow weaker, despite the fact that Hong Kong is extremely important as a major financial hub for China, through which it can access unrestricted capital flow.

Because of the financial importance of Hong Kong, the more radical protesters favor a so-called “scorched earth policy.” They want to smash everything that China holds dear in Hong Kong. “If we burn, you burn with us.” This sounds desperate – but we need to ask what has made these otherwise decent young people so very desperate that they will happily destroy what makes Hong Kong great – so it does not fall into Chinese hands.

This desperation has also split apart Hong Kong society. People are hesitant about sharing news with family and friends. Everyone is more guarded and careful about what they say. Relationships are torn apart – friends have become foes, couples are breaking up, children are running away from families.

Now, everyone has to take a side – whether it be as a “Yellow-Ribbon,” or as a “Blue-Ribbon.” Even companies, consumer brands and outlets are being categorized as, “Yellow-Camps” or “Blue-Camps.” Of course, the Yellows boycott anything Blue, and vice-versa. This has transformed society into opposing “tribes” – hose that protest China and those that agree and want to go along with it. But both sides are disgusted with the Hong Kong government, for its apathy, inaction and incompetence.

All the while, there is massive emigration, both among the Yellows and the Blues. Even the “Returnees” (who emigrated overseas prior to handover and the returned) are leaving for a second time. Others, who have no overseas passport, are frantically seeking alternative ways to get out and find a better future for themselves and their children.

Actually, China is perfectly fine with emigration. It seems that China wants to take over Hong Kong, but it does not want the people that come with it (the Hongkongers).

This is because there has been an uninterrupted influx of new immigrants, the rich and the elite, from Mainland China. Within a decade, the locally-born Hongkongers will be completely outnumbered in the next decade. Exactly what happened in Tibet.

Of course, this is a deliberate strategy, which will entirely delegitimize the local population. Hongkongers understand this well. Time is against them. What is now the majority voice, protesting for democracy and liberty will soon be stifled.

There is thus a sense of great urgency, which prompted a record high 71 percent turnout in the municipal council elections, in November 2019. The usual turnout for such election is 47 percent. The results of this election were encouraging, as it saw the pro-democracy camp successfully take control of 17 (out of 18) municipal district seats.

This was, in fact, a referendum, a reflection of public opinion. But despite this election, nothing really was won. The Chief Executive still will not budge. Large-scale arrests still take place every day (to-date, over 6,000 protesters have been arrested, many brutally beaten). We have no idea how many have been sexually assaulted, how many have been “disappeared,” or how many have officially “committed suicide” for the sake of this movement. They are indeed brothers and sisters in arms. They are the “martyrs” of this movement.

And in this dark time, I also see another Hong Kong, which shines with courage and righteousness. In the past, the typical young Hong Kong person used to be focused on money and success – and nothing else.

But now I see another kind of a young Hong Kong person – one who shows solidarity, perseverance and creativity. These young people can only bring admiration for what they have accomplished. I stand in admiration of their determination to do what they believe is right and to move forward without regret. Their love for Hong Kong is unconditional and sacrificial. Suffering builds up character; sacrifice builds a new world. Through their suffering and sacrifice, a new Hongkonger is being born! And I am proud to be one of them!

So, what is the endgame? We do not know what the future holds for

Hong Kong and its native people. As a realist, the future may be doomed. The fighting spirit of Hongkongers may be crushed.

But, as a Christian, however, I remember that Jesus vouched for the oppressed, the vulnerable, the marginalized and the persecuted. I believe He will vouch for Hongkongers: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Perhaps this protest movement is a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we do not need to keep analyzing possible scenarios or calculating risks and returns. Rather exasperation, let us be proud, rejoice and move forward together as Hongkongers. We are writing history.

E. Lee is a Hong Kong-born Christian preacher, who is passionate about missions in the world, and who still loves and cares for his homeland enough to write the inconvenient truth.

The image is from From Tien Yu’s Facebook, 2019.

Insipid Christianity

Rusty Reno, editor of the prominent religious conservative journal First Things, here couples an original diagnosis of how we got to the vicious decay of now with very muted prescriptions. This is a good enough book, earnest and intent, but it is cramped. Reno offers as an alternative not strong gods, nor even coherent positive visions of the nationalism and populism of the title, but only the tired and repeatedly failed call to return, though some unspecified mechanism, to vaguely conceived virtue.

I’m all for virtue, but Reno refuses to acknowledge that, more likely, and more desirable, the strong gods are those who will inevitably, as Kipling said, with fever and slaughter return, to scour the Earth in preparation for the rebirth of actual, living virtue.

In brief, this book is an extended attack on the so-called open society, created by the so-called postwar consensus of how the West should believe. We are all indoctrinated that the open society, never really defined, is wonderful, so Reno’s attacking it at first seems like attacking Nutella. This is true for liberals, for whom unlimited openness has been the goal since John Stuart Mill, and for twentieth-century conservatives, who were long taught to associate openness with anti-Communism, and thus saw no reason to question it, until its poisoned fruits came to full ripeness.

I don’t disagree with any of Reno’s extended history and analysis of the open society; I just think it’s too limited. As with Reno’s 2017 book, Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society, he is too abstract, and will not grapple with what can be, and with what must be, done.

I am much exercised, as regular readers know, with the very recent split among conservatives, between those who have come to reject the whole of the Enlightenment as a dead end, broadly speaking, characterized as post-liberals, and those who accept Enlightenment principles, and thus the premises of their enemies, and merely want to dial back some excesses, or if denied that by their masters, reach Left goals a little slower. No points for guessing which group has been in charge while conservatives have gone down to crushing defeat again and again.

Reno does not fall clearly into either group, which I think is meant as a compromise among ever-louder competing voices, but is really an unstable balancing act, in which Reno finally falls between two chairs.

He starts by acknowledging post-liberals such as Patrick Deneen and (an early voice) Alasdair MacIntyre, and if I had not read this book, I would have guessed that Reno mostly agrees with them. Yet, after some wavering, he comes down on the side of the Enlightenment—that is, of liberalism, of atomized freedom, and the destruction of all unchosen bonds in a desperate quest for total emancipation. For Reno, we find, it was not 1789, but 1945, which was the year that it all went wrong.

As Reno sums his view up, in his own italics, “The distempers afflicting public life today reflect a crisis of the postwar consensus, the weak gods of openness and weakening, not a crisis of liberalism, modernity, or the West.” Reno’s argument is that after the horrors of the first half of the twentieth century, the ruling classes of the West chose to create societies of “openness, weakening, and disenchantment,” in an explicit attempt to prevent the “return of the strong gods”—“the objects of men’s love and devotion, the sources of the passions and loyalties that united societies.”

Rather than simply trying to wall out only the terrible strong gods, the ruling classes chose to wall them all out: truth along with fascism; loyalty along with Communism.

At least Reno openly rejects any need for preemptive apologies, wherein as a conservative he would, in the past, have been expected to first talk at length about the evils of Nazism and fascism, and dissociate himself from them. He refuses, since he knows this is a propaganda trick used to make conservatives behave and look weak.

Instead, he begins with something unexpected, but apt—a lengthy attack on Karl Popper, whose The Open Society and Its Enemies he identifies as the first philosophical attempt to create the postwar consensus under which openness was the first and only commandment.

Popper rejected claims of metaphysical truth and insisted we must each seek, and create, our own meaning—not truth, merely meaning, a small and ambiguous word. Reno then draws a straight line from Popper to George H. W. Bush’s infamous 1990 address to the United Nations, where he demanded that we create “a new and different world . . . of open borders, open trade, and, most importantly, open minds.”

With the Left, all words have special meanings, and here it is no different. “Open” here means not actually open, but closed against the strong gods and minatory toward their adherents. “Open” does not mean free, but coercive—Ryszard Legutko’s “coercion to freedom,” where “democracy” only happens when votes are for the Left, and “liberalism” is where Left social goals are realized. It is no coincidence that that evil little troll, George Soros, was a student of Popper, and named his left-wing pressure group, most famous recently for losing the vicious battle it waged against the Hungarian people, “The Open Society Foundations.”

But none of this is acknowledged by Reno, who does mention Soros, but fails to draw the obvious conclusion: that calls for the “open society” have, and always had, a double purpose—to avoid totalitarianism of the Right, and, just as importantly, to enthrone totalitarianism of the Left. He is so busy being thoughtful that, as in the Edgar Allan Poe tale “The Cask of Amontillado,” he is walled in by his enemies by the time the talking is done.

In Reno’s analysis, Popper was followed and reinforced by many others: men such as Arthur Schlesinger and Theodor Adorno, avatar of the Frankfurt School and author of The Authoritarian Personality.

Critically, though, it is not only from such obvious leftists that Reno derives the “postwar consensus.” He also identifies conservatives equally responsible. For example, he draws a tight connection between Popper and Friedrich Hayek.

Hayek’s main target was central economic planning as leading to totalitarianism, but in so doing, Hayek exalted individual choice and rejected any concept of the common good, except as arising through individual choice. Government regulation was permitted, to be sure, but only to effectuate individual choices in achieving maximum freedom of play. Social consensus for Hayek was a threat, if it was anything but hortatory, unless it was directed to achieving freedom of individual action.

During the Cold War, this was a powerful anti-Communist vision, which conservatives endorsed, not seeing the sting buried within. Reno points out that “Like those in the 1990s who predicted that capitalism would bring democracy and freedom to China, Hayek believed that the market mechanism is intrinsically anti-totalitarian.” Hayek was wrong, as we can see both from China, and from our own budding totalitarian combination of the Lords of Tech and woke capitalism.

And, compounding his sin in the eyes of elderly conservatives who, for some reason, still burn incense at the altar of William F. Buckley, Reno analyzes how Buckley, starting with God and Man at Yale, similarly rejected in practice any focus on the common good and himself exalted atomized individual choice—probably helped along by being called a racist and fascist for even the modest endorsement of public virtue in his first book, combined with his keen desire to continue to be socially accepted by Left circles in New York, which the name-calling threatened to prevent.

As we all know, Buckley spent much of his energy for decades thereafter policing the Right, throwing out anyone who was anathema to the Left, and ended his life having accomplished nothing. He didn’t fight Tolkein’s Long Defeat, he fought his very own Short Defeat, and took us down with him.

Reno attributes Buckley’s insipid approach to that “he intuited, at least in part, that he could engage in public life only if he adapted his arguments to the growing postwar consensus in favor of the open society. That meant no strong gods—no large truths, no common loves, and no commanding loyalties.” (This is the closest Reno gets to actually defining the “strong gods”).

Hewing to this line was the only way to “give conservatives a place at the table,” but over time, “the tactic became a strategy.” Maybe so, but more likely Buckley was simply not the right man for the job. That doesn’t mean there was a right man for the job—Reno endorses Yuval Levin’s thesis in The Fractured Republic that postwar America was doomed to follow this path. At this point, though, who knows?

In any case, that’s all in the first chapter; it’s mostly history. Unfortunately, three-quarters of the book is mostly history, and repetitive history at that, viewing the creation of the open society from slightly different angles. Reno, for example, ties the initial impulse to avoid totalitarianism to the growth of multiculturalism, a “therapy of disenchantment” that denies any role for the strong gods of one’s own society.

In another thread, Reno describes how, for a time, the Great Books were emphasized, not to teach truth, but to allow each reader to draw his own conclusions. Reno does not engage Patrick Deneen’s argument that the Great Books themselves are, mostly, part of the problem rather than the solution, since most of them are works of the Enlightenment.

Since Reno denies that there was any societal problem prior to 1945, that is no surprise, but again, it makes Reno’s argument neither fish nor fowl among contemporary conservative debates, and it feels like whistling past the graveyard.

Thus, Reno attributes the decay that began in the 1960s and accelerated thereafter to an excessive attachment to the open society, not to Enlightenment principles. For him, it is a problem of disenchantment, and he seems in some places to think that we could have held the center if not for that obsession.

The truth is that the open society is, of course, merely a later manifestation of John Stuart Mill and his kind. While Reno mentions Mill in passing, he insists that all this is a postwar phenomenon. This is unconvincing. The open society is merely the latest guise of the Enlightenment project, protean as usual, able to pretend in one decade that it is the antidote to fascism and in another to fascistically force bakers to bake cakes for perverts. Reno simply skates on by these crucial matters.

Regardless, we are taken on a long ride, through Milton Friedman through Jacques Derrida and, oddly, repeated references to the lightweight economics blogger Tyler Cowen, along with a long discussion of Italian writer Gianni Vattimo.

We also touch on modernist architecture as emblematic of the open society, identity politics as the Caliban of the open society, and, citing Douglas Murray, how the open society results in leaders who hate their own people, something even more on display in Europe than here, though Hillary Clinton certainly gave Angela Merkel a run for her money.

Finally, we get to solutions. Well, not really. We instead get Émile Durkheim, who first pointed out, in 1912, that the Enlightenment had destroyed the old gods, and new ones were yet to be born. (Reno does not seem aware that his endorsing Durkheim suggests that he is wrong that the problems arose primarily after 1945).

We get a Durkheimian definition of the strong gods: “whatever has the power to inspire love.” We get talk of “we” and of the res publica, and a note that “the open-society therapies of weakening” cannot overcome the bad strong gods, “the perverse gods of blood, soil, and identity.”

Then we get a petering out, ten pages of rambling about “us” and recovering virtue, recommending mild nationalism and highly limited populism, “new metaphysical dreams,” concluding “Our task, therefore, is to restore public life in the West by developing a language of love and a vision of the ‘we’ that befits our dignity and appeals to reason as well as our hearts.”

What this would look like or how to get there we are not told. Weirdly, Reno is even aware that this is totally unsatisfactory, noting in his Acknowledgements that all his readers “warned me that I come up short in my final chapter.” If I were told that, I would rewrite my book, but Reno seems to think this is some kind of virtue.

Throughout the book, Reno is unwilling to follow his own thoughts, shrinking time after time from the obvious conclusions because he is afraid of being seen as too devoted to the wrong strong gods.

For example, after noting the deficiencies of mass democracy, he maintains that it is a “blessing,” because, you see, it “encourages [the populace] to transcend their me-centered existence,” a thesis for which he gives no evidence and which is contrary to all historical fact.

He even points out that “the freedom Romans loved was not individual freedom but the freedom of the city, the liberty of a people to make its own laws and embark on its own projects.” Yet he cannot see that exalting autonomic individuality is fatal, and its origin has nothing to do with 1945.

Self-hobbled, therefore, Reno offers not strong gods, but merely what remains of the strong gods after being emasculated by the Enlightenment, and he has no plan for releasing even them from the pen in which our rulers have confined them.

But you are in luck today. I’ll do what Reno fails to do—I’ll tell you what should be done with the strong gods, or rather, what will happen with the strong gods, who, after all, exist whether we want them to or not. It is instructive to note that the cover of this book features a statue that, at first glance, appears to be the Archangel Michael, a young, winged man with a sword.

It is not the Archangel, though. I had to dig outside the book (which does not refer to its cover art) to find out what the statue is. It is a detail of a monument in Madrid, the “Monument to the Heroes of the Second of May,” commemorating Spaniards executed in 1808 by the French after an armed uprising against Napoleonic occupation, a precursor to the Peninsular War. (This is the same event shown in the famous Goya painting of a firing squad).

The specific virtue of which the statue is meant as an allegory is “Patriotism.” Meditating on this shows the wrong turn in Reno’s approach. For him, patriotism is a gauzy love, one that can be shared by all, with overtones of ice cream and Independence Day parades. He calls it a strong god, nonetheless, since it has to do with human loves.

Yet we must recognize that it is not for nothing that the angel carries a sword, drawn for action. He seeks not delicious cold treats, but blood, for his enemies hem him round, having already slain his companions, and he stands ready to strike, for God and country—as did the Spaniards whom the angel commemorates.

Reno calls for unity, but fails to perceive, or admit, that unity cannot be accomplished among a people that lacks sufficient commonality to share a joint concept of ordered liberty. He precisely analyzes the so-called open society, and its effects, but refuses to draw the obvious conclusion—that its principles have corroded the foundations of American society, so unity is impossible until the corroded foundations are rebuilt. And that they can only be rebuilt in a manner such that Left, or Right, will rule permanently, and the other suppressed permanently.

Where wholly incompatible visions of the good live side by side, someone must rule. Today that is the Left—the hard Left in all social matters, and the neoliberal Left, combined with segments of the supposed Right, in economic matters, papering over our social pathologies with consumerism. We are propagandized that this is natural, inevitable, and unchangeable.

But in truth, as it is said, past performance is no indicator of future results.
What we need, and what Reno should have called for, is the return of the real strong gods, those that fired the imagination of men like Hernán Cortes, Godfrey of Bouillon, and Robert Gould Shaw. They will bring unity, a unity of the Right that permits us to win the power to rule.

Since the Left never, ever, ever, voluntarily gives up even one crumb of power, the resulting conflict will likely be violent (certainly, the Left has already embarked on widespread violence against the Right, proving my point).

The alternative is waiting for years, or decades, as the Left finishes its project to choke the life out of the West, then collapses utterly as reality catches up, no doubt leading to a long dark age. We should not permit it, nor allow their crimes to be visited upon future generations.

What will initiate open, two-sided conflict, if it comes, is opaque now, as it always is. Only in retrospect will it be obvious, yet we can be sure that as it comes, the real strong gods, of men’s love of family, of country, of righteousness, of justice, will return.

G. K. Chesterton, as usual, saw this a long time ago—that rather than interminable repression by the Left, “Likelier the barricades shall blare / Slaughter below and smoke above, / And death and hate and hell declare / That men have found a thing to love.”

This is far from the first time I have suggested violence is the near-inevitable end of our societal arc, and I risk being repetitive, so I will not belabor the topic, and hope to avoid it for a while after this review. Within the frame of his book, Reno nods to his desire for a Christian renewal, yet despairs of it. One suspects, though, that his renewal, if it arrived, would be insipid, unable to actually deal with the Left, and Cortes and Shaw would not be invited.

Insipid Christianity is not in short supply; we don’t need more of it. I have written in detail recently, in my review of Bronze Age Mindset, of the ferment on the post-Christian Right.

In this context, post-Christian does not mean anti-Christian; that we are a post-Christian society is, in large part, the fault of Christians themselves, and far from the worst choice is allying with those not Christian who at least do not hate and wish to destroy us.

I predict, in short, that this ferment on the Right, only a few bubbles of which are yet visible, will soon remake the world around us, through the agency of the real strong gods. Buckle up, and make ready, for I have little doubt that, soon enough, all our lives will be a lot more interesting.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.

The photo shows, “Casting Out the Mnney Changers,” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890).

Economics And Human Rights

International economic law and human rights tend to be very poor bedfellows. Indeed, world indebtedness means less for the have-nots and more for the haves.

First, the policies of the World Bank and the IMF often violate the rights of poor countries in that these policies inhibit and even stall the growth of developing nations. Banks views Third World debt as an almost mythical moneymaking machine.

Pressure on the debtor countries and their people is increasing all the time, and the debts remain, growing ever larger. To enforce payment, the World Bank uses the IMF to impose adjustments.

As a condition for receiving new loan extensions to cover for defaults on interest payments, the IMF imposes strict economic conditions on countries, and forces debtor countries to cut their public expenditure, push up the price of food, and focus all their resources on the development of cash crops for export to earn the money needed to repay the debt.

The result of this pressure, imposed by the world’s richest nations on the world’s poorest, is ever-increasing unemployment, poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and for many, death. Debt repayment is a major problem for 44 severely indebted countries.

A similar role of imposition of policies by powerful bodies can be seen in the workings of the WTO. The establishment of the WTO represents a watershed in the process of establishing a truly global economic order and it is likely to exert a more profound influence over the course of human affairs than has any other institution in history.

There are three reasons that justify such an assessment. The first has to do with the ever-increasing importance of international trade to a global economy. Transnational corporations now control more than one third of worlds’ productive assets, and the organization of their production and distribution systems has little to do with national or even regional boundaries.

Decisions about locating factories, sourcing materials, processing information or raising capital are made on a global basis, and a particular product may include components from several countries.

This explains why nearly 40% of all international trade takes within the same corporate family. Another measure of the growing dimensions of globally economic integration is the growth in international trade itself which according the most recent figures published by the WTO increased by a staggering 9 1/2 per cent in 1994.

The question of private party participation in WTO dispute settlement proceedings has been around since even before the organization’s inception. Of course, private parties have been interested in international trade dispute resolution since GATT entered into force in 1948.

For many years, as GATT labored in obscurity, these disputes took place relatively anonymously. However, especially with disputes over trade embargoes imposed for environmental purposes and over phytosanitary standards that affect human consumption of agricultural products believed by some to be unsafe, international trade dispute settlement became increasingly interesting to NGOs and members of the public.

The public like never before is now scrutinizing it. The environmental NGOs, in particular, have called for greater access to, and increased transparency of, the litigation process. As presented in a number of recent papers, there are valid arguments on both sides of the debate.

Those calling for increased access argue that for the decisions that emerge from this body to be viewed as representative, authoritative and fair, the WTO must provide mechanisms for expanded public participation.

This concern is raised most often where disputes involve non-trade policies embedded in trade regulations, such as import restrictions to enforce environmental standards.

NGOs question the WTO’s ability to make the right decision in such disputes without relying on their input.  From an NGO perspective, if the system is to be perceived as fair, those with an interest in the outcome of a dispute should have an opportunity to be part of the process, and the system must operate in a way that does not seem to systematically give an advantage to a particular normative point of view (i.e., that import prohibitions are to be condemned unless they fall within a narrow set of exceptions).

It is hard to know how much power lies with the world’s transnational corporations (TNCs). Because of their size, they have become major world players: sales can exceed the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries. General Motors income exceeds the GDP of all sub-Saharan Africa combined. TNCs now control two thirds of all world trade and 80 per cent of foreign investment.

Some argue that TNCs are important to people in developing countries. The reality is very different. TNCs employ only three per cent of the world’s labor force – and less than half of those employed are in the poorest regions of the world.

The need for governments to attract TNC investment has resulted in a sacrifice in the rights of working people in order to create the most attractive investment conditions. The immense buying power of TNCs results in domination of local markets and the shutting down of local firms.

The freedom to act without social responsibility has made TNCs the champions of global trade, without regulations. This lack of accountability and lack of respect for human rights has resulted in dangerous practices. Oil giant Shell has admitted supplying weapons for use by Nigeria’s security forces against protestors in Ogoniland, just as BP has openly funded military terror squads in Colombia for years. In West Papua, Freeport presses ahead with mining while the Indonesian military deals with local protestors incensed at the destruction of their land.

The environmental record of TNCs is not much better. The destruction of whole ecosystems by mining and oil companies, the thousands killed in disasters such as Bhopal, and the ongoing, everyday pollution by companies for which “going green” is public relations. The Kyoto summit failed because powerful members of the Global Climate Coalition – responsible for half the world’s pollution mounted a multi-million dollar campaign to back big business.


The photo shows, “The Charitable Gift,” by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, painted in 1850.

Years Of Change: Europe 1780-1914

The change from an agricultural to an industrial society fundamentally transformed Europe’s economy, politics, society, and culture during the years 1780-1914.

The industrial revolution represented a fundamental shift from human and animal power to fossil fuel power. The industrial revolution brought new machines with interchangeable parts and dramatic developments in communications, transportation, and agriculture as well as social and economic life.

The industrial revolution began in Great Britain in the late eighteenth century and quickly spread to Western Europe and the United States.

Historians point to a number of factors to explain this complex change, including the availability of capital; the rise of science and technology; a business-oriented, risk-taking, consumer mentality; massive population growth; appropriate natural resources; and supportive governments.

Industrialization brought new wealth, major changes in living standards, a transformation in agricultural productivity, and the development of factories, urbanization, and improved heath conditions.

Contemporary observers were more conscious of dramatic political and intellectual developments than the changes of industrial revolution.

There were a series of political revolutions in this period, including the Revolutionary War in the United States and the French Revolution, which went through several stages: liberal constitutional monarchy, the Reign of Terror, military dictatorship, and the restoration of the monarchy.

The struggle between conservative and liberal forces created political instability throughout most of Europe until 1848, when traditional monarchs defeated revolutionary forces.

In an effort to prevent revolutions, conservatives granted political concessions such as constitutions, strengthened parliaments, and wider suffrage after 1848. “Flexible conservatives” in Italy and Germany also fought to create national unity.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Western governments created a new system of diplomatic alliances and expanded their functions. With the rise of socialism, social issues such as poverty and working class demands became increasingly important.

Nationalism and liberalism became major political forces in the nineteenth century. By the 1870s, most Western governments had strong parliaments, modern political parties, and expanded government functions carried out by bureaucrats selected by civil-service examinations.

The nineteenth century produced a wide variety of intellectual movements in literature, the arts, and science, with less religious influence. Although the heritage of the Enlightenment persisted in political theory, scientific inquiry, and social sciences, with the development of Romanticism, many artists began to stress emotion rather than reason.

Industrialization created a new social structure where position was determined by wealth and education instead of birth. Other changes include the growth of the middle and working classes, changes in family functions, a reduced birthrate, a shift in the nature of work, and the rise of new recreational outlets.

Although most people in the West believed in progress by 1900, the dramatic changes effected by the industrial revolution brought strains and tensions as well, which would culminate in the First World War. Also, as their new power produced Western imperialism, other cultures were forced to confront the Western model.


The photo shows, “The Spinners,” by  Ivan Kulikov, painted in 1903.

Supranationalism and the Quest for Democracy

The European Union of today finds itself at a critical juncture; with the rise of euroscepticism and upcoming aftermath of British departure, it is placed in a position where it must democratize its institutions to persevere.

Doing so, perhaps paradoxically, can no longer be accomplished through European disintegration or the current intergovernmental approach, but instead requires closer integration and further federalization.

Cooperation in recent decades amongst European states has been vital to securing stability in a historically tumultuous region. In that regard, the current intergovernmental framework of the EU has been effective by enabling coordination between European states, working to mitigate conflicts, and ensuring some form of economic benefit to all member states.

While the intergovernmental framework may seem to some like a perfectly viable long-term approach, as it enables European nation states to retain a large degree of independence and the ability to opt-out of certain EU legislation, its result is that most decision-making institutions within the EU are undemocratic.

Under the intergovernmental framework, most levers of power are rested within the two Executive bodies of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Council, which are hardly subjected to the same democratic scrutiny as the European parliament.

This approach results in the democratically elected European parliament lacking the ability to propose bills or take other forms of legislative initiative, preventing the creation of the sort of feedback loop that characterizes interactions between government and constituents in federations.

The intergovernmental system between European states has provided such a level of coordination and stability on the continent, that European governments will always strive to maintain it in some capacity. The alternative of complete disintegration is unappealing, as it creates uncertainty and weakens each government’s ability to exert influence abroad.

Maintaining the current system is also not an option, as its undemocratic nature will continue to alienate and inflame constituents within each member state. Without reform euroscepticism will only grow and it becomes ever more likely that the Union collapses.

There is also the issue of foreign policy, as the world becomes increasingly multipolar between the axes of the United States, China, Russia, and perhaps eventually India; a united European power bloc provides a better means for each member state to secure their interests on the world stage.

European governments occupy a much stronger bargaining position against foreign powers when operating as a unified bloc. Individual European states are already becoming less capable of projecting influence on the global stage, but through the economic power of a unified European bloc they would have an avenue to do so.

Such a bloc united under current European ethos which prioritizes diplomacy and peacekeeping could also serve as an essential balancing power in a multipolar world. With strong economic and political influence, it is placed in a position to facilitate cooperation between large powers and display a more pacifistic model of foreign relations.

How should such a bloc come to be and why would Europeans favour it?

The answer to the former, lies not in disintegration or continued intergovernmentalism, but instead in federalism and greater integration.

Federalism in a European context would certainly share some similarities with familiar models such as the United States, however for it function in Europe, it would have work within a framework that strongly emphasize the rights and importance of the nation-state and enshrines those principles within its constitution, while also incorporating a balance of autonomy and fair representation.

A supranational European federation would not be able to operate on exactly the same principles as a traditional intranational federation, it would have to be based on inter-state cooperation and give each state the opportunity to enshrine its rights in a federal constitution that it and its constituents can agree upon.

This constitution would need encompass core points of European ideology that transcend each nation-state, with said points of ideological agreement creating the core of a reformed EU and serving as the fundamental principals under which a common, democratic constitution would be established upon.

Such a constitution could establish mechanisms to ensure stability and prosperity for European citizens that partake in the newly established supranational structure and build frameworks for them to directly interact and democratically secure their own interests within it.

A parliament with more legislative and budgetary authority than that of the current EU alongside an executive branch derived from the parliament or directly chosen by European citizens would be the most essential of these frameworks.

It would curb the excess of unchecked executive power in the current EU by rendering the European Commission obsolete, and instead, vest its power in the European parliament, an institution that can be checked and regulated by European citizens.

Once more, however, I emphasize that a European version of federalism would necessarily have to have some key differences to the American to be democratic and long-lasting.

American and other traditional forms of federalism define their union as one of “one people”, in the European context this will initially certainly not be the case. That recognition exists even within the current EU which instead aims for “an ever more closer union”.

Therefore, a federalized European Union would initially need to be based on shared ideology and a shared constitution that forms the grounds for a state bonded on civic grounds.

The rights of nation-states would need to be protected for a federalized EU constitution to be ratified, therefore it could not overtake the nation-state as a national unit in its own right, but instead would form a Supranational entity that integrates each nation as a core constituent.

Relatively autonomous nation-states alongside a strong, democratically-elected European parliament ensure that citizens of the Union could secure their interests via national and supranational institutions, with the latter being able to coordinate mutually-beneficial policies across borders.

European citizens would find themselves better represented and better able to externalize their concerns to a European Union with institutions that allow for direct feedback, which as a result would possess greater ability to respond to constituents.

Thus, a federalized and more closely integrated European Union would be looked upon more favourably by Europeans than the intergovernmental iteration that exists today, as it would give them avenues to select decision-makers and would result in the democratization of the institution as a whole.

Regardless, the European Union has reached a point where it must work to reform its institutions, whichever route is chosen, democratization is pivotal to its survival.


The photo shows, “Daniele Manin e Nicolò Tommaseo and the Republic of Venice,” by Napoleone Nani, painted in 1876.