Conservatives, Neoconservatives, Paleoconservatives: What Next?

April 12, 2007

[Professor
Gottfried delivered these remarks at a March 20
conference in honor to mark the publication of



Shots Fired
,
a collection of the writings
of the


late
Sam Francis
.]

Reviewing my

summary for an advertisement of a book
on the
conservative movement soon to be published by Palgrave-Macmillan,
[VDARE.COM note:
You can pre-order it
  here]
I
was struck by how contemptuously I had described my
subject. My work shows how the conservative movement has
descended from any semblance of high moral purpose into
a mishmash of

think-tanks
,

media outlets
and

publications
, which seem unrelated to anything that
is historically recognizable as conservative.

This agglomeration of intersecting,
heavily-funded operations was the eventual but not
necessarily intended creation of a

journalistic clique,
one that in the years


 following
World War Two
cobbled together a
movement that would be called "conservative."
This "conservative" creation had then moved
leftward; and it made alliances, into which eventually
it would be swallowed up, with

neoconservative ideologues
and

Republican operatives.

My book does make distinctions
between the postwar conservative movement, which for
several decades marched behind

National Review
, and the

neoconservative colonization
 of the same movement,
a process that was

well underway by the 1980s.
On a wide range of
issues, the first was clearly more traditionalist than
the second.

Postwar conservatism at least on
occasion adhered to

William F. Buckley
`s stated plan for his new
fortnightly in 1955 to stand "athwart history,
yelling Stop," 
In addition to their persistent
anti-Communism and their calls for

dealing firmly with the Soviets
, post-World War II
conservatives took emphatically rightwing positions.
They were critical of the

civil rights movement
and its

leaders
, and they did not welcome the

political mobilization of American blacks,
which
they viewed as a force that would drive the federal and
state governments toward the

social Left.

These self-described conservatives
also expressed some of the same skepticism about the
welfare state characteristic of the interwar Right. In
the 1950s and 1960s, before their publication began its
long journey leftward, they attacked the belief in
equality as contrary to both human nature and limited
government.

By contrast,

neoconservatives
celebrate the

democratic welfare state.
They believe in democratic
equality, what they describe as

"moderate feminism,"
and the march of social
progress.

They also believe that it is the
mission of the American people, indeed its

"national purpose"
to bring their liberal,
secular, and egalitarian values
to other societies.
Those who resist this vision are
not only mean-spirited but are seen as

"flirting with fascism."

Since the neocons` foreign policy
focus heavily on the geopolitical interests of the
Israeli nationalist Right, those who oppose it, for
whatever reason, were lumped together as
"anti-Semites."
This kind of negative judgment is
basic to how neoconservatives view their critics on the
Old Right. White Southern traditionalists are dismissed
as racists, particularly if they refuse to condemn the
Confederacy or fail to appreciate Martin Luther King
sufficiently. Up until the mid-eighties when an

alliance came
about with the ultra-Zionist
Religious Right, the leading neoconservative publication
Commentary featured

articles
about how the

New Testament
had contributed to the Holocaust.

My book draws an extended
comparison between today`s

"movement conservatives"
and those who had once
joined the

American Communist Party.
 On the whole, these
would-be conservatives seem intellectually and even
morally less appetizing than their Communist
counterparts.

Unlike contemporary movement
conservatives, who parrot party lines without giving
much indication of cognitive life and who are ready to
turn their backs on those who displeased their
neoconservative masters, many old Communists had spent
years painfully reconsidering their partisan engagement.
They had balked at the about-faces in party policies
they had seen take place; and the disenchanted had
splintered into sects that exemplified their versions of
an uncorrupted

Marxism
or of a pristine

Marxist-Leninism.
They also typically did not earn
money by working for Communist

think-tanks
; nor would they have been able to appear
on Communist news channels, an option that did not exist
at that time. Most of these Commies accepted poverty as
the price of their commitment; and those who bought
Sunday suits looked far more dignified than the
overweight popinjays, those whom

Taki
calls chicken-hawks smoking their fathers`
cigars, who continue to

pop up on TV
with disgusting regularity.

Even assuming that these former
Communists had lunged rightward, it is unlikely that
they would have declared

Martin Luther King
first, to be a womanizing

Communist dupe
and then in response to further
instruction, have proclaimed him to be the

quintessential conservative thinker
or even a
latter-day Thomas Aquinas.

People who do this are either
abysmally stupid or

egregiously unprincipled,
but many American
Communists were neither one nor the other. Communists
back then also thought that they were rallying to an
oppressed working class that was

destined to triumph.
Unlike our postwar conservative
movement, they imagined that they spoke for a class that
was the instrument of revolutionary change.

In contrast, today`s movement
conservatives base their claim to lead on being
Republican Party shills and on being able to offer
constantly updated packages of "values," e.g.
democracy for everyone, or some ready-to-wear human
rights imperatives.

This claim to be for "values,"
which originated among postwar conservatives, has taken
the place of standing for real historical groups, that
is, for groups that a genuine Right might be interested
in championing. Indeed it was the destiny of

postwar conservatism
to have supplanted such a
Right, which had once prevailed among opponents of the
New Deal and Wilsonian internationalism.

But the postwar movement had
something supposedly better: anti-Communism, which it
combined with windy affirmations about being for the
"West."
The

long-term result
was a situation in which the
"values"
that defined the movement moved steadily
leftward. And this went on in accordance with, among
other things, the building of useful friendships with
media potentates and a vigilant eye toward jobs,
salaries, and social acceptability.

The assertions by

Ramesh Ponnuru,


Jonah Goldberg
and other Solomonic intelligences,
that conservatism is not about one`s "nation" or
"tribe" but about human rights, underscores the
drifting and shifting of their employer, National
Review
. What is described as conservatism is
precisely its opposite: namely, an unmistakably leftist
posture invoking universal equality and

competing with the political Left
for who is further
to the left ideologically.

The role of this postwar
conservative flagship publication as a willing advocate
of neoconservative politics speaks volumes about whither
the movement has gone.

It also tells much, or so I would
contend, about the shifting sands on which the movement
was founded. It first usurped an older Right, which was
built on the loyalties of a mostly small-town,
Protestant America, and its choice of New York and
later, Washington as the focal points for conservative
activities was indicative of the alliances that this
movement would build for itself.

Postwar conservatives then caved in
during the 1980s, before a swaggering neocon occupation
force; and this affected the entire movement, save for a
principled remnant, part of which is still present in
this room. Further, the aforesaid cave-in was truly
massive—and, unlike what I suggest in the first edition
of The Conservative Movement
it
involved a wholesale flight into the neoconservative
camp.

At the time I could not believe
what was taking place. It still staggers the mind that a
relatively small sociological group, New York liberal
Democrats who had come out of an Eastern European Jewish
radical tradition and who carried all kinds of cultural
baggage, would walk in and occupy the largely Christian,
anti-New Deal Right. They would not only occupy but

purge
and reconstruct it, and the new masters of the
house would be able to count on those who were there to
do their bidding.

Note that the representation of
this process, as the building of bridges, entirely
belies what transpired. What I witnessed was a
cave-in—and not the integration of marginal groups into
a rightwing mainstream.

While it may be hard in this case
to tell the chicken from the egg, the conspicuous ease
with which the neocons took over may have enhanced their
effectiveness as fundraisers. This seems as plausible as
the alternate hypothesis, namely, that everyone and his
cousin kissed up to them because they came with deep
pockets. Those pockets could have been rendered deeper
by the friendly neocon takeover of the conservative
movement and its considerable assets, a fiefdom that
fell into neoconservative hands or under neoconservative
control in only a period of several years.

At this point I would note a
distinction borrowed from my longtime friend

Sam Francis
, which I have subsequently tried to
develop. It is between conservatism, which is an archaic
and by now spent force belonging to the nineteenth
century, and the Right, which is the home of everyone in
this room.

Unlike conservatism, the Right is a
continuing, creative reaction to the Left, a defiant
response from an already weakened Christian bourgeois
society that is in the process of being liquidated.

Sam was also on to something when
he insisted that any attempt to combat the multicultural
Left must begin as an explicitly reactionary endeavor.
The Right, properly understood, does not seek to be the
true interpreters of leftist shibboleths, in the manner
of global egalitarians who are quibbling about some
aspect of affirmative action or like those who are
sympathetic to gay marriage but who want to introduce it
slowly. Rightists oppose the Left as the source of
social and moral confusion, and they seek to neutralize
those political institutions that serve its purposes.

In The Conservative Movement,
I labeled this tendency “paleoconservatism”.
Because opposing the Left is not what the misnamed
“conservative movement”
has been doing, or what its
would-be presidential candidate

Rudolph Giuliani
would likely do, if the neocons and
their hirelings manage to get him elected.

One noteworthy reason that the

neoconservatives have ascended to power,
a situation
that even their incitement of an

ill-fated foreign war
cannot do much to weaken, is
their association with the postwar conservative
movement. Their success in occupying its heights has
provided them with undeniable cachet. They have become
the successors to the project which Bill Buckley had
launched in the 1950s and had then handed over to his
badly-chosen New York friends. Despite their

scornful comments
about the anti-Semitic, racist
rightwing fanatics who had shaped that movement before
they came on the scene, once the mass defection
occurred, the neocons could point to their succession to
conservative leadership.

They have prevailed, moreover, with
loads of assistance from the liberal establishment.
Whenever the neocons go after someone on the right as an
"extremist," the New York Times,
Washington Post, New Republic
, and other

likeminded publications
jump and fetch. The attack
must be true since presumably it came from serious
sources on the serious Right. Those who disagree with
the neocons from the right, we are urged to believe, are
not to be taken seriously, except as cranks whom
responsible conservatives

have had to marginalize
.

In 2005, when William Buckley

attained his eightieth year
, leftist journalists,
led by E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post,
slobbered all over him for having saved us from the
"wing nuts."
Dionne confessed to having had a
longtime, presumably metaphorical, "illicit love"
for Buckley, for having toned down a movement once
animated by prejudice.  [Buckley:
The Right`s Practical Intellectual
by E. J.
Dionne Jr. Tuesday, October 11, 2005; Page A17]

Such an effusion of gratitude goes
back at least as far as a column published by Suzanne
Garment in October, 1985 in Wall Street Journal,
hailing Buckley as a champion against nativism and
anti-Semitism. Although "you can still hear an echo
of the Right`s more distasteful origins"
in the
pages of National Review, said Garment, Buckley
and his successors had "pried conservatism loose from
the fingers of its more demented followers."
[There`s
Nothing Like a Libel Trial For an Education
, By
Suzanne Garment; The Wall Street Journal; Oct 11, 1985]

Please note Ms. Garment`s lingering
concern about the rightwing extremism in a magazine that
even then was in the hands of neoconservatives and of
those who kowtowed to them. I suppose that one can`t be
energetic enough about resisting rightwing bigotry.

This brings me to the most
controversial part of my analysis of the
neoconservatives` empire, the role that the media
establishment has played in promoting this expansionary
endeavor. It is not by accident that left-of-center
national newspapers feature neoconservative columnists
or that TV channels present pasty-faced, neocon
popinjays as esteemed analysts of current events. It is
also far from a random occurrence that neocon TV and
neocon publications and institutions readily invite
liberals to jabber with them but keep us at a distance.

Everyone here might have perceived,
just as I have, the refusal of the media Left to reach
out to the antiwar Right, despite the fact that the Left
claims to be ardently against the invasion of Iraq. One
could not have guessed from either the NYT and
WP
or network TV that a large chunk of the Old Right
was opposing the military engagement as vehemently as
was the Left. One needed to be truly obtuse to miss this
fact, given the ferocious rightist opposition that could
be found in widely-visited websites and in widely
distributed publications. But this was not the kind of
fact that the Left wanted to publicize, not even after
NR devoted a cover story to

"Unpatriotic Conservatives."

The point to be made is that the
neocons and the liberal establishment both wish to keep
our side from entering the political discussion. And
until now they have managed this well. The question is
whether we can come up with a plan to break the
cordon sanitaire
; and if we can, what can be done.

The first thing to be done is to
abandon the silly idea that we have pals on the left,
who would embrace our side, if only they knew how we
feel. For those who continue to nurture this infantile
illusion, let me assure them the Left knows exactly what
we`re about and they are delighted to talk to the
neocons and to keep us off the radar. The Left can
easily come to terms with the neocons on most social
issues, as long as the neocons are permitted to push
their global democratic mission.

In fact the liberals and the Left
should adore the neocons if only for how thoroughly they
have cannibalized our side. That could not possibly
displease our

leftist adversaries.
 

Why would the NYT`s
editorial board feel anger that the neocons prevented
old-time Southern states rightist,

M.E. Bradford,
from

becoming Director of the NEH i
n 1981?  

And why would the Left feel
uncomfortable that Commentary rages

against Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran
as
“anti-Semites”
. It engages in

exactly the same smears
itself.

As painful as the idea might seem
to some, the left-of-center media community is overjoyed
with their talking partners. And they`re not likely to
exchange them for us, because of the relatively trivial
fact that the neocons have

pushed W
into starting a

Near Eastern war.

Imagine how great our pleasure
would be if we were able to select our talking partners
on the left! Wouldn`t that be preferable to having to
face such opponents as

raging
feminists,

inflamed advocates for Mexican illegals
and

hypersensitive gays?

The second proposal is that we
start looking for megabucks and if we find them, we
should buy our own newspapers and TV channels. But even
if we achieve both goals, we should count on hostile
name-calling from the other side. Neocons and liberals
would work nonstop to keep us from crashing their party.
They would do exactly to us what the conventional
leftist and the leftist-by-another name parties have
done in

Belgium
and

France
to such rightwing populists as the

Vlaams Belang
and

Front National
. They would scream we are fascists,
and they would forbid their multitudinous dependents
from associating with us. Nothing would change in this
relation, even if we had the means for acquiring and
running TV channels and newspapers.

Contrary to Irving Kristol`s empty
boast in

The Neoconservative Persuasion,
Europe does not
lack this “new kind of conservative politics”,
which it would do well to adopt. Rather we and
the Europeans have taken over the same faux
conservatism, whose objective function is to make sure
that a real Right never gets to challenge the current PC
hegemony.

Our neoconservatives and
Republicans at home, and the leftward-moving
center-right in Western Europe, perform this critical
role by waging mortal combat against our side and by
embracing the Left`s social positions while pretending
to have to yield to the inevitable on social and
immigration questions.

Actually it is not the Europeans
but we who must learn from our transatlantic
counterparts. Rather than trying to connect to movements
which treat us as non-persons, we must strive to
mobilize our own structures and resources. This meeting
today may be seen in the context of this renewal but
obviously a lot more must be done to give us a chance to
break through the

wall of silence
and the

social ostracism
that the two intertwined Lefts have
used against us.

Like European rightwing populist
movements, we must present ourselves not as the other
conservatism but as the only residual opposition to the
Left.

Note that the

Front National
and

Vlaams Belang
do not pretend to be part of the
system that their adamant opposition has forged. They
continue to insist that they stand outside of the
"bande des partis"
the "party gang" that
has corrupted their country or region by encouraging
multicultural invasions and radical cultural
reconstruction.

This is the adversarial position
that we too must take in our war against the combined
forces of the Left. It naturally goes without saying
that absent the necessary resources for crashing the
political discussion, we shall not be able to succeed.

But not being captive to despair, I
believe that in a country with the wealth of our own, it
is still possible to open this desperately-needed front.
And it is still possible to draw political
personalities, who lean in our direction, into
alliances. Such personalities can act as spoilers,
particularly in the Republican Party, by making sure
that candidates who take neoconservative phrases too
seriously lose elections.

If we alone cannot build a party
organization that will be in a position to win electoral
races, particularly in view of accelerating,
politically-abetted Third World immigration, we might
still work to retard the further march of the

Stupid Party
leftward.

Even better, we might contribute to
planting the seeds that could eventually lead to a party
of the Right. Although unlike the Europeans, we cannot

take advantage of a pluralistic system
, in which an

unmistakably rightist party
can find parliamentary
representation, we can still aim at putting pressure on
the

national parties.

For those who call for the
decentralization of power,

national borders
that have ceased to be porous, and
a true counterforce to the

multicultural Left
, their course of action must be
directed toward the future. And this means an avoidance
of the impulse to look back at now broken friendships.



Pace
my delusional acquaintances, the

Heritage Foundation
and

National Review
are not panting to have us back.
It is undignified as well as futile to nurse the hope
that we can patch up our dispute, perhaps if we hire a
conflict-resolution expert.

We must erect our own opposition,
and this daunting task will have to be approached from
outside of a

closed establishment.

And as a very first step, we would
do well to discard encumbering allegiances to a movement
in which some of you grew up, but one that deserves to
be consigned to the dustbin.

Its rushing into the arms of
bizarre leftist invaders suggests its deplorably weak
convictions.

Its recent examples
of timidity, venality, and the
abandonment of

traditionalist principle
stand before us as
something we should never in any circumstances allow
ourselves to follow.    


Paul Gottfried
(email him)
is Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown
College, PA. He is the author of


After Liberalism
,

Multiculturalism and the
Politics of Guilt

and


The Strange Death of
Marxism
.