John Derbyshire: Who Are We?—The “Dissident Right”?

[Peter Brimelow writes: John Derbyshire has begun his second round of chemotherapy since being fired from National Review, but we are delighted to say he was able to write this column for us this after emerging from his first day of treatment, a Stakhanovite performance.

Remember, you can help finance his VDARE.com columns (tax-deductibly!) here.

Re terminology, I still prefer “Right Opposition”—a good Marxist term!—but maybe I’m wrong.]

So this is the other side of the Right, eh? Not bad; though of course nothing like as classy as the hushed, oak-paneled, Chambers-of-Commerce-financed precincts of Conservatism Inc.,whose entrance is now barred against me by an angel with a flaming sword. The furnishings are a bit cheesy in fact, if you look too closely, which of course you shouldn`t. Do those drapes really match that carpet?

Nice people, though—most of whom, truth be told, I`ve known for a decade or more. And after watching Conservatism Inc. for a quarter of a century running along behind History`s great rumbling juggernaut squealing “Would you mind slowing down just a teeny bit, please?” there is always the faint hope that this other crowd might actually turn us back some way towards liberty, sovereignty, science, constitutionalism.

But who are they—I mean, we? What do we call ourselves?

For a special-interest website like VDARE.com this is not really a problem: “Immigration Patriot” is sufficiently accurate.

VDARE.com occupies a corner of the non-Conservatism Inc. spectrum, though, and publishes commentary from other corners thereof, and it would be nice to have a definitive name for the whole shebang—something a little less defined-by-exclusion than “non-Conservatism Inc.”

“Alternative Right” has been snaffled by Richard Spencer, all good luck to him. “Paleoconservative” has come to have a whiff of incense and cassocks about it, at least to me. I have tried to float “Oppositional Right,” but it`s a bit of a mouthful.

The enemies of conservatism are eager to supply their own nomenclature. “White Supremacist” seems to be their current favorite. It is meant maliciously, of course, to bring up images of fire-hoses, attack dogs, pick handles, and segregated lunch counters—to imply that conservatives, especially non-mainstream conservatives, are cruel people with dark thoughts.

Leaving aside the intended malice, I actually think “White Supremacist” is not bad semantically. White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don`t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.

Even non-whites acknowledge this in unguarded moments: this Zimbabwean blogger, for example, or the American high school student in this exchange with his teacher:

One day I asked the bored, black faces staring back at me: “What would happen if all the white people in America disappeared tomorrow?”

“We screwed,” a young, pitch-black boy screamed back. The rest of the blacks laughed.[ A White Teacher Speaks Out, American Renaissance, July 2009]

Non-white supremacy is after all the rule over much of the world, from entire continental spaces like sub-Saharan Africa to individual black-run or mestizo-run municipalities in the U.S.A. I see no great floods into these places by refugees desperate to escape the horrors of white supremacy.

We should not let our enemies dictate vocabulary to us, though. In any case, the Whatever Right contains many separatists—who, far from wanting to lord it over nonwhites, just want to get away from them.

No, “White Supremacist” really won`t do, even in an owning-the-insult spirit.

“White Nationalist,” which has a fairly healthy currency here on the Whadda-We-Call-Ourselves Right, strikes me as even more problematical. What is the nation to which “nationalist” is the referent? “White” isn`t a nation, nor likely to become one.

I am of course aware of the much chewed-over distinction between nationalism and patriotism, first aired I think by Orwell, then taken up by Russell Kirk, the bloke who is supposed to have said—and you can register a skeptical background harrumph from me here—that “I am deeply patriotic, but I don`t have a nationalist bone in my body.”

I don`t mind the word “white” in either of those expressions. Conservatism, Inc. or otherwise, is a white people`s movement, a scattering of outliers notwithstanding.

Always has been, always will be. I have attended at least a hundred conservative gatherings, conferences, cruises, and jamborees: let me tell you, there ain`t too many raisins in that bun. I was in and out of the National Review offices for twelve years, and the only black person I saw there, other than when Herman Cain came calling, was Alex, the guy who runs the mail room. (Hey, Alex!)

This isn`t because conservatism is hostile to blacks and mestizos. Very much the contrary, especially in the case of Conservatism Inc. They fawn over the occasional nonwhite with a puppyish deference that fairly fogs the air with embarrassment. (Q: What do you call the one black guy at a gathering of 1,000 Republicans?  A: “Mr. Chairman.”)

It`s just that conservative ideals like self-sufficiency and minimal dependence on government have no appeal to underperforming minorities—groups who, in the statistical generality, are short of the attributes that make for group success in a modern commercial nation.

Of what use would it be to them to embrace such ideals? They would end up even more decisively pooled at the bottom of society than they are currently.

A much better strategy for them is to ally with as many disaffected white and Asian subgroups as they can (homosexuals, feminists, dead-end labor unions), attain electoral majorities, and institute big redistributionist governments to give them make-work jobs and transfer wealth to them from successful groups.

Which is what, very rationally and sensibly, they do.

So it`s not the “white” that bothers me. Heck, conservatives might just as well be honest about it, since it`s so almighty bleeding obvious.

It`s that “supremacy” and “nationalism” are poor fits for the spectrum of views out here on the To-Be-Determined Right.

(Whether “white” will become a poor fit too once I get the Arctic Alliance going, I shall discuss another time.)

What else have we got?

American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, who has himself used “White Nationalism” in the past, seems to have settled on “race realist.” Again, though, Jared is working his own particular furrow. I`m all for race realism—it sure beats race denialism—and it`s a key concept underpinning the Who-The-Heck-Are-We Right. But it`s just one concept sharing space with others (the aforementioned liberty, sovereignty, science, constitutionalism) and I don`t think should be privileged.

So what do we call ourselves? I`m going to make a pitch for “Dissident Right.”

The word “dissident” has its roots in Latin dis-, meaning “apart,” and sedere, “to sit.” Dissidents sit apart from the main crowd, don`t join in the community singing, and refuse to applaud the Emperor`s new clothes.

Dissidence is a very honorable estate, made so by the brave dissidents of the great totalitarian empires. Here is the gold standard:

[Wang Ruowang] was jailed by all the major Chinese despots of that era: by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1930s, by Mao Tse-tung in the 1950s, and again in the 1960s, and then by Deng Xiaoping after the student movement of 1989, which Wang—then aged 71—vigorously supported … Wang enjoyed the distinction of having been expelled from the Party twice …

The sensational courage and integrity of those dissidents from totalitarianism in fact gives me pause. There might, I mean, be something a bit impertinent in comparing our occasional inconveniences with the horrors that they, and often their families and friends, faced up to.

There is also the air of loserdom that hangs over dissidence: what I once described in a column as “the futility of dissidents.”

All right; I was obviously on a downer at the time. I`ve put in hundreds of hours with Soviet and Chinese dissidents, though, and they really are a shabby and depressing lot. (I`ll except Wang Bingzhang, who was always smartly turned out.)

Still and all, we need a name. And I suggest that “Dissident Right” is as good as any.

For a fallback position—considering the pusillanimity and careerism of Conservatism Inc., its eagerness to fall into line with any leftist doctrine that does not involve higher taxation or being beastly to embryos—how about just…

(drumroll!)…

“Conservatism”?

 

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.  ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism  and several other books.