The Origin Of Goldbergism

– The Lowest (Terminal) Stage of Conservatism, by Paul

A by-now common comparison
that began to be made in the eighties is between the
fate of the pre-World War Two Right and that of the
current paleos.
For neocons and the conservative establishment they have
taken over, it is comforting to think that the
“moderates” on the Right have ultimately won. There
was supposedly an older American Right going back to the
interwar years that Bill Buckley and the National
circle had helped to marginalize. This
process foreshadowed the neocons` later successful
struggle against the rightwing extremists who were left
in the conservative camp. By the eighties, Norman
Podhoretz, James
, and other neocon authors were praising
as someone who pulled himself away from youthful
fascistoid associates to begin the necessary purge of
the far Right. Buckley`s attacks on anti-New Deal
isolationists were the preliminary step for what the
neocons and their liberal journalistic allies were now
continuing – a war against rightwing bigotry linked to
whatever stood to the right of their own group.

 Several problems are attached to this special pleading that my
book The
Conservative Movement
addresses at length. The
primary targets of the National
`s tirades against the Right were neither
obsessive racists nor raging anti-Semites. They were
isolationists who opposed Buckley`s anti-Communist
crusading. Among the purged were libertarian Jews Murray
and Ron Hamowy and the John
Birch Society
, which NR
targeted in July 1964 for objecting to the Vietnam War.
The principal reason Buckley and his associates, James
Burnham and Frank Meyer, went after the Birchers was not
their generic extremism, but their temerity in
criticizing the extent of American foreign

It is also doubtful that the
Buckley faction obliterated the isolationists Right
entirely. As soon as the Cold War ended, that side came
back in force and seems to be riotously alive at this

Most importantly, the conservative
wars of the fifties
belonged to a struggle waged
among conservatives over the future of their movement.
Like Communist splits of the twenties and thirties, it
was a conflict among those who agreed for more than they
disagreed. Despite their noisy recrimination, the
differences were minimal on a wide range of issues:
viewing the welfare state as an intrinsically bad thing;
entertaining deep suspicions about the direction of the
civil rights movement, even before it acquired its
present nasty contours; and being generally sympathetic
to rightwing, anti-Communist regimes abroad and to the
McCarthyites domestically. As much as Bill Buckley and
Murray Rothbard may have wrangled over foreign policy,
they shared the same effusive admiration for Franco in
Spain and for McCarthyism in American politics. They
were also both highly critical of the 1965 Immigration
Act and feared that it would engender disruptive
cultural and political effects.

Mentioning this broad
conservative consensus in the fifties and sixties is not
to glorify a particular program. It is rather to
understand how the past was different from the present.
While conservative confrontations fifty years ago rarely
took place in a courteous fashion, they were part of a
civil war in which both sides claimed a common legacy.
Until about thirty years ago, when Buckley began
dragging his magazine and camp followers in the
direction of Abe Rosenthal and the
crowd, his own professed positions on
domestic questions differed little from those of his
rightwing isolationist adversaries.

By now the polarization
among “conservatives” is something of a different
order. The two sides have nothing in common but mutual
animosity. One side is not even conservative in any
recognizable sense, save for its defense of the American
global democratic regime and its kind words for
multinationals. The other side, a loose grouping of
traditionalists, maverick libertarians, and anti-war
activists, is carrying on a low-cost but sustained war
against the neocon-liberal establishment.
cannot even plausibly claim to be playing a
mediating role, having sided conspicuously and
repeatedly with the Left in its attempt to marginalize
the paleos.

By no means is any of this a
return to older conservative wars in which the Right was
divided against itself. What has now emerged is a
consolidated Left, part of which pretends to be
“moderately” conservative. Although this
consolidated Left has what looks like inexhaustible
journalistic and financial power, it also has a problem
that is not likely to go away. It cannot go on credibly
representing the Right while taking patently leftist
positions and expressing clearly non-conservative
sentiments. It will not do indefinitely to treat serious
criticism of immigration as a fascist rather than
conservative stance, particularly when, as observed by
Austrian Jewish conservative commentator Peter
Sichrovsky, it is the immigration issue more than any
other one that distinguishes right from left throughout
the Western world. In Der

(Munich:Universitas, 1999), Sichrowsky makes this
observation not as an advocacy statement but as an
attempt to focus on reality. Conservative movements that
try too hard to avoid being called “fascistic,” for
example, by calling those on the Right “nativists,”
land up losing ideological credibility. It is unlikely
that an alleged conservative movement that devotes its
energies to praising Martin
Luther King,
blaming Western Christian civilization
for the Holocaust, and preaching cultural diversity will
fare very well as a popular conservative force.

Having oneself invited to Katherine
Graham`s funeral
or to a luncheon party for Lewis
Lapham is one thing. Developing a mass-base conservative
movement, as Sam Francis perpetually reminds
, is a different goal that is entirely
incompatible with the other. 

is Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA.
He is the author of After
Schmitt: Politics and Theory

August 28, 2001