Gerald Warner described it best in his 2010 Daily Telegraph blog article. The word “reactionary” is one of the most widely abused in political vocabulary, often as smear or slander in a world dominated by Political Correctness, to describe individuals, groups and ideas opposed to what modern “progressives” stand for today. That such a word is misunderstood in the modern political mainstream, and is really only best understood by those who use it to describe themselves. Nobody should be surprised given that the fatuity of modern political discourse has led to the distortion of the terms “left” and “right”, never mind the grotesque misuse of terms like “fascist”, “reactionary” and “redneck” among many others, to describe things that don’t fit into modern political wisdom. After all, modern economics and related questions (coupled to the political elites’ broad acceptance of social and cultural change since the badly misguided 1960s, for better or more often for worse) have so distorted our political discourse, that there is a lack of understanding of what left and right politics really mean even, it seems, by politicians and political commentators.
Certainly, opposing neoliberal economics and supporting social programs does not make one “leftist” anymore than the opposite position makes one “rightist”. Tellingly it’s only those of a more traditionalist slant, like Warner, Peter Hitchens and Michael Coren, who seem to understand this. Of course, it is said that the bigger the lie the more people believe it. So the notion that both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair led “right-wing” governments has been a fantastic lie bought by the masses, despite the fact that their slavish commitment to rampant neoliberalism masked the fact that Thatcher and Blair were in fact some of the most radical and revolutionary governments Britain had in a social, cultural and (especially the latter) constitutional sense.
In light of unfortunate events during 2011, such as rioting in Vancouver and London that vindicated many traditionalist conservatives’ criticism of the path of modern society since the 1960s, as highlighted by Hitchens, Coren and Irish Independent writer David Quinn, more or less expressing a critical and reactionary view of modern societal ills- specifically the moral and cultural bankruptcy of the West, arising out of a nihilistic rejection of the values and rules that guided our social, cultural and economic conduct since time immemorial, that could only have been achieved through the implantation of the Marxist ideas of the Frankfurt School. It has fatally undermined our own ability to defend our culture, civilisation and tradition (more so than terrorism or radical Islamists ever could), where non-Western nations have more ardently and valiantly done so, to their credit. It is difficult to refute that argument when one considers the success of nations such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, whose economic modernisation and cultural vitality has been achieved without compromising traditional values and social cohesion, or accepting the incipient totalitarianism that is Political Correctness. Furthermore, the modern world has undermined traditional institutions such as monarchy and religion, while promoting democracy and egalitarianism as all-encompassing ideologies that deny the fact that achievement in art, science, culture, technology and even sport are only possible through the often undemocratic and inegalitarian practice of elevating some above the rest. Compounded, of course, by the cult of instant celebrity, reality TV and (as Coren noted) the paradox that glorifying low-class behaviour in entertainment makes some rich and keeps the rest poor. Is that really justice?
We can rightly be described as reactionaries to reject these developments because we mourn the loss of values and standards, even if we accept certain beneficial gains that have been made. And this is what a thoughtful reactionary does- analysing any process of change and deeming it to have failed, rejecting its legacy and seeking to turn back the clock without rejecting any positive developments. And that’s what makes me a reactionary in the interests I hold dear- whether on social and cultural matters, on the issue of monarchy and monarchism, religion, and in my passions such as cars and football (or soccer to North Americans). For monarchists and anti-Communists, the term “reactionary” has a much deeper positive meaning than merely that, which I will explore here.
To demonstrate what I have meant, as in the process of thoughtful reactionism, I can give you a few examples. As a Catholic, I deplore the reforms of the Church since Vatican II, a view increasingly difficult to refute. As a car buff, I acknowledge the advances made in safety, emissions and economy (and even these can be debated), yet similarly mourn the loss of certain standards and values from the industry, the decline of global automotive diversity, and stifling overregulation doing more harm than good. As a football supporter, I acknowledge the advances made in largely reducing hooliganism from English football and in bringing about safer stadia (although standing is preferable to sitting), yet mourn the loss of football’s heart and soul since the 90s. This too confirms the point- opposing the prostitution of something considered sacred to so many people in the name of money is not a “left-wing” stance, but often a very “right-wing” one- it is a truly reactionary point. After all, laissez-faire capitalism was in the 19th century a radical and revolutionary disruption of the Old Order.
Similarly, one does not have to be a Politically Correct liberal multiculturalist (and I am definitely not one!) to condemn the appalling horrific committed in the 20th centuries against Armenians, Ukrainians and Jews, among others, and forcefully condemn those who deny those crimes. Or to acknowledge the injustice of forced racial segregation and denial of voting rights based on race in the American South, or the utter vileness and immorality of the Apartheid regime in South Africa (which was avowedly republican from the start and couldn’t wait to leave the Commonwealth). Yet we can all agree that out of this, the stifling Political Correctness imposed onto Western societies has proven ever so unjust, and has not resulted in a more harmonious and civilised society, but in many ways less so. Because for some people, the mere attempt to silence honest discussion of issues through PC weasel words may only serve to legitimise among certain increasingly disenfranchised people the evil intentions of truly loathsome and repulsive people. It is a problem entirely of the modern liberal elites’ own making.
Gerald Warner mentioned in his article that reactionism is an empirical process, an irony seemingly lost on the modern Progressive Left with its fascination with being “scientific” (never mind that Darwinism provided a certain basis for Communism, Nazism and Apartheid). It is most astonishing that what is taught in business schools throughout the world is one of the most useful arguments a true reactionary can make: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This is the lesson of the New Coke saga, of how much damage the mere idea of “change for change’s sake” can do in any sphere of life.
For us monarchists, the easiest argument for preserving and restoring monarchies is often made to the masses from a modern “liberal-democratic” point of view that the monarchy stands apart from the machinations of partisan politics and can represent the entire nation as such. Yet the traditionalist point of view, of representing culture, history and nationhood, is equally valid. Monarchists are able to expand this to a more powerful argument: not only that republics do not result in a better society and government, but also that worse regimes almost always replace monarchies (the Ottoman Empire being the perhaps lone exception, tempered only by a volatile 21st century Middle East and the fact that up to the first half of the 20th century, Jews did live peacefully among their Arab neighbours).
The destruction of the Old Order with World War I, and completed definitively upon the end of World War II, was indisputably a terrible loss for humanity. The wholesale destruction of the Old Order in 1918 paved the way for two of the most evil ideologies in human history- Marxism-Leninism (Bolshevism or Communism- it’s all the same) and National Socialism (Nazism) - to inflict unprecedented atrocities on mankind, in the former case enslave entire nations for four decades, and do profound damage to Western civilisation that is still being felt today, most acutely in the West- paving the way for the modern Political Correctness, which in my view shares certain things in common with these totalitarian ideologies, an irony utterly lost on its peddlers.
Fascism and Nazism, despite some leftist claims, was in no way reactionary- and neither is much of the contemporary racist “far right” (like, say, the BNP), whether they call themselves neo-Nazis or are repackaged as something else. Like their neo-Nazi counterparts, either the “true believer” Communists who are far more prevalent in the West than in much of post-Communist Europe (which has also resisted PC far more than the West, and may actually be freer as a result) or those radical leftists who barely disguise the vile origins of their views, they are nihilists who reject tradition and seek to build a new order of their liking. Peter Hitchens once said of these extremists, that they delude themselves into believing that they wouldn’t persecute or exterminate their enemies, when they would. It should be noted that Warner and Hitchens have expressed a certain justifiable cynicism about the West’s political and economic triumph in the Cold War, as both have implied in interviews and articles that a certain form of Marxism has pervaded and undermined the West for a long time.
Indisputably, the very roots of these ideas lie in the Jacobins of the French Revolution, the genesis of totalitarianism and state terrorism. The executions of Royalists and Girondins and the massacre in the Vendee, to say nothing of their blatant misogyny (a leftist tendency denied by the modern Left), were the prototype for which Communism, Nazism, Irish Republicanism and certain forms of religious fundamentalism were and are able to operate- the “scientific” definition of an enemy category to be singled out for persecution and extermination. Today’s Political Correctness does this more insidiously, by creating “villain” and “victim” categories, for which anyone who can think for themselves will know what that really means. Again, an irony lost on their proponents.
Clearly it can be established that the opposite of Communism is not capitalism, democracy, liberalism, or fascism. Communism is as much as social and cultural philosophy as an economic one, in addition to being a totalitarian system of government. It shares most of these traits with Nazism. The opposite of Communism and Nazism is reactionary traditionalism. Yet the institutional opposite of these totalitarian ideologies, in terms of state and society construction, would be anarchism. That would surprise many given that Communists and anarchists are often seen to be on the “same side”, while anarchism has also assumed “far right” forms such as National Anarchism and Autonomous Nationalists. Extremist politics, both “far right” and “far left”, is as tribal and sectarian as religion- how else do you explain the splits in the Communist movement with each group intolerantly proclaiming itself to be the “one true faith”. China presents a peculiar example- characterised by some as Fascist or even Nazi, it may have abandoned socialist economics but has never undone the cultural or social vandalism of Communism. Thus the term “Cultural Marxism” is easier to understand: anything that seeks to undermine traditional societies, cultures and values and replace it with a certain nihilistic rejection of all of that evident in many of those who call themselves “progressive”, “left” or “liberal” today.
Not only is it absurd to classify neoliberal economics as exclusively “right-wing” and objections to it as “left-wing”, but nationalist and racist movements are let’s face it all over the place. Arguably, modern neo-Nazis are not nationalist but internationalist, due to their belief that their “race war” has no regard for national borders much like Marxist “class war”. Indeed, while National Socialism rejected the Marxist “class war”, its chief appeal was to a working class who bore the brunt of the Weimar Republic’s failures. Also, certain groups that belong to the “radical right” and even “radical left” reject the terms “left” and “right” because they understand the absurd abuses of such terms, even more so in the modern age. Moreover, it could be argued that certain leftist regimes past and present has as much a nationalist cast as rightist ones- even Communist regimes like Ceausescu’s Romania, whose intransigent Stalinism did acquire a nationalist tinge through isolation from the rest of the Eastern Bloc (and virtual co-optation by the West at times). Similarly, Communists attempt to deflect the blame from Communism for the Khmer Rouge’s barbaric atrocities by claiming that they were “reactionary nationalists”, even if a certain nationalism and xenophobia did pervaded Khmer Rouge attitudes, but more of a way for Communists to detract from the complicity of their ideology from Pol Pot’s crimes. And what of North Korea, whose “Juche” philosophy is certainly not internationalist and has deviated from traditional Bolshevism in many ways, to the extent that North Korea no longer even calls itself a Communist state? Is Juche as “Communist” as, say, Mormonism is “Christian”? Similarly the more recent “pink tide” governments of Latin America often have a nationalist tinge, praised by Western “progressives” who scorn nationalism in their own countries!
Nobody can refute the fact that Communism and Nazism, products of the allegedly democratic and progressive 20th century, were unique in their violence even if violence was not unique to them. Their uniqueness lay in the fact that violence was ideologically justified, and the unprecedented scale of mass murder was a direct consequence of those ideologies. Innocent people who had nothing to do with politics were killed simply because they were from an “enemy class” of people. It is thus easier to argue that 20th century dictators often called “fascist” like Franco and Salazar, despite their flaws, compared far more favourably and were indeed not true fascists. And whilst the human rights violations of various Cold War era dictatorships (particularly in Latin America) were indefensible, it is worth noting that the numbers of victims of most such regimes were vastly lower than those of Communism and Nazism, because such dictatorships tended to target those who were politically active. Obviously, from a monarchist perspective, the regimes of Franco and Salazar did arouse out of a reaction against Jacobin republicanism (particularly murderous in the case of Spain) and are easier to defend as such, and the various fallacies of Latin American regimes may yet enforce one’s monarchist convictions even more. Particularly when one takes into account the fact that Britain’s Caribbean colonies (and Belize, its last mainland American colony) all achieved independence peacefully and for most part have been stable democratic states, possibly upholding traditional British civic virtue more than Britain itself has in recent decades.
A common Leftist trap as a retort against the highlighting of Communist atrocities is to argue that “capitalism”, “religion”, or “monarchy” all were more murderous. Such talk is nonsense because these are not all-encompassing ideologies that encouraged it. And herein lies the difference. Monarchists will not defend such figures as Leopold II of Belgium (unpopular even with fellow European monarchs such as Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria) or various Ottoman Sultans, nor will we attempt to deny or downplay the atrocities that happened under their watch. Yet those regrettable inhumanities were not a direct consequence of monarchy or monarchism, neither will we hold them up as shining lights. Therein lies the difference. After all, monarchies fought each other various wars, as have republics. And often both monarchies and republics had civil wars. So is monarchism or republicanism to blame for this? Of course not!
Rejection and Relativism
The key component of reactionism where monarchism and anti-Communism is concerned is the complete rejection of a dreadful legacy, and a wish to turn back the clock. For the most traditional of monarchists, it is a desire to restore the pre-World War I order where most of Europe was at least nominally ruled by crowned heads. This arises from the reactionary desire to reject Communism and Nazism completely, a “go back to move forward” attitude.
While Communists used the term “reactionary” to denote anyone who opposed them (and were thus singled out for persecution or extermination), anti-Communists can rightfully claim that term with pride and honour. Reactionism with regards to the legacy of Communism is prevalent in much of post-Communist Europe, not simply from the Right but also the anti-Communist Left. Both are equally reactionary with regards to the legacy of Communism, which they utterly reject and wish to turn back the clock on. Such feelings are stronger in some countries and among some groups than others. Never mind that, unlike the “True Believer” Communists in the West, it’s hard to dispute that by the end of the Cold War the majority of those coming out of ruling Communist structures had either abandoned the ideology or never believed in it, thus allowing them to transition to the “new order”. The division of ex-Communist/post-Communist and anti-Communist elites persists in the politics of many post-Communist states. As always, it’s a matter of how one wants to deal with historical legacy- those that unfortunately accept the dreadful Communist period as part of a nation’s history and heritage, and those who rightly reject it.
Each country’s situation is specific, and the will to reject the Communist legacy varies greatly from country to country, complicated by historical factors such as the regimes of Yugoslavia, Romania and Albania breaking with Moscow, the violent overthrow of Ceausescu by those within the ruling elite, and the transformation of ex-Communists into nationalists in Yugoslavia, and of certain former ruling Communist parties into post-Communist social-democratic parties. I will also point out that post-Communist Europe has been far less beholden to Political Correctness than the West, demonstrated amply by various countries recognising the evils of Communism. Poland and the Baltic nations have taken a harder line, legislating against the public display of Communist symbols in the same way that Germany does against Nazism. In post-Communist Europe there is a greater awareness that both Communism and Nazism are intrinsically evil, and it would only be fair if both are stridently condemned as a result. This is a definite improvement on the apparent “wisdom” of the West that Nazism was somehow unique in its evil. Even more frustrating for us in the West when any “right-wing” idea is seen as potentially dangerous, and any “left-wing” idea is not, despite the facts of history. Either you guarantee freedom of expression for all sides, or none at all- something the radicals of “left” and “right” who reject free speech for their adversaries simply do not understand.
But that I mentioned that both Right and Left can be equally reactionary in this particular respect is significant, in demonstrating the relativism of reactionism to specific historical questions. After all, I do believe that Right and Left in politics should mainly be about social, cultural and historical questions- and those of us on the Right being the most reactionary on those, and that’s why I’m such a staunch monarchist!
Monarchism is another component of this reactionism, and in our view it should be at the centre of it in countries like Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Georgia. The Balkans and Caucasus underwent dreadfully demoralising experiences even after the fall of Communism, giving rise to the comparative strength of monarchist sentiment in Serbia and Georgia, with Alexander II of Serbia in particular desiring restoration. Hence the best argument any monarchist can make: restoration of the monarchy means justice, rejecting a century’s worth of misery inflicted on those nations. For people in the Balkans, the past decade is the first time since about 1914 that life can be anything like “normal” as in relative peace and political freedom. This alone would make Serbia the prime candidate for restoration, and certainly not the only one. Serbia and Georgia stand out if only for the fact that demoralising post-Communist conflicts have only strengthened the case for restoration.
Such a powerful argument ought to resonate in Germany, Austria and Portugal, in terms of boosting the cause of monarchism which while marginalised in the first two and stronger in the third, given the disastrous experiences of all three nations over the 20th century. Whether it was Portugal’s instability and slide into dictatorship, the loss of the monarchies resulting in profound instability in Germany and Austria, resulting in a descent to Nazism, crimes against humanity, defeat in war, and the partition of Germany. Despite Germany’s post-war economic boom, no German could be happy with what happened over the course of that dreadful century. Hence it reasons that in all three countries, to be a monarchist is the only way you can be a reactionary. Because restoring the monarchies will do some justice, redeem the nation, and reject completely the dreadful legacies that cannot be washed away until a restoration is possible. Does that not make the argument in Germany, Austria and Portugal as strong as it is in post-Communist Europe? It would not be unreasonable, as such, to suggest that the most emotionally powerful monarchist argument to be made for Germany and Austria is that acceptance of present-day republics is also an implicit acceptance of Nazi Germany, the division of Germany, and the dreadful legacies of it all- a restoration would mean national redemption and a rejection of that historical legacy.
Indeed, such rejectionist reactionism manifests itself in this year’s Arab Spring: the use of the Kingdom of Libya’s flag by the eventually victorious revolutionaries, which includes monarchists, with the uprising originating in Benghazi, the stronghold of the old monarchy, where some participants even carried a portrait of King Idris I. In Syria, the flag of the 1932-58 (when Syria, like neighbouring Lebanon remains today, was essentially a republic dominated by traditional aristocracy) has been used by anti-Assad forces. That historical rejectionist aspect manifested itself in Poland in 1990, when Lech Walesa had succession conferred on him by the last President in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, further signifying the acceptance by democratic Poland that the “old” Polish Republic in Exile was the only legal and legitimate Polish government between 1939 and 1990. A similar situation occurred in Estonia following its independence in 1991 from illegal Soviet rule, its Government in Exile conferring succession on the newly independent state in a similar manner in 1992 (although some radicals set up a rival “government” in Nomme later that year, claiming the new government was illegitimate due what it believed was continued Russian “occupation”).
To demonstrate the relativity of reactionism, we can take the three monarchist movements in France today: Legitimists, Orleanists and Bonapartists. Legitimism narrowly means supporting the senior legitimate royal line based on Salic Law, but more broadly means the most ideologically reactionary monarchist movement, which rejects the symbols and legacy of the French Revolution, even though the Bourbon Restoration of 1815 did not undo certain reforms carried out (as in the metric system, decimal currency and local administration) but broadly rejected the substance of the Revolution. Orleanism, supporting the Dukes of Orleans which provided the last Bourbon sovereign of France, Louis-Philippe of the more liberal July Monarchy, is the strand of monarchism which reconciles itself to the French Revolution- but only to a degree, as they believe it should have ended with the establishment of constitutional monarchy (like Britain, Sweden and Poland, which before 1789 had been the most liberal monarchies in Europe). Bonapartism, partisans of the House of Bonaparte and seeking a restored French Empire, interprets the Revolution as a process of national rebirth from kingdom to empire. Regardless of one’s views on Napoleon (which are negative in terms of dragging Europe into a long and bloody war), a degree of credit goes to him only for stopping the worst excesses of the Revolution and seeking a kind of “third way” (which Orleanism, and liberal constitutional monarchism generally, in my view did rather better at).
While all three differ with regards to the Revolution, Legitimists being of course totally reactionary, all three monarchist movements are equally reactionary with respect to the French Republics since 1871, which they utterly reject even though monarchists do participate in its political life. Monarchists did win a majority in the first elections of the Third Republic (seen initially as a transitional stage to a restored Kingdom of France), but tragically no such restoration happened.
One can use a similar argument in Russia- that you can be a monarchist, liberal or socialist (the at least hypothetical heirs of 1905-17 monarchists, liberals, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks) and be reactionary in regards to Bolshevism, rejecting its horrific legacy outright, but only monarchists can be truly reactionary in all respects.
Hence the term reactionary, when applied to historical questions, can be claimed narrowly to monarchists on one hand and broadly to all anti-Communists on the other. Yet a deeper understanding of the term is required, explaining why a tradition of reactionary political thought entrenched itself in Europe and Latin America throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and why the “Anglosphere”- most broadly defining to Britain, the Commonwealth, the USA and Ireland- did not develop such an enduring tradition. Perhaps not until now!
Thus anti-Communist and monarchist reactionism is all about rejection of particular historical legacies. Revolutionary movements outright reject the Old Order, its tradition, culture and institutions, and those that go along with this rejection even if not subscribing to certain ideologies, are implicit in accepting the consequences of such a “revolution”. The nihilistic aspect of revolutions was evident in the French Revolution’s imposition of a new metric calendar, replacing a basic calendar system that had been used since the Roman Republic (the Julian Calendar, with the Gregorian Calender being but a reform of that system). This type of nihilism was blatantly displayed by the Khmer Rouge, and implicitly by the Taliban and virtually all other revolutionary regimes, even if they did not establish a “year zero”. And in the modern world, a certain type of nihilism is subtly implanted into many aspects of life- as in making those “that came before” somehow irrelevant!
The very fact that religious fundamentalist and puritan movements have a certain nihilistic element in their thinking highlights the utter absurdity of calling such movements “reactionary” or “ultraconservative” despite their extreme social conservatism. They represent a distortion, a very modern corrupted perversion of Christian and Muslim faiths, in contrast to the traditions of those religions which promoted art, science, culture and literature of unsurpassed splendour.
Roots and Shoots
The Jacobites, French Royalists (during the Revolution) and later Legitimists (after 1830) and Carlists are three examples of reactionary movements whose romantic appeal endures to this day. Portugal’s Miguelistas and various Italian regionalist monarchist movements being others in this category. Their schisms with other monarchists arouse out of succession disputes, but evolved into a much broader and deeper ideological movement rejecting modernism- liberalism, secularism, capitalism and centralism. It is also significant that Jacobite and Carlist movements influenced the Scottish, Irish, Basque and Catalan nationalist movements, and the influence of the Carlism on Basque and Catalan movements remains present even now. Ultimately, the ideological aspect of Jacobitism and Carlism became or at least should have become more important than the genealogical aspect upon extinction of the respective lines, as with French Legitimism.
Starting in the National Assembly of 1789, and continuing into the 20th century, the definitions on continental Europe and, by extension, Latin America of right and left, Conservative and Liberal, reactionary and revolutionary, remained quite stable. The Right were partisans of the ancien regime, yet a new kind of “right-wing” politics was emerging, a kind of “third way” seeking to compromise between reaction and revolution. Bonapartism was arguably one such attempt, as was Orleanism. The counterrevolutionary Legitimists were rightmost of the spectrum, the revolutionary Jacobins leftmost. Various strands of liberalism, including the new “liberal conservatism” that was a prefiguration of modern conservatism expressed not only in the comparatively more liberal monarchies (before 1789) of Britain, Sweden and Poland, but also of the Spanish and Sicilian constitutions of 1812 and France’s July Monarchy. The distinctions between these traditions became ever clearer with the Revolutions of 1848. Liberalism with its attendant secularism, anticlericalism and laissez-faire capitalism (which was originally considered a “left” and “radical” idea, believe it or not) gradually triumphed in much of Europe’s existing monarchies, but in Austria and Germany in the late 1870s (nearly a decade after the Dual Monarchy and German Unification) voters democratically overturned rampant liberalism. Liberals had, after all, been the main drivers of unification in Germany and Italy, with Conservatives being either in opposition or seeking to preserve as much of the Old Order as possible. Indeed, the Conservative coalition of 1880s Austria led by Eduard Taaffe enacted advanced welfare and labour legislation, shaming the more liberal societies of Britain and the United States. Even in Piedmont where Liberals dominated under the Savoys, there was a reactionary Conservative opposition led by Clemente Solaro.
Obviously, the destruction of the Old Order in World War I (the Portuguese monarchy had fallen four years prior, arguably the first tragically successful Jacobin revolution since 1789) as well as the rise of Communism and fascism, both being revolutionary movements that sought a new society of their own liking, reordered the playing board. In Germany, Austria and Portugal, monarchism in general became a truly reactionary movement, which it remains today. The entire harrowing experience between 1914 and 1989 (the author’s great-grandfather fought for Austria-Hungary in World War I and lived to see the end of Communism before his death, thus spanning the horrors of that period) can only lead a reasonable and actually enlightened person to utterly refute the alleged “progress” of the dreadful 20th century. A thoughtful reactionary does not deny the progress made in science, technology and medicine, but mourns the loss of the heart and soul of our world.
In Latin America, political traditions very much evolved out of European traditions. In most countries there were Conservatives who were philosophically identical to Spain’s Carlists, partisans of the Old Order who sought to preserve as much of it as possible in the new republics (or, in some cases, establish a monarchy), and Liberals, who were inspired by the same modernist ideals underpinning the French and American revolutions. Factional wars dominated the 19th and early 20th centuries, the last conflict war being the truly horrifying La Violencia of 1950s Colombia (ironically one of Latin America’s more resilient civilian democracies), which also contained another aspect of Jacobin and Marxist violence- violent anti-Catholicism. Indeed, anticlericalism has figured in 19th and 20th century Latin American liberal and leftist movements, despite the development of the Marxist-inspired heresy of Liberation Theology. Hence it was Colombia, Ecuador, Central America and Mexico that liberalism and conservatism clashed most fiercely.
Conservative reactions in Latin America were successful in Central America in 1838 (bringing about a collapse of the Central American federation), Ecuador in 1861, Mexico in 1863 Peru in 1868 and Colombia in 1886. Conservative leaders of the 19th century such as Rafael Carrera of Guatemala and the inimitable Gabriel Garcia Moreno of Ecuador, as well as the two short-lived Mexican empires typified the counterrevolutionary tradition, as was the caudillo Manuel Ignacio de Vivanco of Peru. The stark comparisons in Central America between Conservative regimes and the Liberal regimes that replaced them in the 1870s could be illustrated as such: the Conservatives respected the traditional institutions of colonial and even pre-colonial eras. They maintained the privileged position of the Catholic Church (Garcia Moreno condemning the fall of Rome in 1870, such was his intense devotion to Catholicism), protected the local economy, and respected the communal land rights of indigenous peoples, lands which they had lived and worked on since before the Conquest. It also explained why a not insignificant portion of Mexico’s indigenous population supported the effort to establish a new Mexican Empire under Maximilian. The Liberal Revolutions resulted in not only secularisation, but also the wholesale dispossession of indigenous and the peasantry in general, as well as foreign (especially American) economic domination. The US clearly preferred the Liberales over the Conservadores for that reason, whether in Mexico, Central America or Ecuador. A similar case in Nicaragua, where end of the Mosquito Kingdom on the Atlantic Coast followed the downfall of the last Conservative bastion in the isthmus falling to Liberals in 1893. All this paved the way for a sorrowful tale in the 20th century of grotesque injustices being committed resulting from the defence of the 19th century Liberal order.
Political evolution in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Costa Rica was rather more orderly despite periodic factional conflict (indeed, Chile’s awful 1970-90 years were but an exception in its relatively peaceful and democratic history). Yet both in Uruguay and Costa Rica, liberal anticlericalism provoked an organised Catholic reaction that resulted in an enduring Catholic political movement appearing in reaction. In Mexico, anticlericalism was entrenched after the Liberal and republican victory of 1867, and even more so after the Mexican Revolution (which essentially started as a conflict between the Liberal heirs of Diaz and Juarez). The Catholic reaction there resulted in the Cristero War, typifying the often savage persecutions of Catholics in the 20th century by radical secularists. Indeed, the main enemies of Catholicism in the last two centuries have been were Liberals and Marxists. This was the case in Switzerland, where the Sonderbund War reflected both Catholic reaction against Liberal anticlericalism as well as an expression of direct democracy, and in Germany, where Bismarck found support for his anti-Catholic campaign not from Protestants but secular Liberals.
The current if apparently receding “pink tide” in Latin America where leftist “progressive” governments have been democratically elected garnering much applause from Western “progressives”, despite the fact that the populist and nationalistic character of some of these governments (especially economic nationalism) seems at odds with the fact that these are the same people who are quick to denounce any kind of nationalism and populismin their own country. Again the irony is lost on the hypocrisy of these types of people. Once more, the use of the word “reactionary” to brand all opponents of the governments of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales is completely erroneous, reflecting the intellectual bankruptcy of the Western “progressive” Left and their eggers-on.
In Venezuela, the opponents of Hugo Chavez are extremely incoherent ideologically, even including anti-revisionist Communists. Neither are supporters of Chavez any more coherent ideologically. Obviously, most anti-Chavez people and groups are not “reactionary” but more broadly liberal democrats, not all of whom support a return to neoliberalism. Yet in Venezuela there is a more authentically reactionary tradition, represented by Perezjimenistas, who revere the late military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez, the last of the Andean caudillos that dominated Venezuela between 1899 and 1958, whose 10-year rule (1948-58) is widely regarded as one of the most brutal in 20th century Latin America. Yet a Perezjimenista party was electorally successful in the 60s and 70s, espousing his “New National Ideal”, and the Perezjimenista movement still exists. A glimpse at online discussions of these groups reveals a reactionary analysis: they reject equally both Chavismo and the liberal elites (puntofijismo) that ruled Venezuela from 1958 to 1998, claiming that 50 years of “democracy” has done little for the economy or the quality of life of ordinary Venezuelans (an argument frankly difficult to refute on the basis of evidence). Chavez had invited Perez Jimenez to his inauguration, which did not materialise due to the he causes revulsion among the elites, yet was interesting enough for the fact that Chavez and Perez Jimenez, both military men, would appear to be on the opposite of the spectrum. It is interesting that not only Marcos Perez Jimenez but caudillos before him who have been portrayed as “backwards” and (often rightly) despotic have now been portrayed in a more positive light by some, who believe that half a century of relatively stable democracy has failed the nation.
Similarly, the analyses of Bolivia from Western sources has demonstrated an astonishing ignorance and a lack of understanding of the historical nuances, leading to the same weasel words like “reactionary” and “fascist” being blatantly abused. The government of Evo Morales is best understood as a resurrection of the statism and broader economic nationalism of the 1952-85 period, merely extending decentralisation and education reforms of the now-reviled 90s “neoliberal” governments, and a repeat of Bolivia’s historical cycle of power groups coalescing and then disintegrating which it has at various points in the country’s history. Furthermore, an analysis of this evolution showed that the most significant historical breaks were in 1899- when power shifted from the Conservatives, the silver magnates and landowning aristocracy of Sucre, to the Liberals, a divergent group based around La Paz ruling on behalf of the tin barons who were Bolivia’s de facto rulers until the 1952 Revolution, that brought the MNR to power, marking the culmination of a process that began with radicalisation of the most progressive faction of the elite (and concurrently of the Marxist Left and Catholic Right- the latter producing the influential Bolivian Socialist Falange) which led to the liquidation of the tin barons and the liberal capitalism they represented. That this cycle is being repeated throughout Bolivian history, and that Morales’ government resembles the MNR and Rene Barrientos regimes more than anything, refutes Western leftist analyses convincingly. The FSB may have represented, with its Catholic corporatism, the most reactionary right-wing line in Bolivian politics for decades, yet its influence on the country’s powerful social movements also cannot be underestimated, with former members even serving the current government.
A similar failure of analyses, disregarding the nuances of history, also applies to Nicaragua. The class and power structure of the country has altered relatively little since independence. Much of the old Conservative and Liberal elites who competed for power for nearly a century had long despised the Somoza regime (itself arising out of a Liberal faction) and welcomed the 1979 Revolution, whose only lasting effect was to allow the admission of Daniel Ortega and his FSLN into the establishment. That was the lone outcome of the elite settlement which underpins today’s democracy in Nicaragua, with Ortega even embracing certain “rightist” positions (such as that on abortion).
Equality of Enemies
If there is anything truly “egalitarian” about leftist revolutionaries, be they of the Jacobin or Bolshevist varieties, it is that they do not discriminate when it comes to enemies of the revolution regarding their political affiliation, race, class, gender or religion- all are “equal” in being targets for persecution and extermination. This has manifested itself repeatedly since 1789: the Royalists and liberal Girondins were both victims of Jacobin terrorism in France, likewise the monarchists, liberals, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were all victims of Bolshevism in Russia, and similarly the anti-Communist Left was as much persecuted as the Right by Communist regimes in Europe and beyond. Indeed, the Ho Chi Minh regime in Vietnam persecuted leftist opponents.
The “equality of enemies” factor was also evident in Spain during the Second Spanish Republic (1931-39), a truly horrifying period of Spanish history in which quite possibly more people were killed in political violence than during the Inquisition, and anti-Catholic violence reaching extraordinary savagery. The violence was so horrifying that it provoked a split amongst Republicans and subsequent realignments. On the Right, the Carlist and Alfonsine monarchists now had found some common ground. The main Basque and Catalan nationalist parties were conservative and Catholic, being influenced by Carlism. And by 1933, more moderate Republicans realised that they had more in common with the Catholic and monarchist Right than the Left, which allowed veteran PRR leader Alejandro Lerroux to form a coalition with the Right, which did not hold.
When Spain went to the polls in 1936, there was a contest between two blocs: the Popular Front representing the Marxist and Jacobin Left, who were violently anti-Catholic, and the Catholic and monarchist Right, encompassing Alfonsine and Carlist groups whereas actual fascists were in fact a very small minority, contrary to what some may have the public believe today. Caught in the middle were the Basque and Catalan nationalists, and moderate Republicans like Lerroux, Miguel Maura and Melquiades Alvarez. These “centre” groups shared the Right’s fear and disdain of Communism, yet chose to go it alone at the polls. So the result was that the two anti-Communist blocs actually won a majority of the vote, but their division and the electoral system delivered a majority of seats to the Popular Front. Provocations of the Left included the murder of leading Carlist Victor Pradera, leading Alfonsine José Calvo Sotelo, and even the veteran Republican Melquiades Alvarez, all victims of savage violence from the Left. Whilst Franco’s repression in his 36-year rule cannot be defended, and indeed his centralism and suppression of Basque and Catalan identities were in fact a betrayal of Catholic teaching and especially of Carlists’ commitment to subsidiarity, the alternative was simply far worse- quite possibly on the scale of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Yet Hollywood ignores this.
Does Evolution obstruct Reaction? How the Anglosphere differs.
It is fair to argue that, beyond Jacobitism, no enduring comprehensive reactionary tradition (at least going beyond social and cultural questions to historical ones) has persisted in the Anglosphere- by which I mean Britain, Ireland, the Commonwealth and the United States- in comparison to the more profound reactionism in Europe and Latin America. This has been shaped by many factors, specifically the wholesale acceptance of the Glorious Revolution and American Revolution respectively by the political elites, and the fact that beyond those revolutions, the Anglosphere has not experienced the political earthquakes of Europe and Latin America. Thus evolution rather than revolution has been the order of the day, for better or worse. It may also explain an innate conservatism on constitutional matters exhibited by voters in Commonwealth nations and even in the United States. Voters in Australia and a few other Commonwealth Realms rejected republicanism at the polls, reflecting either conservatism or apathy on behalf of voters depending on one’s point of view.
In 1678, 18 years after Charles II was restored to his rightful throne to end a decade of the bigotry and incipient totalitarianism of Cromwell, the Tory and Whig parties first emerged around the Exclusion Bill crisis. The Tories (the term, Irish in origin, once meant “Papist Outlaw”) were opponents of the bill whilst the more liberal Whigs (more than tinged with anti-Catholicism) supported it. The Glorious Revolution is considered to have been the triumph of Whiggery, as well as the establishment of the principles of liberal parliamentary democracy, the ascent to power of a Whig oligarchy that would create a centralised British state and the Empire. Not all Tories were Jacobites, but all Jacobites were Tories. The old Tory party was a party of reaction, against the Whig oligarchy. One of the leading ideologues of this original Toryism was Samuel Johnson, who opposed slavery and considered perpetual poverty intolerable, and who said “the first Whig is the Devil”- a prelude to Pope Pius IX’s strident condemnations of liberalism in the 19th century. The original Tories died out in 1760, although a few romantics keep alive the ideals to this day, with Gerald Warner being among its proponents.
The new Tory party would be led by men like William Pitt the Younger, with a new brand of conservatism underpinned by the ideals of Edmund Burke, guiding the Conservative Party until the Thatcher Revolution of the 1970s, considered by Peter Hitchens and other reactionaries a betrayal of traditional conservative principles. But you get the point: evolution rather than reaction guides conservatism in much of the Anglosphere, with the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Australia (itself a result of the merger of liberal, conservative, and even Labor dissident groups) and similar parties in other Commonwealth realms typifying this.
Ultimately, a certain kind of liberalism guides the Commonwealth’s parliamentary democracies. A fundamentalist commitment to such was typified by 19th century English liberals like William Gladstone, whose scathing condemnation of reactionary Catholic regimes on the continent overlooked the fact that pre-unification Italian states protected their local economies and did not exploit child labour as England’s coal mines did or practice the racially-based slavey of the US, both more liberal states in any case! Never mind the brutal conquest of the Two Sicilies resulted in economic destruction and emigration.
The political evolution of the United States, from the time prior to the American Revolution, would appear rather more complex. In the Continental Congress, three factions emerged: the Radicals, Moderates and Conservatives, the last one being identifiable with the term “Tory” and “Loyalist” as typified by Joseph Galloway. American Loyalism did not develop into an enduring political movement, and American conservatism has followed a broadly evolutionary path, even more so after Jeffersonians (the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, which can be considered the lineal ancestor of both Democratic and Republican parties) triumphed in 1800 over Washingtonians (the Federalist Party, formed to support George Washington). Thus the inheritors of the most radical faction of the Revolution and the early period became the ancestor of present-day American politics. A similar political family tree can trace from the Spanish patriots of 1812, most of its political traditions in subsequent decades.
Perhaps it is in the current climate that genuine reactionism, against prevailing social, economic and cultural norms of the modern liberal state consensus, is possible. The unease people feel about neoliberalism, globalisation, multiculturalism and rampant Political Correctness and its danger to freedom and civility (which I consider a far greater threat than Islamic extremism) has created the conditions for such. Yet it is necessary to prevent any Leftist monopoly on opposition to neoliberalism and globalisation, as they invariably tie it to an agenda of attempting to impose PC (the Frankfurt version of Communism, if we are brutally honest) onto unwilling people. The emergence of the phenomenon of “right-wing populism” in the West has been a manifestation of discontent with the liberal consensus. Yet even neo-conservative arguments against multiculturalism are fundamentally flawed: what exactly is there worth defending about our modern “culture” with its nihilistic banality and vulgarity, expressing itself every time we turn on the TV?
Here in Australia, our main hopes lie in parties that position themselves to the right of the conservative Liberal/National Coalition. The Christian Democratic Party of Fred Nile and Family First, both with a high profile and representation, are too narrowly based in evangelical and Pentecostal movements respectively to gain much traction, despite their genuine social conservative principles. More potential is seen in the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and the newest of the four parties, Katter’s Australian Party.
The DLP emerged in 1955 as a right-wing anti-Communist split from the ALP, with no lack of encouragement by Bob Santamaria and the Catholic hierarchy. For years, it was a key component of the anti-Communist vanguard in Australia, as well as being noted for its Catholic-influenced social conservatism. The DLP went into decline and dissolved itself in 1978, but the party was almost immediately refounded in its stronghold of Victoria. In 2006 it returned to the Victorian state upper house, and in 2010 it won a seat in the federal Senate. Just this year, long-time independent MP Bob Katter formed a new party, Katter’s Australian Party, already mobilising disaffected conservatives ahead of next year’s state election. I see both the DLP and Katter’s Australian Party as the basis for a new traditionalist movement that may point the way forward elsewhere. Such a movement would be welcomed in Britain today, where neither the UKIP nor the vile BNP offer any useful alternative to disillusioned traditionalists. It has to be understood that in Australia, both Labor and Liberal are traditionally “broad church” parties, and Labor attracted a significant constituency of socially conservative voters to the right of many Liberals. This explains in no small part the fact that right-wing splits such as the DLP and the less-known Advance Australia Party emerged.
Ultimately the emergence of such a movement can only be beneficial in restoring sanity to political discourse, in confounding the distortion of the modern political spectrum. The abuse of the terms right and left in economic matters is at odds with the fact that one of the vanguards of old school conservatism in this country, long-time Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, pursued economic policies that were quite the opposite of neoliberalism, leaving a developmentalist legacy to the state married to staunch conservatism shaped by his own monarchism and Lutheranism. He was similar in many respects to Maurice Duplessis of Quebec, both men being hate figures for the Left. It is this kind of traditionalist conservatism that Katter and the DLP best typify in this country, more so than any mainstream party in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada or Britain.
Reactionism and traditionalism can be applied anytime and anywhere, a rejection of modernist ills and erroneous liberal and Marxist-inspired solutions (which, ironically, seek to cure problems seen as being inflicted by the West with yet more Western-inspired ideology!). It applies as much to Europe as it can to Asia and Africa. In Africa, the retention of monarchies within the modern republican nation-states (whether “nation” can apply to such divergent colonial creations is frankly dubious) has served as an institution of continuity and tradition in contrast to often unstable modern institutions. Similarly, the revival of interest in monarchy in Indonesia has coincided with democracy- both constituting a rejection of over 50 years of centralism, authoritarianism and the virtual Javanese hegemony or supremacy it represents. The successful restoration of monarchies in Uganda is similarly a reactionary rejection of the horrifying legacies of Milton Obote and Idi Amin. The restorations in Cambodia and Spain can also be considered to represent as much, Cambodia in particular after unprecedented traumas. Surely this also applies to Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
As monarchists, we tend to see monarchism as the key component of our reactionary outlook. Indeed this resonates where monarchism in post-Communist Europe, even in Portugal, Austria and Germany, are concerned when the experiences of the 20th century is taken into account. Yet monarchism must be part of a broader reactionism against the failures of modernity, manifesting itself in economic crisis, social dysfunction, and cultural and moral bankruptcy. We must not let the so-called “Progressives” dictate discourse on these matters, for their “solutions” will invariably lead to greater destruction of human civilisation. What we can point out is the fact that not only did worse regimes almost always replace monarchies, but injustices perpetrated by politicians and corporate are far greater today than those of the ancien regime- indeed, because our modern liberal democracy and liberal consensus politics allows politicos, corporate and quangos more power over our lives than absolute monarchies once had. Why else do we hear “executive power theories” floated about the US presidency? Today’s royals and aristocrats are far more like us as commoners, as actually normal people, than politicians and corporate executives of today who are far more out of touch with the common man than at any time in modern history.
China today provides a ghastly vision of a nihilistic rejection of tradition and the replacement of tradition and spirituality with a humanistic materialism, all under control of the state. The result was not only atrocities on an unprecedented scale under Mao during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, but the resultant nihilism has led to a culture of appalling greed and immorality exhibited not only by the CCP and big business, but a disturbing percentage of ordinary Chinese. If we continue on our own nihilistic path of rejecting tradition and putting materialistic concerns before all else, this is exactly where we will end up. Only by re-embracing tradition and turning back the clock on some of the most dreadful developments in our lifetimes, can this world be a better place.
What too many fail to realise, is that it’s not too late. It will take a new generation of intellectuals, to further the pleas of such people as Peter Hitchens and Michael Coren. We cannot miss this.
I make no apologies for the sentiments voiced on here. Plenty of terms of abuse have become badges of honour, and the word reactionary that was once honourable in many quarters has become a nasty slur directed at anyone who disagrees with prevailing “wisdom” and “enlightenment” that, far from making humanity more advanced, is threatening to make humanity less human than ever before. I have put reactionary thinking into many aspects of my life and with my life passions, as one can see. Not simply in my commitment to Catholicism and monarchism, but also in my criticism of modern developments in the automotive world, sport, and many other facets of life. The erroneous use of “reactionary” by modern leftists and liberals to describe neo-conservatives, neo-Nazis, and religious “fundamentalists” demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of what those groups really are: modernists who feel their agenda can be implemented without regard for authentic tradition. If we went by the standards of the “long 19th century” of 1789-1914, relatively few of today’s mainstream conservatives would have been placed on the right of the spectrum.
What I made an attempt to do was not only define the strictest term of “reactionary” in terms of being counterrevolutionary, legitimist and traditionalist, but also in explaining it as a broader rejection of certain historical failures for their devastating effects on any given nation. Most notably this applies to Communism and its legacy, which is rightfully rejected by the majority even if it is yet to be fully undone and “gotten over”. That I point out that leftists can also be reactionary with regards to Communism, in terms of rejecting it, shows an understanding of the deep revulsion felt. Or the fact that post-Communist Europe’s broad rejection of Political Correctness, for most part, demonstrates an understanding of what it really means and where it came from. The fact that certain traditionally anti-Communist Left currents (like World Socialists and DeLeonists) have a “same but different” understanding of what Communism and fascism really are, than many of the seemingly gullible modern masses out there (like self-proclaimed “anti-fascists” who clearly don’t know what fascism really is!) is quite remarkable from a right-wing perspective like my own.
It takes an unreconstructed believer to best deconstruct the infantile discourse of modern times and the tragically misguided thinking that has evolved under the watch of both the Frankfurt School and Milton Friedman, both of whom were made possible by some of the most savage revolutionary movements the world has seen. Indeed, what Leftists are uncomfortable with is the fact that Asian have been vastly more successful than the West, culturally and economically, without compromising traditional values and with far greater social cohesion as a result. Similarly, the irony that so-called “Progressives” are really as dogmatic and intolerant as those they claim to hate is lost on them completely, as it is on most people on the origins of Political Correctness. Thus we can conclude that the end of the Old Order did not make this world more just and civilised, but in fact much less so. I relish the fact that I am able to explain the origins of conservatism and liberalism, their evolution, and further advance the cause of monarchism through doing so. Yet I recognise that while monarchism is a very important part of what I am espousing (without which I wouldn’t be explaining this on here), it is but one part of the causes I advance to meet the challenge of the modern world.