The “Reactionary Movement” has experienced significant growth over the past year or so. There are now dozens of “reactionary” blogs publishing articles with varying frequency and quality. There are perhaps 300 self-styled “reactionaries” on twitter alone, not exactly the place one would expect to find them, and an even larger sphere of traditionalists and conservatives are starting to encounter and identify with reactionary ideas. The West has, as Solzhenitsyn said, reached a critical turning point where the old values of the Enlightenment have stopped working. Cultures are disintegrating, populations are collapsing, budgets cannot be balanced, wars cannot be won, ethnic tensions are rising, and spiritual anomie is at a height. Enlightenment thought only offers more liberty, more equality, more rights, more free trade, and more diversity than we already have as solutions to these problems. As the aforementioned problems continue to get worse, often fueled by the supposed solutions, more and more people from across the political spectrum are looking for a credible alternative. Reactionary thought provides a credible alternative at this critical turning point, or at least helps people see through the grosser lies of the political and cultural elite class, and has shown the ability to attract a wide variety of people: California techies, Southern tradesmen, Northeastern students & professionals, Latin American Catholics, Continental rationalists, etc.
On the other hand, let’s not kid ourselves. Among the cultural and political elite, whether “conservative” or “liberal,” concepts like democracy, equality, open borders, and diversity remain sacred, and are relentlessly pushed onto the rootless masses through public schools, legislation, and television. Some reactionaries regard this elite as a powerful, organized institution (a “Cathedral”). I prefer to see it like the Cyclops of the Odyssey: big, powerful, somewhat intelligent, and occasionally destroying unfortunate men, yet also blundering, arrogant, and increasingly blind and confused. Whatever the name it is not something to be trifled with, and now is certainly not the time for infighting and division among reactionaries.
At this moment, however, we are starting to see infighting and division within the reactionary movement. These divisions seem to involve to questions: 1) what does it mean to be “reactionary?” 2) what does it mean to be a “movement?” I will attempt to briefly lay out answers to both these questions that will help us avoid confusion and mitigate potential conflicts.
What does it mean to be a “reactionary?” We have taken very different paths to get here, led by different authors (Evola, Spengler, Aristotle, Confucius, Davila, De Maistre, Sobran, Fleming, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, etc.), different blogs (Mencius Moldbug, the Orthosphere), and with varying degrees of interest in science and technology. Yet it is fairly easy to establish common intellectual ground: first, reactionaries agree that the victory of the left’s abstract, universal ideologies over the particular cultural traditions, political institutions, and established religion of the West was generally a bad thing, and seek to explain why liberal political and social forces have consistently triumphed from the French Revolution of 1789 down to the present day. Second, reactionaries believe that it is natural and moral for a man to be particularly attached to his kin and culture, and that sharing these particular attachments is the foundation of an authentic, resilient society.
The problem, I think, is that we do not agree what it means to be a “movement”. The “neoreactionaries” – centered around Moldbug and doing most of the writing – view reaction as an intellectual movement. Their goal is to step outside of partisan political squabbling and the “culture wars” to look at how leftists think and why they erroneously believe what they do, using philosophy and empiricism to deconstruct those errors in ways conventional conservatives have never thought of and liberals will have a very difficult time rebutting. Neoreactionaries also want to look at why – in an abstract, structural way – leftist cultural movements have consistently succeeded and traditionalist movements have consistently failed, even if they do not seem very interested in organizing and leading a traditionalist movement, themselves. The neoreactionaries are also characterized by an affinity for the “meta” level of discourse. They want to show why the institution of monarchy is inherently better than mass democracy, regardless of who the monarch is. They want to show why it is good for a civilization to have an established, institutional religion that upholds non-relativist moral principles but avoids micro-managing private life, regardless of whether the divine revelation underpinning that religion actually occurred.
The strength of neoreaction is that it is presents reactionary ideas in the most empirical and abstractly intellectual way possible. It stands the best chance of converting “open minded progressives” to reaction, and allowing reactionaries to assume respected positions within the cultural/political “Cathedral,” converting it into a neutral or even positive influence on mass society. The abstraction and intellectualism of neoreaction are also its weaknesses. Most men need something tangible, not abstract, to believe in and fight for. Furthermore, the objective of becoming the Establishment means that neoreactionaries have to be careful about “going negative” and blaming this or that group or force for our present problems, rather than talking about our problems in a general sense. Finally there is the risk of winding up like Buckley and his “conservative” movement, which was so desperate for respectability that it accomplished nothing meaningful, instead devolving into polysyllabic, pseudo-elitist posing. Though all the neoreactionaries I know seem to be made of sterner stuff than Buckley ever was.
The regular “reactionaries” are greater in number than the neoreactionaries, though less prolific in their writing. They view reaction as a cultural and, to a lesser extent, political movement. In terms of culture, their goal seems to be the rediscovery, sharing, and appreciation of the particular cultural attributes of the West (the music, the art, the literature, history, etc.) rather than formulating an abstract intellectual justification for those things. They also emphasize the value of everyday life – getting married, having children, and raising them well – rather than plans to become a new elite. They do engage in intellectual thought, but it generally consists of reinterpreting leftist historical narratives, upholding the natural law ethical tradition, and defending the truth of orthodox Christianity. They are also more willing to wrestle with the particular political issues of the day, and offer a “reactionary” view on the latest bombing campaign or “civil rights” crusade. There is plenty of overlap with the neoreactionaries, but reactionaries clearly favor the particular over the abstract: If the neoreactionaries support monarchy in and of itself, the reactionaries defend the House of Stuart . Few harbor the belief that a Stuart will ever return to the throne, but it gives reactionaries something with a real history and culture to identify with. At the very least, talking about monarchy will get people to stop blindly worshipping democracy and universal suffrage, and start working toward practical reactionary political goals that a conventional American “conservative” would never think of (e.g. restricting suffrage to taxpayers over 30 who are married with children).
The strength of the regular “reactionaries” is the value they put on action. Having families, attending Church, defending our ancestors, founding private schools, and passing on our actual culture is a sine qua non. Without mass action, reaction will become a handful of Moldbugs passing around witty little arguments for monarchy. The weakness of the regular “reactionaries” is the lack of a unified strategy, a streak of intellectual philistinism and the tendency to rant and jockey for status on twitter, instead of really acting.
When we talk about the “lack of unified strategy” we are primarily talking about the question of “going negative.” Some of us view the present state of our society as our own collective fault. Others see a variety of subgroups (feminists, Puritans, etc.) as conspiring to destroy Western society. The former group dislikes going negative because they believe the negative accusations are inaccurate generalizations and/or they think the accusations will ruin the hard work of the neoreactionaries to become a new elite. They fear “reaction” becoming labeled as a poor imitation of the Alternative Right, unable to grow beyond a certain point and perpetually fantasizing about the apocalypse as political salvation. The latter group believes that their negative descriptions are both truthful and must be pointed out and widely understood for anything to actually be accomplished. It is self-explanatory why the tendency toward intellectual philistinism and/or spending all day ranting via anonymous twitter accounts is a problem.
What is to be done, then? First, we need to see neoreaction and reaction as cooperating toward a common goal through somewhat different strategies, rather than as competitors. Neoreactionaries work hard to philosophically justify the impulses and attachments that come to reactionaries naturally. These intellectual justifications are necessary to hold off attempts by the elite to coerce reactionaries into becoming leftists. To paraphrase Lenin a bit, you may not be interested in the intellectual elite, but the intellectual elite is interested in you. The presence of even a small number of reactionaries in the elite will significantly restrain the destructive ability of the current elite. Furthermore the ability of neoreactionaries to look at things at an abstract/”meta” level allows them to discern and articulate the unifying themes of reaction. Without the unifying themes of the neoreactionaries, I fear reaction would quickly break down into competing factions (Catholics, Orthodox, Nationalists, etc.) and antagonistic personalities, ultimately accomplishing nothing. The neoreactionaries, on the other hand, should not scorn the regular reactionaries for providing and defending actual cultural, religious, and intellectual traditions. Without them reaction, no matter how rational, would ultimately be an empty shell.
We also need to stop trying to impose one reactionary “strategy”. If someone wants to “go negative” and be politically incorrect, that is their choice and strategy. The rest of us should not be compelled to go along, but as reactionaries we are obligated to defend their right to be politically incorrect, rather than squirm and condemn. On the other hand, someone who “goes negative” should not try to drag everyone else into going negative. Some people have dry academic styles, others want to focus on a vigorous yet positive defense of the West as a whole rather than blaming other groups. Each strategy can do things the other strategies cannot, and each has inherent limitations in what it can accomplish. Vive la difference.
Two final points. First, people need to stop being private to the point of paranoia. The reactionary blogger Raptros has aptly described reaction as an “ Aquarium”. The moment a non-reactionary taps on the glass, everyone runs to hide in the rocks and weeds. It is understandable that a young professional doesn’t want all his private thoughts on politics and society to be googled, but don’t be so averse to meeting up in real life or networking through email. Get off the computer and do something. Read books, and start an intellectually rigorous blog. Maybe someday we will have an actual conference with speakers: who knows? But you have to stick your neck out, if only a little bit. Second, we have a problem with trolling. Trolling feminists, etc. can be fun – and some of these people do need to be shamed into reflection – but trolling other reactionaries threatens to rip the movement apart, and trolling people with personal insults rather than strong arguments while calling yourself a “reactionary” damages the reactionary brand name and threatens to undermine the disciplined work of the neoreactionaries and more intellectual reactionaries to build a viable philosophy and movement. A real reactionary values courtesy, manners and restraint. People who troll other reactionaries or personally insult strangers while calling themselves “reactionaries” should be warned and disassociated if they persist. There are plenty of other right-wing subgroups out there lobbing insults and accomplishing nothing.
Liberalism is at its peak. Reactionaries are a bit like the Greeks of the Iliad, beaten back to their ships and afraid they may be overwhelmed and pushed into the ocean itself. Like those Greeks, we may get back to the walls of Troy and even breach those walls, but it will take all the leadership of Agamemnon, all the wisdom of Odysseus, and all the audacity of Achilles, plus a considerable amount of help from the gods. Now is not the time for reactionaries to descend into petty squabbling. ”Loyalty is the emotion that sustains reactionaries.”