Last November, I wrote an article for the Burkean entitled “In Defence of Conservatism”. It drew two responses, one in December of that year (“Rebuking Conservatism”, 07/12/2020) and one nine months later (“Does Conservatism Pave the Way for Progressivism”, 11/09/2021). Both authors took a rather dim view of my piece. According to the first, my arguments were: “exactly what we have come to expect from status-quo conservatives – misrepresentation, straw-man, and weakness.” The second was even more damning: according to him, my article “highlights the mental decay of a mind infected with the pernicious, debilitating, mind-virus of conservatism.” Burn!

I get the impression, from the vigour of these responses, that they were both written by young men. For my part, I can only reply from the mellowness of middle age. 

My reply would be: Look, I get it. You’ve seen conservatives lose battle after battle. Gay marriage. Abortion. The apparently relentless onslaught of political correctness. The unquestioning embrace of post-nationalist multiculturalism. You are tired of always fighting losing battles and you want to go on the attack. 

You believe conservatives have conserved nothing. I will address that claim in a moment. However, I think it only fair to ask the corresponding question: what have post-conservatives achieved? What have the populist right, the New Right, the Dark Enlightenment, the Neo-Reactionaries, the Alt-Right, the Alt-Lite, and the whole array of other post-conservative movements achieved? What might they realistically achieve, in Ireland particularly? 

Judging from their presence in comment boxes and on social media, one might think the populist right is burgeoning in Ireland. However, the inarguable facts of the ballot box tell a different story. Parties such as The National Party, the Irish Freedom Party, and Anti-Corruption Ireland poll dismally at every election.

Nor has the populist right in any way moderated the hegemony of the liberal left in Ireland, or indeed elsewhere. The Overton window has not been held open one half-inch by all the efforts of keyboard and webcam warriors, but rather it continues to shrink. Big Tech and the mainstream media has managed to swat away anyone who challenges the globalist, liberal secular-narrative, driving them to alternative platforms where “normies” will never happen upon them.

The populist right may have played some part in bringing about the annus mirabilis of 2016, which saw the election of Donald Trump and the vote for Brexit. However, it’s hard to see either of these as post-conservative triumphs. I doubt that Nigel Farage has even heard of Julius Evola, and Trump is essentially Pat Buchanan with charisma. It’s telling that Richard Spencer announced his support for Biden over Trump in the 2020 election. 

My purpose is not to mock the populist right, or to rub their faces in their own failure. Being a fuddy-duddy conservative, I believe in fighting losing battles for their own sake. I happen to believe the post-conservative right is fighting the wrong battles, but I don’t fault them for fighting losing battles.

One might say that this new “red-pilled” right is very young, that it has (in the words of the Carpenters) only just begun. Realistically, however, what prospects lie before it?

We live in a globalized, networked world a million miles from the ethnically near-homogeneous, heavily Christian nation states that existed in Europe before World War II, and for some time afterwards. Fantasies of autarky that never even worked in the twentieth century are, today, untenable even as fantasies. The idea of a (counter)-revolutionary right-wing government coming to power, democratically or otherwise, in a country like Ireland is a ridiculous utopian, or dystopian fantasy, according to your own taste. We are simply never going to see a neo-reactionary regime sweep into office and radically reverse the liberal agenda. The first thing that would happen would be a rush of foreign investment out of the country. Globalization is the only game in town. The only question is how we play it. We would do well, perhaps, to pursue Pope Francis’s ideal: “globalization of the polyhedron, not the sphere”. That is, a model of globalization that seeks to avoid homogenization.

If one chooses to make an idol of success, perhaps one should note that the record of the reactionary right in Ireland has been dismal. The extreme right Ailtirí na hAiséirí party never achieved more than a few local election successes, and Catholic integrist groups such as Maria Duce and An Rioghacht never had any serious influence among the hierarchy, the clergy, or the laity. This at a time when Ireland was overwhelmingly Catholic and nationalist. And yet these  are the sort of names one hears invoked by the young Turks of the Irish right who tell us that  traditional conservatism has never achieved anything!

Now let me return to the claim that conservatives have never achieved anything. If you restrict your vantage point to the last thirty years, that might be true. Extend it a little further and it’s harder to maintain. Was not, for example, the defeat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War a resounding triumph for conservatism? The figures most often given credit for this achievement— Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, St. John Paul II, Lech Walesa— were all figures who fit comfortably into the “conservative” label.

Besides, let’s think of how much has actually been preserved. For all the advances of political correctness, we still live in societies with a large measure of religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and so on. The nation-state endures, weakened as it is. The Christian churches, and other religious organizations, continue to play a role in society, and have successfully endured the New Atheist moment when they seemed under serious threat.

Another achievement I would list for “old-fashioned” conservatism is the history of Ireland from the achievement of independence to, perhaps, the nineteen-nineties. Irish conservatives were rightly devastated by the abortion referendum result of 2018, which signalled the ultimate rout of traditional, Catholic Ireland. But we could just as well look at it the other way: that it took that long for the liberal-secularists (who had been hard at work since the fifties at least) to achieve their final victory. Enoch Powell famously said that all political lives end in failure. In fact, everything in this world ends in failure; no victory is permanent. Ireland came close to fulfilling the dream of Pearse and De Valera for many decades: a Christian nation, and a nation that was at least making a valiant effort to reclaim its Gaelic culture. That achievement stands in history on its own merits, and can inspire us for the future.

My critics may point out that I have ignored many of their criticisms. Indeed I have. If I responded to them all, this article would never end. I will not, for instance, make a detailed defence of my claim that the crimes of anti-democratic societies are far worse than those perpetrated by democracies. I will leave this to the common sense of the reader. Criticism of democracy has become a commonplace amongst the neo-reactionary right in Ireland; I sometimes feel like asking such critics which of the current one-party states or theocracies they would prefer to move to.

Instead of trying to answer everything, I will address the matter of religion, a much-vexed question in the pages of the Burkean. One of my critics invoked “a traditional Christian worldview”, although he was not more specific than that. It’s fair to say that the populist right in Ireland is either anti-Christian, opposing the universalist claims of the religion, or appeal to a Traditionalist, integrist, pre-Vatican II model of Catholicism.

The problem is that it’s not open to Catholics to reject the Second Vatican Council— the largest assembly of Catholic bishops in history, and a binding ecumenical council, whether or not it propounded any dogmas.

Nor is it permissible for Catholics to disregard the teaching of the vast majority of bishops in union with the Pope, as we so frequently see on the radical right— for instance, in the matter of religious pluralism. Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution of the Church, puts it succinctly: “Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” So no, it is really not an option to choose the Magisterium of Taylor Marshall and E. Michael Jones over that of the actual Magisterium.

Those who would set the historical Magisterium of the Church against the living Magisterium often appeal to documents like Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors. However, they often overlook the twenty-second error, which reads thus: “The obligation by which Catholic teachers and authors are strictly bound is confined to those things only which are proposed to universal belief as dogmas of faith by the infallible judgment of the Church.” A condemnation which, taken seriously, would render silent the vast majority of right-wing (and left-wing) dissent from the teaching Magisterium. If Cardinal Cullen and Archbishop McQuaid were with us today, they would undoubtedly give them a firm belt of the crozier and tell them to listen to their God-ordained pastors.

In closing I would like to quote the words of Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Do what you can. Use what you have.” Conservatives have suffered grievous losses in our lifetime. Our response should not be to retreat into fantasy, building castles in air, or the politics of protest. Our response should be to face reality, apply solid conservative values to the situation we find ourselves in, and to continue fighting the good, gradual, painstaking fight. In the great words of Tennyson’s Ulysses:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Posted by Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh

7 Comments

  1. Another attempt to discredit everything but limp-wristed, dead-end conservatism.

    Despite electoral unpopularity for radical right at present, it does not follow that the solution is to embrace a conservatism which has been equally unsuccessful, and indeed will have far worse prospects in coming years. Trends in much of Europe indicate increasing support for Far Right parties, whereas conservatism is destined to continue its decline. In a continent where a radical future looks more likely, it would be pointless for an Irish Right to compromise upon principles to more closely resemble a ‘respectable’ conservatism already on its last legs.

    Perhaps most irritatingly, the author attempts to baptise “conservatism” as understood above, as some position of catholic orthodoxy, when in reality it stands largely opposed to much of the historic political thought of the Church. Attachment to Pre-Vatican II thinking is written off with statement “nor is it permissible for Catholics to disregard the teaching of the vast majority of bishops in union with the Pope” as if magisterium has formally condemned all political thought except 20th century liberal democracy ,-an absurdity. Reality of magisterial authority is far more complex than is being implied, and is founded upon belief that prior historic teaching cannot be contradicted.

    Of course, a right wing must play the electoral game and provide the electorate with a palatable program. This can done outside of the confines of conservatism. Conservatism is dead. It holds no attraction to young Irish people. Why compromise upon a more ambitious radical program to secure an extra 2% of boomer votes which won’t exist in 15 years?

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  2. Maybe there is no, left or right anymore? Just the critical thinkers and the rest who unquestioning everything and get on with their lives, was it not always like that? was it not always two minorities vying for the souls of the unthinking? I thinking 1916 to 1922 as an example of the vast majority who given the chance would have possibly voted to stay in the United Kingdom ? Maybe the rights chance will be at the end in the future feudal society they will dominate?

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  3. Excellent article, Maolsheachlann. I always enjoy reading your contributions.

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    1. Maolsheachlann 14/09/2021 at 6:24 pm

      Thanks so much, Kyle, that means a lot.

      Reply

  4. Ní Rómhánach mé. Ní Laidin mé.

    Is é mo Dhia tiarna na farraige.

    Féth fíada.

    Is é mo Dhia Manannán mac Lir.
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    Thats an interesting foreign temple you have their as a picture in the background. I would prefer the aesthethics of an irish dolmen though, but since you like foreign religon like christianity, then i guess you saw that foreign building as lovely.

    Maolsheachlann, i can imagine you typing that essay of yours with your “pontifical mitre hat, and your bishop crosier stamping it against the floor. Those heretics, these heathens, these pagans need to be shown the error of their ways, i will show them the one true religon with this essay, i presume that is what you would be thinking to yourself probably. LOL

    I say that in a fun way. I do not agree with you in any shape or form regarding religon and politics. But no doubt, you will have your followers amongst your fellow christians. But to be friendly, I know you care about Ireland in your own ways. Good health to you.

    Anyway, lets get on to what you’re saying.
    __________________________________________

    From the article – What have the populist right, the New Right, the Dark Enlightenment, the Neo-Reactionaries, the Alt-Right, the Alt-Lite, and the whole array of other post-conservative movements achieved? What might they realistically achieve, in Ireland particularly?
    ________________________________________

    I think they are waking a lot of people up, they are demonstrating that an alternative view on politics is possible. They challenge the political status-quo.
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    From the article – Parties such as The National Party, the Irish Freedom Party, and Anti-Corruption Ireland poll dismally at every election.
    _________________________________________

    True, but, i blame it on the lack of media promotion from the state broadcaster. The right-wing are not given any airtime.

    I guarantee you that if the NP were in charge of what media should be aired regarding politics in ireland, then they would get at least over 50% of irelands electorate to consider voting for them, and likely get huge numbers agreeing with their nationalism.

    Never forget that the lamestream media literally convinced millions to go out and get a potentially dangerous injection and had advertisements saying it was safe.

    Mahatma Gandhi QUOTE. “Vaccination is a barbarous practice and one of the most fatal of all the delusions current in our time. Conscientious objectors to vaccination should stand alone, if need be, against the whole world, in defense of their conviction.”

    Media is POWER.

    NP and the irish freedom party have only grassroots power, no media power, they have only grassroots methods and only censored big tech social media platforms regarding on how they are getting their message across.
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    From the article – Nor has the populist right in any way moderated the hegemony of the liberal left in Ireland, or indeed elsewhere. The Overton window has not been held open one half-inch by all the efforts of keyboard and webcam warriors, but rather it continues to shrink.
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    WRONG!

    The right-wing groups and people dissatisfied with of the current government are waking people up, and are engaging in intellectual criticism when they are in opposition to the status-quo.

    Even waking one person up is a victory.

    Grassroots movements like the NP also do not just rely on big-tech, they spread many leaflets too.

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    From the article – We are simply never going to see a neo-reactionary regime sweep into office and radically reverse the liberal agenda. The first thing that would happen would be a rush of foreign investment out of the country. Globalization is the only game in town.
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    People were saying the same think about Sweden previously. But, now sweden has anti-uncontrolled mass immigration parties in government.

    For every step that so called progressivism takes, there will always be people not taking a step with them.

    Foreign investment my hole. Ireland is one of the poorest countries in europe regarding purchasing power within the country itself. Look at house prices, car insurance prices, food prices etc.

    The cost of living is a disgrace. The GDP Per capita rich country argument is very misleading.

    Irish peoples money may have purchasing power abroad, but within
    ireland itself its pretty much useless, as ireland is an extremely exspensive place to live.

    ________________________________________________

    From the article – The only question is how we play it. We would do well, perhaps, to pursue Pope Francis’s ideal: “globalization of the polyhedron, not the sphere”. That is, a model of globalization that seeks to avoid homogenization.
    _________________________________________________

    So more mass-immigration then? More new irish?

    Listen to the call of the globalist papacy?

    ______________________________________________________

    From the article – For all the advances of political correctness, we still live in societies with a large measure of religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and so on.
    _______________________________________________________

    If there was religious freedom then why were muslims allowed have their religon during lockdown but catholics were not allowed have theirs?

    I guess because the establishment would not want to offend their newest foreign guests.

    Btw freedom of assembly and freedom of speech is constantly under threat in ireland because of Antifa globalists creating trouble for those whose political opinions differ from themselves.
    __________________________________________________________

    From the article – Criticism of democracy has become a commonplace amongst the neo-reactionary right in Ireland;
    ______________________________________________________________

    Democracy is a form of communism, because whoever controls the media gets to push the arguments and debates, and votes in a particular direction. There is no real journalism in Ireland to expose the bias.
    __________________________________________________________

    From the article – This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff,
    ____________________________________________________________

    I will not bow my head down to a roman church.

    But you do what you want Maolsheachlann.

    _______________________________________________________

    From the article – Our response should be to face reality, apply solid conservative values to the situation we find ourselves in
    ________________________________________________________

    THe RCC is more progressive than what you are describing.

    I can point to rainbow flags over churches in ireland, priests attending virtual pride parades, and francis trying to advocate for mass-immigration and him washing the feet of immigrants from africa.

    I’m sorry Maolsheachlann, but your RCC is no different than a left-wing political party, it is more than just religon it is political.

    Francis and his recent speech in hungary too was getting at mass-immigration, by implying that the CROSS is a cross for all, literally implying that all christians no matter where they are from should be welcomed in hungary.

    The church advocate for open borders CONSTANTLY! To me they are no different to FF, FG SF and the likes when they involve themselves in politics, which they constantly do, so to speak.

    Peace!

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  5. Interesting article

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  6. Newmanian ethos 17/09/2021 at 4:48 pm

    A small but I trust welcome contribution to these debates. Ban the word boomer. It means nothing.

    Reply

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