Having read a very recent article (“In Defence of Conservatism”) in this publication, I find myself forced into rebuking it. Throughout the piece, the author recognises conservatism has no allure for the youth or those who would be socially conservative, because it has failed utterly in what it was supposed to do. The article does nothing to excuse or justify conservatism’s failings. 

“Many embrace a radicalism which is radical in the etymological sense, seeking to attack progressivism at its very intellectual and philosophical roots.”

What use is philosophising on the nature of Man, our place in the world, and the meaning of life if we do not make any attempt to repudiate what has gone before? How can you paint a picture of a brighter world, of one different, if you are merely tinkering at the corners of liberalism (or progressivism)? If you accept the belated notion that all that is important are property rights and economic motivators, how then can anyone put forward the argument that nationalism is a spiritual thing? How can men be motivated to willingly die for something which nets no material gain? 

“Whatever their particular set of beliefs, they are usually united on one point — conservatism has failed. Conservatism has lost battle after battle and it’s time for something new, something that can win.”

One should notice that there is no rebuttal of this notion attempted throughout the piece. There is nothing suggestive that conservatism is working or has worked on the part of the author. Rather there is simply an unwritten assumption that conservatives are right and good, followed by a restatement of what conservatism isn’t – successful, radical, victorious.

We are told that conservatism is opposed to radicalism – but this itself doesn’t give any argument as to why we should be conservatives, rather than radicals. What arguments are put forward, are exactly what we have come to expect from status-quo conservatives – misrepresentation, straw-man, and weakness. Whether or not this is what the author intended, it is what is conveyed.

We are told that liberalism (classical or not, they are shades of the same demon) inoculated the world against the dangers of fascism and communism, that no democracy has ever debased itself by going so far as fascists have – which is an utter lie. Democracy didn’t stop the British from planting Ireland, enabling starvation and famine in Ireland, from putting the Boers in concentration camps, or any other number of crimes. Democracy didn’t stop the Americans from engaging in biological warfare against the Amerindians, or interning the Japanese during the Second World War, or dropping the most devastating weapons ever known to man on cities. The United States deliberately gave people in Guatemala syphilis after the conclusion of World War Two, nevermind the Tuskegee experiments. In fact, liberalism was what brought about the first age of European empire – as the French shot their way across Africa in the great “civilising mission.”

I do not say these things to make value judgements – what nations do, nations do. Rather, let us not deal in the lies that democracy is any more noble or less brutal than autocracy. Autocracies simply do not need to make excuses when they decide on certain courses of action, which is why they appear more vicious, but they are not necessarily so.

Another argument is that radicalism is immoral because it believes itself to be a vanguard. We are not told why this is immoral, except by reference to its anti-democratic principle. Thus, it becomes tautological, a self-sustaining critique which is ultimately nonsense – “anti-democracy is bad because it is anti-democratic, which is bad.” There is, again, the weak allusion to the “horrors of fascism” and other such hand-wringing.

The author goes on to make allusions to the awfulness of power being concentrated in few hands – as though power is not concentrated in few hands already. What world leader is not a member of the petit-bourgeoise? How many Parliamentarians are from working-class backgrounds? Even Sinn Féin, a party which wants nothing more than to stress its working class credentials, is run by a middle-class, middle-aged woman who studied English literature in Trinity. 

Power is controlled by a very small clique in Ireland – the judiciary, the media, the political cartels, and a handful of high-level civil servants. To act as though this power is diffused throughout society by the simple act of voting once every five years is naïve.

“Considering that Ireland is now a de facto multi-ethnic and multicultural country, I think the appropriate conservative approach would be to find a way to reconcile this to the traditional aspirations of Irish nationalism. Can we really, seriously contemplate the idea of forced deportation of tens of thousands of people?”

This is the weakness that we as radicals rail against, that crimes committed cannot be rectified because doing so would be mean, or hurtful, or rude. 

This is why we hold such a deep derision for conservatives and conservatism, there is nothing but squeamishness behind the façade of opposing liberalism. You do not oppose liberalism, you legitimise it. It is the same reason why the Conservative Party in Britain allowed the use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement on children – because when the left overreach, conservatives are too weak to punish them for it. And so, the farce continues – the liberals become more depraved, the conservatives become pusillanimous. 

This mentality is encapsulated so perfectly in the closing statement that it needs no other rebuking – that you are so afraid of power, you refuse to use it yourself. This is not a sign of maturity or restraint, nor is it indicative of moral character. It is weakness. When you have power, you’re afraid to use it. When the left have power, they use it.

It is long past time that those of us who are socially conservative and nationalistic abandon “conservatism” and move to something more assertive and confident.

Photo of Ancient Spartan Theatre: Κούμαρης Νικόλαος

Posted by Donnachadh O'Neill

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