Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all knees that have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth that hath not kissed him.
—1 Kings 19:18
Metapolitics and the Right
Most all of us by now are familiar with this bit of the history of the Right in our day – how a number of remarkably resilient and peculiarly uninhibited thinkers, many connected to GRECE, in seeking a new method and approach to the practical side of theory, sought their inspiration in, among others, the most unlikely of places: they turned to one of the great theoreticians of communism in the past century, Antonio Gramsci, who, during a prison term which he was serving for his revolutionary opposition to the Fascist order, penned a series of notebooks in which he recorded his reflections on the deeper reasons behind what was in that time the stark failure of communism to secure its place in the political sun of his time. This same figure, this Italian Marxist theorist who was one of the vital fountainheads of the present liberal hegemony, was, in a remarkable show of intellectual liberty, taken up by GRECE as an example of how the Right, too, might proceed. As Daniel Friberg explains:1
The concept of metapolitics was developed by Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci in his quest to analyse the reasons behind the Communist revolution’s failure in Western Europe. According to Gramsci, the latter was due to the fact that bourgeois cultural hegemony had to be first broken in order to make society receptive to the idea of a Communist takeover. Guided by this analysis, the Left later began what a German Leftist termed its long march through the institutions and finally managed to secure Leftist cultural hegemony in Europe, a hegemony that was achieved through a long-term, persistent, and uncompromising meta-policy.
Given this shared point of intellectual inspiration, the contrast which we have already noted between the resounding success of the political left in our day and the relative failure of the Deep Right is thus all the more striking. Faye, in Why We Fight, has aught to say about this failure, in the early part of his articulated and subtle critique aimed in particular against GRECE:
In our metapolitical ‘Gramscian’ strategy, we had simply overlooked the fact that the cultural battle Gramsci promoted was associated with the political and economic battle of the Italian Communist party, and as such did not take place ‘in the void’. But unfortunately we had never actually read Gramsci…
The call to pragmatism should hardly be neglected. It is difficult to imagine, however, that this same Fayean criticism could not have been levelled against the figureheads of the Frankfurt School; surely most of these were not practical men. Horkheimer, Benjamin, and Fromm were permanent dwellers in the charmed circle of the academy and never seemed to have evinced the slightest desire to step out. Marcuse dedicated himself to a career as a dissident intellectual only after retiring from a bureaucratic post. Adorno did all in his power to disband the visible and disturbing influence his own ideas had had, attempting to quell the ‘student revolt’ and to resecure the peace and tranquillity of his beloved universities.
These men were almost the archetypes of the modern intellectual, living ‘above’ the swampland of ‘political and economic’ things (we permit ourselves a degree of scepticism as to their true position). Yet they were hardly wanting in wave upon wave of eager young adherents (whom in some cases they did not even understand; Adorno perhaps even died of his incomprehension); and these young radicals were ready and willing to hurl the often disarmingly abstract ideas of these men into the fray of practice in any number of Western universities or social, artistic or political arenas. Though there has certainly been a degree of similar enthusiastic interest toward the Right in late years on the part of the young in particular, it can hardly be compared to the flood of the late sixties and the seventies, which practically swept away the sad remnants of what had once been a stolid old conservative order, leaving in its wake the festering social fragmentation and moral disorientation amongst which many of my readers even came of age.
To come to grips with the reason for this discrepancy, one must for a moment cease to view the influence of thought in human life materialistically, as a nexus of mere cause-and-effect relationships. A thought is not merely a unit, a kind of free-floating monad which, bumping up against other similar monads, lawfully produces certain determinate effects, like a series of billiard balls beating upon one another, which can be turned now this direction and now that as one pleases; it is not even as a hub in a wider system of thoughts, such as can be effectively pulled upon like the nodes of a spider web, after strengthening the connections between all the parts. A thought is rather something like a vector, imbued with a native directionality which we, following Nietzsche, might wish to call ‘value’; or else it is like a member of a flock of birds or of a school of fish which moves in close rapport with any number of like ideas, regulated by subtle and invisible linkages of spirit and intention holding between it and the others, aided or opposed, favoured or harried, by the currents native to the medium in which it moves. Socrates understood this as perhaps no man before or since has done: one can never fully understand any thought, any philosophy or philosophical system, if one does not take into account this directionality – if one insists, positivist-wise, on taking everything in terms of ‘facts’ and not ‘values’, as if these two things could in any way be meaningfully separated.
The primary difference between the metapolitics of the left and that of the Right is to be found precisely in a difference of directionality on the one hand and of medium on the other: the left, broadly understood, when it would effect metapolitical changes, moves in the direction of increased equality: it moves, that is to say, along the grain of democracy, with the general will of the demos, in a downward direction consonant with if not identical to the entire thrust of Modernity itself – consonant perhaps with the entire meta-historical cycle in which we live, which is now coming to its close. The Right, when it would effect changes on the fabric of society, moves in the direction of hierarchy, inequalities, just respect for natural differences; of subjecting the market to the constraints of justice and higher politics; of limiting certain of what are corruptly known as ‘freedoms’ (e.g. the ‘freedom’ to gamble away one’s house and home, the ‘freedom’ to ruin one’s reputation and family through inordinate drug use or to degrade the public sensibilities by flaunting obscene and improbable sexual whims, etc.). The Right, that is to say, moves against the grain of democracy, in a motion contrary to that of Modernity; it boldly opposes, not just the political here-and-now, but the prime tendencies and motions of the entire past half millennium.
To follow such a lofty and precarious path, we are in need of methods of our own, fit to the principles which we adhere to. We are fighting upstream; and because we have seen a float of red rafts drifting so nicely and fluidly in the opposite direction, we have taken it into our heads that the best thing to do is to build rafts of our own.
The Audacity of the Climb
It might be objected to everything we have just said that, at certain historical junctures, certain regimes which, if they were not purely of the true Right, were certainly not of the egalitarian stamp, have arisen precisely from popular revolts or revolutions, precisely from the will of the people and its angry turn against a liberalistic order. The rise of certain ‘fascist’ regimes in the last century might be cited as extreme but clarion examples at least of the possibility of reactionary revolution.
Yet what must be remembered about these revolutions is that they all, without exception, were the fruit of profound economic and social ills in the countries in which they arose. The common people supported the renewal of hierarchical forms and the rise of a stronger central authority, because the common people were suffering. They were suffering, that is to say, in the one way which leads the common people to revolt: they were suffering in their material well-being. Suffice it only to recall the impossible inflation which afflicted those countries in those days, not to speak of the unemployment, the poverty, the material inequalities. Without such visceral physical hardship howling at their door, the common people are at best a friable foundation for any change in the social order.
This is the deeper reason that Faye’s approach, in the last analysis, hinges decisively on one or more catastrophes; without these catastrophes, capable of upheaving the social order, destabilizing the very structures of contemporary society and ‘putting people’s backs against the wall’, as he puts it, the eminently honest and frank Faye cannot finally imagine a social transformation of any appreciable breadth or depth to come through the democratic order, through periodic elections or the vote. And on this, we must largely agree with him. Yet the question becomes, to what extent can we hope for such a catastrophe, and to what extent should we limit our actions to preparing for its coming?
Faye identifies a number of possible catastrophes: Broadly, these can be defined as socio-economic-political on the one hand, and natural on the other. The latter might emerge, no one can deny; but it seems straight folly to spend one’s days awaiting Vesuvius to save Herculaneum. As for the former, they are generally speaking governed or manipulated by men of extraordinary wealth and great power, who have proven themselves time and time again capable both of giving birth to such crises, and profiting handsomely thereby; it thus surely cannot be wise policy to place one’s hope in any crisis which is fruit of their machinations. We would have to suppose that these men are stupider than we, or less equipped to prepare for the coming of a disaster: the first assumption is gratuitous and dangerous; the second patently false.2
The weakest point in our social fabric at present, as is intuited or perceived by a great many men of the Right, is the ethnic question; this is, as it were, the point at which a natural disorder (through the non-negotiable natures of the human races) might truly break out in society itself, causing ruptures and fragmentations in society. This need not go so far as an outright civil war. One of the greatest allies we have at present – the reason that populism is associated with the Right in our day, despite the fact that there is nothing whatsoever strictly necessary in such a connection, despite the fact that there is indeed even something artificial and contingent and ‘counter-historical’ about such a connection – is the ‘migration crisis’; a crisis which has nothing to do with the ‘unstoppable waves of migrants’ (who are only ‘unstoppable’, in Europe at least, if one conveniently forgets the existence of the Mediterranean Sea) – and which is in point of fact a crisis of the brewing ethnic conflicts within Europe, which could lead to a rending of the social fabric and open violence.
But who among us will counsel waiting for the ethnic hurricane to clear this rubble from our path? And who can guarantee us that, should some generation of half-statesmen arise to put half-measures in place, merely blunting the edge of this migratory conundrum without fundamentally resolving it, then all the major gripes of the people will not suddenly vanish, and the democratic liberal order of modernity will not continue contentedly rambling along its downward way?
Yet if we discount the possibility of catastrophe, and hurl aside that crutch to our going, what remains to us?
And here we return to the practical question, the question of influencing our day – the question, in short, of metapolitics. It is clear from all that we have said that we of the Right have often (and ever more in late years) approached the question of metapolitics almost from a democratic, an egalitarian point of view, attempting primarily to move the masses and to sway the common mindset, with the final goal of inciting some kind of popular revolt or revolution; and this has doomed us from the start to failures and otherwise inexplicable travails. We have sought, and ever increasingly in recent days, to influence public opinion; and all honour to that necessary and preparatory attempt! Only that if we rely on it and it alone to carry us where we would like to go, we shall be a long time courting vanity.
As a general principle, we can state the matter thus: The mass has its goals, and insofar as the mass is frustrated in its goals it can be of service to us. Moreover, some restructuring of the general frame of mind in any society is necessary for any political change. Yet to go about attempting to win elections, or to prepare, from out of an indiscriminate democratic mass, a unified people inured and dedicated to hierarchy and rank and higher principle – to attempt to move things in our direction ‘from the bottom up’, through grassroots initiatives or guerrilla propaganda or meme warfare or what have you – all of this is good, is important, but it is absolutely secondary. The simple proof for this is that it is identical to the attempts which our enemies have so effectively made; yet it would be an inexplicable coincidence indeed if our most effective strategy should be the same as their own, notwithstanding the fact that our values and our principles stand often precisely inverted with respect to theirs. Indeed, it should be obvious that we cannot seek the heights by appealing directly and without preparation to individuals who are either ignorant of those heights or suspicious or terrified of them.
Our principle aim should not be the production of a new people, but rather the cultivation of new leaders; for from out of a mass, a people in the true sense can only form around a magnetic centre. This has indeed been one of the principal lessons of the recent rise of ‘populism on the Right’, and finds its parallel also in similar political developments of the last century: ‘populism of the Right’ in any nation requires, as its absolute prerequisite, charismatic and capable leaders. Our aim should then not be the men who follow such leaders, but the leaders themselves. And our attempt cannot merely be to ‘change their minds’ on this or that topic, though this, too, is important; we must rather aim at cultivating their virtue and transmuting the quality of their souls – work which we can only begin with our own.3
The work on our leadership, of course, is not limited to those few men destined to become centrepieces to the political changes of the day. More generally, as Faye has pointed out, while these leaders must in many cases be political men, many will be more generally men prepared to use their native talents to attain positions throughout the social order that, thanks to their native qualities, they would never naturally seek – positions in the state, in bureaucracy, in industry, in economics, in academia etc. In general in our day, the ‘highest’ positions in any field you please are almost even made for men who lack a soul and who are willing to commit any crime and any foulhood to feed the hollowness in them, which they dress up in pretty names like ‘ambition’ and ‘enterprise’; and this is large part of the reason that political action in our day, if it comes from the Right, is by and large futile. Our politics must be a subtler and more penetrating kind of politics than the rabble of democratic squabbling; it must be, all told, a hundred times more ‘Machiavellian’.
And this work, contradictory as it will seem, must be internal before it can be external: we will get nowhere but nowhere if we are not prepared within our souls for what is necessary.4 The metapolitics of the Right, before it can be ‘cultural struggle’ in the sense this term has taken on in a day in which all the highest things are made to crawl through the mire, must be cultural preparation in the original sense of the word.5 Not so much idling and bickering at the level of parliamentary politics or popular music and film and ‘literature’, as cultivating the human soul itself. We must have as many valid men as is possible interpenetrating the society and political order around us, activated and sustained by a sense of high heroism and sacrifice, as only a man of the Right can be; ready to act, to struggle, to fight in secrecy or in public as need be, with absolute initiative; equally ready to join, whenever they are called upon, their just place within a hierarchy of others like them; expecting no reward, no acknowledgement, no payment for what they do, attempt, or lose: giving all to an end and an idea, in the firm, unshakable, ineffable awareness that they will thereby secure everything and more, not in what they will gain, but in what they will be.
The difficulty of this cultivating even a small group of men of this calibre cannot be underestimated. But it is meet that we should have a steeper climb than our enemies; we are not merely realigning the balance of an unbalanced society, which is already hard enough; we are attempting to heal a social order which has been succumbing to the sickening temptations of degeneration and decadence already for some several centuries. Our enemies have aligned their work with the fall, and have had only to ride the sheer force of gravity; we must establish a new gravity counter to this gross downward force. That is a great, perhaps even a heroic task; it is therefore a trial in which we are forced to reconstitute ourselves, and thus a trial meet both for our high principles and for the extremity of our moment. The aim and ambit of our efforts must not be the democratic mass, but the gods themselves.6
As for the crucial practical question of what all this might entail or how it might be attained or worked toward, we cannot enter that wide and intricate matter in this essay, save to mention, as a general rule, that we should presently give more weight to the work of self-conscious individuals, small brotherhoods or Männerbunden, than to any theoretical and utterly utopian ‘social revolution’, since by our views, the latter hinges on the former, and not the other way around.
We may also briefly address two principal objections to the idea we have merely sketched in this essay.
Some will claim that what we have proposed of the need for men of great self-sacrifice is too much to ask of any man, save the rarest and most exceptional. Well can we endorse the ‘humanity’ of this objection; but whatever leniency we might have in our souls, the times will not have in their conditions, and it must be acknowledged that if men like this are not to be found in our day, or if they cannot be made to arise, and in something more than a ‘rare and exceptional’ manner, then we have lost our war already, no matter what work we do on the ‘public opinion’; for there will be no one ready to uphold the world, Atlas-like, when the moment comes for such strength as that. Since we are unwilling to accept defeat just so and without struggle, we therefore propose to do our part, and to let every other man do his own; the accounts shall be rendered, sooner or later, by stricter tallymen than we. If every man looks to his own quality and development first and worries about that of every other only afterwards, that is already much indeed.
To other readers, the idea of attempting to work on the souls of the few rather than the many will seem like much too little and much too late; it will seem so particularly to anyone who is aware of the urgency and the radical emergency of our moment. Looking about at the teetering remains of all those high and noble things the West once created and maintained, they will turn wild eyes upon us, and demand to know if we are not perhaps counselling suicide: for what good is it to tend to this or that individual spirit when the world stands to burn? Are we merely to play our flutes, as so many Neros, in the face of this disaster?
We respond with the one response possible: namely, that those fires can certainly consume our merest flesh, too; that if we are not ready in spirit for the emergencies upon us, then certainly no amount of organizational or practical planning will make up for the deficit; that to chain oneself to the mass in a day like ours is like to chaining oneself to the ballast of a sinking ship. We are in need now of men ready for the times: men inured to hardship, hardened against potential losses, infused with a burning awareness of the vast and unbridgeable superiority standing between what is interior and spiritual and what is material and ephemeral, and ready in their souls for each and every contingency, each and every exigency. Lacking men like the salamander capable of striding through the very flames, our Rome will burn to ashes merely, no matter what hobby we choose to exercise in the meantime.
In the last analysis, an anti-democratic metapolitics cannot depend on the demos for political transformation. We, who are not egalitarians; we, who do not hold that ‘all men are created equal’; we, who believe in the naturalness and hence the desirability of hierarchy in society and in politics, must look then, not first to forming a new people, but first to forming a new elite.
3Cf. Plato, Laws, Book IV, 709e–710a.
4Plato, Laws, Book V, 726. Cf. 731d–732b.
5Well would it be to recall the philosophical etymology of the word ‘culture’: it comes to us from Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes, Book II, §13, in which he states that cultura animi philosophia est, ‘philosophy is the culture of the soul’.
6Plato, Laws, Book IV, 709a–b; cf. Book V, 726a and 729c.