We’ve often noted in this space that modern conservatives — and this is true on both sides of the Atlantic — seem determined to imitate their Progressive colleagues. It’s as if they say to the electorate, “Vote for us. We’re just like the liberals, only not quite so radical.” Dymphna’s most recent post talked about some of the reasons why the Right always seems to be singing from the same hymnal as the Left — just a quarter-tone flat and half a beat behind.
In the following article from Politically Incorrect, Manfred Kleine-Hartlage discusses the failure of conservative intellectuals to come to grips with the reasons for their perennial position on the sidelines. The author draws on a new book by Alex Kurtagic to highlight the need for intellectual depth and — dare I say it? — innovation in the thinking of those who would pass on the flame of traditional culture.
Many thanks to Hermes and JLH for collaborating on the translation:
Kurtagic: Why conservatives always lose
Those who live in any Western society and have still not lost the sense of reality know the oppressive sensation of living in a mad house where the patients have taken over and locked up the doctors: it is absolutely impossible to follow a news report, a political talk, or even a seemingly harmless cultural event, without being to a higher or lower degree openly bombarded with an ideology which deliberately misses any trait of reality; it preaches a “morality” which is the exact opposite of everything which has been considered moral for thousands of years; and whose sense and goal clearly consists of nothing more than the destruction of the fundamental principles of the social and political order, and not only that of a given order, but the order itself.
(By Manfred Kleine-Hartlage)
Much has been written about the creators of this radical change and destruction and about their methods (Anyone looking for actual books about this issue can check, among others, Gabriele Kuby’s magnificent investigative work The Global Sexual Revolution and Kerry Bolton’s equally empirically-grounded book Revolution from Above, which unfortunately is for now available only in English). Of course, what such works do not explain is the peculiar weakness of the other side:
Certainly, the Left is not only aggressive and unscrupulous, but it is also lavishly supported by its alleged opponents, the evil capitalists of the Rockefeller-clan, and it makes use of every political position of power it can occupy to misappropriate the money of taxpayers in order to finance leftist ideological productions and propaganda. But why has political conservatism, which only fifty years ago held bastions in Western countries, turned so powerless and compliant? Why does it not devise any proper counterstrategy to those of the Left, which are anything but secret?
Opportunism and treason explain a lot; but because there are by far not so many opportunist and treasonous conservatives, the problem must lie deeper.
Alex Kurtagic has investigated this question in the booklet: “Why Conservatives Always Lose”. It is a compilation of four essays, which have already been separately published on the internet in English language, but it is only after they were compiled into a volume of the Kaplanen series published by Antaios that the issue has been put in a concise and trenchant, but nevertheless all-encompassing and highly argumentative way. Kurtagic is one of those “wild right-wingers” (in which particularly the Anglosphere abounds) who does not fit in any category, and it is precisely for this reason that the leftist mainstream cautiously ignores them: one cannot pin on them the usual insulting labels without making a fool of oneself, and neither can one fight their arguments without being defeated.
Kurtagic has no fear of provocations:
My vision of the future is so bleak that I would find it laughable to care about any insulting label which one could pin on me. The price for the temporary cowardice today is the constant horror of tomorrow.
This cowardice is very extended, of course, and is has something to do with the basic drives of the individual, with needs which determine the direction of one’s behavior together with one’s political positioning before any “political discourse” could take place, before something like an argument could consequently dare to be mentioned. To these basic drives belongs the need to be socially considered, not to remain isolated, to have a high degree of self-esteem, and generally speaking, to feel well. This is a truism which just for these reasons is willingly ignored by conservatives:
In spite of having on their side the science, the data and the logical arguments, the right wing has for decades been in a state of retreat. This should be enough to make it clear that people need more than just facts in order to induce a change in their behavior. Nonetheless there are many who see themselves as being on the right side, and who indulge in the illusion that “unfortunately more enlightenment is needed”, that is: those who believe in equality know nothing about genetically-conditioned IQ differences; those who believe in Multiculturalism know nothing about the statistical frequency of black-on-white crime; those who believe in liberalism should simply read Spengler or Schmitt, (and so on).
The irony in all this is that the most blatant counterexamples which show us why this approach must fail stand daily in front of our eyes: the consumer society is not based on utilitarian logic, but on romanticism and daydreaming, behavior based on status and utopian illusions. And the ground for this is simply that these things work […]
That is why one is able to say with some justification that daydreamers who have the ability to contaminate others with their dreams are greater pragmatists that the self-appointed, pragmatically oriented rationalist who tries to convince others about common sense.” (p. 16 f.)
Kurtagic in this way turns against those conservatives who kneel daily before an alleged seriousness (which is defined by their enemies), and shows support for the dreamers and mavericks, the shrill strange characters, the paradise birds who are not so scarce on the political Right, and from whom the creative impulses should emanate if there is to be an alternative to the mainstream. Such opposition cannot be purely intellectual or political; it must show an artistic and aesthetic dimension, it must embody an attitude towards life, a style:
Those who choose a reality which is outlawed by the cultural establishment must resort to alternative networks and even unconventional methods… so the search for truth will be a question of lifestyle per se… (p. 19)
That does not mean, however, that the counter-culture should be confined to art, style and esthetics. The intellectual and ideological dimension plays a role, as the Left has sufficiently demonstrated.
A slogan on a poster, a convincing motto, even a Molotov cocktail and its specific physical goal all have an idea behind them, are distilled from complex concepts and value judgments which stem from some abstract plain. Millions of words are written before a banner is unfurled, a motto turns up in discussion or a bottle is filled with gasoline. The thug with a balaclava may well understand no single word of the theoretical texts that form the basis of his political movement. Nonetheless, he probably knows instinctively, from words, feelings and attitudes absorbed in his milieu, what goal his Molotov cocktail is intended to achieve, and why it must be this goal and no other. (p. 77)
Effective opposition, therefore, can only come from a functioning counter-culture with its own intellectual elite and intellectual discourse — if for no other reason than so that the hollowness of the Left’s claim to “intellectuality” is exposed. And this is basically not that difficult. In the end, this intellectuality consists of constructing lines of argument confirming the obvious. The Left gets away with it because, with purely political means and a considerable amount of intellectual and financial corruption, they have achieved a monopoly over the ideology-producing industry, especially the pertinent specialties in the universities.
The intellectual bankruptcy of the Left is a long-standing fact, hidden only by means of the artificial postponement of collapse. It will become public knowledge to the extent that a counter-elite is formed. Then many people, who only adhere to leftist ideas because the alleged intellectual elite do so, will have little difficulty in changing sides.
Unfortunately, conservatives are uniquely unqualified to develop such a counter-culture and such a counter-paradigm. Their whole mentality does not allow them to. Conservatives live from fear of change, and so tend toward sterile defense when such changes take place without their cooperation. In the end, they sigh and give up and decide it is the zeitgeist. They linger in nostalgia, focus on a past they cannot resurrect and can at best hope to mummify. By doing this, they above all spread boredom, and are born losers with “no sex appeal.” No one who understands that conservatives are born to complain while they run along behind the zeitgeist will be surprised at the constant treachery of parties like the CDU.
In the age of liberalism, conservatism is basically liberal. It does not defend tradition — whose relegation to oblivion it has cooperated in — but simply an older form of liberalism. (p.44)
This means that party projects initiated by disappointed conservatives against the current mainstream conservatism at best defend the liberalism of the-day-before-yesterday against the liberalism of yesterday (which itself is in defensive mode against the liberalism of today). Anyone who expects otherwise is deluding himself.
The correct opinion, which does not fall into the trap of this conservatism, is not right extremism, but something that Kurtagic calls “traditionalism” — an ambiguous and therefore somewhat unfortunate concept. (I prefer to associate myself with Norbert Borrmann’s suggestion to call what we are talking about “right” and accept the lack of acuteness of this concept.) The meaning of this traditionalism is, to be sure, not what is ordinarily thought of in that connection, and tends toward the memorialization of what is past. The meaning is rather what Martin Lichtmesz — quoting Gustav Mahler — describes in his foreword:
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the passing on of the fire. (p. 9)
And Kurtagic expands:
Allowing for the ignorance of such things in our time, it must be emphasized that tradition does not seek a return to a fantasized, colorized past or to resume forgotten customs where they were abandoned. There may be good reasons why they were abandoned, and the institution of a new custom is often necessary to keep a tradition alive. A rediscovered tradition must be guided onward with an eye to the future. Continuation does not mean an endless repetition of the same thing.
If that is too abstract for anyone: a vivid example for the confrontation of a traditionalist position in Kurtagic’s sense (and mine) with a typically conservative one is to be found in my article “Krautkrämerhood” in my blog “Korrektheiten.”
Clearly, Kurtagic’s pamphlet thoroughly fulfills its promise to explain “why conservatives always lose.” Concisely formulated (and concisely translated by Martin Lichtmesz), it is a convincing analysis and a significant contribution to a debate which is overdue and absolutely must be held. Kurtagic indicates ways the opponents of the Left must go and directions in which they must think, if they want to finally stop inching along from one disappointment to another.