Notes: the term liberal here is used in the context used by F. von Hayek in Why I am not a Conservative. I have also drawn upon his “triangular” theory of political alignment.
The language of revolutionary socialism has permeated the wider collectivist polity; collectivism being rooting in utopian ideals is particularly susceptible to demopathic language.
The language of democracy is used by the revolutionary collectivists to undermine and corrupt democratic collectivism. Likewise, liberals may be drawn to revolutionary language in democratic guise for reasons of defending democracy; witness the infiltration and control of the “anti-fascists” by the Socialist Workers Party in Britain.
The poisoning of democratic language with the ideology remnants of revolutionary collectivism has left a large, educated constituency in the West with a low-level antipathy to capitalist democracy, based as it is, not upon utopian (collectivist) ideals but upon a moderate acceptance of the status quo as the basis of politics.
Collectivists dream of changing the world for the better but capitalist societies with a strong and healthy liberal and collectivist instinct have steadily improved living standards, political and social conditions and have made great strides towards ever more equality between the citizens of the state.
Since the early Marxists, collectivists of all shades (here defined as three camps, conservative collectivist, revolutionary collectivist and liberal collectivist) have been seeking an answer to the failure (to emerge from the people) of the revolutionary will. The resentment borne by frustrated frustrated collectivists immediately finds a series of symbolic obstructions to explain this failure, whether Jews, the bourgeoisie, the establishment, capitalism, democracy or so on, always culminating in what the revolutionary-collectivists currently term the “New World Order”. This myth is constituted of a shadowy group of opponents, who epitomise all that the revolutionary despises and whose ‘agents’ become the focus of all the pent-up frustration felt by these types and translated into aggression in their search for a mystical unity of individual and the collective mankind.
It is my long-standing contention that this phenomenon, seen since 1789 has its roots in the decline of organised religion and uses the same tropes and archetypes of the religious subconscious from which these religions derive their power.
As the Christians of the West became more settled following the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th Century and as religious tolerance crept in by degrees, organised religion began to lose its vitality, located in that peculiar need for a vision transcending the present and mundane and through which meaning and dignity beyond the present are granted to the believing. The dissenting protestant sects of the 17th and 18th Centuries are evidence of this but none so much as the events of the French Revolution.
The reaction of British liberals to the turn of the Revolution from liberty to revolutionary terror was almost universally to turn away from the revolutionary ideals and towards conservatism. Wordsworth began as a liberal collectivist and ended as a High Tory, becoming in between completely disillusioned and disgusted with the revolution, turning his back upon even liberal ideals. The cultural memory of the French Revolution lives on in Britain, reinforced by the belated knowledge of the horrors of the Communist Revolution in Russia and the revolutionary state.
No collectivist revolution has ever been attempted in Britain. Perhaps the history of the French and Russian Revolutions partly influenced this; even at our most collectivist in 1945, the Labour government was elected on a democratic platform, not a revolutionary one. Our society had been severely disrupted in the Civil War, the turmoil following the end of the Napoleonic Wars and conservative and liberal values have retained their strength.
In most other countries, revolutions have succeeded at some point in the course of national histories. In Germany, the 1918 Communist risings continued a tradition begun with the French occupation of Germany in the Revolutionary Wars and continued in the revolutions of 1848. The failed 1918 risings gave to the revolutionary collectivists their martyrs, liberalism succeeded in 1918-19 in alliance with conservative forces in the Army to overthrow the dead hand of the German Empire and gave liberals in Germany their first real taste of power. Yet in the end, conservative collectivism triumphed in the guise of the National Socialists.
Note that the Nazis called themselves socialists. This is because their ideas were at once conservative and utopianist. The National Socialists aimed to transform the existing German society from one ‘rotting in decadence’, the cause being located in the triumph of the symbolic enemy (Jews, socialists, modernity in general), into a renewed society, rescued by a purge of its internal enemies and defensible both internally and externally against this enemy. The past would thus be incorporated into the present to ensure a glorious future society.
Note the important themes here. We start with a near-dystopian present; a society unable to defend itself against its internal enemies. The revolutionary element is the willingness to to recognise the cause, its effect and to combat the agents of this cause and triumphing through their utter destruction. In doing so, the dystopian fate of the society will be averted and turned towards a utopian future.
This is conservative collectivism in action. Nazism owed a lot to the peculiar circumstances of its birth; the image of annihilating the symbolic enemy owed as much to the slaughter of the First World War as it did to the adapted ideas of class warfare, which themselves were derived from the factional struggles of the French Revolution.
In socialism, and especially communism, the near-dystopia is that of capitalist society; the agents of this decline, like the ‘Jew’, possessed of selfish and corrupting natures which must be combated, restricted or annihilated. The goal is a utopian society but unlike the conservative collectivist’s society, which must be defended against decline, here conservatism’s innate pessimism influencing the vision of the future society, contrasted against the glorious future represented by the liberal and revolutionary collectivist visions.
For the conservative-collectivist, the utopia is a society restored and secured against decline. For the liberal collectivist, it is a society in which moral improvement and sharing of wealth grants the same happiness to all citizens. For the revolutionary collectivist, the ideal society is much the same but the same struggle against the symbolic enemy continues and the guardians of the society must watch the ‘saved’ for signs of lapsed morals. In this, the revolutionary shares something of the same pessimism about human nature as the conservative. This may argue for an alignment of revolutionary and conservative categories of understanding.
What all three share is a distaste and horror at the present, a reverence for a lost past and a hope for a redeemed future. In this, all these are prelapsarian, the selfishness of man being the cause of the loss of this past, leading to the present dystopia.
Because this is a redemption religious viewpoint, it only superficially relies upon rational thought and analysis; the real power over men lies in its appeal to ‘Christian and secular’ beliefs and mobilises these in its cause. For all these reasons, rational critique and logical analysis are less effective as counter-technique than might be otherwise.
Critique will be met with faith dressed in rational language. Push hard enough and an appeal to group belief will be made, with the inevitable exclusion of the non-believer.
Because the collectivist will always despise the conservative, he holds a fascination for the liberal. The more inclined the liberal to non-deistic religion, the greater the temptation of the collectivist’s vision and the more effective will be the deployment of the language of the religious subconscious.
Before I proceed further, I will make a point of separating liberal collectivism from its two collectivist cousins. Being influenced by both collectivism and liberalism, the liberal collectivist will have a reverence for the principles of liberty and democracy. The danger for the liberal collectivist is in being seduced or manipulated by the revolutionary collectivist. The fate of the Russian liberals and those in France should warn us of this danger; I include the near-loss of the Labour Party to Militant Tendency in the 1980s.
An alliance between the conservative and the conservative collectivists poses a terrible danger for democracy. At his root, unless well tempered by a long association with liberalism, the conservative’s pessimistic distrust of human nature will dispose him against democratic principle. If liberals and conservatives have long been in the ascendant, then democracy will be defended by the conservative as a deeply valued tradition.
An alliance between the liberal and the collectivist is less fraught with danger, so long as the collectivist is not allowed the upper hand or allowed to tolerate ideas of overriding law or democratic principle. If this happens, then unless a successful alliance is achieved between the liberal and the conservative, democracy is greatly imperilled.
The most stable but perhaps most mutually uncongenial alliance is that between the liberal and the conservative. If the conservative respect for tradition is respected by the liberal and the liberal understanding of the need for change is accepted by the conservative, the result is not that society is changed, so much as society is maintained and the internal and external stresses to which a society is subject are accounted and considered.
Where conservatism becomes obdurate or liberalism loses its moral bearings or perhaps where the challenges posed cannot be adequately met by this alliance, then we turn to the liberal collectivist alliance once more. This is almost taken as a corrective as one might take an aspirin to reduce or remove a pain the body politic. 1945 and 1997 are good examples of this development.
Once this arrangement becomes exhausted, once change without vision becomes the order of the day, this alliance begins to prove damaging to society. This is where in all cases, democracy has proved essential as without democracy and the rule of law, political conflict will inevitably end violently as conflicts prove resistant to solution, political positions harden and the liberals are increasingly pushed aside by intransigent power blocs.
In examining today’s body politic and the danger posed from the liberal collectivists who regurgitate the language and the tropes of the revolutionary collectivists, we find the growth of symptoms as described earlier; symbolic enemies, the collective yearning for utopia and the cultural despair of those who only see developing dystopia.
As morbid collectivism grows stronger, the commitment to democratic principle weakens as collectivists and liberals begin to abandon the principle of free speech, whereby disagreement is to be respected in opposition as in themselves. An intemperance is growing, especially in the United States, which now more than ever is in need of a healthy liberal discourse upon which the next great political alliance can be founded and begin to reform and repair US society.
As vital as the Tea Party voice is in revitalising the body of US conservatism, without a liberal voice, the Tea Party is doomed to failure. The obstructionist danger within conservatism will predominate and discredit US conservatives at a time when the liberal collectivists are already discredited. This will open the door to both conservative and revolutionary collectivists whom, eschewing all compromise, will war political war upon their enemies and upon society itself.