The formula for what creates a people is complex. To an extent, unfathomable. The ethnic genetic stock, the land on which it lives, the earlier groups which join together, the religion, the requirements for survival…all this and more creates a unique fingerprint. The Anglosphere is no different; its foundation stock is the global diaspora of settlement and migration which set out at various times from the British Isles. Its culture is uniquely individualist and based on personal trust and drive. Its ancestral religion is the ancient Christian faith as it manifested in the furthest outposts of the post-Roman West.
In The WASP Question, Dr. Andrew Fraser presents a history of this Anglo-British ethnoculture from the migration across the English channel all the way to the modern period. This history makes up the first part of the book, with a focus on the religious aspect of this identity. The Anglo-Saxons were formed and birthed as a Christian people from early on in their history in the Isles, and as such their “baptized” Germanic cultural and political forms play a truly foundational role in the later history of the English. The second and third parts of the book examine the decline of the English people and their world, particularly with the rise of the novus ordo seclorum. Due to the depth of detail, parts II and III will be looked at in a second piece. By way of background, Fraser is a Canadian-born academic who currently resides and works in Australia. After studying constitutional law at Harvard and an MA from the University of North Carolina, he went on to teach American constitutional history in Sydney.
Human biodiversity is important in Fraser’s work: the biological stock of the population is just as fundamental a part of ethnoculture as religion, family structure, the land, and so on. As with all systems, the population both influences and is influenced by these other elements. Therefore, the tendencies exhibited by individuals and the early Anglo-Saxon population becomes expressed over time as cultural norms as a people becomes an increasingly coherent nation. Among the traits of the Anglo-Saxons can be counted a strong individualism; a more nuclear family structure rather than an extended clan; a morality based on individual guilt rather than collective shame. The concept of law is central to Fraser’s conception of English civilization:
Medieval Europe created a legal civilization, nowhere more obviously or successfully than its Anglo-Saxon province. The English, like other Christian peoples, [in the words of Walter Ullmann] “were given their religion, their faith, their dogma, in the shape of a law”.
However, this presence of the law existed side by side with a magical-transcendent underpinning of the old Anglo-Saxon culture in which England finds its roots. Here is where Fraser’s thesis starts to unfold:
My thesis is the social psychology of the Anglo-Saxons evolved in three stages, in a process of “punctuated equilibrium”. The primitive, magicoreligious influences on the social character of the early Anglo-Saxons were suppressed, first, by formal institutions (embryonic states and the Church) that fostered the dominant “tradition-directed character type of medieval England; second, by the development of an “inner-directed” character adapted to the early modern bourgeois market economy; and third, by the emergence of the “other-directed” character type among WASPs in the service of the modern corporate welfare state.
The prelude to this process is the migration of Germanic tribes across the channel. On the continent, they existed in much more collective societies. Collective kin structures played a major role in interaction, particularly in the fued system of justice. If a member of a clan was killed, the clan was involved in a feud with the other man’s kin. The comites (to use Tacitus’ phrase for the “great men” who played leading roles) would elevate one of their number as an overlord amongst themselves. However this role was relatively weak, and depended on the integrity of the kinship structures.
Migration changed this, as those who went across the channel were separated from their larger and established kinship networks. Fraser recounts data that the large contribution of the Anglo-Saxons to the modern English ancestry comes from a small source of only 10-200,000 people, whereas the indigenous population numbered around two million. This implies a breeding advantage for the invaders: logically, powerful Anglo-Saxon leaders would have greater access to both Anglo-Saxon and indigenous British women, while British men would be disadvantaged with British women (and have little chance of mating with Anglo-Saxons). Therefore, many may have chosen to migrate away from the Anglo-Saxon centers. This genetic evidence correlates with the institutional growth of the Anglo-Saxon kingship as a power structure. Where the kinship structures shrank in importance, the kingship took over as a source of order in a necessarily smaller and more individualistic population.
This is the founding era in Fraser’s cycle of English history. Kings and aristocrats dominated national government in Anglo-Saxon England, but the system saw extensive decentralization of the country into shires and tithings, and of the church into parishes. This allowed local British elites to find new places in the system and become integrated into the new order of the Anglo-Saxon polities. Still, the power of the lords grew to the extent that the common site of free peasants or towns seen on the continent became a rarity in England. Yet Fraser also recounts the collective and super-individual nature of law. The law was received and pronounced by kings and lords, but it was received by them as part of an inheritance of the kin. Here we already see the structures that later periods would codify into the idea of “the rule of law”.
However, the law existed alongside a sacral and mythic conception of Kingship. Descended from a god and “heilerfüllt” or hallowed, he allowed godly participation in earthly affairs. Therefore he had a special wisdom when interpreting the received law. However, early in their history the Anglo-Saxons received the Christian faith. British and Irish churches had long existed, but it was the missions of Pope Gregory the Great which in particular were intended to convert these peoples. With much of the English ethnogenesis occurring after their conversion, the English were a people conceived in the womb of Christendom. Their spiritual center was at Canterbury, where the disciples of St. Augustine the missionary established themselves. While the idols were smashed, the sacred altars and groves of the land were sanctified and incorporated into the Christian Anglo-Saxon ritual life.
Anglo-Saxon Christendom lived under a baptized sacral Kingship, where the King was filled with the grace of God and carried responsibility for the spiritual state of his people under Heaven. Fraser details the promotion by the Church of an overlord who could unite the gens Anglorum into a political unity which could manifest their spiritual unity. It should be noted that Her Majesty Elizabeth II still carries as her official Canadian title “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Canada” – a phrase shared by her titles across most of her realms. We can see a spiritual unity carried down from the earliest days of the English ethnogenesis. This sacral conception reached its apex in the reign of King Alfred the Great. King Alfred was first to hold the title of King of the Anglo-Saxons and translated the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. While he never ruled all England, in him all Anglo-Saxons finally had a unified sacred royalty.
In addition to this top-level religious and political history, Fraser spends many sections of the book detailing the legal and constitutional norms of the Anglo-Saxon people at this time. For the reader’s interest, we will touch on the interesting practice of oath-taking. In Fraser’s thesis, oath-taking becomes an important sign of the growing individualism of the Anglo-Saxons compared with their kin-based continental forebears. Oaths existed in the Germanic cultures as bond between kinsman and lords, and men without oath-based relationships to such structures were not only rootless but a social threat. In the Anglo-Saxon social order, we have seen that the power of the kin structure decreased and the power of the lords grew. Thus, an individual’s commitment to his lord grew ever more important as the blood-bonds with kin would not protect him as they had his ancestors. Giving an oath was a spiritual act witnessed by priests and performed over relics or sacred objects (witness our own continued use of Bibles). Breaking an oath threatened the immortal soul, and were taken so seriously that the mere swearing of an oat could sometimes be evidence of innocence of a crime. In a world where action and ritual were often one, King Alfred’s requirement of oaths from his men and advisors gave a spiritual basis to the very administration of the Anglo-Saxon state.
The next stage of Fraser’s thesis sees the ritualization and institutionalization of the magical and religious worldview. This occurs both due to the increased kingly requirements of the Overlord, and the tension between throne and altar. Fraser notes at first that the assent of the William the Conqueror did not immediately replace Anglo-Saxon norms with Norman ones. Upon his ascension, the Conqueror took part in the “charismatic” Kingship which he had usurped. Fraser emphasizes that it was not simply enough for a King to uphold past norms or rule in an administrative way. Rather, the King had to prove his God-given power of rule by his deeds, creating new obligations or precedents. This charism could be lost or successfully challenged (the Conqueror himself being one such successful challenger). From the time of the Conqueror onward, this personal authority gave way to an institutional entity of the Crown distinct from the person of the King. This trend occurred for a number of reasons and would reach its culmination in the Tudor centralization.
Starting in 1075, Pope Gregory VII (the Great) introduced sweeping reforms to the Church intended to solidify the accountability of bishops to the Roman See, which held traditional primacy among the Apostolic sees and was the Patriarchal See of the West. However, this was accompanied by a high view of Papal authority, which Pope Gregory saw as extending into the life of the realm beyond matters of faith or morality. A world which before knew little distinction between spirit and daily life began to encounter the tensions of authority which would ultimately become the familiar concepts of “secular” vs “religious” authority. The 12th century martyrdom of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by rogue knights of King Henry II, saw the King forced to formalize a separate domain of powers for the Church. Conversely, the Kings therefore promoted a Divinely-sanctioned political authority distinct from the Church. Yet, as Fraser points out, this was the first step toward an “eventual disenchantment of political authority”.
In addition to this pressure for a distinct authority and existence from the Church, Kings also faced the problem of the “double majesty” which existed in English political life. On the level of the realm, the Kingship – even if assented to by the nobility – was not held to be founded on them, but ultimately on the grace of God. Likewise, the nobility considered their authority to rest upon their own dignity; this same dignity was what his loyalty to his King rested on. However, this meant that the King’s responsibilities to the realm often relied on the personal loyalties of a nobility which did not often act in unison or full agreement. Fraser explains that the King’s duty to uphold a law received but not made by him, and to rule in unison with the “community of the realm”, was a conception that extended back to the pre-Norman cult of St. Edward the Confessor. These norms formed the tradition which directed the character of Kingship in this second period. Yet, they also guaranteed a Royal incentive to increase centralization in order to effectively rule.
The Tudor monarchy was the major force of centralization during this second period. In establishing himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England, King Henry VIII established a sacral as well as a political supremacy for himself. However, Fraser points out an important distinction between the Tudors and their Anglo-Saxon forebears. As we saw, the Anglo-Saxon Kings depended on a sacral power that was bound up in their persons. The Tudors, on the other hand, normalized the concepts of an “institutional” Crown distinct from the person of the King. Thus, a growing administration could act in the name of the Crown without the King’s personal involvement.
Fraser presents Richard Hooker as the best expounder of the tradition-directed character of England at this time. Hooker understood the realm as an organic body politic, where King and commonwealth worked in unison to preserve the customs and laws handed down. Hooker saw himself as defending the ancient English constitution where law and realm were one entity. And yet, Fraser attacks this idea, pointing out that the conception of an institutional inheritance of custom judicially interpreted by King and people was already a far cry from the magical-religious conception of the grace-filled Anglo-Saxon kings who received and interpreted the law under a charism from God. And indeed, this tension between the inviolability of the received customs of the ancient constitution with the royal will of the Crown would open up for the next era of Fraser’s thesis: the inner-directed era.
The mission of an increasing prerogative for the Royal will brought together two names which are not often associated with each other, and indeed would often be assumed to be opposed to one another. The first is the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and the second is the House of Stuart. Hobbes believed that the royal administration must be centralized in order to rationalize its governance, providing it the opportunity to create a great society guided by reason and empirical inquiry. Hobbes rejected the notion that monarchy could have any Divine basis, and saw its legitimacy as stemming from its ability to bring man out of the brutal “state of nature”. He mocked the sacral conception of authority and those who believed “that there walketh (as some think invisibly) another Kingdome, as it were a Kingdom of Fayries, in the dark.” Likewise, the House of Stuart existed at a time when a classically-influenced tendency to speak of an English commonwealth made up of King, lords, and commons was in ascendancy. Fraser recounts that in 1642, shortly before the civil war, King Charles I was convinced to essentially formalize this philosophy in answers to Parliament. This meant that the Crown’s institutional legitimacy would ever more be based on outcomes rather than either personal charism of rule or reception of the ancient tradition. The break with tradition toward an inner-directed administrative will had begun.
Fraser emphasizes a seemingly contradictory fact of this political struggle: both sides could coherently be described as “traditionalist”. Fraser lays out the crisis:
…the clash was a symptom of a schizophrenic split within English society that set “traditionalist modernizers” against “modernizing traditionalists”. Both royalists and common lawyers were, by definition, traditionalists. James I himself appealed to long standing traditions of biblical authority and Christian theology in suport of the divine right of kings; he also readily acknowledged that he was bound to rule in accordance with the fundamental laws of the realm. But he was also committed to transforming the royal prerogative into an effective instrument of both executive and legislative power. On the other side, the parliamentary opposition routinely invoked the hoary traditions of the common law to defend the property interests that were fuelling the anarchic disorder of an early-modern market economy.
However, for Fraser it is the rise of the Puritan ethos which encapsulates the entry of inner-directed thought into daily and religious life. This occurs during and after the civil war. The inner life of the Puritan was bound up in the relationship between God and the conscience. Having rejected “papist” sacramental theology, the Puritan was in no way assured of God’s grace. This demanded of the believer a continual examination of conscience in accordance with Scripture. The pious man was expected to demonstrate this discipline also through a steadfast devotion to work. Otherwise mundane, work became sanctified because the taking up of it made it a vehicle for the Kingdom of God. In addition to providing personal discipline, it became an outward sign of Godly favour. Yet the Puritan conception was even further removed from the magical-religious worldview than the tradition-directed worldview had been. Concepts like sacraments or charisms were scandalous to the Puritan mind, which lionized reason. Fraser quotes, for example, Milton’s rebuke of the erotic elements of marriage as “the prescribed satisfaction of an irrational heat.”
Ultimately, this third stage allows us to see that the story of the English ethnoculture from the days of Anglo-Saxon establishment up to the era of the Reformation was an increasing disenchantment of the world. Fraser traces this process from the Stuarts through the Puritan and Cromwellian era, through the Glorious Revolution. The Crown moved ever more to an inner-directed, results based legitimacy. By the 18th century and the rise of Robert Walpole as the first Prime Minister, the conservation of the ancient constitution was left to those Tories and a number of Whigs associated with the Country Party. This party of Tories and conservative Whigs, led by the one-time Jacobite Viscount Bolingbroke, saw in Walpole’s centralization the rise of party interests which eroded the unifying force of the ancient constitution. In opposition to this, it defended the powers of local gentry against centralizing administrators, and claimed to speak for the whole country – living and ancestral – against the factions of their day.
However, this moment in history saw a turning point in the history of the English: their expansion to the New World. America would become a land where the remnants of the tradition-directed and magical-religious eras were minimal. The inner-directed nature of the Puritan religion and the market economy would become fundamental to Homo Americanus. The second part of Fraser’s work details its growth. It also posits what a restoration of the English ethnoculture may entail. This will be further examined in the second part of this review.
The WASP Question is available for purchase at Arktos.
This year, our Dominion turns 150. As is expected, the majority of celebrations will be focused on cementing the image of Canada as the land without roots. The post-national state. The multicultural society with no culture its own.
If we stay on this path, there will not be another 150 years. Even now, the official stance is that Canada’s pride is its position in the global liberal order. No reference made to the Loyalist migration, proud and Catholic Quebec, or the mission of Confederation to create an alternative to the republican experiment. Now more than ever, we need to imagine an alternative. We require strong thought and creative re-imagining for the future. We also need to forge a mentality of loyalty to what our forefathers handed down and the courage to rebuild it. Northern Dawn is part of the intellectual aspect of this work.
Therefore, we are pleased to announce that we are accepting submissions for the 1st Northern Dawn Symposium. The theme of this symposium is: Canada: Who Are We?
Background: Northern Dawn has begun to detail a radical rethinking of what Canada represents in the 21st century. Unlike the liberal conception, this vision of Canada is tied into what it represented in 1867, and in 1776. Despite decades of rewritten history, Canada retains an institutional and historical memory of its true mission. At the decisive moment when liberalism usurped the future of American civilization, the Loyalists fled northward to maintain their allegiance. In the person of the King, their loyalty was not only to a government, but to a vision of a monarchic Anglo-American civilization born of Western Christendom. In the decades that followed, the English and French destinies became entwined, culminating their joint membership in the Dominion of Canada.
Purpose: The common theme of this symposium is the recovery of the true Canadian tradition and elaborating how it can inform our future. Themes we are interested in include: pre- and non-liberal political traditions in colonial America, their survival in Canada and preservation in the United States, nationalism and identity, the end of secularism and what comes after, High Tory culture and thought, analysis of the Laurentian elite, and more. Names which inform our approach include George Grant, Charles Taylor, Stephen Leacock, Alasdair MacIntyre, Mencius Moldbug, Peter Hitchens, Sam Francis, and Ron Dart.
- A wide variety of themes are acceptable (history, philosophy, culture, religion, aesthetics, etc). However, essays must have in mind the common theme of Northern Dawn: the traditions inherited by North America as a part of Western European Christendom, and Canada as the rightful bearer of these traditions after the liberal door opened by 1776.
- Politically-focused essays must take a historical or future-oriented view. We are not looking for commentary on the current 48-hour cycle of news.
- We are more interested in quality of content than a word count, but we would suggest 1500-3000 words as a minimum and maximum.
- Northern Dawn reserves the right to request edits or reject submissions.
Current works in progress include reflections on Charles Taylor, media power as a legitimate state concern, and a reflection High Tory influence in Canadian fiction.
We look forward to more. Please submit essays to: firstname.lastname@example.org
University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson recently made some interesting comments on the Alt Right. On the one hand, he refused to condemn its thrust to re-establish identity and roots, identifying this with the Father archetype. However, he also made several criticisms which bear some examination. Some aspects of the response here have been elaborated further elsewhere.
The core of Peterson’s criticism lay in the charge that the Alt Right is incomplete. “The purpose of identification with the Father is to become the Son…and the problem with Nationalism is that it forgets that, it forgets that the purpose of the nation is to give rise to the individual.”
Peterson believes that the Alt Right misses that the state is a “pathological monster”. He also believes that a contradiction exists in the Alt Right: on the one hand, it has criticized the Left for expanding and using the power of the state to achieve its ends; on the other hand, it sees the answer in nationalism.
Both of these criticisms which reveal the extent to which the assumptions and frame of liberalism (in the historic sense of the word from 1776 and 1789 onward) influences not only Peterson, but also many critics of the social justice Left who continue to identify as libertarians, “classical liberals”, or even “conservatives”. This is the grouping often called the “Alt Lite” by nationalist opponents, because it bases its opposition on libertarian arguments about individualism and free speech rather than civilizational or racial vision.
First, we must address the quite teleological claim that the nation exists to create the individual. Now in a certain sense, this is true. A nation exists in its individuals, the same way a body exists in its cells. However, Peterson’s comments imply a certain moral individualism: the nation’s moral foundation is in the individuals it creates. In other words, we can identify a sort of moral foundation built on the individual from which the state derives legitimacy.
It is difficult to go further than this without questioning what sort of individual is desired by the person using this definition, and Peterson is certainly no orthodox liberal in how he sees individuals. However, we can speak more toward the general view of individuals championed by the libertarian and “classical liberal”, categories with which many of Peterson’s followers identify. This tradition envisions the individual as a sovereign, rights-bearing entity which by its own reason and will chooses how it interacts with others, what its moral vision is, and what truth is. Therefore, any entry into collective identity or action is only morally permissible by the consent of the individual.
Once admitted, much theorizing is done as to why therefore concepts like the state and law are valid, often entering into Lockean, Hobbesian, or similar ideas about social contract. The most consistent application of this principle leads one inescapably to anarchism. In the words of the American anarchist Lysander Spooner, “[the secessionist] had the same natural right to take up arms alone to defend his own property against a single tax-gatherer, that he had to take up arms in company with three millions of others, to defend the property of all against an army of tax-gatherers.”
However, this attempt at creating a moral axiom inescapably finds itself at war with the telos of Man’s social nature, which not only tends to but relies on hierarchy. Universally, any human who takes part in even the human society of a family has been brought into the world by parents and has his beliefs and concepts shaped by his family. His raising is dependent on the authority his parents hold over him, which they hold because he is dependent on them, and they are older and wiser than he. This is the principle of protego ergo obligo: I protect, therefore I obligate. This protection, and the resulting obedience, is the principle which creates the authoritative structures of the family and the state alike. Sovereign authority precedes the individual, be it in the family or in the state.
Unlike the Hobbesian and Lockean thought experiments about the state of nature which characterize Enlightenment thought, the truth is that such authority is inherent to all human society. The “state of nature” never existed. As Sir Robert Filmer demonstrates in Patriarcha, this same principle of the family expands without obstacle to the extended family, the clan, and ultimately to that Power on which is built the sovereign corporative structure we call the state. As the German political and legal philosopher Carl Schmitt states in his foundational work The Concept of the Political: “protego ergo obligo is the cogito ergo sum of the state”. Liberalism historically rejected this idea; of course, as it gained ascendency it took a more realistic view, to the extent that modern “liberals” approve of social engineering programs which go far beyond anything the “tyrants” of old ever dreamed.
This conception preserves the notion and place of the individual, but does not accept that the morality of the individual exists as separate from the collectives which form him. It restores to the individual a political nature, in Schmitt’s meaning of that word. Schmitt saw liberalism as not so much a political theory, but an anti-politics. It is a pure critique, which attempts to sever any claim of state, church, or nation to the individual. While this sounds desirable in some ways (after all, claims imply possible limitations), it is also what ultimately leads to the collapses of meaning which the Alt Right has arisen in response to. Liberalism, to use Peterson’s language, seeks to end the claims of the Father.
Is there a contradiction in the Alt Right on this topic? It would be more accurate to say that this topic is a dividing line between factions. The “Alt Lite” certainly does hold that the state is pathological and makes arguments based on free speech or individualist grounds. Although they may often signal nationalist, this is often framed as a nationalism which is needed to protect classical liberal norms. The identitarian faction rejects the libertarian frame and does not make arguments based on those grounds, but rather in terms of group dynamics and collective security.
The identitarian arguments implicitly have a better understanding of the nature of political conflict. The fatal error of the liberal “anti-SJW” frame is that its logical conclusion offers rights which depend on good faith behaviour to groups which will not act in good faith. In the heyday of the 60’s and 70’s, the New Left advocated free speech in campuses in order to get their voices heard and take control of the institutions. Once this was achieved, they burned the free speech bridge. Those who defended the New Left based on free speech failed both in their own political agenda and in the protection of campus free speech.
Today, the political forces which act to eliminate any chance of restoring our civilization have moved on from free speech. Trump proves an interesting case study. While the libertarian wastes money and resources on merely winning the possibility of argument, the Trump campaign ignored this and went right to the issues at hand: immigration, family, work, and security. The President reaped the results. While the Left must of course be endlessly hammered on its hypocrisy on the speech issue, the Right must focus on those battles which will actually decide the course of history. The family must be made secure and re-normalized. Migration policy must restore demographic integrity. The power of media and academia must be harnessed. The state – which is a necessary and emergent phenomenon in all large human societies – will either act for these ends, or against them. There is no “neutral” option. If it is to work for them, it will be because those who hold sovereign power decide to work for them.
To conclude, Peterson is absolutely correct that we must restore the Father and become sons. However, achieving this on a cultural and civilizational level is inseparable from achieving this as a vision of the state. If the state is pathological, it is because the people who make it up are pathological.
In that case, the only option is for the state to sort itself out. But then, it will also have to deal with the errors of liberalism, rather than basing its response on those same deceptions.
Like many, we at Northern Dawn continue to follow the career of Prof. Jordan Peterson. As many of our readers will know, his refusal to allow the progressive apparatchiks the linguistic control their project demands has earned him vehement opposition and staunch support. Interestingly, his rising popularity has also lead many observers to become interested in the topics of religious psychology and creative thought.
Recently, the following piece was published attempting to attack Prof. Peterson from a Communist perspective. The piece is useful to read since it provides a strong example of several kinds of rhetoric and framing used by leftists to subvert healthy thinking and social structures. For the benefit of our readers, we will outline several of these instances.
This is not, however, an engagement with Communism. Let us be clear: Communism is an evil, retrograde, and abominable ideology which caused more mass death and suffering than any other ideological system in the 20th century. It remains today for only two reasons: the chameleon tactic, by which the Communist is allowed to disown such evil by claiming that they were “not real Communism”, and the active collaboration and promotion by those in academia and media who promote Communist icons as romantic idealists rather than mass murderers. We approach this as propaganda analysis, useful insofar as it allows people to spot and deconstruct common tactics of ideological subversion.
Frame #1: Defining Fascism
As is to be expected, the piece accuses Peterson of being motivated by Fascism. It holds to a typical Communist definition of Fascism as the open exercise of state power by oppressive structures (in this case, patriarchy and capitalism). While common, this definition is peculiar to the Communist lens – which historically dominated historical studies of Fascism – and not to broader historical perspectives.
A. James Gregor’s work Mussolini’s Intellectuals is a less ideologically driven account of Fascism. Gregor recounts the steps of Fascist development, and reveals it to be a philosophical synthesis of Italian nationalism, post-Marxist syndicalism, and Gentilian Idealist philosophy. Its prime motivation was the establishment of an industrial and geopolitically sovereign Italian state. Armed with this historically accurate view of Fascism, the common use of the term as a leftist slur becomes not only empty but patently ridiculous.
Frame #2: Cultural Marxism as Myth
As the concept of cultural marxism has moved beyond the circles of paleoconservative history and philosophy (Gottfried et al), the Left has begun a campaign of delegitimization against the concept. This rests on a purposeful strawman of what Cultural Marxism is. Cultural Marxism describes the transition of Marxist categories of thought from economic categories of identity (class) to a variety of other categories (gender, race, orientation, religion, culture, etc). Scholars like Paul Gottfried (a former student of Marcuse) saw the left wing of the Frankfurt School as playing a central role in this process. It may be useful to quote Gottfried at length:
The roots of this force, these critics argue, go back to the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, which was organized in interwar Germany, and to the influence its adherents exercised, especially in exile in the US after 1935.
Exponents of what the Frankfurt School called “critical theory”— like Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, and Erich Fromm—were considered by orthodox Marxists to be fake or ersatz Marxists.
But the self-proclaimed radicals of Frankfurt School did adopt orthodox Marxist-Leninist theory in depicting the bourgeoisie as a counterrevolutionary class. Like orthodox Marxists, they viewed the world, arguably simplistically, in terms of interest groups and power relationships. Like orthodox Marxists—whose break from Victorian classical liberalism in this respect was shocking in a way that is easily overlooked after the totalitarian experience of the twentieth century—they explicitly eschewed debate in favor of reviling and if possible repressing their opponents.[…]
Still and all, the Frankfurt School, and especially its second generation as represented by the fervent “anti-fascist” Jürgen Habermas, has been far more interested in social engineering than in government ownership of the means of production distribution and exchange—the classic definition of socialism. From The Authoritarian Personality, edited by Adorno and his collaborator Max Horkheimer and brought out in 1950 by the American Jewish Committee (then and now funders of Commentary), to the repeated attempts by Habermas and his fervent followers to make German education politically useful to the anti-national Left, the Frankfurt School has focused on “anti-fascist” attitudes and behavioral patterns. Whether this can be extracted from Communist practice, or from Marx’s materialist view of class and history, are open questions.
But whatever the case, Frankfurt School-intellectuals rallied to Lenin’s Russia and later sympathized variously with the Communist DDR , were close to, if not always members of, the German Communist Party, and traced their work back to Marxist concepts. In short, they were social reformers in a hurry who also claimed to be Marxists.
Now this theory about the role of a certain academic clique in the transformation of the Left has little to do with the popular Leftist strawmanning of the term. Commonly, it will be described at once as a “conspiracy theory” (notice that the Left, which has numerous historical conspiracies of rebellion, is the quickest to try and deride the concept of conspiracy altogether) that attributes every aspect of the modern Left (feminism, environmentalism, etc) to a grand design of the Frankfurt School.
Contrasting this to Gottfried’s definition, this is an obvious caricature. The Communist piece has an even more absurd take, claiming that “Fascists have blamed the chimera “Cultural Marxism” for the phenomenon of gender variance”.
Frame #3: Narrative Subversion
A third tactic which becomes evident in the piece is the attempt to erase competing narratives which would undermine the ability of leftist narratives to gain legitimacy.
The fascist offensive to erase the colonized peoples, the gender nonconforming, and a militant, partisan, and independent labour movement is an offensive against the living bearers of a history, the latter of which is an affront to the former’s mythological conception of history….The bitter and brutal history of primitive accumulation, the enclosures, the Peasant War in Germany, the working class uprisings of the Springtime of Nations in 1848, and the Paris Commune in 1871 are the ultimate affront and repudiation of their idyllic and flatly ignorant vision of Western Civilization as harmonious.
Immediately, we see the frame that those groups seen as within the Leftist coalition have “true history” whereas those outside it have only “mythological conception[s] of history”. This is incoherent within the Leftist approach itself, which sees narratives as stemming fundamentally from the interests of power structures. Given this, it is not at all obvious why the “oppressed” narratives should be regarded as any less or more mythological than “oppressor” narratives, since neither has truth as its goal.
In this case, the writer even tries to impose communist lenses on struggles that had no conception of leftist or even merely liberal norms. The peasants who participated in the Peasant War in Germany in the 16th century certainly had grievances and even a concern for their personal liberties, but saw themselves as belonging to a cohesive Christendom (even if one needing Reformation). Attempts to coopt them into the grand narrative of revolution constitutes a historical appropriation.
This same tactic is used regarding nations, religions, and cultures. We are used to seeing the Left militantly oppose Christian priests or pastors who refuse to morally approve of homosexual relations, for example, while coming out in droves to defend Islamic groups which demand harsh punishments for the same relationships. Another example is the idealization common on the Left of “indigenous cultures” and the consequent demand that they maintain land sovereignty and particularity, while advocating globalism and open borders for the rest of the world. Certain kinds of liberals will attack what they call the “regressive left” for hypocrisy or inconsistent principles; their mistake, of course, is assuming that they are witnessing applications of principles. In fact, this is an entirely consistent application of the ethics of tribal warfare: defend your own, attack the enemy.
The only guard against this tactic is a moral boundary: no one, especially no ideological opponent, can be granted the legitimacy to undermine one’s historical identity. While this should be obvious, the phenomenon occurs all too often in academic and other circles, where parties assume that these narratives are being promoted in good faith and not as part of a political power struggle.
Some Further Points
It is a common byline of not only Communists, but much of the modern Left, that ideas cannot be separated from the culture which they come from and contribute to. The piece cites Magnus Hirschfeld as a researcher who helped to prove gender variance. It may be of interest to readers to examine the cultural backdrop which Hirschfeld and his fellow-travellers operated in.
Born into a Jewish family established in the German medical industry, Hirschfeld would become among the most infamous experimenters in “sexual science” of his day. His most well-known project, the Institute for Sexual Research, opened in 1919 in Berlin.
Now what sort of culture was this project immersed in? Despite the implication that Hirschfeld was surrounded by brave fellow-travellers casting off the chains of oppression, the truth about Weimar Berlin is far uglier. A thriving underground sex-trafficking scene which prided itself on embracing decadence exploited not only men and women driven to poverty by war and depression, but even children. Prof. Mel Gordon of UC Berkeley details, in stomach-churning terms, a prevalence of child prostitution in his work Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin.
Gordon quotes a memoir by Italian journalist Luigi Barzini:
“I saw pimps offering anything to anybody, little boys, little girls, robust young men, libidinous women, animals. The story went around that a male goose of which one cut the neck at the ecstatic moment would give you the most delicious, economical, and time-saving frisson of all, as it allowed you to enjoy sodomy, bestiality, homosexuality, necrophilia and sadism at one stroke. Gastronomy too, as one could eat the goose afterwards.”
“One French journalist, Jean Galtier-Boissière, described, in sickly pornographic detail, the creeping horror of feeling a nine-year-old girl’s tiny, but proficient, fingers stroking his upper thigh while the broken-toothed mother covered his face with hot sucking kisses.”
It is important to understand that this was the culture which Hirschfeld’s work appealed to. By the standards of cultural context, Hirschfeld cannot be considered as anything other than the product of a horrifically exploitative culture dressed up in the language of sexual liberation. If Weimar Berlin is indeed the culture which such people wish to return to, then many will find “liberation” a good deal harsher and more dehumanizing than they could have ever imagined.
As the free trade paradigm continues to erode, its advocates are beginning to look for alternatives. One of these has struck a chord not only with neoliberals, but also with a number of conservatives and traditionalists: the CANZUK proposal.
For those unfamiliar, the project aims to create some sort of trade and security pact between the Anglosphere countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Cooperation and ties between the Anglosphere countries is of course to be desired, and it is understandable that many who admire the traditions of the Empire and the cultural unity of the English world would be attracted to such a proposal. At least one candidate for the Conservative leadership has weighed in in favour of the project. In addition, the proposal would offer the possibility for those who favoured Brexit in the UK to prove that economic ties can be built outside of the Brussels bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, those who see CANZUK as an opportunity should learn the lessons of the European Union. This is particularly true when the suggestion includes some kind of free movement. The moral of the EU story can be summed up as follows: free movement is not advisable or sustainable when no common border exists around the area of movement. Despite nominally coordinated regulations for the Schengen Area, the extent of the refugee crisis has seen states reimpose more stringent national border controls.
The comparison to the EU is admitted by the advocates of the CANZUK idea. The executive director of CANZUK International states the following:
What we’re advocating is not something out of the ordinary. This is something that has been done within the European Union, between virtually 30 countries with a population of 500 million citizens, who have the right to live and work freely between each other, and its also been done between Australia and New Zealand with the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement … so what we’re proposing with 4 Commonwealth countries, who have very close Commonwealth ties, is not something completely “out there”.
Tensions and disparities in enforcement are inevitable when implementation is being done by a number of states which are both de jure and de facto sovereign in how regulations are imposed. Canada becomes subject to British immigration policy, Britain to Australia, and so on. Moreover, the organizations of entrenched neoliberalism remain in place despite the nationalist wave which continues to sweep the world; as such, we can expect to see a continuation of pressure on participants to cede sovereignty to the institutions of globalism and financial power.
Thus, it seems reasonable to assume the following for a CANZUK trade and migration area: following the establishment of the treaty, the bureaucracy created to administer it would find its interests best served by securing the favour and backing of the globalist powers. Thus, participating countries would find themselves increasingly pressured to cede more security, legal, and migration powers to the new common governing authority.
At the same time, the CANZUK free trade area would likely see pressure to itself sign agreements with other countries and trade areas, much like those the EU has pursued with CETA and similar agreements. In the case of renewed migration pressures when the next crisis hits, countries would be pressured to “share the burden”. Thus, the lessons which we might now learn in observing the EU from afar would be received much more directly.
Forging closer ties among the CANZUK nations as privileged partners in matters of trade and migration is desirable. Yet this must be done as part of a broader project of restoring a cohesive and resilient civilizational bulwark. The only way to effectively enforce a free movement area would be a unified sovereign power which administers all participant territories.
Despite the hopes of some Anglophiles, such an entity would – at present – be unlikely to take the form of a reborn, responsible, and civilizationally-minded Imperial Crown.
In Canada, one is hard-pressed to conceive of any form of nationalism that is not royalist to the core. Likewise, we ought not be surprised that those who seek to erase Canada’s ethnic foundations and political heritage also seek the destruction of its monarchic foundation. Yet for many Canadian defenders of the monarchy, arguments in its defence will fall back on cultural attachment, or perhaps personal admiration of Her Majesty. While these are unquestionably healthy sentiments, it is vital to understand the power of our monarchy as an incarnation of the realm, a symbol of those forces which have shaped our civilization. The monarchy is at once the state’s foundation stone, compass, and embodiment. As an institution it bears institutional, ethnocultural, and spiritual power.
The nationalist in Canada has always played a unique role in the battles of political thought and geopolitics. His opposite and opponent is the liberal internationalist. Canada’s defenders opposed the proposition nation, along with the atomizing individualism and chaotic divisions in sovereignty it promoted. They believed that society must be well-ordered and governed, and that human nature was particular and rooted. But in the very fact that Canada was established as a defence of British and French America against liberalism, it was imbued with a mission: to build North America as it ought to be, conscious of its roots and its inheritance.
Canada as a political order is the response of a civilization which predates Confederation, the conflicts of 1812 or 1776, and even the arrival of Europeans in the New World. Our monarchy embodies this fact better than any other institution. The Crown is linked by oath, culture, and blood to the civilization of European Christendom. In the early history of our continent, the English and French branches of this civilization clashed over resources, culture, and faith. Yet in time, the loyal English and the proud French would have more in common with one another than with the unfolding experiment to their south.
The topic of “Canadian values” has begun seeping once again into our political life. This comes thanks to statements made by Kellie Leitch, Conservative leadership candidate, whose campaign asked if immigrants should be screened for “Canadian values”. Of course, this development is nothing but positive. Strangely though, our governing classes seem to think otherwise.
We are faced with an immediate question. What are Canadian values? Leitch’s site lists the following:
- Equal opportunity – We must strive to ensure that everyone has as much of an equal opportunity to succeed as possible, especially our youth
- Hard work – Everyone must work hard and provide for themselves and their families
- Helping others – Once people become prosperous, we all are expected to give back to our communities to help others
- Generosity – Canada is a place that shows what is possible when hard work and generosity come together
- Freedom and tolerance – A Canadian identity that is based on freedom and tolerance to allow each of us the chance to pursue our best lives and to become our best selves
Nice thoughts, all around.
Just one thing: if the term “Canadian values” has any meaning, then it surely includes the values which were defended by the Loyalists in 1776, by British and allied indigenous forces in 1812, and by Sir John A. Macdonald in those first years when Canada was a united Dominion.
Let’s check out what values those generations were defending.