“Liberalism is Christianity in decay.”
by Roger Devlin
I had no interest in politics during my early adult years, a circumstance for which I am now grateful. Like most Americans, I assumed that “politics” meant electoral contests between hardly-distinguishable parties.
In early adulthood I encountered The Gulag Archipelago and gained a proper appreciation of just how high the stakes of politics could be. Initially, I gravitated toward that combination of anti-Communism and status quo Social Democracy known as neo-conservatism. In the academic bubble I then inhabited, such a stance was viewed as radical.
As a college instructor, I was baffled to receive student essays vehemently maintaining the “equality” of black and white, or singing the heroism of Rosa Parks. My classes were in philosophy, and I never mentioned race at all. Clearly, this was the stuff students had been taught to write for their professors before they got to me.
The stridency of their language suggested they were defending an idea under heavy attack. But where was the attack? All I had ever heard anyone say about races is that they were “equal.” If this is all the students wanted to say, what were they getting so worked up about? They wrote as if they were trying to scratch an itch.
I wished to devote my life to learning and scholarship, with no thought of practical application beyond eventually sharing my knowledge with the generation that came after me. Of course, I quickly learned that few of my colleagues shared this elevated, quasi-monastic notion of the scholar’s calling. Some turned out to hold beliefs weirdly similar to the jailors described by Solzhenitsyn; many more did not, but were untroubled by—or afraid of—those who did.
Accordingly, my first practical cause belonged to the realm of academic politics: defending the life of the mind from ideological corruption. I was also fascinated by the sheer power which ideology exercised over many men’s minds, and by how a band of resentful mediocrities armed with little else had infiltrated and virtually subjugated an institution made up of highly intelligent people.
The ideologues talked a great deal about race, of course; but this did not lead me to take any interest in the subject myself. I vaguely hoped that once the imposters had been purged from the academy we could forget about race and get back to learning and teaching.
I devoted several years to investigating the first principles of modern “progressive” thought, publishing a little philosophical primer on the subject (Alexandre Kojève and the Outcome of Modern Thought). But this still did not lead me to the issue of racial differences, which are an empirical rather than philosophical matter. The entire drama of ideological politics can be played out within a homogeneous society, as students of the French Revolution know.
Nevertheless, I have come to the point where I prefer to publish even purely sociological analysis (e.g., “From Salon to Guillotine,” Summer 2008) in an explicitly racial-realist venue such as The Occidental Quarterly.
Here is why. Those traditional conservatives who continue to admonish us against the dangers of “biological determinism” are increasingly condemning themselves to irrelevance. The plea that “race isn’t everything” is valid per se, but not especially germane to the situation in which we find ourselves. For we are not the aggressors in the battle now being fought. And in any battle, it is the aggressors’ prerogative to choose the point of attack: if they come at you by land, you do not have the option of fighting them at sea.
Race is everything to our enemies, and it is the angle from which they have chosen to attack our entire civilization. It is also where they have achieved their greatest victories: you can see this from the way “conservative” groups feel they must parrot the language of the egalitarians just to get a hearing (see: here). Such well-meaning but naive friends of our civilization are in effect consenting to occupy the status of a “kept” opposition.
The more we try to avoid confronting race directly, the more our enemies will press their advantage at precisely this point. Tactically, they are correct to do so. And they will continue until we abandon our defensive posture and turn to attack them on their own chosen ground.
The Occidental Quarterly is blessed with contributors who have made racial differences and ethnic conflict their lives’ study, and I cannot match them in their own fields. But I prefer to throw in my lot with them because they are unambiguously not part of any “kept” opposition. Being a pariah at least keeps one honest.
A turning point for me was reading Glayde Whitney’s “The Biological Reality of Race” in American Renaissance (October 1999). Like everyone else in America, I had been subjected to years of race-talk, but the aim had always been to lead me to “feel” in a predetermined way. Even my students’ papers had been apprentice work in this genre. Whitney, by contrast, was simply setting forth information. Reading him was like being addressed as an adult after years of being talked down to. This by itself was enough to get me to sit up and take notice of what he was saying.
Moreover, he contradicted everything I had ever been told. And he did so while showing that race could be as interesting as any other scientific topic. I had never seen anyone actually diagram the human family tree, showing which groups were most closely related and which most distantly separated. I was particularly struck by the revelation that the deepest evolutionary cleft within the human race was that between black Africans and everyone else.
But even a complete racial science based upon exhaustive knowledge of the human genome would never make a dent in anti-white ideology. This is because ideologies are not scientific theories: they are systems of ideas mobilized by groups of men in their struggle to acquire or maintain power over other men. They are a misuse—a prostitution—of the faculty of human reason, whose proper end is the discovery of the true. Ideological doctrines are true, in the best of cases, only per accidens; more often they are falsehoods publicly maintained through violence and intimidation.
Not being based upon knowledge, the content of ideologies change with the elites and counter-elites which champion them. Past ideological regimes have been governed by Marxists who spoke of class rather than race. Still earlier regimes (and revolutionaries) invoked religious concepts. And, yes, racial science itself has been prostituted in the service of what was essentially a political ideology.
The masters of the West long ago ceased performing even the minimum function required of any governing elite: seeing to the physical survival of the people it rules. Instead, it maintains its power by setting its clients (“designated victims”) against the rest of us. “Antiracism” is the ideology, but what is really going on underneath is the mobilization of envy, covetousness, and the libido dominandi.
Much of the elite itself is white, of course. But this is really no more paradoxical than a company getting rich by staging a “going out of business sale” that never ends. Except, of course, that the “white anti-racism” game will have to end soon.
The regime’s greatest crime, however, lies not in setting its clients against us; it is what it has done to our own young people. Those indoctrinated students whose essays so perplexed me had been formed into instruments of an alien will: pawns in a struggle inimical to their own interests, and whose real nature they could not grasp. They were no less victims for being willing.
Writing for The Occidental Quarterly is essentially a continuation of the work I had always intended to do, adapted to a hostile political situation I have come to understand better. In the most general terms, this work remains: the pursuit of knowledge, teaching, and the fight against the same ideological enemies I encountered in the academy. For a professor-manqué, writing for an independent journal is the equivalent of what home-schooling is for a parent: a quiet revolt against institutions which have lost all claim to allegiance.
TOQ Online, October 1, 2009
The Wikipedia article on liberalism that I edited for this site can now be read from the beginning at Ex Libris: here.
Yes: Wikipedia is a liberal, anti-white online encyclopedia. I reproduced it because it shows that liberalism has old, native roots in our Neo-Christian, ethno-suicidal culture and modern zeitgeist.
In Australia, liberalism is primarily championed by the centre-right Liberal Party. The Liberals are a fusion of classical liberal and conservative forces and are affiliated with the conservative International Democrat Union.
Impact and influence
The fundamental elements of contemporary society have liberal roots. The early waves of liberalism popularized economic individualism while expanding constitutional government and parliamentary authority. One of the liberal triumphs involved replacing the capricious nature of royalist and absolutist rule with a decision-making process encoded in written law. Liberals sought and established a constitutional order that prized important individual freedoms, such as the freedom of speech and of association, an independent judiciary and public trial by jury, and the abolition of aristocratic privileges.
These sweeping changes in political authority marked the modern transition from absolutism to constitutional rule. The expansion and promotion of free markets was another major liberal achievement. Before they could establish markets, however, liberals had to destroy the old economic structures of the world. In that vein, liberals ended mercantilist policies, royal monopolies, and various other restraints on economic activities. They also sought to abolish internal barriers to trade—eliminating guilds, local tariffs, the Commons and prohibitions on the sale of land along the way.
Later waves of modern liberal thought and struggle were strongly influenced by the need to expand civil rights. In the 1960s and 1970s, the cause of Second Wave feminism in the United States was advanced in large part by liberal feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women. In addition to supporting gender equality, liberals also have advocated for racial equality in their drive to promote civil rights, and a global civil rights movement in the 20th century achieved several objectives towards both goals.
Among the various regional and national movements, the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1960s strongly highlighted the liberal efforts for equal rights. Describing the political efforts of the period, some historians have asserted that “the voting rights campaign marked…the convergence of two political forces at their zenith: the black campaign for equality and the movement for liberal reform,” further remarking about how “the struggle to assure blacks the ballot coincided with the liberal call for expanded federal action to protect the rights of all citizens”.
The Great Society project launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson oversaw the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the establishment of Head Start and the Job Corps as part of the War on Poverty, and the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964—an altogether rapid series of events that some historians have dubbed the Liberal Hour.
Another major liberal accomplishment includes the rise of liberal internationalism, which has been credited with the establishment of global organizations such as the League of Nations and, after World War II, the United Nations. The idea of exporting liberalism worldwide and constructing a harmonious and liberal internationalist order has dominated the thinking of liberals since the 18th century. “Wherever liberalism has flourished domestically, it has been accompanied by visions of liberal internationalism,” one historian wrote.
In North America, unlike in Europe, the word liberalism almost exclusively refers to social liberalism in contemporary politics. The dominant Canadian and American parties, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party, are frequently identified as being modern liberal or centre-left organizations in the academic literature.
In Canada, the long-dominant Liberal Party, colloquially known as the Grits, ruled the country for nearly seventy years during the 20th century. The party produced some of the most influential prime ministers in Canadian history, including Pierre Trudeau, Lester B. Pearson and Jean Chrétien, and has been primarily responsible for the development of the Canadian welfare state. The enormous success of the Liberals—virtually unmatched in any other liberal democracy—has prompted many political commentators over time to identify them as the nation’s natural governing party. However, in recent elections the party has been performing poorly, eclipsed federally by both the Conservative Party and the social democratic New Democratic Party.
In the United States, modern liberalism traces its history to the popular presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who initiated the New Deal in response to the Great Depression and won an unprecedented four elections. The New Deal coalition established by Franklin Roosevelt left a decisive legacy and influenced many future American presidents, including John F. Kennedy, a self-described liberal who defined a liberal as “someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions… someone who cares about the welfare of the people.”
In Latin America, liberal unrest dates back to the 19th century, when liberal groups frequently fought against and violently overthrew conservative regimes in several countries across the region. Liberal revolutions in countries such as Mexico and Ecuador ushered in the modern world for much of Latin America. Latin American liberals generally emphasized free trade, private property, and anti-clericalism. Today, market liberals in Latin America are organized in the Red Liberal de América Latina (RELIAL), a centre-right network that brings together dozens of liberal parties and organizations.
In Europe, liberalism has a long tradition dating back to 17th century. Scholars often split those traditions into English and French versions, with the former version of liberalism emphasizing the expansion of democratic values and constitutional reform and the latter rejecting authoritarian political and economic structures, as well as being involved with nation-building.
The continental French version was deeply divided between moderates and progressives, with the moderates tending to elitism and the progressives supporting the universalization of fundamental institutions, such as universal suffrage, universal education, and the expansion of property rights. Over time, the moderates displaced the progressives as the main guardians of continental European liberalism. A prominent example of these divisions is the German Free Democratic Party, which was historically divided between national liberal and social liberal factions.
Before World War I, liberal parties dominated the European political scene, but they were gradually displaced by socialists and social democrats in the early 20th century. The fortunes of liberal parties since World War II have been mixed, with some gaining strength while others suffered from continuous declines. The fall of the Soviet Union and the breakup of Yugoslavia at the end of the 20th century, however, allowed the formation of many liberal parties throughout Eastern Europe.
Both in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe, liberal parties have often cooperated with socialist and social democratic parties, as evidenced by the Purple Coalition in the Netherlands during the late 1990s and into the 21st century. The Purple Coalition, one of the most consequential in Dutch history, brought together the progressive left-liberal, the market liberal, centre-right and the social democratic Labour Party: an unusual combination that ultimately legalized same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and prostitution while also instituting a non-enforcement policy on marijuana.
“Liberals are committed to build and safeguard free, fair and open societies, in which they seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity… Liberalism aims to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity.”
Liberalism is frequently cited as the dominant ideology of modern times. Politically, liberals have organized extensively throughout the world. Liberal parties, think tanks, and other institutions are common in many nations, although they advocate for different causes based on their ideological orientation. Liberal parties can be center-left, centrist, or center-right depending on their location.
They can further be divided based on their adherence to social liberalism or classical liberalism, although all liberal parties and individuals share basic similarities, including the support for civil rights and democratic institutions. On a global level, liberals are united in the Liberal International, which contains over 100 influential liberal parties and organizations from across the ideological spectrum.
Some parties in Liberal International are among the most famous in the world, such as the Liberal Party of Canada, while others are among the smallest, such as the Gibraltar Liberal Party. Regionally, liberals are organized through various institutions depending on the prevailing geopolitical context. The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, for example, represents the interests of liberals in Europe while the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is the predominant liberal group in the European Parliament.
Execution of Torrijos and his men in 1831 by Antonio Gisbert. Spanish King Ferdinand VII took repressive measures
against the liberal forces in his country.
Criticism and support
Liberalism has drawn both criticism and support in its history from various ideological groups. For example, some scholars suggest that liberalism gave rise to feminism, although others maintain that liberal democracy is inadequate for the realization of feminist objectives.
Liberal feminism, the dominant tradition in feminist history, hopes to eradicate all barriers to gender equality—claiming that the continued existence of such barriers eviscerates the individual rights and freedoms ostensibly guaranteed by a liberal social order. British philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft is widely regarded as the pioneer of liberal feminism, with A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) expanding the boundaries of liberalism to include women in the political structure of liberal society.
Less friendly to the goals of liberalism has been conservatism. Edmund Burke, considered by some to be the first major proponent of modern conservative thought, offered a blistering critique of the French Revolution by assailing the liberal pretensions to the power of rationality and to the natural equality of all humans. Conservatives have also attacked what they perceive to be the reckless liberal pursuit of progress and material gains, arguing that such preoccupations undermine traditional social values rooted in community and continuity. However, a few variations of conservatism, like liberal conservatism, expound some of the same ideas and principles championed by classical liberalism, including “small government and thriving capitalism.”
Some confusion remains about the relationship between social liberalism and socialism, despite the fact that many variants of socialism distinguish themselves markedly from liberalism by opposing capitalism, hierarchy, and private property. Socialism formed as a group of related yet divergent ideologies in the 19th century such as Christian socialism, Communism (with the writings of Karl Marx), and Social Anarchism (with the writings of Mikhail Bakunin), the latter two influenced by the Paris Commune. These ideologies, as with liberalism and conservatism, fractured into several major and minor movements in the following decades.
Marx rejected the foundational aspects of liberal theory, hoping to destroy both the state and the liberal distinction between society and the individual while fusing the two into a collective whole designed to overthrow the developing capitalist order of the 19th century. Today, socialist parties and ideas remain a political force with varying degrees of power and influence in all continents leading national governments in many countries. Liberal socialism is a socialist political philosophy that includes liberal principles within it. Liberal socialism does not have the goal of abolishing capitalism with a socialist economy; instead, it supports a mixed economy that includes both public and private property in capital goods. Principles that can be described as “liberal socialist” have been based upon or developed by the following philosophers: John Stuart Mill, Eduard Bernstein, John Dewey, Carlo Rosselli, Norberto Bobbio and Chantal Mouffe. Other important liberal socialist figures include Guido Calogero, Piero Gobetti, Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, and R. H. Tawney. Liberal socialism has been particularly prominent in British and Italian politics.
Social democracy, an ideology advocating progressive modification of capitalism, emerged in the 20th century and was influenced by socialism. Yet unlike socialism, it was not collectivist nor anti-capitalist. Broadly defined as a project that aims to correct, through government reformism, what it regards as the intrinsic defects of capitalism by reducing inequalities, social democracy was also not against the state.
Several commentators have noted strong similarities between social liberalism and social democracy, with one political scientist even calling American liberalism “bootleg social democracy” due to the absence of a significant social democratic tradition in the United States that liberals have tried to rectify. Another movement associated with modern democracy, Christian democracy, hopes to spread Catholic social ideas and has gained a large following in some European nations. The early roots of Christian democracy developed as a reaction against the industrialization and urbanization associated with laissez-faire liberalism in the 19th century.
Classical and modern
Enlightenment philosophers are given credit for shaping liberal ideas. Thomas Hobbes attempted to determine the purpose and the justification of governing authority in a post-civil war England. Employing the idea of a state of nature—a hypothetical war-like scenario prior to the State—he constructed the idea of a social contract which individuals enter into to guarantee their security and in so doing form the State, concluding that only an absolute sovereign would be fully able to sustain such a peace.
John Locke, while adopting Hobbes’s idea of a state of nature and social contract, nevertheless argued that when the monarch becomes a tyrant, that constituted a violation of the social contract, which bestows life, liberty, and property as a natural right. He concluded that the people have a right to overthrow a tyrant. By placing life, liberty and property as the supreme value of law and authority, Locke formulated the basis of liberalism based on social contract theory.
To these early enlightenment thinkers securing the most essential amenities of life—liberty and private property among them—required the formation of a “sovereign” authority with universal jurisdiction. In a natural state of affairs, liberals argued, humans were driven by the instincts of survival and self-preservation, and the only way to escape from such a dangerous existence was to form a common and supreme power capable of arbitrating between competing human desires. This power could be formed in the framework of a civil society that allows individuals to make a voluntary social contract with the sovereign authority, transferring their natural rights to that authority in return for the protection of life, liberty, and property.
These early liberals often disagreed about the most appropriate form of government, but they all shared the belief that liberty was natural and that its restriction needed strong justification. Liberals generally believed in limited government, although several liberal philosophers decried government outright, with Thomas Paine writing that “government even in its best state is a necessary evil”.
As part of the project to limit the powers of government, various liberal theorists such as James Madison and the Baron de Montesquieu conceived the notion of separation of powers, a system designed to equally distribute governmental authority among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Governments had to realize, liberals maintained, that poor and improper governance gave the people authority to overthrow the ruling order through any and all possible means, even through outright violence and revolution, if needed.
Contemporary liberals, heavily influenced by social liberalism, have continued to support limited constitutional government while also advocating for state services and provisions to ensure equal rights. Modern liberals claim that formal or official guarantees of individual rights are irrelevant when individuals lack the material means to benefit from those rights and call for a greater role for government in the administration of economic affairs.
Early liberals also laid the groundwork for the separation of church and state. As heirs of the Enlightenment, liberals believed that any given social and political order emanated from human interactions, not from divine will. Many liberals were openly hostile to religious belief itself, but most concentrated their opposition to the union of religious and political authority, arguing that faith could prosper on its own, without official sponsorship or administration by the state.
Beyond identifying a clear role for government in modern society, liberals also have obsessed over the meaning and nature of the most important principle in liberal philosophy: liberty. From the 17th century until the 19th century, liberals—from Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill—conceptualized liberty as the absence of interference from government and from other individuals, claiming that all people should have the freedom to develop their own unique abilities and capacities without being sabotaged by others. Mill’s On Liberty (1859), one of the classic texts in liberal philosophy, proclaimed that “the only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way”. Support for laissez-faire capitalism is often associated with this principle, with Friedrich Hayek arguing in The Road to Serfdom (1944) that reliance on free markets would preclude totalitarian control by the state.
Beginning in the late 19th century, however, a new conception of liberty entered the liberal intellectual arena. This new kind of liberty became known as positive liberty to distinguish it from the prior negative version, and it was first developed by British philosopher Thomas Hill Green. Green rejected the idea that humans were driven solely by self-interest, emphasizing instead the complex circumstances that are involved in the evolution of our moral character. In a very profound step for the future of modern liberalism, he also tasked society and political institutions with the enhancement of individual freedom and identity and the development of moral character, will and reason and the state to create the conditions that allow for the above, giving the opportunity for genuine choice. Foreshadowing the new liberty as the freedom to act rather than to avoid suffering from the acts of others, Green wrote the following:
If it were ever reasonable to wish that the usage of words had been other than it has been… one might be inclined to wish that the term “freedom” had been confined to the… power to do what one wills.
Rather than previous liberal conceptions viewing society as populated by selfish individuals, Green viewed society as an organic whole in which all individuals have a duty to promote the common good. His ideas spread rapidly and were developed by other thinkers such as L.T. Hobhouse and John Hobson.
In a few years, this New Liberalism had become the essential social and political program of the Liberal Party in Britain, and it would encircle much of the world in the 20th century. In addition to examining negative and positive liberty, liberals have tried to understand the proper relationship between liberty and democracy. As they struggled to expand suffrage rights, liberals increasingly understood that people left out of the democratic decision-making process were liable to the tyranny of the majority, a concept explained in Mill’s On Liberty and in Democracy in America (1835) by Alexis de Tocqueville. As a response, liberals began demanding proper safeguards to thwart majorities in their attempts at suppressing the rights of minorities.
Besides liberty, liberals have developed several other principles important to the construction of their philosophical structure, such as equality, pluralism, and toleration. Highlighting the confusion over the first principle, Voltaire commented that “equality is at once the most natural and at times the most chimeral of things”. All forms of liberalism assume, in some basic sense, that individuals are equal.
In maintaining that people are naturally equal, liberals assume that they all possess the same right to liberty. In other words, no one is inherently entitled to enjoy the benefits of liberal society more than anyone else, and all people are equal subjects before the law.
Beyond this basic conception, liberal theorists diverge on their understanding of equality. American philosopher John Rawls emphasized the need to ensure not only equality under the law, but also the equal distribution of material resources that individuals required to develop their aspirations in life. Libertarian thinker Robert Nozick disagreed with Rawls, championing the former version of Lockean equality instead.
To contribute to the development of liberty, liberals also have promoted concepts like pluralism and toleration. By pluralism, liberals refer to the proliferation of opinions and beliefs that characterize a stable social order. Unlike many of their competitors and predecessors, liberals do not seek conformity and homogeneity in the way that people think; in fact, their efforts have been geared towards establishing a governing framework that harmonizes and minimizes conflicting views, but still allows those views to exist and flourish.
For liberal philosophy, pluralism leads easily to toleration. Since individuals will hold diverging viewpoints, liberals argue, they ought to uphold and respect the right of one another to disagree. From the liberal perspective, toleration was initially connected to religious toleration, with Spinoza condemning “the stupidity of religious persecution and ideological wars”. Toleration also played a central role in the ideas of Kant and John Stuart Mill. Both thinkers believed that society will contain different conceptions of a good ethical life and that people should be allowed to make their own choices without interference from the state or other individuals.
The objectives of liberal theorists and philosophers have differed across various times, cultures, and continents. The diversity of liberalism can be gleaned from the numerous adjectives that liberal thinkers and movements have attached to the very term liberalism, including classical, egalitarian, economic, social, welfare-state, ethical, humanist, deontological, perfectionist, democratic, and institutional, to name a few.
Despite these variations, liberal thought does exhibit a few definite and fundamental conceptions. At its very root, liberalism is a philosophy about the meaning of humanity and society. Political philosopher John Gray identified the common strands in liberal thought as being individualist, egalitarian, meliorist, and universalist. The individualist element avers the ethical primacy of the human being against the pressures of social collectivism; the egalitarian element assigns the same moral worth and status to all individuals; the meliorist element asserts that successive generations can improve their sociopolitical arrangements, and the universalist element affirms the moral unity of the human species and marginalizes local cultural differences.
The meliorist element has been the subject of much controversy, defended by thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, who believed in human progress, while suffering from attacks by thinkers such as Rousseau, who believed that human attempts to improve themselves through social cooperation would fail. Describing the liberal temperament, Gray claimed that it “has been inspired by skepticism and by a fideistic certainty of divine revelation… it has exalted the power of reason even as, in other contexts, it has sought to humble reason’s claims.”
The liberal philosophical tradition has searched for validation and justification through several intellectual projects. The moral and political suppositions of liberalism have been based on traditions such as natural rights and utilitarian theory, although sometimes liberals even requested support from scientific and religious circles. Through all these strands and traditions, scholars have identified the following major common facets of liberal thought: believing in equality and individual liberty, supporting private property and individual rights, supporting the idea of limited constitutional government, and recognizing the importance of related values such as pluralism, toleration, autonomy, bodily integrity, and consent.