The Trouble With Conservatism
by Dr. William L. Pierce
LAST YEAR a group of sick, guilt-ridden Dutch liberals in the Netherlands formed an anti-racist group, the Person-to-Person Committee, for the purpose of fighting apartheid among the Dutch-descended Afrikaners of South Africa. They distributed packets of postcards to Dutch schoolchildren, each card bearing a printed message attacking apartheid and a photograph of an alleged “atrocity” by South Africa’s police and defense forces against Black “freedom fighters.” Each schoolchild was asked to add his return address and sign his name to the postcard and then mail it to an Afrikaner chosen at random from a South African telephone directory.
The South African response to this poison-pen campaign was to organize the Afrikaans-Dutch Working Group, which prepared its own postcards to be mailed back to the Dutch children. Each card bore a photograph of South Africa’s renowned heart-transplant pioneer, Professor Christiaan Barnard, holding and comforting a Negro baby. The printed message on the card was: “We are not the Black-haters many of you think we are.”
When I read the account of this episode in a recent issue of the South African Digest, a weekly public-relations magazine published by the South African government, I thought to myself, “How typically conservative!”
In fact, the pride with which the postcard ploy was related meshes perfectly with the whole tone of the conservative South African government’s stance toward its critics. Each issue of the South African Digest is filled with articles which say, in effect, what the Barnard postcard said. They cite example after example of new concessions to Blacks; of millions of dollars of White South Africans’ tax money being spent on shiny, new schools and hospitals for Blacks; of a 500 per cent increase in the wages of Black workers in the mining industry between 1970 and 1977; of the step-by-step dismantling of the South African policy of apartheid.
They say to the world: “Look how good we are to our Blacks. We are not racists. We only want what is best for all South Africans, Black and White. We don’t shoot Black terrorists and rioters for being Black but only for being communists and lawbreakers. We have a conservative, law-and-order, anti-communist government.”
Closer to home, isn’t that exactly the sort of mentality displayed by our own conservatives – by our anti-bussing groups, for example? “We are not racists,” they all say. “We only want what is best for all children, Black and White.” One of the more prominent of these groups, the National Association of Neighborhood Schools, even goes so far as to expel any member organization which is deemed to show “racist tendencies.”
Unfortunately, this reluctance on the part of many conservatives to take a forthright stand on racial matters is only one of several deeply troubling aspects of conservatism, but it is an important one. It illustrates, perhaps better than anything else, the moral bankruptcy of the standpoint which more and more responsible, essentially decent Americans are adopting as they grope helplessly for an understanding of what is happening to their world and how to cope with it.
Do South Africans really believe that all their professions of love for Blacks will ameliorate the hatred of the liberals the world over who are lusting for their blood? Do America’s anti-bussers really believe that they can convince anyone (except, possibly, themselves) that race has nothing to do with their stand against bussing?
Beyond the question of self-delusion is the related one of moral cowardice. Inability to admit to oneself one’s basic motivations is one side of the coin; lack of the necessary courage to stand up before the world and declare those motivations to others is the other side.
It is a fact that the average conservative Afrikaner, if he woke up one morning and discovered that sickle-cell anemia had carried away all South Africa’s Blacks during the night, would not be overwhelmed with grief. And it is a fact that the National Association of Neighborhood Schools would not exist if it were not for the racial aspect of bussing.
Conservatives’ fear of the truth, whether in South Africa or America, totally undermines their position. They are morally defeated before they begin, because they have allowed themselves to be convinced that their true motivations are disreputable and must, therefore, be concealed – either from others alone or from everyone, including themselves.
Why don’t South African conservatives, instead of continuing their disgusting game of trying to prove how solicitous they are of their Blacks’ welfare, simply announce to the world: “South Africa is a White man’s country, and we intend to keep it that way. We have no use at all for Blacks except as a source of cheap labor, and when they get out of line we’ll shoot as many as necessary to straighten them out again.”?
And why don’t American anti-bussers, instead of trying to maintain their pretense that they don’t care whether their children are forced to go to school with Blacks, just so it’s a neighborhood school, simply admit: “We don’t want our children intimidated, beaten, and shaken down for their lunch money. We don’t want our daughters forced to submit to fondling and pinching by Black males in hallways and on playgrounds. We don’t want our sons picking up Black gutter language and ‘jive talk.’ We don’t want our kids coming home with drugs and head lice. We don’t want the opportunity to arise for them to date Blacks.”?
If you take a conservative acquaintance aside and ask him why, he’ll glance nervously over his shoulder and then explain that that wouldn’t be smart. The newspapers would crucify them. The you-know-whos would be after their hides. By being moderate, he’ll explain, they get a lot more support for their position.
Which is just another way of saying that the enemy may go easier on you if you are careful not to pose a real threat to him and if you agree beforehand to fight according to his rules. It reminds me of the old joke about the man who is down on his hands and knees on the pavement under a streetlamp one dark night looking for his lost wallet. “Are you sure this is where you lost it?” a friend asks. “No, I lost it in the next block,” the man replies, “but there’s no streetlamp there.”
Actually, the foregoing remarks overstress the average conservative’s lack of courage and understress his lack of understanding. l should have said, “If I take a conservative acquaintance aside …” – that is, a conservative who has already been exposed to the National Alliance position – he will try to represent conservatism as a shrewd tactical approach, as a clever game plan.
Most conservatives, I am afraid, are even more confused than that. They are fighting a losing battle, and fighting it by the enemy’s rules, not so much from cowardice as from a lack of understanding as to what the fight is all about.
There are a great many conservatives who are not only afraid to tell the world what they are fighting for, but who are afraid to tell themselves. There are a great many conservative South Africans who are ashamed that they don’t want Blacks running their country, and there are a great many conservative Americans who are ashamed they don’t want their children dating Blacks.
If you know many conservatives – or if you have passed through a conservative phase yourself – then you know that is true. And that’s very interesting, because it reveals the dangerous similarity between conservatism and liberalism. The liberal is driven by guilt and shame too.
The difference between the liberal and the conservative is in the way they react to this inner conflict. The liberal surrenders to his guilt and tries to compensate for it. The conservative keeps fighting it, tries to keep it suppressed.
But the source of the inner conflict – the source of the shame – is the same for both. It is the tacit acceptance of an artificial, unnatural, alien set of values. It is much worse than agreeing to fight by the enemy’s rules: it is accepting the enemy’s point of view – or, rather, the point of view the enemy has designed especially for his opponents.
And therein lies the irredeemably fatal flaw in conservatism: it is a position with no grounding in a natural world view, no consistent ideological basis of its own, no underlying set of values rooted in the souls of its adherents.
One might ask why we wring our hands in anguish over the shortcomings of conservatism; why not just let it die in peace, while we get on with the job we have to do? The answer is that, while conservatism itself is a hopeless position, a substantial portion of the persons who have stumbled into the conservative camp are salvageable. We need to understand conservatism and conservatives if we are to salvage some of them.
People enter the conservative camp for various reasons. For some – and this, unfortunately, includes many of the leaders – the reason is nothing but opportunism. With America’s troubles mounting, more and more responsible Americans feel themselves obliged to take a stand against the policies or tendencies or institutions they perceive as the causes of those troubles. They feel the need to align themselves with a candidate for public office or an organization or a publication which will speak out against those causes. And there is no lack of opportunists eager to satisfy that need – for a consideration, of course.
And among rank-and-file conservatives there are also ignoble motives. There are the greedy, the self-centered, the narrow-minded, the monomaniacs, the cranks. There are conservatives whose whole orientation is narrowly economic: opposition to income taxes, for example.
But there are also sensitive, essentially decent Americans who feel drawn to the conservative position. Partly this feeling is a general reaction to an era of too-rapid change. More specifically it is a reaction against the perversity and sickness which is neo-liberalism. These conservatives understand only a one-dimensional ideological spectrum, a line with liberalism at one end and conservatism at the other. Becoming a conservative, it seems to them, is expressing the maximum possible repudiation of liberalism.
But this is so only under the unrealistic and artificial constraint of one-dimensionality. The world just isn’t that way, and to solve its problems requires more than a one-dimensional approach. Only by taking off one’s ideological blinders and looking outside the linear ideological spectrum at the multi-dimensional world of ideas (in which liberalism and conservatism are only two points in space – and not so far apart at that, as we have seen), can one hope to gain the understanding needed for implementing an effective cure of the sickness which afflicts our world today.
Whatever their motives, Americans are identifying themselves as conservatives in larger numbers than ever before (although conservatism is still a minority position). As liberal governmental programs continue to produce more failures and more chaos, the reaction is bound to continue to grow. And as this reaction grows the politicians and the hucksters, realizing the growing market for selling conservative nostrums, will change their tune accordingly.
Even the Jews, perennial stalwarts of the left, are shifting slightly to the right: they see the need for a counterforce to that segment of liberal opinion which, having slipped its leash, now identifies Israel as a racist, imperialist state. And conservative leaders, displaying the ultimate proof of conservative moral astigmatism, are passionately embracing their newfound Jewish friends (and their friends’ money).
Conservative reasoning (if one may call it that) on the Middle East problem has always run something like this: “The commies are backing the Arabs; ergo, we should back the Jews.” Never mind that half the Arab states are monarchies, with rulers who hate and fear communism like the plague. Never mind that other Arab states – most notably Egypt – have found the Soviets such treacherous allies that they have booted them out and rejected offers of further Soviet backing; or that the few Arab states currently accepting aid from the U.S.S.R. were driven reluctantly into Soviet arms by prior American backing of Israel. Never mind all that, because the TV tells us that the Arabs are backed by the evil forces of international communism, and so we must help the Jews.
The one embarrassing fact which kept the conservative passion for Israel within decent bounds in the past was the openly avowed Marxism of Israel’s Labor Party leaders. Golda Meir, a lifelong member and top official of the Socialist International (after she graduated from the ultra-red Zionist Labor Bund), made some of the finickier U.S. conservatives nervous, as did her equally Marxist successor as top Jew, Yitzhak Rabin.
But now the Jews have a “conservative” leader: Zionist mass-murderer and former underground terrorist Menachem Begin, boss of Israel’s “right wing” Likud faction – and American conservatives are swooning.
Congressman Philip Crane (R-IL), chairman of the prestigious American Conservative Union, says: “We American conservatives are envious that Israel has a leader who possesses the economic insight that Prime Minister Begin has obviously shown in asking a man like Milton Friedman for counsel and advice.” (Friedman is a Jewish economist much beloved of conservatives for his laissez faire theories.)
Another money-is-all-that-matters conservative, Congressman Steve Symms (R-ID), echoes Crane, praising Begin because “the move in Israel toward a free market economy should lessen tensions with the Arab nations.”
Congressman Larry McDonald (D-GA), a John Birch Society member, goes further: “Menachem Begin’s election could very well be an extremely important gain for Western civilization in its struggle for survival against world communism…. [Begin’s] pronouncements regarding the threat of world communism are like breath of fresh air, and the should be a rallying cry for conservatives, indeed, for all Americans.”
Other conservatives in Congress, such as Robert Dornan (R-CA) and Robert Bauman (R-MD), do not hesitate to add their own crocodile tears to the bucketsful being shed by Jewish spokesmen wailing about the “pressure” Jimmy Carter is supposedly applying to Israel in order to “force” a Middle East peace settlement.
“President Carter has to realize that it is not important who makes him happy… or makes his foreign policy look good for a while, but it is what is important for the existence of Israel,” says Dornan.
Bauman adds, “The problem for Israel is not Mr. Begin but Mr. Carter…. Our main commitment has to be to Israel.” Bauman is a former national chairman of the ultra-conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).
A current YAF leader, Executive Director Ron Robinson, views support for Israel as a fundamental premise of conservative thought: “Conservatives have a basic support for the position of Israel in the Middle East.”
Conservative writers are generally marching in lockstep with conservative politicians in their admiration for Israel’s present “free enterprise” administration. The conservative weekly tabloid, Human Events, spoke for most of them in a glowing editorial last year titled “Begin: Israel’s Ronald Reagan.”
Another prominent conservative periodical, National Review, regularly echoes the clichéd praise in Human Events for Israel and Begin. Editor M. Stanton Evans claims, “Israel is… an enclave of Western [ sic! ] society struggling for survival against the surrounding non-Western societies.”
A recent article in the English language Jerusalem Post gloatingly sums it up: “The American Right now views right-ruled Israel as sharing a common set of traditional anti-collectivist values. More importantly it views America and Israel as among the last bastions of freedom in a world gone increasingly totalitarian… Finding an American conservative politician who does not back Israel in strong terms these days is a difficult task.”
Conservatives are correct, of course, in viewing communism as a serious danger, an evil which should be opposed. But – and this is the essence of the matter – conservatives oppose communism for the wrong reasons. They see it, first and foremost, as a threat to free enterprise: a threat to their bank accounts. What they really hate about communism is that it is collectivist (i.e., that it subordinates the welfare of the individual to the welfare of the community – at least, in theory) and that it is statist (i.e., that it vests ultimate authority in a highly centralized party-government apparatus instead of in more-or-less autonomous local governments).
But if collectivism and statism were the only aspects of communism we had to worry about, I, for one, would welcome it with open arms, as an infinitely superior alternative to the Jew-ridden, minority-coddling, culture-defiling, soul-stifling, filth-wallowing, corruption-breeding, decadence-producing, race-destroying monstrosity of a System which now squats so unwholesomely in the power centers of our nation (and which, of course, is also collectivist and statist, in the worst sense of the words, even if not so forthrightly as the Kremlin).
No, the real evils of communism are that it, like capitalism, is alien to us in origin and essence; and it, also like capitalism, is racially destructive. The doctrine of communism was born in the alien mind of Karl Marx (ne Levi); and it, as a doctrine which interprets history and all social phenomena solely in economic terms, predicates the primacy of gold over blood.
It is true that a perceptive minority of conservatives has awakened to the fact that big capitalism, private monopoly capitalism, is by no means antithetical to communism (state capitalism). They have finally reached a vague understanding, after years of observing the backslapping camaraderie between Western capitalists, like the Rockefellers, and the masters of the Kremlin, that the fundamental values of the two systems have certain similarities – that they are merely variations on the same economic materialist theme.
But it has not yet dawned on even the most alert conservatives that they themselves have a serious problem with values. Whether the issue is bussing or the Middle East or the menace of Marxism, the conservative’s lack of a race-based world view invariably leads him astray – either by putting him on the wrong side of the issue, as in the case of the Middle East; or by robbing him of the courage of his conviction, as in the case of bussing; or by so confusing his motivations that he becomes ineffective, as in the case of opposition to Marxism.
Beyond this, conservatism suffers the serious drawback of being an inherently defensive position. It has no aggressive, forward-looking program of its own, no great and shining Idea on high to guide the steps of its pioneers, no stirring anthem to inspire its troops to rush forward and slay the unbelievers.
The goal of the conservative is not to create something new but merely to protect what is or, at the extreme, to restore what recently was. The goal of the revolutionary – of the “radical” whom the conservative so passionately hates – on the other hand, is to transform in a fundamental (i.e., radical) way what is or to do away with it altogether, so that it can be replaced by something entirely different.
It is a fact of history that the advantage has always lain on the side of the contender who is prepared to take the offensive, as well as maintain his defenses. And when one contender has a revolutionary ideology, a fighting creed – a true or a false ideology, a good or an evil creed – the opponent can only hope to win if he also has a revolutionary ideology. He may, for a long time, deny his revolutionary opponent a full and complete victory, but he is bound to be defeated in the end.
What those Americans (and those White men and women everywhere in the world) must do now who are instinctively repelled by the alien and unnatural programs of the left; who intuitively feel that there must be a better world than today’s spiritually degenerate liberal utopia; and who, not understanding their error, are swallowing the poison of conservatism as an imagined antidote to the poison of liberalism – what these good people must do now is exchange the sterile, defensive, race-denying clichés of conservatism for a race-based fighting creed; for a revolutionary ideology of ultimate goals and ideals; for a great spiritual Truth capable of illuminating the innermost depths of their own race soul, so that they not only become conscious of the essence of that race soul but proudly and bravely think and speak and act in accord with its dictates.
Then they will no longer be conservatives, but members of a new vanguard which will, one day, wrest from the morass which liberalism has made of our world a new order of truth and beauty and health and sanity and genuine progress.
(National Vanguard Issue No. 58, 1978) Published in The Best of Attack and National Vanguard, edited by Kevin Alfred Strom (1984).