by John Gordon
Political principles which are founded only on a posture of character or a feeling – like “conservative” (i.e., being resistant to political change, especially if that change is of a fundamental nature) and “progressive” (an older term for being inclined towards a liberal or revolutionary political stance) are prone to lose their meaning over time if they are not linked to substantive principles (viz. fundamental principles of politics which do not change over time as objectives of policy). This loss of original meaning has also occurred with the terms “left” and “right” – which are no longer pure concepts, but now hopelessly conceptually skewed and mixed into their opposites, and therefore almost useless for purposes of clarification or analysis. The clear meaning that they once possessed – as they did, at their origin – has long since passed and this has had a negative impact on the understanding of contemporary politics and on what the way forward is for those who want a good society or who want to work towards such a society. However, the course of this progressive confusion of terms can be readily traced.
The origin of the terms (“left” and “right”) was in a specific political and historical context, and an examination of what they meant at their birth can provide us with both the type of character which tends to favour either one and – more importantly – the substantive content which they were meant to embody.
These terms arose in relation to the French Revolution, when in the Legislative Assembly of 1791 supporters of the ancien régime sat on the right side of the chamber, while its opponents sat on the left side. The right side represented the side in power at the time, and the left side that of the opposition who were not in power and want to change the state of affairs (in this case, to take revolutionary control).
The “right” or the “conservatives” originally stood for “Throne and Altar” – preserving the political and religious status quo AT THAT TIME.
The “left” or the “progressives” originally stood for “popular sovereignty” and the separation of Church and State in advocating the “universal rights of man” of the French Revolution it was opposed to the status quo AT THAT TIME.
The battle between left and right (understood in their original sense) was won by the left. The French Republics prevailed over the old aristocracy; the British reformed the basis of their constitution in favour of popular sovereignty; Russia catastrophically underwent a revolution of the extreme left; and Germany lost its own ancien régime to the Weimar Republic – specifically based on liberal principles; (and the US was founded on principles compatible with those of the French Revolution).
The situation for us in the contemporary West has only worsened since these events. The outcome of WWII was a disaster precisely for the allies, as it led to the attempt at a proto-world government based on left principles: the United Nations (UN). It was able to achieve this because the US at that time saw the inherent compatibility of the UN’s aims with the advancement of its own geo-political objective: bankrupting the British and ensuring their own ascension to global dominance (at least over the West) at the British Empire’s expense. The ostensible goal of WWII was the removal of a tyranny, but the actual result was in addition the foundation of one on a permanent basis: the war was started to avert a disequilibrium between the various European powers, but it ended up with erecting an unelected and unrepresentative global surveillance and control system. (The UN drafted its charter deliberately to exclude withdrawal from it, thereby admitting that it is a tyranny since it has knowingly removed any possible basis of consent, which requires freedom to choose to be a part or not to be part of any group). The foundation of this tyranny was temporarily obscured by the more massive confrontation between the victors of WWII – the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The UN has a veneer of consent because the Western Powers – or rather, the Allies – had complicity in its founding. But the UN gained support precisely by obscuring its intentions and withholding decisive information about itself, which otherwise would have prevented it gaining support, at least in the Western world.
It follows as a consequence of this that those who have won (the “left”) are today’s supporters of the status quo since it now embodies their own principles, so that they are the true right in today’s terms and hence are fundamentally conservative towards the status quo. Conversely, those who have lost the battle over our own societies (the “right”) are today’s “progressives” who want fundamental change for the better, so that they are the true left in today’s terms.
The perverse effect of this perverse situation is that people are often misled about what is in their true interest: the status quo is the contemporary right’s problem, conservatism is a feeling which inclines one to preserve what exists, but what exists is precisely the right’s problem.
So what is the situation for the right once the left have won? To be conservative in that situation (which is our own) is to fight for and preserve the left’s and not the right’s substantive principles. To try to work within the system now is to operate contrary to the right’s principles. In order to get back to the substantive, non-ephemeral core of the right’s political objectives requires the adoption – as means, not ends – of the left’s own originally revolutionary approach (the Establishment/the Left can hardly complain on that matter, since it won via this very same method). Why should the intellectually derelict structures of the left stay intact and be defended by those of us who are in principle opposed to them? Why should loyalty to these retrograde ideas and institutions be expected of those whose own positions are founded on diametrically opposed ideas? Too long has the left relied for the maintenance of its own structures on the compliant loyalty of those against whose interests those very structures embody, and it even now still insists on relying for support on those whose principles are in direct opposition to the left.
The left relies on the tacit support of contemporary conservatives to maintain its rule. But conservatives need to be made conscious of the fact that their own interests are not, have not and never will be served by their own compliance and submission to leftist dictates and dogma.
Often conservative voters are bewildered that – having voted for a conservative government (even in landslide elections) – the conservative party elected fails to implement “conservative” policy. They are stunned and become disgruntled that the legislation and policy of the previously elected left party has neither been repealed nor often even ameliorated: it is preserved and thereby conserved and incorporated into prescriptive right and becomes part of the status quo.
It is in the left’s interest for voters to be unreflectively non-revolutionarily conservative. For the left merely has only to get into power from time to time to ratchet up its preferred political positions in order to achieve its full programme. They can rely on conservatives never to revoke, invalidate, or repeal their fundamental platform.
The left is quite aware about what it is doing and the effect of what it demands. This is why the media (most notably the ABC, but not confined to that political propaganda broadcasting agency) and the left wing parties insisted upon the (conservative) Coalition parties placing their preferences to Pauline Hanson’s party last on the ballot paper, thereby favouring the election of the left’s own politically preferred candidates – even though the allocation of party preferences was entirely an internal matter for the Coalition parties and that the left would never bow to pressure from parties of the right to favour a candidate against its own political interests. (This is not an endorsement of Pauline Hanson, merely a critique of the extremes that the left – which includes the media – will go to when there is a perceived threat to leftwing parties and principles). The compliance of the conservatives in this case was a victory for the left at the conservatives’ own hands. A tougher response admittedly risked losing an election, but it would have strengthened the right in two ways: firstly, by the cleansing of the party of leftist elements (who would have left voluntarily) and by placing a non-leftist position within the frame of legitimate political discussion within the media (making the leftist positions contestable again publicly).
The prominence of “hate-speech” legislation and – insidiously – the expansion of it to include “holocaust denial” is entirely a product of the Left. It is unchallenged by the media or by any mainstream political party, despite being an obvious infringement of democratic norms such as freedom of thought and speech. “Hate speech” is little examined by those on the right and by conservatives and it is worth our while to examine it because it is entrenched politically and academically.
Basically, it is the way the Left can enforce its own political dogma without being in office: the criminalisation of all political thought which is against its own agenda or view of the world. “Hate speech” laws and their like are also a good example of the left achieving its ends without challenge from conservatives.
What is “hate speech”? “Hate-speech” is usually just anger speech. Anger is a normal part of what makes a human being a human being – it comes to the fore politically as the expression of condemnation of injustice. The sight of injustice being done gives rise (in normal individuals, at least) to anger: the desire to punish the wrong-doers. People unable to restrain their sense of injustice may well lash out and act violently, but the inherent injustice that the feeling of anger expresses exists independently whether someone controls their feelings or does not. So, there are two types of anger-speech – only one is reprehensible, while the other is not. “Hate” speech legislation should not infringe upon the freedom of speech – certainly of political speech – which we are presumed to enjoy in free societies. The infringement constitutes an injustice against all members of society even when “thought criminals” are not prosecuted since it acts as a threat of punishment in an area where such a threat of punishment should not be tolerated. “Hate” speech legislation is used to mask the injustice it perpetuates by conflating the two types of anger-speech, which are merely two different ways of responding to injustice, as both being criminal. Here “hate” speech legislation infringes on the Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Speech upon which our liberal democracies rely to sustain their own case for legitimacy.
The UN and leftist principles cannot preserve our societies or look after their interests – this is not accidental or incidental, it was apparent from the very beginning of the UN. The Australian diplomat, writer and war veteran, Sir Walter Russell Crocker KBE, provides insight to the internal workings of the UN being a witness to it from within:
“It came as a shock to the British, not least to the British Labour government’s minister for Colonial Affairs, Creech-Jones… to discover that the British were regarded as an enemy, in some UN quarters as the enemy. Churchill in the latter days of the war had said, in response to one of Roosevelt’s anti-colonies policies, that he had no intention of seeing Britain put in the dock. That was precisely where she was put by the UN. That she had done so much, and at such cost, to bring Hitler and his Nazis down, standing up to them alone for two years, holding the pass until America came into the war, counted for nothing. At Lake Success [viz. the temporary headquarters of the United Nations while its headquarters building in New York City was built], Britain was the whipping boy.”
Some of the members of the “Negro colleges” which “were too often… poisoned with hate and with anti-white racialism… got themselves appointed to the [UN] Secretariat.” The tone and direction of the UN was set by this racialism which was anti-white in nature, leading Crocker to observe:
A piquant thing about the American drive against colonies was not only their de facto alliance with the [Soviet] Russians in the drive but the part played by American Negroes. The Negroes saw the UN as a whip to be used against America for the racial inferiority to which they saw themselves condemned. More than once I had the experience in my first months at Lake Success of a Negro taxi driver refusing to accept payment – he saw me, as a UN official, as somebody striving to get a better lot for the Negroes against white Americans.”
The UN can thus be seen as the world’s “Weimar Republic” – a constitution thrust upon a people (in this case, numerous peoples) based on leftist principles which does not look after the interests or good of those it governs, nay it has been emphatically designed to rule at the expense of national, cultural, political, ethnic and economic interests of the nation.
The practice of the UN has been racist and anti-nationalist, but what about the theory behind it? Is there just a bad coincidence here which a little (or a lot of) reform could fix, or is there something fundamentally wrong with the UN (and the attempt at world government based on “human rights”) which will also impact negatively on national sovereignty and the exercise of the rights attached to citizens of nations?
How extreme is the left these days and how entrenched is it? A new culmination of leftist thought replaces a previously held right which was limiting the leftist agenda into an “unright.” Larking and Abizadeh both independently argue that there is “No Right to Control Your Own Borders Unilaterally.”
Abizadeh does this by re-interpreting the meaning of the basic political unit of the demos (people). In contrast to conventional understandings, he re-interprets it as not being “bounded” by anything (in particular, not by a nation), but as “unbounded” or infinite in extension (at least in principle). This infinite extension of the political unit is consistent with the leftist notion of political universalism, but is fundamentally at odds with the conservative and nationalist position of the primacy of the particular. Since Abizadeh argues on the basis of leftist understanding of terms his argument is unsuccessful, and he pre-supposes his position to begin with and then is surprised that his argument miraculously coincides with the leftist position he wants. To achieve his universalist position he would have to prove that the coercion of the state is legitimate “only insofar as it is actually justified by and to” both citizens and non-citizens. In other words, it cannot account for the legitimacy of war and in a situation of attack could not provide a rationale for resistance to aggression. His notion of legitimacy (upon which his argument rests) is therefore fundamentally unsound and unconvincing.
Larking tries to argue much the same thing: “Constitutional democracies must abandon the sovereign assertion of a right to act primarily in the interests of their own citizens.” This should send shivers down the spine of anyone who calls themselves conservative. Luckily, her case is even weaker than Abizadeh’s, resting on an ignorance of parliamentary sovereignty and its justification by Dicey, and assuming that John Locke is an unchallenged and unrefuted constitutional source (especially for democracies which incorporate the “Westminster” or British system of government – like Australia).
Larking and Abizadeh are merely drawing out the inferences based on the premises set forth in UN declarations. The fault is in the UN and its declarations. Conservatives have to learn not to treat the symptoms by complaining about what is being taught in universities, but to remove the cause of the problem.
What is the essential, non-ephemeral core of the right which is not subject to fluctuation? The substantive principle of the right is: the common good of a community of people in a political formation. Or, more abstractly: the right of the particular, not the universal. A number of consequences follow from this: that no world government is possible or desirable (and if instituted, would constitute a tyranny). Two other consequences follow from this:
– the greater or lesser attainment of other races/nations has no priority of claim over one’s own nation, the group has to ensure its own survival and its own good.
– Aid, assistance, or help of any form therefore becomes an act of grace, and not a moral duty: it is an uncompelled favour – freely given (if given), and cannot be compelled.
These are not politically irrelevant considerations because the right to self-determination is derivative from these principles. There is no other secure basis for it. This can be easily seen when one examines the fact that the UN cannot even secure its own raison d’être as outlined in its own Charter. Even putting aside the unrealistic goal of world peace (however desirable it has not been achieved since 1945), the UN undermines its own basic objectives. This can be clearly seen in the case of self-determination of peoples: “…when self-determination becomes associated with the right of particular ethnic groups to determine their own political status [self-determination] ceases to be a human right because it becomes discriminatory in nature.” The UN and its charter of “human rights” is therefore unable to secure self-determination of particular ethnic groups, despite claiming as its legitimation the security of self-determination. Chapter 1, Article 1, part 2 of the UN Charter states its purpose as: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” This sounds like it is compatible with nationalism – but the UN compromises that principle by its denial of the right of self-determination of ethnic groups. The only secure principle consistent with self-determination is the nationalist principle of the right of the particular over the universal. This is also a fundamentally conservative doctrine as it preserves the distinctive individuality of nations and underwrites their preservation into the future. The UN and universalist/leftist position in contrast places all nations and people in jeopardy in the face of globalisation and eventuates in the removal of national borders and the total abolition of any sovereignty besides that of a global government, indifferent to the common good of any nation.
So, what specific policies or positions do the principles of the right call on us to adopt? The laws and institutions which back, support, monitor or enforce “Hate speech” legislation or any other Orwellian curtailments of freedom of thought, speech, or association need to be abolished and revoked. However, what must be observed is that they were not removed or abolished by the “conservative” Howard government in its eleven years in office. The only possible excuse for such failure to act to remove these leftist institutions, treaties, and laws is that the media and the left have grown so powerful that any opposition to them is now impossible to achieve, even for a democratically elected government. That is an admission in effect that parliament and our liberal democracy have failed, are dead, and need to be replaced. And that such a radical position must be the conservative political policy and agenda of our times.
But this excuse of a too powerful media is an insufficient reason for the “conservatives” to give in their defence, since it does not stop one talking about such a deplorable state of affairs and thereby garnering public support to écrasez l’infâme. But Howard and co. have been noticeably silent on this matter. This means that we are in a situation where only one side of politics has any opportunity to advance its agenda, while the other is entirely excluded from acting on its political principles.
But the situation is even worse than that, because the “conservative” position as expressed by “conservatives” politically and in the press/tv does not acknowledge this situation and may even support the left and their institutions here. That is to say, the publicly, self-identified conservative movement does not act on the principles of the right, but has already lost the battle and is fighting for or supporting the leftist institutions and ideas.
Only a clear understanding of the substantive, non-ephemeral core of the right’s political objectives can find a way for conservatives to be successful in their political endeavours by tackling the root causes of the problem.
Abizadeh, Arash. 2008. “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion: No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders” Political Theory 36.1: 37-65.
Crocker, Sir Walter. 1985. The role of Sir Raphael Cilento at the United Nations. University of Queensland Press. Brisbane.
Larking, Emma. 2004. “Human rights and the Principle of Sovereignty” Australian Journal of Human Rights (AJHR) 10.1: 15-32.
Musgrave, Thomas D. 1997. Self-Determination and National Minorities. Oxford University Press. Oxford.
Zifcak, Spencer. 2003. Mr Ruddock Goes to Geneva. University of New South Wales Press. Sydney.
 Even pro-US political scientists recognise this compatibility, see for example page 83, Harry V. Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided, 1959, University of Chicago, 1982 Reprint.
 Crocker (1985) 13.
 Ibid. 15.
 Ibid. 16.
 Larking (2004) and Abizadeh (2008).
 Abizadeh (2008) 41.
 Larking (2004).
 Musgrave (1997) 179.
John Gordon is an Australian New Right activist and can be contacted through the New Right Australia/New Zealand website http://www.newrightausnz.com/