Art Economics Low Politics Decline Political Theology Power Geopolitics

The Right’s Future Must be Parallel, and Counter-Revolutionary

The Right’s Future Must be Parallel, and Counter-Revolutionary
What I Told National Conservatives in Brussels

Last week I travelled to Brussels to attend the National Conservatism Conference. I was slated to speak on a panel on “The Future of Conservatism.” Whether the panel would actually happen seemed in doubt for much of the time I was there, since the city’s socialist authorities — working in tandem with their local extreme-left paramilitaries — came very close to successfully shutting down the conference. But by the second day we were still there, and it went forward. And in the end hopefully the drama served as just the right ambiance to help drive home the message on “the future” that I aimed to deliver to the mix of conservatives, classical liberals, populists, and various right-wing dissidents assembled there in the dark heart of European Values. This — in a very lightly edited transcript of my speech — is what I told them.

“What is to be done?” That seems to be the question on everyone’s lips these days. Answering it is I think in fact the real purpose of this conference on National Conservatism here in Brussels.

By now most of us are well aware of the scope of the problems we face. Our societies are controlled by a transnational class of managerial elites increasingly isolated from the people they rule, and from reality. These elites, and the many institutions they control, have been captured by a revolutionary ideology that seeks to remake the world, and everyone in it, from the top down.

The vast machinery of modern managerial technocracy has been turned against us, its bulging bureaucracies seeking to impose on us a totalizing project of internal colonization. Our systems of self-governance, the cultural fabric of our national ways of life, even our very human nature are being intentionally suppressed and replaced with the stifling conformity of a rigid system of ideological and technological control. All remaining semblances of democratic accountability are today being cast aside in favor of governance via mass manipulation and open coercion. Increasingly, any dissent is treated as a threat to the security of the state – and is punished as such.

As has been so amply demonstrated by the police outside our very doors, dispatched to shut down this conference, for conservatives and other dissidents this state of affairs means escalating exclusion and persecution. The reality is that any “liberal neutrality” or “rule of law” once maintained by the state no longer exists – such restraint was an artifact of the old order.

Meanwhile, managerialism’s progressive project has produced a deliberate inversion of moral values, a degradation of competence, and an implosion of social trust. This has begun to induce collapse in the basic systems upholding civilization. The result is a proliferation of crime, addiction, social atomization, and general despair, dysfunction, disorder, and decay. So now we suffer under a state of simultaneous anarcho-tyranny.

What is to be done? First of all, it should be clear by now that old guard conservatism will be of no use to us whatsoever. For decades, such a conservatism has failed to conserve much of anything at all. Even when successfully elected to political office with a strong mandate, conservatives of this mode are soon either coopted by the oligarchic establishment or find themselves isolated and helpless before the vast unelected managerial “deep state.”

They have proven themselves unable to combat either the relentless march of progressive cultural hegemony, or the growing technocratic tyranny that openly advertises its intent to ultimately destroy them. Over and over again, they are fast reduced to blustering uselessly at Congressional hearings, whining on talk shows, or settling in to merely grift whatever they can, while they can. So, unfortunately, just “voting harder” will not be enough to get us out of our present mess.

What is to be done? Let me propose that today’s conservatives have failed in large part because, in addition to a simple lack of backbone, they have completely forgotten the basic foundations of building real political power. Before I return to that point, however, let me first outline four key attributes that I think any real right-wing strategy would need to possess in order to actually be successful today.

Such a strategy would first of all have to be anti-fragile. That means it would have to be difficult to disrupt and suppress, no matter how much its enemies tried. In fact, ideally it should even gain strength from persecution, rather than lose it. In short, it must be very hard to kill.

It must be scalable. By this I mean that it must be flexible enough to meet a wide range of possible challenges and scenarios – from draconian repression, to acute instability, to sweeping electoral victory – without the core thrust of its strategy ever needing to change.

It must be self-legitimizing. Rather than its legitimacy hinging on promises, such as on the outcomes of an election or specific legislation, it should generate loyalty and popular legitimacy from the core nature of its very existence and everyday function.

Most importantly, it must be self-reinforcing. That means its every action builds the capacity for further action on a greater scale; every exercise of power generates additional power; every success makes further successes more likely, until the accumulated facts on the ground make victory seem inevitable…

There is in my view only one strategic method that can possibly fulfill all of these requirements. That is the strategy of deliberately constructing a parallel state from the ground up.

That may sound outlandish and impossible. But actually it’s been done before, and indeed many times over in history. In fact, many of the most successful and enduring right-wing movements of our own time have used variations of this strategy to great effect.

For example: when Hungary’s young right-wing Fidez party faced its own entrenched leftist post-Communist “deep state” in the late 90s and early 2000s, it responded by pivoting to a brilliant strategy of parallel organizing. Understanding that Hungarian civic life had been systematically corrupted and destroyed by the Communists, and the people left atomized and dispirited, the party deliberately turned away from “high” politics and founded what it called the “Civic Circles” movement.

This Civic Circles movement focused on establishing community organizations across the nation to bring people together in grassroots civic action, volunteer work, and education in practical self-governance. Its chapters of local volunteers collected trash, and helped with childcare. They founded new parallel educational and media institutions, and provided forums for intellectual discussion. They promoted art and culture that celebrated national pride and conservative values, and served as a patronage network to help launch promising young talent throughout society.

In doing all this, Fidez succeeded in building out an entirely new grassroots power-base among the Hungarian working and middle class, which it could then easily incorporate and mobilize for mass political action. It’s been winning political landslides ever since. The party went on to successfully conquer the institutional strongholds of the post-Communist regime, reverse left-wing cultural hegemony, and even transform Hungary into something of a beacon for despairing conservatives around the world. But it achieved all this through a strategy of pre-political community organizing, which established a foundation of parallel societal power and legitimacy.

Hungary is hardly the lone example of this model. Today, India’s BJP is probably the largest and most sweepingly successful right-wing nationalist political party in the world. Over the last decade it has transformed India, from a state completely dominated by an entrenched left-wing socialist power structure, into an energetic powerhouse of popular conservative nationalism.

That success probably deserves much closer scrutiny by Western conservatives than it has yet received. How exactly did they do it? Well, the open secret of the BJP is that it grew directly out of the RSS, a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization.

It is hard to understate the scope of the RSS today. With at least 6 million members and tens of thousands of branches across India, it is the largest volunteer organization in the world. Founded to combat colonial-era demoralization, and seeking to instill the values of individual and communal self-discipline, it runs physical fitness classes and community service campaigns; it operates charity organizations; it distributes medical care and mobilizes disaster relief; it runs thousands of schools that propagate Hindu-nationalist cultural values; it operates media companies, financial services, and trade unions... In fact it represents an entire economic and cultural network-society operating parallel to the state.

When the BJP later emerged from the pre-political RSS to openly contest India’s political establishment, it could already mobilize millions of loyal voters, volunteers, and party officers. It could do so not only because it could rely on the RSS itself, but because the organization’s volunteer work had already directly benefited the lives of millions everyday Indians, lending the movement genuine popular legitimacy. It’s been winning landslides ever since.

Whatever you may think of these two parties’ particular policies and values, at least they know how to actually fight to win.

Yet even when the opportunity for this kind of mass political action remains out of reach, a strategy of parallel organizing can still be the key to survival and laying the groundwork for future triumph. Under the crushing totalitarianism of Communist rule, Czech dissidents developed a strategy of resistance that they called the parallel polis. Using it, leading dissidents like Vaclav Benda and Vaclav Havel sought to combat the atomization, isolation, and degradation imposed by the state through the creation of a network of underground communities. They formed underground universities, philosophy seminars, samizdat magazines, theater productions, mutual aid societies for those harmed by state persecution, and other circles.

In doing so they did far more than keep up morale with pleasant intellectual diversions. They built a resilient base of organization from the ground up. They forged an experienced leadership cadre. They created a flexible underground network-state. And, when the weakened Communist state collapsed, they found themselves poised to quickly step in and fill the vacuum. Suddenly their parallel polis became the polis. Much of the chaos that other post-Communist states faced was thereby peacefully avoided.

The dynamic at work in all of these examples is essentially the same: Rather than working within the strictures of a state apparatus controlled by their enemies, a dissident opposition pivots to go directly back to the level of the people. It builds a network of community institutions focused not on overt political action, but on community-building itself: bringing people together and genuinely working to help them. In doing so it fosters a resilient client power-base at the grassroots level, and directly builds popular legitimacy. Eventually more and more people find themselves more likely to turn to this network for support and protection than they are to turn to the state. They then transfer their loyalty accordingly. At some point suddenly the parallel shadow-state has more legitimacy than the state. And it has masses it can mobilize. Things begin to snowball. If the ruling regime cannot smother this competitor in the cradle, its days are soon numbered.

This is how real power is generated. It does not come from the sad pleading of an election campaign. It is built from the bottom up, at the pre-political level, aided from above by a determined and organized vanguard.

Now, at this point the clever audience listening here today may have recognized that this strategy sounds an awful lot like that commonly employed by the revolutionary left…

Well yes, yes it is. Organizing in this manner seems to come naturally to the left, and not to the conservative right. But that, frankly, is why the left is constantly winning, and now controls just about everything, and you don’t.

There has been much talk on the Western right in recent years about waging a “counter-revolution” against the triumphant woke left. But I’d say the right has so far entirely failed to truly take this idea seriously. After all, as the great reactionary Joseph de Maistre put it: a “counter-revolution is not the opposite of a revolution, but is an opposing revolution.”

And a revolution needs to build a revolutionary base. It needs revolutionary networks and institutions. It needs a vanguard of revolutionary cadres. It needs revolutionary discipline. And it needs a revolutionary strategy that builds a parallel alternative more legitimate than the ruling status quo. So far the right’s supposed counter-revolution has none of these things.

This must change. The right must embrace a counter-revolutionary future before our still-complacent conservative leaders deliver us up for complete destruction.

Fortunately the timing could not be better. The West today is awash with economic, social, and spiritual problems, from drug addiction, depression, and loneliness, to financial precarity and the breakdown of family formation. Everywhere, people are struggling, and suffering. Meanwhile, trust in almost every institution has cratered, with incompetent governing elites seemingly determined to destroy their own legitimacy. People feel uprooted and atomized, vulnerable and alone, buffeted by forces outside their control and betrayed by their own leaders.

In other words, the situation is ripe for anyone who can step in to fill the vacuum by actually addressing even some of these problems directly at the community level. This vacuum is the one great untapped wellspring of authority and power in the West today. And it’s inevitable that someday soon somebody is going to successfully tap into it, whether that’s the right, or some faction of the far left. Whoever does so first is likely to claim the future mandate to rule.

There are many on the right today who disparage the notion of organizing outside the familiar battlegrounds of electoral politics as somehow “running for the hills” or retreating into the monasteries. Meanwhile, certain pessimists deride any popular political action as useless, claiming real change can only come from an already-powerful clique of “counter-elites” within the system – or from some Silicon Valley Caesar.

Both are wrong. Whether counter-revolutionary or not, parallelism is a proven road to power. In fact, as the left has long understood, it is a return to the basic essence of politics. Moreover, it is the single most anti-fragile and scalable option for the conservative right today. It offers the best path forward in almost every conceivable political scenario we now face.

If the future involves a gradual weakening and de-legitimization of Western ruling regimes, an opposition that can build, organize, and peacefully mobilize a decisive mass powerbase is likely to prove politically unstoppable.

If our future is instead a continued slide deeper into managerial totalitarianism, we will be much better off with resilient, organized parallel structures from which to mount a resistance.

And if, God forbid, the future means an unfortunate, chaotic descent into anarchy and civil struggle, it is the faction possessing the most organized and extensive parallel structures that will be poised to prevail, restore order, and take on the task of governing anew.

So, what is to be done? Today in the West there is an abandoned crown lying in the mud, waiting to be picked up. My message to the right is simple: pick it up. Before somebody else does.

Support the author here