I hope this essay proves useful in the future, to erase the common misconceptions about what it means to be ‘right’, among other things. In a world where language has lost its meaning we can easily become confused as to what political terminology truly denotes, more-so when appropriators seek to brand themselves under labels that might benefit their own agendas. This will cover all-too-familiar ground for those within the Reactosphere, but should be helpful to initiates with questions on our politics.
In case you were unaware of where the left/right spectrum comes from, it has its origins in the French National Assembly, where the increasingly worried aristocratic allies of the Ancien Régime sat on the right-hand side (Côté Droit) of the president, and revolutionaries of the rising merchant class sat on his left-hand side (Côté Gauche). As the revolutionary ideas of this era that came to be known as the ‘Enlightenment’ began to spread, the right vs. left paradigm became a general term for the battle between those supporting the monarchical and hierarchical orders of Europe’s kingdoms, and those seeking their overthrow in favor of a more republican form of government.
The rightists of this era were then Conservatives, in that they sought to ‘conserve’ the status quo. This term however did not enter usage until 1818 during the Bourbon Restoration, another chapter in the chaotic French ideological tug-of-war. A more common early epithet used against such counter-Enlightenment figures as Joseph De Maistre was ‘Réactionnaire’ (translated into Reactionary). On the radical right, Reactionary is not synonymous with Conservative. The Conservative opposes radical change based upon his own place in history. The Soviets who orchestrated the August Coup in Russia were the Conservatives in their own socio-historical context. Credit where credit is due, this is not a blind revulsion to change, but rather an intellectual acknowledgement that rapid change often leads to chaos and disintegration. It is why Edmund Burke could denounce the French Revolution yet support its far more pacific cousin, the American Revolution.
By contrast to this, the Reactionary opposes radical change based upon history as a whole. His politics is not local, it is cosmic, in the sense that he reacts to a change in epoch rather than a change in individual governmental structure or leadership. A la Guénon and Evola, the world in the eyes of he who is gifted with sight represents a cleaved reality, broken in two by the ravages of the ‘Enlightenment’. If the Fall is symbolic of man’s disconnection from the innocence of God, then the Enlightenment is symbolic of man’s disconnection from the wisdom of God, and the reverence He is owed. The system that has come to be known as the World of Tradition, representing the largely unchanged underlying assumptions of human life prior to the end of the last epoch, has moved beyond view over the horizon line in the rear view mirror.
The Reactionary is then the Traditionalist in motion. As others act against all he loves and knows to be true, he is compelled to react. In today’s world, where the fires of the original Revolution have been laid to rest and the monarchs of at least the Occident have been cast into the dust, the only person left seated on the right of the king’s corpse is the Reactionary. The Conservative has moved on with the times. He cannot conserve what he doesn’t remember, nor ever experienced,
It follows from this then that the contemporary Conservative is a leftist, just not one who is driven by dogma, but instead adheres to the constraining principle: ‘don’t run near swimming pools’. What is the left proper? All that stands against Tradition, a phenomena in which politics has become the master of all things as if instead of mediating through a church, God now mediated through an intangible manifesto to be bellowed to supporters as its tenets appear in their minds.
Through the French Revolution, we see something new emerge that I like to call the theosification of politics. Anyone familiar with Scripture will know the terms ‘Sadducee’ and ‘Pharisee’. Under the political dominion of the Roman Empire, the peace in 1st Century BC Judea was kept by a council known as the Sanhedrin, divided along the faultline of a religious disagreement. The Sadducees denied God’s involvement with everyday affairs, denied the afterlife, denied resurrection of the dead as a possibility, and also disbelieved in any supernatural orders such as angelic beings. The Pharisees on the other hand believe in all those aforementioned things. Along with this, the Sadducees believed Scripture was the only source of heavenly knowledge, whereas the Pharisees also stressed the importance and veracity of Jewish oral tradition. The divide between the two groups was quarrelsome going back prior to the occupation, and after this it quickly became political, owing to their position above that of mere priests, as overseers of almost five million Jews. The Sadducees were publicly unpopular and were the most accommodating faction for the Romans. The Pharisees meanwhile were well respected and resisted Rome more often. It’s peculiar that these stances regarding Rome don’t seem related to the theological disputes, but more to the classes, occupations, and interests that each faction represented.
Of course, we know that the two groups put aside their differences for one event, the conspiracy to execute Christ, but this is not their only significance. They represent in an all-too-familiar manner the leaking over of a religious partisanship into a political one, something of an oddity in history, until the French Revolution, where the characteristics of a religious conflict infused politics and animated it like a spell. For some, it is the birth of ‘political ideology’ itself.
Julius Evola wrote the following:
“We are in opposition to a certain mythos: the one that wants to turn spirituality and culture into a realm that is dependent on politics. We, on the other hand, claim that it is politics that must be dependent on spirituality and culture.”
In a pre-Enlightenment context, this is in fact the muting of politics to nothing. Politics is never a subject of disagreement in the World of Tradition, not on a revolutionary scale at least, not in matters of any grave importance. In the hands of autocrats, there is no room for interest, let alone disagreement. Politics is the subject of will by the chosen few, and this will is informed by the life laws of the nation, and these life laws are informed always by a transcendent reality. Stratified as such into a hierarchy of causal agents, politics in any nation should never take on the climate of division such as that between Christians over where the Holy Spirit proceeds from. If it does, then politics has taken on a theological-esque importance and we are witnessing its degeneration. You might say politics becomes the religion of the usurper deity who daren’t not reveal himself in a religious manner.
The Reactionary who sits to the right of the monarch is a witness not only to an emergent political conflict, but in truth what that emergence entails: an epoch coming to an end and giving way to something new, something with earth-shattering ramifications. All those party to this neoteric development in the foundations of human civilization, not religious politics, but politics as religion, are defined as the dogmatic left. They have their own partisanship of course, bloody and peaceful, nationalist and internationalist, socialist and capitalist, however all identifiable by their messianic worship not of divinity, but of their own future, that which they are galloping towards with such glee.That future will be the product of their political struggle. The losers die off and the winners claim the ‘end of history’. We have a different idea of what that end will eventually look like for them, but this has been covered in previous essays.
My wish is for you to have come away from this possessing a clearer understanding what being ‘right’ means. It is much more than the sum of its positions: autocracy, caste, theonomy, race realism, etc. People may hold these typically right wing beliefs, and may in fact be useful to our ends, without themselves being right. It is, if you like, a spiritual disposition which by tragedy has become a political stance in need of constant defense. Many claim to be of the right for the their own selfish reasons, all too often to try and distinguish themselves from some other leftist faction. It serves all sides really, heaping upon the masses the delusion that they have meaningful choice in this age of democracy.
Etymologically, the label belongs to us, not pretenders to the legacy of its valiant warriors.
(For more on the personal characteristics of the Reactionary, see Nicolás Gómez Dávila on The Authentic Reactionary, with commentary by yours truly [Parts I, II]. Also, short and sweet, see Svein Sellanraa on The Difference Between “Conservatives” and Reactionaries. Finally, something to think about from Gornahoor.)