The comparative state of political organization on the political Left and Right today is really something to behold. Considered as a sociological variable, organization is statistically distributed between Left and Right on a binary, all or nothing basis; it is, for all practical purposes, a digital variable whose values are 1 and 0 respectively.
The Left is absolutely organized from top to bottom and every point in between, from the lowliest dumpster-dwelling street trash at the very bottom, organized into various Antifa and BLM-type gangs and mobs, to multi-million dollar NGOs and professionalized advocacy groups at the very top. The latter are indistinguishable from the giant for-profit corporations with which they regularly exchange executive officers and other personnel, and which they have accordingly succeeded in infiltrating and insinuating their people and agenda into at the highest levels. The result is that the Left now controls the workplace in addition to the educational and media apparatuses that were its traditional turf, and the for-profit as well as the traditional non-profit sectors more generally.
The detail-work in this exhaustive colonization of civic life, meanwhile, is taken care of by the phenomenon of "entryism" in which Leftist activists infiltrate and take over executive positions in every existing civic association they can find, with the result that everything from professional associations to hobby clubs are insidiously repurposed as Leftist organizations and weaponized so as to promote the Leftist ideological and political agenda. It, therefore, isn't much of an exaggeration to say that the Left now controls the entirety of organized private life, what social scientists call "civil society" (and a great deal, at the very least, of the apparatuses of the public power as well).
The Right, meanwhile, is absolutely disorganized. In the USA the Right, it is true, has won the Executive branch of the national State- no small thing. But President Trump got there by means of direct appeal to public opinion, that is, to the individual members of a mass-media audience by means of prominent appearances in mass-media. There was no pre-existing vertical organizational connection between Trump and his base whatsoever, nor horizontal organization between its individual members, and Trump disdained to create any and continues to. The only thing on the Right truly comparable to the professionalized advocacy over on the Left is the National Rifle Association- a complex and singularly exceptional case that stands out like a sore thumb.
Otherwise, there are various mission-centred teams that form on chanson an ad-hoc basis and disband as soon as their particular objective is met; a loose and shifting network of dissenting intellectuals who interact through blogging; a few traditional 14/88-themed crews on the street; and a revival of fraternal civic association that, while growing, is still in its infancy, and of which there exists right now only a tiny handful of groups and chapters. This dissident Right has no institutional base of operations to call its own, no patrons, no money, few friends, and many enemies. It remarkably managed to elect a President, but has no organizational channels of access to him and thus no direct input or influence over his decisions.
Outside of these scattered exceptions, the Right is disorganized to the point where the disorganization isn't just political, but extends to broad social disorganization of its natural support/recruitment base to the point of outright anomie and social pathology, as rates of marital instability, drug abuse, mental illness, and suicide in the White working and middle classes make all too painfully clear. Arguably the reason for the populist turn on the Right is that, in the aggregate, the Right has become the very image of the rabble of unsocialized atoms ("mass society") that the civil-society theorists always characterized populist movements as being composed of. It has no social form or substance as such; it exists only as a phenomenon of public opinion, as pure sentiment, and consequently can exercise power only through plebiscitary means(Brexit, the election of Trump, etc.) in which each isolate individual carrier of mass sentiment gets to pull a lever in a booth and then goes back to bowling alone.
This populist sentiment, in turn, inherently carries with it an enormous baggage of rustic naiveté, folksy superstitions, and old-wives' tales about how political power, the process of getting it, and the process of organizing to get it, all work. Based on superficial observation, from the outside and from a distance, of what the Left does, and egged on by a pervasive national mythology of "popular sovereignty" and "democracy", populism believes or more accurately, fantasizes that one day the so-called People, having finally been pushed too far by all those snooty professors, crony-capitalist fat-cats, and crooked politicians, will spontaneously rise up in arms together and bring low the elites in high towers for good.
This mythical and Utopian image is obviously the expression of a degree of social and political disorganization so profound as to leave the populists unable to even imagine what genuine civic and political organization and participation look like. The image of direct mass action by a socially formless "people" who spontaneously act together at once as individuals with no prior organization is clearly modeled on the real-life experience of public opinion finding expression in the plebiscite, which is the only exposure to political action the populists have. Hence the folksy, muh Second Amendment image of a mass popular uprising as something very much like a referendum or public-opinion poll in which each individual brandishes a gun instead of pulling a lever or turning the dial on a Nielsen box.
As we have seen, the plebiscite is the political recourse of the disorganized, of those who have no unity other than the sentiment they have in common as isolated individuals. This mass of atoms, however, does not call and hold its own plebiscites and cannot. Since the process of holding elections and referenda, and the reckoning of the juridical status of their outcomes, is controlled by law, elites who control the State have both the first and last word here- as the citizens of California found out in the infamous case of Proposition Eight. The plebiscite, far from being a projection of popular sovereignty, is a allowance on the part of elites who deign to occasionally provide each plebe with the chance to have his say (while reserving the right to ignore what he has to say if what he says is deemed to be wrong). And unless and until one is called, the plebes must content themselves with fuming in the Breitbart comments section, since they are neither permitted nor, at least in their present state of absolute disorganization, able to do anything else on their own initiative.
The populist image of spontaneous popular revolt thus has about as much in common with the type of political action that would actually be needed to seriously challenge the established order as a bunch of random people who happen to be walking down the street with guns at the same time (in an Open Carry march, perhaps) has in common with a regular army organized under State authority- and in any serious contest with the established order would be about as effective as the former against the latter, in both a figurative and, God forbid, literal sense.
For quite some time now, voices in the new dissident Right have been trying very hard to rectify the facile imagery of naive populism. They have pointed out that the Left's legendary "protests" and "demonstrations" and "civil disobedience" disorders, far from being spontaneous uprisings or the engine of the Left's rise to ascendancy, were nothing more than the visible tip of an enormous iceberg of elite-driven machinations operating below the surface. They have uncovered a history that shows how the putatively "spontaneous" disorders were the fruit of carefully thought-out plans fomented and hatched over years and even decades, and that the movement that demanded the devolution of "all power to the people" was itself shored up by power of a much less popular and more conventionally top-down sort: wealthy benefactors and charitable endowments, factions within the State and big business, sympathetic University administrators and municipal officials, and cynical operators of all sorts. They have pointed out, contra anti-intellectualist populist exhortations to stop thinking and "Do Something," that to rush out and "protest" without this anterior elite machinery in place would be rather like going hunting armed with bullets but no gun to shoot them with. Finally, over and above the mere absurdity of it, they have warned about the danger of doing so in a situation in which administrators and officials are likely to be far less indulgent of various high-profile public stunts and antics when carried out by the Right than they might otherwise be, and that public opinion of activists not pre-selected by elite opinion leaders may not be quite as favorable as the facile populist elite/popular opposition confidently predicts- all as several hapless Rightist militants have already had ample occasion to learn, the hard way, this past year.
However, at a time in history in which synthetic thought is unfashionable and intellectual discourse generally modeled on radically one-sided adversarial court-room pleas and commercial advertising, it was inevitable that what was intended to be a corrective against the over-simplifications of naive populism and folk activism would sometimes end up polemically oversimplifying things itself. Where populism sees seizing political power in terms of a simple direct process of emanation in which the will of the so-called "People" realizes itself as political power through the plebiscitary mass action, the easiest thing to do in an adversarial and polemical climate is to simply say the exact opposite and substitute an image of the political shape of things at any given time as the result of a simple direct process of emanation of the will of elites,who are seen as able to project their will onto society as easily as one turns a light-switch or faucet on and off. In the extreme form, popular support and grassroots-level mobilizing and activism are downgraded to the merely spurious and superfluous, something that plays no other role than to publicly promulgate an already-accomplished transfer of power in the same way that the swallow does not bring the springtime, but only announces it.
David Hines has recently written a very timely and interesting essay touching on all of these issues, one importantly suggestive enough to warrant comment at some length.
Both what I have here identified as populism and its overblown antithesis, according to Hines, are two sides of the same coin; they are the product of an underlying and congenital ignorance of the practical nuts-and-bolts of gaining power on the part of the Right, much of which continues to effetely regard such vulgar considerations as beneath its exalted dignity:
Some Righties argue that we don’t need to learn from Lefties, because Righties are just better. [...] Part of the issue here is cultural. Some of the ways Lefties get and use power are very culturally offensive to Righties. It’s hard to intellectually appreciate a difference in values when every fiber of your being is telling you that the other person is just being an asshole.
As a result, both populism and exaggerated elitism lapse into short-circuited reasoning and magical thinking. They both miss the indispensable role of effort and of know-how, both of which are necessary for a will or a desire to be translated into an actual result in any form of human action, regardless of whether the actor is an elite or not. Populism ends up taking the Left's own self-serving mythology of spontaneous people-power at face value:
it’s hard to see the mechanics at work because the press talks about Lefty movements and moments as if they magically just happen...[O]ther parts of this attitude go back to high school civics class. Political movements are part of civics, too, but schoolbooks don’t talk about how they actually work. In high school civics we talk about bills, and we talk about laws, and we talk about the three branches of government, but we don’t ever talk about power. We talk about Rosa Parks, but not the Highlander Folk School; we talk about Martin Luther King, Jr., but not Ella Baker. Which means that we don’t address huge parts of how the world actually gets changed.
Exaggerated elitism, for its part, makes the same mistake, but from the other direction. Movements certainly "don’t just happen"- but nor are they the pure and simple
product of orders from on high, or rent-a-protestors paid out of somebody’s checkbook. They’re the product of a lot of people doing a lot of hard work over a very long time.
The great strength of the Left relative to the Right, according to Hines, is that the Left stands willing and able to organize at every level of society from top to bottom and side to side; and this superior organizational acumen would make the Left continue to be a formidable presence even if democracy were abolished and more secure forms of power instituted, since the Left would use its skills to infiltrate and subvert the new political system.
Whatever the future may bring, there is no gainsaying Hines’ observation that the Left right now has been able to parlay its dominance of civil society into dominance of the polity even though, in the USA, it has been defeated on the terrain of national electoral politics about as badly as it could be. If anything, since Trump was elected the Left has become more swaggeringly self-confident than it has ever been- indeed, to an unprecedented point of open mutiny in which it feels cocky enough to assign itself the right to visit extra-judicial rough justice on anyone that offends it in the smallest way, deface and destroy public symbols in broad daylight, and otherwise brazenly challenge State authority, while a hapless President who rules but cannot, given the circumstances, govern looks on and legions of populist blowhards on the Right talk a lot of loud but impotent trash about taking to arms in a coming civil war when they seemingly aren’t socially together enough to organize a carpool between them.
Hines' proposed corrective to the imbalance is to have "Righties" start "organizing for power". He urges us to start forming, at the local level, political organizations- not "social clubs"- with the objective of effectuating some sort of immediate reform or change; and he wants us to form lots of them, at the outset, decentralized groupuscules of five guys each. He also wants us to avail ourselves of the extensive Leftist corpus of how-to books on the subject of community-level organizing. (I would add, apropos the latter point, that the Left also at any given time runs public seminars on this subject on a pro-bono basis; and also that a current University student is well advised to find and take the course on social movements in the sociology department if one is offered. Finally, you might even consider going undercover and joining a local Leftist org for a while so as to get on-the-job-training and the inside track right from the experts).
The idea, in principle, is a very good one- but there are many caveats and qualifications that need to be made.
One problem area is his one-sided focus on building single-issue pressure/advocacy groups as opposed to "social clubs", which he deprecates. Civil society is about a lot more than political activism. Even the Left does not turn every civic organization they take over into a dedicated lobbying arm; they keep most of them in an auxiliary role in which they continue mainly to serve in their original capacity, whatever it may be, but can be counted as members of various en bloc coalitions, made to serve as a potential source of resources and to extend the social networks of the Left, to disseminate and promote the Leftist agenda to people who might not otherwise encounter or pay any attention to it, etc.
Additionally, as we have seen the support base of the Right is not just politically, but socially disorganized- often in a fairly serious way. The White working and middle-class man has basically been abandoned to fend for himself like an alley cat in much of the country; and, in much of the country, the Rightist either makes himself very, very, unpopular or learns to bite his tongue in company pretty much all the time. White men of the Right need fraternal camaraderie. They need to develop mutual social bonds, pool and exchange resources, and reciprocally come to one another's aid. They also need, dare I say it, a safe space: somewhere they can speak frankly without fear of reprisal, and each one learns that he is neither a crackpot nor evil for thinking the way he does. And the fraternal association, once established, if need be can serve as a home base for secondary activities of a more specifically issue-oriented sort.
Also, study and intellectual inquiry are much more important on the Right than on the Left, where any activist is simply handed a ready-made cause to agitate for along with a ready-made set of dogma, readings, talking-points, etc. that he either gets from his professors or from movement leaders, and which he can subsequently take for granted without bothering himself about first principles and all the whys and wherefores. The Right does not have this luxury of being relieved of the burden of thinking; it is only in the embryonic stage of developing a parallel academy with its own proper canon and disciplines. Long-term movement objectives, at this point, are very far from settled, at least in terms of operational specifics, and it is thus far from clear just what exactly it is the multiplicity of five-guy teams Hines want to see formed are supposed to agitating for in the first place. Is it gun rights? Freedom of speech? A nude Fascist bodybuilding section at the local civic park?
Thus Hines does not always appreciate the differences between, and the special organizational, tactical, and strategic needs of, the Right as opposed to the Left. In slurring them together, he additionally slips into the populist error of simply assuming that whatever works for the Left will, mutatis mutandis, work for the Right as well- without taking into account that the present institutional-administrative environment is, as President Trump might say, rigged. Anyone who takes Hines up on his suggestion to start a free-speech group on campus or disrupt speakers is very well-advised not to do so fecklessly or frivolously- lest they discover that administrators and public officials are likely to be rather less protective and indulgent of Rightists who do those things than with Leftists, and may allow Rightist activists to be physically assaulted with impunity on the one hand while enforcing to the letter and/or creatively interpreting all sorts of administrative rules and regulations against them on the other, all as police suddenly remember that they know how to bust heads and come down hard on troublemakers after all.
By no means am I saying that nobody should try (arguably, it would be about bloody time), just that would-be Righty warriors should know what they're getting themselves into and plan accordingly- especially with respect to legal representation, which the Left often gets for free through their organizations and networks, but which Rightists might not be able to get at all if they're publicly branded as "Nazis". (As a digression, one can readily see the advantage for the activists of having, behind the scenes, a fraternal order in which one or more members is a lawyer).
Hines, like Saul Alinsky (whom his thinking resembles) avowedly has no particular ideological or political parti pris, but seeks instead to arm the common man with the tools he needs in order to get the power he needs in order to get what he wants, whatever it may be. This is a tactic in an anarchist strategy, certainly so for Alinsky, maybe or maybe not for Hines. I shall pass no judgment on the merits of the anarchist programme here, but instead focus on what the localist approach, which by design seeks to empower communities to get what they want on the grounds that every community ought to be totally autonomous and able to do whatever it wants, has to offer the neo-Reactionary programme, and what its limitations for the latter are.
It is a first principle of the new Reaction that the social change it strives towards- inter alia, the abolition of democracy and the separation of powers, the revival of indivisible personal rule, the restoration of the rights and social honour of the Church and the patriarchal family, and the suppression of globalist big business and the Cathedral- is structural change that will involve refounding the State on new juridico-political foundations, and otherwise reconfiguring the whole kit and caboodle of existing social relations. This general and foundational restructuring of State and society obviously cannot be carried out on a piecework basis by a swarm of specialized single-issue advocacy groups, nor above all through the existing conventional means of democratic participation, lobbying, and interest-group politics.
No doubt, as the movement grows, it will be dragged into this world of normal above-ground politics sooner or later, especially when it comes down to defending its right to exist in the face of legal and extra-legal persecution; and when the time comes, it will be an enormous and perhaps, decisive boon to the movement to have the wherewithal in terms of activistic organization and know-how to be able to fight back. It would also be mightily useful if the local chapters of a national movement organization could, using Alinsky-type methods, take over local municipal administrations, and thus gain access to all the considerable perks, powers, and resources.
The emphasis on the national aspect of the movement should be reiterated. A headless and leaderless congeries of activist groups is tactically well-suited to the crypto-anarchist agenda of an Alinsky, which strives towards decentralization, fragmentation, and the devolution of "all power to the people". Reaction, though, strives in precisely the opposite direction; to put it in formal philosophical terms, it sees the multifarious associations of civil society as destined to be aufgehoben by and subsumed under the higher civic unity of the State, which is the highest expression of rational civic consciousness and ethical development, and stands in the same relation to civil society as the unity of the body does to its internal organs. Thus we need to understand the term, "organization", in the strong literal sense of levels of organization in the biological organism, which are related to one another in terms of a hierarchy of control in which the lower-level units are subsumed under the higher.
This is no mere ivory-tower philosophizing but has immediate and urgent practical implications. Organizing for Restoration is, of necessity, an elite-centric and top-down process.
The big flaw in Alinsky- and I'm sure many an old-school Marxist made the same observation back in the day- is that a movement that simply seeks to teach the people how to "take back city hall" by using the very means of the political machines that run it now cannot possibly be radical, since by definition the people have to invoke the language of the dominant Liberal ideology to do it. Left to their own devices, they will never transcend this ideology or attain to a political consciousness other than Liberalism- and to be able to think only within the confines of Liberal ideology is to be doomed to reproduce the political and social order of things that Liberal ideology is indelibly wedded to. To be able to transcend the established order, one must first be able to think out of that order's own box. Perhaps better still: *one cannot pour new wine into old skins. *
Everyone on the Right is all too painfully familiar with what happens when well-meaning Rightists run around with their heads filled with gibberish articulated in a political language that was not made for them: real democracy has never been tried, Leftists are the real racists, muh Constitution, etc. ad nauseam. It is only once armed with the invincible thought of the new Reaction that it becomes possible to transcend Liberalism in such a way that activists will be able to exploit and weaponize Liberal discourse against itself for instrumental purposes without getting sucked into actually believing in any of it like so many chumps. But this can only be done in a top-down fashion in which the elite of a national organization, analogous to the Central Committee in traditional Communist Party organization, sets a uniform party line according to a scientific assessment of the strategic situation at any given time along with a corresponding plan of action (or non-action), which is then disseminated to militants at lower and local levels.
It should be noted that the much-ballyhooed ability of the Cathedral to display great unity of purpose without any central authority is really just the way things superficially appear. In the case of the Cathedral, highly standardized education sees to it that all members of the Cathedral attend schools that are all pretty much the same, where they study and learn from the same books drawn from the same canon and the same peer-reviewed scholarly literature. If there appears to be no Central Committee in the Cathedral structure, that is only because the University as a whole, above all the Ivy League, has taken on its function; and notoriously, an adjunct or assistant professor is no more free, if he knows what's good for him, to buck the peer-reviewed "consensus" than a floor-level shop steward would have been to saunter into Communist Party HQ and start second-guessing Lenin or Mao.
Since the Right has no University, and thus no ready-made machinery for either producing knowledge or turning out elites, it follows that much Rightist organizing is going to have to focus on organizing for both expert knowledge-production and the training of future elites as well as the recruitment of existing ones. These areas of focus are priorities when it comes to allocating movement resources. The movement right now needs a thousand Statesmen more than it needs a thousand protest-organizers- since without the former the latter are about as useful as a computer with no operating system. N.B. this is very different from saying that the likes of protest-organizers have no indispensable role to play; it is merely to state a logical order of priority in the stages of movement formation.
Likewise, at lower and more local/grassroots levels developing the wherewithal in terms of infrastructure to start building parallel community institutions is going to be more important than externally agitating for change of this or that item of public policy in the conventional public square. That having been said, civil-liberties lawfare and lobbying will probably be a very important front in the struggle to secure the existence of these institutions, and Alinskyist community-organizing skills will be indispensable to building them almost by definition.
It should clear, then, that none of the critiques of activism advanced here imply that the practical nut-and-bolts skills and can-do attitude of the activist that Hines draws attention to are irrelevant. On the contrary: all of the foregoing requires the attention of the most highly skilled and diligent organizers. It is rather a question of the strategic ends to which the activist skill-set is put, and of identifying the skills that are the most relevant. One absolutely and indispensably central of these skills, which Hines interestingly passes over although it has always been a pillar of Leftist organizing,is the ability to solicit funding from patrons and other sources. A movement without any money is a stillbirth, not least of all because a movement, in the course of its maturation, has to be able to recruit various types of specialized personnel with indispensable skill-sets who assume full-time roles in the organization- something they can't very well do if they starve to death doing it, and in any case won't do if they know they can get remuneration for their services elsewhere. It is when social movements are able to professionalize, and no longer have to rely on a bunch of amateurs, jacks-of-all-trades trying to juggle too much at once, and part-time volunteers burdened with day jobs that sap their energies and attention, that they are in a position to really start to go places.
The priority task of the Right in the present situation, in conclusion, is better described as organizing towards political power than as organizing for power, if the latter means gaining power for the sake of exercising it today, and exercising it indiscriminately without a long-run vision to guide and direct its exercise. Put simply and frankly, the existing Right (including the new Reaction) wouldn't know what to do with power if it got it. And in any case, the Right often continues to fail to appreciate structural limits on the possibilities for gaining and exercising power within the constraints of the existing order. Hines writes:
I like the idea of having power to keep my politicians honest, power to exercise directly in my world, and power that can be used directly to make my country, the world, and people’s lives better.
This slips into just the sort of platitudinous high-school civics-ed boilerplate Hines rightly critiques elsewhere in the same piece. It manifests a faith, as unconditional as it is implicit, in the ability of the established order of things, which unlike authoritarian regimes bestows on each citizen the power to make himself heard, to keep politicians honest and make life better; and that if Liberal democracy has manifestly failed to do so, then that is simply because we have yet to achieve full democratic participation on the part of a citizenry whose members still do not all know how to exercise their Constitutional rights or understand their civic duty to pitch in and help make "their" government more accountable and responsive. In short, Liberal democracy is an unfinished project; it has yet to be really tried.
This is a very complicated subject; I shall point out only that this reformist agenda has been tried by the Right- and, with the unique exception of the gun-rights movement (and that, only in the USA, and not uniformly even there), has failed every time it has been tried. One need only consider the case of the Tea Parties less than a decade ago. If raw activism, carried out on a haphazard basis within the limits of the existing Liberal-democratic system and on its ideological terms without striving to transcend those limits in a definite way, could possibly work for the Right, it would have worked already. Yet here we are, back to square one of the game as always, without ever even having so much as passed go or collected our two hundred dollars. Here's hoping the emerging new iteration of Rightist organizing will continue to work towards something other than playing and losing the next round of a rigged game.