In modern political discourse, much is made of the victory of secularism. As liberal historiography would have it, Man once lived a primitive world in which people believed in things like religion and tradition: that’s why Voltaire named the era the Dark Ages. Then, along came liberalism which swept away all of our ancient prejudices and brought the light of reason into the world.
This seems to be an element of the liberal ideology which has remained un-examined by almost every faction in modern politics. It is for this reason that conservatives shy away from giving moral arguments for their positions or even holding moral positions; “we can’t legislate our morality” is the constant refrain. After all, that is something those evil regressives from 50 years ago used to do, and conservatism is about progress towards sensibility. Thanks to liberalism, we’ve moved beyond such ideas. Today, politics are grounded in reason and we don’t make normative claims when we write laws.
Furthermore, the thinking goes, if we actually talked about morality we’d never win another election again. People don’t want to hear about moral issues. They’re too civilized for that. If we want to seem cool and modern, we should only talk about the most inoffensive and arcane fiscal issues imaginable.
Now, doubtless this is a compelling story, but there is one rather important fact that this narrative cannot account for. If we turn our gaze upwards, towards the heights of power, we find that the situation is different. Is it true that the people who run the universities, the media, the NGO’s, the corporations and the state are total moderates, completely unconcerned with moral issues? In their interactions with their ideological opponents, or even regular people, are they paragons of tolerance and open discourse?
To ask this question is to laugh. There is no more intolerant, authoritarian and fanatical sect in the modern Western world than the progressive Left. One need only look at the BLM- and Antifa-led rioting and looting that is currently consuming the United States. Question their sacred idols of diversity, equality and inclusion, and one will experience a barrage of execration that would have made a 17th century puritan blush. If you become a target of the progressive mob, then your name will be dragged through the mud in the media. You might get kicked out of school, lose your job, or even be brought in front of a court and be tried for breaking hate-speech laws.
However, rather than criticizing the “regressive left”, this article will take a different tack. Indeed, the progressives are correct in adopting the attitude towards society and politics that they have. In fact, the real issue here is the ignorance that the right demonstrates when it criticizes the progressives for being intolerant of differing viewpoints, or rather, of being insufficiently liberal in their attitudes.
Progressivism, when it finally took power in Canada came largely as a foreign import; it was imposed by Pierre Trudeau at the behest of the Laurentian commercial elites who wished to align Canada more firmly with the United States.
The religious zealotry which characterises the progressive worldview emerges from two fundamental sources: the drive that pushes the progressive left to seek power and domination over society, and the role that the progressive left plays within our modern power structure. For the purposes of this essay, we will be focusing on the United States, since as we shall see, it is the progressive nation par excéllence (one might even venture to call it the shining city on a hill of progressivism, and indeed Babylon does cast her light over the entire earth).
Though it might sound strange to modern ears, Canada has historically been a very conservative nation with its identity being tied up in the British empire and Christianity, in contrast to the American idea of nationhood, which is built on rebellion against traditional authority and revolutionary transformation of society on the basis of enlightenment ideology. Progressivism, when it finally took power in Canada came largely as a foreign import; it was imposed by Pierre Trudeau at the behest of the Laurentian commercial elites who wished to align Canada more firmly with the United States.
Progressivism itself emerged as a radical sect of liberalism in the Anglosphere during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the beginning, progressivism was marked by the utopian views of people like John Stuart Mill, Thomas Hill Green, Margaret Sanger and Herbert Spencer. These early progressives shared the faith in concepts like progress, technocracy and globalism that characterise modern progressives. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that their views regarding eugenics and the selective breeding of the races of Man have been replaced by the modern progressive cult of transhumanism.
In the United States, Progressives first rose to major positions of power during the administrations of United States presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. In particular, the peculiar characteristics of the Roosevelt administration are some of the clearest early iterations of trends which continue within the progressive movement to this very day.
At the time, President Roosevelt's seizure of increasing amounts of power was quite controversial. His control over the economy and political process was seen by the conservatives of his day as signs of his dictatorial tendencies. Policies like his attempt to bring the supreme court under his control to eliminate their resistance to his New Deal certainly lend credence to these accusations. Roosevelt also developed somewhat of a cult of personality and his administration saw the Federal government dedicate a great deal of effort to shaping public perceptions through the use of mass media. The Roosevelt administration worked with corporations and banks to revitalize the economy. In return for state assistance in increasing economic activity, private companies submitted to the managerial control of the legions of bureaucrats employed by the Roosevelt administration
Both the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations had deep ties with academia, and Roosevelt especially brought many bright young graduates from the ivy league universities to become technocrats in Washington D.C. Both emerged victorious from world wars. Wilson and Roosevelt both created international institutions to enforce the hegemony of liberalism over the international system.
Roosevelt was so successful that he won re-election four times (the most of any American president). The early progressive era essentially destroyed the conservative movement of its day. The conservative movement that emerged after the death of Roosevelt was a Frankenstein's-monster brought into the world by William F. Buckley. The reconstructed conservative movement fundamentally accepted Progressive premises and could offer no resistance to Progressivism.
Since the beginning, progressives have wanted and known how to obtain and keep power. The early progressives of the Roosevelt era were far more liberal than the people they ruled. Some of them, like Gore Vidal, were borderline borderline communists on social issues; others, like Alger Hiss, were literal communists (of course, compared to modern progressives, these early versions seem downright conservative). Yet the ideological disconnect between the common people and the progressive elite was never a problem for the progressives.
The progressives in Washington and the universities and corporations around the nation saw it as their moral and historical imperative to bring progress to every town and village in their nation, and eventually the world, even if they had to drag people kicking and screaming to do so. With a better understanding of their origins, the policies and attitudes of modern progressives can be seen as what they are: the next logical step for the progressive movement.
For example, the legal restrictions on hate speech are simply an attempt to preserve the social order that the progressives have been working to establish for decades. And in this sense they are correct. In any society, there must and will always be certain things which cannot be questioned. Sacrality is a necessary prerequisite for social order, and sacrality depends on preserving the integrity of those objects of our reverence. There are simply certain things which don’t belong in a marketplace to be gawked at and negotiated over.
It is important to note here that it is indeed progressives who establish and interpret the normative framework within which all of society operates. Throughout history, every society has been built on sacrality, and tending to the sacred has always been the role of the priestly caste. And in this trans-historical class structure, we see what role progressives play as a class in our modern society: they are our priests. They determine the general line and boundaries of our discourse. They judge the moral worth of people and grant sainthood where they see fit.
Indeed they have worked to establish their own version of a caste system. At the top there are the progressive saints like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, accompanied by the most oppressed sexual and racial minorities; at the bottom, straight white men languish. Let there be no doubt that what we are discussing is a moral hierarchy grounded in the cosmology to which progressives fervently adhere. Moreover, there is an imperative to proselytize and spread this gospel to the furthest corners of the earth built into the foundations of progressivism as an ideology.
In understanding their history and ideology, we can also get a glimpse into the fanaticism which characterises the modern progressive mind. Many astute observers have noted that there seems to be a contradiction between the progressive support for absolute free speech in the 1960s and their opposition to free speech now. There is no contradiction. In the 1960s, Progressives wanted to overthrow conservative social taboos, and for this they required free speech. In the current year, progressives have overthrown conservative social taboos and want to enforce their own, so they need censorship.
What conservatives refuse to understand is that Progressives fundamentally view the seizure of power as a central goal of their political praxis. They are here to materialize their utopian ideology. Many conservatives cannot understand this because they fundamentally view politics as a see-saw, wherein both sides must cooperate, and each side has to give in a little to make gains. The goal in this view is to maintain the stability of the current liberal political system. Thus the ultimate goal of conservative political praxis is some nonsense like ensuring civil discourse. Progressives correctly view politics as a tug-of-war.
Victory can only be total and can only mean total defeat for the other side. Losing means collapse and being dragged through the mud and humiliated by the victor. Thus every action is geared towards victory. Amongst progressive activists and academics, things like group cohesion and the general acceptance of the party line are valued far more highly than abstractions like individualism.
History offers us a manifold of examples of progressive fanaticism leading to victory and conservative passivity leading to defeat. It was those very same 1960’s radicals who were willing to stand up to the national guard and risk being shot who ended up winning out against the “silent majority” who complained behind closed doors. It is only with the power granted by absolute and unflinching conviction in a cause that enables a political movement to achieve victory. Anything less means certain defeat.
As an aside, the revolutionary enthusiasm of the 1960’s provides us with a powerful refutation of the modern conservative’s concern about appealing to the youth. You’ll often hear the refrain from these conservative-libertarians that “all these arguments about principles and power are fine and good, but no one nowadays cares about these topics; they’re uncool, and we need to appeal to modern people especially the youth”.
Who rioted against the police and national guard in the 60’s? Who rose up against the government in Paris in 1968? Who has consistently made up the most fanatical and radical faction in every political revolution and military conflict throughout all human history? It is always the young men. And this is no accident. The energy that manifests itself as youthful rebellion in the modern age is the same spirit which pushed the young man in ancient Sparta to join the army and give himself over to the defense of his fatherland. It seems that in the modern age our enlightened and scientific society has forgotten the basic facts of human nature. We worship youth as the harbinger of social progress through its idealistic zeal. And yet, young people don’t come into the world with some special knowledge that is lost with age. No, the existence of a young man is a quest for identity, truth and destiny.
The leftist radical of the 60’s and the young progressives of today aren’t bringing forth some new creed into the world, they’re reifying the values and worldview that has been taught to them since childhood.
Just because our society has decided that it won’t give young people authority and guidance doesn’t mean they need it any less. The idealistic young man is fundamentally in search of a cause, and when he has found it, he wants nothing more than to give himself over to it entirely. He will be the most ferocious warrior, the most loyal soldier, and he will joyfully give his blood, sweat and tears for the advancement of his cause.
The leftist radical of the 60’s and the young progressives of today aren’t bringing forth some new creed into the world, they’re reifying the values and worldview that has been taught to them since childhood. Anyone who believes that young people are inherently anti-authoritarian rebels has no way of explaining the red guards of Mao’s cultural revolution, or the modern young progressive.
If their goal was and is simply to question authority and brush aside outdated prejudices, then they would not be the most dogmatic and vocal exponents of the progressive ideology propagated by the universities, media and the state. No, the fact that the libertarian-conservatives seem incapable of appealing to young people reveals nothing more than their weakness as a political movement. No one will be motivated by the lifeless vampiric doctrine of modern conservatism. Only a radical doctrine dedicated to truth and the salvation of its people can electrify the soul and bring fire to the hearts of men.
When conservatives see progressives cry and scream after suffering a political defeat, they generally respond with derision. After all, who could be so immature? Conservatives lose all the time and they take their losses graciously. This displays the fault in the conservative mindset. Gracefully losing is a virtue in a friendly contest. In a struggle to defend one’s way of life, losing gracefully means subjecting ourselves and all the people we care about to domination by the victors, and trusting they will now be magnanimous where before they were ruthless.
If the issues you claim to be fighting for are just, losing should fill you with righteous anger. Why would anyone find it acceptable that their society is following a path which they presumably believe will lead to its degeneration, if not its destruction? Does anyone believe it's a coincidence that progressives almost always win and that they are also the side that is willing to treat politics with the gravity it deserves? Even when they win, progressives aren’t satisfied.
After achieving victory on a major issue the first thing the leaders on the progressive side will invariably say is “there’s still more work to be done” They always seek victory with a clarity of mind and firmness of purpose that puts the right to shame. Certainly they will scream and cry and protest, they might even burn a city down (the fact that Antifa and Black Lives Matter don’t suffer serious consequences for this should tell us something about the balance of power), but they will always almost immediately begin drawing up plans for a counter-attack. To the Progressive, winning a battle doesn’t give one occasion to rest on one’s laurels: it is an opportunity to press the attack with double the ferocity.
I am not a progressive and I am not saying that the right-wing should become leftists. But if conservatives wish to effect legitimate, lasting change in our society, then they ought to worry a little less about following the rules of engagement that progressives prescribe, and concern themselves more with devising plans and strategies spanning near- and long-terms that will secure a base of power from which to exert influence. To that end, some study of the rivals across the aisle would be well worth the trouble.