Friday, 23 May 2014

Reacting to Neoreaction

Recently I have been taking an interest in an internet-based political movement called the "neoreactionary" movement- in practice, consisting of little more than a handful of bloggers who have used the medium of the internet very successfully to generate interest in their activities and philosophy. More pompously referred to as the "Dark Enlightenment," this fledgling ideology has been surprisingly well developed. The founder goes by the name Mencius Moldbug, who coined the term "Dark Enlightenment" and may or may not be a rejected Marvel villain. His thoughts can be found over at his blog Unqualified Reservations. Mr Moldbug is not very good at being succinct, and his posts are horrendously long and tedious- and this is coming from someone who managed to wade through The Communist Manifesto. As such I must confess that I have managed to conquer very little of Mr Moldbug's writings myself, but have relied principally on secondary sources for my understanding of neoreaction and the "Dark Enlightenment."

Edward, the Black Prince, kneels before his father
King Edward III; a vision of a world neoreactionaries
would like to see back, perhaps.
Other neoreactionary blogs, or blogs associated to some degree with Moldbug and his views, include More Right, run by a small group of neoreactionary thinkers ; The Anti-Democracy Activist, an anti-democratic, traditionalist blogger who has occasionally spoke of Moldbug with praise; Occam's Razor, who provides us with "reactionary musings from the Dark Enlightenment"; Foseti, who is mentioned everywhere and therefore must be important; and Outside In, another neoreactionary blog. Of course, there are others. These are just the ones I've come across and managed to read a little bit of. It's a very diverse group of people, with links to various other blogger communities that I had no idea existed, such as the "Manosphere". Which is about men, I'm sort of guessing. My interest in these bloggers was sparked by the revelation that at least a sizable proportion of them are monarchists, advocating for the return of hereditary monarchy and aristocracy (they are largely American, of course; here in the UK we still have hereditary monarchy and aristocracy, thank heavens, though they're somewhat watered down these days). The neoreactionary I have read the most, Michael Anissimov who is one of several contributors over at More Right, is particularly keen on monarchy, aristocracy and tradition. He is also a member of the "techno-commercialist" faction within the neoreactionary caucus, more on which later.

Apart from a common (though apparently not universal) desire to revive Europe's hereditary elites, there are a number of other canons of neoreactionary thought. Foremost among these is the idea of "The Cathedral," which neoreactionaries stridently oppose. "The Cathedral" is the neoreactionary name for the informal consensus between governments, the media and educators that supports Progressive ideology and works to silence any competing theory by branding any opposition as "evil" and "regressive" or "backwards." This is a great conspiracy that, like Goldman Sachs, can be imagined as a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, sucking it dry. The Cathedral likes democracy and equality. Neoreactionaries therefore oppose both, and instead believe in strict social hierarchies. I'm a fan of hierarchies myself. However, beyond this there is a large degree of disagreement between competing factions of neoreactionaries. Some neoreactionaries have invented a system that classifies them into three distinct, but overlapping, groups; techno-commercialists, theonomists/religious traditionalists, and racists ethnicists/nationalists.

From the blog Habitable Worlds, a more complex
breakdown of the "Dark Enlightenment"
The techno-commercialists appear to have largely arrived at neoreaction via right-wing libertarianism. They are defiant free marketeers, sharing with other ultra-capitalists such as Randian Objectivists a preoccupation with "efficiency," a blind trust in the power of the free market, private property, globalism and the onward march of technology. However, they are also believers in the ideal of small states, free movement and absolute or feudal monarchies with no form of democracy. The idea of "exit," predominantly a techno-commercialist viewpoint but found among other neoreactionaries too, essentially comes down to the idea that people should be able to freely exit their native country if they are unsatisfied with its governance- essentially an application of market economics and consumer action to statehood. Indeed, countries are often described in corporate terms, with the King being the CEO and the aristocracy shareholders.

The "theonomists" place more emphasis on the religious dimension of neoreaction. They emphasise tradition, divine law, religion rather than race as the defining characteristic of "tribes" of peoples and traditional, patriarchal families. They are the closest group in terms of ideology to "classical" or, if you will, "palaeo-reactionaries" such as the High Tories, the Carlists and French Ultra-royalists. Often Catholic and often ultramontanist. Finally, there's the "ethnicist" lot, who believe in racial segregation and have developed a new form of racial ideology called "Human Biodiversity" (HBD) which says people of African heritage are naturally less intelligent than people of Caucasian and east Asian heritage. Of course, the scientific community considers the idea that there are any genetic differences between human races beyond melanin levels in the skin and other cosmetic factors to be utterly false, but presumably this is because they are controlled by "The Cathedral." They like "tribal solidarity," tribes being defined by shared ethnicity, and distrust outsiders.

Overlap between these groups is considerable, but there are also vast differences not just between them but within them. What binds them together is common opposition to "The Cathedral" and to "progressive" ideology. Some of their criticisms of democracy and modern society are well-founded, and some of them make good points in defence of the monarchical system. However, I don't much like them, and I doubt they'd much like me.

Louis XVIII, le Désiré, of France,
 first King of France and Navarre
after the Bourbon Restoration.
Whereas neoreactionaries are keen on the free market and praise capitalism, unregulated capitalism is something I am wary of. Capitalism saw the collapse of traditional monarchies in Europe in the 19th century, and the first revolutions were by capitalists seeking to establish democratic, capitalist republics where the bourgeoisie replaced the aristocratic elite as the ruling class; setting an example revolutionary socialists would later follow. Capitalism, when unregulated, leads to monopolies, exploitation of the working class, unsustainable practices in pursuit of increased short-term profits, globalisation and materialism. Personally, I prefer distributist economics, which embrace private property rights but emphasise widespread ownership of wealth, small partnerships and cooperatives replacing private corporations as the basic units of the nation's economy. And although critical of democracy, the idea that any form of elected representation for the lower classes is anathaema is not consistent with my viewpoint; my ideal government would not be absolute or feudal monarchy, but executive constitutional monarchy with a strong monarch exercising executive powers and the legislative role being at least partially controlled by an elected parliament- more like the Bourbon Restoration than the Ancien Régime, though I occasionally say "Vive l'Ancien Régime!" on forums or in comments to annoy progressive types. Finally, I don't believe in racialism in any form. I tend to attribute preoccupations with racial superiority to deep insecurity which people find the need to suppress by convincing themselves that they are "racially superior" to others, in absence of any actual talent or especial ability to take pride in. The 20th century has shown us where dividing people up based on their genetics leads us, and it is not somewhere I care to return to.

In conclusion, neoreactionaries would probably consider me to have been influenced by "The Cathedral," with my conciliatory view towards democracy, my rejection of racial differences and my criticisms of free market capitalism. God only knows what they'd make of my decidedly progressive views on environmental and animal rights issues. In future, in addition to more discussion of the fast-approaching Scottish independence referendum and Scottish/British monarchical history, I would like to delve more into my own ideological viewpoints and draw a picture of a traditionalist, monarchist, even reactionary world quite different to that presented by the neoreactionary movement. Still, I welcome debate, I welcome new support for the international reactionary cause, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with neoreactionaries our mutual beliefs and interests- and perhaps even win some over to my side of the fence, and learn a little myself.

Not too much, though. An open mind is like a fortress with its gates unbarred and unguarded.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Prince of Wales on Vladimir Putin

HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall,
Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and
Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, occasional prophet.

Recently the press has been getting itself worked up about the alleged comments of our future King, Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay, among other things. In light of the Scottish monarchy theme of this blog- none other than King James IV of Scotland is my avatar and the blog's mascot- I will henceforth refer to him as Duke of Rothesay. His Royal Highness is reported to have likened the strongman ruler of the pseudo-democratic Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to a certain Adolf who governed Germany in the 1930s and 40s and is generally considered to have been a very bad person. The remarks were made by the Duke of Rothesay in a private conversation with Marienne Ferguson, a museum volunteer at the Canadian Museum of Immigration, Nova Scotia. Mrs Ferguson lost relatives during the Holocaust, and was telling Prince Charles about her experiences when he apparently noted that "now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler."

Should the heir to the throne be making such remarks in public? That's a moot point, because the conversation was private. He certainly didn't offend Mrs Ferguson, who told the press "I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do. I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they [members of the Royal Family] aren’t meant to say these things but it was very heartfelt and honest." I certainly agree with the Duke of Rothesay and Mrs Ferguson on this. Many Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans who feel threatened by Russia's aggression probably stand with us on this. Labour leader Edward Miliband is with us, too. Are you?

Of course, Russia says His Highness' remarks are outrageous. "We view the use of the western press by members of the British royal family to spread the propaganda campaign against Russia on a pressing issue – that is, the situation in Ukraine – as unacceptable, outrageous and low," says Alexander Lukashevich, who is apparently the voice of the Russian foreign ministry. UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who has expressed admiration for Putin in the past, is with the Russians. You can kiss goodbye to my vote, Nigel. Nick Clegg has proved he does sometimes have a rational thought, saying, "I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the Royal Family, somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence. I think he is entitled to his views. But I don't know whether those were his views because I just don't think providing a running commentary on what were private conversations is useful to anybody. I don't know exactly what he did or didn't say in that conversation because he thought it was a private conversation."

Very sensible, Mr Clegg. David Cameron is also being sensible; "I am not going to comment on someone's private conversation, least of all Prince Charles," he told Channel 4 News. Still, the Russians are determined to make this into a foreign relations crisis. They want a meeting with the Foreign Office, in order to "clarify" the Duke of Rothesay's remarks. The Foreign Office intends to use the opportunity to reiterate their disapproval of Russia's actions in Ukraine. Perhaps they could also give the Russians a wee history lesson. In 1938, shortly after the Anschluss was completed merging Austria into Germany, ethnic Germans in the fertile Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia began agitating for autonomy. Adolf Hitler responded by accusing the Czechoslovakian government of oppressing Sudeten Germans, and signed a secret directive for mobilisation to begin for war with Czechoslovakia. Under pressure from the British and French, the Czechoslovakian government agreed to the Sudeten Germans' four demands, only for Sudeten Germans intent on triggering war between Czechoslovakia and Germany to begin a wave of protests that destabilised talks; the Czechoslovakian army was eventually deployed to restore order.

Partition of Czechoslovakia in 1938, compliments of Wikipedia.
Under the pretext of protecting ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakian oppression, Hitler demanded the immediate annexation of the Sudetenland into the German Reich. The British and French governments, desperate to avoid war with Germany, agreed. Czechoslovakia resisted; however, despite the mobilisation of the Czechoslovakian Army and the promise of Soviet aid, the President of Czechoslovakia was unwilling to risk war with Germany without British and French support. On 29 September, the Munich Agreement was signed by Germany, Italy, France, and Britain, effectively ceding the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany without consulting the Czechoslovakian government. Soon after, the Nazis occupied the Sudetenland and forced Czechoslovakia to surrender large chunks of its territory to neighbouring Hungary and- irony of ironies- Poland. Nonetheless, Czechoslovakia would soon be invaded by Germany and all of Bohemia, the modern Czech Republic, annexed. Slovakia was set up as a nominally independent puppet state of the Third Reich.

Does all this sound familiar? It should- substitute Czechoslovakia for Ukraine, the Crimea for the Sudetenland and Russia for Germany, and the parallels become clear. Any student of history ought to be able to see how Putin, and ex-KGB agent who has mourned the fall of the Soviet Union in public, has taken actions reminiscent of Hitler in his early days. I can see it, Prince Charles can see it, Mrs Ferguson can see it, Ed Miliband can see it. Russia may not be on the road to ethnic cleansing, but its actions are clearly very sinister. Prince Charles has the right to say as he pleases in a private conversation, but let's say he had said it in a public address instead- perhaps that would have been a misstep, and perhaps he would have been criticised for it. But perhaps people would look back on his utterings fifty years from now, and see him as a latter-day Cassandra, the Winston Churchill of our time, his sound warnings ignored by the people around him. Perhaps we should listen to him now.

The views of Russia's true head of state, HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the legitimate Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias, on the Ukrainian crisis can be found here at the Imperial House's website. As might be expected the tone is pro-Russian, but much more reconciliatory and measured than that of the Kremlin. I beg Her Imperial Highness' forgiveness if I appear overly critical of Russia's foreign policy here; I assure the Grand Duchess, and other proud Russian patriots, that my issue is entirely with Vladimir Putin and his neo-Soviet comrades, not with the people of Russia. Let us pray cooler heads prevail in east and west. Боже, Царя храни! God Save the Queen!

Friday, 2 May 2014

307th Anniversary of the Founding of the Kingdom of Great Britain

The "King's Colours," the national flag of the Kingdom of Great Britain- originally designed on the orders of
King James VI and I to be used on English and Scottish ships on the high seas.
Yesterday was 1st May, the 307th anniversary of the union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland to found the new Kingdom of Great Britain. Of course, the two kingdoms had been united under the same monarch since James VI, King of Scots, ascended to the throne of England on 24th March 1603. James VI and I was the first monarch to style himself "King of Great Britain," and had coins minted in Scotland proclaiming himself such; but in England, where his power was not so absolute, coins proclaimed simply as "King of England," and James was officially King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland (Kings of England having claimed the French throne, at least de jure, since 1340, and continuing to do so until George III relinquished the title in 1800) until his death.

Anne, Queen of Great Britain, the first monarch of
a united Kingdom of Great Britain
On the 1st March 1707, however, the Acts of Union passed by the Scottish and English Parliaments came into force; both Parliaments merged into a new British Parliament and Anne, Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland became Anne, Queen of Great Britain, France and Ireland. Wikipedia helpfully provides the following quote from historian Simon Schama on the union; "What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world ... it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history." Certainly, this did begin as something of a hostile merger. Queen Anne had been a key supporter of further integration of her kingdoms since coming to the throne in 1702 at the age of 37,  declaring it "very necessary" to conclude a union of England and Scotland in her first speech to the English Parliament. This was in part influenced by the risk of Scotland and England finding themselves under separate monarchs after Anne's death, if she had no children, as the Act of Settlement 1701 designating the Protestant Electress Sophia of Hanover as Anne's heir applied only to England and Ireland, which was not then a truly autonomous kingdom as Scotland was. The Scots, an influential minority of whom wished to preserve the rights of the Stuart dynasty to the throne rather than allow the German Hanovers to take over (and why not? The House of Stuart was a homegrown Scottish dynasty, after all, so such loyalty was more warranted in Scotland than in England), passed the Act of Security in 1704 that reserved for the Scottish Parliament to choose its own monarch following Anne's death, and not the same successor as the one chose by England unless certain conditions were met.

These conditions included the full freedom to trade in England for Scottish merchants. At the time, Scotland's economy was in trouble, the ambitious Darien scheme aimed at establishing a Scottish colony in modern day Panama and making Scotland a major international trading power. Unfortunately the Spaniards had scuppered the idea, and Scotland, having invested a quarter of the money circulating within its borders in the scheme since those slimey Dutch and English investors had pulled out, found itself in rather serious debt. Making money was therefore top of the Scots' minds at the time. England decided to fight back with the Alien Act 1705 which threatened Scotland with economic sanctions and declared Scots in England to be aliens (i.e. foreign citizens, despite being subjects of the same Queen, with limited economic and social privileges). Scotland, given a choice between negotiating a full political union with England or withdrawing the Act of Security, opted for union. A new joint Anglo-Scottish commission was set up to negotiate the terms of the union, and the Acts of Union were passed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland.

Floral badge of the Kingdom of Great Britain,
incorporating the Tudor rose and a
Scottish thistle.
There was little appetite for union in Scotland at the time. Indeed, Parliament had to impose martial law in order to suppress the anti-unionist riots, the Convention of Royal Burghs which represented the interests of the citizenry of Scotland's principal trading towns submitted a petition against the union, and on the day the treaty was signed, the carilloner in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, rang the bells in the tune Why should I be so sad on my wedding day? However, the bride and groom of this arranged marriage did in time come to love each other, it would seem. Great Britain has proved a successful project, becoming the heartland of the industrial revolution and centre of the largest empire in human history, stretching around the globe so that it could be said that the sun never set upon the British Empire. Scots would play a major role in the rise of this empire, and far from the modern historical narrative of Scottish nationalists that Scotland was the first victim of English imperialist aggression, often Scotsmen were the driving force behind Britain's rise to imperial glory. It almost seems that having failed to build an empire on their own, the Scottish elite concocted a dastardly plan to feign submission to the English and then achieve their ambition of a Scottish Empire under the pseudonym of "Great Britain" and with English money and manpower to aid them. In 2002, author Michael Fry published a book, The Scottish Empire, chronicling Scottish involvement in the rise of the British Empire and bringing to light the Scots' status as partners, not servants, of the English in bringing Christianity, parliamentary democracy and afternoon tea to the world.

Although the Scots may not have entered the union willingly, in the long term they clearly benefited from it. Today Scotland retains the benefits of being part of a major world power, being defended by one of the world's most powerful militaries and being a part of the world's 6th largest economy, but has also regained much of its autonomy with its own parliament at Holyrood once more. It's a good deal. Scots should not just vote against independence this year for the perks, however; I hope they vote to remain British because they are proud to be British, and because since 1707, we Scots, Englishmen, Welshmen and even the remaining Irishmen in the United Kingdom have built a shared British identity that we can be proud of- without sacrificing our local identities. As a proud son of Scotia and Britannia, I wish you all a happy "Union Day." Long may it endure!