Monday, August 20, 2018

Living Right

As long as you're living right, then you don't have to worry about what people see.

-          Clay Aiken

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

This chapter is entitled “Right and Left.”  EvKL begins by describing the numerous and various meanings of these terms within the context of relationships and politics.  To give some idea:

Right and left have been used in Western civilization from times immemorial with certain meanings; right (German: rechts) had a positive, left a negative connotation. In all European languages (including the Slavic idioms and Hungarian) right is connected with "right" (ius), rightly, rightful, in German gerecht (just), the Russian pravo (law), pravda (truth), whereas in French gauche also means "awkward, clumsy," (in Bulgar: levitsharstvo). The Italian sinistro can mean left, unfortunate, or calamitous. The English sinister can mean left or dark. The Hungarian word for "right" is jobb which also means "better," while bal (left) is used in composite nouns in a negative sense: balsors is misfortune.

On The Day of Judgment, the righteous are to be on the right, and the punished on the left; Christ, of course, sits on the right.  Seating in various parliaments is a bit all over the place, with the most confusing example being that of placing the National Socialists on the right – however, I guess, if you were the National Socialist in charge, rechts would be correct!

Given these various uses and definitions, one can understand the clarifying definition offered by EvKL:

Let us then agree that right is what is truly right for man, above all his freedom.

Which, I guess, would make “left” kind of the opposite.  Look, if you don’t like it take it up with pretty much every European language; leave me out of it.

So, what is “right” for man?  Man – each one a unique individual – needs room; room to grow, room to be left alone, room to think, room to thrive.  Much of political reality over the course of a few centuries has been to crush this:

…all the great dynamic isms of the last 200 years have been mass movements attacking – even when they had the word "freedom" on their lips – the liberty, the independence of the person.

Many were the ideals that gave fuel to the various “isms”; yet, what they had in common were gifted intellectuals who were successful at mobilizing the masses thirst for revenge.

The right has to be identified with personal freedom, with the absence of utopian visions whose realization – even if it were possible – would need tremendous collective efforts; it stands for free, organically grown forms of life. And this in turn implies a respect for tradition.

Why? Why must the desire for personal freedom require a respect for tradition?  And if this is true, what does this suggest about an “ism” that has as its objective “personal freedom,” the “ism” known as “libertarianism”? 

The right is truly progressive, whereas there is no real advance in utopianism which almost always demands – as in the Internationale – to "make a clean sweep" of the past…. If we return to point zero, we are again at the bottom of the ladder, we have to start from scratch again.

The utopian starts anew, whereas the right works on “progress” – building on what has come before: what worked, what didn’t work as it relates to the health of man and society.  To see further than those who came before us, it probably makes sense to stand on their shoulders.  This is the respect for tradition.

While the leftist dreams of restoring some mythical golden age, the rightest looks to the past to find what is eternally true, and build on this:

The true rightist is not a man who wants to go back to this or that institution for the sake of a return; he wants first to find out what is eternally true, eternally valid, and then either to restore or reinstall it, regardless of whether it seems obsolete, whether it is ancient, contemporary, or even without precedent, brand new, "ultramodern."

The right recognizes the uniqueness in each individual; the left dreams of uniformity.  Politically…

… [t]he leftists believe in strong centralization. The rightists are "federalists" (in the European sense), "states' righters" since they believe in local rights and privileges, they stand for the principle of subsidiarity.

The left cannot stand for competing authority or allegiance:

Leftism does not like religion for a variety of causes. Its ideologies, its omnipotent, all-permeating state wants undivided allegiance. With religion at least one other allegiance (to God), if not also allegiance to a Church, is interposed.

EvKL examines many of the leftist and rightist entities and parties in Europe, offering the exceptions to his generalizations:

One could continue this list ad nauseam. Naturally, we must add that in the practical order of things there are exceptions to the rule because leftism is a disease that does not necessarily spread as a coherent, systematic ideology. Here and there an isolated manifestation can appear in the "opposite camp."

It seems to me also to be the case that leftists are pretty good about taking their victories where they can get them; not being bound to any underlying ethic, they find compromise much easier than do those on the right – those who live with an underlying principle.

As to the right, he offers:

All conservative movements in Europe are federalistic and opposed to centralization. Thus we encounter in Catalonia, for instance, a desire for autonomy and the cultivation of the Catalan language among the supporters of the extreme right as well as the left.


If we then identify, in a rough way, the right with freedom, personality, and variety, and the left with slavery, collectivism, and uniformity, we are employing semantics that make sense.

You do not have to agree with his descriptions; but to avoid confusion in the mangled and varied common uses of the terms “left” and “right,” EvKL has provided his definitions.


  1. "A wise man's heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him toward the left." Ecclesiastes 10:2 NASB

  2. "You do not have to agree with his descriptions"

    His definitions sure make more sense than the current one where left means opposition to the government (in the 19th century) and right means being in favor of it. Talk about a parochial definition that will cause confusion for later generations in the fight for liberty. It's no wonder that Nazism and Communism ended up on opposite sides of the spectrum even though their blueprint for government action is nearly identical, while socialism and liberalism ended up on the same side even though they're poles apart.

    His definition lines up with Hans Hoppe's definition of conservatism as well:

    "What it means, and possibly only can mean, is this: Conservative refers to someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things: of nature and man. This natural order is and can be disturbed by accidents and anomalies: by earthquakes and hurricanes, diseases, pests, monsters and beasts, by two-headed horses or four legged humans, cripples and idiots, and by war, conquest and tyranny… The natural order is ancient and forever the same (only anomalies and accidents undergo change), hence, it can be recognized by us everywhere and at all times… Conservative refers to someone who recognizes the old and natural through the "noise" of anomalies and accidents and who defends, supports, and helps to preserve it against the temporary and anomalous. Within the realm of the humanities, including the social sciences, a conservative recognizes families (fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren) and households based on private property and in cooperation with a community of other households as the most fundamental, natural, essential, ancient, and indispensable social units." - Hoppe, Democracy

    I would say it lines up fairly well with Paul Gottfried's definition of an "essentialist right" to be found in his excellent essay (one of the best I've read on the concept of right and left), "No Country for Old Politics."

    "The Right affirms inherited hierarchy, favors the particularistic while being suspicious of the universal, aims at preserving social traditions wherever possible, and opposes the Left by every means at its disposal. The Left takes the opposite positions on the first three points out of a sense of fairness, a passionate commitment to the advancement of equality, and a universalist conception of human beings. Whereas the Right believes that what Aristotle defined as the order of the household, marked by elaborately defined distinctions, is “natural,” the Left views non-egalitarian arrangement with revulsion. Leftists are delighted to call on state managers and judges to abolish anything faintly resembling such a hierarchy." - Gottfried

    One critique I have of EvKL is his analysis of Jefferson and Hamilton. He sees Hamilton as the rightist and Jefferson as the leftist, but Hamilton was the centralist and Jefferson the decentralist, and this conflicts with EvKL's definition that "all conservative movements in Europe are federalistic and opposed to centralization."

    Jefferson maybe had some leftist tendencies (his early appraisal of the French Revolution), but overall I'd put him on the right (according to EvKL's own definition) based on his decentralist and anti-egalitarian positions (he argued for a system that would admit a natural aristocracy as being the best). I guess you'd have to say that Jefferson was more of a believer in democracy than Hamilton was, and in this way, more of a leftist.

    I think EvKL's confusion is over the Federalist and the Anti-federalist labels during the constitutional ratification process (the real revolution in America). Perhaps he thought that the Federalists were actually federalists and not the nationalist centralizers they were. It'd be an honest mistake. No one gets everything right (correct).

  3. Definitions; there was no "Nazism", only German national socialis.

    Same with Communism, known to the contemporaries as Jewish bolshevism, it's international socialism.

    Almost makes you read Kevin Mcdonald again.

    both couldn't stop once they they started.

    About Jefferson, between support for the french revolution and presidency, it's actions that define a politician.

    He was a part of the deep state, mostly freemasonry at the time.

    A question for Jonathan Goodwin: What do you make of Shafarevichs' conclusion that leftism is not about securing wordly power, but is to be understood as a death cult?

    1. It will help to have some context regarding Shaferevich's statement. In any case, society needs a little "left" (2%-3% maybe?) to ensure custom and tradition do not get stagnant...I think.

    2. Jefferson's version of the deep state looks positively heavenly from my perspective. Also, I'm not denying that he had leftist tendencies, but in comparison to Hamilton, the proto-progressive, Jefferson was a rightist. I agree that actions make the man, and I'm certainly not familiar with all of Jefferson's, but tell me this doesn't sound like it comes from what the modern left would call the extreme right (I'm sure they'd call it racist as well).

      "There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents…There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendency." - Jefferson

      That's about as anti-egalitarian as you can get.

      Here's Clyde Wilson, Southern conservative, who admittedly has some leftist notions himself, with the case for Jefferson as a conservative or rightist and why so many have confused him as a leftist.

      "Who, then, was the real Jefferson? What were these constant themes? They are clear. None offer comfort to the contemporary left. First of all, Jefferson stood for freedom and enlightenment. That he is our best symbol for these virtuous goals is Malone’s central theme. That does not mean, however, that his thought can be twisted to support something that very different men with very different goals postulate to be freedom and enlightenment. His concepts of freedom and enlightenment were always rooted in the given nature and the necessities of his Virginia community and always balanced harmoniously against competing claims."

      I know Bionic won't like the enlightenment part, but hey, there were some good ideas of the enlightenment.

      Jefferson was provincial in that he was a Virginia man first, a United States citizen second if at all. No doubt he would have joined Lee in defending Virginia against Northern conquest.