The most likely way to kill a tradition is to over-formalize it, which is to carry it on in the same way after everyone has ceased to defer to it. The way to revive it is to show that it has grown out of and is still related to our most cherished values. But this requires radical insight and the stripping away of many things which are mere accretions.
Richard M. Weaver
Southern Reaction as an intellectual tradition is not new. In 1863 George Fitzhugh proclaimed, “We begin a great conservative reaction. We attempt to roll back the Reformation in its political phases.” In 1897 R.L. Dabney wrote, “American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition.” In 1929 Donald Davidson and Allen Tate discussed the need for an “academy of Southern positive reactionaries.” In 1989, M.E. Bradford wrote “Reaction is a necessary term in the intellectual context we inhabit in the twentieth century because merely to conserve is sometimes to perpetuate what is outrageous.”
Nor has Southern Reaction been particularly successful, the above being defeated in succession by the adherents of Lincoln, FDR, and Buckley in battles physical and political (though never intellectual). Today it may be fairly argued that Southern Reaction has no champion, the various modern entities which owe some fealty to the tradition seemingly unwilling to commit to the most un-liberal aspects of it. This is a shame which must be rectified.
If Southern Reaction is at its nadir, it is happening at the worst possible time. Not only are many of its dire predictions for free/industrial/multicultural society finally coming true, but there appears to be building a large-scale dissent from liberal and leftist government all across the Occident. The European New Right, Neoreaction, and the Alt-Right are already making waves and all indications are they are still in their infancy. Quite suddenly the very exporters of the kind of leftism that the Southern Right has fought against, alone, for so long are beginning to experience a rising tide of rightist dissension. This is an opportunity the proportions of which Fitzhugh, Tate, and Weaver could’ve only dreamt of.
What shall be done with this opportunity? The tradition must be revived.
Properly conceived, Southern Reaction is applied reaction. It takes a set of ideas, both from our homegrown rightists and the greater rightist tradition, and applies them to a distinct place and time. This is the natural next step for the current “dark enlightenment” renaissance. Different people have different problems which require different answers. Currently there exists a bunch of semi-coherent groups of rightists, like (non-neo)reactionaries, trad Christians, and ethnonationalists. Sooner or later the members of these groups will have to attach to a specific ethnocultural thede, and its on-the-ground reality, if they ever want to make progress towards getting things done. That is the goal of Southern Reaction. It is not separate from these groups, but it takes those groups’ ideas (or at least whichever ideas that actual Southerners hold) and applies them to the modern Southern context.
NRx has patchwork; the European New Right has identitarianism; the Alt-Right has ethnocentrism. Whatever it is called, the future of the Right is that different thedes splinter and take care of themselves. The South must organically rebuild its own Rightist element. To borrow the words of Allen Tate we must create a reactionary situation “interior to the South.” This follows cleanly once universalism is rejected (including the white kind) and the South is admitted as distinct, either genetically or culturally or both. A Southern Right is the only element conceivable that can use Southern resources to solve Southern problems for the highest benefit of Southerners. Otherwise these problems will be outsourced, to our detriment.
Two organizations currently exist on the Southern Right: the League of the South and the Abbeville Institute. If any progeny of the Southern Rightist tradition exist, they are it. As much as I am unwilling to critize those who have built legitimate organizations for the furtherance of a cause I very much identify with, both are flawed in significant ways. The League of the South seems to forsake or ignore the intellectual vein of the Southern Rightist tradition in favor of activism and therefore dilutes the message as much as possible. It can be summed up in one word- secede. The LoS seems determined to work from within the system, as opposed to building alternative power structures. So far I just haven’t seen anything of substance from LoS, though I would love to. Perhaps the emergence of the Alt-Right will help the LoS grow beyond tiny street corner protests, but if so I have seen little indication the energy will be directed in a very positive direction.
The Abbeville Institute errs in the opposite direction. Scholarly and intelligent, it is reluctant to appear as extremist and thus retains some of the pillars of the liberal worldview. Perhaps more accurately it seeks to justify the South from within the liberal worldview. It is explicitly oriented towards the past, analyzing the sins of Lincoln and genius of Jefferson over and over again. Its purpose is to “critically explore what is true and valuable in the Southern tradition.” Unfortunately, in focusing all efforts towards doing so it is failing to advance it.
It is true, heretofore Abbeville and the LoS had little choice but to pay some lipservice to leftist hegemony. When there is no true rightist counterculture, when one is alone in the wilderness, one makes concessions to stay viable. What we have lately however is the appearance of that counterculture, and the Southern Right must be nimble in order to capitalize on it. Hopefully, Abbeville and the League will adjust accordingly. If they don’t, others must assume the mantle.
From the perspective of the international Right, Southern Reaction is a positive development because decentralization is a good thing. When Truth is the goal diversity of viewpoint is a benefit. The South presents a unique context which adds to the greater discussion. This context produced a nuanced and fairly advanced rightist tradition of its own which as far as I have seen is still largely unexplored even in intellectual rightist circles. Like an old garden, it is a bit overgrown and and requires some pruning here and some tending there, but it is a rich soil and still capable of bearing some fruit.