Quick Announcements

The Rebel Yell guys from The Right Stuff were kind enough to let me ramble awhile on their podcast. I come on around the 1:29 mark and stay for about an hour. Check out their other shows too, they are consistently excellent.

In other news I and several others have organized an informal discussion/networking/study group for Southern reactionaries. Anyone interested in joining should email me at skyagusta at gmail. Expect some light vetting.

I’ve got about 5 or 6 half- and mostly-written posts that I’m trying to find the time to wrap up (I keep getting distracted by shiny objects). Hopefully I’ll be able to increase posting volume in the near future.


The Necessity of Southern Reaction

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.

Excerpt- Thornwell on Our Great Conflict and True Progress

The following is taken from James Henley Thornwell’s published 1850 sermon The Rights and Duties of Masters. From South Carolina, Thornwell was a pro-slavery Presbyterian theologian and important part of the Reactionary Enlightenment breakthrough in Southern Rightist thought. Here he gives us an exceptionally farsighted perspective on the immense implications of the slavery vs. abolitionism debate. For more from Thornwell, see Recommended Reading.

God has not permitted such a remarkable phenomenon as the unanimity of the civilized world, in its execration of slavery, to take place without design. This great battle with the Abolitionists, has not been fought in vain. The muster of such immense forces – the fury and bitterness of the conflict – the disparity in resources of the parties in the war – the conspicuousness – the unexampled conspicuousness of the event, have all been ordered for wise and beneficent results; and when the smoke shall have rolled away, it will be seen that a real progress has been made in the practical solution of the problems which produced the collision.

What disasters it will be necessary to pass through before the nations can be taught the lessons of Providence – what lights shall be extinguished, and what horrors experienced, no human sagacity can foresee. But that the world is now the theatre of an extraordinary conflict of great principles – that the foundations of society are about to be explored to their depths – and the sources of social and political prosperity laid bare; that the questions in dispute involve all that is dear and precious to man on earth – the most superficial observer cannot fail to perceive. Experiment after experiment may be made – disaster succeed disaster, in carrying out the principles of an atheistic philosophy – until the nations, wearied and heart-sickened with changes without improvement, shall open their eyes to the real causes of their calamities, and learn the lessons which wisdom shall evolve from the events that have passed. Truth must triumph. God will vindicate the appointments of His Providence – and if our institutions are indeed consistent with righteousness and truth, we can calmly afford to bide our time – we can watch the storm which is beating furiously against us, without terror or dismay – we can receive the assault of the civilized world – trusting in Him who has all the elements at His command, and can save as easily by one as a thousand. If our principles are true, the world must come to them; and we can quietly appeal from the verdict of existing generations, to the more impartial verdict of the men who shall have seen the issue of the struggle in which we are now involved. It is not the narrow question of abolitionism or of slavery – not simply whether we shall emancipate our negroes or not; the real question is the relations of man to society – of States to the individual, and of the individual to States; a question as broad as the interests of the human race.

These are the mighty questions which are shaking thrones to their centres – upheaving the masses like an earthquake, and rocking the solid pillars of this Union. The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders – they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, jacobins, on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In one word, the world is the battleground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity the stake. One party seems to regard Society, with all its complicated interests, its divisions and sub-divisions, as the machinery of man – which, as it has been invented and arranged by his ingenuity and skill, may be taken to pieces, re-constructed, altered or repaired, as experience shall indicate defects or confusion in the original plan. The other party beholds in it the ordinance of God; and contemplates “this little scene of human life,” as placed in the middle of a scheme, whose beginnings must be traced to the unfathomable depths of the past, and whose development and completion must be sought in the still more unfathomable depths of the future – a scheme, as Butler expresses it, “not fixed, but progressive – every way incomprehensible” – in which, consequently, irregularity is the confession of our ignorance – disorder the proof of our blindness, and with which it is as awful temerity to tamper as to sport with the name of God.

It is a great lesson that, as the weakness of man can never make that straight which God hath made crooked, true wisdom consists in discharging the duties of every relation; and the true secret of progress is in the improvement and elevation which are gradually super-induced by this spirit.

A Slight Interruption

Due to an upcoming significant transitional period in my personal life, I’ll need to take some time off of blogging. This is not a negative thing for me, quite the opposite; but it will entail a somewhat undefined period of shifted priorities. A couple of months at minimum; possibly several. I’m not sure yet if posts will stop completely or only become somewhat sporadic over this time – I’ve got a mounting number of posts started and half-done. I’ll get to them when I get to them. I’ll still be around on Twitter. Thanks to everyone for the constant support thus far, it is hugely appreciated!

The Duality of the Southern Thing

In my song, I discussed the dualities of being from a region that is known for great music and literature and art and something called “Southern hospitality,” but is also known for Jim Crow laws, slavery, racism and the Ku Klux Klan. I talked about being fiercely proud of the good parts of my heritage and mortified and ashamed of the bad parts, the ones that too often define how other people perceive us.

Patterson Hood

Most thought and writing concerning the South and its history, including my own, references the Southern tradition, singular. While “tradition” in this sense generally always means the conservative tradition, it is a bit of a misnomer; at least, it simplifies the subject to a degree which can hamper proper delineation of Left and Right. In reality, the intelligent Southerner today who is not sui generis has essentially two traditions from which he can choose without losing much Southern or traditionalist credibility.

The great centuries-long battle for the preservation of the Southern worldview is normally framed as the South vs. the North, Southern whites vs. Southern blacks, or maybe the South vs. the Western World. I assert that the true conflict is better framed as Southern liberalism vs. Southern conservatism, or more properly labelled Southern Leftism vs. Southern Rightism, in which outside forces in nearly every instance support the former. This frame is more historically illuminating and also discourages the mistaken belief, common to Right-leaning Southerners, that the South itself is not susceptible to the ever tempting and false promises of Leftism.

The Southern liberal tradition can be traced from Thomas Jefferson and John Taylor on through Hinton Helper, Cassius Clay, Andrew Johnson, the New South, Harper Lee, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton; today ably represented by such as Rod Dreher, Patterson Hood and Lindsay Graham. The driving impulse behind Southern liberals has always been to reform Southern society (to varying degrees) along Progressivist lines, usually by using mainstream American society as a guiding light.  These are generally lite-Leftists; they recognize much of the craziness inherent to high-test Leftism as well as much of the good inherent to Rightism. They are idealistic and intelligent but refrain from radicalism. Generally their stated motivation is to “save the South from itself,” which in practice means to destroy the very things that make the South Southern.

They primarily err in that their chosen reforms of Southern society inevitably chip away at the foundation which gives the South its benevolent and noble qualities. (Sometimes this acknowledged goodness is unspoken, but is evidenced by the fact that many Southern liberals never move out of the South, or do and end up returning.) The few Southern radicals are generally driven by an excessive urge to stand out from their somewhat homogenous surroundings – to gain the detached haughty aura of the iconoclast.

The Southern liberal tradition occupies a strange position on the American political spectrum. They are nearly always a minority within the South, but consistently win because they have the undying support of mainstream American society. Southern liberals act as a sort of proxy forward guard for the campaign to Americanize the South. Sans the Southern liberal tradition, USG would likely have had to utilize much more autocratic methods in its governance of the South if it hoped to effect any cultural reforms at all.

Where perhaps Southern liberals do their most harm is when they normalize inherently anti-Southern beliefs for their fellow Southerners, which confuses the heretofore beneficial prejudicial impulse. This has reached its apex in recent times, as it’s becoming increasingly acceptable for plebeian and proletarian Southerners to support racial equality, women’s rights, and (to a lesser degree) homosexual normality, among other Progressive pillars. This has the effect of lowering the line of demarcation which separates lower-class prejudicial impulses from the middle-class tendency to fall in with the mainstream, ensuring the downward spiral of Rightist marginalization.

On the other hand, there is the Southern conservative tradition. It has always been the dominant force within Southern society itself. As with all conservative impulses, it is mostly prejudicial – but the prejudices by which it is characterized have generally been beneficial, because they were sourced from the dominant characteristics of the Old South civilization. Since the Revolutionary period, Southern conservatives were generally composed of the aristocrats and the proletariat, the former due to vested interest in the status quo, the latter due to aforementioned prejudice. The intellectual tradition of Southern Rightism was most ably set down by the antebellum “Reactionary Enlightenment” figures, then more or less continued by the Southern Agrarians, Richard Weaver, ME Bradford, and Clyde Wilson. Political representatives include John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Wade Hampton III, and George Wallace.

The conflict between the Southern Right and Left has passed through fairly distinct phases, which it is necessary to outline here in order to assist with the occasionally difficult identification of the different elements. These phases also demonstrate my assertion that to attempt to reform only “bad” aspects of Southern culture inevitably leads to unintended and wholesale transformation of Southern society towards the distasteful American mainstream.

From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, the point of contention was, of course, slavery. Southern liberals found the system either immoral or inefficient, and generally expressed a desire for gradual emancipation and/or slave repatriation to Africa. However, they failed to provide anything like a concrete plan for the attainment of these goals, and almost without exception found the Garrisonian abolitionists fanatical and unsavory. Late antebellum was the sole period in which the Southern Rightist element almost wholly dictated Southern policy and thought, and the liberal element was duly marginalized. The Reactionary Enlightenment was the purest expression of Southern Rightist thought ever put forth; it, of course, being relegated to seeming obsolescence by Civil War defeat.

From the Civil War until World War Two, the conflict shifted to industrialism vs. agrarianism, and populism vs. aristocratical elitism. Southern liberals now possessed the material and political support of Northern demagogues and capitalists, and the New South slowly ground down opposition to its Progressive vision for Southern society. It is worth noting that almost every Southern liberal of the antebellum period would have reckoned this development as an almost unqualified evil. Class warfare, hitherto unknown, was introduced; Southern cities became home to the newly empowered bourgeois element, and lost no time in developing a capitalist character unknown to the Old South.

Between World War Two and the 1970s, the conflict again shifted, now to the question of racial equality and integration; again, an agenda that would have horrified and dismayed the Southern liberals of the previous period. Contrary to popular belief, Southern conservatives were able to mount only token resistance to the Civil Rights movement, as integration came about quietly and smoothly throughout most of the South. In some ways, this second Reconstruction was the final chance for the Southern conservatives to utilize widespread popular support to regain control over Southern society; but in reality, this avenue had been doomed a hundred years prior.

Today, the battle between Southern Leftism and Rightism has reached a strange sort of stalemate. The conservative element is almost wholly restricted to the small rural communities which dot the countryside; few urban areas in the geographical South maintain any recognizable Southerness. While this element has lost nearly all power to influence the direction of the greater South, it has also developed defenses which inhibit gross Progressivization to a great degree. These defenses are often the very things which prevent greater influence over the direction of society, but that is another topic which needs further exploration.

The convolution which has characterized Southern history must be reckoned in the proper light if we hope to use history to inform our views for the present and plans for the future. It is all too easy for today’s Rightist Southerners to blame the North, the US Government, blacks, the Jews, or the greater direction of the Occident for our present predicament, but in reality the crux of the battle has always been in our hands. We’ve lost battle after battle against ourselves, and without an accurate and unflinching analysis of our own faults there is little doubt that this pattern will perpetuate into oblivion.

Prognosticating Our Long Term Future

This post is a response to Mr. Ted Colt’s tweet, displayed below:

Mr. Colt is, of course, correct about finding and fixing flaws, though I’d rephrase his statement a bit. Southern civilization (the Old South) was destroyed from the outside, when emancipation removed the aristocracy’s foundation and source of power – property. It wasn’t a failing of Southern culture that resulted in the destruction of the Old South, but rather outside circumstances that the South had no control over. That said, the Old South wasn’t, of course, perfect. There existed strains of Leftism, primarily introduced via Revolutionary figures like Jefferson, but by 1860 the so-called “Reactionary Enlightenment” was driving the South ever Rightward towards a more-or-less total repudiation of the original Enlightenment. Had the South achieved independence, I assess that it would have continued on this path. There is little reason to believe Southern culture would have succumbed to the self-destructive tendencies which characterize the modern West (some caveats here, which I will discuss in some future post).

As it happened, Southern society (no longer a distinct civilization) was forcibly tethered to American society, for better or worse, via which Leftism began to be administered intravenously. For us, this muddies the waters in that it’s difficult to discern whether Leftist tendencies which exist in the South today are organic developments which would survive severance from USG, or if their source is extraneous and shallow. I think it safe to say that while the source of most of the modern manifestations of Southern Leftism is foreign, some of these tendencies now have a strong hold on Southern culture which will prove problematic in a post-USG scenario.

Jeffersonianism is the most prominent example of home-cooked Leftism. Jefferson’s influence on the South has waxed and waned over time, but it’s always been present in some form or another. With the recent growth of libertarianism in the South, Jefferson has regained his status as a primary figure for Southerners looking for alternatives to the modern state. One reason is practical: despite recent rumblings, Jefferson clings to his status as a “mainstream figure” and thus provides a measure of legitimacy to disgruntled Southerners. Another is theoretical: Jefferson’s philosophy of individualism, republicanism, and government decentralization serves to provide an alternative vision to the ever-increasing totalitarianism of USG.

Jeffersonianism is mostly Leftist at heart and lies somewhere on a spectrum from inefficient to totally impractical for use in a post-USG independent South. The “Reactionary Enlightenment” figures realized the anti-civilizational character of Jeffersonianism prior to the Civil War, and were in the process of expunging the more Leftist elements of it from the Southern worldview. Jeffersonianism is simply not conducive, on the whole, for protecting or maintaining a traditionalist aristocratic society, and for our purposes, even less so for building one. The prominence of Jefferson’s philosophy on the modern Southern psyche poses a strong obstacle to reconstituting a distinct Southern civilization.

Baser modernist facets of Leftism, such as materialism, atheism, feminism, and progressivism, are almost wholly recently acquired and have much less of a hold on today’s Southern culture (being almost totally endemic to white urban areas). Still, in my view it would be a mistake to write this problem off as a non-factor. Depending on the geographical and cultural makeup of a post-USG Southern state, it is theoretically possible that urban mores will take precedence in establishing the philosophical foundation of said state. This, of course, would be an unmitigated disaster.

The question becomes: how in the world can these infectious philosophies be cleansed, or even mitigated? It seems quite clear to me that nothing significant can be done while the Leftist zeitgeist remains in control of the South’s destiny. Indeed, even if the South gained independence tomorrow, this Southern Leftism would assuredly dictate the formation of the government, and we would almost certainly be quite as bad off as we are now. Rightism is simply too marginal, leverage-wise, to affect any significant social change in the current milieu. The only way to gain the power to affect said change is to use corrupting Leftist tactics, such as demotic “activism.”

The only way Rightist elements can return to a guiding role for the South is through some kind of cleansing or transitional period. Unfortunately, any way you slice it, this period will be difficult and ugly, though not necessarily absolutely so. It will require a total reformation into a society and government which will seem completely alien to the modern layman. This will happen, though the timeframe and manner are anyone’s guess.

Likely the easiest way to accomplish this cleansing would be through some form of a Rightist dictatorship, ala maybe Pinochet or Sulla. This hypothetical dictator would have absolute authority, or nearly so, to reform government and social influences at will, and thus could take the requisite steps to eliminate or at minimum marginalize the anti-civilizational disease of Leftism. How exactly this could be done is outside of my purview, though it seems self-evident that it is theoretically possible. Of course, this option carries with it a certain amount of risk – how do we know the dictator won’t be another Caligula or Lincoln (ha)? In short, we don’t – but risk must be assumed at some point to get civilization back on track. A dictatorship could accomplish our aims with a minimum of blood and tears. The optimal endstate would be a transition from dictatorship to government via an organic state, such as a traditionalist aristocracy. The reader may form his own opinion on how likely or attractive of an option this is for our necessary cleansing period.

In my view it is much the better option than our alternative – a cleansing period characterized by some kind of fiery cataclysm brought on by the drunk-at-the-wheel guidance of Leftism. It is almost useless to pontificate on the exact nature of this cataclysm, simply due to the huge number of variables involved. What seems sure is that it will happen in some form and at some time. Ethnic turbulence? Economic crash? Political splintering? Terrorist attack? Mass revolt? Simple prolonged power outage? The potential embers which may fall on this powder keg we inhabit appear legion. Once it happens, it will be big, it will be ugly, in all likelihood it will be bloody. In a word, it will be cataclysmic. What will emerge is anyone’s guess, but I believe this forcible reversion of civilization will naturally demonstrate the utter fallibility of most or all facets of Leftism.

This might happen next year or next century. At any rate, the most a Southern Reactionary might do in the meantime is try to increase our sphere of influence and promote blood and heritage ties among our thede. Leftism is pernicious and, for now, all-powerful. We should endeavor to outlast it and plan for its eventual fall from grace.