Tuesday, January 03, 2006
the long march
Remember that this war was the project of a very small and determined minority, the neoconservatives, who, over a decade of dedicated activity – including the long, slow "march through the institutions" of the GOP and the Washington national security bureaucracy – managed to pull off what Colin Powell (via Bob Woodward) characterized as a de facto coup d'etat. They hijacked American foreign policy and the U.S. government along with it. These characters started out, many of them, in the Democratic Party as supporters of the Henry "Scoop" Jackson wing, itching for a military confrontation with the Soviet Union. It was only later – when the Democrats rejected them in the 1970s – that the neocons switched to the Republicans, and they still have their foot in both camps: Marshall Wittmann, a former adviser to the Christian Coalition – and a youthful member of the Young Peoples Socialist League – is now a big wheel at the DLC, along with his belligerently pro-war colleagues at the Progressive Policy Institute, the DLC's thinktank.even as the neoconservative party is now facing a reckoning with their pursuit of fraudulence from within, the reference to the long march is particularly sharp. roger kimball's seminal book on the sixties first applied this notion of strategic institutional corruption to postmodern america, and the march has since been subsequently taken up by neocon militants like david frum and richard perle in an effort at bolstering jacobin revolutionism in the guise of a supposedly virtuous archaism.
To the neocons, George W. Bush is showing troubling sounds of going wobbly, and people like Wittmann are constantly attacking the president from a more-warmongering-than-thou perspective. If Bush does what Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak predicted a few months ago and starts withdrawing our forces from Iraq, you can bet the Democrats will criticize him for being a "cut-and-run Republican."
this is an extension of a concept of the long march which was first articulated by italian marxist antonio gramsci -- which can find few better summaries than this:
Gramsci, he said, understood that progressive causes would become hegemonic in the West only after its advocates made the long march through the institutions.gramsci's thoughts lie close to the heart of the neoconservative approach to building the totalitarian american state, which should be no surprise -- it has long been an observation of this page and many others that neoconservatism is a radical program fomented of the intellectual compost of jacobinism and its heirs, including fascism and trotskyite communism. the language of perpetual revolution permeates the lot. ideas, concepts and terminology are constantly being reinvented into their opposites.
He then explained what the long march through the institutions entailed. He said weaving was the best way to grasp the picture. A weaver uses a loom to spin threads that crisscross and thus connect and tighten the entire cloth. The weaver who makes a mistake may unweave, may slowly back out his weaving, in order to correct, after which he will weave toward completion. The young professor informed us that Gramsci’s long march through the institutions was cultural weaving. The progressive cultural warrior against traditional values (which, we were assured, are backwardly racist and sexist – homophobic was yet to become the third part of the Cultural Marxist creed of nebulously defined philosophies/theologies/attitudes to hate in the names of Tolerance and Diversity) was to weave into existing institutions, slowly exposing their members to progressive ideas and language. When the more repressive members (for all those who fail to accept progressive views are by leftist definition repressive) catch on and cause a ruckus, the progressive cultural warrior should deny, preferably without lying outright, and slowly weave back to make peace. When the storm dies down, the progressive cultural warrior is to begin the weaving process again. Eventually, the weaving in and out, with each re-weaving going deeper into the whole cloth, will mean that progressives will be so deeply entrenched in institutions that even if they announce their intentions to use those institutions to remake society totally, they could be removed from the cloth only by ripping it and leaving it incapable of being repaired.
And, the young progressive Ph.D. almost squealed, what Gramsci knew is that most people are so devoted to institutions with which they are familiar that they desperately will want to try to save them even when they are teaching and doing diametrically opposite what they taught and did originally. Therefore, even many of the most conservative people will act to prevent the cloth from being rent in order to expel the progressives who successfully have woven into it, thereby securing the victory of progressives.
this is exactly the undoing of the character of institutions and the ideas and experiences which they protected, guarding western civilization for centuries in its health, best represented by the now-eroded master institution of western civilization in the catholic church.
in a consideration of the 2004 australian election which was culturally incisive, cutting to the bone of western malaise:
The government’s failure of ideology is less matter of intention than of execution. Just about everyone in the conservative parties these days, from the PM down, seems to share a deeply-rooted instinct that Australia has drifted over time into a kind of gooey progressivist morass from which it needs to be rescued. Indeed, if there’s a single unifying feature of conservative administrations around the globe, it’s this pervasive sense of a need to roll the clock back somehow, to restore eroded social values of patriotism and respect, arrest the decline of the family as an institution, and bring back lost culture of personal initiative and responsibility. It’s a political culture of social restoration.this -- the leverage of the franchise of government into a weapon with which to manage the people and disable their free will -- is exactly a description of what benito mussolini attempted in italy with the establishment of an "ethic state" beginning in 1921.
And yet, twenty years after the ‘New Right’, how to achieve these goals is still a matter for genuine confusion in conservative circles. There are numerous voices booming again from the hard Right of the political landscape for a massive rolling-back of the state, an end to welfare ‘as we know it’, a decisive counter-attack against the supposedly liberal bias of the media and information industries, and so on. And there’s an urgent sense of the need to ‘roll back’ the relativistic, easygoing moral values of the Sixties and Seventies, somehow.
And so the federal government has devoted an inordinate amount of attention to the venial ideological sins of the ABC—almost convincing itself, apparently, that if particular institutional bastions of the liberal intelligentsia could be overcome, somehow the whole social landscape would change. People would start believing again in the God-given sanctity of marriage; patriotism would once again become a unifying force; moral certainty would reign again in the land. The same flailing, inchoate instinct also underlies of the PM’s bizarre personal campaign against the state schooling sector—which he seems to see as staffed by an army of ABC-lookalikes, mischievously dispensing nuggets of postmodern relativism disguised as history lessons. And it presumably has something to do also with the government’s spiteful campaign against the larger half of the university sector.
In practice, however, modern conservatives evidently have few new ideas about how to ‘roll back’ social values or restore personal qualities of responsibility and initiative, other than giving a market-based or faith-directed tincture to programs which are explicitly un-conservative in their basic character. And while no-one on the Left is going to welcome the government’s reforms to unemployment or welfare policies as progressive innovations, in practice these reforms have been less disruptive and less objectionable than just about anybody anticipated. You could almost go so far as to say that in social policy the government—like some Victorian missionary roaming the dark streets of London in search of souls to save—has been mugged by reality.
The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality -- thus it may be called the "ethic" State....the adoption of this worldview in the halls of american government has seen a complementary manifestation in the building of a far-flung anglophone empire of globalization with a lofty but ultimately lying moral goal.
...The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone....
...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement of Italy in the twentieth century, and would oppose it by recalling the outworn ideology of the nineteenth century - repudiated wheresoever there has been the courage to undertake great experiments of social and political transformation; for never before has the nation stood more in need of authority, of direction and order.this ideology of resuscitation and grand transfiguration permeates nearly every crevice of american politics today, and colors every action from iraq to fiscal tax policy. its complete success in the anglophone political structure which dominates the globe makes mussolini into a sort of prophet, for he correctly forecast the outcome of the twentieth century.
...iven that the nineteenth century was the century of Socialism, of Liberalism, and of Democracy, it does not necessarily follow that the twentieth century must also be a century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy: political doctrines pass, but humanity remains, and it may rather be expected that this will be a century of authority...a century of Fascism. For if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and hence the century of the State....kimball, in defining the long march, leveled his pen at the counterculture of the sixties and the socialist state he thought its product.
If every age has its own characteristic doctrine, there are a thousand signs which point to Fascism as the characteristic doctrine of our time. For if a doctrine must be a living thing, this is proved by the fact that Fascism has created a living faith; and that this faith is very powerful in the minds of men is demonstrated by those who have suffered and died for it.
The Age of Aquarius did not end when the last electric guitar was unplugged at Woodstock. It lives on especially in our values and habits, in our tastes, pleasures, and aspirations. It lives on especially in our educational and cultural institutions, and in the degraded pop culture that permeates our lives like a corrosive fog. Looking afresh at the architects of America’s cultural revolution, The Long March provides a series of cautionary tales, an annotated guidebook of wrong turns, dead ends, and unacknowledged spiritual hazards.what many conservatives did not understand about kimball's words, however, was how his indictment of the invasion of social engineering and decadence into western civilization was not a liberal phenomena but a cultural one -- that the ethics of communism or socialism are merely a symptom of a deeper perturbation of which the ethics of conservatism, whigism and fascism are a symptom just the same. the activist archaism of the aggressive conservative is merely the futurism of a communist -- for one can never recreate the past, only change the future -- but deluded as to the object of its will.
in short, when kimball described the long march, he did not describe a liberal phenomena of the age of aquarius -- but a phenomena inclusive of all of western culture, of all viewpoints, of the age of post-medieval modernity.
once so informed, the reader cannot find surprising the troubling and easy success of neoconservatism over the last three decades -- for it has allies eager and unwitting both throughout the postmodern western thought of decay, on both the left and the right. and it is perhaps chilling to consider that, even if the exponents of neoconservatism were to be expelled, even if the bush administration itself were to be ousted, the social forces that enabled neoconservatism to manifest itself so clearly will remain -- woven, as they are, not only into the character of american political institutions but into declining western civility itself.