More About Reaction

AMcGuinn and Foseti respond to my post about reaction.

McGuinn basically says that progressives are winning, and “we get as much state as we can afford, but just occasionally the left gets ahead of itself and we get a level of state destructiveness that physically cannot be sustained.” If only I could be so optimistic – we normally get far more state than we can afford. I agree that the Thatcherite reforms were primarily a victory for reality, but that’s all I’m asking for – that politics be grounded in reality. Progressives aren’t wrong about everything, you know. Besides which, for all the negative trends he mentions, there are plenty of positives, many of which have plenty of support on the progressive left – the marketisation of public services, the proper regulation of the police and freedom of information.

But even if I wanted to oppose progressivism, I simply don’t see how “reactionaries realistically oppose progressivism.” How does the reactionary opposition manifest itself? It has no power in politics, the judiciary, the civil service, the media or wider society, and I don’t see any prospect of it gaining any. Are reactionaries hoping for a coup, or what? You may view Conservatives as wishy-washy sell-outs, but at least there’s a reasonable amount of organisational strength and power. If there is a realistic reactionary force, it’s the TUC, and I assume McGuinn isn’t signing up for that.

Foseti, meanwhile focuses on foreign policy, and wants to return to “old-school international law,” wherein governments do not interfere in each others’ internal affairs. But when exactly was this school in session? Historically, governments interfering in another country to support the “legitimate” government against the mere de facto one is absolutely appropriate under international law. As so often, the “reactionary” position turns out to be one of modern invention – in this case, it is a Cold War maxim, and even then one more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Besides which, in the post originally linked, Moldbug went much further:

A stable, orderly world is the only interest of our foreign policy. We hope the Egyptian security forces can suppress the riots quickly and with minimum bloodshed… We call on the rioters to obey all official instructions, and return to home and/or work… If the rioters make unreasonable demands, their demands must be denied. If they make reasonable demands, these reforms must be withheld at least until the rebellion has failed and its participants thoroughly regret their actions, so that they appear as the gifts of the government and not the fruits of victorious rebellion.

These are not the comments of a disinterested third party refusing to interfere in another country’s internal affairs. This is a partisan cheering on the Mubarak government on the grounds of “order,” long after the its ability to supply that order had collapsed. It is bizarre to think that the US is “exporting” revolution, when so many of the world’s dictators are only sustained against revolution by US support. Mubarak in particular would have fallen years ago without American aid.

And here’s another example where the progressives aren’t wrong – liberal internationalism is A Good Thing. Yes, we should be as sceptical of the government’s ability to effect change abroad as we are at home. And yes, Foseti is quite right to point out that revolutions are bloody affairs and frequently regrettable. But I’m proud that this country helped stop Gaddafi perpetrating a massacre in Benghazi. Foseti says that when there is order, people aren’t being indiscriminately murdered… well, OK. So I take it then that he would have supported humanitarian interventions in Rwanda, Bosnia, etc, as the indiscriminate murders there showed a lack of order? Seems like we’ve turned full circle!

I previously described reaction as like painstakingly reassembling the pieces of an exploded bomb, then finding that it detonates again. But perhaps a better analogy would be that he is the environmentalist carefully preserving species in a zoo. It’s a noble endeavour in its way, but it should not be confused with rebuilding an ecosystem.


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