By

Mitch Thompson

September 3, 2019

Revolution, Reaction, and Radicalism

In his Menace of the Herd, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn writes:

In a struggle against a revolutionary idea it is only possible to use ideological elements which are a thousand times more radical, or adopt principles which represent a total reaction against them. (Every effort to fight a certain stage of a revolution with its elements of a previous stage would be thoroughly abortive.)

This strikes me as similar to my own demeanor and approach to the world in our time. First, the western world has been overcome by a Jacobin revolutionary spirit which seeks to overhaul not merely the "government structure," but also culture, education, social harmonies, western norms, and so on. There really is a social revolution at play and it is the specter haunting the west. If this is true, we have three options: join it, remain apathetic, or react –somehow– against it. This puts us in an odd position, because to be reactionary is mostly associated with Fascism or Nazism; neither of these are of much interest or use or attraction to us, for dozens and dozens of reasons. (Historically, Nazism is probably more "revolutionary" and Fascism more reactionary– but in any case, those are the movements the Leftist world likes to associate with reaction against it's own Progress.)But of course, etymologically, to react against the left's revolution, does not require one to be associated with the movements the European left has most feared and have brought them the most trouble. Thus, in a sense, we are reacting against the revolutionary impulse of the left and this calls for some sort of "reactionary liberty." Thus, Kuehnelt-Leddihn's call to adopt principles in reaction to the revolution.This reaction must be characterized by a total radicalization of ideas, not some sort of lightweight, milquetoast appeal to the most important fundamentals of the contemporary narrative (diversity, democracy, egalitarianism). The meaning of radical is simple: taking principles to their logical conclusion intellectually. While it is often used to conjure images of "far-right" violent and oppressive "extremism," to be radical merely means to think consistently and avoid given up ground to the prevailing narratives.We should consider Mel Bradford's "reactionary imperative," summarized by Daniel Larison:

The failure to embrace what Mel Bradford called the “reactionary imperative,” the vital response when there is no longer anything of the old and desirable order to be conserved, leaves those who should be hostile to the revolutionary idea and its implications to resort to sterile collaboration with the assumptions and principles of that idea.

Kuehnelt-Leddihn then upholds the importance of being intellectually radical and principled in our reaction to the leftist revolution. In other words, radicalism without an element of reaction hands the revolutionary left a victory while reaction without radicalism leads to, well, authoritarianism or centralized social tension. In a way, I cannot think of anything more radical, and fundamentally important in our time than a consistent and constant anti-centralism: the best radicalism is dissent, nullification, and separation. It's peaceful, productive, reactionary (the revolution, after all, is tremendously centralist in our time), and radical.We mustn't spend so much political capital trying to win back power at the Federal level; to heal things at the national level. That ship has sailed. It would be like throwing rocks at a tidal wave to hold back the socio-political tides. It would be like fighting "a certain stage of a revolution with its elements of a previous stage."

About the author

Mitchell Thompson is in charge of circulation and content management at Austro Libertarian. He lives and works in Northern CA with his wife and children.

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