The last couple of years have seen the passing of several individuals whose thought has been influential on my own. In May of last year, the Hungarian born historian, John Lukacs passed away from congestive heart failure. I have had cause over the last month to recall Lukacs’ definition of history as “the remembered past” more than once. The past itself, of course, is beyond the reach of the mad iconoclasts, but history, through which we learn from the past, is under siege. It was from Lukacs, especially his first volume of memoir Confessions of an Original Sinner (1990), rather than from Mencius Moldbug, that I learned to embrace the label “reactionary.” He was an Anglophile and a Roman Catholic, who had fled to the United States after his native country was taken over first by the Nazis and then by the Communists, preferring America’s liberal republicanism over either of the rival twentieth century totalitarianisms, but whose sympathies in many ways lay with the pre-modern, pre-liberal, order of civilization. He warned against the dangers of populism and nationalism, but was also the author of a pamphlet that argued strongly against the kind of immigration that populists and nationalists generally oppose. He was also wise enough to see that the Modern Age was over, without turning that into a weird pretext for separating language from reality.
The following month came the news that Justin Raimondo had passed away from lung cancer. Raimondo was a very interesting character. He was raised in the state of New York and lived most of his adult life in California, two rather left-leaning states. He was the founder and editor of Antiwar.com, a website opposed to American military interventionism and adventurism. Raised Roman Catholic, he lost his faith, and was openly homosexual. While that may sound like the resume of an ultra-progressive, he supported arch-conservative Pat Buchanan all three times Buchanan ran for the presidency of the United States, to the point of actually working for the campaign. The last time Buchanan ran it was as the Reform candidate in 2000. Raimondo had addressed that party’s national convention urging them to nominate Buchanan, obviously successfully. More recently, and right up until his death, Raimondo had been a strong supporter of Donald J. Trump. His politics were, in fact, right-libertarian, and more specifically the kind of right-libertarian that is called “paleo-libertarian.” Think Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and Hans-Herman Hoppe. Indeed, Raimondo was the author of the biography, An Enemy of the State (2000) of the father of paleo-libertarianism, Murry N. Rothbard. He was also the author of a history of the American “Old Right”, i.e., the American Right of the 1930s and 1940s that preceded William F. Buckley Jr., National Review, and the American Conservative movement. This Right began as opposition to the expansion of the American government in the Depression under FDR, and also on non-interventionist grounds opposed American entry into World War II prior to Pearl Harbour. Raimondo’s history was entitled Reclaiming the American Right: Reclaiming the Legacy of the Conservative Movement (1993). Buchanan wrote the foreword. I have read both of these books, as well as his The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection (2003), although it was the monthly column he wrote for Chronicles in the last few years of his life that I appreciated the most out of all his writings.
Earlier this year, in a single week we lost both Sir Roger Scruton and Christopher Tolkien. Tolkien, who was the youngest member of the 1930s-40s Oxford literary club, the Inklings, will be remembered not as a primary author, but as the editor who took the supplementary writings to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that his father, J. R. R. Tolkien, had left behind, edited them for publication.
Sir Roger Scruton, on the other hand, has left behind a vast corpus of writing on pretty much every subject imaginable. While primarily a philosopher who specialized in aesthetics – the branch of philosophy that deals with art and beauty – he was a true polymath. I have written reviews of two of his books – The Meaning of Conservatism (1980) and How to Think Seriously About The Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (2012). The first was written at the beginning of the premiership of Margaret Thatcher and the presidency of Ronald Reagan to show that true conservatism was not an ideological argument for freedom and capitalism, per se, but a reflexive defence of the good things which make up a civilized order, which are “easily destroyed, but not easily created.” The second examined the conservative roots of environmentalism to make the case for the responsible preservation of the beauty of our surroundings and our natural resources while avoiding the pitfalls of extremism that the environmentalism movement is noted for falling into. Many other of his books, including but not limited to his memoir Gentle Regrets, his short introduction to Beauty, his books on the aesthetics of music, his history of the Anglican Church, his takedown of the thought of the leading intellectuals of the Postmodern and Critical Theory influenced New Left, and his defence of Western Civilization against those who would attack it from without and within, The West and the Rest, have been of tremendous benefit to me. Countless of his insights, such as into the difference between “giving offence” and “taking offence”, as well as his countering the left-wing charge of “xenophobia” with that of “oikophobia”, a term borrowed from the Lake Poet Robert Southey, are particularly relevant to this moment in time. So, for that matter is his personal experience. As related in Gentle Regrets and elsewhere in his writings, it was when he witnessed student radicals in the late 1960s behaving basically the way BLM and Antifa are acting today, with nothing but Marxist gibberish to back up their actions, that he realized his fundamental opposition to this sort of thing and became a conservative. Let us hope that many today will experience something similar, in reaction against the revolting, in both senses of the word, “woke.”
Alan Clark used to refer to Enoch Powell, the Tory statesman who delivered a famous speech warning against immigration and the consequences of the Race Relations Bill to Birmingham in 1968, as “the prophet.” The same appellation could be applied to French author and explorer Jean Raspail, who died earlier this month at the age of 94. He travelled the world in his early life, exploring, and doing what could have been preparatory field work for a career as an anthropologist. His earliest writings were travel memoirs, later he turned to writing novels, incorporating his experiences of the world while globetrotting into his fiction. It was these which won him critical acclaim. His religious and political views – he was a traditionalist Roman Catholic, a royalist who longed for the restoration of a legitimate, Catholic, French monarchy, and someone who deplored most if not all modern ideas, trends, and movements – also found their way into his books. The most well-known of his novels, however, which appeared in French in 1973 and in English translation by Norman Shapiro in 1975, was The Camp of the Saints.
The title alone, borrowed from the twentieth chapter of St. John’s Apocalypse, suggests the prophetic nature of the novel. The story opens on Easter morning on the French Riviera, where a retired academic from his home near the ocean, watches as masses of liberal lunatics gather on the beach to welcome the arrival of a vast mass of the poorest of Calcutta’s poor, arriving on ninety-nine ships. The novel then goes back a few months in time to explain how they got to that point. The Belgian government had closed down a charitable adoption program when it was swamped with too many applications, after which, a prophet of sorts, “the turd eater”, having been turned away from the Belgian consulate, addresses the multitude with a parable that curiously borrows the lines from Revelation from which the title of the novel is derived, although twisting their meaning to the effect that the thousand years allotted to the God of the Christians was at an end, and now He must surrender His kingdom to Allah, Buddah, and an assortment of Hindu deities. At his encouragement they board the hundred ships – one is lost along the way – and set sail for France. This provokes much discussion in France over what is to be done – but due to the extreme liberal cultural climate, everyone - the politicians, news media and celebrities, clerics, very interestingly headed by a Latin American pope – all give the answer that the migrants must be accepted and welcomed. The armada is dubbed the “Last Chance Armada” as in the “last chance for mankind” and this, along with “We are all from the Ganges now” and other such tripe are the only acceptable way of speaking about the situation. A handful of individuals are brave enough to dissent – we are slowly introduced to them throughout the novel – and these all gather at the aforementioned academic’s house to make one last stand for Western Civilization. When the French president, who knows full well what must be done and had been counting on the only remaining right-wing publisher in France to make the point for him, sends the military to the beach, he cannot find the courage to order them to fire, and leaves it up to their consciences, at which point they defect. France is swamped and shortly thereafter coloured immigrant communities rise up in major cities throughout what was once Western civilization, while Western borders fall as the Chinese swarm into Russia, the Palestinians overwhelm Israel, etc. The narrator, indicates that the bastion from which he is writing, Switzerland is about to fall, bringing white, Christian, Western Civilization to an end forever.
It is almost twenty years since I read this novel for the first time. I have read it many times since and, to compound the thought crime indictment against me, have given copies of it out to others. Over the course of the last decade, it has come more and more to resemble a prophetic description of our own times. Its author lived to see this happen. Let us hope and pray that the story does not end the way he wrote it.
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