The way forward for the right is decentralization, peaceful separation through resettlement, and a unified opposition to the totalitarian left.
This issue of Chronicles features a symposium on the political future of America. Although the solutions to the problems analyzed by the contributors may differ, all their essays focus on a similar crisis facing our country and much of the rest of the Western world. A seemingly irreversible process of centralization is taking place. All effective power has been seized by a conglomerate of woke leftist agencies, including the administrative state, the mass media, and the educational institutions. This process is so far advanced here and in other Western countries that the question that presents itself is how one can address this situation from outside the interconnected power establishment.
There is a German term, Gleichschaltung (“coordination”), that may describe quite well what is taking place. This term refers to the ominous state of affairs that our contributors are forced to address. Nazi leaders used this term in a favorable sense, to characterize their ideal form of rule. It aimed at bringing all aspects of human life under the ideological command of an all-powerful state. This control was supposed to embrace all social, recreational, and political activities, none of which was allowed to operate independently of the state’s authorized ideology. Gleichschaltung started in Germany with Hitler’s Enabling Act of March 23, 1933, which gave the German dictator oversight of all permissible political discourse together with the power to override legislation in the name of the national interest. From there the Nazi regime went on to bring all realms of civic life under its sway.
What is being described, however, is not uniquely German nor confined to the 1930s and 1940s. It has become characteristic of all contemporary Western societies that claim to be defending “tolerance” and fighting “discrimination,” but which stifle civil liberties and try to ban unwanted opinions. And since the media and educational institutions vigorously promote these policies, it is hard to maintain dissent in such a hostile setting.
Another trait of this increasingly prevalent political and cultural model is the state’s claim to be working overtime to forestall a far-right takeover. An alliance has taken shape in most Western countries between a woke state church and overreaching judges and meddlesome administrators. These forces operate in tandem while mobilizing their populations against an alleged fascist or Christian authoritarian menace. In the United States, our surveillance state is perpetually at war against what we are told are the perils of right-wing extremism and systemic racism.
Those who are doing the suppressing and intimidating always cite exceptional circumstances that necessitate a crackdown on “bigots.” Right now in the U.S., a crusade is going on against those who dare to “misgender” the androgynous or the sexually modified, an offense which many young adults, after sufficient indoctrination, consider to be criminal. It is also becoming impossible to turn on one’s TV without being bombarded by movies and advertisements that look as if they had been prepared by a panel of BLM and LGBT activists. More and more of what our “entertainment” providers provide contains stereotypical statements of moral outrage that feature predominantly nonwhite and even nonbinary actors and characters. Even the weather reports on our local network affiliates now come with warnings about climate change offered by a racially diverse cast of meteorologists.
What is most striking about this brainwashing is its relentless, pervasive nature. There is no escaping it unless one succeeds in becoming a hermit in some wilderness area that government workers and snoops have not yet discovered. All institutions receiving government funds, starting with the military, impose on captive students and employees required courses on overcoming prejudice. Those who are being indoctrinated in the state religion must listen to ritualistic attacks on white, male, Christian, heterosexual America while drooling attention is bestowed on state-approved victims and their claims to “equity.” Since the regime is satisfying demands for compensatory justice, the hatred vented on the American past is intended to make us receptive to the state’s accelerating campaign against long-ingrained hostility against the oppressed.
The mission of our missionary state is also extended to those who do not fully accept or perhaps don’t even know about the commitment to “equity.” National borders, we are told, no longer matter when dealing with such retrograde countries as Hungary, Poland, or Russia. These backwater places have failed to provide LGBT instruction in their public institutions and make morally inadmissible gender distinctions. Boycotting and denouncing such offenders may not be enough. More actively subverting them may be necessary to make their benighted subjects part of the “free world.”
Soon after World War II, Hannah Arendt, a German Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, wrote Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), a massive work that at the time of its publication seemed absolutely illuminating. According to Arendt, totalitarian regimes, such as Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, were not backward-looking but ultramodern. They harnessed technology and modern forms of communication to terrorize and brainwash their populations. It was therefore a mistake to confuse them with traditional authoritarian states, which simply tried to stay in power, and which typically depended for support on landowners, the military, and state churches. Authoritarian governments came and went, and, as the Israeli historian Amos Perlmutter showed in a book on the subject, became outmoded with the rise of urbanized societies. Totalitarian governments by contrast were, according to Arendt, irremovable and became over time more monolithic and resistant to opposition. Moreover, while authoritarians tried to preserve an obsolescent social order, mostly outside the West, totalitarian regimes represented a grim form of modernity, which found a congenial home in 20th-century Europe.
Although Arendt’s treatment of totalitarianism as an exclusively modern form of tyranny still seems worth studying, it should be revised in light of recent history. This is especially true of three assumptions that run through the study.
First, Arendt may have generalized from the Nazi example in assuming that totalitarian regimes can never become less oppressive and over time go away. However brutal the Soviet regime may have been under Stalin, it eventually did become weaker, and it finally collapsed. The same process might have occurred in Nazi Germany, although given the frenetic, increasingly genocidal character of that regime, one may be justified in harboring doubts in that case.
Second, Arendt assumed on the basis of her observation that totalitarian regimes are all physically violent and once they chose their enemies, worked to eliminate them. Terror, according to Arendt, was the modus operandi of totalitarians, and it was hard for her to imagine a totalitarian government that did not apply violence against designated enemies, and which did not do so systematically.
Third, Arendt believed that totalitarian rulers were mostly after power. They therefore twisted reality to force their subjects to accept what was plainly false or grotesquely exaggerated. Totalitarian leaders engaged in such actions as an exercise in control, and so, it didn’t matter to them if they knew that their accounts of what was happening were invented. In fact, the more implausible their lies were, the more eager they were to inflict them on their helpless subjects. This view of how totalitarian regimes manipulated reality may not be entirely accurate. At some level, we may assume, the Nazi and Soviet governments believed in their own interpretations of reality.
Hitler and his ministers certainly thought they were fighting to subdue an international Jewish-Bolshevik enemy and that the Germans had a moral duty to their fellow Aryans to conquer lesser races. Stalin, moreover, did accept Marxist-Leninist assumptions about history and considered himself in a global struggle against capitalist plutocrats. Political elites at some level absorb their official ideologies, even if they also crave power and cynically deceive their rivals and subjects. It may be a mistake to deny that those who act in the name of modern ideologies, whether Nazism, Communism, or wokeified liberal democracy, take seriously their own worldviews. While their power may allow them to deal arbitrarily with others, modern totalitarian rulers accept the belief systems that they enforce as being essentially true.
Arendt’s conception of totalitarianism is not entirely obsolete. She is analyzing a distinctly modern form of tyranny, which can break down any opposition to its rule. The German term Gleichschaltung applies to this modus operandi. Centralized communications, a vast administrative state, and a population with less and less of a historic cultural identity all contribute to this totalitarian reality. Equally critical for its progress is a designated enemy, which is assailed as an absolute evil.
Arendt was likewise correct in assuming that the totalitarian danger she was examining was not extraneous to Western societies, however much those societies and their heads of state may want us to believe otherwise. Although Republican TV talking heads and Wall Street Journal editorialists insist that America, the one “exceptional nation,” is above the danger of self-destructing, none of this may matter in the present situation.
We are in fact subject to those forces that Arendt regarded as favoring totalitarian control. And here it may make no difference what our point of departure was for reaching the present hour. We in the United States may be able to point back to a brilliant founding document, and we may be the richest country that ever existed. But such historical conditions do not mean that totalitarian forces in this country are not stripping us of freedom and dignity or that we are not trying to remake other countries in the image of what American elites have imposed at home.
The America boosters also state, as an example of America’s superiority, that more and more of the Third World want to settle here. But why shouldn’t they, given the welfare benefits that will be lavished on them once they arrive?
Conservative pundits also assure us that there is still lots of market competition in America, as if anyone who merely works hard enough can set up his own newspaper or TV station. This argument ignores the scale of the communication industry and the power of the government, in alliance with the mainstream media, to shut down and punish opposition.
Our well-meaning defenders also disregard the fact that the instruments to influence the public and cancel opposition available to the government, the mainstream media, and the educational institutions are far greater than any that their opponents can hope to acquire. And this imbalance exists not only here but in every Western country that shows similar political patterns. Those who wield power can also shape the public perception of those whom they want to discredit, recent examples being the characterization by the FBI and Homeland Security agencies of Latin Mass Catholics and parents who protest LGBT indoctrination in public schools as domestic terrorists.
Our rulers also get to reconstruct the past and to transmit their version of history to hundreds of millions of people, as, for example, The New York Times did in its “1619 Project” series. This allows them to shape the present and future, by telling us what supposedly transpired before the present generation was even born.
The new totalitarians do not have to murder their designated enemies to isolate them. They can just bring their ubiquitous power to bear in neutralizing opposition. According to a recent Pew poll, 70 percent of Democrats want the government (obviously their government) to censor social media. In Germany, the Central Committee of German Catholics is right now drafting a proposal to exclude members of the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party from communion and confession, as racist enemies of German democracy. There is no evidence that AfD preaches racism, although it does oppose the woke leftist monopoly of German politics.
The governing class, it would seem from these examples, has not gone far enough in driving the right into the wilderness. It may be apt to compare this ideological zeal to the complaint made by some Nazi fanatics in the 1930s that non-Aryans had not been sufficiently removed from German society.
It may also be a peculiar characteristic of the new totalitarianism that it depends less on government coercion than did older forms of control. That’s because many in the population are even more fanatical in their war against freedom and civilization than the regime they support. Terror may no longer be necessary in this updated totalitarian system, because left-wing populations can be rendered even more intense than the state in their adherence to the state religion—as we saw during the upheavals of 2020.
Another aspect of the new totalitarianism is its coexistence with the breakdown of civil society and public order. Whereas the older totalitarians worked to maintain at least the appearance of outward order, for example, by keeping streets clean and free of marauding vagrants, the new totalitarians specialize in creating turmoil. The greater the disorder and the more rampant the crime wave, the more opportunity there is to justify measures to increase their control.
What the late Chronicles columnist Sam Francis characterized as “anarcho-tyranny” is not an accidental feature of this new regime. It is a deliberately planned method for allowing the ruling class to accumulate power. The greater the confusion sown, the greater the opportunity for those in charge to expand their sway over a confused, warring “diverse” human mass. This assault on family and community also helps reconstruct civil society in accordance with the needs of the ruling class. The Nazi government, according to Arendt, benefited from disunity, by establishing clashing bureaucracies that laid claims to the same areas of responsibility. In comparison to what our present totalitarians are capable of doing, however, these interwar totalitarian strategies have a definitely archaic look.
An effective resistance to this march toward totalitarianism may be arising in the United States, which is the world’s dominant political and economic power. Unlike most other Western countries, there is a sizable resistance force here, perhaps as high as 40 to 50 percent. This growing opposition would be better mobilized with a less-compromised conservative establishment, one that expended less energy censoring the right and trying to build bridges to the left. But even our grievously flawed conservative establishment continues to give a forum to enough principled opponents of the regime to point out its corruption and power grabs. The number of these hard-hitting critics, many of whom come equipped with websites, is far greater than their equivalents in other Western countries.
Moreover, the reason that leftist elites inside the government and the media work so hard to combat this resistance is that it actually exists. We are not dealing here with a largely invented opposition of the kind, for example, that the German “antifascist” state is pretending to combat. There is a libertarian and traditionalist right in the U.S., which is striking back, however limited its media resources. Boycotts of woke capitalist enterprises and mass protests may be just beginning, and of course this struggle could escalate. Whatever the defects of former president Donald Trump (and there are many), the fact that 75 million Americans voted for someone who is so thoroughly hated and vilified by our power elite could not have happened in any other major Western country. The populist right in Canada, Australia, and most of Western Europe does not command the percentage of support that it does in the U.S.
America’s right-wing resistance must become a culturally unified opposition if it hopes to make headway. Such cohesion will be far more helpful for the right than continuing to try to out-compete the left in “diversity.” The totalitarian left has gained power by declaring war on community, normal families, and historic identities and by taking advantage of the moral anarchy it created. An effective resistance will require the restoration of everything that the totalitarians have worked to poison and subvert. Without the operation of durable, inherited social and religious institutions this resistance will be nothing more than a temporary episode destined to transform back into the sickly, decrepit liberalism that paved the way for today’s totalitarian left. From there, a new era of leftist Gleichschaltung will likely soon follow.
Two other prerequisites for a comeback of freedom and tradition are controlling borders and immigration and working to decentralize government. In every wokeified, postliberal Western government, opening the sluice gates to massive Third World immigration has been a tool for increasing the regime’s foot soldiers. This policy has allowed elites to expand their client base and electorate at the expense of what remains of an internal opposition. This influx has also created internal turmoil, a situation that we are told requires even further government oversight and “social programs.” Decentralization as well as tight immigration control is necessary, at least in the short and middle terms, if America’s right-wing opposition is to survive politically and socially.
But none of this can happen if the right-wing opposition must live directly under an unfriendly regime that it cannot hope to replace. The best solution, given the circumstances, is peaceful separation, a solution that can be undertaken in stages even if it cannot be achieved all at once. If Americans committed to opposing the tyrannical left can be induced to settle in common areas and if they can control local and regional administrations, then their living situation should be far from hopeless. The regime’s opponents will be in an optimal position to respond to unwelcome directives from the central state. They can simply avoid enforcing them. If this practice spreads to enough places, it will be hard for the administrative state to impose its unitary will without facing multiple challenges.
It may also be necessary for the survival of enclaves of resistance that the decision of those who choose to live under the regime be treated as irreversible, providing their decision has been reached without provable coercion. It would be foolish for those who opt for freedom to share their hard-won autonomy with those who have opted for the opposite side but who then decided to change their place of residence. Even more suicidal would be to extend full citizenship rights to those who took this step. There is no guarantee that those would-be neighbors would not be carrying with them the views and values of the place they left.
One should not confuse these hypothetical asylum-seekers with former Communists who eventually fled Communist rule. Most of those refugees were staunch anti-Communists by the time they defected. Blue State residents who decide to move into Red States, by contrast, usually carry their leftist politics with them. There is no reason to think leftists will behave differently if they move into more conservative regions in the future. Regulating who settles in woke-free areas will be necessary to protect these outposts of freedom from infiltration. Therefore, any attempt by the central administration to tamper with this situation (probably by invoking the Fourteenth Amendment) must be doggedly opposed.