Thoughts out of season – the future of traditionalism (Part One)
By Mark Wegierski
(The earliest drafts of this essay go back to October 1985.)
This Harbourfront Science Fiction Festival can serve as a paradigmatic example demonstrating -- yet again -- the storied "pluralism" of "Late Economic Determinist" society. On the one hand, there was to be seen the very weakly stated position of the defenders of the conventional liberal status-quo, who know in their hearts they are wrong, and do not hesitate to yield to "politically-correct" temptation wherever and whenever possible. On the other hand, there was to be seen a throng of crackpot pseudo-dissidents, who contrive to feel oppressed in a society which accepts about 95% of their first principles, premises, and programs. Their craft -- it may be admitted -- is of fair to middling quality (but, by their own admission, is not the issue) -- what is important is their "commitment to the struggle." They are, in fact, a vital element in the informal power structures of Economic Determinist Society -- after all, they help maintain that keen edge of unending, relentless, ceaseless drive into the abyss which constitutes our mechanistic society!
Judith Merril, the doyenne of Canadian science fiction, can hardly excite anyone with her re-hashings of late-stage Marxist "Scholasticism," which has reached new heights of aridity and unreality. Nor can the socially-radical (ultra-antitraditionalist) Samuel Delany interest people with his interminable "utopias" (often actually resembling Aldous Huxley's Brave New World dystopia) which most would probably reject as positive models for the future.
Then, there is Margaret Atwood, with her radical feminist diatribe, The Handmaid's Tale, which effectively constitutes a vicious slander against religion and premodern society, which is so cruelly and crudely parodied in her dystopian "Gilead." (The book later had the misfortune to be made into an equally dreary movie.) Considering the nature of late modern society, Atwood's misplaced focus on the threat of a crude neo-fascism on the Right amounts to a massive distortion of reality, in fact, an inversion of the real situation, and of the real threats to humankind.
It is true that persons such as Margaret Atwood promise us, in their better moments, "an end to alienation," and a "decent human society."
Let us first look at what, from late 1917 to the 1980s, was the chief regime of "actually-existing socialism." The Soviet Union, then the most prominent such state in existence, was an obscene tyranny, responsible for the deaths of over 60 million human beings ("people just like you and me"), 1984-type treatment for the slightest hint of resistance, and an economically-based theory which failed even on economic grounds. At that time, many Western Left-liberals, as "friends of progress," effectively exalted the expansion of this tyranny to the ends of the Earth, while hoping that the next country which became a satrapy of the imperium would become their dreamed-of "independent Marxist" utopia. (These warm feelings recurred over the decades, concerning, for example, Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua.) Considering most Left-liberals' willingness to support virtually any left-wing dictatorship during these decades, their stance against "repression" and "oppression" in their home countries, and their promises to deliver "human rights," "power to the people," "economic democracy," and "the fulfillment of human needs" -- could be seen as highly hypocritical.
There were two main factors keeping the Soviet empire together:
In those days of the early 1980s, it must be remembered, a real war was going on in the West for the hearts and minds of its citizens concerning resistance or accommodation to the Soviet empire. One wonders what might have happened if Jimmy Carter had won the 1980 election? The author of this essay remembers well how the Left-liberals of those days were so very unwilling to criticize the Soviet Union. Indeed, one often got the impression that, apart from distinctly conservative circles (and some Eastern European groups), there was some kind of stampede to scrape and bow before the Soviets.
One wonders how this interminable appeasement by Left-liberals, and, in particular, by nearly all their intellectuals, became so all-pervasive. They seemed to move from decade to decade learning nothing. The British political theorist John Gray has suggested that the roots of this profound indifference to Soviet crimes lay in the common intellectual heritage of both liberalism and socialism in Enlightenment philosophy. Indeed, if one examines liberalism and Marxism carefully, they can be found to share at least 90% of their first principles and premises: both are "democratic," "progressive," secular, relativist, positivist, scientific-reductionist, economic determinist, highly agnostic/atheist, etc. It might have been argued that liberal America and the Soviet Union resembled each other more closely than any premodern society. In those days, no real Left-liberal could resist that which seemed to him or her to be only a more thorough, more committed liberalism. It should be pointedly stressed that, from the standpoint of organic tradition, there is also little to celebrate about present-day America. The ruling ideology of America today seems to be liberalism, or more precisely, the Left-liberal agglomerate which emerged out of the Sixties' revolutions.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.