Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What is the American "Right Wing"?


Someone sent me this blog of lists of “right wing” poets, philosophers, novelists, etc. I have a problem with the concept, that is, the premises of these lists – as they apply to America. The assumption is that Fascism is the extreme “right wing,” but that isn’t accurate when we think of the U.S., and I’m not sure it’s true anywhere. Also, notice that the list of “right-wing” philosophers includes Heidegger; whereas Heidegger is the philosophical patron saint of French Leftists. So a good deal of elaboration and discussion is called for and since these blog lists are a year old, I don’t think it is going to occur on the above blog.

Ferry and Renaut write in Heidegger and Modernity, page 11, “the man who was more than a fellow traveler to Nazism became the chief ‘philosopher of the left’ in contemporary France.” So why did Jeet Heer list Heidegger as a Right Wing philosopher? I suspect it was merely his fellow travelling with Nazism that did it for Heer, but is that enough? I don’t think so. In studying modern day Islamists and Islamic leaders we see that they were attracted to the “tactics” of both the Nazis and Stalinistic-Communists. And there isn’t much difference between them in terms of tactics. Nazism and Communism were both totalitarian systems, and Islamism being also totalitarian is naturally attracted to their tactics.

Is Heidegger, being “right wing” according to Heer relatable to any “right-wingness” here in the U.S.? Not so you’d notice. You can relate his philosophy to the Left wing through the French filter, but there isn’t any relationship I can see to the American “Right Wing.”

And we should try to understand what it means to be “right wing” in America. It isn’t being fascistic. It is harking back to the original philosophy of our founding fathers. It is “conservatism” in the sense that it means retaining what was originally established by the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Fascism. Also, it is suspicious of what is currently being called “Progressive.” We conservatives don’t want to “Progress” beyond our original philosophy. We don’t believe anyone has anything better. “Progressive” implies a movement toward something “improved” or “better,” but what could that be?

Heidegger was looking for a middle ground. He didn’t like Communism on the “left” and he didn’t like “American-style businessism” on the right. He was looking for something in between – a middle ground. That’s what he imagined when he envisioned his own personal Fascism (op cit, p. 15).

I take Heidegger’s assessment about the U.S. as fair. We prefer the term “Liberal Democracy,” but “American-style businessism” works as well. Heidegger didn’t look for Fascism in America and neither should Jeet Heer. We are the American-style businessists, aka, Liberal Democrats. The French Left has a problem with Fascism. There are Fascists in their closets. Not only were French Intellectuals “fellow travelers” during their Vichy period but in seeking an alternative to Communism after they could no longer stomach it, they cleaned up Heidegger and made him a respectable Leftist. Well, why not?

While “Right Wing” meaning “Fascism” doesn’t really work when applied to American Conservatism, “Left Wing” meaning “Marxism-Leninism” does work when applied to American Progressivism. I’ve discussed this elsewhere won’t hammer it again here. The Soviet Marxist-Leninist propagandists did a superb job over here during and after WWII. Which isn’t to say that we couldn’t have had a strong Fascist movement in the U.S. – hypothetically. But the Nazis were never interested in us in that way. They were interested in the pure Anglo-Saxon Britains, but not the mongrelized Americans. We were ruined racially and so didn’t qualify for favorable treatment by the Nazis. Would that the Soviet Marxist-Leninists felt the same way about us.

Lawrence Helm


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