Review of “Cultural Revolution, Culture War” by Sean Gabb

The book is a blueprint for a reactionary takeover of the British government (thanks to Kalim Kassam – I think – for the recommendation).

Gabb suffers from no illusions, as he makes clear early on: "The truth is that we have lost every argument at any level that matters. On all issues during the past quarter century or more, we have failed to set an agenda to preserve—let alone to re-establish—ourselves as the free citizens of an independent country. We have lost."

I have very little to quibble with in this book. Gabb sees clearly identifies the problems that modern reactionaries face. Our opponents control government (which has become more and more immune to change) our education system and most of our culture. They are importing a new people to further cement their power.

After discussing the problem, Gabb discusses what a reactionary movement would do in power. Here’s a summary in his own words:

I suggest, therefore, that within days of coming into power, we ought to shut down large parts of the public sector. . . .

The chief purpose is to destroy the present ruling class. Moving as fast as we can, we must abolish as much as we can of its institutional means of action and support. . . .

Our education policy would need to be more complex. On the one hand, we should cut off all state funding to the universities. We might allow some separate transitional support for a few science departments. But we should be careful not to allow another penny of support for any Economics or Law or Sociology or Government and Politics department, or for any course with the words “media”, “gender”, or “ethnicity” in its name. . . .

On the other hand, we would have to keep the schools open—not because their teaching is needed, but because of their childminding function. Most people would neither notice nor care about losing things like the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy, but they would object to having to find somewhere else to put their little ones during the day. Therefore, the schools would stay open. . . .

Following from this, I suggest that our government of reaction should stop gathering and publishing official information. We should want no more censuses, or balance of payments statistics, or epidemiological surveys—no more government reports or future projections. . . .

I would like to see the abolition of both income tax and value added tax and their replacement with property taxes. These are simple to assess and collect, and cannot be used to justify the sort of financial inquisition that we now have. . . .

And so I will make it clear that when I talk about a free market, I do not mean a legal framework within which giant corporations are able to squeeze their suppliers, shut down their small competitors and socialise their workers into human sheep. I have already said I would not defend the landed interest. I would very strongly favour an attack on the structures of corporate capitalism. . . .

The Company Acts allow them to incorporate so that their directors and shareholders can evade their natural responsibilities in contract and tort. They are, for this reason, privileged in law. The alleged justification is that, without such limiting of liability, ordinary people would not invest money in organisations that provide us with necessary or useful products. The institution is, however, undesirable. . . .

Above all, we should work towards the abolition of limited liability. . . .

I would suggest abolishing all new criminal offences created since around 1960. . . .

As a libertarian, I would go further and repeal all the laws against sale and possession of recreational drugs, and all the laws against the right to keep and use weapons for defence. . . .

On the other hand, the Monarchy has been co-opted by the present ruling class as a front organisation. Its function now is to persuade the unreflective that there have been no fundamental changes. The reign of our present Queen has been, so far as I can tell, one long and uncomplaining surrender to the forces of revolution. . . .

Wherever possible, ancient forms should be preserved in their outward appearance and adapted to modern uses. After all, one of the main reasons why the Great Revolution failed in France was the wanton abandoning of symbols that restrained the will of men to unbridled power. . . .

But turning to foreign policy in general, we should work towards isolationism. The war in Iraq is now generally accepted to have been a disaster. But so is the war in Afghanistan. So was the war with Serbia. The Cold War and the two world wars served no valuable national interest. We should withdraw from NATO and every other military alliance. We need armed forces sufficient to defend our own territory. We should not pretend that it is either our duty or our ability to join in policing the world.

He then gets a bit wishy-washy on immigration. He considers this proposal to be radical, and it is, but I’m not sure it’s radical enough to dislodge the present ruling class. He cites two examples of direct frontal attacks working to destroy a ruling class: Henry VIII destroying the "Roman Church in England" and the events of 1641. Unfortunately that was probably the last time that any attacks worked. Progressivism is undefeated since then.

His plan for taking over government is much less inspiring:

My answer in the short term is that we must assist in the destruction of the Conservative Party. While it remains in being as a potential vehicle of government, every initiative from our movement will be taken over and neutralised. . . .

The present ruling class came to power not all at once, but by a silent capture, over several decades, of the main cultural and administrative institutions. We may not by the same means be able to dislodge it from this power. But we can bring forward the moment when the ruling class will eventually run out of commitment, and begins to transform itself into an increasingly timid ancien régime. Remember, these people are at war not just with us, but with reality itself. That war must always be lost in the end. . . .

The book is an interesting read, but I’m not sure a revolution by democratic means is possible.

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25 Responses to Review of “Cultural Revolution, Culture War” by Sean Gabb

  1. dave says:

    I am quite sure reactionary revolution by Democratic means is not possible. Certainly not in the sense that voting majorities can be persuaded to vote for it.

    A look back to Rome might be instructive. Rome phase-shifted from a Republic to an empire and was able to last another 500 years as a result. 1000 years if you count the eastern half.

    So what we really need is a Caesar Augustus. But he was likely only able to do what he did as a result of decades of chaos. Not that we know that much, details are sketchy.

  2. Red says:

    Humans only do really big changes through war and battle or through stealth and trickery. Everything else seems to fail in the long run.

  3. RS says:

    > The Cold War and the two world wars served no valuable national interest.

    That’s a strong statement. Apparently MM is mistaken to think there’s no evidence of Hitler wanting to rule the world. Tooze’s “Wages of destruction” says the evidence is right there in Hitler’s “second book”, with all the fixins: USA is Jewish-controlled, Judeo-Aryan combo is extremely powerful & dangerous, final battle should be around 1980, etc. He wrote it after the Beer Hall Putsch and ultimately decided it had too much strategy in it to be published; it was authenticated after the war by multiple ex-NS. In any case, if they had been able to attack USSR right off, and bring her to terms, it would have been a son of a gun to do anything about it ever after… and imagine if they went into China as well. It might not have amounted to much influence on French, Brit, and American lives, but that’s only because the bomb was invented. One didn’t know in ’39 that it ever would be (as far as I know), at least not for sure.

  4. Dr Sean Gabb says:

    Thanks for that – a very full and fair review.

  5. […] Review of “Cultural Revolution, Culture War” by Sean Gabb « Foseti […]

  6. Tschafer says:

    Anyone who says that the Cold War was “not in the national interest” but is wishy-washy on immigration and claims to be a reactionary, is not a serious person. I’ll pass on the book.

  7. sardonic_sob says:

    Revolutions by democratic means are certainly possible. They happen all the time. However, it is a ratchet effect and moves in one way only. More power to the people, less power to any individual person. If you want to take power from the people and give it to individuals, at any scope or scale, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.

  8. AC says:

    What are his ideas for “bringing forward” the revolution via, shall we say, heightening the contradictions?

  9. Tschafer says:

    Britain was actually a lot more threatened by the USSR than the United States was, and besides, it takes two to have peace – as long as “World Revolution” remained a Soviet goal, something like the Cold War was inevitable, it wasn’t really a war of choice. And yes, RS, I agree with you – MM isn’t often wrong, but when he is, he’s REALLY wrong. His view of WWII doesn’t really stand up to historical scrutiny, and his whole “Neocameralism” thing is utterly unworkable. I’m afraid MM still retains some libertarian impulses when it comes to some issues, and it shows. But when he’s on, which is most of the time, there’s no one more insightful.

  10. Firepower says:

    “The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember officers and Soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of Liberty — that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men.” — George Washington 1776

  11. Mencius points to denazification.

    Uprooting of a major portion of the ruling class is rare, and is usually performed by conflicting portion of the ruling class, or outside forces.

    To undo the ever leftwards movement is going to require actual fighting in the streets, which is not feasible as long as government has sufficient credit to issue more fiat money without hyperinflation.

  12. Ack! I wish I had more time for your blog, and to read Gabb. Interesting idea, no better or worse than Mencius Moldbug’s ideas about passivism, neocameralism, etc. I’m going with the latter because they idea of marching through government institutions disgusts me too much.

    My baby is crying.

  13. RS says:

    Yeah, he’s not ultra-reliable; TGGP’s countless criticisms of him usually seem correct. And I disagree with him mightily. Yet there’s really nothing like him; I belly up ever more for the blow-your-eardrums-out creative interpretation. What a twit I was before reading him, an idiot. There truly is no choice but read him. I also find his ‘Hanged in the lovely’ the best in the last 60 years, since ‘The Man-moth’ and ‘Black mud’, which are fucking fantastic poems. I find almost all poems near-worthless, eg all of Bishop’s other than Man-moth… it’s only the greats that are worth reading. “Song of the happy shepherd” is worth it (though it was a lot better after I edited it), Hafiz is usually worth it, etc.

    Not only do we have the evidence from the “second book”, but taking over the world seems like it would simply be de rigueur for any proper nazi, if I understand their faustian pathos decently. As I’ve mentioned, all the transhumanist and other ideological stuff (which MM almost does not metnion at all) seems to me to be quite substantially relevant to what happened, though I know TUJ and other materialists would disagree.

  14. Firepower says:

    Respectfully, if my comments are to be delayed in moderation in lieu of the next type of comment, I must regrettably remove this blog from my list.

    F

  15. Jehu says:

    If you want radical change, you need a crisis that discredits the existing power structures, and you need to be ready for said crisis with a simple formulation to motivate the masses to purge their elites. Lenin would call this a pre-revolutionary condition. A financial and economic total collapse would suffice for this purpose. The remainder is left as an exercise for the reader.

  16. […] we might get them back to be better than now, although changed and glued […]

  17. […] means of action and support.”  Sean has his own prescription for the UK. I side with Foseti in thinking he ‘gets’ some of it, but is perhaps a touch naive and optimistic in other […]

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