The last three years have been, to put it mildly, eventful. Cultural and political developments seem to have accelerated at a pace previously unimaginable: at home, throughout the Anglosphere and further abroad. While the radicalism of our opponents has only doubled-down, new opportunities have opened for reaction across the Occident, from here in Australia, throughout North America and on the European Continent. It seems that difficulties and obstacles have energised a new generation of activists and advocates of the good-and-true, as well as inspired an anti-establishmentarian political class to rise from among the disillusioned and disenfranchised. Populism and nationalism, in different forms and styles, is on the ascent in societies where this was unthinkable less than a decade ago. In response, the coercive fist of ‘progress’ has been felt in law and state policy, as the virtues of yesteryear are slowly pathologised and criminalised.
An observer could be forgiven for thinking that the Cultural Cold War has entered the dangerous phase where the conflict could reach a flash-point at any time. When compromise is recognised as coded defeat, polarisation becomes entrenched in a society at war with itself. This is where we find ourselves today — an unenviable position to be in perhaps, but certainly exciting. The one question that remains painfully unanswered in the minds of traditionalists, reactionaries, paleoconservatives, counter-revolutionaries and others of the Dissident Right is: what to do, which way to turn, and how are we to achieve our objectives — indeed, what are our objectives? The working title of this, the Second Symposium for 2017 is therefore: “reactionary praxis: how to turn critique and theory into practical use.”
The classical reactionary mindset suffers from three qualities that are a boon and a black-eye at the same time: a pessimistic, defeatist attitude derived from a realisation of Man’s fallen nature and a historical awareness that combating ‘progress’ has largely been an exercise in futility; an endearment to and mythologising of the past, based partly on sentiment but mostly on a yearning for that which has been irretrievably lost, that which may be intangible but no less real to the human experience, that which defies materialistic valuation; and a focus on theoretical and philosophical contemplation. But the cantankerous reactionary can be cured of his pessimism by an appreciation of the transcendent; the archetypes inherent in myth are often more ‘true’ than any scientistic understanding of human nature; and the grounding in theory and philosophy prevents flights into Utopia.
Dr. George Hawley — who has recently published a review of rightist critics of US conservatism as well as an analysis of the “Alternative Right” — wrote in correspondence to the New Oxford Review that reactionaries frequently provide a diagnosis of the status quo but rarely offer tangible solutions to it. The truth of this cannot be denied. Traditional conservatives advocate policy that is derived from concrete experience as opposed to abstract thought, but seldom offer concrete plans for reclaiming lost ground. In many respects, conservatism has proven itself to be a spent force when dealing with a militant left that does not respect the quaint political sensibilities of yore. Its embrace of abstract thinking (‘values’ etc.) has delivered it to Utopian ways of thinking that are almost indistinguishable from ‘progressive’ ideology. Ironically, this has also lead to it losing a sense of its own vision of society. In this context, is it even possible to shape a concrete plan of reaction, when one is so lost at sea?
The Sydney Traditionalist Forum was specifically formed to allow individuals from different rightist backgrounds to meet and share ideas, with an ultimate view to creating a synthesis relevant to meeting the challenges of the times. A certain intellectual archaeology was therefore inevitable as we attempted to rediscover what ‘our’ ‘leaders’ in the mainstream either forgot, were unable to contemplate, or were intentionally avoiding. Our first meeting, walking distance from the State Parliament House but without a single politician or ‘staffer’ present, took place at a time when the intellectual dynamism was still on the ideological left. Acceptable discourse on the nominal right was pushed into a narrow cul-de-sac of economics, but we realised that the Culture War could not be fought by engineers and accountants when the opposing camp occupied the institutions of cultural transmission. A militant spirit that had no compunctions to make its own rules and refused to be frightened at the offense of those who hated it viscerally, was also desperately needed.
It is often said that a week is an eternity in politics, but the period since that first meeting, in 2012, can seem like a blur. Our association has evolved rapidly from being local, to being one in which some of our more committed contributors are from overseas. Our first Symposium in 2015 was perhaps no less practically oriented than this present one, but in the essays that follow, we try to address the question of reactionary praxis in broader terms: whether the question itself is not misleading (Bertonneau), the need to reject the underlying assumptions of the modernist liberal order (Kalb), the necessity of restraint before action (Kalb, Gristeins), the cultivation of virtuous leadership (Richardson, Kristor, Grinsteins), personal development as a precursor to successful community service (Kalb), the importance of religion (Richardson, Grinsteins), the need to reclaim key cultural and media institutions as well as focus on intellectual agitation (Spurr, Salter, Kalb), the need for an honest and open debate about the merits of an identity-based national orientation which is realistic, practical and which avoids the risk of rightist nihilism (Salter, Richardson). We do not profess to have all the answers to the present discontents; but perhaps in some small way, these essays, which we commend to our readers, may provide an insight to what is needed.
Contributors to the Second
2017 Symposium of the
Sydney Traditionalist Forum
Prof. Barry Spurr
Reclaiming the University
Prof. Barry Spurr was educated at Canberra Grammar School and the Universities of Sydney and Oxford. He was a member of the Department of English at the University of Sydney for forty years and was Australia’s first Professor of Poetry and Poetics. Professor Spurr’s numerous books and other publications cover the fields of literature, and theological and liturgical aspects of it, from the Renaissance to contemporary poetry. His best known monographs are Studying Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) which is now in its second edition, See the Virgin Blest: Representations of the Virgin Mary in English Poetry (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and, most recently, ‘Anglo-Catholic in Religion’: T.S. Eliot and Christianity (Lutterworth, 2010). Prof. Spurr’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its 2016 Symposium (“Transcendence: Community, Nation, Civilisation; Religious Aspects of the Present Turmoil”) titled “‘Falling Towers’: T. S. Eliot, the Decline of the West and the Doctrine of the Incarnation.”
Prof. Thomas F. Bertonneau
Is Practicality Practical
Prof. Thomas F. Bertonneau is an American intellectual and professor. He has taught at a variety of institutions, and has been a member of the English Faculty at State University of New York, Oswego, since 2001. His articles and essays have appeared in a diverse array of scholarly journals including William Carlos Williams Review, Wallace Stevens Journal, Studies in American Jewish Literature, North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan Academician, Paroles Gelées: UCLA French Studies, and Profils Americains. He was a major contributor to the English section of The Brussels Journal. More recently, his work has appeared in The University Bookman, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy as well as the websites The People of Shambhala and The Orthosphere. Prof. Bertonneau’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its First 2017 Symposium (“The Future of Western Identity: Problems and Possibilities, Obstacles and Opportunities”) titled “Identity: The Future of a Paradox.”
Dissolving the Black Hole of Modernity
James Kalb is an attorney and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. A Catholic convert, he has written on politics, culture, and religion for a number of publications in Europe and the United States. He is the author of two books, The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI, 2008), and Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013). James Kalb’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its First 2017 Symposium (“The Future of Western Identity: Problems and Possibilities, Obstacles and Opportunities”) titled “Identity and the Civilisation of the West.”
Dr. Frank Salter received his PhD in Australia (Griffith University) but spent most of his career at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology in Germany. Frank has taught in Britain, the US, Central and Eastern Europe. He has authored and co-authored various peer reviewed articles and essays. His most recent book is The War on Human Nature in Australia’s Political Culture: Collected Essays (Social Technologies, 2017). Now returned to his native Australia, he consults on policy and management issues. Dr. Salter’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its 2015 Symposium (“Quo Vadis Conservatism? Do Traditionalists Have a Place in the Current Party Political System?”) titled “Australian Conservatism After Abbott: The Need for Social Movements.”
Kristor J. Lawson
Towards a New Aristocracy
Kristor J. Lawson has worked as a countertenor, whitewater boatman, woodcutter, hermit, and for the last 35 years as a financial advisor. He is married, a father of three and grandfather of two. He began writing for the public at View from the Right in 2009, and at his present blog, The Orthosphere, in 2012. Kristor Lawson’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its 2016 Symposium (“Transcendence: Community, Nation, Civilisation; Religious Aspects of the Present Turmoil”) titled “The Social Contract with the Logos.”
Mark Richardson blogs at OzConservative, and Australian traditionalist conservative website of social and political commentary. He has been published at the Independent Australian and is the Convenor of the Melbourne Traditionalists network (Melbourne, Australia). Mark Richardson has been one of Australia’s chief representatives of traditionalist conservatism in the Anglosphere. He can be found on Twitter (@MarkRichardson2) and Gab.ai (@MelbourneTrads).
Ideas are for Action as the Bow is for the Arrow
Valdis Grinsteins is an international activist working with the Tradition Family Property organisation founded by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. While Valdis is predominantly based in Central Northern Europe and South America, on those occasions he has visited Australia he has had a close working relationship with the Sydney Traditionalist Forum and local reactionaries in the Sydney region. Valdis Grinstein’s last contribution to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum was to its First 2017 Symposium (“The Future of Western Identity: Problems and Possibilities, Obstacles and Opportunities”) titled “Identity and the New Nationalism: Where is it Going in Eastern Europe.”
This article is to be cited according to the following convention:
The Editors, “Introduction and Welcome to the Second 2017 Symposium of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum” SydneyTrads – Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum (24 December 2017) <sydneytrads.com/2017/12/24/second-symposium-introduction-and-welcome> (accessed [date]).