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Weekend Listen: The Theory of Revolution
A discussion with members of the “dissident Right” on the true nature of the Left.
As part of the launch for my new book, America’s Cultural Revolution, the “dissident Right” magazine IM–1776 hosted a live discussion on Twitter Spaces with various mostly pseudonymous writers. The conversation was challenging, wide-ranging, and, in my opinion, enlightening. The session was attended by more than 13,000 people; I’m publishing it here as a podcast.
The following are lightly edited highlights from our discussion.
Titus Techera on the invisible revolution of 1968:
Americans truly do not believe that the late 1960s and 1970s happened. You can tell them, but you’d have to be Christopher Rufo to get them to listen. Some of these revolutionary trends just have to be faced. These stories need to be told until people realize that this is America. And, as Christopher makes the case, the revolution went from shocking things being done in the streets to shocking things being done through institutions, regulations, and legal changes. And people became obedient. Conservatives have failed to do the job that Chris does in this book: explaining what the hell happened. Without that, there can’t be a further step.
Benjamin Braddock on the opening passage of America’s Cultural Revolution:
I really enjoyed the book and the style of it. The first page starts off with this great anecdote about Angela Davis, who, during a tour of the Soviet Union, was approached by a group of Czech dissidents who asked her to speak out on behalf of political prisoners in the USSR. She responded: “They deserve what they get. Let them remain in prison.” It’s a great vignette because it clearly ties in the genealogy of the radical American Left with international communism. It’s not a homegrown version of leftism that we’re dealing with. It’s something steeped in Maoism, going all the way back to Marx. It’s a deeply foreign ideology that’s been transplanted into our country.
Aristophanes on the history and philosophy of the radical Left:
Before this book came out, when people wanted to get educated about this time period and its implications for current events, I had always recommended Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough. But from now on, I will be recommending America’s Cultural Revolution because it includes a lot of that same history, but it’s also very comprehensive, well-researched, and well-written. I noticed something in the conclusion, where Chris writes, “The dialectic had a tremendous power of disintegration, but it was incapable of establishing a new ground of truth and consequently building a real-world alternative to the liberal society.” It occurred to me how similar that idea is to the J.R.R. Tolkien quote: “Evil cannot create anything new. They can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made.”
Lafayette Lee on the combination of theory and practice:
I really enjoyed this book. It’s very important. It’s timely. What makes it such a success is that it doesn’t simply focus on ideology. It’s accessible to everyone. Chris does the really difficult work of putting the theory into a digestible form, then pairing it with its institutional corollaries. So, we have meat, but we have bone, as well. And that’s always been what’s missing in our discourse, especially on the Right, where we tend to be far behind because we focus so much on the theory. It’s been very difficult for us to develop an appreciation for power and for how these theories play out in the real world.
Martyr Made on the need for resisting pessimism:
One of the things I really appreciate about this book is that it is geared toward educating the people who must be reached if we’re actually going to get anything done—namely, the people who understand, if only intuitively, how profoundly degraded our culture and politics have become, but who haven’t become so pessimistic that they despair at the possibility of ever accomplishing anything. Something I’ve always appreciated about Christopher is that he is interested in getting things done, and any history and theory that he’s writing about is going to be in the service of that goal. This book, while it’s a work of history, is really designed to give the reader an understanding of the problem that can help him take action. As far as I’m concerned, Christopher is probably the best at doing this.
Lomez on the nature of political activism:
This is an excellent book. It demonstrates a deep understanding of these theorists and their project, but it makes those ideas accessible and strips away much of the obscurantism that the theorists often use to hide their projects. As I was reading this, I was taken aback by how depraved, awful, and sociopathic some of these people are; at the same time, I gained a begrudging respect for their tactical effectiveness, their courage, and their perseverance. The “long march through the institutions” was truly a long march, in that it demanded lots of endurance and required the radicals to wear down normal, sane people. There is an obvious asymmetry between right-wing and left-wing activism and how they are treated. What does that asymmetry tell us about how we can best carry out our own campaign? What do we do about this asymmetry – and what can we learn from these people?