Sunday, 3 January 2021

How the Neocons Destroyed Southern Conservatism

 By Boyd Cathey

No discussion of Southern conservatism, its history and its relationship to what is termed broadly the “American conservative movement” would be complete without an examination of events that have transpired over the past fifty years and the pivotal role of the powerful intellectual current known as Neoconservatism.

From the 1950s into the 1980s Southerners who defended the traditions of the South, and even more so, of the Confederacy, were welcomed as allies and confreres by their Northern and Western counterparts. William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review and Dr. Russell Kirk’s Modern Age, perhaps the two leading conservative journals of the period, welcomed Southerners into the “movement” and onto the pages of those organs of conservative thought.  Kirk dedicated an entire issue of Modern Age to the South and its traditions, and explicitly supported its historic defense of the originalist constitutionalism of the Framers. And throughout the critical period that saw the enactment of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Buckley’s magazine defended the “Southern position,” arguing forcefully on constitutional grounds that the proposed legislation would undercut not just the guaranteed rights of the states but the protected rights of citizens.

Southern authors like Mel Bradford, Richard Weaver, Clyde Wilson and James J. Kilpatrick lent their intelligence, skill as writers, and arguments to a defense of the South. Yet by the late 1980s, that “Southern voice” had pretty much been exiled—expelled—from major establishment conservative journals. Indeed, friendly writers from outside the South, but who were identified with what became known as the Old Right, that is, the non-Neoconservative “right,” were also soon purged from the mastheads of the conservative “mainstream” organs of opinion: noted authors such as Bradford (from National Review), Sam Francis (from The Washington Times), Paul Gottfried (from Modern Age) and others were soon shown the door.

What had happened? How had the movement that began with such promise in the 1950s, essentially with the publication of Kirk’s seminal volume, The Conservative Mind (1953), descended into internecine purges, excommunications, and the sometimes brutal triumph of those—the Neoconservatives—who only a few years earlier had militated in the cadres of the Marxist Left?

To address this question we need to examine the history of the non-Stalinist Left in the United States after World War II. And we need to indicate and pinpoint significant differences between those—the so-called Neocons—who made the pilgrimage from the Left into the conservative movement, and those more traditional conservatives, whose basic beliefs and philosophy were at odds with the newcomers.

In this traversal I utilize the insights of a long list of writers and historians, including the late Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk and Mel Bradford, and more recently, Paul Gottfried and Gary Dorrien—plus my own experiences in witnessing what I term “the great brain robbery of the American conservative movement.”  That is, what can only be described as a subversion and, ultimately, radical transformation of an older American “conservatism” and pattern of thinking by those who, for lack of better words, must be called “leftist refugees” from the more globalist Trotskyite form of Marxism.  Continue reading at ...

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