Beautiful losers: the Confederate microcosm and the right
The American Civil War serves as a useful microcosm for all right-wing Western politics—particularly as regards the way the South conducted herself in that war. To recap the situation:
1. The Confederate cause was just: the Confederates stood for the original principles upon which America was founded—particularly, secession; they were “the Rebels”, just like the original Sons of Liberty—General Lee was even related to Washington directly through his wife. Additionally, they stood for free trade, the protection of private property, individual liberty, Christianity, and chivalric knightly values—along with a gentility and civility towards women, with Southern women as ideal homemakers and helpmeets.
2. The Confederates lost because they were too principled: hence, in a modern industrialised war, they refused to centralise their military and political structures into a unified command—since to do so would violate the principles the South fought for, would violate the rights of the states. Hence the South’s military forces were not concentrated, her command was dispersed for a time, and there was no “grand strategy” that coordinated military and political objectives. Meanwhile, the North centralised herself under Lincoln—effectively a military dictator.
3. Additionally, since they were too principled, the South refused to meet the basic requirements for the war because, for example, they would not requisition supplies or occupy private buildings. Hence Lee, at the war’s end, was short on rations even though tonnes of material was stockpiled in nearby Richmond—his wife even wrote to him to complain that the South was riven with cynical price-gougers and hoarders who needed to be dealt with. Yet nothing was done—on principle.
4. The South was tactically brilliant, as instantiated both by Lee and also by the very individualistic warrior ethic (the “Rebel yell”) found in the Southern soldier. However, brilliancy in independent tactics was ultimately useless without a clear centralised strategy—and this was absent due to (2). Insofar as there was a strategy, it was to “count on cotton” and wait for a Europe—probably England with her Manchester mills—desperate for cotton to intervene on the Rebel side. This never materialised and, as with Putin’s failed push to Kiev, when the original plan failed there was no backup. The North, for her part, knew exactly what she had to do: occupy the entire South—a difficult task, given the South’s size and poor communication links, but a clear objective to grind away at.
5. In a point connected to (4), the individual Southern soldier was a formidable and tenacious warrior—an independent “aristocrat” and freelancer, a berserker. Psychologically, he fought for his home, whereas many Union troops were new immigrants from Germany and Ireland (“Welcome to the New World, good news lads—now you’ve escaped political oppression and economic depression at home, you’re newly conscripted to fight in the most bloody mechanised war ever seen in human history!”). Additionally, more established and richer people could buy themselves out of the draft—riots ensued. However, the North ultimately created a very average “machine man” soldier, and the disciplined blue mass triumphed over the independent valiant grey—in modern war, there are objectives that counterintuitively can only be met by “grinding on when the odds seem impossible”, the independent Reb intuitively scarpered long before the time required for “scientific victory” had elapsed.
6. The South was somewhat lost in illusions about romance, chivalry, and honour—and Christianity. This prevented a clear assessment as regards the situation and also precluded some obvious tactics. The South could have fought a very savage and effective guerrilla war—and did, to a certain extent. Yet to do so was fundamentally ungentlemanly, unchivalric, and unChristian—and so the South lost a key advantage she could have deployed. Her Southern culture was an advantage when it boosted morale and created a potent myth, such as the myth around Lee, and yet it also prevented an objective assessment of the situation and led to futile behaviour for the sake of “honour” (the enemy was never going to be honourable).
I think you can immediately see many parallels between the Confederate cause and the contemporary political right. In both cases, the cause is just and “the Rebs” are polite and chivalric—though they are depicted as hate-filled monsters by their opponents. In terms of the issues at stake, slavery would have been abolished anyway, it had only been artificially extended by certain innovations to the cotton gin; the war to end slavery was useless and destructive and only occurred due to influence from fanatics (Harriet Beecher Stowe and John “mouldering body” Brown)—if everyone had a little patience, the issue would have resolved peacefully in forty or fifty years. Instead the Republic was destroyed, an oppressive empire created, and hundreds of thousands died; as with all such utopian schemes, as with BLM and LGBT, the people who were supposed to be helped, the slaves, suffered most—they died in their thousands after emancipation, unable to fend for themselves in the chaos.
Again, the right wins tactical victories and yet loses the war—and the reason is the same, a principled decision not to form a centre (partly difficult due to the strong independent personalities involved) leads the right to win spectacular victories and yet lose the war. The left has a single objective—equality, the destruction of all that exists—and drives away at it with monomaniacal determination. The right has better individual warriors, warriors of higher quality—yet the left can deploy a very disciplined, very average, very uniform mass to pursue its strategy. You can “massacre” thousands of NPCs—yet more sprout up immediately, just like all those Irish and German conscripts.
Where the right could win, with Trump being equivalent to “guerrilla warfare”, it develops all these scruples connected to manners, modern-day chivalry, and residual (if false) Christianity in order not to take the steps that could grant victory. The whole romance that surrounds be “the gentleman” and “the wronged party” is seen as sufficient alone to grant victory, perhaps even suggests divine intervention—though few actually believe that today. Ironically, it is more aristocratic to pragmatically deal with reality rather than to be guided by an abstract ideology (however “aristocratic” it is in theory). Hence the right tends to lose with her principles intact—although the left, as with Lee, hates the pusillanimous right more than ever because they are so weakly “nice”.
Consequently, although “the Rebs” are always correct—have a just cause—they always lose; and they are always, in line with their own ideals, “beautiful losers” who are fated to lose—everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost (that’s how it goes, everybody knows). They are the responsible people who work hard and follow the rules—and then they are screwed over by unscrupulous people infected with a fanatical idea who are prepared to “do anything” to get ahead. Indeed, the Confederacy was truly America—she kept alive the principles of the American Revolution—and the best American film is Gone with the Wind (still adored by women, I tried it on my girlfriend) because it is the most quintessentially American film (Birth of a Nation is about the birth of the Union, not the South). Rhett Butler, *sigh*.
So, does this mean the right is perpetually doomed to lose gloriously—to be beautiful losers forever? Does this explain why they are so melancholy? Well, they could learn from the above lessons—always an option. Contrary to the maxim, people do learn from history—for example, after the idiocy of the Versailles treaty there was no second version; although there almost was (the Morgenthau Plan)—so people do learn from history, just with great difficulty. So the right can get better, it can have a strategy—it can beat the left. There can be another Gone with the Wind, from an alternative universe, where the South wins.
You know, it must be possible—after all, Reagan and Thatcher reduced the size of the state, put down domestic leftist insurgencies (the miners), and hastened the end of the Cold War (the few with acuity knew the USSR was finished by the 1950s, Thatcher and Reagan shaved perhaps twenty to thirty years off the inevitable end). Now, technically, the state grew as a whole under Thatcher and Reagan—yes, I know; and yet they did shave off parts here and there—they did push back. What does this prove, albeit on a very small scale? The right can push back left-wing ideas; it can be done.
The slogan “America is a Communist Country” is innovative, yet it also misleads and dampens resistance. America is a communist country with a small “c”—it is not a Leninist country. The West does not live under Communism: the Royal Family have not all been shot, St. Paul’s has not been blown up and replaced by a municipal swimming pool for “the people”, the top 150 companies have not been fully nationalised, it is not mandatory to nationalise any business with more than 50 employees, I will not be shot for writing this article (and what a loss to human history that would be, to lose a world-historic person such as myself!)…The list goes on; it is true that at the metapolitical level America and the West are guided by small-“c” communism—it could become much more total, it is not yet; and to think of it as “Communism” misleads and makes resistance seem futile—the right still has acres, albeit acres that are rapidly shrinking, of space to manoeuvre in.
If left-wing ideas and policies can be rolled back to some extent—even if the state was not fully “rolled back” as Thatcherite romanticisation would have it—then it must be possible to carry out a more comprehensive restoration. The situation is not hopeless; and yet rightists will remain stuck as romantic “beautiful losers” so long as they fail to learn the lessons from the Confederacy’s defeat.