Left and Right

Point of Compact

A neocon attacks the paleocons.

By Ronald Radosh, Quillette

The late literary critic and social democrat Irving Howe once quipped that when radicals fail to build a movement, they start a magazine. Howe knew what he was talking about—his own magazine, Dissent, was one of them. The latest example of this truism is a new webzine called Compact, established as a rallying point for writers and thinkers from Left and Right fed up with the prevailing liberal consensus. “Our editorial choices,” explain the founders, “are shaped by our desire for a strong social-democratic state that defends community—local and national, familial and religious—against a libertine left and a libertarian right.”

The launch was greeted with a spasm of attention from the American press. The New York Times culture columnist, Jennifer Schuessler, published a lukewarm interview with the three co-founders. Two thinkpieces followed in New York magazine’s widely read online publication, the Intelligencer. The more thorough and devastating of these was by Eric Levitz, who methodically took apart Compact’s contradictions and the poor arguments of some of its contributors. At socialist publication Jacobin, meanwhile, Ben Burgis expressed skepticism about the editors’ declared sympathy for social democracy.

Compact is the political project of two religious traditionalists and a left-wing populist. Matthew Schmitz is a Catholic convert who was, until recently, senior editor at the conservative religious magazine, First Things. Edwin Aponte was previously the founder and editor of the Bellows, a Marxist webzine that stands for “working-class populism for the future.” Sohrab Ahmari is perhaps the most prominent of the three, having worked as an editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal, then senior writer at Commentary, and finally as opinion editor at the New York Post from 2018.


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