Left and Right

Not Right-Wing Marxists

By Paul Gottfried, Law and Liberty

Law and Liberty and one day later National Review brought out provocative reviews of the Paleoconservative Anthology, a work that I edited which came out in February. Although both reviews were instructive, they were not entirely accurate in presenting the anthology’s contents. Michael Lucchese at Law and Liberty and his seconding voice at National Review, Bobby Miller, seem to have reduced all paleoconservative ideas and policies to the populist views of Sam Francis. If memory serves, only one of the thirteen essays that appear in the anthology addresses Sam Francis’s work in detail, a study by Pedro Gonzalez dealing mostly with European and American influences on Francis’s account of circulating elites. How Lucchese moved from that scholarly essay into an attack on all paleoconservatives as “right-wing Marxists” defies my understanding.

Lucchese and Miller both insist that paleoconservatism represents a grave departure from a conservative tradition going back to Bill Buckley and perhaps best personified by Russell Kirk. But that tradition always existed in the plural as “traditions,” and many of the most famous conservatives of the second half of the twentieth century identified in varying degrees with the paleoconservatives, who reacted against the neoconservative ascendancy in the fractured conservative movement of the 1980s. Robert Nisbet’s review of my book The Search for Historical Meaning, which appeared in National Review in July 1986, Russell Kirk’s caustic denunciation of neoconservative influence on the conservative movement delivered at the Heritage Foundation in 1988, and weekly meetings of anti-neoconservative dignitaries held in various venues in the District in 1986–1987, all suggest that paleoconservatives were once hardly marginal to American conservatism.

Kirk, who Lucchese and Miller both exalt as a paradigmatic conservative thinker, was the Michigan manager of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992 and a co-organizer of that enterprise the preceding year. He, Sam Francis, Murray Rothbard, and I were all at the meeting at Buchanan’s home at which the foundations were laid for his supposedly radical rightist presidential run. By then a memorable meeting had already taken place at the New York Union Club, on January 22, 1990, under the direction of Buckley, Norman Podhoretz, and Midge Decter. The purpose of that gathering, as explained by the late Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, was to marginalize “certain people who were not invited because they made a career out of attacking people who were there.” These eliminationist efforts were ultimately successful, and the losing side was canceled for having rattled neocon journalists and Republican donors once too often.


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