Debunking The Horseshoe Theory Once And For All
Submitted by James Lawrence
As I have argued in a recent article, there is no going back to classical liberalism, and the illusion that we can do so is a major factor preventing our people from defending themselves. Liberalism has opened the door to culture-destroying progressivism, masked its takeover of our countries by presenting a show of formal continuity, and lacks the means of purging it. Those who would save the West are thus forced to search outside liberalism for a political framework that can do the job.
To the Alt-Right, there is nothing new in the repression campaign being carried out today by the Left: the violent domestic terrorism of Antifa thugs, the corporate persecution of moderate dissent, the descent of “respectable” media and government organizations into Pravdaite ranting about Russian and Chinese conspiracies. Repression of non-leftist speech goes back a long way; so do Antifa attacks on Right-wing protesters under the euphemism of “counter-protesting”, as seen in the case of the EDL in Britain; and the Western media have never done a good impression of “impartiality” on any of this, which is why violent Antifa tactics only garnered serious media attention once they were directed against the administration of a US President. But today there is a difference of degree, if not of kind: never before have so many people been subjected to the stigmatization and harassment previously reserved for a small minority, and this gives us an unprecedented chance to wake our people up from the slumber of liberal “eternal vigilance”.
However, we cannot assume that mere exposure to leftist illiberalism will be a sufficient condition for this awakening. If this was the case, we would not see so many people who are highly informed on the progressivist cultural revolution — who may understand that it is promoted by entrenched elites, and buttressed by the importation of a non-liberal population from outside the West — and who yet insist on a return to classical liberalism while rejecting all other options. I am not referring to mainstream conservatives (from whom we can only expect spinelessness and senility); I mean the younger crowd fighting the illiberal Left outside the hard core of the Alt-Right, such as ‘Alt-Lite’ civic nationalists and cultural libertarians, and especially the ‘Skeptic’ classical liberals epitomised by the Youtuber Sargon of Akkad.
It does little good to simply pile up the facts of progressivist and non-white illiberalism before such people, and assume these facts can speak for themselves. Instead, we need to identify and refute certain ideas held by classical liberal restorationists. (And then mock the hell out of them in memes, of course, but that comes later.)
One of the most important of these ideas is the Horseshoe Theory, which asserts that the “far” Left and Right closely resemble each other in their collectivism, authoritarianism, and extremism while differing from the liberal political center. As incapacitating myths go, this is an ingenious one: however flagrantly the Left might trample liberal norms in its pursuit of power, any attempt to organize the sort of movement that could fight back against this entails “becoming just as bad”. The anger and reactive energy that might be directed outward at the Left swings back in the direction of moralistic self-policing – like a boomerang, or indeed, a horseshoe.
And yet there is a superficial truth to this. The Left and the Alt-Right are both concerned with the practical business of getting and holding power or at least preventing the political enemy from doing so. Both are ‘collectivist’ in the sense that they seek to organize racial groups: white Europeans in the case of the Alt-Right, a mongrel anti-white coalition in the case of the Left. While liberals might debate over tea – or, at most, shout a few slogans in a free speech protest — the Left and Alt-Right meet each other in the street armed with pepper spray and homemade shields. The accusation of “racist” from the Left is met by the similar accusation of “anti-white” from the Alt-Right. The Left metes out political repression to the Alt-Right, and many people on the Alt-Right wish to suppress the Left as a threat to the social and national cohesion of the West. And it is possible that there are certain types of people — not necessarily the more pleasant types — who are attracted to both the Left and Alt-Right and repelled by liberalism.
But let us look at this in another way. Recall that — as I have said — the Left has won hegemony for its illiberal programme by refusing to play by liberal rules, despite the fact that the wishes of most Western people incline towards liberal norms. Consider also that ethnic minorities, by organizing (or allowing themselves to be organized) on the basis of race, have reduced the majority population of whites to a state of abject passivity in which they constantly fear making the slightest “disrespectful” faux pas. Although there are powerful forces behind the shock troops of the Left, this outcome is just the typical result of an organized gang with weapons descending on a vast atomised crowd of strangers trained in Marquess of Queensberry boxing. Holding to liberal individualism and rules of political conduct does not mean preserving your freedom, but losing it to whichever ‘collectivist’ group decides to make you its tame little bitch.
It is no use throwing the “past victories” of liberal countries at me by way of refutation. Liberalism in its heyday could rely for social cohesion on the borrowed capital of religion, which is now all but exhausted. It also had a focal point of common loyalty in the form of the nation-state, which is being undermined and turned into a battleground for competing groups. Liberalism today, which has doubled down on all of its most anachronistic dogmas, can only manifest itself specifically in the type of “man” found in mainstream conservatism: a self-interested intellectual hustler, peddling ideas that require no more fidelity to realism than bestselling fantasy novels, and hiring himself out to vested interests while responding to every attack with a timid strategic retreat.
Let us imagine a polity in which the legitimate ruler has died, and designate the three components of the Horseshoe Theory as follows: the Left as a band of usurpers leading a foreign army, the Alt-Right as a native militia forming up to defend its homeland, and liberalism as a long-irrelevant Senate reduced in practice to a gentleman’s debating club. Certainly, to the peaceable senators in their talking-shop, the two armies on the battlefield might look much the same as each other; and given that any sort of combat involves tactical imitation, tit-for-tat reprisals, and so on, they may also do many of the same things. This is where we get the idea that the Alt-Right and the Left, two political movements characterized by organization and militancy, are “the same thing”. But it is only the narrowness of the liberal view that equates subjugation to a foreign invader (which is, regardless of formalities, what is spelled out by the combination of replacement immigration and leftist anti-whitism) with organization for self-defense against it because both involve a “loss of individual freedom”. Liberalism in its current form is truly a sick and decadent ideology, a humanist immuno-deficiency virus that destroys the self-defense capabilities of any society infected by it.
(Of course, having said all this, I know that the Left uses similar arguments against liberals in the hope of converting them to “punching Nazis”. Where I have asked how anyone can equate an invading army with a home defense militia, they will ask how anyone can equate the side that is against oppression with the one that is in favor of it. This does not mean that both arguments are distortions of an infallible middle ground, but that one has to think about them and judge the truth without resorting to simplistic dogmas. And this can be difficult for “enlightened” types because human reason is a tool to be used, and rusts over when it is set on an altar and worshipped — which gives us a clue as to the reason for the Horseshoe Theory’s popularity. )
Let us move on to the issue of the similarity in rhetoric between the Left and the Alt-Right. As I have said, the Left accuses the Alt-Right of being “racist”, and the Alt-Right counters with the charge of “anti-white”. The Left attributes the heritage of colonialism to the Alt-Right, and the Alt-Right shoots back that the Left is colonizing Europe. This can give the appearance of a rhetorical bedlam dominated by childish tit-for-tat accusations, and at times this is indeed the case, at least wherever mere back-and-forth insults are concerned.
However, at the logical level, there is a principle that would justify this style of counter-accusation directed at the Left. We might call it the Projection Principle. Sean Gabb grasps the essence of it in the book Cultural Revolution, Culture War:
And this is what makes the various kinds of Marxist and neo-Marxist analysis so peculiarly appropriate to the actions of our new rulers. These analyses accurately describe how the minds of our rulers work. […] Because they believe that tolerance is repressive, they are repressive. Because they do not believe that objectivity is possible, they make no attempt at objectivity. […] Because they believe that liberal democracy is a facade behind which a ruling class hides its ruthless hold on power, they are making a sham of liberal democracy.
Although psychological explanations are far from implausible here, it makes for a tighter argument to leave them aside, and say only that this logic works because of the present-day moral need to frame every act of aggression as pre-emption or self-defense. Wherever we find the calculated use of an imaginary and baseless accusation, we can employ the Projection Principle to reverse the accusation, and thus make a basic stab at the aggressive motives behind it (although this method is not infallible and might be baffled by sophisticated accusations).
For example, taking the famously discredited “pre-emptive strike” on Iraq in 2003 for the sake of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, we would apply the principle as follows:
- Original accusation: “Iraq has obtained WMDs and intends to aggress against other states”
- Reversed accusation: “Those accusing Iraq have WMDs and intend to aggress against other states”
At first glance, this looks like a shallow tu quoque, but it crucially focuses the reason for the attack on Iraq upon the possession of WMDs by the aggressors. A little refinement of this would give us the following reason for the Iraq War: the power of Jewish neoconservatives as a driving force in the American government, their desire to maintain Israeli nuclear hegemony over the Arab world, and their willingness to attack and neutralise any Arab state that might challenge this hegemony at any time. This explanation has started to look very plausible indeed as the “war for oil” theory collapses under its own inaccuracies and contradictions, and a persuasive case for it is made by James Petras in The Power of Israel in the United States.
By applying the Projection Principle to the accusations made by progressivists against whites, males, tradition, religion and so on, we can often gain insight into their true aggressive motives, which immediately blow away the usual liberal and conservative guff about “oversensitivity” and “misguided good intentions”. A few examples will serve to demonstrate this.
Progressivists state that Western society is a racial hierarchy in which whites have unearned “white privilege”, and should thus be subjected to appropriate redress. Reversing this would tell us that it is progressivists who are setting up a racial hierarchy and system of racial privilege, and that “redress” is merely a justification for this. And this is true: the word privilege (“private law”) does not apply to any of the real and imagined white advantages listed by progressivists, but it certainly applies to legalised anti-white employment preferences and informal exemption of non-whites from “hate speech” persecution, as well as to the concept of state-protected minorities in general.
Similarly, progressivists erect strong taboos against certain epithets (e.g. nigger, slut) likely to be used against their political allies, and seek to criminalize verbal abuse against themselves on the basis of unprovable dangers to subjective feelings. Reversing this yields the insight that it is the progressivists who wish to mete out verbal abuse, and that their hysteria over “offensive” words is just a means of silencing possible counterattacks. And indeed it is the stock progressivist epithets such as “racist”, “homophobe”, “transphobe” – and especially “Nazi”, now being openly promoted as a general epithet for a non-Cosmopolitan European – that not only strike at their targets’ subjective feelings, but also have objective repercussions on their reputations, which violates the ancient prohibition on slander accepted even by stringent free-speech advocates.
More generally, progressivists claim a moral imperative to suppress “hate speech”, implying that this kind of speech is inherently destructive of social harmony. The obvious rejoinder is that they are just trying to insulate their non-white, female and ‘LGBT’ coalition against criticism; but reversing the accusation also gives us the insight that it is progressivists who are spreading actual hate speech. And this is also true: not only do they create new foreign communities in Western countries and stir them up into an anti-white lather on the basis of the most petty excuses, they also stir up pointless and unresolvable bitterness between the two sexes, and even invent new social antagonisms like “trans” vs. “cis” in order to generate the hatred and social conflict from which they benefit. (In contrast, much of what progressivists call “hate speech” — such as opposition to Muslim immigration into Western countries — is aimed at reducing this conflict.)
Feminist dogma asserts that “rape is about power, not sex” — and according to the feminist movement, this desire to exert power over women is universal to “patriarchal” culture, so the crime of rape cannot be eliminated until this supposed root cause is changed. While feminists have used this to displace responsibility for rape onto men and society as a whole, reversing it tells us that it is a feminist desire for power that gives rise to this position on rape. The truth of this becomes clear once we envisage how society might combat rape envisaged as the product of a tendency towards male domination of women — the only option would be to give lots of jobs, power and status to feminists, so they can critique and theorise and legislate the “root cause” away, for in any case, their university qualifications have equipped them for nothing else. A young woman who chimes along with feminist criticism of the police (a rival for public funding in response to rape hysteria), or copies their outrage towards rape prevention through female prudence (an existential threat to feminist livelihoods), is making a Faustian pact with the only major group in society that has a vested interest in rape.
In a wider sense, progressivists are fond of the idea that all social structures represent arbitrary arrangments of power (this was originally applied by Michel Foucault to criticise mental wards and hospitals, although he had the decency to shut up about it after he was hospitalized for AIDS). The Alt-Right rejects this and insists on a social order geared to the common good; but we can reverse it to get the idea that organization of disadvantaged groups by progressivists is motivated by their own desire for power, as the history of leftist revolutions makes obvious. And when progressivists claim that Group A (e.g. “homosexuals who want to marry”) is being persecuted by Group B (e.g. religious and social traditionalists), we should reverse the moral picture to understand that they are not defending Group A but rather attacking Group B. Gay marriage in a church is to Christianity what bacon in a mosque is to Islam, but only one of these “progressive reforms” can result in state-overseen death for those advocating it.
I could pile up examples like this almost indefinitely, but I’m sure you get the idea. To return to my original argument, in light of the Projection Principle, the use of near-identical accusatory rhetoric on the Left and the Alt-Right does not justify the Horseshoe Theory. Of course, my argument requires of liberals that they engage in that thinking thingamajig again, to discern baseless and projected accusations from legitimate ones — and this, as we have seen, may be too much to ask of them.
By this point, I ought to say a long overdue word on how we should envisage the difference between Left and Right. My answer is that there is not really much wrong with the conventional idea of a spectrum, but that the placement of ideologies upon it is usually far too short-sighted. Taking a longer view, we can say that the Right shows the tendency to preserve a given organic social order and its founding principles, whereas the Left shows the tendency to dissolve that social order and replace its principles with the power of the central authority. Looking at the left-hand side of the spectrum, this clears up any misunderstanding about the relation of anarchism, libertinism, and anti-whitism on the one hand to totalitarianism, political correctness and globalist elitism on the other: as de Jouvenel’s work On Power makes clear, they are two sides of the same coin.
On the right-hand side, we must also employ nuance, as many older forms of the Western social order are lost to us for good, and Rightist defense or reaction against the Left requires us to balance the upholding of principles with the use of available possibilities. Libertarianism looks back to the early bourgeois order that inspired classical liberalism; but it cannot restore this order because its defense of property rights ignores the transition from capitalism to managerialism, and thus it has become little more than mental self-stimulation for those who are better suited to the autistic spectrum than the political one. Fascism does a better job of defending the social order but is compromised in its theory by several leftist elements, which may cause it to slide to the Left.
Those on the Right must thus:
- Envisage a basic line of degeneration from the beginning of the social order in the distant past to its eventual dissolution in the future
- Discern a ground on that line that can be defended by conservatism or captured by reaction, neither unattainable nor overly compromised
- Imbue or re-imbue that chosen ground as far as possible with the original principles of the traditional social order
According to this view, Right and Left are far removed from each other in principle, and their observed similarities are superficial ones of form and tactics. But in order to substantiate this, and finally put the Horseshoe Theory to rest, we must make a brief step into a controversial subject: the relation of Communism to National Socialism. Without wishing to defend Hitler’s regime or exonerate it for any of its bloodshed, I shall affirm from the start that it was fundamentally ‘of the Right’ according to my definition, while Communism was fundamentally ‘of the Left’.
The standard Western myth of these regimes goes something like this. Nazism was and is an unique and universal evil, the eternal shadow-self of Western civilization, which has its seeds in the centuries of our history and its spawn in the present day. Soviet Communism, however, was a heresy of misapplied Enlightenment ideals and good intentions, whose progenitors tweaked the levers of utopianism wrong and — whoops-a-daisy! — ended up with a bloody totalitarian state under the nominally Communist dictator Stalin. Although this regime used brutal terror and mass-murder methods similar to those of the Nazis, the moral significance of these crimes was not the same, and the positive result of Stalinism was to modernize the Soviet Union and defeat the Nazi regime that would otherwise have brought a new Dark Ages to Europe. This is an inverted view of history, in which Communism rescues the social order of the West by reacting against National Socialism.
Fortunately for us, the first crack in the fake scenery is quite obvious here. No amount of “interpretation” can change the chronological relation of the date 1917, year of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, to the dates 1922 and 1933, years of the Fascist and National Socialist seizures of power in Italy and Germany. So in order to avoid awkward conclusions about who was “defending” against whom — and whose tactics and methods inspired whom to imitate them — the first subtle distortion is to push back the appearance of the “bad” totalitarian Communism to the rise of Stalin in the 1920s, and to partially assimilate this dictator to Fascism by assuming him to have been a nominal Communist who betrayed the “good” legacy of Lenin and Trotsky.
Obviously, this is utter bullshit. Although the early Bolsheviks made a show of introducing populist legislation at the beginning of their rule (which mostly got thrown out of the window after the start of the Russian Civil War), they had taken power in a vanguardist coup d’etat and set up a centralized one-party state very soon after the Revolution. It was Lenin’s regime that instituted a reign of political terror, setting up the Cheka secret police that would later evolve into the Stalinist NKVD, and throwing people into concentration camps as early as 1919 for being “enemies of the people”. The “battle for grain” against the peasantry saw armed brigades occupy villages, requisition grain, and torture and kill those resisting peasants castigated by Lenin as kulaks. For all Lenin’s lip service paid to “self-determination”, his expansionism was shown in the attempts to start pro-Soviet revolutions in the Baltic states, and in the failed invasion of Poland in 1920. All of this clearly prefigures Stalinism — and conversely, the idea of Stalin’s “nominal Communism” is refuted in the essay collection Stalin: A New History, which states that he employed Marxist concepts in both public and private and that his non-fiction library consisted mostly of Marxist works.
Add to this picture the violent insurrectionism of Communist parties in the Western countries, and we get the main reason for the rise of nationalist movements in Europe that can be grouped under the term “fascism”, as well as the set of tactics and methods from which they felt they had to draw in order to defeat the Communist threat to Europe. National Socialism, which grew out of this, was heavily influenced by the threat of the Bolshevik revolution and its aftershocks in Germany, and the anti-Semitism of Hitler was further influenced by the overrepresentation of Jews in the Bolshevik party of Russia and the Communist movements in Europe. So to say, for example, that Soviet Russia played the role of rescuing Europe’s Jews from Nazi Germany, is nonsense; without the Bolshevik revolution, there would have been no Hitler regime and no war against the Jews in Germany. This is an important point to make because the so-called “Antifa”, whose very name contains a subtle lie, have inherited the myth that Communism defends the social order by reacting against National Socialism; divested of it, they revert to what they really are, leftist thugs carrying out their revolutionary politics by beating and intimidating dissenters.
On the subject of the atrocity record of these regimes, it is important for us to remember that Stalin’s regime slaughtered more innocent people than Hitler’s, and that the worldwide history of Communism amounts to a monumental human disaster totalling perhaps 100 million victims (the upper estimate given in the Black Book of Communism). Logically, then, the pinnacle of evil should surely belong to Communism — but the court-historians of the West, “writing with the bread before their eyes” as Schopenhauer said, will use any sophistry to get out of that conclusion.
“Hitler’s crimes were morally worse because he intended genocide” — but Stalin’s regime had already committed a peacetime genocide against the Ukrainians before Hitler’s regime had even got into the stirrups. “Hitler was worse because he intended foreign aggression and conquest” — but Stalin helped himself to much of Eastern Europe under the 1939 non-aggression pact with Germany, and recent research in Russia (summarised in the book Stalin’s Other War) suggests that the USSR would have invaded Germany had it not been invaded first. “The Nazi method of killing by poison gas was uniquely evil” — well, there are reports of “mobile gas vans” being used by the Soviet NKVD to murder people during the 1930s Great Purge. “The Communist project garners a certain sympathy because it was in line with Enlightenment ideals” — this is another case of killing human reason by worshipping it, as any truly open mind would want to put Enlightenment ideals on trial in light of their resultant butchery, not call the ideals into the witness-stand to plead clemency for the butchery.
However, no more need be said on this. As I have stated, I have no desire to defend the atrocities of National Socialism, and weighing up death tolls is, in any case, a distasteful business. More vital to my argument is the question of whether National Socialism was totalitarian in the same way as Communism undoubtedly was. Recall that I have described the Left as a symbiosis of social corrosion and centralized tyranny, and the Right as a tendency towards defending the traditional and organic social order. If National Socialism was totalitarian in the same way as Stalinism, then either it was ‘of the Left’, or it converged with the Left in much the same way as is suggested by the Horseshoe Theory.
Much of what we understand by the term “totalitarianism”, through Orwell and other writers, primarily evokes Stalinist Russia: social control by the central government, the crushing of any hint of dissent, the command economy in which private property is liquidated, the ever-present secret police, the terror campaigns by the state and the pervasive climate of fear among the people. Most people today imagine that Germany under Hitler was organised in a similar fashion — for this is the impression given by the heavily promoted accounts of those persecuted by it, i.e. Jews, and modern-day Germans mortified at their people’s enthusiastic support for the regime up to 1945 don’t exactly have a vested interest in dissenting from these accounts.
But the truth is quite different. While the NS regime forcefully bent key institutions like the state, army, and Reichstag to its will, it did not try to collectivize private property or conduct bloody purges against the majority of its population. The Gestapo employed fewer personnel for all of Germany than the Stasi employed just for East Germany (7000 in a population of 60 million, as opposed to 90,000 in a population of 17 million). Although the regime crushed all outright resistance and sometimes arrested people for minor non-conformity, it backed down more than once in the face of popular protest: the euthanasia programme was halted in 1941 after being openly denounced by a Catholic bishop, and a protest on the Berlin Rosenstrasse at the height of war in 1943 resulted in a halt on the deportation of Jews who had intermarried with German women. Even after proclaiming “total war” against the Soviet Union in the aftermath of Stalingrad, the NS regime did not manage to build its disorganized economy into anything like a totalitarian war machine, and this played a large part in its eventual defeat. And the regime’s diffidence towards women, much of it driven by Hitler himself, was extraordinary: far from conscripting them into the army as the Communists did, the National Socialists did not even conscript all eligible women into the labour force, for fear that this would “seriously affect the care of their husbands”.
Bear in mind that we are dealing with what is surely seen as the most tyrannical of modern Rightist regimes, one that was described by Mussolini as “savage barbarism … [in which] the chieftain is lord over life and death of his people”. Yet even on this strongest possible ground, not only the progressivist official myth but also the liberal Horseshoe Theory simply falls flat. What we see in National Socialism is not a twin of Communist tyranny, but a dependence on popular consent and remarkable unwillingness to violate the social order overlaid with a populist authoritarianism and a large array of Communist-derived tactics and methods. To be sure, concern for the social order stopped at the borders of ethnic Germany — in addition to terrorizing occupied peoples like the Poles, the National Socialists even promoted degeneracy among them — but this should not obscure the character of NS as a German regime.
To make the point clear, then, the defense of the social order by non-liberal means — even in the National Socialist regime, with its high authoritarianism and large admixture of leftist elements — did not lead to a tyranny in any way comparable to the Communist one. And the ideological reasons for NS ill-treatment non-Germans – e.g. the equation of Judaism with Bolshevism, and the plan to compete with the British Empire by colonising Eastern Europe — were highly contingent and relative to contemporary Germany, so much so that the sister ‘fascist’ regimes of the time did not necessarily share these elements (more importantly, they are not relevant to the distinction between Left and Right, the defence of the social order as opposed to its replacement by central power).
Having examined all of these distortions, we can take a clear look at the underlying message of the official myth. It is not just a matter of downplaying the vaster crimes of Communism while emphasizing those of National Socialism; refuting this, which is pretty easy for anyone capable of basic counting, shakes us out of progressivist belief only to land us in the incapacitated limbo of the Horseshoe Theory. At a more subtle level, it is a matter of taking the universal and archetypal evil represented by Communism — the symbiosis of social revolution and omnipotent tyranny — and transposing it onto a single example of a botched and truncated Rightist reaction. Once we have come to believe that this transposed evil is the “inevitable” result of all non-liberal resistance to the Left, we have truly handed our weapons and our balls to the enemy of our civilization, who still hides in plain sight while importing a new “revolutionary proletariat” into the West.
As Daryl Withycombe wrote some time ago in an enlightening article, the situation of Westerners at present is comparable to that of the Moriori tribe of New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, who chose to uphold their pacifist ‘Code of Nunuku’ and were duly exterminated by ferocious Maori invaders. I am convinced that liberalism is our Code of Nunuku — and that our arguments with senile cuckservatives and dogmatic liberals parallel the tribal councils of the Moriori, in which the young men warned against the policy of non-aggression and were talked down by the elders. If we can win this argument, we still have a chance of defending ourselves; if not, we are truly lost.
Originally published at Alternativeright.blog