Julius Evola, from the opening pages of Men Among The Ruins:
Recently, various forces have attempted to set up a defense and a resistance in the sociopolitical domain against the extreme forms in which the disorder of our age manifests itself. It is necessary to realize that this is a useless effort, even for the sake of merely demonstrative purposes, unless the disease is dealt with at its very roots. These roots, as far as the historical dimension is concerned, are to be found in the subversion introduced in Europe by the revolutions of 1789 and 1848. The disease must be recognized in all of its forms and degrees; thus, the main task is to establish if there are still men willing to reject all the ideologies, political movements, and parties that, directly or indirectly, derive from those revolutionary ideas (i.e., everything ranging from liberalism and democracy to Marxism and communism)…
Strictly speaking, the watchword could then be counterrevolution; however, the revolutionary origins are by now remote and almost forgotten. The subversion has long since taken root, so much so as to appear obvious and natural in the majority of existing institutions. Thus, for all practical purposes, the formula of “counterrevolution” would make sense only if people were able to see clearly the last stages that the world subversion is trying to cover up through revolutionary communism. Otherwise, another watchword is to be preferred, namely reaction. To adopt it and call oneself “reactionary” is a true test of courage. For quite some time, left-wing movements have made the term “reaction” synonymous with all kinds of iniquity and shame; they never miss an opportunity to thereby stigmatize all those who are not helpful to their cause and who do not go with the flow, or do not follow what, according to them, is the “course of History.” While it is very natural for the Left to employ this tactic, I find unnatural the sense of anguish that the term often induces in people, due to their lack of political, intellectual, and even physical courage; this lack of courage plagues even the representatives of the so-called Right or “national conservatives,” who, as soon as they are labeled “reactionaries,” protest, exculpate themselves, and try to show that they do not deserve that label.
What is the Right expected to do? While activists of the Left are “acting” and carrying forward the process of world subversion, is a conservative supposed to refrain from reacting and rather to look on, cheer them on, and even help them along the way? Historically speaking, it is deplorable that a “reaction” has been absent, inadequate, or only half-hearted, lacking people, means, and adequate doctrines, right at the time when the disease was still at an embryonic stage and thus susceptible to be eliminated by immediate cauterization of its infectious hotbeds; had that been the case, the European nations would have been spared untold calamities…
Naturally, the term “reaction” intrinsically possesses a slightly negative connotation: those who react do not have the initiative of action; one reacts, in a polemical or defensive way, when confronted by something that has already been affirmed or done. Thus, it is necessary to specify that reaction does not consist in parrying the moves of the opponent without having anything positive to oppose him with. This misperception could be eliminated by associating the formula of “reaction” with that of “conservative revolution,” a formula in which a dynamic element is evident. In this context “revolution” no longer signifies a violent overthrow of a legitimate established order, but rather an action aimed at eliminating a newly emerged disorder and at reestablishing a state of normalcy. Joseph De Maistre remarked that what is needed, more than a “counterrevolution” in a polemical and strict sense, is the “opposite to a revolution,” namely a positive action inspired by the origins. It is curious how words evolve: after all, revolution, according to its original Latin meaning (re-volvere), referred to a motion that led again to the starting point, to the origins.
In conversation with my friends on the Left I often hear the phrase “the wrong side of history”; implicit in the use of this expression is the idea that it is the flow of history itself that ratifies changes in the condition of human society, rather than any higher and more permanent principle. The stark contrast between this view and that of the reactionary was borne home to me in two exchanges over the past weekend.
In the first, I replied to a remark made on Twitter about gay marriage. Someone had tweeted:
In 20 years, conservatives will be pointing out the positive effect marriage has on the gay community.
And liberals will point out that opposition to gay marriage 20 yrs ago was just as strong as opposition to interspecies marriage is now.
In my mind this was a reductio ad absurdum, intended to show the lack of a limiting principle, and the folly of ascribing intrinsic wisdom to the entropic evolution of history.
A day later, the subject came up again, this time in private conversation with a dear, but very liberal, friend. I pointed out that, now that the ancient and universal understanding of marriage had been overthrown, marriage could defensibly become a relationship between a man and his goat.
She responded by reminding me that I was too mired in present-day attitudes, and that in a few decades it may well turn out to be considered perfectly acceptable for a man to marry his goat. What had been for me a reductio ad absurdum, then, was for her a perfectly plausible progression; in other words, it was her view that whatever such norms might become in the future, they are ratified, and justified, simply by virtue of their having evolved into whatever they will have become. This is the implicit meaning of “the wrong side of history”.
It seems to to me that “reaction” stands in relation to this worldview in the same way that position is related to momentum in quantum-mechanics: it is a complementary property of the human psyche. If we analyze the eigenfunction of a quantum particle so as to determine its position, we introduce uncertainty as to its momentum; by focusing on location, we lose sight of its motion. Likewise, we can understand the condition of a society either in terms of its location relative to an absolute frame of reference — i.e., to a set of immutable principles, or our concept of the sacred — or simply in terms of its momentum.