Conservatives must unite against common enemy

by PAUL COLLITS – LIBERTARIANS and conservatives have often disagreed – and they still do. The divide may be growing. 

The “fusionist” project of postwar conservatives – mainly in America – of figures like William F Buckley and Frank Meyer, has all but collapsed. It was partly a political strategy, but also partly a philosophical endeavour. 

Much of the pro-free speech mob loves the freedom process – the availability of the “platform”. But they don’t much care what comes of such freedom. If the culture goes to hell, well, so what?

The idea was that conservatives and free market liberals could agree on much, and that the things that united them could be used to present a broad Right front against common enemies.

Back in the day, these were, mainly, communists. Big government. Socialism. External enemies. These were twentieth century problems, and enemies. The Cold War provided a common external foe and united the various factions.


Times change. Now there are different fissures.

First, we went through the pain of the neoconservative ascendancy and its twin progeny, an even more empowered and focused military industrial complex and “liberal wars of choice” that go on forever, then the West loses.

Mercifully, the neocons seem to be on the wane within conservatism, if not among the Washington DC defence and foreign policy establishment.

This leaves the current fight du jour. Between the totalitarianism objectors and the anti-woke brigade.

Two recent issues dear to the establishment Right now are the fights against the woke agenda, aka political correctness, and against cancel culture.

The agreed territory is generally defined in terms of freedom of speech. Libertarians cling to Voltaire, as in defending the right to speak even if we disagree with the speaker.

Conservatives (often) want to defend something substantive. Tradition, virtues, “the West”. The agreed territory turns out to be superficial. And this is a problem. Call it conservatism’s tunnel vision. Tunnel vision caused by confusion and leading to more of the same.

The young American political analyst Michael Knowles deals with some of this in his 2021 book Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds. It is about the history and significance of political correctness.

There is one telling quote: “Conservatives have reacted to the new standards [political correctness] in two ways. The more compliant among them have acquiesced in the radicals’ demands, adopting politically correct language as a matter of convenience and, they believe, politeness.

“The slightly more stalwart conservatives have declined to accept the new jargon, but they have grounded their refusal in vague appeals to liberty and denunciations of censorship.

“Rather than making a substantive defense of the culture they claim to wish to conserve, these conservatives make limp defenses of ‘free speech’ in the abstract, with nothing to say in practice.”


Seldom has there been such a concise summary of the problem. And the problem is immediately apparent.

Many of the defenders of free speech today have, in fact, little interest in defending “tradition”, for want of a better word.

Team Voltaire loves the freedom process, the free availability of the “platform”. They don’t much care what comes of the freedom. If the culture goes to hell, well, so what?

The “freedom for virtue” embedded historically in Judeo-Christianity’s defence of liberty has gone out the window. What matters (they say) is the possibility of debate in a “neutral” public square.

Well, as Knowles argues, this doesn’t exist and possibly never has. What has to be confronted if the enemy – if we can agree on who this is – is to be defeated is the substance of his world view and the foundations and supports of his philosophical system.

Just like with Hamas, “live and let live” is merely an invitation to crippling defeat. The cultural Marxists – yes, they do exist, despite Wikipedia’s bizarre claim that they are simply an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory – aim for total victory, just like Hamas and its global backers.

In this context, “winning” freedom of speech looks like a hollow victory. Base camp, with the summit still a long way off.

The insider conservatives have, as it happens, little interest in mixing with the alt-types who have abandoned mainstream (aka legacy) centre-Right Parties and who (they say) entertain fringe ideas and causes.

Some of them aren’t even “conservatives”! Think automaton Young Liberals attacking Craig Kelly and Murdoch journalists (on instruction from above?) attacking anti vaxxers.

The current impasse is, in many ways, a tale of two conferences. One, held in London, was a meeting of the great and good of conservative values.

The other, a “great resist” conference in Liverpool that was cancelled by the pressure of the woke brigade.

Both events might be seen as anti-globalist statements. The Londoners were styled as a “conservative Davos”.


The intended participants at Liverpool were actually deconstructing and critiquing the substance of the Davos agenda. But the folks involved in each of these are worlds apart. Talking past each other. Disdaining one another.

Until the ARC (Alliance for Responsible Citizenship) people recognise and defend the people of the Resist movement, the common enemy will keep winning.

It is the same State, after all, that is both woke and totalitarian, that is imposing a progressive agenda and that has been destroying our freedoms, during and post-pandemic.

The cancel strategy of the ruling, progressive class, with all the PC language, the pronouns, the fact checking, the silencing, the de-platforming (online and in real life) and the refusal to engage intellectually, is, at bottom, a bullying strategy.

A strategy in a war of position, as opposed to a war of manoeuvre, as Knowles draws the distinction first made by the Italian communist Gramsci, an enemy dear to the hearts of establishment conservatives.

Political correctness and its offshoot cancel culture are not “the enemy”. They are merely a means to an end.

The end is the imposition of totalitarian rule in the interests of elites. Lamenting the loss of free speech is merely to say, I don’t like the enemy’s strategy. It isn’t a counter-attack.


It is funny how conservatives, both of the political Party and of the political philosophy kind, don’t seem to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. To focus on two core problems at once.

The ARC branch of the movement – if it can still be called a movement – seems obsessed with “defending Western civilisation”, with fighting a culture war, which would seem to take it towards a defence of traditional values and virtues.

All worth doing, despite the fact that many of Team ARC are not social conservatives at all. They are libertarians, aka social liberals, who decamp to a defence of free speech when things get too close to a defence of tradition. This bespeaks a grudging alliance at best.

The COVID dissident branch – for want of a better term – are often not conservatives at all, in the traditional sense.

They include populists and at least a few career Leftists and many without any preconceived philosophical allegiances.

They are largely affronted by totalitarian “democracy”. They see the main problem with the polity as executive overreach and the deference of the political class of nations to a supra-national, globalist world view.

They seldom speak of the woke wars, but object to being de-platformed, not because of a JS Mill-like adherence to free speech as a principle, but because they are denied the opportunity to state their case. Even to meet.

Their core concern is the message. For the latter day Voltairians, is seems that the medium is the message. They thump the table demanding just the right to be heard.

There are ironies and perhaps hope for bringing the to strands of conservatism/alt-right thinking into a twenty-first century version of the post-war fusionism, then.

There are other fault lines, too.

A good example of the problem is highlighted by Austin Ruse in the classic American journal Modern Age, established by the doyen of North American post World War II conservatives, Russell Kirk.

In his (very positive) review of the excellent recent book edited by Michael Walsh, Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order (2022), Ruse sees the main problem as one of omission.

His thesis is that people are only now susceptible to the bullying of the new world order and its reset agenda because they were softened up first.


By the destruction of the “family man” by the “Davos man”, itself the outcome of the sexual revolution that has all but killed the traditional family and the philosophy that underpinned it.

The epidemic of divorce, of singletons, of radical autonomy, of childlessness, of loneliness, of fatherlessness, exist in a world now absent Edmund Burke’s “little platoons” that might have been capable of resisting the empty promises of the new world order and its woke identity politics.

Ruse quotes Hemingway: “A man alone ain’t got no chance.”

This certainly proved to be the case during the lockdowns, with the core strategy of the State being divide (isolate) and rule.

All of this has been driven by Marxists and Freudians and their bastard, deformed child, a combination of each.

Roger Scruton deals with this in Fools, Frauds and Firebrands. Mary Eberstadt is one of the leading commentators on the phenomenon, for example in her book How the West Really Lost God (2014).

Ruse’s thesis is at least plausible, as is Eberstadt’s. We lost the family. Then we lost our faith. We lost the notion of truth. Then we, as per Chesterton, were then open to believing anything.

Including the gospel of woke, nihilism, the eternal goodness of the State and, subsequently, the new world order with its own core operating system of earth worship, sustainability, zero population growth and stone age living standards.

We might add that we have been softened up, too, by the nanny State within Western nations. Family has been usurped by the State, and now, increasingly, by the world’s radical corporates, supra-national bodies accountable to no one and their associated ideological friends in the NGOs.

Yes, there is a lot for conservatives (and everyone else, for that matter) to be worried about. Pick your own cliff over which we may plunge.

The fight for free speech doesn’t begin to cover a world transformed by revolutionaries who, yes, have silenced their opponents, but, far worse, have embedded their values in every institution going.

Looking at the conservative tunnel vision issue another way, priorities might also derive not from a perception of “problems” to be solved, but of threats to be met.

For the dissidents, the threat is the new world order and the trickle down to actions performed by overreaching States.

For the establishment, it is (seemingly, currently) wokism. As per Douglas Murray.


Neither recent UK conference dwelt too much on the existential global threat of nuclear war. Perhaps this is strange, given we currently have two hot wars involving nations who hate one another and who possess nuclear weapons.

Then there is always Chinese economic imperialism. And the threats posed to national identity by mass (and often illegal) immigration. And the threat of radical Islamist terrorism, dormant for some years but suddenly resurrected in the past month.

Take your pick. The current scene is target-rich. And yes, no one thinks that each conservative event or discussion has to take on everything at once.

A different take on the problem of tunnel vision relates to the hospice-ready condition of the British Tory Party, following the dumping of Suella Braverman and the shocking re-instatement of now Lord David Cameron, the Blairite from central casting and a far less-braver-man.

The Tories simply don’t, and seemingly can’t, tick any of the boxes demanded by those who attended the London conference and those who would have attended the Resist conference in Liverpool, had the Holiday Inn not cancelled it at the urging of some semi-literate buffoons from something called Hope Not Hate.

Does any of this matter?

Who, out there, cares if the conservatives are divided, unfocused and distracted? Especially in the age of the UniParty, where both the Left and Right agree on much and are controlled, in the words of James Delingpole, by the predator class.

We simply shouldn’t expect anything much, other than betrayal, from the conservative branch of the political class.

Stay away from the establishment, go local, find “parallel societies”, disengage, practice non-violent resistance. At the extreme, go live in a cave, in other words take the Benedict option. Is this a cop-out, or merely common-sense cynicism?


Matthew Continetti, in his recent history of American conservatism, notes: “The framework of the ‘Right’ is the endless competition and occasional collaboration between populism and elitism.”

He subtitles his book “a hundred-year war”.

This suggests an uphill battle towards conservative coherence and unity. Which brings us back to the issue, “does it matter”.

Well, the differences matter if we wish to inform our failed Parties and the emergent, dissident ones with a coherent philosophy and a plan. We have to have something to propose, and not just free speech.

There has to be agreed substance and agreed priorities if we are to persuade the bulging middle of “yeah-nah” types to vote for our guys.

And if things are as dire as we believe them to be, don’t we owe it to our beloved grandchildren to get off our fundaments and do something?

If we wish to “do something”, it behooves us to have our thoughts in order and to get our lines right. Oh, and to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.

For, as I said, don’t libertarians want to kill executive overreach? Don’t establishment conservatives? And don’t pandemic dissidents and anti-globalists want to preserve the best of what has been thought, said, written and done?


It sounds to me like there is a common enemy, again. The perpetrators of totalitarianism and the new world order, and the architects of the woke world, both turn out to be radically redefining – this is their intention – the whole basis of political obligation in liberal democracies.

They have succeeded in keeping the form of liberal democracy while utterly changing its content. As revolutionaries do.

Heads out of the sand then, swallow egos and read one another’s conference reports, then there might be the basis for some banter and barter on the broad Right.

Otherwise, Rod Dreher is right and the Benedict cave really does beckon.PC

Paul Collits

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Liberal Leader Peter Dutton. (courtesy SBS)