- Counter-Currents - https://counter-currents.com -

Vanguard, Aesthetics, Revolution


Eugène Delacroix, "Liberty Leading the People," 1839

3,377 words

German translation here [2]

I have on various occasions criticized the tendency among a subset of racial nationalists to indulge in improbable revolutionary fantasies, where the liberal system collapses, the white masses rise up, and evildoers hang from lampposts in one great Day of the Rope. “Mainstreamers” have, in turn, criticized the tendency among another subset to be bookworm revolutionaries, hermitic, eccentric, and too absorbed in their abstruse intellectual vaporings to be effective harbingers of change in the real world. Both subsets are emblematic of the retreat from reality that results from perceived powerlessness. Both represent vanguardist tendencies. Does that mean that vanguardism is a failed strategy, and that only mainstreamers offer a viable approach?

Far from it.

Vanguardism plays a key role in any movement seeking fundamental change when a system that can no longer be reformed, that has to crumble to make way for a new one, built on different foundations. What is more, it needs not stand in an either-or relationship with mainstreaming: it is possible—indeed it is preferable—to integrate both approaches into a coherent strategy.

Before I begin, I will define the political categories “Right” and “Left” as I intend to use them in this article. By Left I mean those who believe in the ideology of equality and progress; they are associated with liberalism and modernity. By Right I mean those whose outlook is elitist (inegalitarian) and cyclical; they are associated with Traditionalism (in the Evolian sense). By Right I do not mean conservatives, whom I regard as Classical liberals, only with socially conservative attitudes.

From Dystopia to Utopia

Commentators on the Right are prone to spend most of their energy analyzing and critiquing the modern dystopia. But while this is necessary, it is not sufficient: saying that we have arrived at a wrong destination and that we need to be elsewhere without at the same time indicating where that elsewhere is does not imply motion, only the recognition of the need for motion; therefore it is not a movement. For movement to occur, for an idea to gain adepts who then follow each other in a collective act of motion, the destination must be known, a priori, which implies it must be communicable in some way. This destination is the movement’s utopia: the perfect accomplishment of its goals.

Utopias exist only in the imagination. Most of the time they are communicated through fantastic art and literature. At best, they are only ever partially and/or imperfectly implemented. At worse, they are highly unrealistic and impractical—most are to some degree. Yet this does not mean they are not useful: they are in fact necessary, and a pre-condition for movement. Their active ingredient is not their being scientifically accurate, but their capacity to exert an enormous sentimental force on a large enough collective of individuals. And its conception is the charge of the vanguardist, the intellectual outsider, the pioneer, the dreamer, the creator—the individual, or group of individuals, whose task is to break us out of the cognitive cages built by the incumbent system; out of the system-sponsored illusion where anything that is anathema to it seems unthinkable.

Those who adopt mainstreaming approaches often despair at these dreamers because they appear—obviously—impractical, eccentric, and lacking in good sense. The problem is that creative innovators and iconoclasts often are: creative types comprise a peculiar breed, and within that, those who are truly innovative, truly at the vanguard, often shock, worry, and discomfit their less creative peers because they are less fettered by convention. There are undoubtedly good and bad sides to this, but this does not detract from the value of the creative process, even if not all of its byproducts are eventually adopted. The task of the mainstreamer, who abuts the vanguard and the mainstream, is to calculatingly take whatever can be used from the vanguard to stretch the limits of the mainstream, with a view to fundamentally transform the later in the long run.

Dreamer as Pragmatist

Despite having the science, the data, and the logical arguments on its side, the Right has been in retreat for many decades. This alone should be sufficient indication that humans need more than just data, arguments, and truth to be persuaded into a change of allegiance. Yet many who identify with the Right continue operating under the illusion that this is not the case: if people believe in equality it is because they do not know about race differences in IQ; if people believe in multiculturalism it is because they do not know the black on white crime statistics; if people believe in liberalism it is because they have not read Gibbon, or Spengler, or Schmitt; and so on.

The irony is that the best example of why this approach is flawed exists all around us: the consumer society. As a child I was irritated by the unrealistic scenarios, the catchy jingles, and the constant sloganizing of television advertising, and I resented the irrational superficiality implied in this method of selling products. I thought that it would be far more logical to have a man in a suit seated at a table, facing the camera, like in a newsroom, and listing the product specifications to the audience in an unemotional monotone, so that viewers may be able to make a rational choice, based on solid data. Any adult with sense knows, even if he cannot explain exactly why, that this would never work in the real world. The reason is simple: the consumer society is not founded on utilitarian logic or reason, but on Romanticism, daydreaming, status display, and utopias. And it is founded on these principles because that is what has been found to work—vast sums of money has been spent researching human psychology in the effort to maximize consumer mobilization. Colin Campbell and Geoffrey Miller provide theoretical and evolutionary explanations for the human motivational aspects of consumerism this in The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism and Spent respectively.

Therefore it is fair to say that he who daydreams and purposefully induces others to daydream is, in fact, more of a pragmatist than the self-avowed pragmatically-oriented rationalist who seeks to persuade through reason. The former at least understands the irrationality of human nature, and plays (preys?) on it, while the latter fantasizes about abstract humans who act on the basis of rational self-interest.

Truth as a Lifestyle Choice

Far from an asset, a belief in the power of “the truth” is one of the main obstacles for White Nationalists seeking converts to their cause. If they are frustrated by the failure of individuals to support them despite masses of scientific and statistical data showing heritable race differences in IQ and heritable propensities to violent crime, it is because they have failed to realize that humans choose the truth that suits them best, according to whether it makes them feel good about themselves and about the world, and whether it makes those whose opinion they value feel good about them, at any given point in time and space. Humans are more strongly motivated by the innate need for self-esteem and belonging than by abstract reason. Thus, faced with voluminous, conflicting, and virtually indigestible data and arguments emanating from multiple factions, each claiming monopoly of the truth, it is easy to choose the most emotionally and socially convenient of available options. For the majority of people this means the truth sponsored by the cultural establishment, because it means easier social integration and higher rewards. Those who choose a truth anathematized by the cultural establishment become reliant on alternative networks and even unconventional methods to survive within a system that seeks to purge them. Ultimately, and perhaps especially in a materialistic society, truth becomes a lifestyle choice.

Substance & Style

For the above reasons, a strategy purely based on what we tend to regard as substance (i.e., empirical data, logical arguments, reasoned conclusions) is doomed to fail. And in the case of White Nationalism, it has long proven a failure. Also for the above reasons, an effective strategy needs to employ a methodology that taps, like consumerism, into the pre-rational drivers of human behavior. The lesson of consumerism does this through the calculating use of style and aesthetics, which in the consumer society are constantly deployed to induce the desired behavior (consumption).

I am familiar with the calculating use of style and aesthetics through my role in the consumer culture, which I played via my record company. Before the advent of MySpace and the free illegal download, whenever I designed an album cover, a logo, an advertisement, a newsletter, or a website; whenever I crafted an album description; even whenever I described an album verbally, I was acutely conscious of the need to appeal and stimulate interest in my target audience. I did not expect them to make rational decisions (especially since to hear the music they had to first buy the CD), but because I successfully triggered an emotional response strong enough to elicit the needed response: an immediate purchase. (Of course, I did not always get it right, and from time to time I got stuck with unsellable stock, something I blamed as much on bad artwork, ill-judged names and titles, and uninspiring logos as I did on the quality of the music.) Advertisement agencies thrive on the exploitation of style and aesthetics for purposes of mobilizing the public into consuming products, supporting a campaign, or voting for a political candidate.

We all know that as far as the White voters are concerned, Obama got elected purely on the basis of aesthetics: he sounded good, was telegenic, and his “blackness” reassured millions of whites eager to prove (mainly to themselves) that they were not racist. Slogans like “Hope” and “Change” contained zero substance; it was all about the Obamicons; and yet they excited the right sentiment among voters who felt hopeless and wanted change. Televised debates about policy emphasized visual presentation and catchy soundbites; they were more about what the candidates looked and sounded like while discussing—but not really—an ostensibly serious topic than about really discussing a serious topic. Annoying? Certainly. But there is no point fighting this. It works.

Having said this, substance is still important. We all know that a strategy based purely on stylistic flash without it being backed by at least some substance eventually implodes. (In the United States, many duped voters have since realized that Obama is an empty suit; in the United Kingdom, many duped voters eventually realized that Blair was a liar.) Emphasize style over substance in too obvious a manner and your strategy will, in fact, turn against you. (This was a major problem for the Blair government during the late 1990s; heavy “spin-doctoring” got Blair elected, but in time everyone was complaining about it.)

It is obvious, therefore, that the winning strategy is one that has both style and substance—substance that backs the style and style that backs the substance—that, in other words, projects the substance as well as the nature of the substance.

This is nothing new, of course, but it is amazing how many fail to realize the importance of style and aesthetics. Is it because we live in an age that is so obviously about style over substance that there is an instinct to rebel against it?

Weaponizing Aesthetics

In a metapolitical context, we can speak then of weaponizing aesthetics: translating ideology into art, high and low, and using it to push culture and society in a pre-determined direction, to cause culture and society to undergo fundamental change.

In my experience with various forms of underground music and their associated subcultures, an individual’s transformation of consciousness goes through identifiable phases.

First, individuals are exposed to a particular genre of music through their peers; the response, positive or negative, is often immediate, instinctive, the result of a combination of innate biological predisposition, personal history, and sociological factors.

Next, if the individual’s response is positive, there begins a process of researching and collecting albums by bands that play in that genre. And if the individual’s response is extremely positive, the process is intensive, and becomes gradually more so, causing him eventually to become completely immersed in the associated subculture.

Music-centered youth subcultures are easily identifiable because they are highly stylized and stylistically distinctive. They also have their own ideology, which both emanates and reinforces the values coded in the style of music out of which it has grown. Sometimes the ideology is derivative, an extrapolation, or an exaggeration of certain mainstream values. Sometimes the ideology is fundamentally antagonistic to the cultural mainstream. Also, sometimes the ideology is superficial, sometimes it is not. But in all cases, music fans who have become immersed in the associated subculture come to adopt and internalize its ideology to some extent.

Depending on the nature of this ideology, members of a subculture may undergo a radical change in consciousness—even to the point of becoming proud pariahs—which endures even after they have transcended their membership. They may eventually discard the garb and take up conventional salaried employment, but their allegiance to the music will endure, sometimes as a guilty secret, and traces of their fanatical past will remain in their cognitive structures, lifestyle, home decor, vocabulary, and choice of associations. What is more, even decades after, former members will recognize each other and have a common bond.

And all this is achieved aesthetically, through art. It bears iterating: to the extent that values are absorbed, they are so not because they have been presented logically or scientifically, but because they were presented in an attractive and artful or aesthetically pleasing manner—in a manner that exerts a strong sentimental force on its consumers. And anyone with an awareness of popular culture will know that its power to excite extreme emotion, unite psychologically, and mobilize the masses—to cause them to act irrationally, violently, even against their own rational best interests—cannot be underestimated. When the last volume of the Harry Potter series of novels was published, people queued for hours, in the cold, in the rain, in the wee hours of the morning, to be the first to get their hands on the first hardback edition. And this is a very mild example. We have film evidence from the 1960s showing young women absolutely in hysterics at Beatles concerts, and there is little doubt that their personal lives were partly consumed by thoughts and fantasies involving members of the band. Did their record company present an especially logical argument?

Of course, mass mobilization is possible within popular culture when the product or event in question encodes culturally mainstream values. The less mainstream the values, the less the capacity for mobilization. All the same, in the age of mechanical reproduction we have seen that when a synergistic aesthetic and ideological system is deployed using the methods of popular culture, even radical anti-system propositions are capable, under the right conditions, of mobilizing large enough bodies of people and growing until it establishes itself as a new hegemonic order.

The National Socialists, beginning in Weimar Germany, offer perhaps the most iconic example in the West. Like all political movements, however, National Socialism had metapolitical origins, and arguably occult origins in daydreams of Atlantean and Hyperborean civilizations, which the SS later sought to substantiate. It was more a certain set of ideas and daydreams, a certain sentiment, a certain political romanticism, a certain look, before it was actual politics with an actual label.

The same is true of our modern society: between René Descartes, Adam Smith, John Locke, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud on the one hand, and political correctness, immigration, outsourcing, and diversity training on the other, lie a mass of popular novels, films, and albums that consciously or semi-consciously encode, aestheticize, and promote the ideas and narratives of global capitalism and the Freudo-Marxist scholasticism, upon whose metapolitical tradition the modern order is founded.

The weaponization of aesthetics is the creation of an interface that facilitates the translation of the metapolitical into the political, of the vanguard into the mainstream.


Another reason why I put such emphasis on aesthetics in metapolitical discussions is that a well-formulated and perfectly rendered aesthetic system is the fastest way of projecting credibility, and therefore of making a set of values and ideals appear credible to apolitical observers. (To political observers it may inspire pride or fear, depending on their allegiance.) Do we not judge books by their covers? Do we not judge a person by his or her appearance?

I contend that if our values and ideals lack credibility outside our immediate milieu, it is partly because we have yet to find a way to translate our metapolitics into an professionally rendered aesthetic system that is both acceptable and appealing to a wider audience—that reformulates our archaic ideas in a way that is vibrant, relevant, and forward-looking (because people do need hope and change). Needless to say that there are other very significant factors involved (such as the reality of economic sanctions), but this is certainly one of them: without an optimal aesthetic system, actual politics becomes very difficult. One cannot sell an idea without marketing. And one cannot appeal to an elite audience without the right kind of marketing.

This is why we will benefit when talented artists, musicians, designers, and literary stylists who share our sensibilities find congenial outlets and begin making a name for themselves. It is, therefore, necessary that we provide such outlets and offer viable professional and economic opportunities for creative types, lest we continue losing them to the (censoring but remunerated) alternatives offered by the establishment. Only then will we be able to grow a forceful counter-culture.

Final Thoughts

The age of chaos offers opportunities to those able to “sell” a new dream. Although the present liberal, egalitarian, progressive establishment appears superficially invincible, they do not represent a unified, cohesive, monolithic, totalitarian order: they are, in fact, a rainbow coalition of competing and sometimes contradictory factions that happen to share a set of core beliefs. They are also degenerative and disintegrative, and the logical conclusion of their project is the complete breakdown of society. This has become increasingly apparent since the adoption of multiculturalism as an official government policy, and the adoption of globalism as the modern capitalist paradigm. Worse still, they are contrary to nature, so their continuity results in constant stress and strenuous effort. Division, degeneration, disintegration, stress, and exhaustion grow ever more apparent. And the end of prosperity in the West will make social and cultural upheavals more difficult to contain or diffuse. Thus, in the escalating confusion, even the apolitical, conventionally thinking citizen will in time become receptive to new, exotic, and even quixotic ideas. Once the confusion becomes severe enough, they will be looking for a radical ideology, a harsh religion, an authoritarian strongman, or Caesar. They will be looking for meaningful symbolism, for utopian daydreams, for a new romanticism, for something that projects order and strength, is distinctive amid the chaos, and makes them feel powerful and part of something strong.

This might seem grandiose, but the beginning of it is nearer than one thinks: it, in fact, starts with pen and paper, with brush and canvas, with guitar and plectrum; it is founded on the fantasy and the daydreams that animate these utensils.

If revolutions begin with scribbles, scribbles begin with daydreams. And although this may sound fluffy and nebulous to the hard political pragmatist, it bears remembering that such verities always look so after a long period of material prosperity and political stability, while the system appears strong and credible to a majority. But, as it did in the past, following cataclysmic upheavals, when their origins and causes were catalogued by sociologists in their postmortem reports, said verities are likely to look somewhat less nebulous after the tide of culture turns and those once seemingly improbable daydreams start to take form. How long until then? Who knows? But unless we have set the metapolitical bases for our new order, unless we have a virile counter-culture upon which can build it, we might find that by the time the tide turns, others got in well ahead of us while we waited to see if it ever would.