Thursday, December 21, 2006

Peter Viereck, A True Conservative

I'm discovering more about Peter Viereck, who died May 13 of this year at 89 and was an authentic American voice of conservatism. Viereck, to our great misfortune, was shouted down in the 1950s by the hateful, extremist rhetoric of William F. Buckley and his band of right-wing radicals. Viereck published the first book of the New Conservatism in 1949, Conservatism Revisited.

In a 1962 preface to a reissue of Conservatism Revisited Viereck wrote of himself and Clinton Rossiter (author of Conservatism in America):
we broke with the majority of current self-styled American conservatives (pseudo-conservative radicals of the right, in our view) over... issues of nationalist thought-control. The same pseudo-conservative rightists who discriminate against Negroes, despise the groping new governments of Asia and Africa, and stir up authoritarian nationalism against U.N. internationalism, these same thought-control rightists are also avowed disciples of Burke.... But Burke held a freedom-loving central position... [he] fought against the Negro slave trade and against imperialist oppression of India.
Viereck's mention of "pseudo-conservative rightists who discriminate against Negroes" is a reference to the probably no longer remembered fact that William F. Buckley wrote consistently in favor of a states' rights defense against racial integration. In the August 24, 1957 National Review Buckley wrote (John Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., 1988, pp. 138-9):
The central question that whether the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically. The sobering answer is Yes--the white community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race....
Viereck's charges of 'thought-control nationalism' (McCarthyism) and 'authoritarian nationalism against U.N. internationalism' hit the bullseye; it is these baneful influences, aggressively fostored by the radical right, which have too much dominated U.S. political discourse since World War II and have unerringly led us to the 'thought-control nationalism' of the George W. Bush administration. Oh how much better off we would have been had the saner beliefs of Peter Viereck prevailed.

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