on May 25, 2000
In this excellent book, Justin Raimondo breathes new life into the forgotten icons of the Old Right. These figures include -- among others -- Albert Jay Nock (who was in fact regarded as a "leftist" for part of his career), H.L. Mencken, Frank Chodorov (born Fishel Chodorovsky -- did you know that? I didn't), Garet Garrett (author of _The Driver_, which Raimondo argues may have been an important unacknowledged source for Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED), John T. Flynn (who among other things wrote a scathing expose of Roosevelt and the "New Deal"), Rose Wilder Lane (author of _The Discovery of Freedom_), and Isabel Paterson (author of _The God of the Machine_ and the former guru of Ayn Rand).
Raimondo also discusses the hijacking of the Right by Bill Buckley and the neoconservatives, doing a much better job than Rand did in her little puff piece, "Conservativism: An Obituary." In fact Raimondo is careful to acknowledge all the genuine conservatives Rand left out of her "obituary"; rather than simply declaring conservatism dead, as Rand did, Raimondo wants to recover it from the people who almost destroyed it in favor of militaristic Statism.
Raimondo also discusses some genuine contemporary conservatives, including the late great Murray Rothbard (Raimondo is also the author of a soon-to-be-published biography of Rothbard), and provides a ringing defense of Pat Buchanan against a number of unfair attacks -- though he also harshly criticizes Buchanan's stand against free international trade. (The back of the book features an endorsement from Buchanan, by the way -- a little tribute to the intellectual integrity of both men.)
His remarks on Rand will also be of interest to bemused watchers of the "Objectivist" movement. Despite some obvious respect for her talents as a novelist (he thinks, and I agree, that _The Fountainhead_ was her best work and ATLAS SHRUGGED was pretty kludgy), he does not spare the rod as regards her pretensions of originality, her claim to stand within no pre-existing tradition whatsoever, her intellectual fraud in each of these respects, her failure to give proper credit even to those of her forebears who were directly influential on her thought (Isabel Paterson being the primary example), and her endorsement of several policies that would have been anathema to the Old Right. I suspect that Raimondo would be happy -- and I know I would -- if Rand were publicly exposed as a pretentious, pseudophilosophical, cult-mongering fraud, discredited as a representative of the classical-liberal Right, and recognized as the "leftist" she really was. (And any "Objectivists" reading this review are hereby invited to click "Not helpful.")
At any rate Raimondo's workmanlike volume belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in recovering the genuine tradition of liberty. His efforts to restore the memory of an important and all but forgotten strain of American thought will be of interest to libertarians and classical liberals everywhere.
on February 18, 2000
Justin Raimondo's "Reclaiming the American Right" is one of the most fascinating political books I have ever read. I first read this work a couple of years ago, but return to it often because the stories of the various figures of the Old Right are so relevant to the current political situation. This book should be required reading for all who associate the word "conservative" with "troglodyte" or "warmonger". It wasn't always so! The "Old Right" conservatives were very interested in personal liberty and bitterly opposed to war and the Merchants of Death who profit from them. They saw that in trying to police the world, America would lose it's liberty. Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, Frank Chodorov ... these are names that deserve to be widely known, men whose works should be read as an antidote to the interventionist dogma of our times. Raimondo performed a valuable service in presenting their views to a new generation.
on May 11, 2006
Great eye for detail. Author traces the rise of "neoconservatism" (surely a contradiction in terms) in the US from it's beginnings amongst 1930s Trotskyites and hard line anti-communist liberals and social democrats in the cold war.
Justin Raimondo shows how these groups were alienated by the developments on the American left during the post-Vietnam era and thus migrated to the right becoming a key part of the Reagan coalition. This faction displaced older line isolationist conservatives. It's not just the defection of former leftists to right as individuals, it was a factional migration.
The trail for the neocon migration of the 1970s was blazed for them by a previous generation of National Review affiliated "New Right" thinkers in the 1950s such as James Burnham.
There is a most interesting profile of Trotsky's main US apostle, Max Schactman. Max had raced to Trotsky's death bed after Stalin had him killed. Max never had the actual elective surgery that converts leftists to a fully fledged neocon, he remained a lifelong socialist. Max saw Washington as the real centre of the true revolution for global social democracy. He even saw the JFK / LBJ's interventions in Cuba and Vietnam as the historically "progressive" force versus Fidel and Ho Chi Minh, essentially reactionary fascist nationalists in marxist drag. The shadow of Max and Leon now influences US policy. Unfortunately.
on December 31, 2008
This book, written and originally published in the early-1990s, has, if anything, become more relevant in the decade-and-a-half since its publication.
Justin Raimondo's RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN RIGHT is an examination of the so-called "Old Right." The Old Right was anti-interventionist, pro-free market, and overall, anti-statist (think "Ron Paul," who's about the only well-known present-day Old Rightist in national politics.) It first arose as a coherent (though unorganized) movement in opposition to FDR's New Deal, and it also opposed American entry into the Second World War. Such writers as Garet Garett, John T. Flynn, Frank Chodorov, H.L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, as well as newspaper publisher Col. Robert McCormick are the heroes of this group. In today's terminology, these men would be considered "libertarians" and/or "paleoconservatives."
Raimondo also contrasts the Old Right with the now-notorious "neoconservatives," who first started to penetrate the American Right just before the Second World War, and who found a permanent, influential place in American conservatism during the early stages of the Cold War. The "neocons" were primarily ex-Trotskyites who never left the essentials of their Marxist ideas - particularly their vehemently statist (in some cases virtually totalitarian) leanings, their militarism, their elitism, and their utter worship of raw power. According to Raimondo, during the Cold War the American Right was largely taken over by a clique - amongst whom the neocons were influential - who (whether tacitly or actively) supported Big Government and a highly interventionist foreign policy. However, once the Cold War ended, the Right was presented with an opportunity to return to its roots. Raimondo, writing around fifteen years ago, seems optimistic that it would, and towards the end of the book, he points to Pat Buchanan as a rising paleoconservative star in the early `90s.
Raimondo writes well and tells a story that needs telling. Most modern-day Americans either know nothing of the Old Right, or they know of it only in the form of distortions, dismissive caricatures, and untrue smears.
I read a first edition of the book, so I'd be interested to read the material that has been added to the newer additions. However, it would seem to me that, with the political lynching of Pat Buchanan, the so-called "War on Terror" and wholesale imperialism in the Middle East, the Republican Party's virtual blacklisting of Ron Paul, and the McCain nomination in '08, the American Right has unfortunately NOT returned to its Old Right roots, as Raimondo somewhat optimistically hoped in the early-`90s. Instead, the American Right appears to have been taken over by a version of neoconservatism whose main political trademarks are jingoism, occasional halfhearted references to shrinking government (without the intent of ever seriously following through on them), and shamelessly pandering to evangelicals.
If you think of yourself as a "conservative," but you've found yourself alienated by George W. Bush's administration and by mindlessly jingoistic Hannity-Limbaugh-Coulter conservatism; if you like free markets and low taxes but aren't interested in imperialism or nation-building; if you just want to be left alone to run your life and take care of your family with minimal interference by the state; if you were a Ron Paul supporter or were at all intrigued by his message - you just might be a paleoconservative or a libertarian, and you owe it to yourself to find out about the movement's unsung origins in American history. This book is one of several good places to start.
on October 26, 2008
"Reclaiming the American Right" is an investigation into the evolution of the conservative movement. What went wrong in the movement can best be answered by reexamining the movement's past.
WWII and the Viet Nam wars introduced a different kind of "conservative" into the conservative movement. The original conservatives were non-interventionists. This era found some of these new "conservatives" were internationalists or globalists. That's where the change became very evident. Even today the branding of some conservatives as isolationists is disingenuous. A point Mr. Raimondo effectively makes clear is that this tag is used rather than a more accurate word- nationalist.
In the Introduction the author addresses the changes resulting from the "co-optation" and "corruption" of what today could be called the Old Right. Rather than favoring nationalism or "America First" like the Old Right of Taft, Garrett, Flynn, and today's Pat Buchanan; neoconservatives favor a global empire with as much defense spending as they can get.
On page 30 Mr. Raimondo addressed globalism and the neocon buzzphrase "exporting democracy".
"This is the new myth in the name of which the world-savers and world planners empty our wallets and fill their coffers; the new rationale for the existence of countless think-tanks and the cushy jobs that go with them; the latest code word for a frankly imperial policy, unrestrained by either modesty or common sense."
He contrasts the priorites that have changed. The Old Right emphasized individual rights and property rights where today the key word is "democracy."
This edition was published in 1993. I am surprised by how vividly some of the Old Right quotes from more than 50 years ago have summed up the politics of today.
"The Washington of the nineties is ruled, not by Congress, or even the President, but by the lobbyists of every group aspiring to victimhood, competing to rob the taxpayers blind."- page 240. Sound accurate for today? I think so.
A Samuel Francis quote addresses what needs to be done to reclaim the original conservative movement(there was a conservative movement before Bill Buckley,jr. and National Review). "In short, what is needed, says Francis, is a populist revolt. Not a movement of intellectuals directed at the elite, not an attempt to preserve what has already been destroyed, but a grassroots movement against the welfare-warfare state."
Some more topics that the author covers in the book are:
*He identifies the first neoconservative.
*The origin of the New World Order concept.
*The European influence on American domestic policy.
*Chronicles the evolution of the left-wing anticommunists of the fifties and sixties to the neoconservatives of the seventies and eighties.
*He devotes a lot of pages to Garet Garrett and his books. The "Rise of Empire", published in 1952 was way ahead of it's time! The material on Garet Garrett alone make this book indispensable.
*Garrett's view that the federal income tax was nothing less than power to redistribute wealth and assume power over money. That is an important component of imperialism.
*Why the word "isolationist" is a straw man argument and always was.
One motivating factor for my interest in this book was the short recommendation of the book by Ron Paul on this Amazon page.
I wasn't disappointed. The author has written an honest, unbiased book about the old conservative movement and some of it's prominent figures.
I would rate this book higher than 5 stars if that was possible!
on December 31, 2002
Justin Raimondo has written a fairly respectable book on the history of American Conservatism within the 20th century and how it has changed as a result of World War II and the subsequent Cold War Era. However, in the first chapter covering the legacy and significance of James Burnham (an anti-communist conservative), it is erroneously stated that Burnham was the first "neoconservative." Neoconservatism was an intellectual movement whose pedigree can be traced back to the founding of a publication called "The Public Interest" by Irving Kristol in 1965. James Burnham was one of the first conservatives however to identify this movement's first emergence within political circles in 1972 during the Nixon years. For a more accurate and complete account of the achievement as well as significance of James Burnham within the context of 20th century conservatism, I would highly recommend Sam Francis's book "Beautiful Losers."
on December 21, 2015
In this book, Justin Raimondo introduces the reader to the heroes of the 20th Century who attempted to preserve the traditional American understanding of political and economic liberty, limited government, and non-intervention in the affairs of other nations. Mr. Raimondo also introduces the reader to the villains who hijacked the Old Right, turning a vast part of the conservative movement into cheerleaders for perpetual adventures abroad and the constriction of American liberties at home. While the book was first published in 1993, this updated reprint retains its relevancy today. If you want to understand why America continues the slide toward socialism, in spite of certain recent "conservative" electoral victories, you should read this book.