The Counter-Revolution Is On Its Way


In another age, instead of writing his new book, Cory Bernardi would have spent the days and weeks since September 7 nailing Labor MPs to stakes and setting them on fire. 

That's no longer an option — there are laws now against that kind of thing — but The Conservative Revolution is the 21st century equivalent. Or perhaps it's more like a trophy, a decapitated head on a lance, or a necklace of severed ears. 

The Coalition's victory last September was certainly comprehensive enough to deserve such a celebration: not only did they defeat Labor after only two miserable terms (Look on Howard's works, ye mighty!) but they managed to bend the greater part of the country, media apparatus and all, into playing along with the propaganda line that it was a landslide. 

It wasn't hard; the Coalition and their fellow-travellers won the linguistic battle by sheer repetition, training us to frame arguments over pink batts deaths, school halls, unions and the like using their awful language. I wonder whether they'll ever stop laughing at the semantic nonsense they feed everyone: on-water matters, coward punches and king hits, slush funds, stop the boats, axe the tax, warmism and #theirabc. Yeah, lock up these sick grubs, it's never been this bad, alcohol is the new excuse for being an idiot — whatever you say.

To add insult to injury, the Coalition and its fellow travellers have also claimed the intellectual right to interpret Australia after their election win. The Murdoch Press and its ugly cousins, Quadrant and The Spectator Australia, are loving life. Keith Windschuttle and David Flint have bubbled up to the surface from their homes at the bottom of the septic tank. The climate sceptics are back out in the open too — in the Fairfax op-ed pages, of all places — at the same time as actual journalists from the liberal left are being actively cut out, and the Federal Government is refusing to participate in the rituals of media scrutiny. 

Atop the heaped political corpses of Gillard, Rudd and the rest, Bernardi has raised his victorious standard: an "ideas book" about the future of conservatism. The Conservative Revolution is already in its second printing, but piles of Chris Bowen and Kim Carr's unsold Labor books are everywhere. Nobody likes a loser.

That's why the talk about how he is widening the Overton window, or as Andrew Bolt puts it, "opening conversations others want closed", is total nonsense. The window is already wide open and has been for some time — this is just a victory cry. 

Over the last few decades it has been more or less OK for elected politicians and journalists to slander homosexuals, non-whites, single mothers, women who terminate their pregnancies, unionists and environmentalists (to name a few groups) as long as they were a bit careful. Perhaps for a few brief moments between 2007 and 2013 the government brown note went silent, but it wasn't for long. With Gillard defeated, it has become a trumpet blast, calling the Liberal hounds to the hunt. 

I won't bother to quote big chunks of Bernardi's awful little book, because it's not even meant to be read, just rubbed in our noses. (If you must, check out this Storify of my tweeted highlights generously put together by Ed Butler.) The only excerpt you must read is at the end of page 115, regarding the proper role and size of government, and privatisation:

"While capitalism does allow the individual the maximum opportunity to profit from their endeavours, it also provides scope to take advantage of others or misuse scarce resources. Where the resources in question are those residing in public ownership, the sense of responsibility for the stewardship of those gifts requires an appropriate (but limited) guiding hand. There is no universal formula that these considerations must abide by; they must be assessed and determined on a case-by-case basis as the circumstances require. The only universal code applicable here is the conservative disposition and attitude [emphasis mine]."

In other words, the deciding factor in the management of government assets should be Cory Bernardi's disposition. This is complete Beavis and Butthead territory, just braindead nonsense, on par with claiming that conservative South Australian Catholicism is part of the bedrock of mainstream Australian values, or that Australia has "founding fathers". 

The idea of a Conservative Revolution, however, or as Bernardi admits in a footnote, a counter-revolution, is far from nonsense. An active, values-based conservative politics is an old idea in the Roman Catholic faith to which Bernardi belongs. GK Chesterton, the 20th century Catholic apologist who wrote extensively on the idea, once said that "defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." That's obviously true for Bernardi: look at his crazy eyes, when does he not seem exhilarated? As Chesterton says:

"The mob can never rebel unless it is conservative, at least enough to have conserved some reasons for rebelling. It is the most awful thought in all our anarchy, that most of the ancient blows struck for freedom would not be struck at all to-day, because of the obscuration of the clean, popular customs from which they came."

Bernardi's clean, popular customs are his four pillars: Faith, Family, Free Enterprise and Flag, to which he adds an unofficial fifth pillar, Freedom. You could also add Fellas as number six — women barely appear in The Conservative Revolution outside the contexts of motherhood, abortion or sexuality. 

Many of the sour old Protestants in the Liberal Party would prefer just one pillar, the Free Market, and will be very uncomfortable with Faith and Flag being trooped across their lawns. This construction is deliberate, and is the second part of Bernardi's triumph. He's like Patton at the end of World War II, screaming that the US Army needs to plough through defeated Germany into the Soviets; the battle never ends. But with Labor and the Greens all but defeated, the next enemy is inside his own party.

Whether Tony Abbott is encouraging Bernardi or not is irrelevant, because Abbott is on his team — the revanchist boys' club. The people who really hate him, because they know he's coming for them, are the wets, the Liberal feminists, and those like Warren Entsch who push for equal rights for homosexuals. 

Bernardi threw lawyers at Entsch at the beginning of this year after he called him "obsessed" with homosexuality. That's the kind of thing a lefty does to a conservative — make insinuations — not the way conservatives battle each other, which should tell us something. Now the touchy-feely end of the Liberal Party has carted out Amanda Vanstone to deliver a threat: "Bernardi had more than one chance at showing the world what a good team player he can be … Bernardi has had two chances. There won't be another."

Somehow I don't think Cory Bernardi is trembling over Vanstone's posturing. Compare her words to the conclusion of The Conservative Revolution, which ends with an exhortation to participate in organised right-wing political struggle. Bernardi says that if young conservatives train up in civil society and party-political life they will "be well on the way to becoming the weapon that is needed for the conservative revolution". 

No wonder Vanstone and Entsch are scared witless. The last person to promote this kind of jackbooted Catholic conservatism in the mainstream was BA Santamaria, who Bernardi thinks is more relevant now than he was in 1960. Santamaria wrecked the ALP and his disciples are now running the Liberal Party. His own conservative revolution changed the character of trade unionism in Australia, making radical action or militancy all but taboo — you can see that in the way Abbott frames the union issue. 

We're so deeply submerged in the world Santa helped create, we can no longer see how a conservative revolution could be possible, or that it could be victorious. But it is, and it has been. Why else would Bernardi think it's acceptable to quote Samuel Francis, a US white nationalist, on the so-called "anarcho-tyranny" of the left? Or Lew Rockwell, the anarcho-capitalist responsible for "promoting" Ron Paul's homophobic, anti-Semitic and racist newsletters? 

Only under the conditions of a victory, and anticipating further advances, could such filth be cited by a member of parliament in a so-called "ideas" book. Be afraid — the drums are beating for the next conservative revolution.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.