What Burke Would Say about the Riots

Rioters tear down a fence in Portland, Ore., July 26, 2020. (Caitlin Ochs/Reuters)
What’s happening on American streets follows the same script as history's grimmest leftist revolutions.

Surprise. As soon as street agitators got bored with knocking down statues, they started knocking down people. And as soon as the gunshots started ringing, the moderate Biden took off his mask and turned out to be Kamala. Be wary of the adult who bares each and every tooth when smiling. A look at history, especially at that of France and its enlightened guillotine, suggests something quite unpleasant: America is not in the throes of a simple electoral campaign but rather seems to be at the beginning of an extreme leftist revolutionary process. Perhaps the first thing the Right ought to do, if it has any intention of putting up a defense against totalitarian harassment, is to admit it. Nothing that is happening on the streets is the product of chance, unless you consider that the invasion of Poland in 1939 was just bad luck.

It all happened so fast, like a magic trick. Suddenly, there is violence, there is hate, there is fear, there is exceptionality, there are lies, there is resentment, there is division, there is chaos, there is cowardice, and there is looting. In other words, we already have all the best ingredients for baking a real revolutionary cake. The violence still seems to be residual, and that is its greatest danger: that we underestimate it. Check their Twitter accounts: Not a single one of the world’s totalitarian and extreme-Left leaders has missed his appointment with BLM, including the most despotic of them. Xi Jinping is ecstatic: First he exports a pandemic to the enemy, and now the strongest democracy in the West is about to fall into his hands by his preferred means, revolution. It’s like tweeting in capital letters for a week.

What frightened Edmund Burke most about the French Revolution was not the revolutionaries, but the sympathies they aroused among a number of English conservatives. That is what impelled him to speak out against the great farce sponsored by an Enlightenment determined to see blood spilled. Something similar is happening today on American soil. The worst thing is not the savages trying to subvert order through violence, but the complicit attitude of the Democratic Party, which makes less and less effort to hide its enthusiasm for this kind of postmodern revolution, where it makes no difference if a television set is stolen, or someone gets shot, or a Republican politician narrowly escapes a lynching. The truth is that the Left moves in chaos like a fish in water.

However, we must avoid the pitfall of constantly preaching the Apocalypse. I do not believe, as the Democrats claim, that we are on the verge of a civil war. Besides, Millennials will not fight unless it can be done from the couch via the Internet. They remind me a little of that unassuming gibe by the brilliant Spanish writer and diplomat Agustín de Foxá, from the last century, when he confessed to the British ambassador: “The Spanish are willing to die for the lady of their thoughts or for a point of honor, but dying for democracy seems to them as silly as dying for the metric system.”

The truth is that the human condition has remained unchanged over time. We have never known a time without assassins, liars, conspirators, and God forbid, idiots who run in such numbers that if they had wings, we would live in perpetual gloom. Gómez Dávila used to say that stupidity changes its subject in every era so as not to be recognized, and that explains why those who yesterday were alarmed by the ozone layer today are alarmed by racism or the lack of empowerment of women, and perhaps tomorrow they will be alarmed once again by XXL hamburgers, against which they fought unsuccessfully a few years ago; certainly, one has to be very stupid to declare war on a hamburger when it could be declared on quinoa. I guess in the end, it’s not the issue; it’s not BLM but the subversion of the established order to claim power. Or, put in plain English, to make Trump disappear. The rest doesn’t matter.

So I imagine that if the Left has chosen racism this time, it is only because fighting racism is easier to defend than veganism for progressive editorialists, who have to justify the wave of street violence in newspapers around the world. One example: Spain’s largest newspaper, El País, tweeted on Sunday: “A man is shot in the chest in Portland.” And it continued: “The mortal victim was wearing a hat with the insignia of a right-wing extremist group that has been involved in altercations.” If this trend in the anti-Trump press continues, it won’t be long before they headline: “Bullet escapes from gun and hits chest of Trump supporter, who later died of unknown causes.”

It’s all about trivializing death, if the dead are the enemy. Thus, that Seventies slogan from Italy’s Years of Lead inevitably comes to mind: “Marx, Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung / ce l’hanno insegnato / uccidere un fascista / non è reato” (Marx, Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung / they have taught us / to kill a Fascist / is not a crime). And I add: The question of whether he is a Fascist or not is also decided by the executioners. Often just by looking at his hat.

To fully understand this revolutionary violence taking shape on the streets of America, we must take a look at the most photogenic of revolutionary idols, Che Guevara, and at his actual moral misery, which will not usually appear in the history books. Former political prisoner Pierre San Martin tells us that in 1959, at the La Cabaña fortress in Havana, the revolutionaries beat a twelve-year-old boy to a pulp before throwing him into a cell. Because his face was bruised and bloodied when he arrived, the other political prisoners asked him what he had done. The boy confessed his crime: He had tried to defend his father so that the revolutionaries would not shoot him, but they killed him anyway. When Che Guevara learned of the boy’s presence, he had him brought so he could execute him himself. He ordered the boy to kneel down in front of him, and the boy answered: “If you are going to kill me, you will have to do it as you kill men, standing, not kneeling like cowards do.” Che then circled the boy, walking slowly, looking him over from top to bottom, saying, “So you are a brave boy . . .” And when he was completely behind him, he drew his gun and shot the boy in the back of his head.

I’m especially repulsed by back-shooting. I don’t know whether it’s because of my admiration for John Wayne or because I’m Spanish; I live in a country that for decades suffered from this cowardly murderous habit from the Socialist, terrorist gang ETA. But there is something even worse than shooting someone in the back, and that is absolving that murder just because it casts a shadow on your case. So, without so much as a word of condemnation for the crimes and altercations, the Democratic candidate poured more gasoline on the fire: “The President incites violence, inspires white-supremacist shooters, and his failed COVID response is costing thousands of lives per day.” And meanwhile, the entire Democratic machine (media and politics) was launched in unison on Sunday: “Trump is trying to start a civil war.” Of course, the implicit message is: And we will avoid it if you give us your vote. The Mafia could be more subtle.

Some of this plays in Trump’s favor. In 2016, the Left claimed that he would start World War III and that terrible nuclear conflicts would break out, but the truth is that the only war that Trump has started has been a war of tweets. Overall, he has turned out to be much less of a warmonger than his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize–winning Barack Obama. So after that failed prediction, the Democrats are now attempting a new threat that directly concerns the electorate: civil war. They know they will succeed if fear dominates the country in the coming months. Racism has nothing to do with this. They could be encouraging these same violent clashes between supporters and detractors of Greta Thunberg, or between supporters and detractors of pineapple on pizza — issues for which some of us would take to the streets much more eagerly than to hand a victory to someone as boring as Joe Biden.

There is much that counterrevolutionaries can teach us about how to repel a revolutionary siege with dignity. Keeping up the ideological confrontation is fundamental. As Edmund Burke recalls, before the triumph of violence in France, first they needed to win a cultural war, with a multitude of writings and ideological currents aimed at changing the way people thought, and doing so sometimes almost imperceptibly, replacing old values with a “black and savage mental atrocity.” Today, the fine rain of cultural Marxism is doing the job.

The thinking of Burke, de Maistre, or de Bonald also shows that the counterrevolutionary should not respond by adding more violence or slander to a time of crisis. In the end, the reason one opposes this kind of incipient revolution is truth, and one’s most effective weapon is precisely the defense of this great American nation’s traditional values: freedom, life, property. Because every life matters. The property of others is not violated. And freedom is not traded. Freedom, life, property. These words are to the Biden-Harris campaign like taking a crucifix to the soul of the possessed.

Translated by Joel Dalmau.