This is the modern way
The neoreactionary view as regards North Korea is that it is functionally a monarchy and that it would be better if we treated it as a monarchy, rather than wage ideological war to convert it to liberal democracy—after all, North Korea has had a hereditary leadership that spans three generations now, and each Kim exercises absolute power of life and death over his subjects; and this is nothing like even the way the Politburo functioned under Stalin—Stalin never thought he would establish his son as the next General Secretary. Similarly, progressives look at the Trump movement and say it is fascistic—it is functionally an organic nativist movement based in the middle and lower middle classes and led by a charismatic leader who condemns a small cabal (possibly ethnic, or implied to be) that exercises shadowy power to the country’s detriment.
This is sometimes called the “realist” position, it shows a certain influence from James Burnham—it has that Machiavellian element that causes delight, almost wicked delight; just like natural science, it seems to confound your prejudices. “We must smash the aquariums of Pyongyang!” “On the contrary, the Kims are practical men—we deal with them as if they were Henry VIII; let’s fold all the propaganda infrastructure aimed at the Norks and deal with them as practical kings, not as hysterical ideologists.” As the scientists say, “Watch what it does, not what it is says it is.” A similar disposition can be found in Edward Luttwak—so the people gasp and say, “You can’t suggest that. Immoral!” “On the contrary, m’dear, highly practical.” <wicked grin>.
It is strange that progressives and neoreactionaries think in the same way, is it not? The man in the MAGA hat splutters that he is absolutely not a fascist; he is for the Founders and the Constitution—on the contrary, Hillary Clinton is the real fascist. And yet, functionally, Trumpism is American fascism—just as functionally the Kims are kings. When progressives say “Trump is a fascist” they speak the truth (or, perhaps, we should say they advance the most plausible hypothesis based on observable facts); just as it is futile to splutter that the Kims still have portraits of Marx everywhere, it is futile to splutter that Trump never wears blackshirts and has no particular beef with the Jews. “We’re scientists: we deal with what is, not what we want to be—this is how it is, deal with it.”
Yet this feels wrong, somehow. At some level Kim is not a king, at some level Trump is not Mussolini. You know what I mean by that. “This is because you allow feelings to get in the way; you’ll never advance until you look at things scientifically, coldly—everything else is sentimental illusion.” Yet why is the kingdom of Bhutan, until recently an absolute monarchy and hermit kingdom, somehow peaceable and desirable to visit and live in, whereas North Korea—functionally an absolute monarchy and hermit kingdom—is not desirable at all, except if you want to engage in “disaster tourism” or make a prurient documentary about this drab country? The answer is that there is a qualitative element that differs between the two regimes that has been excluded, even though they are functionally identical. This qualitative element is why Bhutan makes it very expensive to visit in order to keep tourists out, whereas North Korea makes it expensive to visit to wring more hard currency from the people who want a ghoulish tour around hell.
If you speak to Trump supporters—Trump himself—they do not contain the same subjective content as a follower of Mussolini or Hitler. They do not have ideas about Atlantis, about the Volk, Croce’s idealistic notions about the nation, 19th-century racial theories, bitterness about defeat and humiliation, and on and on. Similarly, North Koreans do not think they live in a monarchy as commonly understood—otherwise, why have even the pretence there are elections or a great “idea” that the Kims supposedly developed, Juche?
All these qualitative factors must be excluded from the realist analysis; and yet this makes realism unreal—if North Korea is a monarchy it is a perverted monarchy at best; if Trump is a fascist, he is a novel fascist with his own ideas only tangentially related to the historical movement “fascism”. For example, a king must be crowned and declared king by a spiritual authority; the Kims have done no such thing—ergo, they are not kings.
The realist replies that Juche thought is functionally the same as a spiritual authority in a monarchy; yet it is not, it is a materialist theory cooked up from Marxism and nationalism—not really a spiritual idea at all. “Beep-boop. We do not recognise the qualitative.” The realist thinks, presumably, that one day there might be a responsible Kim; in reality it will never be so—Juche itself is a rotten idea, it will always produce rotten anti-kings. For neoreaction, the “mandate of heaven” is a metaphor; really it is actual.
The realist path is illusion; just like natural science, it gives you the illusion you have real power—Luciferian power—and yet it always feels there is *something* missing, the analysis is somehow incomplete. It is incomplete because it lacks the qualitative element; and this is why modernity is so ugly—all our natural science and technology excludes the qualitative, and to create a political science on the same basis will be debauched whatever happens. It is commonsensical that Trump is not a fascist, just as Kim is not a king.
I grant that the functional position is real, but that is not full reality; and if you exclude the qualitative aspect you miss a great deal, for a start you discount the subjective beliefs of everyone involved in Trumpism or who lives in North Korea (and those beliefs cannot be, using common sense, completely irrelevant). Hence neoreaction and progressivism are two moments of the same problem, the problem is modernity.