We talked with British-American conservative author and writer John Derbyshire about the main principles and forms of conservatism, the current socio-political climate in the US and other current issues.
Mr. Derbyshire, can you tell us a bit about your books and other writings?
For most of my adult life I made my living as a computer programmer. I only started writing for publication in my late thirties – book reviews and occasional opinion columns in British and American outlets. In 1996, after moving to the U.S.A., I published a novel, Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, which was well received. Thus encouraged I wrote a much longer novel, Fire from the Sun; but it was too long and I could not find a publisher.
But you did not stick to only writing novels…
I turned to nonfiction and wrote Prime Obsession, the history of a great unsolved mathematical problem. This too was well-received, and won a prize from the Mathematical Association of America. I followed with Unknown Quantity, a history of algebra.
When did you first started to write for connservative media?
By this time I had established relationships with several conservative outlets (magazines, websites) and was earning enough from writing that I could quit regular employment and write full-time. In 2009 I published We Are Doomed, offering a case for conservative pessimism.
In 2011 I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy. This left me with a much reduced capacity for mental work. Since then I have mainly written for VDARE.com, a U.S. outlet promoting National Conservatism.
You have written extensively on topics related to conservatism and dissident right. But today even the terms such as »conservatism« or »dissident right« are very broad, encompasing different views on the right political spectre. So, how would you define the main conservative values or principles, and the »dissident right«?
Conservatism is a disposition, the one described by Oakeshott 65 years ago: »To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.«
Modern political conservatism was shaped by the Cold War. When that conflict ended and communism ceased to be a doctrine of world conquest, fault lines opened up separating different factions of conservatism in the U.S.A.
What are the main fractions within conservatism?
An early fault line was between paleo- and neo-conservatives. The paleos favored a return to pre-WW2 ideals: traditionalism, localism, religion, minimal state power. Neoconservatives took a more triumphalist view of the Cold War victory. Liberal democracy had, they said, won the argument, and the West should endeavor to spread it worldwide – by commercial and cultural means, but also by military power when necessary.
Today neoconservatives are in fact the supporters of globalism, despite their name…
With the passing of three decades, the picture has become more complex. Those three decades included
- NATO’s disastrous military adventures in West Asia;
- the rise of China as a contender with the U.S.A. for world supremacy;
- great migrations from poor and hopeless nations to wealthy and secure ones;
- the popularization and commercialization of the internet; and
- advances in the human sciences, particularly behavioral genetics and intelligence research.
A major fault line among self-identifying conservatives today is between nationalism and globalism. Globalists are mainly on the political Left, favoring a powerful state and ambitious social engineering; but neoconservatives are still keen globalists. They continue to argue for mass immigration, the export of manufacturing to cheap-labor countries, and missionary wars on behalf of liberal democracy.
On the other end there is national conservatism. Tell us a bit more about this…
National Conservatism, which is in line of descent from paleoconservatism, has made strong gains all over the West, most notably with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In Europe the rise of figures like Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini, and most recently Éric Zemmour, has been encouraging to National Conservatives.
There are important divisions within National Conservatism, however. Some of us, particularly those with college-level training in mathematics, statistics, and the »hard« sciences, have come to doubt the human universalism taught by the major religions and favored by Cold War conservatism. The ideals of National Conservatism cannot, we think, be attained in societies with big racial minorities. Other National Conservatives, particularly religious ones, are more optimistic.
You have also written about the topics conserning the »dissident right«. How would you define this term?
The Dissident Right is that zone where nationalism meets race realism (or more broadly, Human Biodiversity, »HBD« for short). It is a minority viewpoint among National Conservatives and is considered un-respectable by all political factions because of associations with Nazism. To the best of my knowledge nobody on the Dissident Right wishes to invade Poland or massacre Jews; but our enemies work hard to keep the association alive. VDARE.com’s Peter Brimelow calls this »Hitler’s Revenge«.
We have seen the rise of violent leftist movements in the USA, such as the Antifa or BLM, in the recent years. What is the current situation regarding these leftist movements?
In the U.S.A., Antifa and BLM enjoy the patronage and favor of key power centers: the Democratic Party, the intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, NSA), nearly all major media outlets (print, broadcast, internet), the educational establishment, big corporations, even some of the churches. Hostility to them is taken to be evidence of »white supremacy«, i.e. of moral depravity.
How do you view the polarisation of the American society caused by the above mentioned movements?
Those movements are a consequence of social polarization, not a cause of it. Recent decades have seen a great intensification of class consciousness among white people in the U.S.A. A large inbreeding elite class has developed: urban, highly educated, globalist, administrative, and deeply scornful of lower-class whites. Barack Obama mocked working-class voters who »get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them«; Mrs Clinton spoke of those same people as »Deplorables.« Antifa and BLM are just the street militia of the elite, under elite patronage and protection.
I have described this as a Cold Civil War: two big groups of white people who can’t stand the sight of each other. Black Americans are emblems here, not really combatants. The elites cherish the injustices suffered by blacks in the past (and, according to elite propaganda, also in the present) as evidence of the moral inferiority of their enemies, the Deplorables.
Some authors on the “dissident right” believe that the best solution for Americans would be to divide the USA into different ethnic or ethno-states. How do you see this?
I don’t believe an arrangement of separate ethnostates could be stable. Black ethnostates would soon become Haitis and Zimbabwes, their people trying to flee from poverty and despotism into the white ethnostates. In any case, the real division is, according to me, one of class – elites versus Deplorables. In the worst case, this might end with massacres like those of the Tutsi elites by the underclass Hutus in 1994 Rwanda. A happier scenario might be just big urban centers leaving the rest of the nation to become indendent city-states, like Singapore leaving Malaysia in 1965.
What is your opinion on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse who was freed of all charges?
A just verdict, which would have been otherwise if Rittenhouse had shot a black man.
How do you comment the recent withdrawal of the U.S. Army and its allies from Afghanistan, and what are your thoughts on the war interventions in the Middle East?
I briefly favored these interventions after the 9/11 attack. I assumed, however that they would be merely punitive and monitory. When they developed into missionary »nation-building« crusades I turned away from them, and have never understood why they persisted so long. I guess it was the sunk-cost fallacy.
It seem that the Biden administration has caused a major migrant crisis on the U.S. southern border, that has been going on from the beginning of his presidency. What is the current situation regarding mass migrations?
My impression is that the administration is trying to square the circle: to press ahead with their Great Replacement strategy – replacing obstreperous white Deplorables with more docile, feudal aliens – while at the same time minimizing negative public reactions by cosmetics: empty time-killing negotiations with Mexico and Central American nations, moving aliens into the interior U.S.A. secretly by night, some inconsequential changes to immigration rules, etc.
What do you believe awaits the USA and the West in the near future?
I cannot predict; but I can say what I believe the determinants will be.
- The great imbalance in world population due to high fertility in poor, badly-governed regions – especially sub-Saharan Africa – while populations in advanced nations age and decline.
- Strange new technologies not yet imagined.
- New scientific understandings of our human nature.
John Derbyshire, born 3 June 1945, is a British-American conservative political commentator, writer, journalist and computer programmer. He graduated from the University of London, where he studied mathematics. He worked as a computer programmer on Wall Street in New York before turning to writing. He is the author of several books and novels, and until 2012 wrote for the conservative media outlet National Review, when he was fired for daring to write about racial issues and the differences between blacks and whites. Today, he writes mainly for the national conservative online media Vdare.