The darkest pages in history are often the most instructive.
The French Revolution ushered in the idea that social institutions that have stood for hundreds or even thousands of years, could be torn down with gay abandon and replaced by government edict. This revolution was both explicitly and implicitly anti-Christian, being founded on the atheistic beliefs and philosophy of Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot. The Christian structures of society were subject to ridicule and abuse, while the goddess of Reason was exalted. It was “liberty, equality and fraternity, or death!” Especially death, as Madame Guillotine received a rigorous workout.
When King Louis XVI was confronted by a mob, he ordered his more than 600 Swiss guards to surround him, hoping that this act would dissuade them from attacking. It didn’t work. They were all savagely murdered. The mobs ripped them to shreds and mutilated their corpses. “Women, lost to all sense of shame,” said one surviving witness, “were committing the most indecent mutilations on the dead bodies from which they tore pieces of flesh and carried them off in triumph.” Children played kickball with the guards’ heads. Every living thing in the royal palace in Paris was butchered or thrown from the windows by the hooligans. Women were raped before being hacked to death.
The instigators of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions of the twentieth century (along with the Fascists in Italy and Germany), in many ways sought to emulate the French Revolution. Lenin in Russia claimed that the failure of the French Revolution was that they hadn’t killed enough people, so his solution was an obvious one. And when Mao violently assumed power in China, he sought to outdo Stalin (who succeeded Lenin) in terms of the ferocity and unpredictability of his attacks on communities and individuals. It is still difficult today to determine just how many people Mao killed, but it could have been more than 60 million.
Why should we draw attention to this?
Professing conservatives need to know what is the alternative to true conservatism. It’s not that conservatives should be afraid of change; far from it. But what we ought to be afraid of, is attacking and tearing down legitimate social structures such as the family and the church, as if they were in some way evil or outmoded, and need to be destroyed.
At the bi-centenary of the French Revolution in 1989, of the political leaders present, only Margaret Thatcher had the courage to be critical of what the Revolution stood for. Today, the West has not really repudiated the French Revolution at all, for there are elements of it which have become embedded in government policy, world-wide. And this has had consequences.
The traditional model of a vertically-structured society under the centralized authority of the state has shown itself unable to satisfy even the narrowest definition of societal order. Wars, depressions, genocides, torture, police-state brutalities, assassinations, economic dislocations, imprisonments without trials, and a twentieth century death toll of some 200,000,000 victims of state power, attest to the failure of political systems to provide their promised protection of life, liberty, property, and the creative processes that sustain a civilization.
Australia has witnessed a withdrawal from genuine conservative political theory. In 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre, an ostensibly conservative Prime Minister in the person of John Howard enacted a 1.5 billion dollar gun-buyback scheme, to remove “assault weapons” and automatic shotguns from the community. Yet later, in welcoming President Bush to the Australian Parliament in 2003, Mr Howard indicated that one of the things that bring Australia and the U.S. together, “is the belief that individuals are more important than the State.” That sounded very conservative, but his earlier legislation indicated that individual Australians had better get used to the opposite.
The Italian Fascist Mussolini spoke of this doctrine. In “Fascism: Doctrines and Institutions,” he wrote that “The fascist conception of life, stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State.” Mussolini put his finger on a fundamental difference of priority. This difference has great implications today.
The origins of conservatism’s concern for individual liberties are found in the Bible, because the gospel begins with the individual.
Freedom begins with internal regeneration, and then steadily works its effects outward. If spiritual freedom is not allowed by civil rulers to work its way toward political and economic freedom, then God at last breaks the chains of bondage that restrain the covenantal blessings of freedom. This is the message of the Book of Exodus.
But recently, a purportedly conservative State government in NSW enacted legislation that made it a criminal offence to “consort” with people with a criminal record, and one man has been gaoled as a result. Now, he’s consorting all right-in gaol. In Victoria, a purportedly conservative State government, under the guise of “Child Protection,” has taken two children from their parents for this reason: the children were obese.
As Walter Williams pointed out,
One does not have to be in favour of death camps or wars of conquest to be a tyrant. The only requirement is that one has to believe in the primacy of the state over individual rights.
A political leader claims he’s a conservative? Good, but show me the fruits of his conservatism. Three supposedly conservative governments in Australia haven’t seemed to know the meaning of the term.
 Gordon Craig, “Germany 1866-1945,” 1980, p.viii.
 Ann Coulter, “Godless.”
 Butler Shaffer, “Wet Sidewalks cause Rain,” Lew Rockwell’s website, 1/1/2013.
 Quoted in Di Lorenzo, T., “Fascialism: The New American System,” Lew Rockwell website, 11/6/09.
 Gary North, “Authority and Dominion,” 2012, p.1563.
 Walter Williams, “Liberals, Progressives and Socialists,” Lew Rockwell’s website, 8/8/2012.