Revolutions need foot soldiers and our current political moment is no different. Although they may sometimes sound like they are in opposition, the reality is that there is a considerable amount of congruence between the direct action we see today on the Left and the political and media duopoly in power in most of the West. Rather than being opposed to the supposed establishment, these activists provide the street muscle, fierce passion, and raised voices that bureaucrats dare not show—at least not usually.
In the U.S., black-hooded Antifa aggressively push for ‘racial justice’ and ‘trans rights.’ Anti-oil and animal-rights groups disrupt traffic, spill milk in stores, and glue themselves to paintings in the United Kingdom. In continental Europe, ‘anti-racist’ far Left groups and blocs of immigrants attack the same opponents. Churches and Christian symbols face fire—real or symbolic—from leftist, feminist, or Islamist sources. These are manifestations of what is known as direct action—whether violent or non-violent—which as a term developed on the political Left in the early 20th century, although antecedents can be found in the 19th century.
States and governments themselves may arrest people for some of these actions; sometimes the authorities may even prosecute some of them. But there is not that much political space between the street radicals and the broader agendas of most of our entrenched elites on a range of issues such as race, gender, climate change, immigration, or even their view of (Christian) religion. The street toughs may be getting a little ahead of the program, be a bit hot-headed, but they are pointing in the ‘correct’ direction. Their political hearts are in the right place and largely in lockstep with globalist elites. Such ideological harmony is reflected in the media coverage, where they are often treated with kid gloves, and described as ‘activists’ or ‘progressives’ while their opponents are ‘far’ or ‘ultra,’ as in ‘far-right’ or ‘ultra conservative.’
In a country like Spain, the country’s only truly right-wing party, VOX, is viciously demonized by media and politicians alike for what it supposedly says, as if this was actually a sort of violence. Meanwhile VOX activists, politicians, and offices are physically assaulted by the Left or by Catalan and Basque separatists. If one was to follow the media coverage, however, you would think that it was VOX that was doing the assaulting rather than the other way around. The same phenomenon is seen with ‘far’ right-wing parties in France and Germany, victims of actual violence with machetes and hammers. To express views condemned by elites and their foot soldiers is to invite physical intimidation.
Right-wing street fighting men are few and far between and to try to be one is, more often than not, to fall into a political and legal trap. In the U.S., when these seem to appear, they are often penetrated (if not encouraged) by law enforcement, becoming a type of far-right performance art designed to elicit ritualized condemnation and to encourage much larger and more accepted left-wing rallies. In America and in the West generally, the security and surveillance apparatus created to fight jihadism is being repurposed to pursue sometimes vaguely defined domestic enemies.
They are certainly going to receive much greater scrutiny and hostility than leftist ‘Black Bloc’ types who will likely have charges dismissed or be acquitted by ‘enlightened’ big city prosecutors and progressive juries. In a recent example, two Antifa militants who assaulted journalist Andy Ngo in Portland, Oregon, were found not guilty by a jury in a lawsuit brought by the journalist who was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage after an attack in 2019. The militants were successfully defended by a ten-person legal team.
Much was made, during France’s recent riots and outbreak of destruction in June and July 2023, of the appearance of small cadres of right-wingers confronting the largely migrant rioters and their leftist allies from NUPES (New Ecological and Social People’s Union (French: Nouvelle Union populaire écologique et sociale). The rightists seemed to limit themselves to defending property, armed with batons or baseball bats, or marching, chanting things like “French people awake: you are at home” or “Blue, White, Red: France for the French.” Although their numbers were small, their mere presence seemed to alarm the authorities more than the much larger rioting community.
France, of course, has a much richer, continuing history of right-wing street toughs than most other Western countries. It is the nation that produced, 115 years ago, the Camelots du roi—the notorious ‘King’s Newspaper Hawkers’—the rambunctious youth wing of the royalist and nationalist Action Française that began by selling the movement’s newspapers at church doors and evolved into fighting communists and anarchists—and even the government’s political police—on the streets of Paris. You see them in old photographs, well-dressed dapper youths in straw hats carrying walking sticks or bludgeons, their weapon of choice, seeking to bring about the fall of the Republic and the return of the Orléanist pretender.
The emblematic Camelot leader was Maxime Real del Sarte (1888-1954)—a talented sculptor, fervent Catholic, devotee of Joan of Arc, and war hero who lost his left arm at Verdun. As one British scholar has noted, “the revolutionary doctrine of a Conservative party backed by fighting squads of ardent young men was a French invention.”
For decades, the outnumbered Camelots fought with great élan against their foes, particularly in the Latin Quarter of Paris, which they dominated. In almost thirty years of existence, these cheerful ruffians don’t seem to have killed anyone in dozens of street battles—although not through lack of opportunity. They certainly broke many laws, as did their opponents. In 1936, the severe beating of French Premier Leon Blum by the Camelots caused these “dangerous hotheads” to be finally banned by the authorities. Before and during the Second World War some former Camelots became actual fascists, while others fought in the French Resistance against the Nazis.
It is impossible to imagine such a rightist street phenomenon flourishing today—and many, including many on the Right, will be delighted that this is the case. Part of this is because of the political hegemony of the Left. But another reason is because ours is an atomized and stupefied population, divided, isolated, and infiltrated. And this is often true of even supposedly ‘right-thinking’ demographics. In Alienated America, people are more likely to commit suicide than to conspire. We have low levels of social capital, small and broken families, weak communal bonds, and withered grass roots. All of these are conditions that, if healthier, could have served as building blocks for an organized resistance. Such populations cannot really organize themselves without being easily demonized or hollowed out from within by the authorities before they even get started. The street-smart Left in the trenches, coddled by progressive governments, Big Tech, the powerful advocacy community, and the media, has a built-in advantage here.
A new age
As a conservative, I oppose, as a matter of principle, vigilantism and street thugs no matter their ideological motivation, no matter how colorful. A conservative should prioritize both order and the rule of law. The challenge today is not to be tricked into any dubious activity that will be used to discredit you and the causes you believe in—although the attempt to discredit will be made anyway.
But the future street fighting men of the Right—should law and order continue to break down and should the state be seen as irremediably broken—will likely be ad hoc, less political, local groups, like some in France protecting private property against the mob, or as were seen in the U.S. decades ago, protecting their stores during race riots in Los Angeles and Miami. They will also be crowds of angry parents furious at public school indoctrination of their children, or angry farmers furious at losing their livelihoods. They may be yellow vests in France or trucker convoys in Canada, activism that tries to avoid political labels, but will receive them all the same. The ruling elite zealously polices the borders of its Overton Window.
These future fighters will likely protect rather than attack, although nevertheless they will be vilified. They will be looked at by the hostile authorities with minute scrutiny to see if they have somehow trespassed, like the scrutiny given those California Sikhs who beat a blatant shoplifter with a stick.
Popular, violent, reactionary revolts, when they have occurred on the political Right, were often rooted in rural life: one thinks of the jacquerie uprisings, of royalists in the Vendée, of Carlists and Sanfedismo, of Mexican Cristeros and Nicaraguan Contras. But these were insurgencies rather than direct action—and large pools of traditionalist peasants are rather rare in the West these days.
It is possible that an upcoming severe economic crisis could disrupt the current correlation of forces that today ensures the dominance of progressive state power and oligarchy, allied with their rough and ready street enforcers. An economic depression could cause the street toughs to turn on the fifth columnists in power with whom they share so much. Such a situation—desperate economic times—could also lead to the emergence of direct action on the Right, challenging its near-monopoly enjoyed by the Left for so many years. A new age of street fighting men seems to draw near.