The events of recent decades have forced us to rethink the distinction between Left and Right. For more than 40 years, the Left has been redefining and radically transforming its own ideology. Meanwhile, the Right (or at least a significant part of it) seems to believe that the intellectual, political, and strategic parameters of the Cold War are still in force.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc produced an illusion that final victory had gone to the West—and that the Left would have to be content with its apparent defeat and play by the rules that, up to that point, had prevailed on the capitalist side.
Many thought that the European and American Left was simply going to become a kind of innocuous, socially conscious Right. This was bolstered by the fact that the Democratic candidate Bill Clinton won the election against Republican George H. W. Bush in 1992, using the memorable phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid,” coined by his political advisor, James Carville. At the same time in the UK, Tony Blair invented New Labour, thereby contributing to the idea on the Right that their political opponents were conceding to economic facts.
The fact that left-wing and socialist leaders in Europe had succeeded in banishing Marxism from their party ideology and their respective platforms and were settling into some new kind of social democracy increased the euphoria of those who considered themselves triumphant. For some, it seemed that the “end of history” predicted by Francis Fukuyama had truly come.
However, the truth is that the rules of the political game during the second half of the 20th century had simply collapsed. With the end of the Cold War, the former distinction between Left and Right had become meaningless and obsolete. Now, the division that exists in the ideological context of the West is that between nationalism and globalism.
All of this points to a need to rethink the broad categories we have inherited from the 20th century and reconceive the political reality in which we now are engaged. The Right must adapt its ideas, strategy, and discourse to the current political ‘dialectics,’ and not remain anchored to—or trapped by—approaches that are far from the conscious and unconscious concerns of citizens today. The following points are intended to illustrate the main tenets of ‘conservative thinking’ today (though even this term may itself need to be changed) in Italy, Spain, and other countries.
The nation remains the best political ecosystem for the peaceful coexistence of people, and it is therefore important to maintain its social capital. This was particularly demonstrated during the pandemic.
Without nations, there can be no national sovereignty, no rule of law, and no welfare state. As Yoram Hazony warns, “the only political community we have with full democratic legitimacy is the nation.” It is to the state (the nation) that citizens turn to claim for the defense of their land and lives. Sovereign borders are an instrument that provides that security. We have seen in recent years the very concept of national boundaries come under attack. New conservatism must protect this and other foundational properties of the nation-state.
Universal citizenship, promoted by globalist leaders, is an inefficient utopia. At the end of the day, no one thinks of claiming their pension, their children’s education, or their health care from any international body. Rather, it is to their homeland that they turn.
The alternative to a doctrine that sets groups against each other (women against men, nationals against foreigners, blacks against whites, homosexuals against heterosexuals, etc.) is a philosophy of people: rational humanism.
As the new conservatives, we reclaim, according to Edmund Burke’s postulates, the link between generations. We recognize the responsibility that each of us has to one another, to those who have died, and to those who are not yet born. We do not owe the best we have to ourselves alone. Forgetting the efforts and wisdom of those who have gone before us is presumptuous and detrimental to our society, both currently and in the future. Our tradition is a living entity, capable of continually adapting to reality and contributing to the health of our individual and unique nations.
National law is a limit (perhaps the only limit) to the absolute authority of the powerful. The weak require these laws to protect them, as well as courts to support them and to punish and prevent abuses by the strongest. Property is the most important individual right and should be enshrined in legislation as such. People need a safe dwelling place for their families and control over their property in order to lead a secure life. Without this protection of property, society would be perpetually unstable and no other rights could be feasibly exercised.
New conservatism sees any evolution towards forms of socialist capitalism or the supposed handing over of all economic power to large global corporations as a specific and concrete danger to the very rights that a nation is established to defend.
Marketplace of ideas
While the Left is ideologically rigid, new conservatism defends objective science, reason, and the truth of facts: enlightenment and rationalism.
Social progress requires that freedom of expression, thought, and academics be defended at all costs. It is the marketplace of ideas that has enabled our nations to achieve their degree of social and economic development.
Principles grounded in reason—like the rule of law, the division of powers, and the presumption of (real) innocence—are guarantees of a true democracy. It is apparent or covert limits amount to social and political regression. The defense of individual freedom is fundamental in the wake of the new reality highlighted by the pandemic. Under the pretext of combating it, a new form of governance has been created that undermines primary freedoms.
The middle class
The increasingly impoverished middle class must be maintained and supported. There can be no democracy worthy of its name without a strong middle class to protect against polarization between the excessively rich ‘few’ and the desperately poor ‘masses.’
The new conservatism favors industrial relocation, the promotion of equal opportunities, and a rational control of immigration as means of defending the beleaguered middle class. We must protect a citizen’s ability to earn enough to provide for themselves and their children through ingenuity and work, and generate a surplus that allows them to create savings and contribute to the common good through limited and proportionate taxation.
This new Latin conservatism advocates an alliance between the nations of Latin Europe, because of their similar cultural traditions and geopolitical space. The solidarity of nations so close in history and heritage highlights the new Right’s resistance to the looming presence of Leftist globalism. As Seneca wrote: ‘Do not let yourself be overcome by anything foreign to your spirit, think, in the midst of the accidents of life, that you have within you a mother force, strong and unyielding.’ Civilization is the mother force of nations, the source of all progress, and the defender of sovereignty.