by Rabbi Mayer Schiller
The notion of a “third way” as an alternative to both capitalism and communism has long been popular among assorted European thinkers, over the years the phrase has been employed by a variety of theoreticians representing a host of diverse ideas. What unites them all, though, is a sense that politically, economically, socially and religiously something had gone fundamentally wrong with the direction of Western Man and that radical solutions are necessary to deal with this derailment.
As far as this journal and the organisation it represents is concerned the term “third way” refers to a wide range of ideas and programs on the major questions of our time. Included among them are commitments to distributism, regionalism, local democracy, environmentalism, traditional morality, self-determination for all nations, a realisation that racial and ethnic differences are of significance, and many other positions. These are not stances haphazardly assumed, but are predicated upon certain root assumptions. It is these root assumptions that I hope to explore in the following lines.
Matter Versus Meaning
Recent decades have shown that the traditional dichotomies of ‘Right’and ‘Left’ are often easily bridged. Despite noisy disputes as to how best to cut up the economic pie between capitalists and socialists there is little disagreement between establishment politicians that the means to social well-being and happiness lies primarily in the material realm. This, perhaps, the fundamental dogma of the hierarchies who dominate our era.
Opposed to the belief that man’s happiness lies in the acquisition of physical comfort, mind-numbing display and entertainment, are assorted doctrines derived from many sources. Among them we may mention the beliefs of the traditional religious faiths of Europe; of those who believe that various forms of romanticism represent man’s highest calling; and of communal movements who feel that giving to and caring for others present man with his greatest happiness. Viewed from these perspectives which value the soul (character) of man more than his material worth, we may understand how several alternative critiques of modernity associated in the public mind with movements of both ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ may, in fact, be in essential agreement. For example, both the traditional Catholic right and the late sixties New Left rejected materialism and selfishness in the name of community, while seeing the purpose of life in terms of assent to value as opposed to mere acquisitiveness. Similarly the old codes of gentlemanly and chivalrous conduct emphasise man’s honour (his character) as his primary concern. In sum, the phrase used by Eric Fromm that it is better “to be” than “to have” seems to provide a cryptic formulation of this belief.
Third Way sees man’s search for happiness as being linked to the quality as opposed to the quantity of experience. All its positions, be they rooted in patriotism and a strong sense of our ties and obligations to the past or in a desire to discharge our obligations ethically to our fellow man in the present via social and economic justice, may be traced to this essentially moral (spiritual), as contrasted with materialistic, view of reality.
Small Is Beautiful
A belief that most of our communal problems can best be dealt with at the local level, with those directly affected involved, motivates much of Third Way’s practical political program. The alienation and cynicism experienced by contemporary Western man is due to several causes. One is, as noted before, that the normative sources of meaning available to previous generations – namely God, family, country and community – have been rendered impotent by secularism, liberalism and capitalism. The other is that we are all overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness. We no longer have input in the management of structures which govern our lives. That role has been taken away by Governments (forever distant and unresponsive), the media (intent upon profit and simplistic entertainment, the schools (the source of establishment domination over youthful minds) and national or transnational business conglomerates (devoid of any attachment to place, people or the past).
Hence Third Way’s attachment to overcoming people’s sense of disenfranchisement by returning control over affairs to those touched by them. The advocacy of distributism, regionalism, local democracy etc. is geared to facilitating this process. If it is successful, men and women will once again feel that they have some control over their personal destiny and strong bonds of community to their fellows.
Self- Determination For All
Man realises himself in a community where the essential rhythms of his own existence are relevant to those around him. All the elements that go into the creation of an autonomous culture (a shared history, geography, symbolism, mythology, song, manners, etc.) are part of what give us a sense of comfort, meaning and purpose. By destroying these building blocks of nationhood, the unique experience of being “at home” that we all crave is crushed.
Accordingly, Third Way favours self-determination for all the world’s people and views massive population transfers of wildly diverse groups as a negative experience for all involved. Obviously we are on some tricky ground here. In America, for example, the population largely separates itself on the basis of racial, ethnic and (at times) religious grounds while the government seeks to maintain a shaky peace amongst all involved. Given the current and future demographics of that State, it is probably all that can be hoped for.
In the British Isles, Third Way has come out in support of a government subsidised program of voluntary repatriation. The assumption behind this is twofold :
It is best for all peoples to have a place and a way of life they can all call their own.
This realisation cannot be imposed on men, but can only realistically be achieved by mutual understanding on a voluntary basis. As long as most men of whatever ethnic, racial or national grouping are locked in the prison of media-imposed selfishness, all talk of self-awareness and self-determination is just so much idle chatter.
Third Way Nationalism
Finally, there are those areas in which Third Way has significantly distances itself from other forms of nationalism (even those stressing local as opposed to national structures). The area that immediately springs to my mind is the organisation’s approach to those who hold the Jewish faith. In brief, the movement is dedicated to combating all forms of bigotry, but is especially concerned with ending the conflict and misunderstanding and distrust that has existed between the Jews and many European patriots over recent centuries. This position makes Third Way unique among nationalist movements in England, as all others are committed to a program of explicit or implicit anti-Semitism. A new course of this nature will be expected to experience some rocky going, but after an initial period of scepticism, increasing numbers of Jews and Nationalists have been abandoning old stereotypes.
Third Way’s approach to the Jewish Faith is typical of another trait of the group which is more one of mood than philosophy. It is a movement of philosophy, receptivity and hope. Unlike other nationalists who view the world as a place of inevitable conflict, struggle and hatred with victory belonging to the strongest and the most cunning, Third Way sees humanity as capable of co-existing on the basis of mutual respect. This is a crucial difference and colours how one views not only international affairs, but also how one attempts to relate to other ethnic and racial groupings currently residing in Europe. Does one approach them antagonistically or in a spirit of mutual understanding? In sum, Third Way does not see the interests of the peoples of the world as inherently contradictory.
The above is a brief sketch of some of the positions and assumptions of Third Way. Good people may argue about some of the points mentioned, but it remains a political outlook and world view offering a serious alternative to establishment doctrine while steering clear of the negativism of similar endeavours made in the past. It should suffice to defeat reductionist viewpoints in the public forum, while enabling and encouraging the spirit of Western man to devote itself to higher things.
About The Writer
Rabbi Mayer Schiller, a Talmudic Instructor in New York City, is the author of numerous books, among them The (Guilty) Conscience of a Conservative (a critique of the American Right Wing) and The Road Back (a defence of Orthodox Judaism). His articles have appeared in assorted American Jewish journals including Jewish Action and Tradition.