A Short Introduction to Political Platonism for Nativists

It was in New Zealand, right across the ditch, that Karl Popper wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies in the final years of WWII, a book that sought to prevent the ideological re-emergence of challenges to progressive liberalism right as Germany and Japan were collapsing before the Allied onslaught. Surprisingly, perhaps, for Popper the key enemy of the open society is Plato, at the very beginning of what we commonly call European Civilisation. If this is indeed the case, it is important that those of us who today want to raise the banner against the open society in Australia familiarise ourselves with the basic points made by this ancient friend. In the following introduction to Plato’s ethical vision of politics, I hope not just to provide a theoretical overview, but to show how Plato’s ideas can provide support to the ANA model and to exhort all good Australian men to embrace the virtues that Plato teaches us are the foundation of effective politics.

For Plato, before we can do political science we have to understand virtue ethics. The most fundamental virtues are what he calls the political virtues: temperance, courage, wisdom, and righteousness, and these are the virtues that create citizens who can advance the common good of the city or state. It’s important to realise that these are not just a grab bag of popular virtues for Plato, but the fundamental aspects of his theory of the soul, or psyche, within his greater ethical vision. The most basic thesis of Platonic ethics is the assertion of the fundamental goodness of organic integrative unity, as Plato aligns his ethics with his metaphysics in the ultimate identification of the Good with the One. The goodness of the individual psyche, therefore, is to be found in its own integrative unity where every aspect of the psyche is brought into proper order by the virtues under the rule of the mind or reason. Our appetites or desires are restrained and measured by temperance, our temper functions properly according to courage, our reason should operate by wisdom, and this good order of the soul is the righteousness of the just man. Thus, the fundamental building block of effective political organisation is the creation of virtuous men, strong in self-discipline of the body and the soul, a key goal of every branch of the ANA.

To return to Platonism, since organic integrative unity operates at every level of society and the cosmos, Plato suggests in his dialogue The Republic that there is an analogy between the soul and the social classes that make up the structure of the state. A state will have a worker class, corresponding to the appetitive aspect of the soul; a guardian class, corresponding to the temper of the soul; and an intellectual ruling class, corresponding to the mind. The state is healthy and righteous when each of these social functions is operating properly and in its proper order. Plato is sometimes said to have a technocratic vision of politics; however, it would be more accurate to call it epistocratic, the rule of those who have true knowledge, which must include knowledge of the Good. The true epistocrat of the intellectual class is the philosopher-king, who attains to the knowledge of the true Good and applies it to the benefit of his community. The shadow of the philosopher-king is the tyrant, the man who falls for false images of goodness and seeks only to feed his own depraved fantasies and desires. Today, we can recognise that our own Australian political and intellectual “elites” and would-be technocrats fall into this second class, pursuing greater material wealth and supporting more and more depraved social “values” all while selling the broader white Australian community down the river into debt-slavery and subservience to foreign peoples. Nonetheless, we have to recognise that if the Australian social classes had greater virtue and knowledge, including the broad white working class, it would have been difficult for the elites to get away with this treachery. Alongside strict political virtue then, we also have to advocate for more knowledge. Knowledge of ourselves and our Australian identity, knowledge of our enemies, professional knowledge, and knowledge of the Good. A core tenet of the ANA is professionalism and the development of the knowledge-base of every member. In this way, the ANA functions as a little epistocratic association within the Australian true right – which gets into the last idea I want to get across.

When Plato begins a discussion on politics and political science in his dialogue, The Statesman, he suggests that there is little difference between a magnificently large household or association and a small city. In the English political tradition,  this thesis of the historical rise of the city out of the household and the normativity of singular patriarchal rule over both household and state was something that was advocated by Sir Robert Filmer (c.1588-1653), one of the most important political theorists of High Tory or traditionalist politics. In this view, there’s a fractal pattern of political households descending from the cosmos as the household of God.  As far as I know, our own Australian history is short on this sort of traditionalist politics. When we began as a group of individual colonies, there was no landed gentry or established church, and most of the squatters who aspired to a vision of a colonial aristocracy devolved into an oligarchy of big money interests rather than anything truly noble. Furthermore, while British Australia always had a strong sense of imperial loyalty, and this was maintained even into Federation and the Deakinite Settlement, the nativist feeling was often more behind an independent Australian republic. Does this mean that the nativist must ultimately part ways with the political Platonist on the ideal of monarchy? By no means! While the monarchy of the philosopher-king, as a civic image of the metaphysics of the priority of the One over the many, is the political theory most closely associated with Plato, it is not the only option for the political Platonist. It is again in The Statesman that Plato admits that the knowledge of rulership applies not only to the good king, as he advocated in The Republic, but also to the non-monarchical rule of statesmen. Aristotle, further developing political Platonism in his Politics, lists three forms of virtuous rule and corresponding vicious rule as applied to the level of the one, the few, or the many. At the level of the one, our familiar king or tyrant; at the level of the few, an aristocracy or oligarchy; at the level of the many, either a polity or a democracy. Indeed, these forms of rule are not exclusive, and many regimes will be mixed regimes. Under the Deakinite settlement, Australia was a constitutional monarchy and polity, with its strong social and working class policies of immigration restriction, protection, wage arbitration, and state paternalism functioning under imperial oversight. We could also look to the Roman ideal of consul, senate, and committees, which was applied both by the divine-right monarchies of Old Europe and the republic of the United States. Both the Australian monarchist and the Australian republican can hold to the platonic vision, while disagreeing on the final mode of its application, which in the end may come down to the contingencies of history rather than any ideal.

The  real benefit of thinking in terms of Plato’s or Filmer’s fractal vision of political organisation, is that in a very simple way it scales up and down. You don’t have to start from the top. A single man can make himself into a virtuous man with a virtuous family household without joining any group. An organised group of virtuous men, an association like the ANA can become magnificently large enough to be a small city, and with enough small cities we can restore a just Australia. We need good men if we are to remain an outpost of Europe surrounded by Asian nations. Don’t be the slob who sits in front of the TV and hasn’t got the knowledge to discern between the real Good and the apparent goods that the elites try to peddle onto us (they’re mostly made in China or India). Develop temperance, courage, wisdom, and righteousness, and don’t forget to join the ANA where there are some blokes willing to give you a hand along the way too!

Elias Priestly

ANA Victoria