BOOK REVIEW: News Weekly
A time for militancy
, December 21, 2013
THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION
by Cory Bernardi
(Ballarat, Victoria: Connor Court)
Paperback: 180 pages
Reviewed by John Ballantyne
This newly released book, The Conservative Revolution, by Liberal Senator for South Australia, Cory Bernardi, is a welcome corrective to the muddle and malice that pass for political discourse in today’s Australia.
Ever since he was elected to the Senate in 2006, Bernardi has been at war against many of the things the radical left holds dear. He is unashamedly patriotic and denounces those he calls cultural vandals who denigrate our history and seek to undermine the traditions which have enabled our country to prosper. He is also adamantly against the culture of death which threatens the unborn, the sick and the elderly.
His personal credo, as expressed towards the end of the book, is: “Never apologise or let yourself feel guilty about your views and beliefs.”
He earned some notoriety some years ago for refusing to fall into line with the Kevin Rudd/Malcolm Turnbull consensus on global-warming. It was a good thing for the fortunes of the Coalition that he stood his ground on this issue, as it eventually helped topple Turnbull from the Liberal leadership. Political writer Peter van Onselen said in 2010: “Bernardi was the person who got the ball rolling on Abbott’s ambition to become Liberal leader.”
The Conservative Revolution is Bernardi’s call to arms to his fellow Australians. It is a well thought-out work and clearly the product of wide reading. It includes telling quotes from Burke, de Tocqueville, Chesterton, Churchill, B.A. Santamaria, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, Kenneth Minogue and Roger Scruton.
Unlike most politicians, Bernardi appreciates the long-run power of ideas in shaping society and culture, for good or ill. He declares that “cultural Marxism has been one of the most corrosive influences on society over the last century”, and observes how the cultural revolution in the West that commenced in the 1960s “has had over half a century to do its destructive work”.
He discusses the important roles of Frankfurt School Marxism and the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci. Not one in a hundred Coalition voters would know about these things; but they should. For if they studied this realm of politics more, they would gain valuable insights into the political left’s unceasing war against their most cherished values.
Bernardi takes aim at the nature worship of the radical Greens, who repudiate the image of God and regard humanity as being a “cancer on nature”.
Although Bernardi exposes the false philosophies of the left, he does not commit the common conservative error of being complacent about how freedom can be misused under capitalism. He observes “a unique pathology common to modern wealth societies: moral and spiritual emptiness among opulence and material luxury”. He decries how the “principles of hard work and persistence have been lost to an entire generation, replaced with fast money, materialism and an addiction to debt”.
A free enterprise economy, in his view, must have a moral centre. It is noteworthy that his chapter on free enterprise comes after his three chapters on the importance of faith, family and our flag to ensuring a cohesive society.
His chapter on faith is foundational to the book, and is the longest and most detailed of all the chapters. He defends Judeo-Christian values — the Moses Code — and especially the sanctity of life.
He calls for greater public spiritedness and care for our neighbours. He writes: “Time serving one’s fellow citizens as a volunteer, helper, group leader or almost any other role allows people to experience life from someone else’s perspective…. A scoutmaster will be brought into contact with children who face serious disadvantage. The ‘Meals on Wheels’ volunteer will see first-hand the impoverished and infirm in our communities…. Experience with others who are less well-off can make an individual grateful for what he actually has.”
Like his leader Tony Abbott with his voluntary work in fire-fighting and surf life-saving, Bernardi himself devotes a considerable amount of time in his busy schedule to performing voluntary work in his home city of Adelaide.
He quotes approvingly B.A. “Bob” Santamaria’s eight-point apologia for Christian involvement in public life, published 53 years ago, and remarks, “It seems even more relevant today than it did in 1960.”
Like his colleague Kevin Andrews, Bernardi has a firm grasp of the vital importance to society of healthy families. He laments “the atomisation of society evidenced by the startling increase in recent decades of single-person households and the identification of loneliness and isolation as one of our most pressing new social problems”.
He lists the catastrophic consequences of family breakdown and fatherless households. He quotes an Australian House of Representatives committee report of 1998, which concluded that “marriage and family breakdown costs the Australian nation at least $3 billion each year” — a figure that he fears is probably far higher today in real terms.
Bernardi says: “Marriage must be continually promoted as an effective antidote to poverty, loneliness, poor health and a way to ensure children’s wellbeing. The ease and speed with which so many couples divorce should be of concern, as should the rise of out-of-wedlock childbearing.”
He declares unequivocally that “discrimination in favour of traditional marriage and the natural family is in our national interest”.
Cory Bernardi’s The Conservative Revolution is an instructive and inspiring book, and marks a true turning-point in the battle of ideas in Australia. It deserves to be widely read.