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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Thoughts on the European New Right: Part I

by John Law
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Tom Sunic: Against Democracy and Equality


The European New Right (ENR), born in 1968 in France, is the only school of thought that offers a comprehensive philosophical alternative to both the Left and the mainstream Right; not a political alternative or a cohesive popular movement, but a body of thought, an interpretative framework with distinctive concepts, major texts and authors pointing to a solid intellectual alternative to the establishment. In our current age of social media, fast reactions, and accessible commentaries about what is wrong with diversity and racial integration, we tend to underestimate the cultivation of slow but substantive scholarly alternatives to the establishment.

The ENR has produced sufficient books, articles, meetings, journals, to be integrated into an academic environment as a full program of thinking and research. Creating an alternative intellectual movement backed by a solid academic foundation can hardly be underestimated. Cultural Marxists were once outside our universities, but they understood the value of developing a counter culture based on solid intellectual pursuits, and however much we may disrespect the current exponents as unoriginal imitators and conformists, the initiators did produce dynamic new interpretations of every field of human endeavour and politics, and then, gradually, book by book, conference by conference, journal by journal, discipline by discipline, PhD by PhD, they took over the entire academic world, to the point that they are now seen as the only legitimate producers of knowledge.

Yet, indispensable as the ENR remains intellectually, the ENR has a very definite and apparent flaw; it is a dated school, saturated with an outlook that grew in reaction to a historical reality that is no longer relevant; and by this I mean that it grew in the context of the Cold War, as a reaction to both the internationalist ideologies of American liberalism and Soviet communism, in defence of European cultural autonomy. The issue of our times, the most important threat ever faced by European peoples, is the existence of a hostile elite in the West promoting mass immigration and race mixing combined with the relentless determination of Africans, Asians, and Mestizos to colonize European lands. The ideas of the ENR were formulated in the absence of this existential threat.

Since the collapsed of Soviet communism in the early 1990s, the ENR has diverted all its animosity against American cultural imperialism, which it has erroneously identified with Western civilization as such. The ENR believes, to this day, that the main enemy of humanity is American/Western civilization. The most salient cultural traits of the West, rationalism, individualism, and universalism, have been identified by its proponents as the "real enemy". This is a major mistake. It betrays a lack of appreciation of what is intrinsically unique to the West, and why the West is currently facing ethnic disintegration. For this reason, I would borrow only certain ideas from the ENR while carefully avoiding its general outlook.

Without its rationalism and liberalism, there is no West and the only thing left to admire is the traditionalism of other cultures alongside the pre-rational and pre-Christian pagan traditionalism of Europeans, a paganism the ENR has inadequately disconnected from the rest of Western history and which is best categorized as an idealized projection onto the past of New Age motifs by post-WWII affluent Europeans.

Critical as the ENR is of leftist ideas, it has assimilated leftist multiculturalism as an antidote to Western universalism combined with leftist notions of the equal right of all peoples, calling for a pluriversum of independent cultural collectivities, without realizing that this call is universalistic in its own wish to want all peoples to co-exist in state of harmony, a very liberal wish beset by a naive understanding of the inherent flaws of humans and the inherent Faustian impulses of Europeans. The ENR belief that all peoples should have a collective right to national-ethnic self determination can work as a regulative moral principle in favour of white nationalism. But there is no way around the thinking offered by Nietzsche, Schmitt, Pareto, and Spengler (which Sunic says, as we will see later, influenced the ENR greatly) about the inescapable nature of humans to seek more than others, which is now inscribed into the logic of global capitalist accumulation. Calling for a stable equilibrium is to be caught up, yet again, in universal utopian dreams about the unity of mankind in their differences. The West must strive for new ventures otherwise it will be surpassed by other civilizations. China believes in self-determination as it plunders the resources of others in a frenzy to ensure mass consumerism for its 1.4 billion inhabitants.

The ENR is correct in holding the West responsible for the illusion that it can create an egalitarian world. But this illusion is a product of a civilization that promises utopia because it is driven by a personality that is intolerant of a society that is not one of perpetual motion and ceaseless conflict. "Western civilization," Robert Nisbet observed, "has been the single most war-ridden, war-dominated, and militaristic civilization in all human history." World War I and II were massive civil wars for the augmentation of power and the joy of struggle. European men needed tranquility and common ground after these two brutal wars. They were right to concentrate on economic innovations and coexistence.

The ENR rejects the idea of progress but the pursuit of progress is inherent to Europeans even though historical cycles are part of this movement. The prosperity brought by the success of Promethean innovations has created softer temperaments incapable of seeing the darker side of humans and the imminent threat that non-white colonization poses for Europeans. Confused by cultural Marxist ideas alien to the West, young European minds have turned against their own heritage, accepting a message of white guilt propagated by a hostile elite in charge of the media and education.

In this context, in a situation now in which multiple Western cities and towns have been colonized by non-Europeans, the call by the ENR for "biocultural diversity", for "harmony of man, city and cosmos", for "submission of Promethean power", for "repudiation of hubris", is a call to extinguish the very spirit that created the West and that can get us out of this situation. We need struggle, computer programming warriors, identitarian groups, hate and hubris, to get out us out of the invading hordes of Africans and the mounting Pakistani raping gangs.

Tom Sunic

The following is an engagement with the ENR by way of Tomislav Sunic's Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, originally published in 1990 but still the best sympathetic presentation of the ENR in English. A second edition of this book was released in 2004, and a third edition by Artktos in 2011. The central figure in Sunic's book is Alain de Benoist, seen as the foremost theoretician of this school. This third edition, the one I am using, contains an opening essay by de Benoist, The New Right: Forty Years Later, which praises Sunic's book without offering any objections. This book by Sunic is based on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Santa Barbara. The third edition also contains an "Editor's Foreword" by John Morgan, a "Preface to the Third Edition" by Sunic, an "Introduction and Acknowledgements to the Second Edition" by Sunic, a "Preface to the Second Edition" by David Stennett, a "Preface to the First Edition" by Paul Gottfried, and lastly, as an Appendix, de Benoist's and Charles Champetier's Manifesto for a European Renaissance, an essay originally published in French in 1999.

This assessment will consist of commentaries to passages cited from this book. I will identify the above authors alongside each passage, though in the case of Sunic I will be commenting on passages from him as if they were expressions of the ENR generally. Sunic does an excellent job in bringing to light ENR ideas, which was his objective, with only minimal expressions of his thoughts. His book is essentially an appreciation for the ENR, and de Benoist in particular.

John Morgan

It [ENR] opened up a whole new world for me, a world in which the ideas of the 'true Right,' as Julius Evola called it, were still being passionately defended and discussed at a high intellectual and cultural level. I was simultaneously overjoyed that such a thing existed, and disappointed since I knew that there was nothing like it in America. More than a decade later, while the situation is more hopeful, there is still no 'American New Right,' thought at least some efforts are being made in that direction, notably through Greg Johnson's Counter-Currents, as well as Sunic's own endeavours with The Occidental Observer and with his friend Kevin MacDonald (p. 7).

John Law (Pinker and Race Realists)

Students today inhabit an academic world where conservative ideas are dismissed without barely any required attention to the classic writings of Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, or Oswald Spengler. You can be sure that none of them, and none of the academics teaching, are aware of the ENR, and few have heard of Carl Schmitt, Pareto or Spengler, not to bring up the fact that most academics are specialists utterly ignorant of the intellectual history of the West. Feminists are the worst educated shallow heads you will ever meet. Students do read Nietzsche, but only through the filters of post-modernists and liberals. They learn about the antecedents of Marx, about Hegel in particular, but in the lectures Hegel-the-defender-of-Prussia never stands a chance compared to Hegel the proponent of "negative dialectics" as developed later by Marcuse and Adorno.

One could say the academic left has successfully integrated many Western thinkers except fascists within a "Liberal Arts" education that is taught as if it were the background leading up to current critical race theorists, feminists, and deconstructionists.

The only alternative one hears about in academic is the school of sociobiology, though by the 1990s even this seemingly threatening school was assimilated within mainstream psychology and evolutionary theory, notwithstanding the hyperventilated opposition of feminists. Debates between the "nature" and "nurture" sides soon became no more threatening than debates between structuralist, analytical, and Hegelian Marxists, or between functionalist, conflict, and symbolic sociologists.

Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of Our Nature
Steven Pinker's book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined (2011) is testimony to this integration, a book that endorses the universal values of the Enlightenment, for nurturing the "better angels of our nature", through "tolerance", "science", and "civic equality" — in opposition to all forms of European ethno-nationalism. Pinker tells us there is a good side to our human nature, which has finally been allowed to blossom in current liberal societies, a side that welcomes mass immigration and diversity. This argument is fundamentally the same as that forwarded a few decades ago by Pinker's ethnic compatriot, Norman Geras, in Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend (1983). This book claims that historical materialism did not entail a denial of human biology as much as an affirmation of the way socialist relations (rather than Enlightenment values) would bring out the best side of human nature, against the bad side celebrated by conservatives.

We should not be surprised by the presence of a concept of human nature among leftists who claim that humans are social constructs, or the ease with which Pinker reformulated his "politically incorrect" ideas about human nature in a pro-diversity direction, since every politics supposes a concept of human nature and one can always argue that human nature is flexible enough to allow for the accentuation of varying types of behaviour. Georges Sorel was more profound that Pinker when he observed that humans are by nature inclined to be barbaric under conditions of scarcity and decadent under conditions of affluence, and that only immense effort and discipline can bring out the best in humans. "Our nature," Sorel wrote, "is invincibly borne toward what the philosophers of history consider as bad, whether it be barbarism or whether it be decadence." The "better angels" Pinker has in mind are decadent whites who accept their own demise while looking out for personal entertainment in a civil atmosphere.

What about those writers who have written about racial differences, Rushton, Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, Richard Lynn, and others? These writers have been marginalized out of the universities. But don't they constitute a body of thought that stands as an alternative to the establishment? They constitute a particular school on a crucially important issue, race, which hits at the core of egalitarianism; however, they do not, in my estimation, constitute an outlook that can offer an alternative vision to the establishment; they have destroyed, in theory, a major pillar of the establishment, but they don't offer an overall vision that can galvanize the masses against the establishment and inspire a cultural revival that is European rather than about IQ scores and pro-Asian in its celebration of IQ scores in abstraction from any sense of people-hood.

Therefore, I agree with John Morgan. Encountering the ENR in Counter-Currents was very exciting to me, for, as critical as I have now become, this school taught me that narrow arguments about human nature, about racial hierarchies, participation in mainstream politics, are bound to be co-opted and marginalized, unless we develop an alternative culture, a network of counter-cultural spaces, media, conferences, organizations, blogs, webzines, hundreds of books, programs of education — against the entire establishment. IQ scholars, and sociobiologists generally, operate under the supposition that research about IQ differences will eventually win the acceptance of the academic establishment purely through rational persuasion and the truth of the evidence. The ENR has a more profound understanding of the way politics is also driven by vested interests, institutional arrangements, symbols, myths, feelings, and morals.

We cannot underestimate the incredible power our hostile elites have over Western intellectual life. However pathological they may seem to us, the left has produced thousands of highly researched books, hundreds of refereed journals, academic associations, think tanks, entire departments and programs across thousands of universities, hundreds of yearly PhDs, almost all the publishing houses, not to mention control of popular culture. We have so little. A few blogs, a succession of quick articles, slogans, thousands of "unique visitors" will never be enough to bring a new intellectual culture. The ENR has to be given a lot of credit for starting this intellectual change.

Alain de Benoist, "The New Right: Forty Years Later" (2009)

The ENR makes a great effort to identify its real enemy. The main enemy is, on the economic level, capitalism and the market society; on the philosophical level, individualism; on the political front, universalism; on the social front, the bourgeoisie; and on the geopolitical front, America (p. 28).

John Law (Schmitt, the Liberal West)

The word "enemy" recurs often in ENR writings, borrowed from Carl Schmitt. For the ENR, the enemy is Western civilization, the creator of capitalism, individualism, and universalism, all of which culminate in the aggressive American geopolitical imposition of its culture upon the world. A short hand for identifying the enemy is "liberal universalism". It may seem odd that the ENR sees liberal universalism as the enemy in light of Schmitt's observation that liberal societies are different from all other cultures in denying the friend-enemy distinction. The ideology that denies this distinction is, apparently, the real enemy of all the other cultures that do not deny it. How is this so?

Liberal societies believe that enemies are a thing of the past. Liberalism offers a solution to the bellicosity of the friend-enemy distinction by teaching its citizens that differences can be resolved or handled through a politics of consensus and pursuit of individual interests susceptible to compromises; a politics in which humans agree that they are all members of the same species with an overriding common interest in their prosperity through free markets and peaceful coexistence, no longer trapped by intolerant attitudes against those who come from different cultures and religions, for there are no "strangers" or outsiders, since cultural beliefs are private affairs enjoyable by all individuals. Everyone wants peace and comfort if given a proper liberal setting in which to actualize these human aspirations. Schmitt designates this effort to abolish the friend-enemy distinction as an effort to abolish politics. Politics is fundamentally about the friend-enemy distinction, and in his view this distinction is inherent to human nature and can never be abolished. Instead of abolishing this distinction, liberals have in fact categorized anyone who disagrees with their liberalism into an enemy that must be ostracised, excluded, suppressed.

Carl Schmitt: The Concept of the Political

Liberals were deluding themselves, or so Schmitt argued, in believing they could abolish politics or reduce politics to disagreements about the pursuit of economic interests; humans are inherently flawed. Born in original sin, humans cannot avoid conflict, power struggles. Whereas in traditional cultures an enemy was simply an external power that threatened one's sovereignty, in liberal cultures an enemy is anyone who opposes the peace-loving liberal states, or the values of liberalism. Liberal states have actually come to designate their illiberal opponents as being outside their norms of "humanity" and thus as opponents of "humanity" and thus as rightfully in need of eradication and banishment. Whereas wars in the past were between sovereign states, each of which understood that the pursuit of state interests and power was a normal aspect of human nature, and therefore wars were fought for limited objectives dealing with standard political matters about increasing or defending one's sovereignty, with the onset of liberal states, wars took on an ideological dimension between "good liberals" and "evil fascists".

The ENR has thus designated liberalism as the enemy, the very ideology that claims to have abolished the enemy-friend distinction. Liberal universalism is the enemy of all the particular cultures of the world wishing to maintain their cultural sovereignty against American liberal imperialism.

There are a number of problems with this identification of the enemy, which I will outline below and will have the opportunity to elaborate upon as I comment on new passages later on.

Key problem is this: if our main enemy is capitalism, individualism, universalism, and American geopolitics, and if these traits are equated with Western civilization, as the ENR equates them, with the Christian West, and thus deeply embedded in Western culture, then it follows that our enemy is US, the West, and that our friends is THEM, the traditional-non-Western cultures of the world wishing to retain their non-liberal customs against Western culture. This is clearly an endorsement of Marxist Multiculturalism.

Now, the ENR does draw a distinction between America and Europe, identifying the former with the West, while viewing Europe as a constellation of particular cultures struggling against the universalism of what Sunic calls Homo Americanus. There is an ambivalence here in that sometimes Europe at large is classified as Christian, universal, and liberal, and sometimes the blame is directed essentially at America. But if we were to separate Europe from the West, keep it relatively apart, as a federation of nations wishing to retain their historic identities, how can we attribute to liberalism the destructive universal imperative the ENR attributes to it (and Christianity) considering that European nations are liberal and that the French nation, as the ENR knows, endorsed the Declaration of the Rights of Man?

The ENR takes for granted a crucial distinction: the inherently traditionalist nature of non-Western cultures (until they were modernized by the West) versus the inherently liberal nature of the West. The ENR's equation of liberalism with everything this school dislikes is flawed. Liberal modes of being can be traced back to the willingness of warriors in prehistoric Indo-European societies to fight to the death for pure prestige as aristocratic individuals committed to the principle of "first among equals" (primus inter pares). Only Indo-Europeans created a form of rule where leaders were accorded respect as the first men of the group but everyone within the aristocratic elite expected equal respect as a men of virtue capable of performing great deeds The idea of progress implicit in Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus was liberal in portraying a god that instead of expecting blind obedience brought man fire, the arts of domesticating animals, building with bricks, digging up minerals, making ships, writing, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, in order to push men out of savagery into civilization, while insisting on justice by rational standards. A similar liberal confidence in the capacity of man is present in Antigone by Sophocles in a famous chorus:
Numberless are the world's wonders, but none
More wonderful than man...
O clear intelligence, force beyond all measure!
The aristocratic defiance exhibited by Socrates in his dialogical questioning of conventional norms, religious piety, and his relentless effort to offer explanations for the way things are and the best form of government was liberal. The travels of Herodotus over the non-Greek world "for the sake of learning, for the sake of inquiry" were liberal, and so was his sympathetic account of the customs of other people and his realization that there were multiple ways of living in the world. The Hellenistic revolution in science, the greatest age of natural discoveries before the seventeenth century, was liberal in the many individuals who offered novel explanations and methods of discovery of natural phenomena; the science of mechanics by Archimedes, the science of physiology by Erasistratus and Galen, the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus, the measurement of the circumference of the Earth by Eratosthenes. The Roman development of a unique class of jurists that rationalized and systematized their laws, making a science of jurisprudence, governed by equity and based on the premise that men were capable of being responsible for their actions and able to enter on their own volition into contractual relations with reciprocal rights and duties, was liberal. The seven liberal arts studied in the universities invented by medieval Catholics drew from a Greek and Roman tradition which considered it essential for a free person to be educated in the artes liberales. The Bill of Rights of 1689 were liberal in their establishment of the supremacy of the law and of parliament over the monarch and the announcement that all Englishmen had basic rights.

The ENR defence of European paganism against the history of Europe is a dead end, and does not teach us how this paganism is different, uniquely European and how it may have already been pointing in an "individualist" direction through its validation of individuality in the performance of heroic deeds, rather than just another variant of your typical superstitious despotic religions of the Orient. The modern liberal way of life is found in European states having a set of institutions that guarantee individual rights but at the same time integrate individuals into the whole nation as an ethno-political collective within which individuals rights are validated and sustained.

We will see in later comments that the ENR rejects liberal equality but is unable to reject the principle of equal rights, but instead of defending this principle it presumes that traditional cultures have a concept of freedom and individualism of which the European version is just one variation. The ENR wants to have it both ways, reject liberal equality but accept liberal rights by redefining this term in traditional terms but without admitting that all traditional cultures suppress individuals under a collective, whereas only Western cultures generated the idea of a collective based on reason-grounding individuals. The traditionalism that the ENR idealizes stands against this liberal collective. The enemy of the West are those social groups that have exploited this liberal disposition to advance their own non-Western ethnic ends in ways that are destroying the ethnic European collective that is integral to this disposition.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

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