The Essentials of the European New Right
It was my discovery of the European New Right that finally convinced me that one could be both a serious intellectual and a political rightist. My initiation came when I discovered Alain De Benoist’s and Charles Champetier’s manifesto for the French New Right eleven years ago. I had never seen rightist ideas presented in such a way before and I knew I had come upon something powerful. Previously, I had been more or less a left-wing Chomskyite. I had long found the left dissatisfying, particularly its victimological ressentiment and its PC bluenoses. Yet, when I looked at the bulk of the American right and saw the jingoist flag-wavers, Bible-bangers, Israel-firsters, plutocratic apologists, conspiracists, and knee-jerk militarists, I would wonder why would anyone could possibly want to be associated with that, for God’s sake? Murray Rothbard’s championing of the legacy of the “Old Right” notwithstanding, I considered the right to be an intellectual wasteland. Fortunately, the European New Right rescued me from such a narrow perception. It was from the European New Right that I learned one could be a progressive without being an egalitarian, a conservative without succumbing to vulgar economism, and a traditionalist without being a yahoo.
A major problem with bringing ENR ideas to North American audiences has been the fact that much of the scholarship produced by ENR writers has yet to be translated into English. For instance, De Benoist is the leading intellectual of the ENR and one of its founding fathers, yet only only two of De Benoist’s dozens of books, On Being a Pagan and The Problem of Democracy, have undergone an English translation and the latter appeared in English only this year thanks to Arktos Publishing. Two original English works surveying ENR thought have also appeared. One of these is by Tomislav Sunic and the other is by Michael O’Meara. If you are a college student and you want to shock and offend your politically correct professors and peers, then the distribution of copies of these works on campuses would certainly be an easy way to do so.
Because of the efforts of Arktos, more and more works of the ENR are gradually being made available in English as well as older works originally written by long-forgotten conservative revolutionary figures of the interwar era. Arktos also makes available works by leftist thinkers offering genuine insight and other writers whose ideas fall way outside the paradigm of what passes for “the right” within the context of U.S. style “conservatism.” Suffice to say we will not be seeing any of the plutocrat-funded and neocon-managed publishing houses of America’s “conservative movement” issuing the works of Lothrop Stoddard, Antonio Gramsci, Georges Sorel, Carl Schmitt, Michael Cremo, Andrew Fraser, or Pentti Linkola. Arktos has also issued an English version of Ernst von Salomon’s It Cannot Be Stormed. Salomon was a conservative revolutionary author whose success continued well into the post-WW2 period and earned the denunciation of TIME magazine in the process. I’m still waiting for English translations of Ernst Junger’s Der Arbeiter and of the works of Ernst Niekisch (hint, hint).
Several contemporary works by leading ENR writers, such as De Benoist, Sunic, and Guillame Faye have been given extensive review on Brett Stevens’ website. (See here, here, and here.) Sunic’s Against Democracy and Equality is particularly helpful not only as an introduction to ENR ideas on a more abstract level, but as a source of critical insights that shed extensive light on the realities behind some of the more important political and cultural phenomena of our time. As Stevens observes in his review of Sunic:
Liberalism dehumanizes its adversaries. According to Carl Schmitt as channeled through Sunic, the left abhors war — so it phrases every political action as a police action. The bad guys become inhuman because they are immoral, not nice, not egalitarian, etc. and thus can be exterminated not in a war but in the right-thinking people detaining or removing the bad ones.
De Benoist’s The Problem of Democracy subjects the most sacred of all modern pieties, the ideal of liberal mass democracy, to rigorous and unrelenting criticism. The only other contemporary work that I am aware of that offers such a thoroughgoing assault on modern democracy is Hans Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed. I gave Hoppe’s work an extensive review when it first came out ten years ago. The twentieth century’s two leading critics of modern liberal democracy, with its tendencies toward mob rule, were arguably Carl Schmitt and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Schmitt attacked liberal democracy from the perspective of a traditional conservative in the mode of Hobbes or Burke, while Kuehnelt-Leddihn offered a critique rooted in a synthesis of Catholic traditionalism and a monarchist variation of classical liberalism reminiscent of Lord Acton.
Hoppe’s work is clearly influenced by and somewhat derivative of Kuehnelt-Leddihn, and employs arguments one might expect a conservative Catholic and liberal monarchist to make. De Benoist’s observations on democracy more closely resemble and are influenced by those of Schmitt. While Hoppe and Kuehnelt-Leddihn defended classical eighteenth and nineteenth century liberalism against modern egalitarian democracy and its social democratic manifestation, De Benoist like Schmitt before him sees liberalism as the root of the problem. De Benoist offers not classical liberalism but classical democracy as conceived of by the Greeks as the answer to the “problem of democray” in its modern form. Whereas Hoppe postulates the concept of a society ordered completely on the basis of private property as the alternative to modern democratic institutions, De Benoist offers suggestions that at times resemble the notions of “participatory democracy” or “direct democracy” advanced by certain strands of the Left. These contrasts should make for interesting dialogue and debate on the alternative right.
Guillame Faye’s Why We Fight differs from much of the literature of the ENR in that while Faye incorporates the essence of the broader New Right philosophy into his analysis, he also demonstrates a greater concern for on-the-ground practical politics, strategic formulations, and particular policy prescriptions in a way that is atypical of ENR thinkers with their general focus on arcane theoretical abstractions, historical interpretations, or “metapolitics.” Faye’s geopolitical outlook in some ways resembles a melding of the “Eurasianist” idea advanced by Alexander Dugin and the anti-Islamism of Western European euronationalism. This puts Faye at odds with other strands of the ENR which leans towards at least a tactical solidarity with the Third World and regards Islam as a potential traditionalist ally against globalization and Americanization.
I am inclined to regard Faye’s view as appropriate for Europeans and the latter view as more relevant to North Americans. Islam is geographically far removed from North America, and poses no immediate demographic threat. Islamic terrorism directed towards the United States and its allies is for the most part the inevitable “blowback” generated by U.S. foreign policy or, more specifically, the exercise of Zionist influence (whether Jewish or Christian) over American foreign policy in the Middle East. An alliance with Russia against both Americanization and Islamication may serve the interests of Europeans, but America would be best served by a simple renunciation of globalism and a return to old-fashioned isolationism. Indeed, domestic U.S. Muslims may well be valuable allies against domestic Zionism.
The European New Right clearly has much to offer to ordinary conservatives looking for ideas of infinitely greater substance than what is typically found on talk radio, FOX News, or the subcultures of American right-wing populsim. But the philosophy of the ENR might well prove to be the bridge that also helps many disaffected leftists to eventually find their way to the alternative right. The thinkers of the ENR have developed a critique of globalization, imperialism, and Americanization every bit as thorough and radical as that offered by neo-Marxists like Immanuel Wallerstein, indeed even more so. Likewise, the ENR possesses a critique of consumerism, recognition of ecological issues, anticlericalism and critique Christianity that avoids the shrill bigotry of the “new atheists” that at times resembles but is more substantive than that offered by the Left. The ENR emphasis on the sovereignty and self-preservation of all peoples might even appeal to non-white nationalist, separatist, or autonomist movements.
Writers of the ENR have also advanced an intelligent and sincere but measured social and cultural conservatism that lacks the “homosexual-atheist-abortionist-under-every-bed” hysteria of the American right-wing. ENR thought upholds masculine and feminine identities without sinking into crass misogyny, and De Benoist has even controversially called for solidarity with Third World nationalism against US imperialism in a way that resembles a rightist version of Chomsky, and advocated a federated European “empire” of autonomous ethnic, cultural, and national identities that is reminiscient of the Holy Roman Empire (which, as Voltaire said, was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire). Meanwhile, the ENR-sympathetic Telos journal has postulated a critique of the modern liberal-managerial “new class” that greatly resembles Bakunin’s early critique of Marxism.
If we are going to build a rightist opposition in North America that is worthy of the legacy of Nietzsche, Pareto, Schmitt, Mencken, Ortega, and Junger, and is not merely a movement of useful idiots for the neoconservatives, military-industrial complex, and right-wing of the U.S. ruling class as so-called “movement conservatism” often is, then it would appear that the ideas of the European New Right are thus far the best thing going.