Wednesday, March 29, 2006

BENOIST’S PLURIVERSUMAN ETHNONATIONALIST CRITIQUE

by Michael O’MEARA

It is testament to The Occidental Quarterly’s growing stature that it has eliciteda major interview from one of Europe’s foremost anti-liberal thinkers.For too long, America’s nationalist right, indeed the right in general, hasexisted in an intellectual netherworld of free-marketeers (Wal-Mart über Alles),CIA intellectuals (Burnham/Buckley), Kirkian reactionaries, Bible-thumpers,and conspiracy nuts, all of whom, as Alain de Benoist notes in the aboveinterview, defend a system that destroys the very things they seek to conserve.With TOQ, white nationalists, radical traditionalists, biological realists, andother anti-liberals take up a different project, as they endeavor to work out anintellectual synthesis of the latest science and the most primordial forms ofEuropean thought to address not just the failures of American conservatism,but the nation’s historical-ontological tasks.

Benoist’s oeuvre is a good place to begin the intellectual rearmamentof America’s nationalist right, for no postwar thinker has brought as muchauthority and acumen to his critique of the liberal system threatening the whiterace. The ideas with which he and the European New Right are associatedhave, however, still to find an audience in the Anglo-American world. Theanti-intellectual, self-centered character of anglophone culture Benoist evokesto explain this paucity of interest might be questioned, but it is undoubtedlythe case that his reputation among us rests on a small number of translatedarticles—a mere fraction of an opus comprising fifty books and several thousandarticles—that have appeared in Telos, in The Scorpion, or on the Internet overthe last decade or so. This, though, may at last be changing. In addition toTOQ’s current interest, Ultra Press of Atlanta has just published the firstEnglish translation of a Benoist book; my New Right, New Culture makes anexposition and critique of his ideas comparable (I like to think) to Continentalones; and the Castilian website Nueva Derecha (http://foster.20megsfree.com/),perhaps the most authoritative New Right archive, now contains more than300 English-language articles.

I suspect TOQ readers will be impressed by the range, richness, anddepth of Benoist’s thought. Impression, however, is likely to be mixed withreservation—for reasons this short article hopes to provide. Like many of thegreat European opponents of the liberal-democratic regimes of money theUnited States imposed on defeated Europe in 1945, Benoist’s anti-liberalism descends from a tradition forced underground by the liberal-communist victors.Accepting the “biological realism” and “revolutionary conservatism” of thisrepressed legacy, the early GRECE (Groupement de recherche et d’études pourla civilisation européenne), under Benoist’s leadership, aimed at exposingthe fraudulent foundations of the various postwar occupation governmentsinstalled by Washington. With an extraordinarily sharp pen and the supportof an equally extraordinary group of collaborators (Louis Rougier, GiorgioLocchi, Guillaume Faye, Robert Steuckers, Pierre Krebs, among others), theyoung Benoist helped make GRECE an intellectual force—some would say,the intellectual force—on Europe’s anti-liberal right. Yet at the same time (andanglophone nationalists are less likely to realize this), he was no less responsiblefor leading the New Right into a dead end, compromising its project and makingundue concessions to the liberalism he ostensibly opposes.

An article of this size is not the place to examine the origin and course ofBenoist’s intellectual trajectory. But much of what is problematic in it is evidentin the above interview, beginning with his comments on metapolitics. As theextant New Right literature of the 1970s documents, GRECE’s initial understandingof metapolitics was not the innocuous ”transversal” of the so-calledmanifesto, but an explicitly Gramscian one, aimed at preparing the culturalrevolution requisite to an antiliberal political revolution. As the young Benoistput it: without Marx, no Lenin. That is, without a revolutionary critique of theexisting model of cultural subversion, a victorious assault on the citadels ofliberal power would be unthinkable. Besides depoliticizing the New Right’sproject, his redefinition now reduces metapolitics to an academic exercise,whose principal concern is promoting the “differentialist” world view whichhas shaped his thought since the 1980s.

In the optic of this differentialism, the world is a pluriversum of diversepeoples, cultures, and civilizations whose differences need defending fromthe leveling, homogenizing forces of liberalism’s global market. As hisformer colleague Guillaume Faye describes it (see “Ethnonationalism vs.Communitarianism: The Faye-Benoist Debate” at Nueva Derecha), this differentialistvision was born of a failed imagination. Following the media blitz of1979, an ensuing period of inquisition sought to muzzle the various dissidentexpressions of New Right thought. To circumvent these censorious restraintsand re-connect with the dominant discourse, Benoist opted to abandon his“compromising” ties to the right’s interwar heritage (especially its biologicalrealism and antiegalitarianism), appropriating the language and principles ofself-determination, diversity, and antiracism—that is, the pluralist principlesof contemporary liberalism—to defend Europe from its biocultural enemies.Instead, then, of pursuing a metapolitical strategy whose assault on the regnantliberalism could neither be ignored nor dismissed, he sought to outmaneuverthe liberals on their own turf—by recovering, diverting, and reversing theirpluralistic discourse in the name of European “difference.” That this discourse, with its abstract defense of identity, now compromises his own thought oughtnot, then, to surprise.

Specifically, his differentialism sought to transform the “rights” that ThirdWorld peoples had acquired in the fifties and sixties (rights, incidentally,which were the gift of Soviet and American efforts to subvert the old Europeanempires) into universal principles that European peoples could use to defendtheir culture and ethnos without having to suffer the stigma of “racism” and“fascism.” As Faye points out, this “turn” began as a “ruse” to mobilize thesystem’s pluralistic principles against its race-mixing ambitions. (This wouldlead one French critic to characterize it as a “differentialist racism”—insofaras it made culture rather than race the principle of exclusion.) Ruse, though,morphed into commitment, as Benoist gradually succumbed to the pluralisminherent in this discourse, confusing what was intended as a clever politicalploy with something inherently worthy of defense. Worse, he became increasinglycomplicit with the pluralism already subverting the European ethnos,assuming positions hardly distinguishable from the prevailing antiwhite ideologiesof equality and human rights. This, in turn, led him to a communitarianliberalism supportive of multiculturalism (and, implicitly, multiracialism)and of those disputable postmodern notions of identity politics that view thesystem’s hyperconsumerist, ultra-individualistic, and permissive behaviorsas symptomatic not of Europe’s decay, but of its future.

The negative ramifications of Benoist’s differentialism have been especiallyprominent in his understanding of race, immigration, and Americanism. Whilewell read in the literature on human genetics and population studies, with manysensible things to say about them, particularly respecting their reductionistabuses, he nevertheless rejects the primacy of racial identity, contrasting hiscultural differentialism to what Trotsky called “zoological materialism.” He isparticularly convincing in arguing that racial factors have a low explanatoryvalue, that human specificity is more social-historical than biological, and thatthe reductionist uses of genetics (in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology,for example) are as indefensible as those which ignore organic criteria. In makingsuch an argument to criticize those who posit the primacy of their racial orbiocultural identity, he nevertheless ends up flogging a dead horse—for evenHitler rejected the sort of racial determinism Benoist poses as the antipodeto his own culturalism. More to the point, ethnonationalists, bioculturalists,and racial realists never see race as an end-all, because race to them is asmuch a matter of culture, history, and life as it is of biological classification.In the antideterminist formulation of the determinist Madison Grant: “Raceimplies hereditary and hereditary implies all the moral, social and intellectualcharacteristics and traits which are the springs of government and politics.”A people’s national character, in a word, is inseparable from the racial stocksundergirding it—even if one accepts that race and culture are causally linkedonly in the last instance. More seriously, Benoist rejects the identities and commitments that racial stocks engender, and thus the preontological signi-fications establishing the organic fundament of a people’s existence. Thosewho defend their race as such defend not a crude biological reductionism, asBenoist contends, but the primacy of their genetic endowment in organicallyshaping their place in the world and, hence, in influencing everything elsethey think worth valuing. (As Aristotle put it, what is prior—in this case,one’s racial ascription—is necessarily posterior).

A similar form of reasoning leads Benoist to claim that the chief problemtoday is not the Third World’s colonization of the white homelands, but thesystem promoting such ethnocidal policies. Again, he is at least partly correctto emphasize that the system’s liberal capitalist tenets are indifferent to whiteracial survival (though I think it revealing that he has not a word for the Jewish“culture of critique” or the left’s racial nihilism). It is quite another thing,however, to argue that the immigrants are not one of the pincer movements ofglobal capital and that their occupation of our lands is not as threatening to ourexistence as the market strategies and corrupt government policies cooked upin the glass and steel office buildings of “New York, London, and Tel Aviv.”By focusing exclusively on the anti-immigrationists’ failure to grasp thesocial-structural basis of the non-white invasion, Benoist reveals somethingabout his scheme of values—and this, apparently, has little to do with anypre-rational attachment, born of blood and kinship, to his people’s geneticinterests (an attachment, I should add, that is not to be confused with theintellectual narrowing that comes from what he calls “ethnocentrism”).

Because he refuses to look behind the ideologically blurred surface of antiimmigrationistactivism and treats it as merely another cultural disorder, heinadvertently disparages the life force this activity, however opaquely, reflects.He seems thus to disparage the instinctual defenses of European life becausecertain erroneous ideas have been associated with them, indicating that hefavors theory over practice, thought over life. At the same time, he refusesto accept that whatever its ultimate cause, immigration poses the principaldanger to future European generations: threatening, as it does, to replace theContinent’s native population with a nonwhite one. As for the same dangerto the whites of North America, he adopts an even more cavalier stance,siding with the country’s aboriginal inhabitants, lambasting its previous racialstandards, and accepting its Mexicanization with detached indifference. Thoughone might agree with his contention that anti-immigrationists are wrong tofocus exclusively on the problems immigrants cause, only by dismissing orminimizing the immigrants’ toxic effect on white communal life can it then beposited that racial differences are socially insignificant, that racial ascriptionsare less constitutive of individual identity than social-cultural ones, or, mostunacceptable of all, that the antiliberal’s role is to identify with Kant’s categoricalimperative rather than with the particularistic imperatives of his people’sexistence. Having rejected the primacy of Europe’s bioculture, it seems hardly coincidental, then, that his differentialism becomes just another form of liberalpluralism, concerned not with the interests of our culture and our people, butwith those of all the others.

I suspect Benoist would prefer an all-white Europe (i.e., a European Europe)to the multiracial/transnational one the Eurocrats envisage—he is, after all,an ardent champion of the European heritage. Nevertheless, the universalistpostulates animating his pluriversum compel him to accommodate the ThirdWorld invasion and deride all who actually resist it. Those, like Faye, whohave been persecuted by the system for criticizing the invaders and calling fora Reconquista, he accordingly dismisses as “crazies,” with the implication thatthey deserve the retribution they bring down on themselves. Again, this seemsless the sentiment of an identitarian whose foremost concern is his people’simminent extinction than the indifferent detachment of a “free-floating intellectual,”fixated on an economistic view of international labor markets, blindto the catastrophic racial effects of Third World immigration, and perhapsweary of offending the left intelligentsia. This, of course, is not to say that he iswrong in arguing that anti-immigrationists who refrain from opposing globalcapitalism would do better to keep their mouths shut. But to leave it at that(especially while championing “diversity”) neglects both the symbolic andpractical significations of human behavior. (This was breath-takingly evidentin an interview Benoist gave last year to the Italian New Right journal Diorama,where he ridiculed the French government’s effort to ban the Muslim head scarffrom its schools, claiming this quintessential symbol of the invaders’ culturehad not the slightest effect on the educational process—as if education werenot about culture and French culture not dangerously menaced by Islam.)Indeed, the universalist pretences of his pluralism seem aimed at repudiatingthe actual (however limited) efforts of whoever resists the system’s subversions.This leads me to wonder if his overly intellectualized engagements are not “thepetty and superfluous activity” that comes, as Heidegger argues, whenevertheoretical or scientific activity is divorced from praxis—that is, whenever itis not treated as “a way of Being-in-the-world” and thus not understood aspart of the existential process that puts life itself in critical perspective. Butmore than encouraging the dilettantish approach to immigration his positionimplies, Benoist seems not to realize that even when analytically wrong, antiimmigrationistsare right in rallying to their people’s defense—just as the grandintellectual, despite his slightly larger though hardly flawless understanding,represents merely another bloodless objectivism justifying abstention from theskirmishes now slowing the enemy’s advance.

Likewise, there is much to criticize in Le Pen’s National Front, but Benoist’sone-sided critique of it has the effect of disparaging the antisystem politics withwhich he allegedly identifies. For within the optic of his critique, little weight isgiven to the fact that the semitotalitarian character of the Holocaust-worshippingNew Class regimes dominating Europe dictates that dissident political formations take positions and propound principles that compromise with the system (justas Benoist himself does whenever he is allowed into the “public sphere,” atFrance-Culture, for instance, to pose a bit of “negativity” to the reigning ideas).To essentialize these compromises, while slighting the antisystem positions theNational Front takes on immigration (as well as on populist resistance to EUsocial engineering and the globalists’ cosmo-capitalism), inevitably stigmatizeswhatever antisystem politics it is possible to practice under present circumstances.His skewed view of the National Front (this “collection of malcontents”)likewise affects his critique of its anti-immigrationism. He claims, for instance,that everything that can be done to halt immigration has been done and that theonly workable solution is to eliminate the system sustaining the internationallabor markets responsible for mixing disparate populations. In effect, the fatalisticprescription of this “Olympian” view posits an ideal of fundamental change(which is perfectly cogent) but simultaneously dismisses all struggles—suchas those waged by the National Front—which might actually prefigure such aradical transformation. To insist, moreover, that the present regime has tried tolimit immigration or to accept at face value the meager measures already takenseems perverse, for in fact nothing of real consequence has been done, and tosay otherwise simply accommodates the ongoing subversion.

But more than minimizing the problems of immigration, Benoistsurreptitiously legitimates the Third World’s invasion. For like those“anti-individualist” (and largely Jewish) liberals in the United States whocall themselves “communitarians,” he advocates a “salad bowl” model ofEurope, with both Europeans and non-European interlopers entitled to formcommunities based on their distinct cultural identities—somewhat in the waythe Ottomans’ despotic millet system allowed subjugated Greek, Armenian,and Serbian Christians to maintain their ethnoreligious institutions, as theywere dispossessed of most else. Similarly, he dismisses the role of race andcivilization as historical forces, downplaying not only the biocultural clashesthat have slashed and scarred the world’s history since Antiquity, but thefact that many of the most important conflicts in today’s world remainbiocultural in nature (as they are fought out between Serbs and “Turks,”Armenians and Azeris, Indians and Pakistanis, Russians and Chechens,Arabs and Jews, etc.).

Finally, a word on his anti-Americanism. Perhaps because I lack the sameappreciation the TOQ editors have for American civilization, I accept much ofBenoist’s critique of it and his argument that, as the preeminent exemplar ofliberal modernity, it is inherently destructive of its own heritage. At moments,I have even argued that in rallying to a government and a president whoseopen borders/free trade/unilateralist policies represent a reckless assault onthe heritage bequeathed by their forefathers, white Americans have never solived up to Mencken’s characterization of them as a bunch of “goose-steppingserfs.” But condemnation of a civilization whose Calvinist economic mania demotes biocultural identities and denies its defining traditions hardly implies,as Benoist assumes, that Americans are qualitatively different from continentalEuropeans—that their 400 years in the New World outweighs their previous30,000 years—or that the blood of Achilles, Cuchulainn, and Roland no longerflows through their veins. While it is undoubtedly true that much of contemporaryAmerican culture lacks anything worth preserving and that its elites,having no “discernible sense of history and culture,” wage a scorched-earthcampaign on the vestiges of its European heritage, America is neither simplyan unfortunate experiment in European liberalism nor the global vanguard ofantiwhite subversion (though it is both). For however cretinized and misled,its white populace represents—if only potentially—a still not insignificantexpression of European life and hence one of the forces which might give riseto another flourishing cycle of European civilization.

Like their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa,and New Zealand, America’s white inhabitants are the blood descendants ofMother Europe. Though the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia served as theoriginal European homeland, today “Europe” exists wherever white men exist.As one of our more indomitable comrades (Kyle McDermott) puts it: “I am awhite man. Put me on the moon and you know what I’d be?—A white man onthe moon.” In this spirit, Heidegger points out that “Americanism is somethingEuropean”— and something that is more than Benoist’s cultureless, economicenterprise, more also than “the nation of nations,” “the first universal nation,”or “the proposition nation” of the multiculturalists and the antiwhite elites.Thus, however different its course, America remains an organic extension ofEurope. This ought to be evident to the most superficial student of U.S. history:For early in the country’s growth there emerged a distinct national tradition,with several hundred years of history to its youthful credit; there were establishedspecifically American institutions more Celtic and Anglo-Protestant thanPuritan in form; but, above all, there arose a national consciousness rooted inthe North European, specifically Anglo-Celtic, racial stocks of its founders.Though the country’s settlers lacked Europe’s ancient genealogy, cultural legacy,territorial sense, and distinct ethnic consciousness (all of which disposed theirtwentieth-century descendants to the most extreme cultural inversions), theynevertheless spoke a European language, practiced a European religion, hada history shaped by the nation-creating influences of Europe’s High Culture,and, most important of all, took their North European racial identity as thedefining part of their collective identity. In Jared Taylor’s phrase, America untilquite recently was “a self-consciously European, majority-white nation.” Thatis, it was a nativist variant of the European nations which had spawned it.

That modern America, especially its leviathan state and deculturatedelites, practices a genocidal anti-Europeanism goes without saying. Thecountry’s political and cultural betrayals are not, however, the decisive issue.(For haven’t Europeans, subject these last sixty years to the same American media and “culture,” also betrayed themselves? And weren’t Russians, nowrecognized as the foremost bulwark of white existence, once, when ruled byJewish Bolsheviks, the force for global subversion?) From an ethnonationalistperspective, what counts is not America’s anti-white state, but the blood ofits white populace, the language, heritage, and achievements of its creators,and the self-consciously European aspirations of its biocultural defenders.Though America’s empire and liberal “way of life” may threaten the Europeanbiosphere today, European-Americans are still one (if not the most important) ofEurope’s organic offshoots—with an unmistakable interest not in Washington’santi-white polices, but in the actualization of Europe’s destiny. Thus, when theAmericophobic Benoist disingenuously claims he is not an Americophobe, butrefuses to recognize the primacy of the American people’s European originsand proposes a European alliance with the Third World, including its jihadists,to counter it, it is almost as if he denies what makes Europe European.

A talented and prolific writer of immense learning who played a leadingrole in mobilizing the intellectual opposition to the liberal-democratic regimesof money imposed on postwar Europe, Benoist was originally one of us. Evenin absorbing many of the liberal postulates he formally criticizes and henceending up in one of the New Right’s culs-de-sac, his work still elicits ourinterest. Yet while recognizing and continuing to profit from his incomparableliterary achievement, it is crucial to the life-and-death struggle we nationalistswage to realize that whatever is vital or pertinent in the New Right’s legacyhas been vitiated by his pluriversum.

Michael O’Meara, Ph.D., studied social theory at the Ecole desHautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and modern European historyat the University of California. He is the author of New Culture,New Right: Anti-Liberalism in Postmodern Europe (2004).

Taken from "The Occidental Quarterly" - www.theoccidentalquarterly.com

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